A cruelty-free lifestyle is on the rise in the United States. Though still small in comparison to the rest of the country’s population, veganism has doubled in recent years. To compliment the rise in this lifestyle, more specialty grocery stores, regular chain stores, and restaurants all over the country have begun to supply their customers with alternatives to animal-based products. Even the internet has become a haven for animal-free clothing, beauty products, vitamins, supplements, and food. Countless vegan blogs and recipes are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. All in all, it really is a good time to be a vegan. Yet, for all the strides this way of life has made, that does not mean that cruelty-free is the American way of life. Countless animals on factory farms are still suffering around the country at the hands of people who take no value in animal life. This suffering has mainly been brought to light by the numerous animal welfare groups that operate around the country. Although these groups may operate a little differently, each one has devoted itself to not only bringing these problems to the public’s attention, but to promoting a healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle.
Mercy for Animals is one group that has been a huge proponent in the fight against cruelty to factory farm animals. This non-profit organization has various means for getting the truth out to the public. Leafleting has been both an effective and common practice; releasing undercover videos has been another. The videos are graphic and disturbing. Actively watching a cow get stabbed in the throat with a pitchfork and witnessing a grown two-hundred and fifty pound man lifting a piglet into the air and smashing its head against the ground is heart wrenching. It gives one the feeling of absolute helplessness and disappointment in the capabilities of human beings. Yet, for how sickening the videos are, they are necessary. Without them, no one would ever discover the truth, and there would be no end to the torture.
The Humane Society of the United States is easily the most well known and most influential animal welfare group in the country. With over 11 million members and donors, the HSUS has been able to bring many abusive slaughterhouses to justice and insure the safety of hundreds of thousands of farm animals. One such victory came earlier this year when the USDA granted a petition posed by the HSUS in 2009 requesting that the slaughter of downer veal calves too tired, sick, or weak to stand or move come to a halt. The HSUS also received a commitment this year from companies such as Bob Evans, General Mills, Marriott, and Dine Etiquette (owner of IHOP and Applebee’s) that they would put a stop to the use of gestation crates in their pork supply chains. Gestation crates are usually no more than 6 ½ feet by 2 feet and can hold sows up to 600 pounds; they are also one of the most inhumane practices found on factory farms.
Though undercover work and the passing of legislation have been invaluable in the fight against farm animal cruelty, different, more socially inclusive ways have also been effective. Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) has been responsible for a number of campaigns aimed at making vegan options more fun and less intrusive on those who may not be ready to commit to a totally meat free diet. Such campaigns have included Gentle Thanksgiving. This movement, as its name implies, teaches the value of an animal free holiday meal. Its website has everything from holiday recipes and a “how-to” guide for non-vegans to registering one’s own Gentle Thanksgiving event in his/her area. They also have a fun campaign called Meatout Mondays, (part of a larger, FARM created site called Live Vegan), which posts a new vegan recipe every Monday. The simplicity of Meatout Mondays is brilliant, and sometimes those types of ideas are the best way of getting a message across. If even one non-vegan who visited the site tried Meatout Mondays, that’s one more life saved.
Society is moving in the right direction. Though the terrors inflicted upon factory farm animals exist, the means in which to bring these terrors to light are many. Countless people have made a pledge to devote their time, money, and lives to making sure that the abused animals on these farms have a voice. Sometimes that voice speaks of evil, terrible acts. Other times it is a friendly guide to enjoyable alternatives. Whatever the tone, that voice will always endure; it will always be there to defend these animals so that they never have to suffer helplessly and in silence.