Monthly Archives: April 2009

Some Comments on the Kristof ‘Happy Meat’ Editorial

Dear Colleagues:

Today’s New York Times had an editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof. The editorial was an ode to animal welfare and of the supposed progressive ethical development that welfare reform bespeaks.

Forgive me for not sharing Mr. Kristof’s enthusiasm.

Rather than make a point-by-point reply, I will limit myself to three general comments.

First, the examples to which Mr. Kristof points are leading candidates in the contest to identify the most futile welfare reforms of modern history. These include California’s Proposition 2, the European Commission Directive on battery eggs, and the unholy alliance between animal rights groups and Burger King. I have written about all of these previously and I have argued that they will do nothing to help animals.

Second, citing these various “happy meat” reforms, Kristof states:

For most of history, all of this would have been unimaginable even to people of the most refined ethical sensibility (granted, for many centuries those refined ethicists were also untroubled by slavery).

This is a rather astonishing statement. Mr. Kristof does not seem to be aware that Jainism, one of the three indigenous religious traditions of India, and arguably one of the oldest spiritual traditions in the world, has, for several thousand years, maintained that nonhuman animals have inherent moral value. Jains maintain that the observance of the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence, requires that Jains be vegetarians and not eat meat, fish, or eggs, and Jains are increasingly adopting a strict vegetarian or vegan position. Buddhism and Hinduism also have strong traditions of vegetarianism. So despite the pat on the back that Kristof gives to Western welfarists, those of more “refined ethical sensibility” had, centuries ago, gone way beyond these supposedly progressive contemporary developments.

Mr. Kristof is also apparently unaware that animal welfare in Western civilization is nothing new. We have had animal welfare as a dominant legal and moral paradigm for about 200 years now, and we are presently exploiting more animals in more horrific ways than at any time in human history. It is quite simple: animal welfare does not work. Animal welfare regulations provide very little protection for animal interests. That is because animals are property; they are economic commodities. It costs money to protect animal interests and, for the most part, we do so only when we derive an economic benefit. So we will require that large animals be stunned before they are butchered so that we can decrease carcass damage and limit injuries to slaughterhouse workers. But if we do not get an economic benefit from protecting an animal interest, we don’t protect that interest. It is that simple and one must look far and wide to find a single significant counterexample.

Animal welfare rests on the notion that it is acceptable to use animals for human purposes because they are of lesser moral value than humans. This notion is reflected in the theory of Peter Singer, whom Kristof discusses approvingly in the editorial. The primary requirement of animal welfare is that we accord animals some consideration for their interest in not suffering. But given the view that animal life is of little or no moral significance, it should come as no surprise that the degree of that consideration is very low.

Third, Mr. Kristof, despite what are his obvious good intentions, misses the basic point that the “happy meat” reforms that he enthusiastically praises will only make the public feel better about animal exploitation and continue the consumption of animal products. For example, even if California’s Proposition 2 comes into effect in 2015, animals in California will continue to be tortured; the only difference will be that the torture will carry the stamp of approval from the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and the other animal welfare corporations that promoted Proposition 2.

Mr. Kristof proves my point. In the penultimate sentence of his editorial, he states: “For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.”

That says it all.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione

The Great ‘Victory’ of New Welfarism

Dear Colleagues:

In my work, I have argued that animal advocates should not spend their time and resources on single-issue campaigns because as long as there is no political base in favor of abolishing animal exploitation, there can be no realistic hope for legislation that will significantly protect animal interests through the prohibition of various forms of animal exploitation. The new welfarists, who favor single-issue campaigns and who do not agree that the vegan-abolitionist approach is necessary, often point to the British ‘ban’ on hunting foxes with hounds as the showcase example of how animal welfare regulation can work to protect animal interests.

I suggest that the advocates of new welfare are in error.

The ‘ban’ on fox hunting is a classic example of the futility of single-issue welfarist campaigns.

The ‘ban’ supposedly prohibits using hounds to hunt foxes but allows hunters to use hounds to follow a scent and to flush out a fox. It is legal for hunters to use hounds to flush out a fox (or other wild mammal) and then shoot the animal or use a falcon to kill the animal. Supporters of hunting are flouting the law and encouraging exploitation of all loopholes with the result that more foxes are being killed than before the ‘ban.’

The BBC reports that four years after the ‘ban’ went into effect:

Not a single hunt has gone out of business, there are twice as many registered hounds as there were three years ago and – according to the Alliance – the number of people hunting is up by 11%.

With the Conservatives ahead of Labour in the opinion polls – and promising a free vote on the Hunting Act if they win the next election – supporters of hunting say repeal is now a probability rather than a possibility.

It is clear that the ‘ban’ on fox hunting is anything but a ‘ban’ and is a classic example of the futility of single-issue welfare reform.

The matter of animal exploitation requires a moral paradigm shift. That shift must begin with creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione

Animal Experiments Increase in Britain

Dear Colleagues:

Defenders of animal welfare often claim that the animal protection movement in Britain has been successful in decreasing the number of experiments performed with live animals.

The data show that there has been a 21% increase in animal experiments since 1997.

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione

And You Wonder Why We Suffer from Moral Schizophrenia?

Dear Colleagues:

Here is an example—one of unfortunately many—of the way that we confuse children about the morality of animal exploitation. One one hand, we encourage children to feel affectionately about nonhumans through the use of animal characters. On the other hand, we use those same animal characters to sell animal products that have been produced by engaging in the torture of nonhuman animals.

Is it any wonder that we develop moral schizophrenia when it comes to animals? Is it any wonder that the overwhelming number of us agree strongly that it is wrong to inflict ‘unnecessary’ suffering and death on animals but the best justification we have for imposing suffering and death on 53 billion animals per year (not including fish) is that we enjoy the taste? Is it any wonder that we regard certain animals as members of our families while we simultaneously stick forks into the corpses of other animals?

Gary L. Francione
© 2009 Gary L. Francione