Patty Mark is an internationally known investigator and animal rescuer, founder of the Open Rescue Movement, and founder of Animal Liberation Victoria
When my dad built our house it was on a dirt track opposite a corn field. My small home town was the hub of a farming community in southern Illinois, also part of the great Midwest known as the 'breadbasket of the world.'
I have 11 brothers and sisters, and blissfully we played for hours hiding in the rows of corn. Once I took a couple ears home to my mother to cook, but she said, "No, we can't eat that corn, it's too hard, it's for the animals." All that corn for the animals! How nice, I thought at the time, because I always liked animals.
Just imagine how many farmers around the world are now clearing land, ploughing the earth, watering their crops--to feed the 55 billion animals we eat every year. In the industrialized world, two thirds of the agricultural land is used to produce grain for animal feed.
As a child, it made me happy to know the animals were getting so much to eat. Meanwhile we sat down to two or three meat meals every day washed down with cow's milk on tap from a dispenser in our dining room. The line in the sand was cemented in place, but we weren't aware of it so didn't question it. That was the way things were--animals ate the crops, we ate the animals.
I attended twelve years of Catholic school filled with praying, meditation, volunteering and most importantly, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I was awestruck by the nuns and priests with their deep devotion, goodwill and selflessness.
But even there, the line was drawn and it wasn't to be crossed. Humans were free outside the 'fence line' while animals were on the inside, contained for our use. They were always available and at hand for anything we wanted from them, whether it was their bodies, their milk, their eggs, their children, their skin or their fur. Every sixth grader had to have a dyed rabbit paw hanging on their key ring.
Then came university and I studied science while volunteering countless hours in 'mental hospitals' where humans had no minds, no cognitive thinking ability, they were completely dependent on others for their survival no matter what their age. But they stood on the 'right' side of the line. In that regard, they were safe.
I left the United States in 1973 and traveled the world with my Australian husband. It was during this time, and especially during the past 30 years, that I have been stepping across the line that humans draw to separate us from other animals. I routinely enter the barren and dismal world we give to farmed animals. I hear their screams and witness their fear and suffering in hundreds of places including slaughterhouses, industrialized farms, darkened sheds, open paddocks, feedlots and inside transport trucks/ships on four continents. There is nothing humane on their side of the line.
It's not about how we 'care for' or treat the billions of animals we mass produce to keep in line, it's about erasing the line altogether. Humans are incredible animals, but we can also be a very selfish species--we so often put ourselves first. We can and must open our minds and hearts. Promoting and/or consuming animal products deepens the rut that is grinding down our humanity, our health and the future of the planet.