Ever wondered what the life of an undercover investigator for factory farms is like?
T.J. Tumasse, who did 15 undercover investigations from 2007 to 2013, decided to tell all about it to not only activists who know him and his work but to a greater crowd. Tumasse started an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on Reddit allowing questions about his work to pour in and honest answers to flow back in return.
Not surprisingly, the conclusion is that his job is not easy.
Tumasse, whose work was mostly done for the non-profit animal rights organization Mercy for Animals, was never found out for the six years he worked undercover. He admitted he was afraid however, and had he been uncovered, believes the punishment could have been “anything from being buried out back to thrown in jail for a false crime.”
While working at egg farms in Iowa and Minnesota and a turkey farm in North Carolina among many other missions, Tumasse saw few women workers, some workers who opposed the cruel treatment of animals, and still others who took pleasure in their torture. Working undercover made him walk a difficult line.
“When we work undercover we have to do the job at the facility to the best of our ability while maintaining a cruelty free working ethic with the animals as much as possible,” he explained when asked if he ever had to torture an animal to blend in. “The problem is that cruelty is often inherent in standard practice in animal agriculture. It makes the investigators job extremely difficult.”
It is that culture of cruelty that Tumasse exposed that he claims Ag-Gag laws are trying to protect.
“I worked in states that now have ag-gag laws like Iowa before the laws were passed,” he said about the laws that make undercover filming of agricultural production facilities illegal. “This is a blatant attempt to silence out right to free speech. These factory farms have everything to hide because people would not support them by buying their products if they knew what was happening. The fact that they will go to these lengths to try to keep their actions hidden shows the cruelty of what they do is something to be ashamed of.”
Tumasse has followed a “compassionate plant based diet” for 10 years and encouraged current meat eaters to do the same. Even small family farms don’t cut it according to him.
“The term ethically raised meat is, in my opinion, a contradiction. There is no way to kindly exploit and kill someone, no matter if they are human or another species,” he said. “I have seen every kind of animals agriculture and if animals are being raised, used, and killed for our own means then we are exploiting them and there is no way to morally exploit another sentient being.”
The years of undercover work have had permanent effects on Tumasse who said he still has nightmares and suffers from PTSD over the images he’s seen.
“Every time I saw torture it broke my heart. I hated having to see all the things I saw,” he admitted. “I have become very sensitive to violence. I can’t watch violent movies anymore, I don’t like to see it. I embrace Ghandi and Dr. MLK. I believe in non-violent revolution and peace. I also deal with PTSD and some painful physical problems. As long as animals suffer for human whims I will suffer with them. Animal exploitation is horrible. I will be affected by what I saw for the rest of my life.”
It’s a very tough job, but someone’s got to do it – and to anyone who ever wants to follow his footsteps, he advised to just contact any animal rights organization because “investigators come in all shapes and sizes.”
As for those who want to help but can’t stomach the undercover mission, he said there are still ways to make a difference.
“The best ways for people to be involved are volunteering locally, sharing social media and, supporting organizations like Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and others who do undercover work,” he said also adding that “the greatest thing any individual can do is embrace a plant based compassionate diet.”
You can check out Tumasse’s Reddit AMA to see all of the questions he answered.
Photo Credit: Reddit