After watching Farm to Fridge: The Truth Behind Meat Production by Mercy for Animals , I had a mix of emotions. At first I felt disgusted and sad then overwhelmingly proud. Disgusted because I saw with my own eyes what is really happening to farm animals, sad to think it is happening right now as we speak and then felt really proud to be vegan. One of my major reasons I maintain a vegan lifestyle is to slowing down and eventually stopping the harm of animals. I think if everyone saw our beloved pets like dogs and cats being treated like this, there would be more attention to the situation. With that said, I needed more information about this movie.
During last year’s New York City Vegan Week I met Matt Rice from Mercy for Animals. I asked Matt to share more insight with VeganConsultant.com about his work with Mercy for Animals, how Farm to Fridge was made and what MFA is working on next. Here our Q & A with Matt Rice:
Q: What sparked you to want to work with Mercy for Animals?
A: I’ve been involved in animal advocacy for many years and I’ve worked with several truly incredible animal protection groups and many hundreds of dedicated and talented individuals. Over the years I’ve looked at what different individuals and groups do, how well they do it and how effective they are at changing hearts and minds about animals. MFA is simply the most effective animal advocacy group I’ve ever come across and I feel privileged every day to work with such an amazing group of people.
Q: What is your favorite project that Mercy for Animals has worked on and/or is working on?
From encouraging mainstream restaurants to add vegan menu options to giving humane education presentations in classrooms across the country, there are so many great projects that MFA is working on that it is hard to pick a favorite. However, one of our newest projects that I am very excited about is our “Paid-Per-View” challenge at college campuses. We set up a table with a few private viewing booths and TV monitors and then invite students and faculty to watch a five-minute segment of our hard hitting documentary Farm to Fridge. Afterwards we give them a dollar and a free Vegetarian Starter Kit and offer respectful advice for individuals seeking to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle.
As animal advocates we are often confronted with a sort of willful ignorance from the public. Many people don’t want to know about the cruel practices of modern animal agriculture. They want to look away and pretend that everything is okay. It’s called empathy avoidance. But offering just a dollar seems to encourage people to stop and consider the plights of animals. It presents a sort of psychological challenge for many people and it often compels them to watch our video when they might not have otherwise.
And Farm to Fridge is perhaps the most compelling and graphic documentary of its kind. When confronted with images of routine but cruel farming practices such as piglets having their testicles ripped out of their bodies and their tails chopped off without painkillers, male chicks being ground up alive in giant macerators, and egg-laying hens packed into tiny, wire cages so small they cannot even spread their wings, most people are eager to find out what they can do to end this needless cruelty and suffering and many choose to start transitioning toward a cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle.
Q: Are you able to explain how Mercy for Animals got inside farm factories to make Farm to Fridge? If so, please explain.
Farm to Fridge is a comprehensive film that takes viewers behind the closed doors of our nation’s meat, dairy, and egg operations by using hidden camera video footage to show how farmed animals are treated when the industry doesn’t think anyone is watching. Most of the footage is from MFA undercover investigations within the last 10 years, with the fast majority being taken within the last three years. There is also some footage from other organizations included, such as Compassion Over Killing, PETA, HSUS, and the HSUS. We are grateful to all of these organizations for allowing us to include some of their footage in the film.
MFA has conducted over a dozen undercover investigations at egg, pig, dairy, veal and fish farms; hatcheries; and slaughter plants. Often, MFA investigators will obtain jobs at a facility, as a maintenance worker for example, and then use pinhole-sized hidden cameras and audio recording devices to document what they see. Sadly, each time our investigators enter these facilities, they document horrific animal abuse, including animals intensively confined, mutilated without painkillers, denied proper veterinary care – if they receive any treatment at all – and callously, and often violently slaughtered or left to slowly suffer and die.
Most of the abuses we uncover at farms, hatcheries and slaughterhouses are considered standard, legal and acceptable by the industry and the government. Not a single federal law provides protection to farmed animals during their lives on factory farms and most states specifically exclude farmed animals from protection against even the most egregious cruelties. But we believe consumers have a right to know how animals are treated on modern farms, and the animals have a right to have their stories told. All too often, the discussion about our treatment of farmed animals is sugarcoated by agribusiness. MFA’s undercover investigations cut through the industry’s talking points, intended to reassure and to sanitize its cruel and violent practices, and show the disturbing and true picture of industrial animal farming.
Q: What is the next step for Mercy for Animals?
A: MFA is dedicated to exposing and preventing cruelty to animals, and we will continue with our groundbreaking undercover investigations, legislative and corporate policy reform campaigns, and consumer outreach efforts until all animals are treated with the respect and compassion they so rightly deserve. Since more than 99% of cruelty to animals in the United States occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries – which confine, mutilate, and slaughter over 9 billion land animals and 17 billion fish each year – MFA primarily focuses on farmed animal issues and promoting cruelty-free food choices.
The work that MFA does really depends on the efforts of our volunteers and supporters. People who are interested in getting involved and helping us to create a kinder world for animals are encouraged to become members, to volunteer or even to apply for an MFA internship at one of our regional offices in Dallas, Chicago, New York City or Columbus, Ohio. But even people who don’t live near one of our offices can still get involved to help animals. Check out MFA’s Take Action to Help Animals page for more information.
Q: What is your suggestion for vegans spreading the word to cheese loving, milk drinking, meat eaters?
A: The only way we will end the abuse of farmed animals is with a massive uprising of consumers who say, “enough is enough” and withdraw their financial support from this morally bankrupt industry. So, it is absolutely imperative that we each play a role in encouraging others to take a stand against modern animal agriculture. Perhaps most importantly, we need to treat people as potential allies instead of as enemies.
The good news is that most people, even the “cheese loving, milk drinking, meat eaters”, already agree with us. Most Americans hold kindness, fairness, justice, compassion and non-violence as core values and ethics. We simply need to show them how their behaviors are out of line with their own values and each time they buy meat, dairy, or eggs that transitioning toward a vegan lifestyle is the easiest and most powerful action we can all take to help end needless cruelty to animals.
Our jobs as animal advocates are to plant seeds of compassion in people’s minds and then to create an environment of hope in which these seeds can grow. Keep in mind that for many people there seems to be a vast ideological gap between vegans and non-vegans. While some can be convinced to make a daring leap across this vast chasm, we need to build bridges to bring everyone else across. We should encourage people to make the first step toward cruelty-free living instead of insisting they make the last step right away. And we should lead by example and strive to be the kind and happy people that others want to emulate.
That said, I think a great way to reach some of our most stubborn friends and family is through what I call “creative gift requests.” On your next birthday, or at Christmas, or at any other gift giving occasion, simply tell your friends and family that instead of presents you would like for them to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, or to watch Farm to Fridge, or any other book or film that you think will be meaningful to them, and then to have a conversation with you about it afterwards. You will be surprised how many people will take you up on this idea. And I know several people who were able to finally reach their loved ones this way.
Q: Lastly, what is your favorite vegan dish?
A: Oh, I have so many favorite foods. Actually, I credit going vegan with really expanding my culinary horizons and introducing me to so many different and wonderful foods! But if I have to pick a favorite dish it would be my vegan stir fry recipe. It’s such a flexible recipe that I can toss in any vegetables I have laying around along with any leftover faux meat products, seitan or tofu and rice. Then I add the key ingredient, Sriracha sauce (AKA rooster sauce), to give it a spicy kick. I am a big fan of spicy food!
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time and sharing his story with VeganConsultant.com. He has great suggestions on spreading the word about veganism, cruelty-free living and is taking action to make cruelty forwards farm animals a thing of the past. Be sure to watch Farm to Fridge: The Truth Behind Meat Production. Warning: The images are graphic but this is what is really going on behind closed doors.