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 position.
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.