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News commentary: Hidden-camera activist reveals himself

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 30 August 2013

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The undercover animal rights activist who gained access to an Idaho dairy farm last year and captured video of animal abuse recently went public with his hidden-camera career.

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The individual, who identified himself as “Pete,” spoke to National Geographic Channel’s “Inside Secret America” reporters about how he has gained access at puppy mills, slaughter houses, numerous livestock farms, a dairy in Ohio, and most recently, a large dairy in Idaho.

His conversation aired as part of the cable channel’s investigative series into America’s underground networks.

“If you really want to know what’s going on somewhere, you have to assimilate yourself into that environment and have everyone act as if you weren’t even there,” explains Pete, who wears dark sunglasses and a camouflage-pattern ball cap throughout the recently aired interview.

“My job is not to try and make the world a better place. My job is not to save a bunch of animals. My job is just to gather evidence.”

Pete describes himself as a “tiny” kid who was picked last for sports and beat up at school. He says that’s where his empathy for abused animals began. An obvious evangelist for animal rights, Pete says the movement is a “form of rebellion.”

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“You have the established order, the established way of thinking,” Pete says. “The problem is that a lot of it hinges on lies, telling you all these animals are treated fine, no one is ever breaking the law here.”

Pete explains on camera that he has changed his legal name three times to protect his identity. He says, “It’s just part of the gig.”

A Mercy for Animals representative says in the video that Pete is one of the organization’s “lead investigators,” saying that he has been “working in the field possibly longer than any other investigator.”

The animal-rights organization, which actively promotes converting to a vegan diet, arranged for Pete to meet with National Geographic.

“The more that we are showing how much abuse is occurring on farms and slaughterhouses, the less meat and dairy and eggs people want to eat,” Pete says are the perceived effects of his farm investigations.

He claims his undercover time at the Idaho dairy lasted a few weeks. At least half of the undercover video footage shown throughout the TV episode was from Pete’s time on that dairy.

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The aired portions of his video show Pete showing up at the dairy, speaking Spanish, looking for a manager and asking for work.

Other footage shows him and other workers milking cows in a parlor, moving cows in outdoor alleys and pushing up cows to the parlor holding pen.

Pete says he would work a 12-hour shift in Idaho, log his undercover footage, get five hours of sleep and then go back to his undercover job.

During his logging process, he identifies footage he believes is inhumane, but he says during the show he is specifically looking to capture illegal activity.

“The reason criminal cases are so important is that we have to show the public we’re not just doing this for political reasons,” Pete says.

Pete’s graphic footage of an employee jumping on a cow and other hidden video led to the termination of five dairy employees and criminal charges for three of them. To date, one of those employees has been prosecuted for misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

Pete explains during the show how over time he has learned to control the feelings he may have to toward the animals he’s witnessed being mistreated or abused.

“Naturally, you’re going to feel empathy for the animal. You’re going to feel very bad. You’re going to want to help. You can’t. You’re wired with a camera and have a job to do,” Pete says. “It makes you have a little hit of adrenaline every time.

When that adrenaline comes in, it’s a little bit easier to do than you would think – to keep your cool. What you’re thinking about is: ‘Am I getting the shot?’”

Pete admits in the interview that he feels he’s “painted himself into a corner” and “offers less and less to his clients” in the animal rights movement. He’s now training other hidden-camera activists.

The show closes in Pete’s home while he is cooking a vegan meal with his girlfriend, one of his trainees.

“The absolute solution to do away with systemic animal abuse in our food supply is to take animals out of the food supply. Stop eating animals. And that’s it,” Pete concludes. PD

PHOTO
A man who identifies himself as “Pete” on camera, and who went undercover on a dairy in Idaho, grants an interview to National Geographic Channel reporters for a TV documentary that aired in July.

Click here to read Animal Ag Alliance CEO Kay Johnson Smith’s comments about this TV documentary.

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Walt Cooley
Editor
Progressive Dairyman

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