Suffice it to say, most people don’t interact with farm animals on a daily basis. In fact, many go their entire lives without setting foot on a farm, let alone drawing the connection between the food on their plates and the animals it came from. Some people just plain don’t want to know that the steak in front of them once had a face, a best friend, or a child – and they are content in keeping a stark distance between their diet and the impact it has on other living beings.
And to be realistic, this “lack of knowledge” is not entirely their fault. We live in a society where you don’t have to deal with the “ugliness” of food production. You go to the supermarket, fill up your cart, come home, and pop whatever you purchased in the oven (sometimes you don’t even have to do THAT much) and enjoy. While this disconnect makes for a comfortable life, it also shelters us from thinking about the individual animals that meat and dairy come from. Not to mention how shocked we would be to even see a farmed animal outside of a factory farm!
While the majority of the U.S. might not think they care about farm animals, there are many, many people who do. Recognizing that farmed animals have the right to a long, happy life, just as any human does, farm animal sanctuaries have been founded all across the United States – and the world. You may have never really thought about why we even need farm sanctuaries in the world … this is certainly a sign that we do! Although we’re inclined to say that every single animal who has been rescued by a farm sanctuary is ample reason for why we need these places in our world; here are a few more:
1. To Teach Us About Animals and Ourselves
Farm sanctuaries are much more than homes for pigs, cows and chickens, they run wonderful programs that allow visitors to interact with animals and learn more about them. These animals are really quite fascinating when you get to learn more about them. For example, did you know chickens can recognize and distinguish the faces of over 100 different animals? Or that cows have an incredible spatial memory and pigs recognize their names and will come running when called?
Getting to learn about the other creatures we share this planet with is an incomparable experience. You might even find that there is an incredible amount of information you didn’t even know that you didn’t know about farmed animals in the process and feel compelled to learn more. Learning about pigs should be so much more than the basic fact that they “oink.” Who knows, you might even learn a little something about yourself while you’re at it!
2. To Show Us (and Animals) There is an Alternative to Life in a Factory Farm
Have you ever considered what an elderly farm animal looks like? Most likely, the answer is no. In the world of factory farming, animals rarely ever live past the age of five years old – and five is considered pretty ancient. Industrial animal agriculture is focused on producing the most meat and dairy possible, in the least amount of time, using as few animals as they can. To do effectively do this, that means that there needs to be a constant treadmill of animals in and out, this is why animals are pumped with growth hormones, antibiotics and feed designed to fatten them up fast.
But if you take the factory farm out of the equation, what would life look like for these animals? Firstly, it would be at least five times longer and instead of living in pain, stress and fear – they’d be allowed to live as they please.
Farm sanctuaries save lives and give animals a chance at a life they never imagined was possible. Most people probably never imagine that life outside of a factory farm was possible for these animals either, but farm sanctuaries show us that it is and it’s truly an awesome thing.
3. To Change the Way We Think About Farmed Animals
This point is arguably the most important. When we get to know farm animals and see them living as individuals, free to express their natural behaviors, the wheels in our brains start to change track. Instead of associating these animals with a meal, suddenly they’re a “someone” who you care about, the same way you care about your dog or cat.
Animals we consider “farm animals,” are sentient beings, just like any other and deserve our ample respect as such. We could be content shielding ourselves from the truth, or we could do something much more worthwhile and change our perception of farm animals for the better. At the end of the day, we can live happy, full lives without causing harm to others, but the choice is ours. Farm sanctuaries help to show us that there is a choice – so why not pick compassion?
Image source: Peter Neish/Flickr