In light of all this enthusiasm for signature gathering, I
just thought I'd throw in my two cents.
No offense to anyone, I'd just like everyone to take some
things into consideration.
A number of readers have been asking me to write something
that they can download and use as a short response to those animal
advocates who promote the welfarist approach and who do not understand
why this approach is inconsistent with the rights/abolitionist
I hope that this is useful.
There are at least four problems with the welfarist
approach to animal ethics.
First, animal welfare measures provide little, if any,
significant protection to animal interests. For example, People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaigned to get McDonald's and
other fast-food chains to adopt Temple
Grandin's handling and slaughter methods
. But a
slaughterhouse that follows Grandin's guidelines and one that does not,
are both hideous places. It borders on delusion to claim otherwise.
A number of animal groups are campaigning for alternatives
to the gestation crate for pigs. But, on closer examination, these
measures, which involve costly campaigns, really do not amount to very
much in that there are considerable loopholes that allow institutional
exploiters to do what they want in any event. I wrote a blog essay, A "Triumph"
of Animal Welfare?
, about the gestation crate
campaign in Florida
which illustrates the limits of such reforms.
The same may be said of most animal welfare
"improvements." They may make us feel better but they do very little
for the animals.
Second, animal welfare measures make the
public feel better about animal exploitation and this encourages
continued animal use. Indeed, it is clear that people who have avoided
animal foods because of concerns about animal treatment are returning
to eating them after being told by animal welfare
that animals are being treated more "humanely." I
discuss this issue in my blog essay on "Happy" Meat/Animal Products
Ironically, animal welfare reform may actually increase
animal suffering. Assume that we are exploiting 5 animals and imposing
10 units of suffering on each. That's a total of 50 units of suffering.
A welfare measure results in a reduction of 1 unit of suffering for
each animal, but consumption rises to 6 animals. That's a total of 54
units of suffering—a net increase. There is no question that this
phenomenon occurs. For example, in Europe
consumption has increased
as the result of regulation
about the confinement of veal calves.
Third, animal welfare does nothing to eradicate the property
status of animals
. Animal welfare standards are
generally linked to what is required to exploit animals in an efficient
manner. That is, animal welfare generally protects animal interests
only to the extent that it provides economic benefits for humans. This
explicitly reinforces the status of nonhumans as commodities, as
This approach is not confined to the traditional welfarist
groups like HSUS. The new welfarist groups, such as PETA, have also
adopted it. In Analysis of
Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric Immobilization from an
, PETA argues for the gassing, or
"controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK)" of poultry, claiming that the
electric stunning method of slaughter "lowers product quality and
yield" because birds suffer broken bones and the process results in
contamination dangerous to human health. The electric stunning method
also "increases labor costs" in various ways. PETA argues that "CAK
increases product quality and yield" because broken bones, bruising,
and hemorrhaging are supposedly eliminated, contamination is reduced,
"shelf-life of meat" is increased, and "'more tender breast meat'" is
produced. PETA also claims that "CAK lowers labor costs" by reducing
the need for certain inspections, reducing accidents, and lowering
employee turnover. CAK provides "other economic benefits" to the
poultry industry by allowing producers to save money on energy costs,
reduces by-product waste, and reduces the need to use water.
In other words, HSUS, PETA, and others have, in effect,
become advisers to assist the meat industry in identifying ways to
increase the profits from animal exploitation. Even if this
results in minor improvements for animal welfare, it does absolutely nothing
to challenge the property paradigm. Indeed, it reinforces the
status of animals as nothing more than economic commodities. And it
makes people feel better about animal exploitation.
Fourth, it is a zero-sum game. Every second of time and
every cent of money spent on making exploitation more "humane" is less
money and time spent on vegan/abolition education. Think about it this
Assume that you have two hours tomorrow to spend on animal
matters. You have a choice. You can distribute literature urging people
to eat "cage-free" eggs, or you can distribute literature urging people
not to eat eggs at all because "cage-free" eggs still involve
excruciating suffering and eventual death. You cannot do both, and even
if you could, your messages would contradict each other and be
Educating people about veganism is a much more effective
way to reduce suffering in the short term and to build an abolitionist
movement that can advocate for and support significant change in the
future. Animal welfare continues to treat animals as commodities. And
welfare reform does not provide significant protection for animal
interests, makes the public feel better about exploitation, may
actually increase net suffering, and diverts resources from
The sooner people see that the new welfarist groups have nothing
to do with an abolitionist perspective, the better off we will be. The
new welfarists have become partners with the institutional exploiters
to sell animal products. It is nothing short of obscene that that the
new welfarists are developing labels
such as the Certified
Humane Raised and Handled label
, the Freedom
, and the Animal
, to help
institutional exploiters to market animal corpses and products. These
efforts have nothing to do with the animal rights or abolitionist
approach. Indeed, this is exactly what the abolitionist movement opposes
Yes, it's "better" in one sense not to torture someone
that you murder. But that does not make torture-free murder
"compassionate." It's "better" not to beat someone who you rape. But
that does not make rape without beating "humane." The animal welfare
movement supports the notion that more "humane" exploitation is morally
acceptable exploitation. That is not the abolitionist approach.
Gary L. Francione
© 2007 Gary L. Francione
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This message was sent by Julia ([address removed])
from United Animal Advocates of LA.