With so much going on in the world today, it is hard to keep up with all of the major developments. Believe it or not, I obsess about human beings as much as I do animals. And sometimes, I wish this Blog also contained posts about humans (well, I should say, posts about humans who aren't a) harming animals; or b) helping animals) and the trials and tribulations they face. At some point, I may convert this Blog to an Animal Rights & Human Rights Blog. But I also don't want to dilute the animal rights and vegan message.
Dilemmas, dilemmas, dilemmas! What to do?
For the time being, I'll keep the focus on animal rights and veganism. But you, my friends out there in the Blogosphere, should know that I care every bit as much about the fate of humanity as I do the fate of animals.
That said, there are two important developments in the North American animal world that I've been following closely. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has actually made me lose lots and lots of sleep. I have congratulated the media - over and over again - for providing such fantastic coverage of this tragedy. Most media outlets - Internet-based, television-based and print-based - have been doing a spectacular job of covering this massive tragedy. Journalists deserve our thanks and respect.
I've read many powerful articles on the oil spill. In particular, a photo essay in the recent Huffington Post this morning moved me very deeply. Have a look if you get a chance.
Another major event going on right now is the controversy surrounding allegations (and film) of abuse at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Union County, Ohio. The video footage of cows and calves being beaten, kicked, stabbed and punched by workers has triggered a nationwide outcry against animal abuse.
Apparently, the owner of this outfit, Gary Conklin, is afraid because of the public backlash this event has caused. And within the protest community, moderate animal welfare proponents have been butting heads with militant activists. The debates on Facebook have been fierce, pitting people who want to tinker with the system to improve it (e.g., passing stronger anti-abuse laws) against people who want to tear the system down completely. Leading the charge among the militants has been Gary Yourofsky, a veteran animal liberationist who recently wrote on his Blog:
I am asking everyone who cares about justice and injustice to bring bolt cutters, bats, crowbars, pitchforks, hammers and wrenches to help destroy every piece of equipment the farm has, and tear down the sheds. (Source)
The police are taking threats from the radicals seriously. Over the past few days, 150 police have been guarding the area around the farm and the roads leading up to it. (Source)
Already, Conklin employee Billy Joe Gregg Jr. - the Lieutenant William Calley of this whole mess - has been in court to face 12 counts of animal cruelty. Conklin himself has sought to distance himself from the cruelty. As he said in a statement:
Our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously. The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable. (Source)
Strange, then, that Conklin himself is seeing in the video kicking a cow over and over again.
The animal welfare advocates are calling on Conklin to be shut down as a result of the terrible treatment of cows and calves.
Punishing Conklin and his employees for this gratuitous brutality is a step in the right direction. But it is naive to assume that it will solve the problem. As I've said here many times, the factory farm system is, by its very nature, inherently violent. I'd guess - though I have no way of verifying this - that most workers in the dairy industry do not abuse cows and calves in the manner shown in the video. I could be wrong. And obviously I have no hard evidence to prove that guess.
But the dairy workers who refrain from violence do so in spite of the nature of the system. Bear in mind, this is an assembly line that keeps cows in a permanent state of pregnancy, whisks babies away to be turned into veal, and murders the cows when they can no longer serve milk.
Certainly, AT THE VERY LEAST, all of these dreadful sins are on a par with beating, kicking, punching and stabbing cows and calves and snapping their tails. Some people - like me - would even argue that the sins of day-to-day Standard Operating Procedure are even worse than anything we saw in the videos shot at Conklin Dairy Farms.
So punish the abusers. But use this terrible moment as an opportunity to ask the deeper and more troubling questions about the factory farm system.