Savannah Verdon, Social Media & Outreach Coordinator at Animal Place, Sacramento, CA
1. I studied Animal Science in college and was routinely shocked and disappointed how easily students accepted that “livestock” animals were for humans to do with as they please (so long as their welfare was accounted for). When asked why they chose to study Animal Science, almost every student would respond that they love animals but clearly that was not meant to include farm animals. No one questioned the ethics of anything we learned. When I went on to study Animals & Public Policy in graduate school, again I was disheartened to see how few students extended their compassion and concern to “livestock” animals beyond basic questions of welfare. The irony and frustration of hearing classmates rail against cruelty toward cats and dogs while they ate their chicken salads was never lost on me. I choose to work at a farm animal sanctuary, education, and advocacy organization because these animals are in desperate need of advocates that truly love animals and aren’t blinded by tradition and hypocrisy.
2. It is critical for people to have the opportunity to interact with animals at a sanctuary so they can understand that the animals their choices affect have a face, a name, a story, and a desire to live in peace, just like any cat, dog, or human.
3. Animal Place makes a point to share the stories of every individual animal we rescue. As the Social Media & Outreach Coordinator, it has been my job specifically to share those stories to our supporters and help them understand what we are up against. These stories range from sickening, to frustrating, to shocking, to enraging. No story upsets me more than that of Panda, a male cow who has called Animal Place home for three and a half years now. Born in June of 2013, he was raised for a Future Farmers of American project in southern California. When he was only five months old, a man broke into the school farm, doused Panda in kerosene, and set him on fire, inflicting severe burns over 50% of Panda’s body. The high school student still planned on finishing their “project” and sending Panda to slaughter after auction. Fortunately, a private citizen paid $10,000 to save Panda and brought him to Animal Place. That kind of senseless, vicious cruelty absolutely confounds me and brings tears to my eyes every time we tell his story. I will never stop telling his story. Most people are shocked by that level of cruelty but what they fail to understand is that it is an extreme version of our attitude toward “livestock” animals, that they are here for us to do with as we please. Where is the line that makes setting a live animal on fire considered unacceptable but raising them in deplorable conditions that deprive them of social contact and slaughtering them prematurely, however “humanely”, considered acceptable? Who drew that line? Certainly not the animals.
4. The first step anyone should take to make the world a more compassionate place for animals is to go vegan. You have unbelievable power as a consumer to dictate what is and is not an acceptable way to treat animals. Beyond that, everyone needs to take up the responsibility of being involved in local, state, and federal politics. Being an advocate for animals can mean many things, but change only happens if we make it.