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Animal Rights vs Welfare Reforms Reader


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This collection of articles has been compiled by Animal Rights Advocates Inc. (ARA) to provide an abolitionist critique of animal welfare approaches in animal advocacy.

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Animal Rights vs Welfare Reforms Reader

  1. 1. ANIMAL RIGHTS vs WELFARE REFORMS an activist reader
  2. 2. Contents The Need - Eric Prescott 1 Promoting Animal Rights by Promoting Reform - Peter Singer and Bruce Friedrich 4 Abolition of Animal Exploitation - Gary L. Francione 8 The Odd Logic of Welfarism - Bob Torres 25 From Cradle to Grave: The Facts Behind “Humane” Eating - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 30 Dishing Out the Bull: The Rise of the Excuse-itarians - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 34 Animal Rights “Welfarists”: An Oxymoron - Joan Dunayer 39 The Hidden Cost of Selling the Public on “Cage-Free” Eggs - James La Veck 43 Glossary 52 Further Information 53 Guiding Principles of Animal Rights 54 About this reader This collection of articles has been compiled by Animal Rights Advocates Inc. (ARA) to provide an abolitionist critique of animal welfare approaches in animal advocacy. Feel free to photocopy and distribute it as long as you maintain the original attributions.
  3. 3. The Need - Eric Prescott The animal rights “movement” has been diluted by welfare-oriented advocacy to such an extent that the term “animal rights” has come to be widely understood merely as a catch-all label that refers to any activity carried out on behalf of animals, whether the activity is related to the moral or legal rights of animals at all. Most often it is not. “Animal rights” advocacy has for years had little to do with the moral rights of animals. Instead advocates have often focused on how animals are treated. In other words, they have concerned themselves with how humans treat their animal property, not whether or not the animals are rightfully considered the property of others in the first place. For instance, the media and many activists frequently call efforts to get hens out of battery cages “animal rights” campaigns, but these activities are focused entirely on the treatment of animals (i.e., their welfare), and not on their use (i.e., their right not to be used merely as a means to human ends). Hens in cage-free operations still suffer and are still bred, mutilated, confined, dominated, and killed for the sake of human pleasure and convenience. These are trivial interests when compared to a hen’s rather significant interest in staying alive. Animal welfare campaigns do not address the underlying premise that allows humans to take the lives of nonhumans at will: hens and -1-
  4. 4. other animals belong to humans. Even if these campaigns succeed in regulating a specific activity, like caging animals, many other harms would continue to be permissible, and welfare advocates would continue to push until they found themselves at a point where average people simply didn’t see the harm anymore. After all, by then they will have succeeded in getting rid of the most egregious cruelties, which is all they ever cared about anyway. Of course, even if reforms succeeded in ending every imaginable physical form of abuse to nonhuman animals and their lives were all terminated through some painless process, every animal on every farm would still be unnecessarily--and thus unjustly--imprisoned and killed, as the co-founder of the Vegan Society observed over 80 years ago after visiting his Uncle George’s farm: the idyllic scene was nothing more than Death Row, where every creature’s days were numbered by the point at which it was no longer of service to human beings. Further, when a supposed “animal rights” group favors one type of confinement or killing over another, it implicitly (and even explicitly) condones using animals for human benefit (so long as it is done less cruelly). This of course runs counter to animal rights advocacy, which seeks to liberate hens and other nonhumans from human oppression altogether. It is vital that the core of the animal rights movement--the abolitionists--reclaim “animal rights” for what it is. How? By widely and clearly restating the animal rights position, which is what I intend to do over the course of this series. As we come to understand the basis for the human oppression of nonhuman animals and the changes required to liberate those animals from this oppression, the path forward becomes much more focused and even simpler than many would have you believe. By reclaiming, clarifying, and amplifying the abolitionist position on animal rights, we draw attention to what we specifically mean when -2-
  5. 5. we say “animal rights,” defining better for ourselves and others what exactly it is we seek on behalf of nonhuman animals. In returning to our basic mission, we refocus our efforts and the public eye on what is ultimately at stake: the interests of nonhuman animals in not being used exclusively as a means to human ends. That is an animal rights movement. After all, if we do not talk in terms of rights, then how can we even call ourselves animal rights activists? By openly, actively, and intelligently promoting animal rights and the abolition of animal exploitation, we have the potential to move the dialogue on animal rights forward in a meaningful way. With greater clarity, precision, and stronger claims-making, our movement will be more coherent as it strikes at the roots of animal exploitation, rather than spending vast resources on efforts for nonhuman beings that on the surface seem good, but which ultimately do very little for them individually and may well further entrench their status as property for humans to use for the foreseeable future. The goal of this series of posts, then, is in line with the mission statement at Francione’s own website: to provide a clear statement of a nonviolent approach to animal rights that (1) requires the abolition of animal exploitation; (2) is based only on sentience and no other cognitive characteristic, and (3) regards veganism as the moral baseline of the abolitionist approach. This article can be accessed in its original form at: one.html -3-
  6. 6. The Longest Journey Begins with a Single Step: Promoting Animal Rights by Promoting Reform - Peter Singer and Bruce Friedrich This article was widely published as a reponse to increasing criticism of welfarist approaches and is included here as a summary of the argument put forward in favour of regulating animal exploitation as a strategy for ending it. In recent years, there has been an odd controversy in animal rights circles as some activists fight against welfare reforms for farmed animals. A few groups have gone so far as to argue against campaigns for better slaughter practices for chickens, better living conditions for hens, and have even picketed Whole Foods for trying to make living and dying conditions better for the animals they sell. We find this to be both curious and counterproductive to the goal of animal liberation that we all share. Not only is it possible to work for liberation while supporting incremental change, such change is inevitable as we move toward this goal. The vast majority of people, if they care about animals, will support incremental improvements, even if the increments do not liberate the animals. People are likely to progress in a way that causes particularly abusive systems to be improved or eliminated before full animal liberation is achieved. If society says that animals have no rights or interests at all, moving -4-
  7. 7. from that mentality to complete liberation will be impossible. However, once society understands apes, chickens, pigs and other animals have some interests that must be respected, that certain things are not okay, the view of animals in society will change, and bigger changes become possible. Now that some of the world’s largest corporations are saying, “Yes, animals can suffer; this is a real concern,” suddenly the discussion has moved to our playing field. The philosophical argument granting chickens freedom from battery cages also logically demands that we cease to exploit them for our own ends. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the Humane Slaughter Act (HSA) and the recent concessions made by the fast food industry leave much to be desired. But would animals be better off and liberation further along if the animals suffer more while we fight for the ultimate goal? Of course not. If one were to believe what those who oppose welfare campaigns are saying, one might imagine that before these reforms, large numbers of people were refusing to eat meat, but now they have decided that, because animals are not treated so badly, they can eat meat again. That is not the case, of course. Rather than salve consciences, passage of the AWA and HSA, as well as the advance of the fast food campaigns, have placed the issue of cruelty to farmed animals before millions of people as an important societal issue. That can only help to advance the day we’re all striving toward. As another example, look at countries where animals have no protection from slaughter by the most inhumane methods. Sadly, these countries also have few vegans and animal rights sympathizers. If the anti-welfare reform camp were right, one would expect them to have more vegetarians than countries like Britain, where animals are better protected. -5-
  8. 8. The Philosophy of Animal Liberation Demands That We Work for and Support Reforms Put yourself in a chicken’s place today: Would you prefer to live in the horror you’re in, bred to grow seven times more quickly than natural so that your bones splinter and your organs collapse, or would you prefer to be able to live without chronic pain? Would you prefer to live your life crammed into a small cage, unable to lift your wings, build a nest, or do almost anything else that you would like to do, or would you prefer to, at the very least, be able to walk? Would you prefer to be hung upside-down by your feet and then scalded to death or lose consciousness when the crate you are in passes through a controlled atmosphere stunner? If, as we all believe, each individual animal deserves to have her interests considered as an individual, then welfare improvements are good. We can’t ignore the vast suffering of these billions of animals for some hypothetical future goal. Conclusion: Whose Side Are You On? Fast food campaigns and the campaign to ban battery cages, which have been heavily supported by the hard work of tens of thousands of grassroots activists, have improved the lives and deaths of tens of millions of animals. As the industries shift, the improvements will apply to billions every year. As just one example, the stocking density changes for hens, although meager, mean that conditions have gone from 20 percent annual death rates to two to three percent annual death rates; for all of the animals, this is a marked improvement. Transport and slaughter standards for chickens are also a U.S. first, and are improving lives and deaths for millions of animals annually— billions once the entire industry is forced to shift. People who denigrate the improvements that the fast food corporations have implemented are not, we suspect, reading the industry journals, which are filled with anger that the animal rights movement has forced them to improve conditions. Nor are they -6-
  9. 9. putting themselves in the place of the animals involved, whose living and dying conditions have improved. It’s instructive, perhaps, to look at who agrees and who disagrees. Those who oppose the reforms implemented by Burger King and the others include the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers’ Council, and every other meat industry and anti-animal trade group. We understand the appeal of battle cries such as “not bigger cages, but empty cages.” But a bit of comfort and stimulation for an animal who will be in that cage her whole life is something worth fighting for, even as we demand empty cages. Not only is it the best thing for the animals in the cages, it’s also the best thing for animal liberation. It’s another stepping stone on the march. Peter Singer is the author of Animal Liberation and professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Bruce Friedrich is vice president for international grassroots campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), This article can be accessed in its original form at: -7-
  10. 10. Abolition of Animal Exploitation: The Journey Will Not Begin While We Are Walking Backwards - Gary L. Francione This article was written in reponse to the Singer and Friedrich article on the previous pages and argues (along with the rest of this reader) against the use of regulation and welfare reforms to end the exploitation of animals. In The Longest Journey Begins with a Single Step: Promoting Animal Rights by Promoting Reform ( singer-friedrich.html), Peter Singer and PETA’s Bruce Friedrich claim that an “odd” controversy has developed in “recent years” about whether animal advocates ought to pursue animal welfare as a means to achieve animal rights. This controversy is neither “odd” nor “recent.” The controversy is not “odd” because there is a fundamental inconsistency between the regulation of animal exploitation and its abolition. The controversy is not “recent” in that the tension between rights and welfare has been a constant in the animal advocacy movement for the past fifteen years. What is “recent” is that there is an emerging worldwide grassroots movement that is challenging the hegemony of corporate animal welfare organizations that have dominated the movement and that is attempting to formulate an alternative, abolitionist paradigm. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Singer, who is the principal formulator of welfarist ideology, and PETA, which implements that ideology and maintains that any dissent -8-
  11. 11. or even discussion is “divisive” and threatens movement “unity,” are expressing concern. There are at least five reasons for an abolitionist to reject the welfarist approach presented in the Singer/Friedrich essay. 1. Animal Welfare: Making Exploitation More Efficient Singer and Friedrich claim that welfare reforms will recognize that nonhumans have “rights” and “interests”-that the reforms will incrementally move animals away from the status of being property or commodities that have only extrinsic or conditional value. They are wrong. The reforms they support have nothing to do with recognizing that animals have morally significant interests that must be protected even when there is no economic benefit for humans. For the most part, these reforms, like most animal welfare measures, do nothing but make animal exploitation more economically profitable for animal exploiters and further enmesh animals in the property paradigm. For example, consider the campaign that led to agreement by McDonalds to require supposedly more “humane” standards for slaughterhouses and increased space for battery hens. Singer applauds these actions by McDonalds, which were followed by Wendy’s and Burger King, as a “ray of hope” and “the first hopeful signs for American farm animals since the modern animal movement began.” (N.Y. Rev. of Books , May 15, 2003) Friedrich claims that “[t]here’s been a real change in consciousness” concerning the treatment of animals used for food ( L.A. Times , Apr. 29, 2003 ), and PETA’s Lisa Lange praises McDonalds as “’leading the way’ in reforming the practices of fast-food suppliers, in the treatment and killing of its beef and poultry.” ( L.A. Times , Feb. 23, 2005 ) The slaughterhouse standards praised by Singer and PETA were developed by Temple Grandin , designer of “humane” slaughter and handling systems. Grandin’s guidelines, which involve techniques for moving animals through the slaughtering process and stunning -9-
  12. 12. them, are based explicitly on economic concerns. According to Grandin, proper handling of animals that are to be slaughtered “keep[s] the meat industry running safely, efficiently and profitably.” Proper stunning is important because it “will provide better meat quality. Improper electric stunning will cause bloodspots in the meat and bone fractures. . . . An animal that is stunned properly will produce a still carcass that is safe for plant workers to work on.” She maintains that “[g]entle handling in well-designed facilities will minimize stress levels, improve efficiency and maintain good meat quality. Rough handling or poorly designed equipment is detrimental to both animal welfare and meat quality.” ( In discussing as a general matter the slaughter and battery-cage improvements to which Singer and Friedrich refer, McDonalds states: “Animals that are well cared for are less prone to illness, injury, and stress, which all have the same negative impact on the condition of livestock as they do on people. Proper animal welfare practices also benefit producers. Complying with our animal welfare guidelines helps ensure efficient production and reduces waste and loss. This enables our suppliers to be highly competitive.” ( com) Wendy’s also emphasizes the efficiency of its animal welfare program: “Studies have shown that humane animal handling methods not only prevent needless suffering, but can result in a safer working environment for workers involved in the farm and livestock industry.” ( In a report about voluntary reforms in the livestock industry, the Los Angeles Times stated that “[i]n part, the reforms are driven by self-interest. When an animal is bruised, its flesh turns mushy and must be discarded. Even stress, especially right before slaughter, can affect the quality of meat.” ( Apr. 29, 2003 ) This example (and there are many others) illustrates how the producers of animal products-working with prominent animal advocates-are becoming better at exploiting animals in an economically efficient manner by adopting measures that improve - 10 -
  13. 13. meat quality and worker safety. But this has absolutely nothing to do with any recognition that animals have inherent value or that they have interests that should be respected even when it is not economically beneficial for humans to do so. Supposed improvements in animal welfare are, for the most part, limited to and justified by economic benefits for animal exploiters and consumers. Moreover, large corporate animal exploiters can now point to the fact that animal advocates such as Singer and PETA are praising them for their supposedly “humane” treatment of nonhuman animals. PETA quite remarkably presented its 2005 Visionary of the Year Award to Grandin, who is a consultant to McDonalds and other fast-food chains, for her “innovative improvements” in slaughtering processes and PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk praises Grandin as having “done more to reduce suffering in the world than any other person who has ever lived.” ( New Yorker, Apr. 14, 2003 ) There is also serious doubt as to whether these changes actually provide any significant improvement in animal treatment apart from the issue of efficient exploitation. A slaughterhouse that follows Grandin’s guidelines for stunning, prod use, and other aspects of the killing process is still an unspeakably horrible place. Battery hens that supply some of the major fast-food chains may now live in an area that is equivalent to a square of approximately 8 ½ inches rather than the industry standard-a square of approximately 7 inches-but it would be nonsense to claim that the existence of a battery hen is anything but miserable. 2. Animal Welfare: Making the Public More Comfortable About Animal Exploitation Singer and Friedrich claim with no support whatsoever that animal welfare reforms will lead to greater protection for animals and then to “animal liberation” (more on that below). We have had animal welfare for about 200 years now, and there is no evidence whatsoever that welfare reforms lead to significant protection for animal interests, much less abolition. Indeed, we are using more nonhumans today, - 11 -
  14. 14. and in more horrific ways, than at any time in human history. To the extent that we have made marginal improvements in some aspects of animal treatment, those improvements have, for the most part, been limited to measures that make animal exploitation more profitable. Although it is possible, in theory, to go beyond this minimal level of animal protection, the status of nonhumans as property and the resulting concern to maximize the value of animal property militate strongly against significant improvement in our treatment of animals and ensures that animal welfare will do little more than make animal exploitation more economically efficient and socially acceptable. In any case, the reforms that Singer and Friedrich propose, and that are presently being promoted by the corporate welfare organizations in the United States , do not go beyond the minimal level. Singer and Friedrich claim that opponents of welfare are saying “that before these reforms, large numbers of people were refusing to eat meat, but now they have decided that, because animals are not treated so badly, they can eat meat again.” Neither I nor any critic of animal welfare of whom I am aware has ever said any such thing. What I have said is that animal welfare has quite clearly not resulted in large numbers of non-vegans changing their behavior and refusing to eat meat or other animal products, and that welfare reforms are not likely to lead in that direction anytime soon for the very reason that they make people feel more comfortable about animal exploitation. That comfort is the explicit message of the welfarist movement. Animal advocates claim that we can “consume with conscience.” ( N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 2004 , statement of Paul Waldau) Indeed, in Singer’s most recent book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, he and co-author Jim Mason claim that we can be “conscientious omnivores” and exploit animals ethically if, for example, we choose to eat only animals who have been well-cared for and then killed without pain or distress. The message that this approach sends is quite clear, and if Singer and Friedrich really think that it does not encourage the consumption of - 12 -
  15. 15. animal products, they are deluded. Moreover, welfare reforms may increase demand and increase net animal suffering. The relationship between increased demand and “humane” standards is recognized by the welfarists themselves. For example, literature produced by The Humane Society of the United States to promote its campaign for more “humane” alternatives to the gestation crate for pigs states explicitly that adoption of alternative systems may result in some increased demand or market premium for producers. I would like to share with you a story that, while anecdotal, illustrates the problem. When the Whole Foods store near my house opened, it sold meat products but did not have a meat department. There is now a large fresh meat and fish department. There are also signs in the store advertising the “Animal Compassion Foundation” established by Whole Foods, which provides funding so that ranchers and farmers can develop ways of raising their nonhumans more “humanely.” Several weeks ago, I was walking by the meat counter and I remarked to an employee standing there that I thought it was a shame that Whole Foods sells corpses. The employee responded: “Did you know that PETA gave an award to Whole Foods for how well they treat animals?” Yes, that’s right. In addition to giving an award to Temple Grandin , PETA has also lauded Whole Foods for “requiring that its producers adhere to strict standards.” ( ). The Way We Eat features Whole Foods and has pages and pages of adoring praise of the company as an ethically responsible seller of animal products. Putting aside that there is some serious question as to whether the “strict standards” that PETA and others praise have any meaningful effect on the lives and deaths of the animals whose corpses are sold at Whole Foods (a forthcoming article from Professor Darian Ibrahim at the University of Arizona maintains that the standards are lacking), this sort of approach can only encourage confusion where there should be clarity and encourages people to believe that we can “consume with conscience,” which serves to perpetuate- and legitimate-the consumption of animal products. In the words - 13 -
  16. 16. of a reviewer of The Way We Eat on “You don’t have to become a vegetarian or even a vegan, although becoming one could be a good way to live, both healthwise and morally, but the book sure makes you want to shop at Whole Foods and to buy free range chickens and to do whatever you can to make your food supply come from a decent source.” 3. The Goal? What Goal? Singer and Friedrich talk about how welfare promotes “animal rights” and claim that opposition to animal welfare is “counterproductive to the goal of animal liberation that we all share.” Exactly what goal is it that we all share? Singer is a utilitarian who has consistently rejected moral rights for both nonhumans and humans although he confusingly uses rights language when it is convenient. So from the outset, those who maintain that humans have certain moral rights, such as a right not to be enslaved or used as a commodity by others, do not share Singer’s goal as far as humans are concerned. As for nonhumans, Singer is not opposed to use per se of most animals; he is concerned only about treatment. To the extent that he discusses use, it is only in the context of a concern that we may not be able to assure adequate treatment. But his goal is not the abolition of all animal exploitation; given Singer’s general moral theory, abolition cannot be his goal. Singer has maintained consistently that most nonhumans do not have an interest in continuing to live because they are not self-aware in the same sense that normal humans are and, as a result, they do not care whether we use them; they only care about how we use them. This reflects the views of Jeremy Bentham, the 19th century utilitarian on whom Singer bases his theory. Bentham argued that although animals could suffer and, therefore, mattered morally, animals do not care whether, for instance, we eat them. They care only about how we treat them until we eat them. This view-that it is not use per se but only treatment-is the foundation - 14 -
  17. 17. of animal welfare ideology and differs from the animal rights position as I have articulated it. I maintain that if animals have an interest in continued existence-and I argue that any sentient being does-then our use of them as human resources-however “humanely” we treat them-cannot be defended morally and that we should seek to abolish and not regulate animal exploitation. I also argue that Singer is wrong to maintain that it is possible to accord equal consideration to any interests that he acknowledges animals do have as long as they are human property. The interests of property will almost always be regarded as weighing less than the interests of property owners. You do not have to get deeply into philosophy, however, to assess the nature of Singer’s “animal liberation.” Singer’s most recent book not only maintains that we can ethically eat animals and animal products, but it also has a disclosure that should inform our views about Singer and his views about violence toward nonhumans. In The Way We Eat , Singer and Mason tell us that they learned that a turkey factory needed workers to assist in artificial insemination. “Our curiosity piqued, we decided to see for ourselves what this work really involved.” Singer and Mason spent a day “collecting the semen and getting it into the hen” They caught and restrained the male turkeys while another worker “squeezed the tom’s vent until it opened up and the white semen oozed forth. Using a vacuum pump, he sucked it into a syringe.” Singer and Mason then had to “’break’” the hens, which involved restraining the hen “so that her rear is straight up and her vent open.” (28) The inseminator then inserted a tube into the hen and used a blast of compressed air to insert the semen into the hen’s oviduct. And it wasn’t just the turkeys who had an unpleasant time. Singer and Mason complain that their day at the turkey factory was “the hardest, fastest, dirtiest, most disgusting, worst-paid work we have ever done. For ten hours we grabbed and wrestled birds, jerking them upside down, facing their pushed-open assholes, dodging their spurting shit, while breathing air filled with dust and feathers stirred up by - 15 -
  18. 18. panicked birds.” All that, and they “received a torrent of verbal abuse from the foreman. We lasted one day.” (29) One wonders whether Singer and Mason would have returned for a second day if the working conditions had been better. It is deeply disturbing that Singer and Mason regard it as morally acceptable to engage in violence against nonhumans for any purpose, particularly to satisfy their curiosity about what “this work really involved.” I suggest that there is no non-speciesist way to justify what Singer and Mason claim to have done without also justifying the rape of a woman, or the molestation of a child, in order to see what those acts of violence “really involved.” Perhaps Singer’s perverse actions with the turkeys can be explained by his claim in 2001 on that “sex with animals does not always involve cruelty” and that we can have “mutually satisfying” sexual contact with animals. In any event, if violence against nonhumans is permitted under Singer’s theory, we do not need to know much more before concluding that the theory has some very serious flaws and his goals are probably not ones that, as Singer thinks, we share. As for the goals of Friedrich and PETA, one thing that has become clear over the years is that PETA’s understanding of “animal rights” is, to say the least, idiosyncratic. To cite one example of many, no theory of animal rights of which I am aware would sanction the mass killing of healthy nonhumans, as occurred at PETA’s Aspen Hill “sanctuary” in 1991, or, more recently at PETA corporate headquarters and by PETA employees who allegedly used deception to obtain healthy animals who were subsequently killed and dumped. I suppose that if you agree with Singer-that the animals that PETA killed did not have an interest in their lives, but only wanted a “kind” or “compassionate” death-this makes sense to you. I, however, would disagree. When animal advocates question the corporate welfarists, the stock reply is to say that we all have the same goal, we are all working for the animals, and that dissent or discussion will threaten the unity of the movement. Like “compassionate consumption,” the notion - 16 -
  19. 19. of “movement unity” is a fiction that is used to maintain control of discourse and strategy. There is no movement “unity” because there is an irreconcilable difference between the abolitionist/rights position and the regulation/welfare position, between those who maintain that we should be as “fanatical” (to use Singer’s disparaging description) about speciesism as we are about human exploitation, and those, like Singer, who do not. Proclamations about movement “unity” are simply another way of telling advocates not to question the control of the movement by corporate welfarists. 4. Animal Welfare or Nothing: The False Dichotomy Singer and Friedrich maintain that those who are concerned about nonhumans have two choices: pursue animal welfare or do nothing to help animals. The implication here is that the abolitionist position is too idealistic and cannot provide a strategy to pursue for the short term. This is a standard ploy of welfarists and it is not clear to me whether they really believe this, or if it is just a slogan. In any event, Singer and Friedrich present us with a false dichotomy. We are inflicting pain, suffering, and death on billions of nonhumans every year. No one-including the most convinced abolitionist- maintains that we can stop that overnight or, indeed, anytime soon. The issue that confronts the advocate is what to do now . Moreover, we live in a world of limited time and limited resources. We cannot do everything. So the issue-at least for those whose goal is abolition- becomes: what do we choose to do now that will reduce suffering most in the short-term, that is consistent with the abolitionist approach, and that will build a political movement for further change in the abolitionst direction? I would suggest that welfarism is not the rational choice for the abolitionist. It is a bit late in the game to promote animal welfare as the “single step” that will start on us on our long journey. We have spent billions of dollars and what do we have to show for it? I submit that the answer is: nothing and certainly nothing that could - 17 -
  20. 20. be described as an effective use of our limited resources. Singer and Friedrich cite the Animal Welfare Act (a federal law in the United States that purports to regulate the use of nonhumans in experiments and exhibition) and the U.S. Humane Slaughter Act as examples of welfarist laws that would leave animals worse-off if we did not have them. I disagree. The Animal Welfare Act, which does not even apply to 90% of the nonhumans used in experiments, imposes no real substantive limits on what vivisectors can do with animals in the laboratory. The Act does, however, provide a resource for the research community and for people like Singer and Friedrich to point to in order to assure the public that there is regulation of vivisection. The Humane Slaughter Act, which also does not even apply to most animals who we eat, is, in any event, focused on reducing carcass damage and ensuring worker safety. Again, the primary purpose of the Act is to make consumers feel more comfortable. The Act does not require much more protection than a rational property owner would provide in the first place, and there have been countless instances in which the U.S. government does not enforce the Act. Singer and Friedrich also cite as an example of the progress of animal welfare that “the stocking density changes for hens, although meager, mean that conditions have gone from 20% percent annual death rates to two or three percent annual death rates.” This is particularly bizarre in that 100% of the chickens will ultimately be killed. Any reduction in deaths before the slaughterhouse keeps the birds alive longer in horrible conditions and increase profit for exploiters. So welfarists have succeeded in educating exploiters about how to, in McDonalds’s words “ ensure efficient production and reduce waste and loss.” Singer and Friedrich may find this exciting. I do not. So what can an abolitionist do now that will reduce suffering more effectively in the short term and is consistent with the abolitionist end? The abolitionist approach provides practical guidance in a number of respects. The most important form of incremental change - 18 -
  21. 21. is the decision by the individual to become vegan. Veganism, or the eschewing of all animal products, is more than a matter of diet or lifestyle; it is a political and moral statement in which the individual accepts the principle of abolition in her own life. Veganism is the one truly abolitionist goal that we can all achieve-and we can achieve it immediately, starting with our next meal. If we are ever going to effect any significant change in our treatment of animals and to one day end that use, it is imperative that there be a social and political movement that actively seeks abolition and regards veganism as part of the moral baseline. There is, of course, no rational distinction between meat and other animal products, such as eggs or dairy, or between fur and leather, silk, or wool. Most national animal advocacy organizations focus on animal welfare even if they pay lip service to veganism. An excellent example of this is PETA. On one hand, PETA purports to encourage veganism. On the other hand, PETA’s campaigns are, for the most part, focused on traditional welfare regulation and PETA actively and confusingly promotes the concept of “humanely” produced animal products. There is, however, no sense in which veganism is promoted as a moral baseline of the movement. Rather, veganism is presented merely as an optional lifestyle choice and is often portrayed as being difficult and only for the committed few rather than as an easy way to eliminate exploitation. That is, the corporate movement, many of the “leaders” of which are not themselves vegan, itself sets up the vegan/ abolition position as the “fringe” or “radical” position, making the “normal” or “mainstream” position the one where we try to “consume with compassion.” Indeed, Singer claims that we “don’t have to be fanatical” about food issues, and “[a] little self-indulgence, if you can keep it under firm control,” is acceptable. ( The Way We Eat , 281, 283) We would, of course, never say that “a little self-indulgence” is acceptable where rape, murder, child molestation, or other forms of human exploitation, are involved, but the so-called “father of the animal rights movement” assures us that “a little self-indulgence” - 19 -
  22. 22. in participating as consumers in the brutal killing of nonhumans is nothing to worry over. It is acceptable-indeed, expected-to be “fanatical” about not molesting children or other serious forms of human exploitation, but Singer tells us that it is acceptable to be flexible when it comes to nonhuman exploitation. A movement that seeks abolition must have veganism as a baseline principle and should not have as its “mainstream” position that we can be “conscientious omnivores” who can “consume with compassion.” We must be clear. “Compassionate” consumption is an insidious myth. All animal products, including those insidiously stamped “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” by various corporate animal welfarist organizations, involve unspeakable brutality. Veganism and abolitionist education, including boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, school programs, and other non-violent acts aimed at informing the public about the moral, environmental, and health dimensions of veganism and abolition provide practical and incremental strategies both in terms of reducing animal suffering now and in terms of building a movement in the future that will be able to obtain more meaningful legislation in the form of prohibitions rather than mere “humane” regulation. If, in the late-1980s-when the animal advocacy community in the United States decided very deliberately to pursue a welfarist agenda-a substantial portion of movement resources had been invested in vegan education and advocacy, there would likely be hundreds of thousands more vegans than there are today. That is a very conservative estimate given the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been expended by animal advocacy groups to promote welfarist legislation and initiatives. The increased number of vegans would reduce suffering more by decreasing demand for animal products than all of the welfarist “successes” put together and multiplied ten-fold. Increasing the number of vegans would also help to build a political and economic base necessary for more pervasive social change as a necessary predicate for legal change. Given that there is limited time and there are limited financial - 20 -
  23. 23. resources available, expansion of traditional animal welfare is not a rational and efficient choice if we seek abolition in the long term or even if we only seek reduction of animal suffering in the shorter term. Singer claims that the reality is that “going vegan is still too big a step for most.”(The Way We Eat , 279) Putting aside the fact that more people might be inclined to go vegan if Singer and the corporate welfare movement were not telling them that they can consume animal products “with compassion,” the solution is incremental veganism, not “humane” animal products. For example, a campaign to get people to eat one vegan meal a day, and then two, and then three, is much better than encouraging them to eat “free range” meat, eggs, or dairy at all three meals. But the message should be clear: veganism, and not “compassionate consumption,” is the baseline principle of a movement that promotes abolition. At this point in time, it is unlikely that most legislative or regulatory campaigns that seek to go beyond traditional welfare reform are going to be successful; there is no political base to support such reforms because the corporate movement has not sought to build one. If, however, advocates wish to pursue such campaigns, they should at the very least involve prohibitions and not regulations. These prohibitions should recognize that animals have interests that go beyond those that must be protected in order to exploit the animals and cannot be compromised for economic reasons. At no point should animal advocates propose alternative, supposedly more “humane” substitutes. For example, a prohibition on the use of all animals in a particular sort of experiment is to be preferred over the substitution in the experiment of one species for another. But I want to be clear that I do not favor investing any resources in legislative or regulatory campaigns at this time. The political compromise required usually results in evisceration of the benefit sought. Rather, the abolitionist movement should focus on veganism, which is a much more practical and effective way to reduce animal exploitation. I stress that the abolitionist movement should embrace a non-violent - 21 -
  24. 24. approach, both on the level of individual interactions and as a matter of movement ideology. As I have long argued, the animal rights movement should see itself as the next step in the progress of the peace movement; as a movement that takes the rejection of injustice to the next step. The problem of animal exploitation is complicated and involves roots that go deep into our patriarchal culture and our disturbing tolerance for violence against the vulnerable. Not only is violence problematic as a moral matter, it is unsound as a practical strategy. We will never address the problem successfully by using violence to try to create a social movement in favor of abolition. As Mohandas Gandhi maintained, the most powerful force with which to oppose injustice is not violence but non-cooperation. There is no better way to refuse to cooperate with the exploitation of nonhumans than to eliminate it from your own life through veganism and work to educate others to do the same. It is disturbing that PETA spends much more time criticizing those who oppose the welfarist approach than it does those who will only marginalize the animal issue further by associating it with violence. It is also disturbing to see the extent to which PETA uses sexism in its campaigns, literature, and events. Speciesism is closely tied to sexism and other forms of discrimination against humans. As long as we continue treating women like meat, we are going to continue treating nonhumans as meat. It is high time that serious animal advocates make clear to PETA that its sexism is destructive and counterproductive. 5. “Whose Side Are You On?” Good Question. Singer and Friedrich end their essay by asking: “Whose Side Are You On?” They tell us that the animal exploiters all oppose animal welfare and ask whether we want to be on the side of the animal exploiters who oppose animal welfare or on the side of Singer and Friedrich, who support animal welfare. This question by Singer and Friedrich is problematic in at least two respects. - 22 -
  25. 25. First, it assumes that if animal exploiters oppose animal welfare, it must be because animal welfare is really harmful to animal exploiters. That is nonsense and indicates either naivety or disingenuousness. An industry may oppose regulation even when it does not really oppose it and even when the regulation may benefit it. A case in point involves the federal Animal Welfare Act amendment of 1985, which created “animal care committees” to monitor animal experiments. These committees have not only failed to provide any meaningful limitation of animal experiments, they have effectively insulated vivisection from public scrutiny more than it was before 1985. Vivisectors publicly opposed the 1985 amendment although I had many vivisectors tell me privately that the amendment was, on balance, not harmful for the practice of animal use. They opposed it because they oppose the principle of any governmental regulation of animal use. It would be difficult to find a vivisector who would say, with a straight face, that the 1985 amendment has done anything to restrict vivisection, and many are delighted that they can now assure the public that there is a committee that reviews all animal experiments. Second, Singer and Friedrich are wrong factually in that a number of large animal exploiters openly and publicly embrace the welfare reforms that Singer and Friedrich applaud. McDonalds and others have done so because they understand that they got a bargain. They made minimal changes that were more than offset by the great publicity that they got from prominent animal welfarists. A shareholder of these companies would be justified in complaining if they did not take the “deal” that PETA and others offered as it can only maximize shareholder wealth. Although I generally do not think that questions such as “whose side are you on” are helpful, I am going to make an exception in this case and ask the same question. Here goes: • Singer maintains that animal use per se does not raise a moral issue because most nonhumans do not have an interest in continuing to - 23 -
  26. 26. live; • Singer maintains that we can consume animals in an ethical manner; • Singer regards inflicting violence on nonhumans as an acceptable way of learning about animal exploitation; • PETA kills (“euthanizes” is the wrong word because it implies a death that is in the interest of the animal) thousands of healthy animals because PETA apparently accepts Singer’s view that animals do not have a fundamental and morally important interest in continuing to live. “Animal rights” means “humane” executions. • PETA promotes campaigns that are embraced by corporate animal exploiters, and gives awards to animal exploiters. • PETA has thoroughly trivialized the animal rights movement by turning the issue of animal exploitation into one large, self- promoting media stunt, and has made sexism a constant theme of its animal campaigns. So whose side are you on? Gary L. Francione is Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark. He is well known throughout the animal protection movement for his criticism of animal welfare law and the property status of nonhuman animals, and for his abolitionist theory of animal rights. His blog can be viewed at: This article can be accessed in its original form at: abolition.of.animal.exploitation.2006.shtml - 24 -
  27. 27. The Odd Logic of Welfarism - Bob Torres If a man abuses his wife, do we ask him to stop, or do we throw our hands up in exasperation, saying that if he’s going to do it, he should at least not hit so damn hard? Similarly, if a person is going to eat meat, do we ask him to stop, or do we throw our hands up in exasperation, saying that if you’re going to eat meat, at least eat free range? My comparison will probably offends and anger some of you, but I assure you, that’s not my intent. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking seriously about the question of animal welfare activism versus a more abolitionist activism, and I’ve been torn. Just recently, I helped a few students at my school with the HSUS campaign to switch dining services to battery-cage free eggs. I was secretly torn from the start, but I helped despite my reservations. The real moment of cognitive dissonance for me came when I was actually in the position of relaying information about egg producers to the school, talking about extended shelf life and shipping time. As I sent an email to one of the people in charge of dining services at my school with some of this information, I had a sinking feeling: here I was, actually facilitating the exploitation of hens by encouraging egg consumption. It made me think: I’ve committed myself to the abolition of animal exploitation and to veganism, and I was actually in the position of helping facilitate the consumption of eggs. I assuaged - 25 -
  28. 28. my conscience by telling myself that this was better for the hens, and that perhaps this was a step in the right direction of animal consciousness for people at our school. I also thought it important to back the students at my school who were taking tentative steps into activism. As I gave it more thought, though, I realized that this was exactly the wrong tactic, and that I wasn’t being true to what I believed. Welfarism is accepting defeat before we’ve even begun the battle. To me, welfarism accepts as a premise that our other activism and outreach—genuine vegan and abolitionist outreach—can’t be effective enough, and so trades this for measures which (though they may decrease suffering) actually reify the condition of animals as beings that we can exploit. In a twisted sense, then, welfarism encourages the consumption of animal products. It does nothing to challenge the notion that animals are ours to do with as we please, and it makes for odd bedfellows. We end up with groups that have stated abolitionist ideological positions teaming up with companies, firms, and producers who are in the business of exploitation. It makes us as a movement look contradictory when we’re calling for the abolition of animal exploitation and at the same time, encouraging the exploitation of animals. It is justifying slavery by asking for longer chains; it is asking the abuser to abuse more gently; it is not true to what we profess to believe. Critics, of course, will accuse me of the comfort of putting my ideological purity ahead of the near-term interests of animals to be free of suffering. This, however, isn’t the case. If we’re to have a movement that means anything at all, we need to make the movement look like the end that we hope to achieve. We can’t simultaneously be anti-racist and hope to end racism by telling slightly less offensive racist jokes, just like we can’t hope to be effective anti-speciesists by simultaneously promoting nicer speciesism. The means to the end of abolition matter. If our means don’t look like our ends, we’re only helping to incrementally re-create - 26 -
  29. 29. a world that’s speciesist. I know that the world won’t go vegan tomorrow, and I know that the welfare argument depends on incrementalism: for example, that we need to take small steps towards helping people see that animals shouldn’t be exploited. Incrementalism is a natural response to the overwhelming speciesism in our world now, and I understand it. But our incrementalism should be that of reduction of meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and other products of animal exploitation from our diets. Effective vegan activism could potentially mean more lives saved and greater strides for animals than measures which confine animals to slightly bigger cages, or more airy barns. Welfarism stalls incremental movement towards veganism, however. How many of us have met people that respond to our veganism with the hollow “Well, I eat free range…” argument? How many people actually get stuck there? And can we assume that welfarism actually works to limit the consumption and exploitation of animals? The evidence would seem to indicate that it doesn’t. Welfarism has formed the backbone of animal advocacy for at least the last two decades in the US, yet we’ve seen the numbers of animals consumed in that time rise by billions. If welfarism worked as promised to limit consumption of animals and spurn people into awareness, wouldn’t we see that number actually go down? If free-range and cage-free and all the other welfarist measures actually decreased the consumption of animal products, why would markets like Whole Foods base so much of their business on these lucrative niche markets? In one of those odd moments of synchronicity, I also found myself this week preparing a book proposal and reading a variety of sources for that proposal. In reading the book Speciesism, I came across an argument that hits at the very heart of what I’m discussing here, and it helped me to clarify my thinking on this topic tremendously (I also spent an afternoon re-reading Gary Francione’s Rain Without Thunder which does an incredible job of examining the same dynamics). This quote caught my attention in the chapter about “old speciesist - 27 -
  30. 30. advocacy”: “Some activists who consider themselves advocates of veganism condone eating honey or applaud people for limiting their egg consumption to “free-range eggs” and their cow-flesh consumption to “grass-fed beef.” Eating honey, eggs, or cow flesh isn’t vegan, so endorsing their consumption isn’t veganism advocacy. Veganism advocates urge people not to eat any honey, eggs, or flesh. Nonvegans need to phase out or immediately eliminate animal-derived foods, not substitute some for others. It’s easy to avoid eating honey, eggs, and flesh, including as ingredients. Suggesting otherwise impedes, rather than advances, veganism.” She continues on to talk about how only one group—Friends of Animals—urged Whole Foods to phase out or end its sale of animal products after the CEO John Mackey announced that he became vegan. She wondered whether other groups thought the request too unlikely to succeed, or if others weren’t willing to speak against the welfarist standards instituted by Whole Foods and its suppliers. Dunayer emphasizes that “Such standards don’t advance veganism or nonhuman emancipation. They legitimize enslavement and slaughter. Only veganism respects nonhuman rights and rejects nonhuman enslavement.” (emphasis mine) It is that last point that I agree with most heartily—veganism is the way to live abolition in your daily life. Veganism is a political act illustrating how the consumption and abuse of animals is not acceptable. Unlike welfarist measures, veganism is not at conflict with the ends of our movement: it is living what we want our world to be. On the flip side, welfarism turns us into advocates for people who would abuse and torture animals for profit, with the exception that these particular abusers are a bit nicer. Nice enslavement is still enslavement, and for all that welfarism has promised, we have little to show but more and more animals being consumed. It seems time that we reconsider the odd logic of welfarism. - 28 -
  31. 31. Bob Torres is assistant professor of Sociology at St. Lawrence University and co-author of Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World. He blogs and co-hosts a weekly radio show at This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 29 -
  32. 32. From Cradle to Grave: The Facts Behind “Humane” Eating - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau I have yet to meet a non-vegetarian who didn’t care about the treatment of animals raised and killed for human consumption. Even people who eat meat, aware on some level that the experience is unpleasant for the animals, will tell you they object to unnecessary abuse and cruelty. They declare that they buy only “humane” meat, “free-range” eggs and “organic” milk, perceiving themselves as ethical consumers and these products as the final frontier in the fight against animal cruelty. Though we kill over 10 billion land animals every year to please our palates, we never question the absurdity of this sacred societal ritual. Instead, we absolve ourselves by making what we think are guilt-free choices, failing to recognize the paradox of “humane slaughter” and never really knowing what the whole experience is for an animal from cradle (domestication) to grave (our bodies). Though modern animal factories look nothing like what is idealized in children’s books and advertisements, there are also many misconceptions about the practices and principles of a “humane” operation. The unappetizing process of turning live animals into isolated body parts and ground-up chunks of flesh begins at birth and ends in youth, as the animals are babies when they are sent to slaughter, whether they are raised conventionally or in operations that are labeled “humane,” “sustainable,” “natural,” “free-range,” “cage- free,” “heritage-bred,” “grass-fed” or “organic.” - 30 -
  33. 33. Whether it is a large or small enterprise, manipulating animals’ reproductive systems for human gain is at the heart of the animal agriculture industry. The keeping of male studs, the stimulation of the genitals, the collection of semen, the castrating of males, and the insemination into the female are not exactly on people’s minds when they sit down to dine. Many animals endure the stressful, often painful, and humiliating process of artificial insemination. Dairy cows are strapped into what the industry terms a “rape rack;” “natural turkeys” have to be artificially inseminated because their breasts are so large they’re unable to mate in the usual manner; and “free-range” egg farms perpetuate unthinkable cruelty by buying their hens from egg hatcheries that kill millions of day-old male chicks every year. Dying to Live Many who speak of “humane” meat are really referring to the conditions under which animals are raised—not killed. And there’s a big difference. When their bodies are fat enough for the dinner table, spent and overused from producing eggs and milk, and no longer useful in the way they were meant to be, as in the case of male studs on dairy farms, animals from both conventional and “humane” farms are all transported (first to the feedlot in the case of “beef cattle”) to the slaughterhouse. The transportation process is excruciating and often fatal. The only law designed to “protect” animals in transport is weak, forcing them to endure oppressive heat, bitter cold, stress, overcrowding, and respiratory problems from ammonia-laden urine. Regardless of how they’re raised, all animals killed for the refrigerated aisles of the grocery store are sent to mechanized slaughterhouses where their lives are brutally ended. By law, animals must be slaughtered at certified facilities, where horrific acts of cruelty occur on a daily basis. Everyone from federal meat inspectors to slaughterhouse workers have admitted to routinely witnessing the strangling, beating, scalding, skinning, and butchering of live, fully - 31 -
  34. 34. conscious animals. When we tell ourselves we’re eating meat from “humanely raised animals,” we’re leaving out a huge part of the equation. The slaughtering of an animal is a bloody and violent act, and death does not come easy for those who want to live. Born to Die As much as we don’t want to believe we are the cause of someone else’s suffering, our consumption of meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products perpetuates the pointless violence and unnecessary cruelty that is inherent in the deliberate breeding and killing of animals for human consumption. If we didn’t have a problem with it, we wouldn’t have to make up so many excuses and justifications. We dance around the truth, label our choices “humane,” and try to find some kind of compromise so we can have our meat and eat it, too. The fundamental problems we keep running into do not arise merely from how we raise animals but that we eat animals. Clearly we can survive—and in fact, thrive—on a plant-based diet; we don’t need to kill animals to be healthy, and in fact animal fat and protein are linked with many human diseases. What does it say about us that when given the opportunity to prevent cruelty and violence, we choose to turn away—because of tradition, culture, habit, convenience or pleasure? We are not finding the answers we are looking for because we are asking the wrong questions. The movement toward “humanely raised food animals” simply assuages our guilt more than it actually reduces animal suffering. If we truly want our actions to reflect the compassion for animals we say we have, then the answer is very simple. We can stop eating them. How can this possibly be considered anything but a rational and merciful response to a violent and vacuous ritual? Every animal born into this world for his or her flesh, eggs or milk—only to be killed - 32 -
  35. 35. for human pleasure—has the same desire for maternal comfort and protection, the same ability to feel pain, and the same impulse to live as any living creature. There’s nothing humane about breeding animals only to kill them, and there’s nothing humane about ending the life of a healthy animal in his or her youth. In short, there is nothing humane about eating meat. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau founded Compassionate Cooks (www. to empower people to make informed food choices and to debunk myths about eating vegan. Through cooking classes, podcasts, articles, and her first-of-its-kind cooking DVD, she shares the joys and benefits of a plant-based diet. She can be reached at This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 33 -
  36. 36. Dishing Out the Bull: The Rise of the Excuse-itarians - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau I’ve heard every excuse in the book for eating animals, but I’ve yet to hear a convincing reason. It’s a pretty simple equation: since humans don’t need to consume animals to survive, killing them simply to satisfy our taste buds amounts to senseless slaughter. But our eating habits and appetites have very deep roots, and we prefer convenience over conscience. With a determination that belies an irrational attachment to animal flesh and secretions, otherwise sensible and sensitive people spend time and energy concocting outrageous excuses to justify this unnecessary habit. Using lyrical and exalted language, they extol the virtues of tradition, glorify the need to conserve “heritage breeds,” and wax poetic about our “evolutionary heritage.” With “humane meat” gaining popularity, non-vegetarians have co-opted the ethical argument. They are winning, but it’s not the vegetarians who are losing. It’s the animals. Consecrating Cruelty I live in the capital of “sustainable food,” where Alice Waters and Michael Pollan have practically been canonized, and “ethical ranchers” are idolized. Though I agree with the need to support local farmers and educate the public about the corporate take-over of our food supply, I worry sometimes that the proponents of the “sustainable/ humane meat” philosophy are going to hurt themselves patting each - 34 -
  37. 37. other on the back. Despite the fact that they’re responsible for the needless killing of animals, who, if given the choice, would choose to live, they’re lauded for their “ethical eating.” I wonder: if it’s considered ethical to eat the bodies of animals who are harmed a little less before their throats are slit, isn’t it still more ethical to not end their lives at all? Affixed with meaningless labels that make it seem as if the animals sacrificed themselves for the pleasure of humans, the Holy Triumvirate of meat, dairy and eggs remains the sacred foundation of the human diet, regarded as more of a right than a privilege. The marketing that surrounds these “products” suggests that not eating meat is downright un-American. Grist, the popular environmental magazine, self-righteously suggested that vegans fast on Thanksgiving, since vegans are merely “mimicking dominant culture” by serving an “atrocious and non-local tofu log.” Those who argue that we should eat meat because it’s traditional seem to imply that the meat-eater’s desires, traditions, culture or taste buds are superior to anything—or anyone—else. Just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Culture and tradition are not excuses for cruelty. Eating Them to Save Them Perhaps the most audacious example of how the “humane meat” proponents have so adeptly usurped the ethics of eating is in the case of “heritage breed” animals. The self-congratulatory founders and followers of Slow Food USA and Heritage Foods USA commend themselves for saving these “delicious American treasures” from the “brink of extinction” and declare, “we must eat them to save them.” The idea is that by creating a marketplace for these (dead) animals, they are, in effect, saving their lives. That kind of doublespeak would make George Orwell proud. When Michael Pollan boasts how he and his Thanksgiving guests, feasting on a “heritage breed” turkey, - 35 -
  38. 38. were “in some small way contributing to its survival,” I wonder how so intelligent a man can’t detect the absurdity of such a statement. I’m stating the obvious when I say that if they really cared about those breeds, there are ways to protect them without killing and eating them. That’s not to say they don’t care. They do. But ultimately what they care about is how the animals taste, and they use sensual, lyrical language to describe it: the “complex, succulent flavors” that “echo a bygone era”; the delicate herbaceousness of the meat [that] is like an edible postcard from the animal’s hometown.” I’ve even heard “humane meat” consumers attribute the superior taste of the “steaks” to the fact that the ranchers “say a prayer for each cow before they slaughter it.” The romanticizing of something so ugly belies a desperate attempt to deny the truth. Abdicating Responsibility One of most ludicrous justifications I’ve heard is that we did animals a favor by domesticating them, having created a “mutual agreement” that protects animals from their natural predators and grants humans the gift of the animals’ flesh and secretions in return—an arrogantly anthropocentric perspective that echoes the sentiments of slave masters. Unless we remove the cages, fences, tethers and barbed wire, I’m apt to believe the animals aren’t consulted in this “mutual agreement.” While congratulating themselves for protecting domesticated animals from the cruelties of nature, these same people defend the human consumption of other animals on the basis that we’re simply “part of the food chain.” I’m always fascinated by this particular rationalization, particularly because in the meat-eater’s depiction of the “food chain,” humans are always at the top—never the predatory animals for whom humans are prey. I’ve yet to see someone adhere so strongly to the principles of the “food chain” that they simply shrug it off when they hear of a carnivore—a true carnivore, that is, not a - 36 -
  39. 39. human identifying as a carnivore—attacking or eating a human. The “food chain” argument isn’t convenient when taken to this logical conclusion, but it is convenient when it’s used to justify our own behavior. Related to this argument is the one declaring that early humans ate animals, in order to justify us eating them now. Michael Pollan even charges vegetarians with turning their backs on their “evolutionary heritage” on the grounds that “eating meat helped make us what we are,” totally disregarding the fact that up until very recently, meat was generally used as a condiment and considered a luxury. By eschewing meat, he says unabashedly, we’re “sacrificing a part of our identity.” Since when is Darwinian evolution a moral system by which to justify our actions? In no other aspect of our lives do we use evolution to justify our behavior, so why should this be the exception? We have the ability and responsibility to make moral and rational decisions, not abdicate our ethics to a mindless and amoral process. Arguments such as these deny every aspect of what makes us rational, compassionate and moral creatures. We’re not forced to obey the dictates of evolution, just as we don’t obey them when we write novels, build flying machines and splice genes. Darwin’s theory is not a substitute for morality, except when we want to justify eating animals. There is perhaps no other lifestyle habit we spend so much time defending. Every excuse we make is an attempt to absolve ourselves from our participation in the gratuitous exploitation, mutilation and death of nonhuman animals. If we have to disguise, rationalize, romanticize and ritualize eating animals to such a degree that we’re no longer living in truth or reality, then perhaps we’re not comfortable with it at all. Adopting a vegan diet is the best choice I’ve ever made, and I’ve never had to offer any excuses for it. - 37 -
  40. 40. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is the founder of Compassionate Cooks (www. Through cooking classes, podcasts, articles, and her first-of-its-kind cooking DVD, she shares the joys and benefits of a plant-based diet. She can be reached at colleen@compassionatecooks. com This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 38 -
  41. 41. Animal Rights “Welfarists”: An Oxymoron - Joan Dunayer “Gas the chickens!” An imaginary rally cry, too morally repugnant to be real. Yet, some animal advocacy groups, such as PETA and United Poultry Concerns, have been asking that slaughterhouses gas chickens to death in their transport crates rather than leave them conscious while they’re shackled, electrically paralyzed, and slit at the throat. The mass murder of chickens is unnecessary, unjust, and invariably cruel. Urging that chickens be gassed suggests otherwise. It suggests that the problem is how they’re killed. A campaign for less- cruel slaughter proposes a new way of committing mass murder. Such a campaign is “welfarist.” “ Welfarist” campaigns foster the notion that enslaved and slaughtered animals can have well-being (welfare). Genuine welfare is incompatible with enslavement, slaughter, and other abuse, so I put quotation marks around welfare when the context is speciesist harm. “Welfarist” campaigns are anti-rights. They advocate different ways of violating nonhumans’ moral rights. So-called humane slaughter campaigns advocate a different way of violating nonhumans’ right to life. Campaigns for less-severe confinement advocate a different way of violating nonhumans’ right to liberty. PETA pressured McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s to require that their egg and flesh suppliers confine nonhumans less cruelly. These restaurants now have specified, among other things, that - 39 -
  42. 42. their egg suppliers must increase the space allotted to a caged hen from 48 square inches to at least 67. A hen has a moral right not to be confined to either 48 or 67 square inches. Many activists have chanted, “What do we want? Animal rights! When do we want it? Now!” With good reason, no activist ever has chanted, “What do we want? Slightly bigger cages! When do we want them? Whenever McDonald’s or some other massive abuser requires their suppliers to use them!” Any attempt to work with, rather than against, animal- abuse industries should raise a huge red flag. It’s morally wrong to exploit a nonhuman in any amount of space, inside or outside a cage. That’s the message animal advocates should convey. We don’t need to eat body parts from chickens killed by gassing or any other method. We don’t need to eat eggs from hens held captive in cages or any other way. We don’t need to eat food from any nonhuman animals. Instead of calling for less-cruel slaughter or confinement, we should promote veganism. Simply publicizing the realities of nonhuman exploitation can prompt many people to become vegan. Persuading people to adopt a vegan lifestyle reduces the number of nonhumans who suffer and die. It also decreases public support for the flesh industry, vivisection, and other forms of nonhuman exploitation, hastening the day when they can be banned. Some activists espouse both “welfarism” and veganism. Their “welfarism” impedes the spread of veganism by implying that nonhuman exploitation is unavoidable and therefore acceptable when “humane.” Our message to the public must be clear and consistent: We don’t need to exploit other animals; exploiting them is unjust and always causes suffering. Just as role models for veganism must adhere to veganism in their lifestyle, spokespeople for veganism must adhere to veganism in their advocacy. It wouldn’t make sense to advocate veganism while wearing cow skin and eating pig flesh. Nor does it make sense to advocate veganism one minute and supposedly more-palatable flesh or egg production the next. To have full power, our opposition to nonhuman exploitation must be unequivocal. - 40 -
  43. 43. We should persistently advocate nonhuman rights—that is, emancipation. “Welfarists” who call themselves “animal rights” activists undermine the concept of nonhuman rights. They confuse the public into thinking that imprisonment, slaughter, and other speciesist abuse can be consistent with nonhuman rights. “Welfarists” replace nonhumans’ right to life with a “right” to be murdered in less terror and pain. They shrink nonhumans’ right to liberty down to a “right” to be unjustly imprisoned in more space. In reality someone who lacks the most basic rights—to life and liberty—has no rights at all. While advocating total emancipation, we can accomplish partial emancipations, through abolitionist (emancipationist) bans. All abolitionist bans protect at least some animals from some form of exploitation. They prevent animals from entering the exploitive situation and may also remove current victims from that situation. For example, a ban on elephants in “animal acts” emancipates elephants from circuses and other performance situations. A ban on bear hunting prevents bears from being wounded or killed: prevents, rather than modifies, their abuse. Activists can work for any number of abolitionist bans, including bans on pelt products, fatty bird-liver, the cloning of pets, and marine mammals in aquaprisons. For now, abolitionist bans won’t emancipate most nonhumans, but they’ll emancipate some and move us in the right direction. We can’t ban the most popular speciesist products (such as fish flesh, cow milk, and chicken eggs) until we build public opposition to those products. When we can’t achieve abolitionist bans, we can engage in abolitionist boycotts. Although they lack the force of law, boycotts can be highly effective. A “Boycott Eggs” campaign would advance chicken emancipation. By convincing more people to stop buying eggs, it would decrease the number of suffering chickens while increasing opposition to the entire egg industry. Similarly, a boycott of body-care products that aren’t cruelty-free would reduce vivisection and boost demand for cruelty-free products. In addition to boycotting particular products, activists can boycott particular - 41 -
  44. 44. speciesist institutions such as horse racing and zoos. “Welfarists” commonly say, “I support anything that reduces animal suffering.” Over the long term, “welfarist” measures increase suffering because they perpetuate exploitation. Consider the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). If you’re at all informed about what occurs at slaughterhouses, you know that the HMSA utterly fails to protect nonhuman animals. Primarily it bolsters public support for slaughter by legitimizing the flesh industry and giving the false impression that the victims are killed “humanely.” “Welfarist” measures are largely futile because they leave animals in the hands of their oppressors. Only emancipationist measures, which honor animals’ moral rights, can adequately protect nonhumans. Genuine nonhuman welfare requires freedom from exploitation. Joan Dunayer is the author of Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (2001) and the newly released Speciesism, both from Ryce Publishing. This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 42 -
  45. 45. Truthiness is Stranger Than Fiction: The Hidden Cost of Selling the Public on “Cage-Free” Eggs - James La Veck Truthiness: something that is spoken as if true, that one wants others to believe is true, that said often enough with enough voices orchestrated in behind it, might even sound true, but is not true.—Ken Dryden, Canadian MP Many leaders in today’s animal movement are supporting and even helping develop animal product labeling schemes and “animal compassionate” husbandry standards. Some are even promoting animal products such as eggs bearing a “cage-free” label. This rapidly accelerating trend is being celebrated by some as a “new level of engagement” with industry, and criticized by others as nothing less than the industry’s wholesale co-option of the animals’ cause. Participating advocates have brushed off suggestions that they have a conflict of interest. “The claim that we are in bed with the industry,” said one senior staffer at a large animal welfare organization, “ignores the fact that every major industry group identifies us as a huge threat.” But is there more to the story? This same staffer was reported to be a participant in an April 28, 2005 meeting between his advocacy organization and producers of industrialized “cage-free” eggs. As noted on the blog of industry attendee Joel Salatin, this “inaugural and historic” meeting focused on - 43 -
  46. 46. “brainstorming” the launch of a national anti-battery cage campaign that would promote “cage-free” eggs as the alternative. Salatin observed how “breaking in to the Wal-Marts of the world consumed the discussion time,” and how “all the other producers were salivating over more market—one admitted he was sitting on 700 cases (that’s 21,000 dozen) per week right now that he doesn’t have a market for.” Salatin added that the largest producer at the meeting, whom he referred to as “the kingpin,” assured the animal advocates that all the right industry “players” were there. The kingpin’s point, according to Salatin, was that “the campaign would promote only those of us at the table. She expected a business bonanza.” So whether they are “in bed” or not, at least one major animal organization and several large-scale animal exploiters appear to be engaged in a significant collaborative relationship, to such a degree that egg producers were said to be “salivating” and “expecting a business bonanza.” Reform, or Reinforcement? In 2001, Bill Moyer, an activist with 40 years experience in the civil rights, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, published Doing Democracy. This landmark book, which shows how the ups and downs of social movements generally follow a predictable pattern, gives activists a model for dramatically increasing their effectiveness. Moyer points out that successful movements require activists to fulfill four distinct roles. One of these is the role of “reformers,” individuals and large organizations focused on getting the movement’s goals, values and alternatives adopted into laws, institutional policies and industry practice. Reformers are said to be especially instrumental in the later stages of the process of social change. But Moyer points out there can be a dark side to reform-focused organizations that shows up, tragically, just when a movement is - 44 -
  47. 47. hitting its stride. The movement’s opposition—in this case, the animal exploiting industries—sensing increased public sympathy for the cause, tries “to split or undercut the movement by offering minor reforms,” and “the ineffective reformers start making agreements in the name of ‘realistic politics,’ usually over the objections of grassroots groups.” Why? Moyer suggests that collaborating with the opposition can offer substantial financial and public relations benefits to individual organizations, even while the movement as a whole may suffer grievous harm. The staff of large organizations can sometimes forget their role as stewards of a movement’s grassroots power, notes Moyer, and instead of fostering democracy in their organizations and in the movement as a whole, start acting as self-appointed leaders. They “behave as if they represent the movement, deciding on strategies and programs for the entire movement and then sending directives down to the local levels.” Moyer makes clear how this “oppressive, hierarchical behavior, combined with conservative politics,” divides the movement, splitting large organizations off from grassroots activists. This is a serious problem, he emphasizes, because “the power of social movements is based in the grassroots.” In Moyer’s reformers-gone-wrong scenario, the professionals running large organizations may even come to identify more with their counterparts in the opposition than with the grassroots folk whose donations pay their salaries, and whose hard work makes their programs come alive. As a result, a movement can lose its way, “either through collusion or compromises by reformer activists that undercut the achievement of critical movement goals.” Which returns us to the proliferation of advocacy-approved animal product labeling schemes, and the identity theft now plaguing the vegan and animal rights movements. In a recent New York Times article titled “Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore,” John - 45 -
  48. 48. Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods, one of the largest meat retailers in America, is described as “a vegan who is increasingly outspoken on animal rights issues.” In the same article, the American Humane Association and Humane Farm Animal Care, both with a clear focus on animal husbandry reforms and not on the boycott of animal products or the abolition of animal exploitation, are referred to as “animal rights organizations.” But what’s the harm, proponents say, they’re only words, aren’t they? In the same New York Times article, one grocery chain boasted a 25 percent jump in meat sales since adding the “certified humane” logo, even though these products cost, on average, 30 to 40 percent more. It seems the industry has more than a few reasons to be salivating over its new collaboration with the animal advocacy movement. A Moment of Truthiness But how could intelligent and experienced activist leaders get drawn into a rather predictable industry trap? Perhaps they have failed to grasp that the values that drive a social justice movement are inherently incompatible with those of a business based on exploiting the very beings the movement has pledged to protect. When the moral framework of a social justice cause is deliberately co-mingled with the utilitarian, profit-maximizing logic of an exploitative industry, what was once a natural adversarial relationship gets twisted into a dysfunctional marriage of convenience. To make such an unnatural alliance work, critical thinking, the very catalyst of conscience, must be neutralized through the manipulations of public relations. As a strategy to end the use of battery cages, for example, several animal organizations are encouraging members and supporters to persuade individuals and institutions to switch to eggs labeled “cage- free.” One of the architects of this campaign has stated that the term - 46 -
  49. 49. “cage-free” is not misleading at all—for even though the hens are confined in artificial indoor environments, technically speaking, they are not in actual cages. But being technically factual and telling the truth are not necessarily the same. Just ask members of the general public to imagine the lives of chickens who produce “cage-free” eggs. Most will likely envision something akin to the mythical “Old MacDonald’s Farm,” contented animals freely wandering about a bucolic barnyard. The reality? Millions of young hens standing shoulder to shoulder in huge enclosed warehouses, forced to dwell day and night in their own waste, enduring air so foul that workers sometimes wear gas masks to prevent permanent damage to their lungs. Just like their battery-caged sisters, “cage-free” hens are brutally debeaked, force molted (starved for days to restart an egg laying cycle) and, of course, slaughtered when they are no longer of use. Or, as one investigator discovered, if no buyer can be found for their ravaged bodies, they might just be packed into steel drums and gassed, the piles of their lifeless remains sent to a landfill or used as compost. Not to mention the millions of male chicks who, incapable of laying eggs, are unceremoniously suffocated in plastic bags or ground alive into fertilizer or feed, their lives snuffed out before they even begin. “New and Improved” Abuse? If we pursue justice by collaborating with industry, by helping develop and promote what we tell ourselves are slightly less hideous forms of exploitation, are we not attempting to displace one form of abuse with another? While it is questionable whether such a strategy could eventually lead to the end of exploitation, one thing is certain: when animal advocates encourage the public to accept “new and improved” forms of abuse, we are powerfully reinforcing the status of nonhuman - 47 -
  50. 50. animals as property—to be acquired, used and disposed of at will. We are also significantly bolstering the credibility and positive public image of an industry with a long history of betraying public trust. Even more troubling, we animal advocates cannot successfully carry out such a strategy without directly taking part in misleading the general public. Consider, for example, what it takes to successfully “sell” the idea that buying and consuming eggs labeled “cage-free” is socially responsible, and even compassionate. If the full reality of “cage-free” egg production—or any other systematized exploitation of animals—were to be revealed, wouldn’t it be impossible to convince large numbers of people to support it? Hence, to promote “cage-free” eggs, we must step across the invisible but critical line that separates an advocate from an apologist. From Cage-free to Cruelty-free: How Truthiness Becomes Fiction Let’s examine some of the statements that have appeared in local media where “cage-free” egg campaigns have run. Watch as the pressure to close the sale leads to the inevitable blurring of fact and fiction: One student animal rights group characterizes their “cage-free” campaign as trying to get their college’s food service to no longer purchase its eggs from “large factory farms with cruel conditions.” The group’s leader states that “factory farms and caged hens are harmful to the environment,” and that “cage-free eggs are good for the animals and local farmers.” At another college, animal advocates state that if the university would switch to eggs labeled “cage-free,” “we could pride ourselves on knowing that these birds were living a decent life,” and that they’d no longer be supporting “environmentally unsustainable practices that exploit the land, the workers, the animals.” - 48 -
  51. 51. The truth is, most “cage-free” eggs are produced on industrialized farms, and there is little evidence to suggest “cage-free” production techniques are less harmful to the environment. They are certainly not “good for” animals. Said one doctoral candidate, “If entire nations across Europe can ban battery cages and go cruelty-free, then I’m optimistic that [our university] certainly can as well!” But can an industry that mutilates and kills the young animals it exploits truthfully be called “cruelty-free”? At another college, a student sponsor of a successful “cage-free” campaign says, “It’s good that this university can show that we’re compassionate toward animal rights.” So switching to eggs labeled “cage-free” is now an expression of animal rights, a philosophy that rejects all exploitation and boycotts the consumption of animal products? “We’re happy to do it,’’ said the food manager for a Fortune 500 company. “There’s a ripple effect that I think will happen. Other companies also will want to ensure humane treatment of animals.’’ As one astute activist pointed out, terms that can be used in a relative sense when communicating with animal activists, are now being applied in an absolute sense when selling consumers on these “new and improved” animal products. So while one might choose to argue that some forms of exploitation and killing are less inhumane or less cruel than others, an informed advocate cannot honestly characterize any form of exploitation and killing as humane or free of cruelty. Yet this is exactly what the public is being led to believe. Imagine what it means to do all the work needed to pull down the veil covering the horrific injustice of battery egg production, and then, to turn around and methodically cover it up again with a new and improved façade: “Cage-free” eggs—the cruelty-free, socially responsible, environmentally sustainable alternative. Good for the - 49 -
  52. 52. animals, good for farmers, good for workers, good for you. This, at a time when more and more people around the world are being addicted to an animal protein-centered diet, the proven cause of most chronic illness. This, at a time when we face record obesity, and avian influenza looms as the next pandemic. This, at a time when UN researchers have determined that animal agriculture produces a greater global warming impact than all the world’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains and ships combined. Let’s Not Forget, They’re Tastier Too A repeating theme of news stories around the “cage-free” egg campaign—actually common to much of the coverage of advocate- approved labeling schemes—is how delicious these “new and improved” animal products are. One campus dining service conducted a taste test, failing to find even one student who didn’t think “cage-free” eggs tasted better. Another dining manager was quoted complimenting their freshness. She spoke of how one of their chefs “made banana bread with the eggs and said the bread rose to be lighter and fluffier,” and how “students seem interested in tasting the eggs,” concluding that “people seem to be eating more eggs just to try them out.” Is there any doubt our cause is being co-opted? But how can anyone blame well-meaning activists for contributing to the growing smorgasbord of mis- and dis-information? After all, they’ve been convinced by people they admire that if they tell the truth, they will not reduce suffering as much as by offering up the false reassurances of truthiness. They’ve been convinced that replacing one form of abuse with another is a viable path to ending exploitation. As the core values and principles of the movement are perversely put - 50 -
  53. 53. in service of selling the very products of suffering and exploitation they were intended to abolish, people of integrity and goodwill become increasingly disoriented. They lose their ability to recognize they’ve been drawn into a destructive conflict of interest, mistaking it for “pragmatism” and “common sense.” A Half Truth is a Whole Lie Is it time to take a look in the mirror? Do we really want to convince our most idealistic young people that skillful manipulation is a surefire path to a better world? That PR spin, and not teaching, is the answer? Do we want to perpetuate the destructive fantasy that a social justice movement can be run like a multi-national corporation? Ignorance, denial and dishonesty are at the very root, not just of exploitation itself, but of the social and psychological forces that allow its toleration. When we are willing to sacrifice the truth, to dilute its power in order to accrue short-term gains, however noble they may seem to be, we break free of our ethical moorings and begin to drift off course, inevitably carried away by the same currents that drive those caught up in exploitation. In our heart of hearts, we know there is a better path. If we take the time to listen, our conscience will show us the way. James LaVeck is cofounder of the nonprofit arts and educational organization Tribe of Heart and producer of award-winning documentaries The Witness and Peaceable Kingdom. To learn more, visit This article can be accessed in its original form at: - 51 -
  54. 54. Glossary Sentience To be sentient is to be conscious or self-aware, capable of perception or feeling. Sentient humans and nonhumans feel sensations of pain, pleasure and so on. When a being is sentient, s/he will naturally have interests. For instance, the capacity for sentient beings to feel pain provides them with a clear interest in not feeling pain. Equal Consideration The principle of equal consideration requires that we treat similar interests in a similar way unless there is a morally sound reason for not doing so. If we apply the principle of equal consideration to animals, then we must extend to animals the one basic right that we extend to all human beings: the right not to be treated as a thing. Rights A right is a particular way of protecting interests. To say that an interest is protected by a right is to say that the interest is protected against being ignored or violated simply because it will benefit someone else to do so. Animal Rights The animal rights position holds that that we ought to abolish the institutionalised exploitation of nonhumans. It maintains that animals have the right not to be treated as the resources or property of humans. Animal Welfare The traditional animal welfare position holds that it is acceptable for us to use animals for at least some purposes, but that we must regulate animal use so that we treat animals ‘humanely’ and do not impose ‘unnecessary’suffering on them. Exemplified by the stance of the RSPCA. New Welfarist A term applied to those who campaign for welfare regulation as a strategy to lead to the abolition of animal exploitation. For example PETA and most large “animal rights” organisations. The ‘new welfarist’ contrasts with the ‘traditional welfarist’ above who does not seek abolition as an end goal. - 52 -
  55. 55. Further Information Websites Books Animal Rights Advocates Inc: Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog - Gary L. Francione Gary L. Francione’s Blog: Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation Unpopular Vegan Essays: - Gary L. Francione http://unpopularveganessays. Rain Without Thunder: The Idealogy of the Animal Rights Movement An Animal Friendly Life: - Gary L. Francione Animals, Property and the Law - Gary L. Francione Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights - Bob Torres Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation - David Nibert - 53 -