Vegan Writer Shaun Britton Takes A Closer Look At The BAFTA-Winning Documentary Exposing The Truth About The Meat Market.
A recent documentary, 73 Cows, tells the story of farmer Jay Wilde, who went vegan and gave his whole herd of cows to an animal sanctuary. The documentary has gone on to win a BAFTA, and has shone a light on a phenomenon that perhaps, the animal farming industries would rather remained obscure. Speaking in an interview, Jay Wilde recollected that, “you knew that you were taking them to what must be a terrifying experience. It was soul destroying, that’s how it felt.”
A Testimony of Truth
With non-animal foods, we rely on other people to do what we don’t have time or the space to do, whilst animal foods requires us to trust people to carry out what we likely couldn't bring ourselves to do.
In that vein, we trust that the process is ethical, humane and unavoidable due to its necessity. We need meat, we say, they surely must make sure the animals are looked after, we affirm. We trust this because the ‘people in the know’ reflect that to us. So when one those people responsible for producing those foods, not only frees the animals they have, but rejects meat and dairy from their diet entirely, a crack in a door that the animal industries work hard to keep closed, is opened.
Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher who is now a prominent vegan activist, disbanded his profession and turned his farm into a sanctuary. He tours the world speaking on organic farming and veganism. Lyman gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in 1996, in an episode about mad cow disease, in which his testimony and predictions resulted in the cattle industry suing Oprah, a case which she won two years later.
Former dairy farmer Jan Gerdes, walked away from dairy farming and founded a vegan animal sanctuary, dedicated to caring for exploited animals. He said in the documentary ‘Let Live’, “Before I had to deny that I liked them. There was no other way. I wanted or I had to make money. Now, they are more like - comrades. You are happy, you talk, you talk to them. They are happy when I talk to them and they tell me something. It really is a great way of living together.”
Former pig farmer turned vegetable farmer and now vegan Bob Comis, who features in the documentary ‘The Last Pig’ also had a profound change of heart: “Every now and then I would question what I was doing and evaluate whether it was okay to do. And ultimately I would answer yes, it was okay. Until one day, on January 27, 2014, I went out to take care of the pigs and I had a very intense experience that the pigs were no longer things at all. They had taken on the aspect of beings and beings of the sort of rich and profound sense of the term. They were sacred and the idea of continuing to raise them for slaughter was just not possible anymore. It was a really profound experience.”
Secrets From The Slaughterhouse
There is no part of the meat production process more shielded than the slaughterhouse. It is kept as far away from consumers as possible, with pictures of vast green fields and bright promises of welfare overshadowing macabre images of reality. Regardless of what farm, method or ideal is comfortingly presented to us in the supermarkets, almost all animals will meet the same end in the same way. Unsurprisingly, there are countless testimonies from those who have worked in these houses of slaughter. Deeply and personally affected by what they witnessed, and in addition to turning away from meat and dairy in their diets, many now use their experiences to tell the animal’s story.
Australian Josh Agland, a former slaughterhouse worker and now activist, was ashamed to speak at first then realised he needed to tell people what was happening. Describing an ex-dairy cow sent to be killed for meat, he said the cow was 'Exhausted and depleted... collapsed onto the cold concrete floor of the slaughterhouse. Instead of euthanising her, on-site vets made the decision to leave her overnight and kill her for meat first thing in the morning, when the line could be slowed. She was pregnant when she was killed, her baby cut from her stomach.'
Scott Hoskins, another ex-slaughterhouse turned vegan stated in an interview “I don’t even see an argument about it being violent any more. By definition, violence [is] a physical action with intent to harm, injure or kill something or someone. There’s no argument there. It’s exactly violence. I and others have justified that or minimised that for a very long time.”
These testimonies are unlikely the last
Far from being isolated cases or mere individual pangs of conscience, these people may well represent the first few tumbling stones of an approaching avalanche, and these individuals, it could be argued, may stand to be remembered as pioneers of change in one of the most prominent rights issues of our age. | Tru. 🌱
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Capps, A. (2019). 'It Was Soul Destroying'— UK Beef & Dairy Farmer Goes Vegan, Grows Vegetables Instead. [online] Free From Harm. Available at: https://freefromharm.org/animal-farmer-turned-vegan/jay-wilde/
The Independent. (2019). Oprah triumphs over the Texas cattle ranchers. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/oprah-triumphs-over-the-texas-cattle-ranchers-1147137.html
Letlivefilm.com. (2019). Live And Let Live | a feature documentary about our relationship with animals, the meaning of food and the ethical challenges of the 21st century.. [online] Available at: http://www.letlivefilm.com/en/
Ecorazzi.com. (2019). Exclusive: Interview with Bob Comis of 'The Last Pig' : Ecorazzi. [online] Available at: http://www.ecorazzi.com/2015/10/01/exclusive-interview-with-bob-comis-of-the-last-pig/
HuffPost. (2019). Meet the Former Slaughterhouse Worker Who Became an Animal Rights Activist. [online] Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/meet-the-former-slaughter_b_10199262
CBC. (2019). Former slaughterhouse worker says job reinforced his violent behaviour | CBC Radio. [online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/outintheopen/the-violent-hour-1.4343546/former-slaughterhouse-worker-says-job-reinforced-his-violent-behaviour-1.4343621