The Grumpy Vegan is encouraged by the action taken by government authorities and intrigued by responses from the animal exploitation industry to two recent undercover investigations.
The exposes were conducted by The Humane Society of the United States into Bushway Packing, a veal farm in Vermont, and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection into Wickham Laboratories, a contract testing laboratory in Hampshire.
In response to The HSUS expose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture immediately suspended operations at Bushway Packing, pending a continuing investigation. The Home Office, which regulates and approves animal research in the U.K., “launched a probe into the claims” at Wickham Laboratories. Let’s hope behind the latter’s tepid response is one behind the scenes like the former. Only time will tell if the Home Office serves up a thorough investigation or an apology for an isolated incident.
The position of the animal exploitation industry to these exposes is intriguing. They range from recognizing that any illegal activity by the slaughterhouse or the laboratory should be subject to the fullest extent of the law to calls for law enforcement to investigate the animal rights investigators for any alleged illegal activities on their part.
For example, the pro-animal research group, Understanding Animal Research, said of BUAV’s investigation,
The Home Office will need to investigate thoroughly these claims and the company concerned must be given the opportunity to put their case. If animal welfare has been compromised or the law has been broken, then the company will face the consequences.
With respect to The HSUS’s investigation, Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary USDA, said
The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable. The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of USDA’s humane handling regulations.
These responses are to be welcomed because they suggest willingness on behalf of some in the animal exploitation industry and government to acknowledge cruel mistreatment of animals should not be tolerated. The reality confronting the animal exploitation industry is that if it cannot conduct its business in a humane manner it will have to put up with increased involvement from the state and public scrutiny. (Yes, the Grumpy Vegan recognizes that at its most fundamental level the phrase “humane manner” is meaningless; however, the context of this discussion is public policy and what is politically realistic at this point in time.)
Clearly, these and other exposes of unmistakable animal cruelty would not be placed into the public arena if it were not for groups like The HSUS, BUAV and others and their brave undercover investigators. Indeed, there is a long history in the social movement for animals of those who expose from first hand observation. For example, Louise Lind-af-Hageby, who was studying to become a medical doctor at University College, London, co-authored The Shambles of Science which was published in 1903 that alleged dogs were operated on more than one occasion, a practice illegal under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The resulting public outcry led to the Brown Dog affair.
These exposes, however, have also generated predictably reactionary and unconstructive responses from others in the animal exploitation industry. For example, an unsigned op ed by the Animal Agriculture Alliance stated
The Alliance strongly encourages, and will assist with as possible, a thorough investigation of all reports of mistreatment, and if the investigation information confirms that acts of animal cruelty occurred, then all individuals involved should be held accountable, disciplined, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – including those who participated in such acts solely for the purpose of recording them.
Thankfully, these extreme views are more than balanced by the comments of
Chuck Jolley, writing on the Cattle Network Web site
Time and time again, they’ve [The HSUS] managed to catch the bad guys doing inexcusable things. Meanwhile, the USDA with its much larger team of inspectors visiting thousands of facilities weekly can’t uncover one case of animal welfare violation? Somebody somewhere in the USDA hierarchy will have to explain why Pacelle’s [HSUS President and CEO] puny little posse manages to do what the feds can’t do.
For far too long farming and pharmaceutical interests, for example, have hid behind the view that there is no wrongdoing and if and when it does occur they were “isolated incidents.” So, recognition from within the animal exploitation industry of animal cruelty and demonstrating a commitment to prevent its reoccurrence and effectively stop it are to be welcomed. Instead of blaming the messenger of animal cruelty undercover investigators, government and industry should work with animal advocates. Yes, we sit on our opposite sides of a philosophical chasm but we agree that there’s no place for what repeated undercover exposes reveal: inexcusable animal cruelty. And let those who are invested shamelessly in defending the indefensible and ignore the inevitable march of animal rights disappear into oblivion as inconsequential dinosaurs.