Animal friendly billboard

An animal-friendly billboard posted along the west side of I-65, just north of Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana.

Provided

After writing a story last week about a Portage-area pet store owner charged with neglect of the animals in his care, my telephone and email lit up.

Each of those reaching out to me voiced concern about the animals and offered various forms of help, including opening up their homes for foster care.

The Porter County Animal Shelter also reported receiving many calls and emails offering help. The shelter responded by announcing it was able to handle the load and would post on its Facebook page if the situation changed.

I always find it encouraging when news stories about animals in distress trigger a large heart-felt reaction from the public. While it most often occurs in response to stories about dogs and cats, the occasional cow escaping slaughter will sometimes grab the headlines and result in a cry to save the poor, panicked animal.

But I never hear an outcry over the slaughter trucks we all see carting cows, pigs, chickens and animals down our highways in extreme heat and cold. Compare that to the response of a single dog being found left alone in a car.

And I don't hear much when I or others write about the 9 billion land animals killed for food in this country alone each year, in addition to the 6 billion fish. Chickens account for 88 percent of that land animal list.

Farm animals account for more than 99.6 percent of all animals used and killed in the United States, but 66 percent of donations to animal charities go to companion animal shelters, according to Animal Charity Evaluators. Just 0.8 percent of donations go specifically to farm animal advocacy organizations.

This shows the potential of the human heart when it comes to animals. But how to bridge the gap from dogs, cats and other animals that trigger our compassion and the many more living a horrifying existence and undergoing agonizing deaths for our food?

That's the linchpin that, if pulled, would bring the horrific farm animal system tumbling down to the relief of not just the animals, but the planet and human health as well.

As we see with smoking, information is not enough to trigger a change. The realization needs to be much deeper.

Vegans often catch a lot of grief about speaking out about the abuse of farm animals. But once you see it — really see it — the pain is the same felt by all those who so rightly felt outrage over the alleged abuse of the pet store animals this past week. Few would call that outrage wrong.

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Bob is a 22-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.