“That was brutal!” shouted UCSB student Alex Svedlow, tearing off the headphones connecting him to a TV screen mounted on the outside of a tour van. “Absolutely unsettling and visceral,” he continued, eyes wide with disbelief.
Svedlow was one of the many awe-struck and disgusted Isla Vista pedestrians who stopped by the van parked in front of Woodstock’s Pizza Friday night to watch a video documenting the mistreatment of farm animals. Innocently thinking he was in for a boring, fact-stocked video, Svedlow was clearly taken aback by the film’s surprisingly graphic footage. “The squealing of the pigs really upset me to the point where I’m not going to eat meat for a while,” said another viewer, Evie Stevens. “I’m definitely going to take ham off my list.”
The custom-built vehicle, complete with eight integrated TV screens to accommodate 32 simultaneous viewers, is part of the 10 Billion Lives Tour, coordinated by the nonprofit organization Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). The van has been stopping in busy public locations across America (so far Portland, Eugene, Sacramento, and San Francisco), offering people $1 to watch the disturbing footage. “According to USDA reports, 10 billion animals are raised and killed for food each year in the United States alone,” explained tour coordinator Jeni Haines. “We want consumers to have the opportunity to make informed choices. That’s our goal — to help people make more informed decisions about the food they eat.”
The video, made with hidden camera footage taken inside farm animal facilities, reveals horrific conditions and cruelty as well as standard, legal industry practices that are shocking to most viewers and out of step with most American values, said Haines. “These animals suffer tremendously,” explained Haines, “We all love our cats and dogs and would never want them to be harmed, and these animals are just as important. We want to encourage people to make choices that are in line with their values.”
FARM believes by offering an incentive of $1, the “pay-per-view” campaign succeeds in enticing Americans to voluntarily learn more about animal rights issues, rather than forcing information on them. Impressively, more than 80 percent of the video’s viewers commit to eating fewer animal products afterward, and in follow-up surveys, more than 60 percent of respondents maintain this pledge.
The van’s next stops are Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego before it joins the three-month Vans Warped Tour in Salk Lake City. Following the concerts, the van will continue to tour the country until November.
The video can be viewed at 10BillionLives.com, where one in 25 watchers will win a pair of movie tickets.