I think my views are similar to yours.
If I think way back to when I still had the 'happy farm animal' view, I thought it was a bit sad, but okay that animals had to die. I watched nature shows so.. yeah it was sad, but it is part of life. And I imagine if I still believed the happy farm animal was a possibility, maybe I'd still be okay with meat-eating - well maybe not, but I'd be okay with milk and cheese. We all die and some of the deaths I've seen on National Geographic have been quite brutal and drawn out. Death is inevitable.
But like you it is not their death that disturbs me - It is their life. Living conditions in the factory are beyond appalling; most do not ever see the light of day, they never breath fresh air or feel the sun against their skin. They are forced to wallow in their own excrement and endure lesions, infections, abscesses etc without treatment. But even that is tame compared to the torture and brutalization that is inflicted on them by humans throughout their short existence.
One of my hobbies/pastimes is studying social psychology..it is interesting to me generally, but it also helps me to make sense and gain some peace with the evil things that happen in this world.
Dehumanization is not the right word - animals are already not human - but what is happening on these farms is a form of degradation. If you look at the holocaust or at how the Japanese did inhumane gruesome and horrendous experiments on the Chinese and Koreans, (I can share link if you want) - the same psychology is at play on the farms.
By degrading the animals (and how could they not, when they are doing the jobs they are doing day in and day out) the workers slowly morph into demons (psychology coins this the Lucifer effect). Eventually they are able to derive sadistic enjoyment (a feeling of power) from inflicting pain and torture on their ‘slaves’. The workers feed off each others' enjoyment and are thereby able to commit more and more heinous crimes and atrocities against these animals. Sadly the animals have no voice and absolutely no protection from our governments or society at large - it is legal to torture farm animals. Agg-gag is a most terrible idea - Anonymity always increases the likelihood of committing immoral acts.
Knowing what I do about psychology, I’m not so naive as to believe (as most seem to) that the scenes in factory and dairy farm footage are isolated incidents. I don’t need to break-in to farms to see it with my own eyes as I have no doubt whatsoever that this cruel and evil behavior is the norm in all factory farms. Psychologically speaking, there can be no other way.
So what can I do but become vegan? I look at meat and dairy now and all I can see is fear and suffering.
I know there are some farms where there are happy cows and happy chickens... I live down the block from one, but knowing that 'everyone' can't go that route kinda makes it an unrealistic option for me. How do you replace 60 billion factory farmed land animals a year with happy farm animals?.. I just can't see that future.
Our population is 7 billion now... it will be 9 billion in a very short time. I know that me foregoing animal products is such a tiny drop in the bucket, but I have to have hope for the animals and for humanity. No hope = despair, so I'm opting for hope.
I was looking at an ex vegan site (letthemeatmeat), and was deeply saddened to see someone do such a 180 on their moral views. I find it unfortunate that while this blogs intent is to offend vegans, the overall effect is to hurt the animals... he does this indirectly, but still it is a very purposeful attack. Actually I've seen this type of response from a few 'former' vegans. It seems to me that they are acting out against some of the dogmatic views presented by some of the vegans they came across. Vegans can learn from this - ie. to be a bit more forgiving and less judgmental. I'm sure judgement is off-putting when nobody can be perfect and really we all have an impact just by existing.
I love the quote by Sydney Smith:
It is the greatest mistake to do nothing because you can only do little. Do what you can.
We are all at different places in our lives and ready to do so much for different causes... I'll be happy if someone cuts down on meat, or goes vegetarian, or tries vegan. They are at least making an effort and to me that means on some level they care and maybe someday they will care a bit more. Baby steps. Probably not fast enough.. but it could start a movement right.
(sorry so long-winded - guess I've thought about this a lot - yikes!)