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Farm-animal abuse makes me ashamed to be human



Barely six months ago, the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover video of “downer” cows, those who are unable to stand or walk, being abused by slaughterhouse workers.

And last week, the HSUS released yet another undercover video of horrific abuse. (A warning: the video is tremendously upsetting and sickening.)

I watched the whole video. I forced myself to watch it because being ignorant of something doesn’t let me off the hook, doesn’t put my mind at ease. What I saw made me cry, and made me sick to my stomach. It also made me take action immediately (again), joining with the HSUS to call my representatives in Congress, to demand not just punishment of the workers involved, and the slaughterhouse that permitted such cruelty to happen.


want Congress to take action to toughen the penalties for animal
cruelty, to humanely dispatch “downer” cows, and to keep downer cows
out of the food supply. And I want all of us humans to think about what
happens to these animals who deserve our gratitude (for the food they
supply us with) and our mercy.

I’ve been fortunate to have had cows as neighbors when I lived in North
Carolina (the pictures in this post are of my bovine buddies), and I
was awed by their gentleness and playfulness. But even if I hadn’t
“known” cows as neighbors, I would still recognize my ties to them
through the butter and milk they give us. And the leather they die for — for us. And I would recognize my responsibility to them because of those ties.

I’m sure you heard about the previous undercover video in January and February. The slaughterhouse, Hallmark Meat Packing of Chico, California, was closed down. Meat from Hallmark was recalled. The plant manager was convicted of felony animal cruelty. There was a spike of activism — at least of interest — on behalf of animals. And then things quieted down.


Until last week. Again, the video makes me sick — literally. I cannot imagine how human beings can do such things to living, sentient, feeling creatures who, in some ways, live and breathe for us. These cows are obviously sick and, like the cows that were able to walk to their deaths, terrified.

Putting aside whether or not it is right to eat animals. Putting aside any question of whether we can care about animals when so much human against human violence goes on every day. Those issues aside, I still wonder and despair how it is possible that humans have become — not just careless with the lives and well-being of animals, but intentionally and viciously cruel?

When I watch the HSUS videos, I no longer want to be human. I no longer want to be associated with a species as barbaric and intent on inflicting suffering on helpless creatures as those slaughterhouse workers were. But, alas, becoming not-human is not a probable choice and, as a fellow human, I must recognize that I am implicated in the agonized suffering of the cows. And because I have the proof that this sort of cruelty goes on and I have not yet done enough to make it stop. I need to do more.

I’ve once again joined with the HSUS to call and write legislators to demand stronger punishment for animal torturers, for legislation to protect downer cows from this sort of madness, and to try to set humane standards for the end of “food-production animals'” lives. I can’t be silent. I don’t think any humans should be silent. We need to honor and protect life in all species.

As Matthew Scully wrote in his landmark book, Dominion, “Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they stand unequal and powerless before us.”

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