01/11/2013 06:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Acclaimed Artist Gretchen Ryan Speaks Up for Abused Animals in New Viral Video (VIDEO)

They say a single picture is worth a thousand words. Gretchen Ryan should know -- her haunting, evocative paintings have been exhibited in galleries around the world.

Now, Ryan's embarked to work in a new medium, recording "My Story," a unique advocacy video for the animal protection organization Mercy For Animals that's sure to spark discussion.

What's so arresting about the three-minute piece is its stark, sadly familiar style.

"My Story" is modeled after videos recorded by bullied or troubled teens recounting their stories of abuse on simple placards. Here, Ryan's defeated, vulnerable eyes face us as she invites us into a world of isolation and despair. But there is a twist...

The story Ryan tells is not about herself. She's speaking for an abused animal -- a dairy cow.

Most people are unaware of the plight of dairy cows in modern America, a reality that is highly disturbing and carefully shielded from public view. Most of these animals live their entire lives inside buildings hooked up to machines, never feeling the sun on their faces or grass beneath their feet.

And like all animals on factory farms, they also face abuse. In numerous undercover investigations that have sparked national outrage, Mercy For Animals has videotaped workers dragging, punching and kicking animals too weak to even stand.

As conscious consumers, it's our duty to be aware that the advertisements shown to us of dairy cows grazing on green, open pastures is a scene from a distant past, a time before factory farms relegated these peaceful animals to lives as nothing more than milk machines.

The vast majority of all milk, cheese, and butter comes from places like that.

If you watch and share only one video today, make it this one.