The Economics of Animal Welfare: Some Brief Comments

Some welfarists say that welfare reform will help animals because reform causes a price increase and that decreases demand.

This position shows that welfarists do not understand the economics of animal agriculture or of welfare reform.

Since most welfare reform campaigns address inefficiencies in the production process, many welfare reforms increase production efficiency so production costs can actually decrease.

If there is an ultimate price rise for any reason, that price rise generally usually does not affect demand because demand for animal products is often inelastic–demand is not very sensitive to price in a range–and the price rise generally does not go outside that range.

Moreover, if the price of an animal product goes up, that does not mean that consumers go vegan. Far from it. Generally, if someone cannot afford beef, they buy lamb or pork or chicken. If someone cannot afford chicken, they buy chicken pies or some cheaper form of processed meat.

And, in the end, the best that welfarists can do is help industry create niche markets, like Whole Foods “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating” happy meat, where affluent people can pay a higher price and get a stamp of approval from the animal groups that praise and express their “appreciation and support” to Whole Foods:

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Welfarists are claiming victory because, in recent years, meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped. They claim that this is because of animal welfare campaigns. There is *no* support for that and the far more likely explanation is that meat prices have remained stable or even increased and the economic slump is affecting the ability of consumers to buy the forms of meat measured in those surveys. Second, there is increasing concern about the detrimental health affects of animal foods.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

“But it took me 10 years to go vegan.” So What?

I never cease to be amazed by those people who say that we should not promote veganism as a moral imperative because they took a long time to go vegan.

What is the relevance of how long it took someone to see that going vegan was the right thing to do? Answer: it has no relevance whatsoever.

Frankly, I am not all that surprised that it took a lot of people a long time to go vegan given that none of the large animal charities present veganism as the moral baseline and they all promote welfare reform and happy exploitation to a greater or lesser degree. I routinely encounter people who have been vegetarians for 20 years and only went vegan after they encountered the abolitionist approach. Although these people were almost always volunteers with one or more animal charities, no one ever asked them to go vegan, much less made clear to them that veganism was a moral imperative–an unequivocal moral baseline. Indeed, most animal charities continue to promote vegetarianism as an alternative to veganism. That is not consistent with presenting and promoting veganism as a moral imperative.

But the point is that the the validity of moral principles does not depend on how long it took any particular person to recognize their validity. None of us would doubt this where humans are concerned. For example, if it took someone ten years to recognize that racism was wrong and to stop using racist epithets, does that mean that we should not be crystal clear that racism is wrong? Of course not. Would anyone suggest that we have “Racist Joke-Free Friday” to provide a “baby step” approach for those on the “journey” away from racism? Of course not.

Similarly, the fact that it might have taken some people many years to see that the moral status of animals required that they go vegan does not mean that we should promote “Meat-Free Mondays,” cage-free eggs, crate-free pork, and all of that other nonsense to accommodate those who are still on the “journey” away from speciesism.

We should always be clear that we cannot justify animal use and that veganism is a moral imperative; a moral baseline. If someone wants to do less than go vegan, that should be that person’s choice and never because we have put a stamp of approval on any form of animal exploitation.

And being clear about moral obligations does not mean judging people. I have many acquaintances who are not vegan. I do not judge them, but I am always clear with them that we cannot justify animal use morally and veganism is a basic moral obligation for us all.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

What? The Humane Slaughter Act is Not Being Enforced?

Farm Sanctuary has done a Freedom of Information Act request and has discovered that the United States Department of Agriculture is not doing a good job enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act and the problem is apparently particularly bad in Des Moines, Iowa.

WHAT? The USDA not enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act?

Come on, Farm Sanctuary. It’s well known that slaughter not in compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act occurs all over the country. And it’s been well known for a long time now, as this 2001 article from the Washington Post makes clear: Warrick, They Die Piece by Piece (2001).

And it was well known before 2001 and was apparent to anyone who ever visited a slaughterhouse.

The USDA couldn’t possibly enforce the Humane Slaughter Act in any meaningful way (even if that was even possible) given the billions of animals that go through slaughterhouses every year–any more than the Animal Welfare Act can be enforced to ensure that animals exploited in labs are treated “humanely.”

And even if the Humane Slaughter Act was to be enforced perfectly, the process of slaughter would still be unspeakably horrible for the animals who end their lives amidst the terror, noise, pain, and squalor of the abattoir.

And the Humane Slaughter Act was never really about anything more than preventing worker injuries and carcass damage anyway.

Bottom line: ALL slaughterhouses are hideous places. All of them.

There is no “humane” exploitation.

There are only welfare campaigns that are recycled again and again and again to literally sell the idea to the public that the problem is “abuse” in one place or another.

There are only welfare campaigns that reinforce again and again and again that the issue is a matter of treatment and not one of use–and that the solution is to donate to animal charities so they can do research and undercover work to reveal what is already well known and has been well known forever, and “fix” the problem by having a plant here and there fined or closed temporarily or even permanently as animal charities declare non-existent victory (and as production just shifts to another slaughterhouse).

There are only welfare campaigns that again and again and again promote the idea that the problem is the slaughterhouse, the factory farm, the livestock market, the individual worker or some other supplier of the products of death when the real problem is that we demand the products of death in the first place.

The problem is one of use and there is one and only one “fix”–going vegan and having a grassroots movement that makes crystal clear to the public that moral concern about animals means going vegan.

Let’s start educating the public with the right message–and not reinforcing the wrong one, which is what animal welfare charities have been doing forever.

This is all part of the same thinking that leads animal welfare charities like Farm Sanctuary to make public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” programs of happy exploitation:

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Although I do not question the sincerity of those at Farm Sanctuary, I sincerely believe that this is all wrong.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

“Kicking Animals is WRONG.” So Is Killing Them.

Animal welfare charity Mercy for Animals (MFA) has a new “undercover” video.

Guess what? They have discovered that animals are kicked and otherwise treated badly at livestock markets.

Imagine that.

MFA is outraged:

ScreenHunter_187 Jun. 25 07.54

Sure it is. But MFA, here’s some news: using animals for food–whether they are kicked or not–is WRONG.

MFA urges: “SPEAK OUT AGAINST ANIMAL ABUSE: Sign the petition calling on the Livestock Marketing Association to protect animals.”

The Livestock Marketing Association is going to “protect animals”? Really?

Once again, MFA perpetuates the idea that an industry that exists to kill animals to satisfy our palate pleasure can “protect” them.

Once again, MFA promotes the fantasy that there is an abusive and non-abusive way to exploit.

Once again, MFA assures the public that animal exploitation can be effectively regulated.

Once again, MFA brings out people like Temple Grandin–the queen of happy exploitation–to support their campaign:

ScreenHunter_186 Jun. 24 11.36

Once again, MFA pretends that the people who “abuse” animals are different morally from all of those who demand and consume meat and other animal products. The livestock market and, in particular, the workers at the livestock market, are the problem; the “bad people”–not those of us who happily demand and consume the products of that industry and who may even donate to groups like MFA so that they can continue to consume animals with “compassion” and “mercy.”

This is all part of the same thinking that leads animal welfare charities like MFA to make public statements expressing “appreciation and support” for “pioneering” programs of happy exploitation:

support1

Although I do not question the sincerity of those at MFA, I sincerely believe that this is all wrong.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

EAT LIKE YOU CARE–IN SPANISH!

EAT LIKE YOU CARE: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals is now available in Spanish.

COME CON CONCIENCIA: Un análisis sobre la moralidad del consumo de animales is now available on all Amazon sites:

U.S.; Spain; Mexico; Brazil; CanadaU.K.; Germany; Italy; Japan; India; Australia

You do NOT need a Kindle device to read the book. The book may be read on any phone, tablet, PC, or Mac with a free Kindle app.

Amazon allows you to send a copy of this to anyone with an email address!

Anna Charlton and I are grateful to Joanna Porter and Marianna C. Gonzalez for their very hard work in translating the book.

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

The Kapparos Campaign: A Good Example of What’s Wrong with Single-Issue Campaigns

On June 12, 2014, I spoke on a panel at the New York City Bar Association as part of a panel on Kapparos, which involves ritual use of chickens. An animal advocate, Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, gave a presentation in which she showed photos of the various abuses of chickens used in the Kapparos event. Kapparos involves holding an object over one’s head and saying prayers that are supposed to transfer one’s sins to the object. Some Jews use live chickens as the “object” of transfer. Karen and her group are part of a campaign to end the use of chickens as Kapparos.

An audio recording of the event can be found here.

Let me be clear: I oppose the use of chickens as Kapparos–or for any other purpose. And I like Karen Davis personally; I am glad that she was out there beginning in the mid-1980s trying to sensitize people to the plight of chickens, who are, with fish, the animals most exploited by humans but were often overlooked even by animal advocates. I appreciate that she promotes veganism more than many other charities do but I disagree with some of the welfarist campaigns she has supported and I am bothered by the anti-Kapparos campaign.

Why?

Nothing Karen showed in her presentation is behavior that does not occur as part of the process of slaughtering all chickens. For example, she showed pictures of what appeared to be Hasidic men holding the chickens in ways that caused them pain. But the only difference between how chickens are often held and handled at slaughterhouses, and how they are held or handled at the Kapparos event, is the fact that in the latter, it is Hasidim or other Jews doing the holding and handling. If these poor birds were not used in the Kapparos ritual, they would have been sent to the slaughterhouse and would have had the exact same fate.

This is a perfect example of what is wrong with single-issue campaigns: they encourage the idea that what some group does is worse than what the rest of us do. A single-issue campaign focused on fur lets everyone who wears wool or leather off the hook and gives them an excuse to hate or attack those (mostly women) who wear fur. A single issue campaign about the dolphins at Taiji allows people, many of whom are not even vegan, to engage in vile ethnocentric and xenophobic hate speech against the Japanese. A single-issue campaign against a squirrel-shooting in a rural community encourages people to call those involved “rednecks” and “backward” when they are doing nothing different from what any non-vegan does or supports. And a campaign focused on Kapparos gives people an excuse to segregate the Jews as “bad people.”

I think that the Kapparos campaign enables and facilitates anti-Semitism. I am not saying that anyone connected with the campaign or who supports the campaign is anti-Semitic. I am saying that the campaign effectively segregates Jews as morally different from all other animal exploiters. It’s functionally indistinguishable from anti-Kashrut campaigns or the Islamophobic anti-Halal campaign in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, I spent some time looking at the Alliance to End Chickens as Koporos site. I saw nothing that indicated that the campaign was a vehicle for promoting veganism, which is what was claimed when I raised concerns. That is,the Kapparos campaign is not maintaining that Kapporos is like all other chicken slaughter and that it ought all to be stopped because we cannot justify consuming animals. Rather, it is very explicitly seeking to segregate this practice as objectionable without recognizing that it is indistinguishable from what most people support and participate in if they consume chicken or other animal products.

As Vincent Guihan has noted:

If a group ran a crusade against Jewish methods of circumcision — and just Jewish circumcision — and then denied that the campaign was Antisemitic, I think most people would likely disagree and see this for what it is: a shameful, calculating and completely unacceptable campaign that further denigrates an already marginalized community in order to ingratiate the majority.Almost all single-issue campaigns actively encourage segregation. And that is not a good thing for humans or nonhumans.

Single-issue campaigns are, on many levels, a very bad idea. They serve one primary purpose: fund-raising devices for animal charities. This is not to say that animal charities intentionally embrace campaigns that they know to be counterproductive in order to make money. It is, however, to explain the practical motivation that helps to account for why such welfare reform campaigns and single-issue campaigns are chosen and the failure to see how counterproductive they are.

ScreenHunter_169 Jun. 13 10.24

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM ADDED June 16, 2014:

I respectfully request that if the Alliance for Kaporos continues this campaign, that it place on the Alliance website, and include in all future petitions, correspondence, and presentations, a statement to the effect that:

“The Alliance acknowledges that the use of chickens as Kapparos is not distinguishable from the transport and slaughter of chickens in non-religious contexts and the Alliance does not maintain that anyone involved in the Kapparos event is engaged in conduct that is morally more odious than those who engage in the slaughter of chicken in non-religious contexts, or those who consume chicken (or other animal products). Therefore, the Alliance promotes veganism and its opposition to Kapparos should be seen in that context and not as directed specifically at the community involved in this practice.”

This is not to say that I would then agree with or support the campaign. I would not. I am still concerned that such a campaign segregates a group and makes them the “bad” people for doing whatever everyone else does. I am only suggesting a possible way that may help to mitigate the problematic tone of this campaign and make clear that animal exploitation is not something others do and, on the contrary, is something engaged in by almost everyone.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDA ADDED JUNE 18/19, 2014

I have received a number of angry messages in connection with my concern about this campaign, including an accusation by a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos that opposition to this campaign constitutes “bigotry.”

Another animal advocate stated, in response to my concerns: “it’s best I think to focus more on acknowledging and appreciating each other, rather than criticism that can be hurtful and discouraging.” But that just says that we should be complicit in campaigns that facilitate discrimination and segregation rather than speaking out against them; we should be tolerant of intolerance. That is a call to ignore our moral responsibility. It is not acceptable.

Several advocates said that because the Kapparos campaign was being conducted by vegans who were opposed to all animal use, the campaign was really about veganism and wasn’t problematic. But that’s just wrong. If a campaign identifies some group as involved in conduct that is indistinguishable from the conduct that every non-vegan participates in (directly or indirectly) and supports, as the Kapparos campaign clearly does, then it is problematic in the ways I have identified. The fact that people involved in the campaign may be be vegan is completely irrelevant.

And watch this video that is on the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos site. Ask yourself if this is in any way promoting veganism.

An advocate claimed that because some Jews supported the Kapporos campaign, that “serves to dispel the notion that it promotes anti-semitism.” But that is also clearly wrong. It is like saying that the fact that some people of color oppose efforts to increase civil rights means that there is no discrimination that needs to be addressed.

Another advocate claimed that if anyone thought the anti-Kapparos campaign was sending a message that the use of chickens as Kapparos was targeting Jewish conduct in any particular way, the Alliance Against Chickens as Kaporos should not be held responsible for that “cognitive dissonance.” (I believe he meant “misunderstanding” as “cognitive dissonance” would make no sense in this context.)

Again, that is plainly wrong. Let’s go back to Vincent’s Guihan’s excellent example. If a group that was opposed to all circumcision had a particular campaign called the Alliance Against Jewish Circumcision, would it be a matter of misunderstanding if the public saw that as particularly about a Jewish practice? Of course not. The very existence of the campaign suggests that the Jewish conduct is the particular problem.

I am sincerely sorry that some animal advocates feel the way that they do and are just dismissing concerns about the Kapparos campaign in favor of the sacred principle, “thou shalt never criticize what another ‘animal person’ does even if it is plainly problematic.” That is nothing but cult-like thinking that is inimical to the existence of a vibrant movement for social justice. I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that many animal advocates are apparently oblivious to systematic anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination, including racism and sexism, and how many single-issue campaigns, such as the Kapparos campaign, capitalize on, and exacerbate, the effects of, these forms of discrimination.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM ADDED JULY 26, 2014

The Alliance for Kaporos has not accepted my suggestion that it place on the Alliance website, and include in all future petitions, correspondence, and presentations, a statement to the effect that:

“The Alliance acknowledges that the use of chickens as Kapparos is not distinguishable from the transport and slaughter of chickens in non-religious contexts and the Alliance does not maintain that anyone involved in the Kapparos event is engaged in conduct that is morally more odious than those who engage in the slaughter of chicken in non-religious contexts, or those who consume chicken (or other animal products). Therefore, the Alliance promotes veganism and its opposition to Kapparos should be seen in that context and not as directed specifically at the community involved in this practice.”

I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that this campaign is deliberately exploiting and promoting anti-Semitism.

Commentary: Vegan Education/Advocacy, “Forcing” Others to Go Vegan, and Animal Ethics as Involving Obligation and Not Choice

We are going to start podcasting again as time permits.

In fact, we are going to be creating a new series as “Vegan.FM.”

For now, it’s still the Abolitionist Approach Commentary.

In this Commentary, Anna Charlton and I discuss educating yourself so that you can educate others and the importance of doing education/advocacy in your community; the idea that vegan advocacy represents an attempt to “force” people to go vegan; and the idea that animal ethics is a matter of “choice” and not moral obligation.

It’s a short episode–about 15 minutes.

Join us:

Play

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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.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University

©2014 Gary L. Francione