Animal abuse comes in many shapes and forms. I tend to live by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals motto: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.” On Nov. 2, PETA debuted a controversial video that reflects this message. The ad features survivors of rape and sexual assault who echo messages of feeling worthless and powerless before their assaulters. At the end of the video, the women hold up signs with images of a cow who has to go through a similar horror. The ad ends with one message: “Every year, billions of animals are born into the meat, egg, and dairy industry. Almost all of them are a result of forcible artificial insemination. Almost all of them are a result of rape. Don’t participate. Go vegan.”

The ad started a firestorm online;  individuals criticized PETA for the lack of empathy for sexual assault survivors. Others believed the ad made a false comparison between meat and dairy consumption and sexual assault, according to a Nov. 4 article on Motto, a part of Time Magazine. On Twitter, @anthoknees tweeted, “How many survivors work for @peta? And yet y’all think an ad like this is k? There are *so* many ways to package a message. This ain’t ok [.]” PETA responded: “@anthoknees Acknowledging that animals are sexually abused for meat & dairy doesn’t take away from the seriousness of sexual abuse of humans.” While sexual assault should never be taken lightly, this PETA campaign served its purpose — to stir up controversy and grab the headlines. 

Let’s remember that those featured in the ad chose to do so and agreed with the viewpoint conveyed. Some of the women are indeed survivors of sexual assault. In fact, according to the same Nov. 4 Motto article, one of the women who participated in the video responded to the criticism, saying: “You’re placing a box on labelling who can be assaulted. And that’s not fair. I have a voice, and these animals don’t.” Artificial insemination is the most widely used form of breeding for dairy cows. According to an Oct. 31, 2011 Progressive Dairyman article, this accounts for 78 percent of production. PETA estimates that the artificial inseminations occur about once a year per cow, leading to a cow surplus. Soon after their birth, calves are separated from their mothers. Males are sorted into feedlots to be used for the production of beef. Females grow up to live the same experience as their mothers. 

The process of artificial insemination is used several times during a cow’s life. It’s an extremely invasive process by which a human uses one arm to move the cow’s rectum to access the uterus while the other hand prepares a gun for the insemination, according to a May 11, 2013 Free From Harm blog post. In other words, the AI process is an invasive gynecological procedure. If humans believe they are both intellectually and morally superior to animals, it is imperative that we speak against this abuse. We will never know the pain that animals experience with artificial insemination, but it is our responsibility to protect those who do not have a voice. 

While cows typically live around 20 years, dairy farm cows typically only live 3-4 years. They are killed when their milk production is no longer generating a profit, according to the Vegan Society.

So, where’s all the outrage? Not only do we use and abuse animals, but we essentially throw them away when they are no longer useful to us. Many people have deep criticism of those who abuse humans —  and I will be the first to do that — or those who abuse our beloved dog. However, when it comes to those powerless to speak, we remain silent. 

Recent progress has been made on the front of animal rights. This past election cycle, the Massachusetts ballot Question 3 mandated the prohibition of “the sale of eggs, veal, or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs, or turning around,” according to Ballotpedia. 78 percent of Massachusetts voters supported the measure while only 22 percent opposed it. This will give animals in factory farms a bit more space to actually move. Unfortunately, this improvement upon animal rights will not occur until 2022. This progress is not enough. If we consider ourselves both intellectually and morally superior to animals like cows, it is our responsibility to start acting like it. 

We should start paying attention to this systematic abuse. By refusing to watch videos like this, you are just another individual determined to maintain the status quo. This level of abuse should not be blindly accepted merely because the viewer refuses to accept the fact that animals too experience pain. 

So the next time you lift that burger to your mouth or take a bite of that mac and cheese, think about this one phrase at the end of the video: “Because I am you — only different.”