While most young people naturally have compassion for animals, the system of factory farming often teaches them to view living, feeling beings like cows, pigs, and turkeys as nothing more than objects or equipment.
Iowa State Fair goer Wheaten Mather discovered this for himself when he and a friend were looking at animals inside a barn and heard a pained squeal. They rushed outside to see a young boy of about 12 years old trying to get a pig into a trailer by hitting the animal in the face with a stick while an adult man stood nearby.
Mather filmed the boy with his cell phone. He said, “When that pig turned around, I could see he had lash marks on his face, and my heart just absolutely sank.”
Mather tried to speak to representatives at the fair about what he had seen, asking one woman whether striking pigs was standard practice at the fair. She replied yes.
Mather returned to the fair a week later and ran into fair CEO and manager Gary Slater. He asked whether he could set up a time to show Slater the video to prevent such abuses from occurring in the future, but Slater refused to give any specific answers. He said Mather should address the issue with the boy’s family, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America.
Mere minutes after the conversation, Slater summoned fairgrounds police and Mather was ejected from the fair for life.
The uncaring response Mather received is not surprising, considering the general view of animals in agriculture and the way 4-H and Future Farmers of America often teach children to think about animals. In many programs, students use their own resources to buy and raise farmed animals before eventually auctioning them off. The vast majority of animals are sold for slaughter.
But not all children in these programs find this easy. Farm Sanctuary co-founder and president Gene Baur says he has seen many young farmers at county fairs agonize over the decision to send their beloved animals to slaughter. He says, “Their conscience, and their empathy, often have to be shut off to pursue these things.”
Even though agricultural programs make auctioning off the animals seem like a student’s only choice, some young people still choose compassion over slaughter. Just recently, five members of a Future Farmers of America high school program sent the three goats and two sheep they’d raised to Farm Sanctuary to live out their lives in peace.
We can act with compassion every day by choosing more plant-based foods! For delicious meal ideas and recipes, order a FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today.