The Impact of Bearing Witness

Farrowing Crates © Farm Watch
Licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is nothing wholesome about animal agriculture. It is a brutal, bloody business that treats sensitive animals like objects.

Nothing speaks more to this fact than the firsthand accounts shared by undercover investigators. In addition to the videos that are released following their investigations, the stories they tell as individuals who bear witness to the horrific abuse of farmed animals are decidedly powerful.

I realized the power of their stories when I first attended the Animal Rights National Conference. I had been aware of the issues, had seen the videos, had heard many lectures on why animal agriculture is a problem. And even after all of that, I was particularly moved by keynote presentations by former undercover investigators Taylor Radig and TJ Tumasse. (Follow the links to hear their stories.)

More recently, former investigator Elizabeth Pachaud told her story of being traumatized by her experience working on a factory farm.

I remember one mother pig especially. She was physically worn out and very sick. She was sprawled out in her crate, her snout resting in a mound of stale feed, and she had stopped eating. Workers had spray-painted a red “X” on her back to indicate she would be “culled,” or more simply, killed. Eventually, every mother pig who could no longer give birth received this designation.

I knew that things would never be better for her. She had known nothing but pain and suffering for her entire life, and by the look of resignation in her eyes, I could tell she had given up. Over the course of a week, when I was sure I was alone, I’d stop by her cage, sit down next to her, and quietly talk to her — a risk I barely ever let myself take.

Heartbreaking. Through our empathy, we’re able to feel not only for Elizabeth’s experience but also for the mother pig.

It’s hard to read that and not feel powerless. But there are steps we can take.

We can choose to withdraw our support for a system that abuses animals. We can choose vegan food options whenever possible, gradually eliminating the meat, dairy, and eggs from our diets. We can rest assured that lots of delicious, nourishing plant-based food is available.

If it feels overwhelming to make the switch, start with one meal a day or one meal a week. Join us for a dine out or a potluck. Explore the options and get to know others in the community. We welcome everyone, no matter where you are in your process.

We are grateful for the brave work of undercover investigators, exposing the industry for what it is so that we all can make more compassionate choices. We can listen to their stories and be moved by empathy to take action for animals in our everyday lives.


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