The issue of animal rights revolves around the question of whether animals should be given the same protections as humans. Ingrid Newkirk, cofounder of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), claims that animals are more like people than objects. She famously declared in 1989, “There is no rational basis separating out the human animal. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” On the other hand, many people—including some who actively oppose cruelty to animals—believe that animals lack the mental and spiritual qualities of humans and that it is appropriate for humans to make use of animals as they do other resources.
Shawn Lyons was dead to rights—and he knew it. More than a month had passed since People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had released a video of savage mistreatment at the MowMar Farms hog confinement facility where he worked as an entry-level herdsman in the breeding room. The three enormous sow barns in rural Greene County, Iowa, were less than five years old and, until recently, had raised few concerns. They seemed well ventilated and well supplied with water from giant holding tanks. Their tightly tacked steel siding always gleamed white in the sun. But the PETA hidden-camera footage shot by two undercover activists over a period of months in the summer of 2008, following up on a tip from a former employee, showed a harsh reality concealed inside.