by Laura A. Moretti
from The Animals' Agenda magazine May/June 2001
I took my New York City born-and-raised cousin to Farm
Sanctuary's shelter over the weekend. He was interested in the work I
do, so I thought I'd introduce him to the cows, pigs, and chickens
living in freedom at the sanctuary, and then haul him over to the local
college farm and show him the pigs in crammed stalls and expose him to
grisly slaughterhouse techniques.
My plan: to have him make friends with the animals first
and then give him a behind-the-scenes perspective -- show him how
animals are made for his plate. That would get him. He'd be a vegetarian
by the time he headed home.
So off to the shelter we went, my cousin, Tony, unaware
of my lethal strategy -- like a lamb to the slaughter. WWhat he knew
about animals prior to that beautiful spring day were his veal dinners
and his fried chicken sandwiches.
I was about to rock his world. Despite his Italian
background, he had a sensitive side. And I was certain, as I am of
anything, that one look into a pig farrowing house would be the end of
his bacon breakfasts. One minute in front of the calf stalls, and he'd
give up his ice cream sundaes. One step inside the slaughterhouse --
with its pulleys and knives and meat hooks, its refrigeration rooms
crammed with barrels of discarded, inedible animal hooves and eyes and
bloody hides and the like -- and he'd never eat anything made out of an
But first the setup.
Farm Sanctuary was the picture of peace upon our
arrival. Tony was anxious to get started, and I was anxious to get it
over with, so there'd be plenty of daylight left for our trip to the
college farm. While he took pictures, I pressed to hurry him along.
We stopped to watch two white chickens carefully pecking
at each other's feathers. Tony took pictures enjoying the antics. I, of
course, noticed their rubbed-away feathers, their severed beaks, their
ingrown toes, but I didn't say a word to Tony. I'd rather he saw them in
cages, the way they are just before he eats them.
He was especially taken by the female turkey who
followed him around until I explained she was hoping he'd scratch her
belly. He did, like a little boy at a petting farm, with not a clue
about the gruesome truth I planned to show him later. "What's that?" he
asked at one point, and I turned to follow his focus. A tom turkey, I
had to explain. My dear, sweet cousin was in for a shock. If he didn't
know a male turkey when he saw one, he'd be mortified when he saw what I
had yet to show him.
Though I pressured him to move along, he didn't seem to
heed. He spent nearly an hour with the pigs, scratching their backs,
taking their pictures, offering them straw he'd found. "They really do
lie around in mud," he observed. "Ah, it's a pig's life!" I didn't share
with him how grotesquely overweight the pigs were; so heavy, in fact,
some of them could barely sustain their own weight. Nor did I point to
their leg deformities and strained walking. He would see soon enough the
farrow house at the college farm, where sows were crammed into caged
stalls and forced to pump out piglets, as one farmer put it, "like
The cows came home, as it were, from the hillsides and
visited the barn as I was urging Tony to follow me to the car. He met
Henry, a former veal calf, and after taking the animal's picture said,
"Look at those eyes. They're almost unreal."
In my world, they were unreal. The cow eyes at the
dairy, he would see, were filled with fear and anguish. And they would
never come close enough for him to touch. He giggled like a schoolboy
while Henry licked his fingers with a big, raspy tongue.
Finally, after a couple of hours, Tony seemed ready to
go. He was no longer the anxious-to-get-started young man I'd brought to
the sanctuary. I knew I should have dragged him away sooner, so he
wouldn't be so tired, too tired to see the reality of his food choices
from a different perspective.
"This has been quite a day," he said, getting into the
car with me. He stored his camera, and added, "What shall we do now? How
about lunch or something? A salad would be best. I don't think I'll ever
eat anything made out of animal again."
Keep fighting the good fight.
And remember: It doesn't always have to go our way.
"Reprinted with permission from The Animals' Agenda,
P.O. Box 25881,
Baltimore, MD 21224; (410)675-4566;
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