Over two years, Erin Wing worked undercover at four facilities where she watched fish being slammed into concrete floors, chicks being impaled and calves being brutally de-budded.
Intense pressure. Isolation. The need to witness brutality and death on a daily basis – and stay silent. Those were the working conditions facing Erin Wing, a then 24-year-old Hispanic woman wanting to make a difference for animals, when she applied to become an animal cruelty investigator for Animal Outlook.
“What I heard a lot of was actually, ‘Do you really want to do this? Maybe you should rethink this decision,’” Wing recalled. “The staff actually tried to convince me not to do this work because it is so intense. But I felt I was needed there.”
Wing said her upbringing both inspired and prepared her to dedicate her life to compassionate action for others. She grew up in a single-parent household in a low-income area where she both witnessed and endured violence. She felt an early connection to animals, who always greeted her with friendliness and joy. “I knew they could feel pain,” she said. “Whenever I witnessed an animal being abused, I intervened.”
It’s ironic that intervening became the one thing Wing couldn’t do after she accepted a job as an animal cruelty investigator with Animal Outlook.
In two years, she worked undercover at four facilities, including aquaculture, factory, and family-owned farms. During that time, it was critical for Wing to keep her composure – and her cover – as she watched fish slammed into concrete floors, chicks impaled, and calves brutally de-budded.
“I had to be a chameleon. I had to blend in,” she said. “You go to these facilities, and you can’t be yourself. You can’t form friendships. Your heart aches for these animals, but your job is to document what’s happening. If you blow your cover, if you intervene, then no one gets that inside view of what is really happening.”
At her last assignment, Wing spent two months at the Dick Van Dam family-owned dairy farm in Southern California as a night milker. She’d wake around 5 p.m. for her shift and drive to the farm site – where she was the only female worker – and work until the early hours of the morning. Afterward, she’d try to coax herself to sleep. But often, she couldn’t. Images of what she witnessed during the day floated around in her mind. She also struggled to eat and rapidly lost weight.
The toll was so intense that after she got the footage she needed, she decided to leave the field and take on a new role at Animal Outlook instead. “I was not at my healthiest,” she said. “With each assignment, there started to be cracks in the concrete barrier I had built up around myself. At the last, there were so many cracks that I felt the dam was going to break.”
Stepping out of the shadows allowed Wing to speak up, for the first time in years, about what she had witnessed.
Newborn calves left in the hot sun to die, sick and injured cows dragged by their hips over concrete, and terrified animals lifted 20 feet into the air by tractors.
Her undercover footage at Dick Van Dam revealed newborn calves left in the hot sun to die, sick and injured cows dragged by their hips over concrete, and terrified animals lifted 20 feet into the air by tractors. Wing also reported that other cows were repeatedly beaten, jabbed, and shocked by workers in acts of “extreme aggression” and were also routinely left without medical care for infections and open wounds.
The Dairy Farmers of America dropped the farm as a supplier following the publication of the investigation’s results. The New York Times picked up the investigation, asking its thousands of readers to ponder whether dairy farming is inherently cruel to cows. And Samuel, a sweet male calf, has a new home at the California-based farm animal sanctuary Animal Place because of Wing’s investigation.
Those successes all speak to the power of undercover video as an investigative tool to demand accountability for companies that benefit off of animal exploitation, Wing said.
“Undercover footage shows what is really happening when no one is looking, and that has brought so much change,” she said. “Bearing witness is a very powerful thing that people can do for these animals, who are trapped in a system where they have no voice and are behind closed doors.”
Original source: https://ladyfreethinker.org