“More Than Meats the Eye”: Animal Activist Jenny Brown and Her War for Ethics

On Wednesday, Nov. 1, Jenny Brown, a full-time lecturer and animal rights activist visited Frostburg State University (FSU) to deliver her speech, “More Than Meats the Eye.”

Dr. Daniel Moorehead, an associate professor of sociology at FSU, teaches a course called “Animals in Human Society.” Moorehead is also the author of the book, “Animals In Human Society: Amazing Creatures Who Share Our Planet.” Brown stumbled upon Moorehead’s book online before contacting him in regards to her lecture tour.

Sponsored by the department of Sociology, FSU students welcomed Brown with not only open arms, but with open minds as well.

“I suggest for you to be open-minded, we don’t think about these issues very much. The animals who are farmed are rather ‘invisible’ in our society,” mentioned Brown.

Photo from Brown's website: speakerjennybrown.com
Photo from Brown’s website: speakerjennybrown.com

 

Background

Brown introduced herself with a brief background on her upbringing, mentioning that she was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist household in Louisville, Kentucky.  Like many Americans, Brown was blind to the harsh truth of the food industry in the U.S. “I used to eat almost every kind of meat,” said Brown reluctantly.

However, in 1980, at the age of ten, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. After enduring both a leg amputation and two years of chemotherapy, Brown was allowed her very first pet, a cat whom she named “Booger.”  Brown mentioned that Booger allowed her to view animals in a “different” light so to speak, creating a gateway to her animal activism.

Brown's book, "The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals".
Brown’s book, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals.

It was not until eight years later that Brown made the vital connection between her cat and all the animals exploited for human selfishness. She started reading about animal experimentation, the fur industry, cosmetic testing, entertainment, and the food on her very own plate from factory farms.

“I never thought about that. I never thought about the lives of the animals who were used for fur, at the circus, etc.”

In the early 90’s, Brown picked up a piece of literature from “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” (PETA) that revealed the atrocities of abused animals.

At the age of 18, Brown became a vegetarian. She moved to Chicago for film school and continued advocating for animals. During her film career in the early 2000’s, Brown went undercover to document stockyard abuses in Texas. She filmed animals at the slaughterhouse that are too injured to stand or walk, commonly referred to as “downers.” Her findings were used in congressional hearings.

After experiencing such awful cruelty first hand, Brown’s life changed for the better.

In 2004, Brown and her husband, Doug Abel, bought a house on 23 acres of land in Woodstock, N.Y. After building a few barns, their property officially took the name of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary (WFS). They started taking in animals by the dozens and giving educational tours to the public.

Brown working with rescued farm animals. Photo from: themighty.com
Brown working with rescued farm animals. Photo: themighty.com

In 2015, the sanctuary upgraded it’s location closer to New York City, housing over 350 victims of the food production industry.  A year later, Brown left WFS to travel and speak nationally at universities and colleges across the U.S.

Factory Farms

Brown shared her expertise with FSU, discussing the terrible truth behind farmed animals. According to Brown’s extensive research, 98% of meat, dairy, and eggs come from animals who are living in factory farms. Serving as the number one polluter of our water ways, factory farms also damage the environment, communities, people’s health, etc.

“They don’t want us to look inside factory farms,  because if we look inside, many of us would lose our appetite,” said Brown.

A harsh look into factory farms. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
A harsh look into factory farms. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

Chickens

Like many factory farmed animals, chickens lead a painful and short life. Brown told the audience that male baby chicks are either ground up in a “wood chipper-like machine” or thrown into a huge garbage bag and suffocated to death.

“Chickens can learn their names, seek out attention and affection, and communicate with one another,” exclaimed Brown.

Brown poses for a photo with a chicken. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Brown poses for a photo with a loving chicken. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

She also discussed the severely misleading labels found in grocery stores. “Cage free” and “free range” labels are poorly conducted, according to Brown. With hardly any regulations for these labels, Brown highlights photos of these “cage free” and “free range” chickens, who are actually living in disgusting and minuscule spaces.

Chickens endure horrific living conditions behind the closed doors of factory farms. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Chickens endure horrific living conditions behind closed doors of factory farms. Brown mentioned that chickens are pumped with so many hormones that they reach the size for slaughtering 45 days after being born. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

 

Brown remarked, “There is more suffering behind every egg than a chicken breast,” followed by horrific gasps from the audience.

Cows

Brown moved onto the harsh reality of dairy cows, revealing that 90% of them are confined in indoor operations. While most of them are tethered by the neck in horrifically small living spaces, nearly all of their behavioral instincts are denied. Dairy cows are selectively bred to produce as much milk as possible, ten times more milk than they would naturally produce for their calves.

A cow's face being branded at a factory farm. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
A cow’s face being branded at a factory farm. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

As soon as the calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers, so the milk can be utilized for human consumption instead. Many of the calves still have their umbilical cords attached during this process, according to Brown.  

“We like to think that cows magically produce milk…cows are mammals, and like us, they have to have a baby in order to produce milk,” said Brown.

Cows are impregnated through the use of pens and a system called “rape racks.” With rape racks, workers wear gloves that go up past their elbows while injecting a syringe with bull semen in through the cow’s vaginal system.

The other gloved hand then goes into the rectum to tilt the cow’s uterus to make sure the semen is delivered correctly.

“The saddest sound I have ever heard is the sound of dairy cows at farms who have just lost their babies,” sighed Brown.

Brown described the trauma that dairy cows endure daily, especially when they lose their babies. A mother cow screams and wallows for hours on end, constantly retreating back to the same spot where her calf was taken from.

Brown said, “Just as humans, cows are ready to love and nurture their young. Their pregnancy also lasts nine months.”

Brown cuddles up next to a rescued cow at her sanctuary. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Brown cuddles up next to a rescued cow at her sanctuary. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

She refers to the dairy industry as a bi-product of the meat industry. Many of the calves are slaughtered and  turned into veal either right at birth or anytime before the age of six months.

“Veal only exists so that we can consume the baby’s breast milk,” exclaimed Brown.

Brown says that cows and dogs are very similar to one another. Cows can perform tricks, come when their called, enjoy their favorite treats, and listen to music. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Brown says that cows and dogs are very similar to one another. Cows can perform tricks, come when their called, enjoy their favorite treats, and listen to music. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

Pigs

Brown informed the audience that pigs hold the cognitive ability of a three-year-old child and are super intelligent. However, in factory farms they are forced into confinement so severe that they can hardly even take a step forward.

Pigs suffering in gestation crates. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Pigs suffering in gestation crates. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

After revealing the graphic images of abused pigs at these farms, Brown urged their dire need to escape. The pigs begin to lose their minds in a sense, as they bite the bars of their confinement until their teeth break off, leaving behind a bloody mess.

Pigs gnaw at the bars of gestation crates in efforts to escape. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Pigs gnaw at the bars of gestation crates in efforts to escape. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

Female pigs are kept in gestation crates during their pregnancies and adult lives. Simply, gestation crates are small, metal, enclosures for female breeding pigs (sows).

The only time a female pig is allowed to leave her gestation crate is to breastfeed the babies. During breastfeeding, they are held down by huge and painful bars to keep their bodies still, according to Brown. The babies then stay with their mothers for only 15 days, even though they are supposed to stay with them for 15 weeks.

A loving rescue pig shows affection. Photo by George Brooks, photo from: Jenny Brown.
A loving rescue pig shows affection. Photo by George Brooks, photo from: Jenny Brown.

Brown then discussed the severely inhumane operating procedures performed on pigs in factory farms. These procedures include neutering, ear cropping, and tail docking.  All of these procedures are performed on baby pigs with absolutely no anesthesia.

“Most of us can’t even imagine it being done to a dog or a cat. Pigs are actually smarter than dogs, but those who would do the same to dogs or cats would get landed in jail immediately,” said Brown.

The Vegan Plate

“Science has shown that we do not need dairy, meats, or eggs to survive. Some of the most serious and fatal diseases are caused by animal products,” exclaimed Brown.  

The Vegan Plate: a simple guide to a balanced Vegan lifestyle.
The Vegan Plate: a simple guide to a balanced Vegan lifestyle.

Brown also mentioned that a plant-based diet can prevent and reset such illnesses, and vegetarian and vegan diets are suitable for people of all ages.

With science on her side, Brown said, “We are the only species to consume milk from another species, and the only species to consume milk throughout adulthood.”

With a ton of plant-based products on the market today, going vegetarian or vegan has never been easier.

Cruelty Free Resources and Ways to Give Back

“We can’t go vegan overnight, but the little things make a difference” – Jenny Brown

  • Visit chooseveg.com for plant-based tips, tricks, and more.
  • Participate in “Meatless Mondays,” only eat meat for one meal a day, etc.
  • Look for non-animal sources of protein such as pea protein.
  • Promote awareness on social media.
  • Participate in the Vegan Outreach “Adopt a College” program.

 

Brown kisses a cow at her sanctuary. Photo from: Jenny Brown.
Brown kisses a cow at her sanctuary. Photo from: Jenny Brown.

 

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