My Dinner at Erik’s “Happy Meat” Diner

Dear Colleagues:

This past Sunday, February 25, I had a lovely chat with Erik Marcus from Erik’s Diner. Erik took the position that welfarist reforms are providing significant protection for animals and leading to abolition and I argued that these reforms are largely meaningless and are doing nothing more than making people feel comfortable about continuing to exploit animals. I also argued that an abolitionist movement ought to employ abolitionist means to achieve the goal, and that this means that we should focus our time and resources on creative, nonviolent vegan/abolitionist education as well as the hands-on care of individual animals. It was a lively discussion, which went on for about 2 1/2 hours!

Bob Torres at Vegan Freak was kind enough to make an MP3 file of the discussion for me to post. You may listen to the entire show at:

Erik Marcus Debates Professor Francione on Abolition vs. Animal Welfare

I hope that you enjoy the show.

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Goodall on Vivisection and Vegetarianism

In an article (February 19, 2007) in the on-line Spanish publication, El Mundo, Jane Goodall makes clear that she is not opposed to all vivisection and that although she claims to be a vegetarian, she does not think that it is “an option that everyone has to adopt.” I do not know whether she is a vegan, but as she continues to be a celebrity supporter of Stonyfield Farm dairy products, I assume that she is not.

In any event, here are two portions of the interview, which have been translated by Professor Jenna Torres of St. Lawrence University, who is also the co-producer of the Vegan Freak website and podcast and Maria Luisa Arenzana, a Spanish animal advocate who translates animal rights texts. This should put to rest any misimpression that Goodall is opposed to the use of nonhuman primates in experiments.

The translation:

Q: Do you believe that biomedical research with primates should be prohibited?

Goodall: Yes, it should be prohibited, unless there is a very clear justification that an experiment could serve to save human lives, for example in the research on diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I am not necessarily against all research with primates or other animals. What I do believe is that when an experiment is justified for medical reasons, it should take extreme care so that the animals suffer minimally. But we know that today it’s not like that. The reality is that the majority of laboratories are terrifying places.

Q: Are you vegetarian?

Goodall: Yes, but it’s not necessarily an option that everyone has to adopt. Nevertheless, if people feel it’s necessary to eat meat, I believe, that for their own health, they should eat the least possible amount, and they should always look for products from organic farms where the animals aren’t kept in horrible conditions and fed antibiotics.

Thanks to Professor Torres and Ms. Arenzana.

Thanks also to Jane Goodall, for making her speciesist position crystal clear in her own words.

Gary L. Francione
© 2007 Gary L. Francione

Some Thoughts on National Organizations

I was recently a guest on a two-part podcast on Vegan Freak Radio. In subsequent discussion in the comment section of the second part of the podcast and in one of the forums, the issue was raised about whether animal advocacy should focus on grassroots activities or whether the movement should be controlled by “animal executives” who determine the agenda of the movement and dictate it to advocates.

I had some thoughts about this that I shared on the discussion forum and that I want to share with you.

As I see it, there are two related problems:

First, although some national organizations are better than others, these groups for the most part promote campaigns that focus more on the treatment of animals than on the use of animals. That is, they characterize the issue primarily as how animals are used and not that animals are used. As long as treatment is the primary focus, the movement will chase the elusive goal of reducing suffering to make exploitation more “humane” rather than abolishing use by incrementally eradicating the property status of animals.

As I have argued for many years now, any measure can be characterized as “reducing suffering.” These measures generally seek to protect animal interests to the extent that it is economically beneficial to do so and, therefore, do not in any meaningful way recognize the inherent value of nonhumans. On the contrary, these welfarist campaigns often reinforce the extrinsic or conditional value of animals.

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“Human beings are all going to die, too.”

It seems that the animal movement is busy tripping over itself scrambling frantically for the best position to kiss the corporate posterior of Whole Foods Market and its CEO, John Mackey.

Sure, Whole Foods sells tons of animal corpses (fresh and frozen) and thousands of animal products. But have no fear, animal advocates. These are “happy” animal products. No less a luminary than Peter Singer, the so-called “father of the animal rights movement,” tells us that “Whole Foods has set up an Animal Compassion Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization the mission of which is ‘to provide education and research services to assist and inspire ranchers and meat producers around the world to achieve a higher standard of animal welfare excellence while still maintaining economic viability.’” (The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, 181) Now that’s radical, eh? The Animal Compassion Foundation is going to “assist and inspire” those who produce animal corpses to improve things to the extent that they can make an acceptable profit. In other words, we can sell them and make a profit, but you, the “compassionate consumer,” can feel good about it. Expect a revolution.

Whole Foods, according to Our Father, is an “ethical business,” (183) part of what Singer considers to be the “conscientious omnivore” approach to the exploitation of nonhumans. And Whole Foods promises that “[p]roducers who successfully meet these voluntary Standards will be able to label their products with the special ‘Animal Compassionate’ designation.” Yet another “happy” meat label, to compete with the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label and the Freedom Foods label. So many “happy” meat choices!

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“Happy” Meat/Animal Products: A Step in the Right Direction or “An Easier Access Point Back” to Eating Animals?

A recent BBC News Magazine article just caught my attention. It quotes school teacher Rachael Deacon stating: “I pay more to buy healthier food. I don’t want my animals to be slaughtered horribly or to have a horrible life.” Putting aside that Ms. Deacon thinks that there is such a thing as non-horrible slaughter, is her general concern a success story for the animal advocates who promote “happy” meat as an incremental step on the path to a world with less suffering and death?

No. She was a vegetarian for 10 years but now she has gone back to eating meat.

Deacon is a “conscientious omnivore” who illustrates the problem with the “happy” meat approach that has overtaken the animal movement. Large animal welfare corporations have created labels, such as the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label and the Freedom Food label, to make consumers feel better about eating animals who have been raised and killed in ways which, if applied to humans, would be regarded without doubt as constituting torture. Animal advocates give awards to slaughterhouse designers and publicly praise supermarket chains that sell supposed “humanely” raised and slaughtered corpses and other “happy” animal products.

This approach does not lead people incrementally in the right direction. Rather, it gives them a reason to justify going backwards. It focuses on animal treatment rather than animal use and deludes people into thinking that welfare regulations are actually resulting in significant protection for animals.

The BBC article, “Some sausages are more equal than others,” further illustrates this problem. The reporter, Megan Lane, tells us that she has been a vegetarian for 14 years but that she has “started eating meat again, but only meat from animals who’ve enjoyed a happy life before being slaughtered.” She says that when she became a vegetarian, “organic and free-range meat” was not easily available, as it is now.

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