We’ve seen the graphic footage of farm animal suffering that gets brought to light by undercover investigations, but so much less attention is given to the experience of investigators who have to endure what they witness to help raise our awareness about the atrocities inflicted on these animals on a daily basis.
This week, one of them took to Reddit and opened an “Ask Me Anything” session to let people ask questions about working as an undercover investigator. His name is T.J. Tumasse and he has spent years exposing animal cruelty, mainly as an investigator for Mercy for Animals. He says he has been telling his story to the animal welfare community, but now wants it to reach a wider audience.
The work is, unsurprisingly, as troubling and difficult as you think it is.
Tumasse says he lived with the constant fear of being discovered and now lives with the emotional aftermath that comes with being a witness to the suffering of innocent beings. Instead of becoming desensitized by what he saw, he says he has become very sensitive to violence and suffers from nightmares, PTSD and other physical problems as a result of the work.
“When we work undercover we have to do the job at the facility to the best of our ability while maintaining a cruelty free working ethic with the animals as much as possible. The problem is that cruelty is often inherent in standard practice in animal agriculture. It makes the investigators job extremely difficult,” he said.
“Every time I saw torture it broke my heart. I hated having to see all the things I saw.”
While he adds that not all workers were intentionally malicious towards animals, some of the biggest problems in animal ag are a result of the standard practices used today.
“There is not any positive treatment of animals because the companies exploiting them make the workers work so hard and fast that they can not act with compassion at all,” he said.
Combine that with the simple fact that animals are seen as commodities, not living creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions from joy to fear, grief and pain who have their own interest in being able to live free from harm, and it’s a recipe for suffering.
Some of those standard practices include confining mother pigs to gestation crates and egg-laying hens to battery cages, routinely destroying male chicks, castrating piglets and cutting off their tails without pain killers. These are just a few of the things the industry doesn’t want people thinking about or questioning and is trying desperately to hide behind closed doors with ag gag laws.
“This is a blatant attempt to silence out right to free speech. These factory farms have everything to hide because people would not support them by buying their products if they knew what was happening. The fact that they will go to these lengths to try to keep their actions hidden shows the cruelty of what they do is something to be ashamed of,” he said.
Earlier this month, he stood up and gave a very compelling talk about his experience at the National Animal Rights Conference.
Also very worth watching is the talk that Taylor Radig gave at the conference about her experience working undercover for Compassion Over Killing to expose cruelty to dairy calves in Colorado. After she came forward with evidence she was arrested and charged with animal cruelty for not turning over the footage sooner, even though the state had no ag gag law or reporting requirement.
When asked about how people can help animals, aside from not consuming animal products, and support this type of work, Tumasse suggests, “The best ways for people to be involved are volunteering locally, sharing social media, and supporting organizations like Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and others who do undercover work.”
“Undercover work is imperative to advocating a compassionate lifestyle, and holding the system of food production responsible is the most important part of this. That responsibility ultimately falls on the consumer support these industries by purchasing their products.”
To ask him a question, or thank him for the work he did, check out the thread on Reddit here.
Photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis