Sanctuary Perspectives on “Humane” Animal
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.
Michele with Hens.
Photo courtesy of Peaceful
As a founder of a sanctuary for farmed animals, the most abused of
all creatures on the planet, what are your thoughts about the increasing
association of animal
rights groups with the meat industry, for example, endorsing Whole Foods
and working on its Animal Compassionate standards, or advocating
switching to cage-free
It is disheartening, frustrating and discouraging...to say the least. We
smaller grassroots organizations and, of course, the animals themselves,
rely on the
huge multi-million dollar organizations who have exposure and resources to
expose the truth about the horrors inherent in all forms of animal
Knowing that they are the public face—so to speak—of the AR
movement, they should be an honest representation of the movement and its
veganism (as the only effective means to advocate for the cessation of
cruelty and murder of farmed animals), and resisting temptation to appease
promoting veganism is compromised and/or the exploitation of some farmed
animals is offered as an acceptable and even desirable alternative to the
of other farmed animals.
They should also tell us what their “exit strategy” is. When will
these “leaders” come back and address the duping of consumers and
the stepped-up production and marketing of “humanely produced” animal
products? Any term referring to the supposed “humane production” of
animal products is an oxymoron. The consumer is now more confused than ever
when they are being told simultaneously by both animal rights/welfare groups
and the industries themselves in the same language, that it’s okay,
and even good, to abuse and murder some animals in place of others. How are
we true vegan advocates to counter all of the misinformation? When will the
big organizations come back to the public and say, ‘Oh, by the way, when
we gave you all those pats on the back for switching to eggs labeled “cage-free,” we
weren’t exactly forthcoming with you. We knew all along that the
hens are still debeaked, force-molted, brutally murdered at less than two
of age, never see the sun, and all of their rooster brothers are still
horrifically murdered at the very same hatcheries that provide animals
for the battery operations.
So we basically lied to you before, and you have been not only supporting
extreme animal cruelty and murder, but you have also helped finance the
growth of one
of the most profitable and rapidly growing animal exploiting industries
In your experiences at the sanctuary, are you finding people, rather
than moving toward rejecting suffering outright by considering vegetarianism,
saying ‘What about humane meat?’ or ‘I’ll just buy
my meat at Whole Foods’? How do you respond to this?
No exaggeration: every person or group who visits the sanctuary, no matter
what their background, age, sex or socioeconomic position, beams with pride
when they proclaim, “It’s okay, I only buy cage-free eggs and organic
milk.” We have the same amount of people respond with those lines when
we are tabling or leafleting. Again, the location doesn’t seem to matter.
PPS recently decided we have to prioritize the debunking of “humanely” produced
animal products in all of our campaigns, education and outreach because there
is NO such thing. Some of the most egregious cases of animal abuse we have
encountered have come from so-called cage-free facilities and family farms.
After a visitor proudly proclaims, “I only buy cage-free eggs,” we
will pick up Libby, a hen rescued from a cage-free facility and hold her mutilated
body up next to Jewel, a hen rescued from a battery facility. The visitors
are asked to tell us which hen came from which type of operation. They invariably
cannot tell the difference. When we describe the conditions of the cage-free
facility, the visitors are even more perplexed, and even angered. We also do
not leave out the details of both Jewel and Libby’s rooster brothers
having been murdered at hatcheries in the same gruesome and inhumane
The promotion of misleading and false labeling of animal products is a major
step backwards for advocates like us who have always been armed with the
truth when exposing the lies, omissions and misinformation put forth by the
egg and flesh industries. Unfortunately, we now find ourselves having to
scream from the mountaintops about the reality of the deplorable conditions
animals from birth/hatching to the last gruesome and terrifying day of their
miserable lives. But we are forced to, so that the consumer may make educated
decisions based on indisputable facts pertaining to all animal products.
Most people are confused and even feel betrayed they were told by respected
organizations, on whom they relied for accurate information, that these
products were a “humane” choice. No one wants to believe (or be told) that
they support any kind of animal abuse—especially when they thought
they had made a significant lifestyle change motivated by their desire
to not support
animal abuse. We are left with the position of filling in the gaping blanks
left intentionally by the huge organizations and agribusiness industries.
Within the last two years, PPS has ceased to use the term “factory farming.” For
decades we activists were able to use that term because the only alternative
to “factory farming” was veganism. Now, thanks to widespread marketing
ploys by the animal exploiting industries, combined with free advertising and
promoting of animal products with warm-fuzzy labels by animal advocacy organizations,
the compassionate consumer is inundated with what they perceive to be an acceptable
alternative. They are desperate to not have to change a thing in their lifestyle
(go vegan) so they can continue feeling (incorrectly) that they are not contributing
to animal cruelty when they purchase “cage-free,” etc.
We are now forced to refer to it as “animal agribusiness” rather
than “factory farming” so we can be clear about what constitutes
support of animal cruelty. This is yet another example of our own language
being co-opted in order to sell the suffering of animals.
All in all, it has made our job as farmed animal advocates even more difficult
than it always has been. Meanwhile, the sense of urgency continues to increase
for farmed animals and for those of us charged with their protection.
Michele Alley-Grubb is cofounder and operator of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary,
located in Deer Trail, Colorado, www.peacefulprairiesanctuary.org; (303)
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