Stanford researchers created an experiment where human subjects were treated like cows. The point was to see how much the test subjects would identify with bovines and perhaps change their attitude or perceptions about them.
In the experiment, volunteers walked on hands and feet and saw themselves in a mirror created by virtual reality technology not as a human, but as a cow. They were also poked with an object and experienced floor vibrations in order to create the effect of being shocked with an electric cattle prod.
One website falsely reported the research was funded by taxpayers, but this was not the case. It appears that some people are so offended by the idea of empathizing with a cow that they wanted to smear it be saying taxpayers had paid for the research.
One could understand that in a nation mainly comprised of meat-eaters, news of an experiment designed to generate empathy with cows could be shocking. Given that ideology plays a role in how we perceive ourselves, and the fact very few such experiments have ever been conducted, one could understand some negative reactions. However, one only has to consider how well cows tend to be treated in India, a nation with far more people than America and potentially hundreds of millions of vegetarians, to see that the way cows are treated in America is not a universally supported nor objectively better way.
Another point of the Stanford research that was emerged is that the human test subjects do tend to identify more with the natural world after participating in the experiments and so are less likely to consume as much natural resources. A first person virtual reality experience may therefore have potential to both reach and teach people to have a greater sense of stewardship for other life forms and the planet. One of the main contributors to climate change is large-scale animal agriculture.