Cayce Mell co-founded Oohmahnee Sanctuary, which she operated with her partner Jason Tracy for ten years. They are both subjects of the documentary film Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Cayce is also a Pennsylvania Humane Police Officer.
For ten years, my partner Jason Tracy and I operated a sanctuary for farmed animals in western Pennsylvania that provided rescue, rehabilitative care, protection and permanent safe placement for thousands of abused, abandoned, or displaced farmed animals. During those years I got to take a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on inside the agricultural industry, and what I witnessed motivated me to become a Humane Police Officer for the State of Pennsylvania.
I was asked recently about my feelings regarding the issue of "humane animal farming" and "humane slaughter" and more specifically about whether or not conditions could be made humane enough for farmed animals that it would make it okay for us to utilize them as food. I hear that terminology all the time, "humane farming" and "humane slaughter" and "happy cows" and "free-range this" and "organic that." Humane animal farming is a myth. It's just as much of a myth as humane slaughter. There's no such thing.
What makes it all that much more disturbing to me is that this "humane myth" is being perpetuated not only by the industry but by some animal advocates and organizations as well. A friend recently made the comment, "I have never met so many people who used to be vegetarian." That just breaks my heart because it means these people have been lulled into a false sense of security by the introduction of this terminology and new labeling of food products. It is very easy for compassionate consumers to be misguided and misled, and therefore I feel it is imperative that we examine the justifications used by animal advocacy organizations that ally with or promote any entity that exploits other animals.
A lot of people are under the impression that there is some law enforcement team out there to enforce regulations that will ensure that farming is humane, or that the animals are treated with respect while they're on these farms. As a humane police officer, nobody's ever told me to go stand at a humane farm or at an organic farm and make sure those chickens have room to move around or make sure they were fed, or make sure they weren't killed because they looked weak. There is no federal mandate that guarantees that when you see the "happy cow" logo or you see a certified organic logo on a product that that animal has lived a wonderful, happy, healthy life. You can pretty much put your money on the fact that it's quite the opposite. They're not free. They're not enjoying the life that is their birthright. They are absolutely enslaved from the minute they enter this world. And they will be until the moment they die.
I have personally witnessed every form of farming from the smallest of family-owned operations to the largest of factory farms and seen common and completely legal agricultural procedures from tail docking to slaughter performed at each end of the spectrum. Farmed animals are routinely tortured as a part of standard agricultural practice. They're debeaked. They're castrated without anesthesia or pain medication on a regular basis. They are treated with disrespect and ignorance, regarded with indifference to their needs and desires, and controlled with intolerance if they resist being dominated. This is the unavoidable reality of an industry that exploits animals for profit.
There is no way to transport farmed animals without it being stressful. They're forcibly packed onto trucks. They're transported long distances without food and water. They're arriving at the stockyards in such weakened condition. Nobody gives thought to how they're going to feel being transported or how stressful the auction will be for them. And there's definitely no thought given to whether or not they're going to "enjoy" the slaughtering process. No one ever invites humane officers to slaughterhouses to make sure the animals are being killed "the right way," and no one mandates that we be there.
I have unfortunately been inside slaughterhouses and can tell you that the animals are not willingly walking up to the end of the kill line and sticking their necks out. These animals fight with every bit of strength they have left at the end of that kill line. They fight to get out of that kill line. They don't want to die, and they know it's coming. They see, and they know exactly what's going to happen to them. There is absolutely no truth that any process of slaughtering is humane. From the moment those animals are taken from those trucks and forced through the slaughtering process, it is the most inhumane treatment that I have ever witnessed.
I asked my seven-year-old son Aedan if there was a gentle way to harm someone, and he laughed at me, as if surprised to be asked such a silly question. When you think about it, the notion of harming anyone in a "humane" way is ridiculous, and just as impossible as it sounds. There is no polite way to harm someone else, no gentle way to inflict pain, and absolutely no way to "humanely" take someone's life. What has already taken me many words to articulate, my seven year old son Aedan summed up in three words: "It is wrong." I think we all know deep within our hearts that it is wrong, but we have all been taught to perceive that wrong as something acceptable or necessary, so we somehow justify our involvement or endorsement of it.
Over the years I saw so many people completely transform when they would visit our sanctuary and interact with a sheep or a chicken for the first time. In the ten years that the doors of the sanctuary were open to the public, not one time did someone visit and not make a connection with one of the animals there regardless of whether they were an old or young person, an uninformed member of the public or a fourth generation farmer. What each of these visitors felt was affirmation. Looking into the eyes of another being and recognizing that there is someone looking back at you, full of life, just affirmed something, almost as if each person was silently asking the other animal, "Is there someone in there, behind those eyes that look so different than mine?" And the other animal, with just the blink of an eye, answered, "Yes."
We must not forget that we are constantly changing and evolving and adapting when we need to in order to survive, and this is part of our continued journey as a species. It is time to recognize that what we are doing to the planet and the other animals we share it with is wrong. When we acknowledge that we are all just inhabitants of the same home, all one, all earthlings who possess the same will to survive, who are capable of experiencing emotions, and who yearn to be free from oppression, only then will we achieve that oneness. I have a great amount of faith in humanity and believe that people already know that there is no such thing as humane animal farming, or slaughter, and that there is no way any of us can compassionately sanction the enslavement and execution of anyone. In the words of a child, and to quote what I believe all of us secretly know in our hearts--it is wrong.