|Enewsletter • July 22, 2001|
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
I gave copies of Why Vegan to my four housemates to read and discuss at the
same time. All of them thought that Why Vegan was perfect. All of them have
been talking about going vegetarian since. It's really quite incredible. I
guess it has become ordinary for you at Vegan Outreach, but I know no other
document that so quickly encourages people to make drastic lifestyle changes.
When I met my husband, he ate meat. We got into so many arguments. Then around
the time he proposed, he quit smoking, drinking and eating meat. Shortly after,
he saw a copy of Why Vegan and convinced me to go vegan. We both did and it's
been almost a year. He went from weighing 230 back down to 180, the size he
was when I met him! We've never felt better about our health or our lives
and the impact we have on the earth. Oh yeah, and we're activists now, too.
That was something I always wanted to do and now we're doing it together.
by Paul Shapiro, Compassion Over Killing
In the past, when animal rights activists in the U.S. have freed animals from places of exploitation, they've gone to great lengths to ensure their anonymity. The clandestine nature of such liberations isn't because the activists are ashamed of their actions, but rather because they want to avoid imprisonment so they can continue to release more animals. Not everyone who frees animals uses this model. In Australia, the Action Animal Rescue Team has been conducting "open rescues" at factory farms for nearly 20 years. Contrary to the typical mainstream media coverage of clandestine liberations, the stories of open rescues in Australia have been overwhelmingly positive. Because no property is destroyed and no one conceals his or her identity, no claims of the activists being "terrorists" are lodged. In fact, open rescues have become so well received in Australia that a member of the Australian Parliament joined Action activists in openly rescuing piglets. Because of the success of the tactic in Australia, U.S. activists have begun conducting open rescues as well. In January 2001, Compassionate Action for Animals openly rescued eleven hens from an egg facility in Minnesota. As of yet, there has been no talk of prosecution. Likewise, in May 2001, after a month-long investigation, members of Compassion Over Killing (COK) openly rescued eight hens from a factory farm in Maryland.
News of COK's investigation and rescue was sent around the world. The Washington Post, USA Today, Associated Press, United Press International, CBS, FOX, and the Takoma Voice ran positive stories focusing on allegations of abuse in the egg industry rather than on the activists themselves. Despite heavy media coverage of the rescue and its preceding investigation, none of the COK activists are facing prosecution.
How is it that activists can videotape themselves freeing animals, circulate the tape, and avoid prosecution? Of course, there's no guarantee that the activists won't eventually be prosecuted. When the details of open rescues are examined, however, it becomes clear why prosecution would only help the movement for the animals and hinder the animal-abusing industry.
Before ever entering the factory farm, COK sent a letter to International Standard of Excellence (ISE) and requested a tour of its egg facility in Cecilton, Maryland. No response was received. We then began an investigation, documenting egregious instances of cruelty and neglect. Instead of immediately rescuing animals, we first contacted the local authorities and requested that ISE be prosecuted for animal cruelty. Not surprisingly, the authorities were unresponsive. Having no other options, we provided aid to sick and injured hens, including rescuing eight who were in dire need of immediate veterinary care.
Clearly, the paper trail left behind enables activists to employ a necessity defense if prosecuted. Why would the industry want to prosecute? Most open rescues garner negative media attention for the targeted industry; having a trial with potential to turn political would only further tarnish the industry's reputation. Moreover, in most open rescues, the financial worth of the missing animals is virtually nothing. The eight hens rescued by COK activists had a combined total value to the industry of about 40 cents.
When no property is destroyed and no identities are concealed, the media is more likely to keep the focus on animal suffering rather than claims of "terrorism."
Open rescues are still very new to the United States, and it's probably too early to gauge their usefulness here. What is known is that the open rescue conducted by COK was extremely successful. Thousands of people visited our investigation-specific web site, www.ISECruelty.com, after the media stories broke, and hundreds ordered free Vegan Starter Packs from that page. More importantly, eight lives were dramatically altered, going from complete misery to freedom and safety. It's hoped that those eight henswho are all still alive and wellwill act as ambassadors for all egg-laying hens and that their story will encourage more and more Americans to adopt a gentler, more compassionate lifestyle by going vegan. In the meantime, COK and other organizations will continue exposing the injustices and cruelties committed by the factory farm industry in the hopes of building a world where all sentient beings can live free from tyranny, regardless of their species.
Paul Shapiro is the campaigns manager of Compassion Over Killing. COK's web site can be viewed at www.cok-online.org.
To order a copy of COK's 18-minute documentary on the investigation and rescue, Hope for the Hopeless, please send $10 made payable to:
Compassion Over Killing