How to Watch a Factory Farm Video in 12 Steps

Dear courageous world-changers,

I have to ration the number of animal abuse videos I watch. I physically, mentally, and emotionally can only take so much. But there IS much…almost every week there is a new video coming out from groups like Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, PETA, and HSUS evidencing the horrifying horrifying (did I mention, horrifying?) things that go on behind closed CAFO doors (that’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and slaughterhouses not to mention circuses, fur farms, “science” labs, and backyard butchers.

Today there was another video that came out from the Humane Society of the United States. Although some of the reports call it “shocking,” I’d say it’s unfortunately par for the course. Initially, I acknowledged it but did not watch it. I had second thoughts though as I remembered the recent proliferation of “ag gag” bills entering state legislations and in some instances, passing. These bills muzzle undercover investigators who obtain employment in settings known for animal abuse. The investigators are the people who witness the abuse for sometimes months on end in order to gather footage convincing enough to ignite significant change.  I am in awe of their bravery, but pro-ag lobbyists and legislatures would like to close the blinds on what goes on and allow non-transparency to reign. Ag gag bills have already passed in Iowa and Missouri. Of these bills, Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals said:

“This flawed and misdirected legislation could set a dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors to industrial factory farms and allowing animal abuse, environmental violations, and food contamination issues to flourish undetected, unchallenged, and unaddressed.”

Now more than ever the public needs to know about the ugly side of factory farming…before there are no more videos to show us. So, in the spirit of honoring what these investigators have done for us and to pay my respects to the millions of animals that are suffering at this very moment, I watched the latest video. The video is from the inside of a pig breeding “farm” called Wyoming Premium Farms. This facility is owned by Denver-based Itoham America Inc. and supplies pigs for Tyson Foods…the world’s second largest meat processor and a common brand in your community’s grocery store. The video shows piglets being kicked like soccer balls and spun in the air by their legs. Its shows sows being beaten away from their piglets. In one mindboggling snippet a worker bounces on the back of a sow who is refusing to move because her leg is broken.


Even writing those things is making me dizzy. Nothing gets me vicserally reactive like these videos. My hands were shaking from just this 2 minutes of video. Maybe this description of the footage is sufficient for you. Sometimes the written descriptions are all I need…or can handle. But maybe you want to watch it. Maybe this will be the FIRST undercover footage you’ve seen like this. If so, I thought I’d give you a brief tutorial to prep you for the experience.

Here are the 12 steps I realized I take to get through these videos. Maybe one day I can cut it down to 7 or 8.

1. Get a Kleenex.

2. Mute my computer. The sounds are terrifying. If I want to, I can watch it later with sound. This way I distress my senses one at a time instead of all at once.

3. Take three deep breaths, thanking God for the courage to watch and the compassion to react.

4. Either cover my eyes with my hands leaving a thin slit I can look through OR find a benign spot on my screen where I can look so that I only capture the worst images with my peripheral. 

5. Start the video.

6. As I watch, don’t forget to breathe.

7. When there is writing on the screen, read it.

8. From time to time look at the time bar, reminding myself that it’s almost done.

9. When the video is done, close my eyes and take more deep breaths until my body calms down. Cry if I need to but not for too long before moving onto step 10.

10. Say a prayer of gratitude for the animals that die in these conditions and offer an invitation for the wisdom to know how to change it.

11. Make a pact with myself that I won’t forget what I saw and that my life with be part of the change.

12. DO SOMETHING!! Change what I eat, change what I wear, sign a petition, plant a tree, buy a bumper sticker, tell someone what I saw, websearch for more information, read a book, listen to a podcast, write this post, go to a protest, cry, pray, yell, believe….

Okay, that all may seem a little melodramatic. I hear that. But I work well with lists and I cope better with an action plan. I hope that you won’t need all these steps, but use them if you do.

So my challenge for you today is to watch the video. But before I wrap this up and give you the link, I have one more thing to say. I have a friend who used to stop me short with, “Don’t tell me why you’re vegan. If I know why, then I’ll probably not want to eat meat anymore.”  I think the time for allowing ourselves this luxury of blissful ignorance has lapsed. We now need to know…for our own future…or our kids’ futures. The treatment of these animals on factory farms is not just an animal rights issue. These facilities are polluting our air, poisoning our water, producing chemicalized and diseased meat that we then feed to our families. And I’m just going to throw it out there because I don’t know much about the science behind what I’m about to say, but I believe that the energy of terror, fear, and pain that these animals are submerged in for their ENTIRE lives must somehow be passed along to those of us who put their flesh in our mouths. And it’s not that animal welfare is the most important cause out there…it’s that they are ALL connected! Human rights, civiil rights, animal rights, food rights, environmental rights, workers’ rights…they are connected. If you have abuse, suppression, violence and exploitation in any of these realms, it reaches out and contaminates the others through our ideologies, our leniencies, and our desensitization. So why not just jump in somewhere and see what kind of impact you can make? Do something small right where you are and your ripple effect will begin!

Okay, are you ready to try my 12 step program?

Here is the video. It starts right away so you may want to pause it as you get prepared. I’m proud of you for watching it. You can do it! Let me know if you need to talk afterwards.  I  love you.

Activism? Or is it the T word?


You know all those horrible but eye-opening videos you’ve seen about animal treatment in factory farms? Well it appears that those videos actually lead to “economic hardship” for the enterprises they expose. Hmm, go figure. When Mercy For Animals shows the way Sparboro Farms abuses chicks and chickens, guess what happens? Major purchasers pull their support, regular people hear all about it on Facebook, celebrities begin to speak out, and pretty soon you’ve got a lot less people eating Sparboro eggs.

But instead of hailing Mercy For Animals for doing their regulatory duty for them, the government has suggested that MFA’s undercover videotaping may actually qualify the animal rights organization as terrorists.  At least an FBI document acquired through the FOIA sure suggests that. It was written by an FBI agent and states that actions such as undercover videotaping violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which was supposed to defend against property damage like burning down buildings or freeing entire groups of laboratory animals. One of the accused said, ““It is…sobering to realize the supposedly terroristic activities in question are merely exposing the horrific cruelty of factory farms, educating the public about what goes on behind those closed doors, and openly rescuing a few animals from one of those farms as an act of civil disobedience.”

Indeed, this threat of terrorism charges for undercover videotaping is disturbing to me for two reasons. First, because when an injustice is being done, I feel it is sometimes the duty of the people to speak up against it…namely, when the powers that be will not. If I were to ever see injustice at my workplace, you bet I would try to capture that on tape for evidence. These animals live in disgusting, debilitating conditions; they are injured, neglected and denied any semblance of natural animal behaviors. Then they are often slaughtered in ways that defy regulations not to mention moral decency. When someone delivers evidence of this so that legal and social intervention can happen, while at the same time doing no harm to people or property, I can’t fathom calling them a terrorism. It is standing up for what is right. If we trusted politicians and regulatory agencies to raise their voice for what is good and decent (and thank goodness for those that do!) then we wouldn’t have to be peering through the crack in the wall to see what is really happening behind closed doors.

Secondly, these charges are nothing to take lightly considering the recent, mind-blowing passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 under which the President can indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. I see the privacy rights of American citizens decreased, while the threat of arrest for demanding more transparency from government and corporations increased, and this is frightening. This is not my area of expertise, but a pattern of chipping away at privacy sure seems obvious when you look at the facts. More and more it seems like the message is: We can watch you, but don’t you dare watch us.

I personally have had my life drastically changed by the kinds of videos put out by Mercy For Animals and PETA. I want to know what I’m eating, supporting, buying into, falling for. In fact, I believe this is my right. My abilities for compassion and for standing up against what I think is wrong have been greatly bolstered by watching atrocities shown in these clips. It’s hard and heartbreaking to find out what is really inside our grocery or shopping bags sometimes but we all have the opportunity to educate ourselves and then change our selections. I wouldn’t want to live in a place where that transformation couldn’t take place.

What do you think about these videos? What do you think about the National Defense Authorization Act and the war on terror? These are interesting times. Let’s talk.