In his post: Let’s Talk Farm Animals, Ontario Dairy Farmer, Andrew Campbell, says:
“farm365 on Twitter has turned into something far greater than a few pictures of corn or cows”.
It most certainly has, this is fact.
He goes on to say:
“Unfortunately their truth usually involves Photoshop, graphic images and misconceptions of what an animal needs and wants”
It simply does not, here’s why:
The hijacking of the #farm365 campaign by what Campbell calls “activists” does aim to tell a different story from just “cows and corn” because there is a different story to be told. Intrinsically, using living, breathing animals as commodities is never going to be straightforward. For instance, although these farmers profess to “love and care for” their animals eventually end up in the slaughterhouse to “fulfil their destiny as dinner”. So images of animals meeting their deaths in slaughterhouses are posted to highlight this fact, and those images are graphic because the process of slaughter is graphic. This slaughter is outsourced by the idyllic family farms, so the farmers can profess to “love and care for” the animals before they “fulfil their destiny as dinner”.
The only photo-shopped image I have seen throughout is this one:
likely created by a pro-agriculture body, highlighting how images can be doctored to make it look as though an animal simply “on his way to a new paddock” is actually “living a life of pain and misery”. Firstly, one does not negate the other. Secondly, none of the “activists” have used this image, only the farmers.
The “misconceptions of what an animal needs and wants” is referring to the activists’ assertion that the cow/calf separation process is distressing and cruel on both mother and her calf.
The separation is inevitable even on these family farms. They are separated so mother’s milk can be used for human consumption, female calves can be added to the milking herd, and male calves killed right away, often in front of the mother, or sold for veal.
While I was told directly that “cows do not grieve” and that they “don’t care” when their babies are taken away, there is evidence to the contrary; cows running after their young being taken away in trucks or in wheelbarrows.
Author Oliver Sacks, MD discusses a visit that he and Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm: When they arrived, they heard many cows bellowing, causing a very loud and unnerving sound. Temple commented, “They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,” and indeed, that was exactly the case. Similarly, John Avizienius, a senior scientific officer at the Farm Animal Department at the RSPCA in Britain, discusses one particular cow that suffered great emotional distress over the separation from her calf: She bellowed for hours, and even after six weeks would hover at the pen door where she had last seen her calf.
We have been assured by @FreshAirFarmer and @CreeksideDairy that cows “lack the cognitive ability” to feel grief, and also told that the calf is taken about two weeks after birth because “allowing a visual reduces stress” and that it “would be worse if the calf were left with the mother for months” – totally contradictory; either they are affected by the whole thing or they aren’t, either they are aware of the separation or they aren’t, either they are upset by the separation or they aren’t. The farmers know full well they are affected, they know full well that they have the cognitive ability to mourn that loss, and that they do mourn that loss. They know full well that if their own child were taken from them and driven off by a stranger directly after birth or after two weeks, they would be in a living hell – yet they choose to inflict this on other beings. If they don’t know, then understandably of course, they are in such denial they cannot face that fact. As Upton Sinclair said famously “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”
The #farm365 campaign is an attempt – in the face of a population becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental, public health, animal welfare, and overall morality of the meat and dairy industries, to promote “happy exploitation” – however, there is no such thing. The “happy exploitation” notion is designed to appease guilt and make it easier to enjoy the products of a practice which we all know to be objectively morally wrong. If we didn’t all know this at some level, then the entire diatribe would be unnecessary.
What they aim to produce is a sanitised image, for nothing other than that would be acceptable to the public. This is a PR exercise in the face of the aforementioned growing concerns around the effects of the meat and dairy industries.
There have been similar endeavours here in the UK with the TV programme “Kill It, Cook It, Eat It” – another sanitised effort showing lambs being gently deposited down a slide for the “humane” stunning. That programme contained nothing of the countless videos I’ve watched of the supposed “human slaughter” process where invariably, whilst being stunned (which of course does not always work and never gets a second attempt – there is no time or inclination), urinate frantically because they are scared and in pain.
It is not the activists who are using a veneer to garner an emotive response, it is the farmers who are using a veneer to garner support for what is an objectively immoral practice – the use and commodification of living beings and causing the suffering of 150 billion land animals per year.
This always has been an objectively immoral practice, from slavery to vivisection to child labour. There is no moral justification for causing harm to others (animals qualify as others) because it may benefit an individual. There are legal justifications, as there were for slavery and the holocaust, as there are for child labour, but there are no moral justifications, not objectively, which is why these farmers, when faced with facts about the environmental, public health, and animal welfare issues surrounding their use and commodification of others (animals qualify as others) as though they were inanimate objects, can respond only with misinformation, outright lies, or personal insults and threats.
Among the assertions that animals don’t feel emotions and don’t mourn the loss of the babies – obvious untruths – I found one example of pure honesty, though it took a while to arrive at, here in farmer’s wife, Sarah Schultz’s, post about the exhausted cliché of dietary choice. She reasons that it is her choice to eat meat and why can’t people respect that?
The simple answer is that choices stop being personal when they have an impact on others – animals qualify as others. There is a back and forth in the comments before – giving Schultz her due – she says honestly “I like eating animals” – and that is what it comes down to. People who admit this are way ahead of the game. They have dispensed with the excuses, mitigations, and rationalisations, and they have admitted openly that basically they do it because they enjoy it and they do not want to give that up, and hidden behind that is an admittance that what they enjoy comes first, even before their inherent morality.
The mitigations are used to neutralise their own guilt, this is a personal endeavour and is necessary to carry on doing something one knows to be wrong. It’s really no different from the person who puts to the back of their mind the sweatshop which bore their cheap fashionable clothing, or the person who switches off the charity appeal from starving children, then goes out for a nice dinner – we all do this to some degree because our society has become a case of the haves and the have nots. However, these “vegans”, these “activists”, are just people who are pointing out a particular indiscretion committed on a mass scale because they have had the foresight to extinguish this particular indiscretion from their lives and urge others to do the same. Are they still immoral in other ways? Probably somewhere down the line yes, but that does not negate the immorality of animal commodification.
As Nathan Runkle, President of Mercy For Animals, says “As a civilized nation, it is our moral obligation to protect all animals, including animals raised and killed for food, from needless suffering” – slaughter is needless, the meat industry is needles and therefore all suffering associated with it is needless.
Andrew talks about bias, but you can’t talk about bias of vegans or vegetarians without talking about bias – and more importantly vested interests – of farmers – those whose livelihood rests on the use of animals as commodities. In fact, where is there no bias? No agricultural body, no vegetarian, no meat eater, no dairy farmer, no newspaper, no book, can ever be said to be unbiased, but vested interests are far more suspect than an opinion from someone who has attempted to bring their actions in line with the moral code by not consuming the products of animal exploitation.
In Mr Campbell’s post he says “goodness and love and concern of welfare, in spite of slaughter” – this is contradictory, it’s exactly the same as the husband who beats his wife saying he loves her in spite of the beatings. Both cases are simply one animal saying to another “I love you in spite of my violence towards you”.
The post ends with “but thank you again Andrew, I’ve been buying beef and eating butter under a cloud of guilt for too long.”
This admission is highly indicative of one thing – there is guilt in consuming and benefiting from the suffering and exploitation of others (animals qualify as others). One needs to ask themselves why that is, rather than search desperately for ways to justify it.
To live morally in a world where exploitation is a legally condoned, socially accepted, norm has always been difficult. Those who suggest whichever exploitation is happening at that time is wrong, are ridiculed and told to shut up frequently, but for the good of humanity there have always been those who refuse to do so.
This is exactly what is happening here. The hashtag takeover aims to present the other side of the coin – the suffering, the inevitable suffering of the animals being used as commodities – (as if there is a suffering-free way to use living beings as commodities) – there isn’t.
Therefore it is an uncomfortable yet unavoidable fact that farming of any kind is based upon personal gain from the commodification of other living beings, one must admit that that is what they are doing, yet they can’t, they won’t, because that would involve personal sacrifice – giving up something they like – the taste of meat and dairy. So instead of admitting that there is something wrong with profiting from the use of others (animals qualify as others), they get busy trying to appease their guilt. This is cognitive dissonance at its best.
But why target small, family-owned, organic farmers? Aren’t they the most humane?
Veganism is an abolitionist principle. It aims to eradicate the benefitting of the suffering of others (animals qualify as others) from one’s life. There is no compromise for well-fed or nicely treated “food animals” when the philosophy is that animals simply are not food. One does not say ‘at least I had a good life’ whilst having one’s throat slit. Quite simply, slitting someone’s throat is violence, and veganism is a stand against that violence. The only defense given by the farmers is that animals lack the cognitive ability to understand what is going on, which is obviously – and scientifically proven to be – false.
To get into that argument here would be unproductive. There are many sources and many articles written contrary to the idea that animals can’t feel physical or emotional pain, or that for some reason it doesn’t affect them as much as it does humans – again it’s really not worth getting into because either someone believes animals can’t feel physical or emotional pain, or that it simply doesn’t matter because they are of another species to our own – in which case they either in denial, are seriously and grossly under-informed, or they don’t truly believe it and are trying to protect their livelihood or mitigate their guilt.
A Word on Guilt:
One could attempt to reason there is no guilt to be had, but the statement above contradicts that. If there were no guilt then there would be no one telling vegans to shut up about the slaughter or to stop shoving pictures of slaughter in their faces. For if one is not guilty about this, what is the problem with seeing it? If there is really nothing wrong with it, what is the problem in seeing it? If the practice is morally sound, why can’t you witness it? Many people who still eat meat and dairy will literally cover their ears and eyes and make sounds to drown out what they are being shown. Many people who still eat meat and dairy will literally say to someone ‘how dare you show me that’ – again, cognitive dissonance at its best. Most of these people are blissfully unaware that they are walking, talking stereotypes.
The point here is that we all accept how bad factory farms are, we all cringe at the horror of what is considered excessive “abuse” in slaughterhouses (as if hanging live animals from their legs and slitting their throats is not excessive abuse). We all ask for slaughterhouse workers to be “humane” when slaughtering their animals (a complete oxymoron). This shows that we all know how awful the animals have it at our hands, yet we simply find ways to justify their treatment with mitigating circumstances; humane slaughter, a good life pre-slaughter, no abuse above or beyond the mandated abuse – the inevitable violent attack which result in their death. We try to mitigate the slaughter so we can continue to eat the remains, because we like the taste, and absolutely no other viable reason.
It’s an unfortunate truth that morality must start with the individual. Many vegans enjoyed the taste of cheese and meat – they taste good yes, but how much would we actually have access to were it not for the systemic raising and slaughter of them by others? How much would we hunt and catch live and process to the point where it becomes palatable for our herbivorous physiology? Likely very little.
Yet, we profit from and we enjoy the end product of something very few of us could or would create for ourselves – the commodification and utilisation of living, breathing, sentient beings who feel pain and fear, tremble before violence, and want nothing from us but love, affection, and socialisation, and need nothing from us but protection, yet get nothing from us – depending on species of course – but the consumption of their flesh and drinking of their bodily excrements after some other human has done the difficult part for us – farming them, separating them from their families, and eventually handing their supposed beloved creatures over to the abattoir for slaughter.
We profit from this practice because we outsource the hands-on slaughter to another group. It’s nothing short of bullying.
The point of using #farm365 is to show that no matter how lovingly the animals are treated before their final betrayal of being sent to the slaughterhouse, no matter how carefully calf is separated from mother to minimise distress, no matter how carefully milking machines are placed on overworked udders, and no matter how carefully the throats are slit, that the commodification of living beings is morally, objectively wrong, and all the mitigation in the world will not change that intrinsic fact.
The aim is to reach the public by showing them there is another side to the story, and that it isn’t all just a “few pictures of corn or cows”, it is more than that; there is suffering, inevitable suffering which they have admitted to. There is a moral problem with the inevitable slaughter, there is an intrinsic problem with the separation of mother and calf in the dairy industry, there is an intrinsic problem with all commodification of other living beings for personal use.
So whilst the organic dairy farmers are likely the lesser of the evils, the mother who runs after her baby being taken away in a truck doesn’t care about that, she cares about the pain and suffering she is enduring right now, and she is far from the only victim; 150 billion land animals suffer and die at the hands of humans every single year. None of them care about how family-run or how organic their suffering may or may not be, they care that they are suffering, and so do ethical vegans.
We can all agree that the factory farms, and the abuse above and beyond what is supposedly allowed, are inexcusable. Is it such a stretch to think that any abuse or family-run commodification is also inexcusable?
If it is admitted that animals deserve any respect and compassion at all, then it cannot then be reasoned that it is okay to kill and eat them. It does not follow logically.
These farmers all promote or support some form of “happy exploitation” scheme, but these schemes still involve the suffering and eventual slaughter of others (animals qualify as others). Their primary aim and impact of the #farm365 campaign is to reassure consumers that they can be “conscientious omnivores” – they can enjoy the meat and dairy they love so much, without the guilt – I’m afraid neutralising one’s guilt does not neutralise the reason for that guilt.
The hashtag takeover is an attempt to challenge an image of animal commodification that is as sanitised, manufactured, and processed as the final product needs to be in order to make it palatable to the masses. A human being can no more tolerate the cold hard truth of the process than they can the slab of raw flesh they buy so neatly packaged in cellophane in a refrigerated supermarket shelf. You would be correct to reason that if both the process and the final product need to be so processed, perhaps there is something not quite right about either.
And as an abolitionist, I find myself echoing the views of fellow abolitionist Gary L. Francione, Professor of Law, Rutgers University in saying:
Therefore, if animals matter morally, we should not be eating, wearing, or using them whether they are from “factory farms” or from “family farms” or have a “happy exploitation” label slapped on their corpses. We cannot justify inflicting any level of pain and suffering on another sentient being when the only justification is palate, pleasure, or fashion. We do not even need a theory of animal rights for that; it follows simply from the position that animals are not things and that they have moral value.
The problem is not “factory farming.” The problem is all animal farming; the problem is all animal use.