Today we went on a field trip to the stockyard where animals get auctioned off. We watched baby calves get pushed around a ring while people stood on bleachers bartering for their lives. All the calves were under a week old, some of them just born this morning, and none of them would live to see the end of the day.
On the way to the stockyard, Don firmly lay down the rules as to how we were to behave while there: No animal rights messages anywhere on our clothing/accessories. No recording devices of any kind, whether it be a tape recorder, camera, even a camera phone. Don’t point out to the farmers if we see an injured animal. Don’t start up anything with anyone. We’re here for educational purposes only. We are to be the best advocates we can, but this is neither the time nor the place for that.
What we are about to see may be highly disturbing to us. People treating animals like commodities instead of beings. Children being desensitized to the suffering of animals at a young age—tales of an 8-year-old boy harshly prodding at cattle with a stick, being cheered on by his older brother: “atta boy!” A family event, everyone going to see the animals auctioned off to their death sentences before they’ve had a chance to live. And this just at a small town livestock auction, nothing near the horrors hidden behind the walls of factory farms. It’s absolutely OK to cry, and if it gets too intense we can always go back in the van.
By the time we got there, we were no longer sure we wanted go at all, but we were already there. We tentatively followed Don inside the building, feeling hugely out of place among the camoflauged hicks and deathmongers that filled the place. But today was a relatively quiet day, so we didn’t have to bear witness to the worst abuse or suffocatingly close quarters that might be at the stockyard. Don’t get me wrong, it was still vile.
If you’ve ever seen a baby calf you know just how adorable they are. If not, then you’re missing out big time. Their big brown eyes with long eyelashes, their awkward walks and jumps around… the thought of taking something so wonderful right back out of this world is almost too much to bear. One calf came over and started suckling on Tabitha’s finger, he was so starved for love and food. It’s heartbreaking to know that this was probably the only love he’d ever get in his entire lifetime, but at least we were there to give him that.
These calves, of course, are a byproduct of the dairy industry. What most people don’t understand is that even if you go vegetarian, you’re still supporting slaughter because dairy cows must be impregnated once a year in order to keep producing milk. What happens to the calves? They aren’t needed, so they get sent straight to slaughter.
I am so proud to be here at Farm Sanctuary helping animals directly. The contrast between the short, uncared for lives at the stockyard and the long, loving, happy lives our animals lead here is amazing, and I am so happy to be on the right side of the fence. I gladly get up early every morning and go out in the freezing cold to help these fortunate animals because they deserve it, and at the same time I am learning so much so that I can be the best advocate I can be. Because hearsay is nothing in an argument when put up against “I’ve been there. Have you??”