People who work with rescued farmed animals
at sanctuaries have a unique perspective when it comes to talking
about “humane” conditions of animals
exploited for food. Satya asked a handful of sanctuary founders
to share their views on the growing association of animal rights groups with
reform and how they respond when people ask them about “humane” meat
and “cage-free” eggs.
Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy, OohMahNee Farm Animal
Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy.
Photo courtesy of OohMahNee Farm
As founders of a farm animal sanctuary, what
are your thoughts about the increasing association of animal groups
for example, endorsing Whole Foods and working on its Animal Compassion
standards, or advocating switching to cage-free eggs, etc.?
CM: I keep hoping it is all some mastermind genius scheme to infiltrate
the enemy camp and then in one fell swoop eradicate animal exploitation.
But I think it’s very clear this is just one more case of well
intended people and organizations being duped into corporate prostitution
by the industry.
I think it’s safe to say that every compassionate person would like to
know animals suffer less but no one would want them to suffer longer…the
goal is abolition not incremental change. The “Animal Compassionate standards” initiative
will create profit for the industry. No one should profit from the animal rights
movement except the animals.
JT: Having spent the last ten years of my life with animals rescued from both “factory” and “family” farming
situations, it is really hard to accept the hypocritical approach to “humane,
free-range meat.” I think the efforts to create a product that will alleviate
the general public from the ethical decision to consume animal products is counter-productive
and, most importantly, it is not fair to the animals. In theory, the whole movement
of “humane, free-range” could increase meat consumption. The people
who think about vegetarianism for ethical reasons but haven’t made that
leap yet will believe they no longer have to question their ethics. If there
is a product that is approved by some of the largest “animal” organizations
in the world, they most likely will make that decision. They can eat the
stamped, approved humane meat and feel good that they are making a difference.
Although theoretical, probability weighs in its favor. Also, I feel that
no matter what type of guidelines you put on paper and no matter how “approved” or “free-range” meat
can be, animals are still going to suffer without vet care, they are still going
to live in deplorable conditions, and they are going to continue to have their
lives stolen. For Darla, Carla, Celeste, Aggie, etc...all of whom we rescued
from the “ideal” conditions at family farms, ethically I cannot support
How do you respond when people ask about “cage-free” eggs or “humanely
CM: Over the past ten years, Jason and I have been to numerous factory and family
farms, many that boasted “cage-free” conditions. Actually the “cage-free” facilities
were by far the most horrific to me, but I think we too were very naïve
in our perception of what “cage-free” truly represents. The animals
at “cage-free” farms are just as crowded, filthy, sick, injured,
miserable, neglected and exploited as the animals at all other factory farms—sometimes
When people say they are going to buy meat from Whole Foods or free-range animal
byproducts, we would always inform them that in the end, all the animals die
the same. Anyone who sets foot on the kill floor of any slaughterhouse will tell
you it is the most horrific death one can imagine. Buying “free-range” or “cage-free” is
still supporting slaughter and that is not something we have ever been willing
to advocate and never will.
This is a very interesting turn of events since one of the most wonderful aspects
of the animal rights movement has always been its diversity. I think much of
the success of the movement has been the result of different organizations applying
different types of pressure to the opposition, but with the same goal of ending
animal exploitation—ending it. What really disturbed me about the statements
made by some proponents of the “Animal Compassionate standards” is
at no point did they state these measures are going to achieve that goal of ending
the exploitation and slaughter. I think what they promote as being a “step
in the right direction” could very well be the stumble before the fall.
JT: This was the number one question we got when running the sanctuary, and we
still get it today when we talk to people. Whenever I discuss the topic
of “humane meat” and Whole Foods with people, I just say that no
matter how they were treated or how much space they had, they all had their lives
stolen from them. I also ask people to think about questions like, What do you
think happens to sick animals on organic farms, being that they cannot receive
any medication? I personally cleaned the pus-filled wound extending down the
back of a turkey’s neck, a turkey who was rescued from a free-range farm
and this wasn’t an isolated case. The other rescued turkeys had broken
legs, wings, and the conditions were horrible even though they had
more room than most free-range farms. I saw a lot of suffering despite their
cageless free-range life. At even a small family owned operation with
a few thousand turkeys, they could not provide basic health care. From experience,
most people really thought about these issues and admitted they never thought
about the situation of “free-range” in such a way.
Most people are really affected by animals suffering and instead of
taking that one open opportunity to educate them on the lives of animals
in the food industry and use it as an opportunity to say selling humane meat
from animals that were treated and killed with kindness, is a crime.
Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy are founders of the recently closed OohMahNee Farm
Animal Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.
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