Carol J. Adams

Carol J. Adams

A pioneer of animal advocacy & trailblazer in women’s rights

Writer Carol J. Adams at her desk. USA, 2015.

​From her study near Dallas, Texas, tucked within stacks of notes, files, and various translated editions of her books, author and activist, Carol J. Adams, talks of a time when her work was not so well-received. Between faint barks from rescue-dogs Inky and Holly, Adams speaks of how her now-famous book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, was widely ignored upon first publication, and how “80% of the reviews were negative,” she says. “I mean really, feminist vegetarian theory,” she jokes, “what does that mean?” Of course Adams, and much of the rest of the world, couldn’t know then just how much her work would come to mean, in both the women’s and animal rights movements.

And today, Adams is being celebrated for the 30th anniversary of The Sexual Politics of Meat, as a pioneer of animal advocacy, and a trailblazer in women’s rights.

Long before Adams was a well-known author, she was a child of the fifties and sixties, one of three sisters, living in a small village in western New York State, along with some dogs, cats, a horse and a pony. In her tween years, Adams says she and her friends were very involved with their equestrian companions. “During that time there was so much pressure [for girls] to conform, and we suddenly had a group of girls who were all riding ponies and horses,” she says. “It was very physical engagement,” during a time when female athletics were not so supported. And on hot summer days, Adams says she and her friends would lay on their animals’ backs beneath the shade of a willow tree, “and we would just talk,” she says. “I think it was such a deep experience.”

Though raised a feminist and nurtured to be an activist, Adams points to one distinct incident that started her down the path of merging movements. It happened after she returned home from her first year at Yale Divinity School in the 1970’s, in what she describes as an unsuccessful search for her life’s purpose. “I was unpacking, and there was a knock at the door. It was someone I had never met before, and he said ‘someone has just shot your pony.’” Barefoot, Adams ran through an apple orchard to reach her pony, Jimmy. “We could hear gunshots in the distance,” she says. “It turns out there were two teenagers target practicing in the woods,” who she believes accidentally killed Jimmy.

Adams calls the incident traumatic, but says it was that night when her world truly shifted. Her father suggested she go to a local grocer to have hamburger meat prepared. “We went and got the hamburger made, then we came home and cooked the hamburger. And when I went to bite into the hamburger, I stopped and thought: what am I doing? This is a dead cow. And Jimmy’s lying dead in the pasture, yet I’m going to eat a dead cow? So is it only animals I don’t know that I would eat? So aren’t I a hypocrite?” At that moment, Adams says she put the hamburger down, and knew she had to become a vegetarian.

Through her continuing years in academia, studying feminist theory in the 1970’s, Adams lived among other feminists who were vegetarians, and soon she says, started seeing connections between the two schools of thought. “I thought ‘Wow, look at all these connections. There are all these feminists who were vegetarian; and look at these novels, look at Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy; look at these theories, books about patriarchy and violence,” she says. She then put it all together:

“There is a connection between patriarchy and eating animals, and feminism and vegetarianism.”

In that instance of realization, she says, while walking down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Adams nearly levitated off the ground.

After penning an essay on the topic, which was later published, with much fanfare, in the Lesbian Reader anthology, it was then suggested to Adams that she turn it into a book. She then spent time interviewing, connecting and writing, but after completing her first draft, was not satisfied. “Something was lacking,” she says. Though the connection was established, she had yet to come up with a theory. “I said to myself, ‘Carol, you’re really only going to have one chance at making this claim.’” So she withdrew the draft. Then once again, she went home.

Adams joined her mother working in various grassroots advocacy endeavours, fighting racism and housing discrimination, starting a hotline for battered women, a soup kitchen and a second-hand store, all while continually trying to write the book. “And what is so clear,” she says, “is that all that activism helped me be a better writer,” in particular, she says, “to recognize overlapping oppressions.”

But it wasn’t until Adams then read the book, Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing, by Margaret Homans, that she was finally led to the theory she was seeking. “She introduces this literary concept of the ‘absent referent,’ and I thought, well that’s what animals are, they are absent referents in meat eating. That’s what happened when Jimmy was killed. The cow was no longer an absent referent to me. I didn’t understand that. But I experienced it.” And the next morning, Adams woke up and realized, “and that’s what women are too, in a patriarchal culture, the absent referent.”

Adams was then ready to write her final draft of what would become The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory, which would later be translated into nine different languages, and is today considered more relevant than ever. Adams has also since published dozens of other highly regarded books, including Burger, Protest Kitchen, Neither Man Nor Beast, The Pornography of Meat, Prayers for Animals, and others.

As for the evolution of The Sexual Politics of Meat over time, Adams says, the book is now an entity all of its own.

“The book was within me, and now the book is not within me. For thirty years it’s been out in the world doing its work. And every once in a while it’s like the book writes back to me in the form of a human being who has read it and been touched by it. But the book is something separate from me now.”

“However that book works to help people move along in consciousness,” she says. “I want it to continue to do that, until it is not needed.” And when asked what a world no longer in need of her book might look like for women, Adams replies: “There would never be a need for a ‘Me Too’ moment again. Patriarchy would be eradicated.” And for the animals: “Western, racist, patriarchal culture and ethics create the environment for seeing other beings as disposable, usable, edible. So then if we eradicate that racist, patriarchal, western mindset, we will have eradicated the instrumentalization of other animals.”

Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Jessica Scott-Reid.

Jessica Scott-Reid is a Canadian journalist and animal advocate. Her work appears regularly in the Globe and Mail, New York Daily News, Toronto Star, Maclean’s Magazine and others.

Invisible

Invisible

“People need to see it.”

‘INVISIBLE’ follows two undercover investigators, ‘Emily’ and ‘Sarah’ (their names have been changed to protect their identities), on a pig farm investigation in Europe, offering the viewer an unprecedented glimpse into a world that is deliberately and painstakingly covert.

In a ‘double-life’ kept secret from their day jobs and family lives, Emily and Sarah choose to visit and document the stark and often brutal conditions of farms and slaughterhouses to bring attention to the suffering inherent in animal exploitation.

As darkness falls and the investigation unfolds, Emily and Sarah reveal what drives them to leave their loved ones in the night, the emotional impact of documenting animal cruelty first-hand, and how their friendship allows them to continue carrying out such traumatic work in spite of the psychological cost.

Finally, the evidence gathered and the investigation complete, they leave without a trace – invisible.

Directed by Chris Shoebridge

What inspired Chris to tell this story?

“In 2009 I saw undercover slaughter footage for the first time, and it changed the course of my life. This profound shift happened only because an investigator – an anonymous activist who I will never know nor ever be able to thank – risked their safety and freedom to expose the reality of our relationship with animals. Many of us owe a similar debt to undercover investigators, but how often do we think about what they risk, and what they sacrifice? Do we even know what it takes?

 

While I believe we must be mindful to centre the animals in our activism, I believe it is also important to celebrate the work of those whose passion and bravery drive our mission forward. Not just to honour those people but also, hopefully, to inspire such passion and bravery in others.

 

While Emily and Sarah are just two of the invisible women who make our movement possible, this film is a broader ‘thank you’ to every undercover investigator who has taken risks to help animals, and to every woman who has never received the recognition she deserves yet without whom our movement simply could not exist.”

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Working with communities and governments across Africa to promote humane treatment of all animals.


 

Photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.
Interview and text by Corinne Benedict.

Africa Network For Animal Welfare


 

Photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.
Interview and text by Corinne Benedict.

The sun is still high in the sky. It’s not even 1 p.m., but already, this foot patrol has found and removed 29 snares from the red-dirt grounds of Kenya’s Soysambu Conservancy. 

Snare Removal Work in Soysambu Conservancy northwest of Nairobi. Kenya, 2016.

The Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), regularly scours this 190 square kilometre ranch, along with other conservation areas where snares are common. To outsiders, it can seem like searching for a needle in a haystack, but Helen Jerotich, Catherine Chumo, Eunice Robai and the rest of their small group are pros. 

ANAW team member holding snares. Kenya, 2016.

ANAW team member holding snares. Kenya, 2016.

“The neighbouring communities are the ones who come and put the snares,” explains Jerotich, who removes the makeshift wire traps so routinely that today she’s doing it in office attire: a button-down shirt and nice earrings.

“They sneak in and use snares to get meat. It’s more for commercial. Buffalo or zebras are killed and then transported to neighbouring butchers.”

Gazelles, giraffes, and even lions are also common here.

Helen Jerotich searching for snares.

The sheer number of snares that are uncovered, even when they’re empty, can be heartbreaking.
Far worse is when ANAW finds an animal that has been injured or killed, which they often do. Wounded animals are usually darted and sedated. A veterinarian then determines whether the victim will heal or needs to be euthanized. 
ANAW’s Sebastian Mwanza recalls one of the worst cases he’s seen on the job – a zebra who’d been snared and badly hurt. Her wounds weren’t survivable, so the team prepared to euthanize her. As they did, her herd stood at a distance and watched.

One zebra, a baby, stood closer, waiting for what Mwanza assumed was her mother to get up. 

“That was very bad,” he says. “Very, very, very bad.”

Snare-removal at the Soysambu Conservancy.

ANAW team members search for snares.

Giraffes at the Soysambu Conservancy.

ANAW team member Eunice Robai.

The only good snare, of course, is the one never set. This is why ANAW’s de-snaring efforts make up only a small part of the organization’s work. Founded in 2006 and based in Kenya, ANAW collaborates with communities, governments and a range of partners across Africa to promote the humane treatment of all animals, from wildlife to farmed, working, and companion animals. 

ANAW’s education and awareness-raising efforts include animal welfare clubs in local schools, a regular magazine, Animal Welfare, and campaigns against bush meat. The organization has also achieved important policy and legal victories, hosts local and international conferences, and runs vaccination and veterinary care clinics. 

Helen Jerotich holding a snare.

It’s hard work in a country where the vast majority of people haven’t been brought up to value animals’ lives, viewing them as here merely for human use, says Chumo, who is ANAW’s information officer. Also a journalist and writer, she started at ANAW years ago as a volunteer and loves the job. Her father was a conservationist who instilled in her a love of animals and the environment.
Markings from where snares had been previously attached to the tree.

For most Kenyans, though, “animals come last,” Chumo laments.

She and the rest of the ANAW team dream of a day when their efforts to change minds mean they’ll no longer have to patrol for snares. 

Until then, they’ll continue, one foot in front of the other. 

Learn more and support ANAW here. 

Hilda Kean

Hilda Kean

Open Your Eyes and See the History All Around You: The Importance of Knowing Our Activist History

It is no exaggeration to say that Hilda Kean set me on the path I am on today. Well, to be more specific, one of her books did–it would be several years until I would actually meet Hilda Kean in person! When I was a graduate student in the early 2000s my research was situated in environmental studies but, at that time, the idea of studying and thinking critically about animals was still quite separate from the scholarship being done in environmental studies. I found this somewhat strange and a little frustrating, but then I came across Hilda Kean’s Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800. This was the first time that I had read the work of a writer who had taken human-animal relationships seriously as a subject of cultural and historical research. Her influence has been enormous, not just on my own work, but on the fields of animal studies and human-animal history.

For this interview, I arranged to meet Hilda Kean a few summers ago at a vegan cafe in Brighton, UK. When she arrived, she told me that she had almost missed her train because she had awoken to discover a fox in her house that morning! “I don’t see why some people are frightened of foxes,” she calmly said as she recounted the details of what had transpired that morning.

The fox Kean found in her house that morning.

Hearing Kean talk about her encounter with this fox reminded me so much of her writing. In both cases her narrative is framed by a compassionate yet critical inquiry. Her work is grounded by a real concern for thinking about the actual lived experiences of individual animals and she resists historical understandings of human-animal relationships that are informed by clichés or symbolism.

For instance, in one of her recent books, The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two’s Unknown Tragedy, Kean went to great lengths to learn as many individual stories as she could after the 400,000 cats and dogs in Britain that were killed by their owners at the outbreak of the Second World War. In telling these stories she moves beyond the standard tropes typical in narratives about both this war and of human-animal (and animal-human) bonds. Her meticulous research is grounded in actual events and testimonies and, as such, complicates the narratives we like to tell ourselves about our historical relationships with our companion animals. This is an uncomfortable history and Kean does not shy away from telling it.

Likewise, Animal Rights is a book that looks at the complicated history of animal advocacy in Britain. Kean’s motivation for writing Animal Rights grew out of a sense of frustration about the lack of awareness of activism in previous historical periods.

“It is important to acknowledge that in Britain campaigns for animal rights and animal welfare go back at least to the late 18th and early 19th century,” she stresses. “So, if you like you can say you don’t agree with these ideas, but you can not say that these ideas came from nowhere.”

“These things did happen and they were important.”

Kean underscores how important it is for activists of today to know that “these ideas have not just come out of thin air.” Anti-vivisection, in particular, has a long and complex history in places like Britain, and it was women who were often on the front lines of these fights. Recognizing the work of these reformers from earlier historical periods is important, Kean feels, not only to give credit where credit is due, but also to allow us to take a broader historical perspective on animal advocacy. This can help reframe some of our current struggles to change the world for animals. Kean acknowledges that as we look to this history and realize that some of the fights we are fighting today were also being fought by previous generations of activists it can be “somewhat depressing” at first glance. But Kean stresses that knowing this history also “places things in a broader context of time” to allow us to see how the “ideas and campaigns have been worked through, modified, and emphasized in different ways. They have had some successes over a period of time.”

As a historian, Kean feels it is important to take the full messy, complex narratives of animal advocacy into account. Looking to the past only as a source of “inspirational stories…implies that there were only successes.” There have been, of course, changes for the better. Kean points to the status of companion animals as an example of this, noting “that their lives are better now than they were say in the early 1800s or even in the early 1900s.” With farmed animals, however, she is concerned that things may be “much worse than they were 100 years ago, that moving animals away from fields to inside” has caused even greater concerns for activists.

While Kean is pleased to see so many people working on animal studies topics within academia in recent years, she also sometimes finds it frustrating that this academic work can often be incredibly “esoteric” and seemingly removed from actual animals. For Kean, animal studies is much more than an “academic exercise” and she finds it “quite shocking” that there are some working in this field who “apparently have no interest in living animals.”

Kean also stresses the importance of historians getting up from their desks.

“I don’t think history is all about somebody sitting in a library and writing notes and getting it published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It is also important to actually look at what is going on in the world.”

Kean embodies this perspective in her own work. For example, during the time she was writing Animal Rights she remembers reading comments in a newspaper that ridiculed animal rights activists who had been protesting the selling of live lobsters. She recalls that the comments were along the lines of “Where do these mad people come from? Fancy doing this about lobsters!” As she was reading about this protest and the public response to it, she couldn’t help but think about the 1829 pamphlet she had found during the course of her research. This pamphlet was “published by what was then the SPCA. It was a campaign about lobsters and the cruel way that lobsters were boiled alive.” As she read the newspaper coverage of the protest in the late 1990s the connections between the 19th century protest and the 20th century protest were obvious to her. “When I’m reading something like that in the newspaper, I’m relating that in my head to other things I’m doing. And it makes me think ‘I have to do something.’ I don’t mean that I have to write to the newspaper necessarily, I mean, I will do that, but it is more around thinking about how to argue the importance of knowing the history of animal rights activism.”

While Kean is passionate about the history of the animal advocacy movement, she is also firmly rooted in the present moment, and keeps a sharp eye out for ways in which human-animal histories remain part of our current environments. “I just see things in the environment that catch my interest.

“I sometimes notice things others don’t because I think most people run around with their eyes shut.”

Walking, looking, and noticing details such as statues or monuments featuring cats, dogs, horses, or other animals are an important part of Kean’s research methods, and her impressive list of published writing on human-animal histories is a testament to how astute she is at this practice. She also spends a lot of time talking to people, asking questions, and thinks critically about how animals and humans would have interacted in previous spaces.

Understanding this kind of context is at the heart of the work that Kean does. For instance, she discusses the Old Brown Dog memorial, a highly controversial monument dedicated to a dog who was killed in a vivisection laboratory in 1903. During the early 20th century this memorial statue became a touchstone for ongoing debates about animal experimentation until the decision was made to remove it from the Latchmere gardens completely. In 1985 a replacement statue was placed in nearby Battersea Park, but, as Kean points out, the new statue was within the park and this was significant. The placement of the original statue was highly political. As Kean notes, it was “in the middle of a model housing estate for workers. This was a socialist area at the time. So, the location of the statue very much brought across the politics of it, the alignment of ordinary people and animals.” This historical connection is not immediately apparent with the new memorial statue having been placed there just before the demise of the socialist Greater London Council (GLC). This is the kind of attention to detail that informs all of Kean’s work.

“We need to consider these things in their social and cultural contexts.”

When I asked Kean about the kind of advice she would give other writers and scholars who want to make a difference for animals, she replied that “it is really just thinking about what you want to do, and if you want to do things that privilege the position of animals, you just do it.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you, Hilda, for all you have done for animals and for the field of animal history.

 

Images courtesy of Hilda Kean, Rosa Harvest and Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Keri Cronin.

Ondine Sherman

Ondine Sherman

Ondine Sherman is a tireless and trailblazing animal advocate. In 2004, Ondine teamed up with her father Brian Sherman to co-found Voiceless, which has since grown to become one of the most prominent animal protection and animal law organizations in Australia. In addition to Voiceless, Ondine is a full-time mother of three and has published a memoir about her journey with her twins who have disabilities​, as well as three young adult novels with prominent themes of animal activism.

Unbound filmmaker Kelly Guerin visited Ondine at her beautiful home in Israel, surrounded by adoring rescue dogs and former battery chickens. As Ondine is uniquely poised to share insight into balancing activism and motherhood, she shared with Unbound how she has been able to dissolve the seemingly rigid lines between the two, and continue to change the world for animals.

Learn more about Ondine’s work and books.

Filming and editing by Kelly Guerin.

Gail Eisnitz

Gail Eisnitz

“I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t have hope.”

If you want to understand what it’s really like behind the closed doors of America’s factory farms and slaughterhouses, ask Gail Eisnitz.

She can tell you about the sounds—overwhelmingly loud, a mix of whirring automation and animals’ pained shrieks. She can tell you how it smells, and about the colours, and about how fast everything goes. Now more than ever, she’ll explain, the kill line stops for nothing. Not for an injured worker. Not for possible meat contamination. Not for an animal too scared or weak to move forward on its own. Not even for one who hasn’t effectively been rendered unconscious before the cutting or boiling begins.

She can tell you how it feels to stand right next to the stun operator—so close that you’re spattered with brain as cows fall. She can tell you about the fear, which she says is instantly recognizable, no matter the species.

For decades, as the public has largely turned away from the worst of what we inflict on animals used for food, Eisnitz has chosen to look. Among America’s most dedicated animal rights investigators, for years, she acknowledges, she immersed herself so deeply that her work was an obsession. While she is best known for her 1997 book Slaughterhouse (updated edition, 2006), which exposed horrific violations of federal law inside United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected facilities, her achievements extend much further.

In the late 90s, as chief investigator for the California-based Humane Farming Association (HFA), Eisnitz documented widespread use of illegal, deadly steroids by the U.S. veal industry, leading to convictions and national television coverage. In 2000, after obtaining videotaped evidence and affidavits from workers, she exposed the routine skinning and dismemberment of hundreds of thousands of conscious cattle by the world’s largest meat packer. Eisnitz was the driving force behind a highly read frontpage 2001 Washington Post article that detailed slaughterhouse atrocities across the country, which led to Congress’s infusion of tens of millions of dollars into the USDA’s budget for humane slaughter enforcement. She played a key role in stopping construction in 2003 in South Dakota of what would have been the world’s third largest pig factory—a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to appearing in The New York Times and on Good Morning America, among many other news outlets, her work was the subject of the HBO documentary Death on a Factory Farm. Today, she continues as an investigator with HFA.

“It takes repeated pounding away at the meat industry to effectuate any change—repeated blows,” says Eisnitz, who is thoughtful, soft-spoken and lives in North Carolina with her cat, Abel.

“I always tell myself that if you keep pounding away, change will come.”


Colleagues say that relentlessness, no matter the obstacle or cost, reflects Eisnitz’s courage and her commitment to finding truth.

“She has gone after the stuff of nightmares, and kept at it,” says Patty Finch, former executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. She calls Eisnitz’s investigations into U.S. slaughterhouses “one of the most impressive bodies of work by any animal activist.”

“Doing that work for so long comes at a great personal cost to her. I know that as her friend,” Finch says. “But Gail never stops.”

Eisnitz first felt compelled to help animals as a child growing up in New Jersey. She remembers watching a program on public television around age 12 that showed two orphaned polar bear cubs looking up at the film crew in a helicopter overhead. Their mother had just been shot. “The expressions on their faces were so helpless. It was seared in my brain,” Eisnitz recalls. A few years later, in high school, she wrote a research paper on endangered species and couldn’t believe the speed at which animals were being wiped away. “After that I was definitely hooked on saving animals,” she says.

She earned a degree in natural resource conservation and began writing about and illustrating threatened and endangered species for various local publications. In 1983, she took a job as a writer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for the Animal Welfare Institute and Society for Animal Protective Legislation. Her next job was as a writer and editor for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

But something was missing.

“You can only write about things for so long that you haven’t seen for yourself.”

“I wanted to work in investigations so desperately, but it was such a small field at the time,” Eisnitz says.

She got her chance in 1988 when she became one of HSUS’s two national field investigators. Soon she was working to expose puppy mills, auctions of badly abused horses, cockfighting, the use of “live lure” rabbits in greyhound racing, and cruelty in factory farming. Sometimes she put cases together by conducting in-depth interviews with whistleblowers or other insiders who she persuaded to sign affidavits. Other times, she got close to perpetrators and gathered evidence while posing as Carol Taylor, her undercover persona. Her first slaughterhouse investigation started with a tip from a USDA employee assigned to a Florida facility where cows routinely were being skinned alive. “He’d complained to everyone he could think of and no one was doing anything,” Eisnitz recalls.

It was a roadblock that would stymie Eisnitz again and again as she delved deeper into slaughterhouses. She says getting inside and finding workers willing to talk often wasn’t all that difficult; significantly harder was getting people in positions to help to take action, including the media, law enforcement officials and USDA regulators. Many times she convinced network news programs to run stories using evidence she’d gathered, only to have them back out at the last minute saying the material was too graphic. With law enforcement, “They’d often say we fabricated our evidence. They’d take the side of the factory farm or the slaughterhouse.” Even HSUS wasn’t interested in supporting slaughterhouse investigations or making use of her findings, Eisnitz says.

“I was definitely obsessed with getting these cases put together. I had spent so much time documenting these atrocities.”

In 1992, Eisnitz left HSUS to become chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association. It was there that her colleague, HFA founder Bradley Miller, encouraged her to write a book.

In all, she put almost a decade of work into Slaughterhouse, a first-person account of her efforts as an investigator, including while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. In addition to detailing horrendous cruelty to animals—animals routinely beaten, scalded and dismembered while fully conscious, live animals dragged around by meat hooks, animals arriving for slaughter frozen nearly solid after being transported in sub-zero temperatures—the book also explores other consequences of slaughterhouses’ lightning-fast line speeds, including meat contamination and mental and physical fallout for workers.

“I encountered people who became sadistic from working in slaughterhouses, and they took out their frustrations on the animals,” Eisnitz says, noting that many who she interviewed were relieved to tell her about what they’d done and seen. “I encountered people who became alcoholics and became abusive to their spouses.”

The book gave Eisnitz a platform to call attention to slaughterhouse violations, which she did in interviews that aired on more than 1,000 radio stations. In 2004, she was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal for excellence in animal welfare by the Animal Welfare Institute.

After Slaughterhouse, Eisnitz threw herself into the world of pig farming, finding a whole new set of horrors. When she finally slowed down, about ten years ago, she began to understand the extent to which documenting trauma eventually becomes trauma of one’s own.

“I was very troubled. It wasn’t pretty. I just tried to shut it out and not deal with it, which is not good, because it comes out in other ways.” For Eisnitz, that included trauma-induced illness that manifested itself in visual processing problems that she struggled to find treatment for.

“I wish I could say something wise,” she says about how she eventually healed. “I think it was just time and distance.”

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned from her decades of activism is that self-care matters.

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.”

While her pace may have leveled, today Eisnitz is as dedicated to helping animals as ever. She is focused now on reforming the USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program, which reimburses farmers and ranchers for animals who die during extreme weather, even when farmers make no effort to protect them. She’s also currently working to shut down a large illegal slaughter operation.

As for the sanctioned slaughterhouses she spent so many years investigating, she knows some of the atrocities she documented continue.

“The infusion of millions of dollars we secured from Congress for humane slaughter enforcement has generated much more regulatory attention to the issue,” she says. “However, I did a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request pretty recently and it showed that animals are still being shackled, hoisted and bled while fully conscious.”

The meat industry continues to push for ever-higher limits on line speeds, Eisnitz notes, and in the case of pigs, no cap on line speeds. Driving the increases, she explains, are industry consolidation—many small and medium-sized slaughterhouses have closed in recent years—and growing demand for meat in developing countries. Lax USDA regulatory enforcement adds fuel to the fire.

“The bottom line is the meat industry can’t seem to kill animals fast enough.”

At the same time, she knows her work and the work of other investigators and activists has made a difference, from hard-won media exposure, convictions and legislative improvements to the thousands of people who’ve written to her since Slaughterhouse was published to say they’ve given up animal products.

And she knows more victories for animals will come, if she just keeps pounding away.

“I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t have hope.”

 

Photos by Kelly Guerin. Interview by Jo-Anne McArthur. Story by Corinne Benedict.