Fantasy #1: The Humane Society of the United States is not promoting the “compassionate” consumption of meat.
The HSUS caption with the Facebook post: “More great news for pigs! “Like” this to give props to these companies for doing the right thing. ”
So let’s support companies marketing meat and animal products that are doing “the right thing.” Think about that message.
And HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle makes it very clear that “happy” meat is a morally good thing.
I don’t think that everyone needs to adopt a vegetarian diet to make a difference. I think that little choices that we make — getting animal products from a farmer who is raising animals in a proper and humane way or reducing consumption by a little bit — all of these things matter. You don’t need to go the full measure in order to have an impact. One thing I don’t want is people to feel paralyzed, that somehow you’ve got to fit some orthodox regimen in order to be a part of this. Absolutely not. Little decisions that all of us make can have an enormous consequences.
You can have an impact by eating meat and animal products “from a farmer who is raising animals in a proper and humane way.”
So Pacelle is not only suggesting that products made “in a proper and humane way” are available, but that consuming them is consistent with treating animals as members of the moral community and caring morally about them.
Fantasy #2: People aren’t being confused by these sorts of campaigns.
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “Awesome news! I don’t eat meat, but even if I did, I would not buy pork from producers who use gestation crates. Way to go Ball Park Franks, Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean. It’s about time they stop torturing these animals until death.”
(They’re not tortured if they aren’t in gestation crates. That’s the bad part of a pig’s life. Everything else is just grand. By the way, the picture suggests that pigs are now roaming freely. No, the announcement is about the use of gestation crates, not the elimination of confinement.)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “THANK YOU SWEET JESUS!!!”
(I would think that Jesus would be insulted here.)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “yesssssss ! a victory !!! thank-you thank-you 4 the animals !”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “shared in maryland and thank you companies for doing the right thing hooray to Ball Park, Hillshire Farms and Jimmy Dean and let us get them all to join with you.The world will be a better place for all of us and the pigs. So glad to see this and hooray to Jane Velez Mitchell for letting us be aware of this and her fight against it. We love you Jane.”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “I’m Loving these companies…. please join the crowd????”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “looks like theya re having a good time”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “after seeing a pig like these rescue a goat from a muddy hole I have new found respect for them. Allway thought animals should be respected, especially if you are going to eat them!” (typo in original)
(So you should “respect pigs, especially if you are going to eat them!” Think about that for a second.)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “Awesome, its about time they gave a shit, thanks to people like us letting them know we will boycott the companies that are cruel to any animal whether we eat meat or not we will have no part of it!”
(Relax, everyone. No more cruelty at these three companies. How exciting! Call off the boycott. Have a sausage.)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “I am delighted to hear this news, pigs should be able to lead a natural life as should all animals instead if being confined in these gestation crates which must be torture for these animals.”
(Yes, indeed, domesticated animals who will be mutilated, abused in various ways, and eventually end their lives amidst the stench and horrors of a slaughterhouse are living a “natural” life. What a victory!)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “Love the piggies! No more suffering!!!”
(Absolutely. These pigs have a great life. The suffering is all gone!)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page (in response to critical comments): “There’s always someone looking at the down side of things. At least they can enjoy a small amount of their lives.”
(Yeah, stop being “divisive.” Jump on the HSUS bandwagon. Disagreement is not permitted.)
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “It’s so important to respect and not mistreat our food animals . . .”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean, God bless all of you and your business for not continuing to serve pork from industrial farms that treat their stock so inhumanly!! Thank you for having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and moral!!!! Bless you all…”
(Putting aside the fatuous praise for these companies, this person obviously thinks that these firms are ending intensive conditions generally, which is not the case. They are just stopping the economically inefficient practice of using gestation crates at some point in the future.)
Fantasy #3: This sort of campaign is not encouraging people to continue to consume animals.
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “I’m not a fan of pork, but if I were I’d buy these brands.”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “THANK YOU Ball Park, Hillshire Farms, and Jimmy Dean for your compassion in eliminating gestation crates! I’m back to being a customer!”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “I don’t eat meat, but I do tell my friends and family which companies are doing the ‘right’ things. Thank you to all of the companies that are making these moves to be more compassionate.”
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: Thank you Hillshire Farms! I can start buying your products again!
Comment from HSUS Facebook page: “now I know whose brands to buy!!”
Fantasy #4: Animal welfare reforms are wonderful because they help animals suffering NOW!!
From HSUS: “The Hillshire Brands Company today announced it is actively engaged in advancing … alternatives to traditional gestational [stall] housing and intends to have this solution in place by the end of 2022,” said Hillshire in its statement. The company continued by making clear that its “plan is to source all pork from suppliers who use housing that provides the animals the opportunity for adequate movement and comfort.”
Etc., etc., etc.
I found these comments in less than two minutes. As of the time I wrote this, there were almost 3100 “likes,” almost 400 “shares” and more than 150 comments, many favorable.
If anyone sees this as anything other than a breathtaking sell out of animal interests, I disagree.
I have been accused of being “divisive” more times than I have eaten broccoli (and I love broccoli) for criticizing these sorts of things. If it “divisive” to draw a line between what I think and this stuff, I am happy to draw that line and be divided from these campaigns and those who promote this obscenity.
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.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
©2012 Gary L. Francione
Postscript added September 22:
Here is an essay written by an HSUS executive and a “happy” farmer praising “happy” meat.
“H.J. Heinz Co. this summer announced that it is working with its pork suppliers so that mother pigs no longer are kept in cramped crates as they give birth to litter after litter of piglets. This is a welcome new chapter in a story that’s been unfolding for a long time.
When we teach our children about farm animals, we often employ old, familiar images: chickens pecking around in fields searching for bugs and seeds or pigs napping in beds of straw. These scenes are part of our agricultural heritage and at one time were an accurate portrayal of how farm animals actually lived. Unfortunately, these images and the reality of how farm animals now are treated on factory farms are radically different.
While a powerful agribusiness lobby fights to keep the industrialized status quo, an increasing number of consumers, farmers, retailers and legislators are taking a stand against the routine abuse of farm animals and agricultural practices that deny animals even the most basic allowance of movement. Our storybook image of farms may still misrepresent much of America’s livestock production, but we’re beginning to move in the right direction.”
So the “right direction” according to HSUS is a “happy” farm.
The authors of this essay:
Josh Balk is director of corporate policy for farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States and Philip Horst-Landis and his wife, Dee, operate Sweet Stem Farm in Lititz, Lancaster County, raising pigs, sheep and cattle.
Please note that the goal that the authors agree on is that we should move toward “[o]ur storybook image of farms.”
If you think that there is any doubt that HSUS is promoting “happy” exploitation as morally desirable, or if you think that the Balk/Horst-Landis essay is, in any way, consistent with promoting a clear message of veganism, you are in serious denial.