Saving the planet.

Photo credit: Oil painting by Jackson Thilenius

IMG_1688Jackson Thilenius is a California based artist, who has spread the word of animal welfare and factory farming through his talents in oil and acrylic paintings.  His work is both controversial and thought-provoking.  The “Next” oil painting (featured here) has been included in Reddit’s Top 5 Most Controversial Artworks, which led to millions of comments and discussion threads.  Seen around the world, Jackson Thilenius’ paintings continue to move people toward a more compassionate vegan lifestyle.  The graphic and heart-wrenching paintings, such as “Witness” or “Male Chicks“, have been featured in Mercy for Animals’ Compassionate Living Magazine.  Fortunately for us, his paintings can be purchased as limited edition prints at Thilenius Studios.   10% of all proceeds are donated to Humane Society International

Animal suffering and torture, climate change, and water depletion are just some of the many consequences of the meat and dairy industry.

During my veterinary medical training I performed pregnancy evaluations on dairy cows.  For a month’s time, I had worked on over a dozen dairies, many with 400+ cows.  In the tradition of dairy practice, veterinarians determine if a cow is pregnant by performing a rectal examination.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  I was trained to use my non-dominant arm in the case of injury, which could result in a broken arm or worse.  The living conditions I witnessed was heartbreaking for these pregnant cows.  Forced to stand in one to two feet of dirt and manure with no sun cover, the cows tolerate this unpleasant procedure being performed over and over again to track the status of their pregnancy.  One day, similar to the rest, I was performing pregnancy checks on a herd of ~ 200 cows.  Suddenly, mid-rectal exam, I slipped and my feet dropped from under me.  My left arm, still in the poor cow, was the only thing keeping me out of two feet of manure. 
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A prominent throbbing sensation came over me as I struggled to regain proper footing.  Nervous that I had hurt the poor cow, I quickly removed my arm and assessed her for trauma.  Fortunately, she had no signs of acute injury.  Once I was able to focus my attention back to my now trembling arm, I noticed a shift in the other cows.  I found myself surrounded by four cows all interested in my left arm.  One of the cows gently nuzzled my arm in the exact location of the ache and, no doubt, forming bruise.  I was immediately reminded of our dog, Cookie, who is always by our side after a toe-stub or fall.  She seems to know the exact source of pain and shows empathy towards the injury. 

These cows were exhibiting the same behavior as Cookie, yet I was a stranger to them.  This moment broke my heart.  These sweet, loving cows were living in filth, being fed literal garbage (poultry feces, spoiled doughnuts, almond hulls, and coffee grounds), and being exploited for their milk.  Milk that was meant to feed their young.  Their young that are taken away from them at the time of birth.  The female calves are kept to replenish the herd, while the males are either tossed aside like garbage (sadly seen first hand), sent to a veal farm where they will live their extremely short lives in a tiny wooden box, or for the lucky few, kept to replenish the herd’s bull population.  How is this acceptable?  How did we as a species decide that this was OK?