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November 14, 2007

A Call to Combat Animal Suffering; One Woman Explores Her Journey

Do your views about animals influence your faith? Contributors to The Francis Files share their stories

The Humane Society of the United States

by Jessica Martin 

On Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, I began a new journey in my life.

I was watching "ABC World News Tonight," when a story aired announcing the USDA had recalled 143 million pounds of beef. 

It was the largest beef recall in U.S. history, resulting from cruel acts taking place in a Chino, California "spent" dairy cow slaughterhouse.

The network aired a short video clip of slaughterhouse workers tormenting sick and injured cows to get them to stand long enough to walk to slaughter. It was the most excruciating thing I have ever seen. 

The news mentioned the video had been taken by an undercover worker from The Humane Society of the United States, so I went to The HSUS website and watched the entire video. It was completely unbearable. I cried and cried.  

I couldn't get the images of the cows out of my mind. I tried talking to several friends, but shockingly, most did not want to hear about it. They basically said they just want to go to the grocery store, buy their meat and not think about where it comes from. This upset me even more.

Finally, I got myself together and decided I was not helping these animals by feeling depressed. So, I decided to do my homework and spent a lot of time researching the treatment of farm animals.

"How can someone like me possibly make a difference?" I asked myself. If I had known all of these years that this cruelty was taking place, I would have made different choices. And, I think there are a lot of people out there like me. They don't know, but if they did, they wouldn't stand for it. So, here's what I did.

I contacted my pastor at our Methodist church, and he recommended writing to my congressmen and shopping only at stores that purchase beef from farms that euthanize cattle humanely. He encouraged me to use my passion to make a difference. The following Sunday he brought up the Chino cattle slaughterhouse issue as part of his "Do Not Harm" sermon. What an honor!

I started writing letters—to Dr. Phil, Oprah and members of Congress, asking that they please bring the treatment of farm animals to the public eye. I also contacted The HSUS to thank them for the incredible work they do, and I asked what I could do to make a difference.

The following day, I was connected with Christine Gutleben, director of The HSUS Animals & Religion department. Christine and I shared a wonderful, uplifting talk and she informed me about the department's mission and resources

I continued on my mission by sending more letters to government officials including to USDA Secretary Edward Schafer and another letter to Oprah, and by making more calls to my congressional representatives.

HSUS note: The Oprah Winfrey Show dedicated a show to the issue of factory farming in October, 2008: "Lisa Ling Investigates How We Treat the Animals We Eat."

On June 8, I received an email from The HSUS announcing Taking Action for Animals, an annual animal advocacy conference. I knew I had to be there. I attended with two dear friends, and it was an amazing experience! How wonderful it was to be in the company of people sharing in the same feelings for animals. I learned so much. I also had the honor of meeting Wayne Pacelle and Christine Gutleben in person, who were both so warm and welcoming.

I left the conference feeling so inspired. I firmly believe that everything in life happens for a reason. It was absolutely meant to be for me to see that brief news clip in February. I feel I am being called for a purpose and I want to do everything I can do help these poor, helpless animals. 

I believe with all of my heart that my feelings and this experience comes from a spiritual place. Seeing the cows suffer so immensely in that video touched me in the very core of my soul. I sought the advice of my pastor because I had never had something affect me so deeply and because I felt so helpless. 

His advice was, "You don't have to live naively or feel powerless. Use your passion to make a difference. Doing so is, I suspect, a way God is calling you to live as a disciple in your daily life."

My pastor's advice meant a lot to me, and it helped me get on the right track. I believe that God loves all of us unconditionally and he shows mercy upon us every day. As human beings, we should extend that same mercy upon animals. It is our duty and responsibility.  

I am not sure exactly where this journey is going to lead me, but my mind and heart are completely open, and my dream is to make a positive change. My life will never be the same again knowing what I know and I am grateful for that. 

Jessica Martin lives in Glen Allen, Virginia with her husband, two children and beloved dog Coal.

Do you have a story to share? Submit your story and we may share it with our readers. The opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Humane Society of the United States.

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