At the empowering “We Are Woman” equality rally in Washington, D.C., PETA’s costumed chicken made the case that other animals don’t want to be treated like pieces of meat, either:
Because it isn’t just female humans who don’t get a fair shake—feminists have to consider whether our actions are inadvertently contributing to violence, oppression, and suffering.
Take mother cows, for instance. Like human mothers, cows produce milk to feed their babies. On dairy farms, cows are artificially inseminated again and again using “rape racks.” They give birth to calf after calf, only to have their calves taken from them, often within one day of birth, so that the farmers can sell that milk instead.
Hens exploited for their eggs fare no better. They spend their lives crammed into a cage about the size of a file drawer with at least four other hens, unable to lift a single wing. Disease runs rampant, and many birds die slowly and painfully. Survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cagemates. After two years of living in filth and having their laying cycles carefully manipulated, the hens’ bodies are exhausted, their egg production drops, and they are hauled off to slaughter.
Mother pigs spend most of their lives confined to tiny concrete and metal gestation crates that are barely bigger than their own bodies. They are impregnated again and again, and the piglets are torn from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks to provide the pork industry with a steady supply of meat. The piglets’ tails are chopped off, the ends of their teeth are cut off with pliers, and the males are castrated, all without any painkillers. The cycle continues until the mother’s body gives out, and she is also sent to slaughter.
And numerous PETA investigations have shown that farm workers often take their issues out on animals by sexually assaulting them—sometimes in the animals’ terrifying last moments. At a Hormel supplier in Iowa, a supervisor rammed a cane into one pig’s vagina and boasted that he had thrust gate rods into other pigs’ anuses. He was later convicted of livestock abuse.
A worker at a poultry-breeding facility in West Virginia pinned a female turkey to the ground and pretended to rape her. The video of the incident resulted in cruelty-to-animals charges. At a Butterball slaughterhouse in Arkansas, a PETA investigator witnessed a worker repeatedly sticking his finger into a turkey’s vagina. And the list goes on.
If we are to end sexual violence, we have to widen our circle of compassion to include nonhuman females. Because, as feminist writer Marti Kheel said, “Objectification derives from the patriarchal world view in which violence against women and violence against animals are the norm.”