Upon arriving to the Boulder County Justice Center on June 13th, in response to a jury summons, I was assigned to a case involving defendant Russell Middleton, a Longmont resident who faces an animal cruelty charge. Allegedly, in the summer of 2015, Middleton shot a dog, known as “Beefcakes,” in the head.
At the commencement of the jury selection process, 25 people were called to the jury stand and were asked a series of questions by both the defense and the prosecution in order to determine their level of fitness for serving as a juror on this case. As the line of questioning began, it became apparent that this case emotionally impacts a number of the 25 prospective jurors. Some reported that they made it a point to follow Beefcakes’s journey throughout the past year. A handful of prospective jurors were dismissed “for cause” because they reported that they could not serve on this case impartially, given their serious affinity for dogs. Before being dismissed “for cause,” one man asserted that there was no justification, whatsoever, for shooting a dog. Another man said that the alleged crime is especially horrific because a dog is just so “defenseless.” A woman shed tears as she recalled sorrowfully having to euthanize her dog, mentioning that she couldn’t understand how someone could ever shoot a dog. She, too, was dismissed “for cause.”
Clearly, the abuse of dogs is an emotionally charged issue for many in Boulder County. The issue is so sensitive that some couldn’t bare sitting through a trial that involves the shooting of a dog. Undoubtedly, there is a widespread affinity for dogs in Boulder County. Sadly, though, this affection often does not extend to those animals who are not characterized as “pets.”
Let me explain.
Myself and a handful of animal liberation activists conduct weekly “vegan outreach” events on Pearl Street. We distribute information about the harms that farm animals face and we display large signs with images of defenseless farm animals, maimed by the animal agriculture industry, accompanied by messages of compassion and justice for all animals.
The point of these outreach events is to draw attention to the fact that, in the United States alone, over 10 billion animals are unnecessarily killed each year for food. And, as most of us are aware, these animals don’t, by any means, live happy lives before they are brutally slaughtered. Intensive confinement and mutilations without anesthetic are just two of the many grotesque features that are inherent to industrial animal agriculture.
Many members of the Boulder community are, indeed, moved by the plights of farm animals. At our outreach events, many stop to talk, ask questions, and to request “vegan starter kits.” Yet, a number of people in the Boulder Community appear apathetic to the message of compassion and justice for farm animals, as they walk quickly past our displays with their heads down, avoiding the gaze of the animals in our photos who plead for their help. Some mutter words of being “too busy” to stop. Others politely respond by saying, “not today.”Moreover, a number of community members blatantly mock the plight of farm animals, remarking gleefully that they “just love meat” and that they are “off to get a steak.”
While I sat through the jury selection process for Russell Middleton’s case, I was moved by the heartfelt emotional responses so many prospective jurors communicated as they spoke about the cruel treatment of dogs. These people are outraged about the unnecessary shooting of Beefcakes, and rightly so. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder: If we find it horrifying that Beefcakes was callously shot in the head, why do so many find it acceptable to consume the flesh of a cow, pig, or chicken, who have been treated much worse than Beefcakes? How can we say that we are against unnecessary violence against animals, but then turn around and consume it every day?
I now close by asking you to consider seriously the following: If you could have, without putting yourself in harms way, protected Beefcakes from being shot in the head, would you have done so? Judging from what I witnessed in the courtroom on June 13th, the answer from most would be an emphatic “YES!” Well, right now, there are millions of “Beefcakes” in the U.S who are at our mercy. What will you do to help them?