The issue of animal testing is a hot one, but what's going on here is stunning by any measure. And we're funding it.
Trigger warning: This post describes animal mistreatment, and the video below contains descriptions and scenes some may find disturbing.
50 years ago, Congress decided to bring together all of the agriculture research conducted by the Department of Agriculture.
Congress created the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, or USMARC.
USMARC's work is about keeping the meat industry in the game as sales shift to poultry, fish, and produce. This little-known complex outside Clay Center, Nebraska, does help to check the spread of livestock diseases and promote food safety standards. But many of its efforts involve finding new ways to make beef, pork, and lamb cheaper to produce and taste better.
Some of USMARC's experiments have been revealed as shockingly brutal.
Maybe the most heartless treatment of all is reserved for the sheep. USMARC is attempting to take this domesticated animal and breed it to take care of itself in the wild to save ranchers money. In the program, sheep give birth outside, and the center watches to see if ewes protect their newborns from predators, starvation, and weather. They're hoping that if the babies become desperate enough, their moms will respond. Sheep are notoriously disinterested mothers, though, so they mostly don't.