The Problem: Treating Humans and Nonhumans Differently
I maintain that if we cannot morally justify animal exploitation, we ought not to be advocating for (supposedly) more “humane” or “happy” animal exploitation.
Some of my reasons for my position are more practical.
For example, I do not think that the welfare reforms that are the subject of the welfare campaigns pursued by the large organizations provide any significant level of protection for nonhuman animals. For example, for laying hens, I think the difference between a conventional battery cage and an “enriched” cage is the difference between “torture” and a “tiny bit less torture”–at best. These “reforms,” such as they are, are usually phased in over a lengthy period and sometimes not phased in at all. And there are always problems enforcing these “reforms” to make sure they are implemented.
Moreover, I think that most of these reforms would occur anyway because they seek to modify practices that are economically inefficient (e.g., electric stunning of chickens in favor of controlled-atmosphere killing; eliminating the veal crate in favor of small social units) or, to the extent that they increase production costs, they do so slightly and industry benefits overall (e.g., the “enriched” battery cage).
And I think that when animal organizations support welfare reforms, they cannot help but present the supposedly “higher welfare” products as morally desirable and as resulting in more “compassionate” exploitation, and that has the effect of encouraging people who are concerned about the morality of consuming animals to continue to consume animals, rather than to focus them on veganism as a moral baseline and as the clear answer–both as an individual matter and as a social matter–to the problem of animal exploitation. So pursuing welfare reform has the effect of being counterproductive in terms of advancing veganism.
In this essay, I will discuss some of these practical issues, but I will do so in the context of exploring a more theoretical reason for rejecting welfare reform–what I view as the inherent speciesism of the welfarist approach.
Although rape occurs with alarming frequency, we don’t have campaigns for “humane” rape. Child molestation is an epidemic, but we don’t campaign for “humane” child abuse. Chattel slavery exists in various parts of the world and there are millions who are enslaved, but we don’t campaign for “humane” slavery.
But where animals are concerned, many animal advocates campaign for and promote (supposedly) “humane” or “happy” exploitation.
I see this behavior, which differs depending on whether the context involves human or nonhumans, as problematic.
An Example: What a Bargain! $1.99 per pound for “Happy” Chicken
Let’s consider one example of what I am talking about.
Here is a sign that I saw by the entrance to my local Whole Foods:
In addition to advertising the selling of some poor little chicken whose sad little life is apparently worth $1.99 per pound, the sign says “Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Rating 2: Enriched Environment.”
The “Global Animal Partnership” is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008,” which
brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture. Our signature program, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, recognizes and rewards producers for their welfare practices, promotes and facilitates continuous improvement, and better informs consumers about the production systems they choose to support.
An “enriched environment” means that the chickens are kept indoors but are provided with things, such as raised platforms and bales of hay, that allow for expression of natural behaviors.
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Animal Partnership.
And John Mackey is on the Board of HSUS.
But before you criticize HSUS, be aware that Pacelle is not alone in his support of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program. In the mid-2000s, when Whole Foods started its “happy exploitation” program, just about every large animal organization in the United States–People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Vegan Outreach–joined Peter Singer and HSUS in expressing their “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods program of what I call “happy exploitation.”
Whole Foods–quite understandably–used this letter for PR purposes. Peter Singer was asked about this:
How do you feel about that letter being posted in the PR section of the Whole Foods website and when asked about the treatment of farmed animals and humane standards, John Mackey refers to it?
I don’t have any problem with that. I support what the letter says and they’re welcome to use it. I mean, we wrote it to them expecting them to use it. It wasn’t just a personal letter to John Mackey to be put in his filing cabinet.
PETA gave Whole foods an award:
VegNews had Whole Foods CEO on its cover, gave Mackey an award, and named Whole Foods “Favorite Natural Foods Store” for four consecutive years.
And here’s a recording of John Mackey discussing how groups like PETA and Farm Sanctuary served as “stakeholders” in this process and met to discuss–species by species–what standards of exploitation Whole Foods should adopt.
Let me state clearly here that I regard the partnership between animal advocates and Whole Foods as morally repugnant. Most of us would never think that something like this would be acceptable in the human context. Imagine promoting some–any–“humane” version of torture. Imagine giving awards to humans who tortured other humans but did so more “humanely.” Imagine issuing public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” sorts of torture.
These things are hard to imagine because most of us would rule them out from the beginning where humans are concerned. That is, we would say that, although it’s always better to impose less suffering than more suffering, and so it’s better to torture less than more, having a campaign for more “humane” torture–even if it could reduce the torture slightly–would be wrong because it would miss the point: it is wrong to torture humans at all. It is imperative that we be clear that our opposition to torture is not about reducing suffering; it is about affirming a basic human right.
But those who promote animal welfare campaigns and who express their “appreciation and support” of “pioneering” programs of “happy exploitation” in situations in which they would not support similar campaigns if humans were involved are doing just that: they are denying the fundamental moral right of nonhuman animals not to be treated as replaceable resources.
In my view, this involves speciesism: we are treating human exploitation and nonhuman exploitation in different ways and we don’t have a good reason to do so.
Now Here’s a Surprise: The New Welfarists Disagree With Me
But the animal advocates who support welfare reform disagree with me. They tell me that animal advocates should support welfare campaigns. Indeed, in a recent event I attended, Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich, formerly of PETA (both Farm Sanctuary and PETA are signatories to the Singer Whole Foods love letter) told me I was “deeply speciesist” because I opposed such programs.
So, according to the supporters of welfare reform, if I oppose the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program, or if I won’t support the campaign for “enriched” battery cages for hens, which is being promoted by the United Egg Producers, the leading egg industry trade group, in partnership with HSUS, Mercy For Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing, and others, or if I criticize HSUS and Mercy For Animals for promoting “crate-free” pork as “the right thing,” I am not only being speciesist, but I am being “deeply speciesist.”
Surely, this a bizarre claim if ever there was one.
Does this mean that these regulationists would support campaigns for “humane” rape, child abuse, or slavery?
As a general matter, they are not willing to say that they would support such campaigns where humans are involved.
So how do animal welfare advocates respond to my claims that we support campaigns for welfare reform and “happy exploitation” but we don’t support campaigns for more “humane” rape, pedophilia, or slavery? That is, how do they avoid the very clear reality that we treat situations involving nonhumans differently from the way that we treat those involving humans?
The regulationists usually respond that animal exploitation is pervasive and accepted and that rape, pedophilia, and slavery are all rejected and not pervasive because there are already strong moral norms against them and laws that prohibit them. They claim that campaigns that promote “humane” rape, pedophilia, or slavery will weaken those norms and laws whereas there are no strong norms against animal exploitation and no laws prohibiting animal abuse in most circumstances, and, so, welfare reforms and “happy exploitation” programs will strengthen those norms and result in more laws.
This argument fails on its own terms.
Campaigns to Make Infringements of Basic Rights More “Humane” vs. Campaigns to Extend the Rights of Persons
As for the supposedly strong norms and laws concerning rape, pedophilia, and slavery, I doubt that the many, many, many victims of rape, child molestation, and slavery would agree.
Whatever norms and laws exist, the reality is that there is still an enormous amount of rape and other sexual assault. One out of six American women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, and rape and other forms of sexual assault are often not reported.
Every year, approximately 6 million children are reported to be abused. Again, it is impossible to know how many instances of pedophilia there are. But there is an enormous amount of pedophilia.
And although chattel slavery is outlawed in every nation and by the norms of customary international law, there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world–the largest number at any point in human history.
Many people think that if there are laws that prohibit something, that means that there is a moral norm against that behavior and that the behavior rarely occurs. That is simply wrong and reflects a naive understanding of the law. Think about it. There are laws against speeding while driving in a motor vehicle. Have you driven lately? Similarly, although we have many laws against rape, child molestation, and slavery, those behaviors are not only still existent but occur frequently and are not punished.
Moreover, just as there are norms against rape, child abuse, and slavery, and laws that prohibit these behaviors, there is also a very strong norm against cruelty to animals and there are laws that prohibit abusing animals. Welfarists beg the question by assuming that welfare reform campaigns and “happy exploitation” programs will strengthen the norm against animal use; on the contrary, there is every reason to believe it will have the opposite effect and strengthen the notion that we can “humanely” use/exploit animals if we enact welfare reforms and require more “humane” treatment.
Welfarists think that the difference between “humane” rape campaigns and “humane” animal exploitation campaigns rests in large part on the fact that the exploitation of women or children or slaves is not as pervasive as animal exploitation. As a factual matter, with 7 billion humans alive on the planet and 1 trillion animals killed per year for food alone it would hardly be possible for the quantitative value to be the same! So I am not denying that there is an enormous quantitative difference between the level of human abuse of any sort and the abuse of animals. The point is that there are norms and laws that condemn all these behaviors but they still all occur not as exceptions but as a “normal” part of everyday life.
So there are people–lots of people–suffering from rape, child abuse, and slavery.
Why not have a campaign that encourages “gentler” rapes; “kinder” child abuse; and more “humane” slavery”?
After all, the regulationists argue that, in promoting their welfare reforms, we should ask: would the animal suffering now want that reform? If the answer is “yes,” we ought to support the welfare reform campaign.
Let’s put aside that these welfare measures usually come into effect (if at all) many years in the future, so applying this “test” means that we are asking, in 2013, “would a hen in 2023 prefer to be in an ‘enriched’ batter cage or in a conventional battery cage?” That’s a pretty strange question to be asking if you are seeking guidance about what you should be supporting as a campaign in 2013, but let’s apply it to rape, child abuse, and slavery.
Would a woman being raped by a brutal rapist prefer to be raped by a less brutal rapist?
Yes, of course.
Would a child being abused prefer to be abused less often or less harshly?
Yes, of course.
Would a slave prefer to be treated less harshly?
Yes, of course.
So on this thinking, we should support campaigns that seek to educate people about being less brutal and more “humane” when they undertake actions that, despite laws, many are going to engage in anyway.
But although we all agree that less suffering is better than more suffering, most of us would not support those sorts of campaigns. Why?
That’s easy. Because rape, child abuse, and slavery are things that should not happen at all. Rape, child abuse, and slavery all involve violations of the basic rights that everyone who is considered as having the moral status of being a person must have. Basic rights are rights to continue to live, to be free from torture, rape, maiming, etc.
Many of us are repulsed by the idea that we should have campaigns that seek more “humane” infringements on these basic rights. It’s one thing to seek incremental improvements once we are no longer pursuing basic rights and are dealing with rights that may still be very important but are not basic in the way that rights to life and physical security are; it’s another to have a campaign for more “humane” torture, rape, child abuse, slavery, etc.
In order to see the difference here, let’s consider the following two campaigns. Campaign 1 is a campaign to secure driving rights for women in Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive because of interpretations of religious laws. Campaign 2 is a campaign to make more humane the stoning of women in Saudi Arabia who are accused of talking with a man who is not her husband.
Our intuitions tell us that a decision to support a driving campaign might be acceptable, particularly if it were coupled with a clear and unequivocal demand for the complete equality of women. But a campaign for more “humane” stoning? No. Our intuitions tell us that such a campaign is morally unacceptable and that the only position we should take is that no woman should be stoned at all. When it comes to these sorts of situations, we don’t think in terms of reducing suffering; we think in terms of prohibitions and we want to send a very clear message that the interest in not being stoned for talking with a man is an interest that cannot be compromised.
And it would be nothing short of obscene to have a campaign for more “humane” stoning coupled with a public letter by human rights campaigners to the perpetrators expressing “appreciation and support” for their “pioneering” methods of stoning.
Similarly, let’s contrast a campaign that encourages a dictator to torture political prisoners more “gently” with a campaign that encourages the dictator to give trials and due process protection to prisoners. In the first case, the campaign is seeking to make the infringement of a basic right to physical security more “humane.” In the second, the campaign seeks to take an incremental step toward justice for a particular group.
And can you imagine a campaign that seeks more “gentle” torture and then gives the dictator an award for his more “humane” torture methods and puts him on the front of a human rights magazine in a celebratory fashion?
There can be no doubt that there is a difference between a campaign that seeks to make slavery more “humane” by limiting the number of beatings that can be imposed on slaves and a campaign that seeks to extend and protect voting rights for minority groups who are not slaves and who are regarded morally and legally as persons, and for whom we seek justice and equality. There can be no doubt that there is a difference between a campaign for “humane” rape and a campaign for full equal rights for women. There can be no doubt that there is a difference between a campaign for more “humane” child abuse and a campaign for better public education for children from economically deprived backgrounds.
In the former of each of the sets above, the campaign seeks a more “humane” infringement of the basic rights of beings who are being treated as things; in the latter of each set, the campaign seeks to secure greater protection to beings who are regarded as persons but who are subject to some injustice or inequality.
Nonhuman animals, who are raised and killed for human use are, as an institutional matter, deprived of their basic rights to their lives and to their physical security. They are in a situation similar to slaves in that they are chattel property–things–that have no intrinsic value. They have only the extrinsic value that we, their owners, give to them. Nonhuman animals are in a situation similar to concentration camp victims, whose keeping and killing are streamlined to be as mechanized and efficient as possible. They are victims of institutional exploitation where the institution exists to deprive them of their basic rights and to deny their status as moral persons.
Most of us would not think it a good idea to campaign for more “humane” slavery or more “humane” concentration camps. And we certainly would not make public statements praising and expressing our “appreciation and support” to slave owners, or characterizing the confinement or execution methods in the concentration camps as “pioneering.”
But yet most of the large animal organizations in the U.S., South America, Europe, Australia, etc. do precisely that. They promote campaigns for more “humane” infringements of the moral rights of animals. What they are doing is analogous to promoting campaigns for more “humane” stoning. A campaign for an “enriched” battery cage or for the controlled-atmosphere killing of chickens is not akin to campaigning for driving rights for women in Saudi Arabia as a step toward the full equality of persons, or analogous to affirmative action programs, or to programs to improve and increase Medicaid benefits.
No, I Am Not in Favor of More Animal Suffering
The regulationists claim that to oppose their “happy exploitation” campaigns is to oppose relieving the suffering of animals. That’s just nonsense. Putting aside that I believe that these welfare reforms do little to provide increased protection for animals, I would no more support these campaigns than I would support a campaign for the more “humane” stoning of women or the more “gentle” molestation of children. More “humane” stoning and more “gentle” molestation may reduce suffering a bit but it would come at the cost of accepting that institutions that exist to deny fundamental moral rights can be “improved.” They can’t be.
The regulationists claim that because I opposed Proposition 2 in 2008, I was in favor of more suffering on the part of laying hens in California. That’s just nonsense. I opposed Proposition 2 because I reject the welfarist approach and felt it was important to take a position against the welfare campaigns that have become a ubiquitous feature of the modern animal movement. As I said at the time:
Proposition 2, if passed, will only make the public feel better about animal exploitation and will result in increased exploitation. Animals 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 are promoting Proposition 2. It is telling that approximately 100 farming organizations are supporting Proposition 2. Why do you think that is? The answer is plain. These producers believe that Proposition 2 will help their “bottom line.” And it will.
It is important for animal advocates to send a clear message to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups to stop promoting measures like Proposition 2. If HSUS is really concerned about animal suffering, then it should perhaps spend a chunk of its $223 million in assets and $124 million in revenues on vegan education. Veganism reduces the demand for animal products and helps to shift social attitudes away from the notion that it is morally acceptable to use animals as long as we do so “humanely.” That view results in nothing but continued and increased animal use. It is time that advocates just said “no” to it.
If animal advocates are obligated to not oppose such campaigns, then the large welfarist organizations will simply continue to pursue them. Not to oppose such campaigns is to support “happy exploitation.” I refuse to support “happy exploitation.”
The regulationists claim that if I will not support a campaign for “personhood” for great apes or dolphins, I am in favor of those nonhumans continuing to suffer. That’s just nonsense. I would no more support such a campaign, which conditions moving animals from the “thing” side of the line over to the “person” side of the line based on the possession of humanlike characteristics, than I would support a campaign against human slavery that sought personhood only for slaves who were light-skinned or had a certain percentage of white blood. I am all in favor of getting every great ape out of every laboratory and zoo, and every dolphin out of every marine park, but I am not going to support a campaign that says that moral status depends on having humanlike characteristics, particularly when these campaigns are often promoted by people who are not even vegans or who go out of their way to say that personhood is linked to characteristics beyond sentience and that other animals who are sentient but don’t have these “special” (i.e., humanlike) characteristics don’t count as persons.
The Regulationists: “Welfare Reform Campaigns Don’t Signal Approval of Consuming Animal Products”
Not only do regulationists campaign for improvements in the infringement of a basic right, they claim not to put a seal of approval on the more “humane” or “improved” exploitation that (supposedly) results from implementing the reform.
The short reply: that is just nonsense.
How could their campaigns not put a seal of approval on the resulting, supposedly “better” forms of exploitation?
Let me state this as simply as I can but it must be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a second: When you promote cage-free eggs or crate-free pork or any “happy” animal products–flesh or otherwise–as the “compassionate” choice or the “right” thing; when you sponsor or promote or praise “happy exploitation” labels; when you give awards to exploiters; when you issue public letters praising them; when you celebrate them on the front covers of magazines and on social media websites by asking your supporters to give them “kudos” or “props”, you are putting a stamp of approval on supposedly more “gentle” animal exploitation. And it is absurd to suggest otherwise.
Question: When someone sees the Whole Foods ad for organic chicken for $1.99 per pound with an “Animal Welfare Rating” of 2 and checks out the Global Animal Partnership to see that it has the CEO of HSUS on its board, and reads that PETA, HSUS, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, etc., have all publicly expressed their “appreciation and support” for the Whole Foods “pioneering” program of “happy exploitation,” and has given Whole Foods and its CEO awards, what would that person think?
Answer: She will think exactly what any sane and rational person would think: that animal people, who are the “experts” and who have the animals’ best interests in mind, are expressing their approval of the animal products that Whole Foods will sell her; that she ought to buy those Whole Food products. She may think that these groups ideally would like her to go “veg” eventually but she simply cannot avoid thinking that the “experts” are telling her that she is behaving morally by buying the Whole Foods “happy” animal products.
Bruce Friedrich’s recent essay on cage eggs concludes:
So far, the only national grocery store chain to have banned the sale of eggs from caged hens is Whole Foods. The only restaurant chain to promise to ban them from their supply chain is Burger King (by 2017). These companies deserve plaudits for their progress. These types of cages will also be illegal in California in 2015 and in Michigan in 2019, and legislation to ban them will be introduced in Massachusetts soon (if you live in Massachusetts, check FarmSanctuary.org for updates).
At Farm Sanctuary, we spend our lives with farm animals, and we wouldn’t eat them or their eggs under any circumstances. We recoil at the abuse of hens in all systems, including cage-free and colony cage conditions. But we also work to abolish the very worst abuses of farm animals, and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than the tiny, barren, cramped battery cages where 250 million hens currently are forced to spend their lives.
Battery cages have to go.
Putting aside that Friedrich is now campaigning, with HSUS, for national legislation that would make the “enriched” battery cage the national standard, his message is still terribly confused. As someone commented:
Okay, so exactly what should I do first…stop supporting the killing of chickens by going vegan or write my thank you letter to Burger King and Whole Foods for continuing to support the killing of chickens?
Exactly. The message Friedrich sends is that not eating eggs at all is some ideal position and that there are incremental steps, such as cage-free or “enriched” battery cage eggs, that are morally acceptable.
Last fall, PETA claimed to not endorse “happy exploitation.” But, as I pointed out, the disclaimer rings hollow when PETA is busy engaging in all sorts of partnerships with institutional exploiters, praising them, giving them awards, etc.
And the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program is not the only one out there that is promoted by animal advocates. There are other similar schemes.
For example, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), with its partners HSUS, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and others, promotes the “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label.
According to the Overview:
Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is the leading non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.
This is not an “approval” of the products bearing the Certified Humane label. Really? I disagree.
The Humane Society International, an arm of HSUS, has launched a “Humane Choice” label in Australia that it claims “will guarantee the consumer that the animal has been treated with respect and care, from birth through to death.”
According to HSI/HSUS:
With the recent publicity on free range produce and humane food labelling claims, this important initiative could not be more timely. The Humane Choice label will initially cover free range pastured beef, pork, lamb, chicken and eggs and will guarantee the consumer that the animal has been treated with respect and care, from birth through to death. This philosophy can be applied to the entire farm with these shared values for all farm animal in the Humane Choice accreditation program.
The Humane Choice True Free Range label will denote the animal has had the best life and death offered to any farm animal. They basically live their lives as they would have done on Old McDonald’s farm, *born and raised on pastures and being allowed to satisfy their behavioural needs, to forage and move untethered and uncaged, with free access to outside areas from birth, shade when it’s hot, shelter when it’s cold, with a good diet and a humane death.
This is not an “approval” of the products bearing the Humane Choice label? Really? I disagree.
The RSPCA in Britain has the Freedom Food label, which is “the RSPCA’s farm assurance and food labelling scheme. It aims to improve the welfare of animals farmed for our food. Freedom Food assesses farms to the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards and if they meet every standard they can use the Freedom Food label on their product” and is “the only farm assurance scheme to be recognised at both UK and EU levels as a mark of higher animal welfare.”
Freedom Food “is the RSPCA’s farm assurance and food labelling scheme, the only farm assurance scheme to be recognised at both UK and EU levels as a mark of higher animal welfare.”
The RSPCA states:
We know that the majority of people – more than 70% – are concerned about farm animal welfare* but knowing what to do can be hard, so we work with retailers, (supermarkets, convenience stores, farm shops) to increase visibility of Freedom Food at point of sale . We also work with food brands, chefs, restaurant owners and food service companies to encourage them to buy from Freedom Food approved farms or to help them bring their suppliers up to Freedom Food approved status so it is easy for us as shoppers to choose the higher welfare option.
This is not an “approval” of the products bearing the Freedom Food label? Really? I disagree.
The RSPCA, as a more traditional welfarist organization, would probably not disagree that they are literally approving of eating animal products. But the point is that there’s a whole industry out there of animal advocates who are encouraging people to believe that there are “happy” animal products and that people who care about animals ought to consume those products with a more (the RSPCA) or less (Farm Sanctuary, PeTA, Mercy For Animals, HSUS) clear conscience. Instead of challenging the idea that humans should be consuming animal products at all, these animal organizations reinforce the idea that humans can consume animal products as long as we treat animals “humanely.”
CIWF gives a wide range of awards for “happy” chicken, pigs, dairy, etc:
Through our Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards programme, we engage and reward market leading food companies across Europe for their current policies or commitments that result in positive impacts on farm animal welfare in their supply chains.
We have run our flagship scheme, the Good Egg Award, since 2007 to celebrate companies that source only cage-free eggs. We have now expanded the scheme by launching the Good Chicken Award in 2010, the Good Dairy Award in 2011 and the Good Pig Award in 2012.
We reward companies that are committing to implementing substantial changes and making progress in their sourcing of meat, eggs and dairy products by working collaboratively with us to meet a specific set of awards criteria.
Here is a list of CIWF Award Winners. Look at this list. In my view, it’s breathtaking. It includes just about every major animal exploiter on the planet.
This is not an “approval” of the products to which CIWF gives its awards? Really? I disagree.
The welfarists are fond of using examples like Amnesty International promoting better prison condition for those on death row while they fight for the abolition of the death penalty at the same time. A prisoner condemned to death is a person who, having been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of her/his peers of committing a crime, has, under the laws in some places, forfeited her/his right to continued existence but has not forfeited her/his right to have all of her/his other interests protected. But again, Amnesty International is not promoting prison reforms as “pioneering” or placing any sort of normative stamp of approval on them.
But that is exactly what the welfarists do. And animals have not even committed any crime.
The Regulationists: “Although We Campaign for ‘Happy’ Slavery, We are Really Abolitionists”
Regulationists claim not only that welfare campaigns do not imply approval of the “kinder” products that welfare reform supposedly produces, but that these campaigns are really “abolitionist.” They claim to explicitly seek the end of all animal use.
The short answer: this is just nonsense.
In all of the cases discussed, which involve a large number of major animal organizations in the U.S. and Britain, animal advocates are not calling for the end of animal use. On the contrary, they are promoting schemes that they claim will help animal exploiters become more efficient and more morally acceptable.
The Global Animal Partnership, which has developed the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program that Whole Foods uses, works with Farm Forward, an organization that works with animal advocates and industry “to align the needs of corporations for efficiency and profitability with production methods that foster sustainability and animal welfare.” Board members of Farm Forward include Whole Foods CEO Mackey and “happy meat” author Jonathan Safran Foer. According to Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich, formerly of PETA, “Farm Forward has been absolutely essential to building PETA’s ability to influence and negotiate effectively with corporations.”
Imagine working with slave owners who profited from the slave trade “to align the needs of slave traders for efficiency and profitability with production methods that foster slave welfare.” That doesn’t sound abolitionist to me. In fact, it sounds like a partnership between animal advocates and animal exploiters to improve the economics of animal exploitation.
HSUS is having a program involving the Global Animal Partnership, the American Grassfed Association, and the Certified Humane Raised and Handled “happy” meat label to help farmers “add value to [their] product!”
So animal advocates are working with farmers to help them to “add value to [their] product!”.
Please do not tell me that welfare reform is not about making the industry more profitable or that any of this is abolitionist. On the contrary.
Those who promote the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label state:
It seems like nearly every week a new, high profile book, movie, TV story or newspaper article raises questions about how food animals are treated. As a result, consumer interest in products from animals raised to humane care standards has surged.
The Certified Humane® program is the best way for you to position meat, poultry, egg and dairy products to tap this growing demand. When you become certified, you get credibility from inspection by the independent nonprofit Humane Farm Animal Care. And you reach millions of potential customers through our humane society supporters and the extensive media coverage that Certified Humane® generates.
Our promotion and publicity reach millions of food shoppers. Our humane organization supporters have nearly 20 million constituents who make up the core market for these products. The humane organizations promote the Certified Humane® program on their websites, in their publications, in targeted direct mail and in animal shelters across the country.
Their constituents include advocates who recommend Certified Humane® products – your products – to friends and family. Many grocers are getting requests from these advocates eager to buy humane products and share them with others.
Your reach will extend beyond this core. Numerous publications have featured the Certified Humane® program including USA Today, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Time Magazine, Saveur and Self.
The Certified Humane® web site averages over 12,000 unique visitors per month. It provides information on what products are available and where to buy them. So more consumers, grocers, restaurants and food service operators will find you and your products.
Certified Humane® promotes the retailers who have Certified Humane® product in their stores. Due to demand from consumers who wanted to know where they could buy products that were Certified Humane® we created a searchable data base on our website:
• “ Where to Buy” section of our website; receives more than 12,000 new unique visitors per month, and 11,000 returning visitors each month.
• Frequent email “shout outs” letting consumers know about specific retailers who carry more than one Certified Humane® product.
This doesn’t sound very abolitionist to me. In fact, it sounds like a partnership between animal advocates and animal exploiters to improve the economics of animal exploitation.
The RSPCA promotes the economic benefits of its Freedom Food logo, claiming:
Despite sustained economic uncertainty, consumer demand for higher standards of farm animal welfare has continued to grow. Independent farm assurance from Freedom Food could help you take advantage of this trend by differentiating your business from your competitors and adding value to your products.
“[A]dding value to your products”? This does not strike me as abolitionist. In fact, it would strike me as a partnership between animal advocates and animal exploiters to improve the economics of animal exploitation.
CIWF has an explicit partnership program with institutional exploiters called the Food Business Team:
Since launching in 2007, Compassion in World Farming’s Food Business Team has pioneered a unique partnership approach to working with the food industry with great results. Some of the world’s top food companies are on board and millions of farm animals have already benefited.
We have a team of specialist staff who engage with leading food companies, inspiring progress through prestigious awards and supporting products and initiatives which represent tangible benefits for farm animals, as well as innovative and competitive advantages for their businesses.
Our head office is based in the UK and we have managers operating in France, Italy and Germany.
CIWF is, in effect, serving as a public relations firm to support animal use by dozens of institutional animal users.
Imagine serving as a public relations firm to support slavery. That would not strike me as abolitionist. In fact, it would strike me as being in a partnership with the institution of slavery.
The fact that animal advocates who promote these campaigns may want or claim to want an end to all animal use cannot disguise the fact that these campaigns are anything but abolitionist.
This pig farmer, Joe Maxwell, is a Vice-President of the Humane Society of the U.S.:
According to Maxwell:
“At The Humane Society of the United States we support farmers and ranchers who are good stewards of the land and animals; as a fourth generation Missouri farmer, I am one of these farmers.”
Abolitionist? Not on your life. HSUS and its supporting groups, and this includes HSUS–Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and others–should be ashamed of themselves.
Animal advocates who support welfare reform often claim that they seek abolition as a goal; they claim to want to eliminate all animal use. But they advocate “happy” use as a means to the end of no use. This is similar to using war as a means to the end of nonviolence and peace. The welfarist who claims to be an abolitionist argues that “gentle” or “compassionate” or “happy” use is a morally acceptable means to the end of no use.
See the problem?
I maintain that “abolitionist” is properly used only if the means are consistent with the end and the means I advocate are veganism on the individual level and creative, nonviolent vegan advocacy on the social level. The end is no use and the means chosen to get to the end are no use on the individual level and advocacy of no use on the social level.
Conclusion: Would the Real Speciesists Please Stand Up?
Many animal advocates–the ones who promote welfare reform campaigns–treat the infringement of basic rights in a different way when humans are involved than when nonhumans are involved.
Why do we do that?
This is a complicated matter but, for present purposes, I think it is clear that the modern animal movement has accepted the idea that the primary concern is the suffering of animals and not the use or killing of animals. That is, because regulationists do not see animal life as having a moral value per se that is equivalent to human life, they do not see killing animals as a tragedy in the way that we think of killing humans as a tragedy. The primary problem is suffering. To quote Peter Singer, who is, in many ways, the primary architect of the regulationist movement:
You could say it’s wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious. Then you would have to say it’s just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me. I can’t accept that idea. It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day. I can’t think of that as a tragedy on the same scale as millions of humans being killed. What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future. That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it’s so tragic when humans die.
Singer and those who accept his views draw a line between killing and suffering. The latter matters primarily; the former less so or not at all. But if you don’t think that animals (or most of them) have an interest in continuing to live that is as morally significant as the interests that humans have, it makes perfect sense to support a campaign that seeks to make the infringement of basic rights more humane in the nonhuman context even though we would never do that in the human context.
But as I have discussed in my writing–both in my books, such as this one, and in my essays on this site, such as this one–we cannot maintain that the value of nonhuman life is less than the value of human life for the purpose of justifying the use of nonhumans as replaceable resources without assumptions that are explicitly speciesist, such as that animals are not self-aware in the same way that humans are, which is probably true, and, therefore, that their lives are of less value, which does not follow and which I absolutely reject.
To say that, for the purposes of being used exclusively as a replaceable resource, humans enjoy a different level of protection because they have a representational form of self-awareness, or to fail to recognize that sentience alone is both necessary and sufficient for deserving the right not to be exploited and killed, is speciesist.
In fact, I would call it “deeply speciesist.”
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
And never, ever buy into the nonsensical notion that we need to promote “happy exploitation” in order to get people to go vegan. It’s the opposite: the entire “happy exploitation” industry has one goal: to make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
©2013 Gary L. Francione