If you’ve been following this story over the past few days, you’ll know that Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery in South Carolina that runs an egg factory farm to cover its costs, has announced that it will be phasing out its egg production and switching to a new industry following a PETA investigation and subsequent pressure on the monks from our offices. And if you’ve been following my posts on the topic, you’ll know that a number of South Carolina residents who are familiar with the monastery have commented to say that they’re unhappy about this decision, claiming that it was unfair of us to go after the monks because they are decent men who do a lot of good in the community.
The way I see it, however, is that holy men—who should be setting an example for the people who look to them for guidance—need to be particularly accountable for cruel or unethical actions. While we have come to expect that CEOs of large corporations are going to be primarily concerned with their bottom line (and thus less immediately receptive to our concerns about their practices), in a case like this one—where good people have gone astray and are ignoring or failing to understand the fact that they are inflicting terrible suffering—it is all the more important that they be brought up short and asked to consider the damage they’re doing. Being a monk doesn’t mean that you should get off scott free when you’re caught doing something unethical—on the contrary, it means you should be held to a higher standard.
Anyone who has seen our investigation should know that the practices these monks were engaging in (such as confining chickens in cages so small that they had no room to move and denying sick animals veterinary care), as well as the practices that they were directly supporting (their suppliers slice off chicks’ beaks with a hot blade and grind up unwanted male chicks in a macerator), are cruel in the extreme, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all you really need to know about this case. This factory farm needed to be shut down whether it was run by money-grubbing fat cats or honorable but misguided holy men. Fortunately for us, and for the chickens, it was the latter.
For a more eloquent statement of these ideas, you can read the letter that PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich wrote to the Abbey when this investigation first broke here.