Recently, Animal Outlook, a non-profit animal advocacy organisation based in Washington shed light on an important aspect of the meat industry: animal cruelty. Through an undercover operation, they managed to get the inside scenes of what really happens on the farm, and detailed the things they saw that would give animal rights advocates a shock. We take you through this.
The investigation into animal cruelty by Animal Outlook
Erin Wing worked at a 1,000-cow dairy farm in Chambersburg, a small Pennsylvania town. She captured her experiences with the help of a hidden camera that she carried with her at all times. The sights she saw while she milked the cows? Devastating. They involved calf horns being brutally removed without the use of anaesthesia. The reason for removing these was so as to not hurt the workers during the process. Along with these, Erin also detailed how animals were kicked and stomped on in the process.
The result of the investigation
Following these findings, there was an investigation that was carried out by the Pennsylvania State Police. You would expect there to be some kind of action for the kind of cruelty detailed in the footage, but to everyone’s astonishment, it was announced that there wouldn’t be any charges pressed against those seen in the video or the owner of the corporation.
Instead of this, the public was assured by the police that steps would be taken to better the conditions for the animals and to see that these behaviours weren’t being repeated.
You may be shocked at this. But farm animals have rarely had visibility or been acknowledged under the usual animal laws.
Why farm animals do not come under animal rights laws?
In the United States, there are laws for animals but most of these pertain to animals that are pets, or those that are bred in zoos and farm animals appear to be exempted from them. The reason is that the ‘animal cruelty’ seen on farms is usually considered customary or usual. Thus, no matter how unkind or inhuman these practices may seem to the majority, in the face of the law, they are okay.
Why is action rarely taken against animal cruelty on farms?
Another problem lies in the area of who is making the rules and regulations. In the case of animal cruelty, in the United States, it is often not the law that can decide what is inhuman and what isn’t. Animal law professors Mariann Sullivan and David Wolfson wrote “In most of the United States, prosecutors, judges, and juries no longer have the power to determine whether or not farmed animals are treated in an acceptable manner. The industry alone defines the criminality of its own conduct.”
Sullivan says in an article to Vox, “You see this syndrome where the owner says, ‘Oh, my god, I’m so shocked — this is terrible. We’re firing them right away and they should be prosecuted’. So the very low-level people get prosecuted for this gratuitous cruelty. … And they’re eligible for being thrown under the bus by the owners,” highlighting the problem on the ground because of which change is difficult.
Can the investigation by Animal Outlook help?
Even though there wasn’t a ruling that said these acts of cruelty on the farm should be banned, the Court did question the necessity of these brutal dehorning processes. While dehorning calves at an early age hurt them more, and this process is cruel and harsh, many farmers do it as they are unaware of pain drugs or because these take time to administer.
Wing, in an article to Vox questions “How could this be a standard practice — to take a hot iron and press it into the skull of a young calf and burn their skin away, burn their horn tissue away, and especially to do that without some form of anesthetic? To have that be recognized [by the court] is really incredible.”
The argument that the Court too conceded with was that even though handling farm animals in a rough way couldn’t come under the law, as these were ‘normal farm operations’, dehorning isn’t a ‘normal farm practice’ and thus the people or corporations involved in it could be prosecuted. This was a ray of hope for animal activists that when the focus is put on instances of animal cruelty, there are things that come to light that can be challenged, and bring about reforms.
While this is the situation in the United States, this practice of animal cruelty on farms has been highlighted as commonly seen around the world. Only raising a voice can bring about changes on the ground.