Stopping Our War on Animals

By Dr. Will Tuttle

The last few weeks have been painfully embarrassing for the dairy and egg producing industries. First, there was the release on May 15, 2010, by Mercy For Animals, an animal protection group, of undercover video footage taken at Conklin Dairy, a typical small dairy outside Columbus, OH. It depicted shocking cruelty by workers toward dairy cows and their baby calves. This 3-minute video is so arresting, it has gone viral on the internet. This was followed just a few weeks later on June 7 by more MFA undercover video footage taken in a large Maine egg producing facility, Quality Egg of New England, causing it to be fined $130,000 for cruelty to animals in a landmark case.

While most people are dimly aware of the unavoidable cruelty involved in eating meat, the routine cruelty involved in dairy and egg production has been less recognized. The Conklin Dairy video exposes the “hot” cruelty of enraged and sadistically violent abuse perpetrated by workers, while the Quality Egg video exposes the inherent “cold” cruelty of treating beings as things, and the mentality of indifference and numbness this fosters in workers, as hens are hyper-confined for life, and when sick, tossed live into trash cans and manure pits, not with anger, as at the dairy, but without caring or awareness. These videos expose our war on animals.
The most remarkable thing in all of this is the realization that whenever an animal protection organization such as PETA, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, MFA, or COK places an undercover investigator in any of the animal agriculture operations–egg production, dairy production, hatcheries, slaughter plants, auctions, feedlots, stockyards, or broiler, turkey, pork, or foie gras production facilities, there is always graphic footage of extreme violence by workers toward the animals. As Nathan Runkle, founder of MFA, recently said after the Conklin Dairy video, “Whenever we send an undercover worker into an animal agriculture facility, they always obtain footage of shocking violence to the animals there.”

Why is this? The renowned social psychologist Robert J. Lifton has called war “an atrocity-producing situation.” Animal agriculture is, in fact, a war against animals, and the soldiers in this war, the workers, are similarly in atrocity-producing situations–situations that bring out the worst in them. Lifton and other psychologists have pointed out that war reduces enemy combatants and civilians to the status of mere pests and objects, and produces two types of atrocities–the hot violence of infuriated stabbing, beating, and killing we see both in war and in the Conklin Dairy video, and the cold violence of drones dropping bombs that kill and maim, like the cruelty inflicted on hens confined in battery cages where they are routinely maimed and then killed in the industrial meat grinder.

This war on animals, with our soldier-workers killing an estimated 75 million animals daily in the U.S. alone, is the underlying war driving our war on other humans, the Earth, less-privileged people, wildlife, and, ultimately, ourselves. It is vast and invisible, and yet everyone, except for vegans, is participating and demanding it to continue. Until we understand that the mentality of disconnectedness, reductionism, and violence ritually injected into all of us through our meals is the underlying mentality driving the U.S. war machine and the war on nature and animals, we will never be more than merely ironic in our quests for peace, justice, freedom, and wisdom.

Food is our most intimate and far-reaching connection with our culture and the world. We are called to stop immediately our benighted practice of enslaving and killing animals for food if we are to survive. We have no other choice. Fortunately, we’re beginning, ever so slowly, to realize this. There’s nothing more important to understand and practice than this right now. When we purchase animal-sourced foods, we are paying for and thus directly creating countless atrocity-producing situations. The atrocities inevitably boomerang, as chickens come home to roost.

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