Partners in Exploitation

Dear Colleagues:

Making society feel more comfortable about animal exploitation and encouraging consumption are more often than not an explicit goal of animal welfare campaigns and organizations.

For example, many of the large animal advocacy groups in the United States and Britain are involved in promoting labeling schemes under which the flesh or products of nonhumans is given a stamp of approval. For example, Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), with its partners HSUS, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal People, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and others, promotes the “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label, which it describes as “a consumer certification and labeling program” to give consumers assurance that a labeled “egg, dairy, meat or poultry product has been produced with the welfare of the farm animal in mind.”

HFAC emphasizes that “[i]n ‘food animals, stress can affect meat quality . . . and general [animal] health’”and that the label “creates a win-win-win situation for retailers and restaurants, producers, and consumers. For farmers, the win means they can achieve differentiation, increase market share and increase profitability for choosing more sustainable practices.” Retailers win as well because “[n]atural and organic foods have been among the fastest growing grocery categories in recent years. Now grocers, retailers, restaurants, food service operators and producers can benefit from opportunities for sales and profits with Certified Humane Raised & Handled.”

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.” A product bearing the “Humane Choice” label assures the consumer of the following:

[T]he 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, being allowed to satisfy their behavioural needs, to forage and move untethered and uncaged, with free access to outside areas, shade when it’s hot, shelter when it’s cold, with a good diet and a humane death.

Whole Foods Market, Inc., a chain of supermarkets located in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, to which PETA gave an award to as Best Animal-Friendly Retailer, claims to be working “with our knowledgeable and passionate meat and poultry providers as well as with forward thinking humane animal treatment experts” in order to “not only improve the quality and the safety of the meat we sell, but also support humane living conditions for the animals.” Whole Foods also claims that “species-specific Animal Compassionate Standards, which require environments and conditions that support the animal’s physical, emotional, and behavioral needs, are currently being developed. Producers who successfully meet these voluntary Standards will be able to label their products with the special ‘Animal Compassionate’ designation.” PETA, Peter Singer, and other welfarist organizations have enthusiastically endorsed the “Animal Compassionate Standards.”

The RSPCA in Britain has the “Freedom Food” label, which is “the farm assurance and food labelling scheme established by the RSPCA, one of the world’s leading animal welfare organisations. The scheme is a charity in its own right, set up in 1994 to improve the welfare of farm animals and offer consumers a higher welfare choice.” The RSPCA provides “certification for farmers, hauliers, abattoirs, processors and packers and the scheme approves well-managed free-range, organic and indoor farms.”

The Freedom Food label “gives consumers the assurance that the scheme is backed by the RSPCA, one of the most respected animal charities in the world.” The RSPCA advises that consumers can show their support for improving farm animal welfare and higher welfare standards “by choosing products with the Freedom Food logo.” Producers can add value to their animal products because the Freedom Food label “differentiates your product and can give you a competitive advantage. Displaying the Freedom Food logo enables consumers to identify your products as higher welfare.” Producers also benefit because of increased margins, the development of a “niche” for “higher welfare” products that allows producers to “widen . . . [the] target market,” and “[a]ssociation with the RSPCA, one of the most well known animal welfare charities in the world.”Moreover, producers can “[g]ain credibility within the supply chain” and get other economic benefits, including cheaper farm insurance provided through the RSPCA. And the RSPCA will actually help producers to market their animal flesh and other animal products: “We use a variety of marketing tools including advertising, pr, website, exhibitions, sampling and in-store promotions. We also work closely with national retailers to develop joint promotional activities, undertake joint campaigns with the RSPCA and offer marketing support to our members.”

Another British organization, Compassion in World Farming is giving “Good Egg Awards” to companies like McDonald’s and praising them for using “cage-free” eggs. CIWF has an explicit partnership program with institutional exploiters called the Food Business Team, in which CIWF “engage[s] with Europe’s leading food companies, inspiring progress through prestigious awards and supporting products.” CIWF is, in effect, serving as a public relations firm to support animal use by corporations like McDonald’s and Unilever. And these corporations return the favor and praise CIWF. In statements posted on the CIWF website, McDonald’s acknowledges the “truly productive relationship” it has with CIWF and Unilever states: “The partnership has been challenging and constructive and ultimately helped to achieve the goals of both organisations and of course the objective of the brand-that of good (best) quality ingredients.”

It is clear in my view that these large animal corporations have become partners with industry to promote the consumption of animal products.

This topic will be discussed and debated in the forthcoming book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, which I co-authored with Professor Robert Garner, and which Columbia University Press will be publishing shortly.

And remember: THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione