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Treat Them, Don't Eat Them? Hospital Treats Farm Animal 'Victims'

Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary

Franklin and Lila had no clue they were making history earlier this week when they went to the hospital in upstate New York.

Franklin is a piglet and Lila is a goat. Each was rescued from a life-threatening situation and taken to Farm Sanctuary's new animal hospital, the country's first to be dedicated to what a Sanctuary press release calls "the victims of America's industrialized food system."

I see the new Melrose Small Animal Hospital in Watkins Glen as an excellent step forward in how we may think about, and work to protect, farm animals.

Lila the goat was part of a rescue operation at a farm that housed over 70 animals. Accounts of the rescue, one in the Buffalo News and the other by Farm Sanctuary, make for rough reading because the extent of the animals' suffering is made so clear. Emaciated as she was, Lila couldn't even stand up when she was discovered.

But Lila is recovering now, as are the other animals seized from that farm.

Franklin's survival was at risk in the short term because he was a runty piglet. He'd been briefly adopted from a pig farm by a kind person who first endeavored to nurse him back to health, then couldn't tolerate the idea of his surviving only to be slaughtered later for food. Franklin arrived at the hospital with mange, a skin condition that caused him great discomfort.

The animal hospital will treat chickens, turkeys, calves, piglets and goats. Patients will not be in short supply. Lila and Franklin attest to the fact that animal abuse may occur on farms of any size when the animals are seen primarily as financial commodities. Factory farms supply 95 percent of the meat, dairy and eggs consumed in the U.S.; that animals frequently endure injury and trauma on farms of this type is no secret.

Am I tarring all farms with a single dark brush? Is my purpose in blogging about this news to push everyone to lay down their steak knives and chicken nuggets, and convert to a vegetarian or vegan diet?

No, on both counts. Some farmers, of course, do not treat their animals poorly.

And until, maybe, 10 years ago, I'd happily have eaten Franklin. For that matter, until 4 months ago, I ate chicken and turkey frequently. So I'm in no position to moralize about diet to anyone.

But even meat-eaters can get behind the fair treatment of farm animals. Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary's President and Co-Founder, put it to me this way in an email message:

"The creation of this hospital, from the generosity of so many supporters around the country, shows a growing mainstream awareness that farm animals are intelligent, emotional beings who deserve to be provided with the same level of care that we have traditionally given to dogs and cats. Regardless of dietary choices, most people now agree that intensely confining and abusing animals who are destined to be slaughtered for food is no longer acceptable. We have a moral responsibility to protect animals from factory farming abuses."

I, myself, can't eat farm animals anymore.

As Farm Sanctuary puts it, farm animals are "someone" and not "something."

You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara J. King is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. She is a Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, King has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication at captive facilities in the United States.

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