Singer Approves (Again) of Animal Exploitation; Drayson on Vivisection in the U.K.

Dear Colleagues:

Two items of note came across my desk in the past several days:

First, Peter Singer, “father of the animal rights movement,” said in an interview:

PROFESSOR PETER SINGER: If we are going to eat animal products then I think there’s a heavy responsibility on us to make sure that the animals didn’t suffer. And that might involve a bit of going to local markets, or, at the very least, buying certified organic, given the present system.

And that will definitely be better than the factory farm production. I think those are options. I don’t think we should be eating nearly as much meat or animal products as we we’re eating anyway.

So by consuming locally produced flesh and animal products, or “certified organic” products, we discharge our “heavy responsibility…to make sure the animals didn’t suffer.” That is absurd. Locally produced or organic flesh/products come from animals who are tortured. Singer’s comment is no different from saying:

If we are going to molest children, I think there’s a heavy responsibility on us to make sure that the children didn’t suffer. And that might involve giving them a bit of chocolate.

And Singer adds that we should not be eating “nearly as much meat or animal products as we’re eating anyway.”

Peter, the amount that we should be eating is zero.

Thanks to Our Father for once again reinforcing that animal exploitation is morally acceptable.

Second, Britain’s Science Minister, Lord Drayson, noted that despite militant direct action targeting vivisectors, the number of animal experiments in the U.K. increased 14% from last year and a study

shows that just a third of British adults would like a ban on animal experimentation, while the number of people who now unconditionally accept the need for animal research has increased by 28 per cent since 1999.

The present approach is not working. And apart from the question of the morality of violence, militant direct action is doing nothing more than increasing the perception that animal rights is a fringe issue that is promoted by crazies who should not be taken seriously. But that should come as no surprise. In a world in which the overwhelming number of people think that it is morally acceptable to inflict pain, suffering, and death on 56 billion animals per year for no better reason than that they taste good, the public is not about to regard those who advocate violence against a use of animals that has been sold to them as “necessary” for their health as anything other than crazies. This frustrates serious discussion about the morality of animal use.

We need to shift the paradigm away from property status and toward moral personhood. And the only way to do that is through creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Commentary #16: Responding to Questions: Single-Issue Campaigns and MDA Opposition to the Abolitionist Approach

Dear Colleagues:

Several weeks ago, I asked for questions that people would like me to address. I received approximately 80 questions. I plan to do several Commentaries in which I discuss at least some of these questions.

A number of the questions that I received concern single-issue campaigns so this Commentary deals primarily with that topic and with the issue about why many of those who promote violence are opposed to the abolitionist approach.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Euphoria? For Whom?

Dear Colleagues:

In my previous blog post, Partners in Exploitation, I discussed the various labeling schemes endorsed and promoted by HSUS, PETA, and other animal welfare corporations.

Well low and behold, yesterday, I went to the local Whole Foods Market, you know, the one to which PETA gave the Best Animal-Friendly Retailer award, and I picked up a copy of the Whole Foods magazine, “Whole Deal.”

And there was a coupon for “All Natural Brown Cow Parfaits,” which are apparently combinations of different flavors of yogurt.

Yogurt? But doesn’t that involve animal suffering and death?

Not to worry. As you can see:

This yogurt carries the “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label. The Certified Humane Raised and Handled Label is the stamp of approval of an organization called Humane Farm Animal Care, which developed the label with its partners, including the Humane Society of the United States. The HFAC/HSUS label is described 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.”

The fine print on the coupon says that the Brown Cow Parfait:

“Meets the Humane Farm Animal Care Program standards, which include nutritious diet without antibiotics, or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.”

Please note that cow on the coupon is wearing a little service cap and holding a spoon in her mouth. So it’s all okay. You see, she’s willingly serving you this product, made from her suffering and death and the suffering and death of her children.

The coupon has “Euphoria!” written at the top. “Euphoria” is defined as a “sense of happiness or well-being.”

And whose euphoria, whose sense of happiness or well being are we talking about?

Perhaps the euphoria of Humane Farm Animal Care, which charges fees for its little stamp-of-approval? Perhaps the euphoria of HSUS, which promotes these “humane” products so that HSUS members and the public in general can feel warm and furry about eating the products of animal torture? Perhaps the euphoria of Whole Foods, who peddle “humane” animal flesh and “happy” animal products and make a fortune doing so? Perhaps the euphoria of PETA, who gives awards to places like Whole Foods so that it, like HSUS, can cash on the “happy meat” fundraising and encourage animal consumption?

One thing of which we can be completely certain: It is not the euphoria of the cow.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s incredibly easy. It is better for your health. It is better for the planet, which sustains all life. And most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

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

Eight Animals

Dear Colleagues:

This morning’s AOL News carried a story, PETA’S Euthanasia Rates Have Critics Fuming.

The story states that PETA:

euthanizes over 90 percent of the dogs and cats relinquished to its headquarters in Norfolk, Va. In 2009, PETA euthanized 2,301 dogs and cats — 97 percent of those brought in — and adopted only eight, according to Virginia state figures. And the rate of these killings has been increasing. From 2004 to 2008, euthanasia at PETA increased by 10 percent.

I checked the documents that PETA filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and confirmed that the AOL story is correct. PETA killed 681 dogs and 1620 cats. PETA also killed 51 “other companion animals.”

That’s a total of 2352 animals.

And PETA adopted eight animals. Eight animals.

That is a disgrace. “Euthanasia” is death that is in the interest of the human or nonhuman euthanized. Euthanasia is never in the interests of a healthy being.

PETA apparently shares Peter Singer’s view that a relatively painless death does not constitute a harm for nonhuman animals because, unlike humans, most nonhumans are not self-aware and cannot grasp what it means to “have a life.” In order to have an interest in your continued existence, you must be human. So those 2352 animals that PETA killed weren’t really harmed. They did not care about their lives anyway. Nothing was taken from them when they were killed.

What unmitigated, speciesist nonsense.

According to the Economic Research Institute, PETA has revenue of $31,053,316 and assets of $19,759,999.

How much of this money went for an adoption program?

How many PETA celebrities are promoting the adoption of PETA animals rather than taking off their clothes to “go naked” for the glory and relentless publicity and promotion of PETA?

Eight animals? It would seem that the office staff could have adopted more than that.

Combine this with PETA’s sexism, and its giving awards to slaughterhouse designers and grocery chains that sell “happy” meat and animal products, and it is clear that PETA is nothing but a joke, albeit, for the animals, a most tragic one.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

P.S. Added March 11, 2010:

Last evening, I made a comment on Twitter:

Temple Grandin announces that she is going to design “humane” facilities at PETA to handle slaughter of thousands of “rescued” animals.

This was obviously intended to parody the fact that PETA gave Grandin an award and they call her a “visionary” for designing slaughterhouses that PETA praises.

A considerable number of people thought that the comment was serious. I find it fascinating that PETA has gone so far in the direction of exploiting animals that people would think the comment was serious. That tells us a great deal about the confusion rampant in a movement in which “animal rights” means “we take in 2300 animals; we kill all but 8.”

By the way, I also posted this on Twitter:

HBO to retitle documentary on PETA’s Newkirk from “I Am An Animal” to “I Am An Animal (But Not One of the Ones We ‘Rescue’ and Kill).”

That was also said in jest although it, too, is a possibility, I suppose.

Veganism: Just Another Way of Reducing Suffering or a Fundamental Principle of Justice & Nonviolence?

Dear Colleagues:

It is important to understand that there are significant differences among those who regard themselves as vegans.

One important difference is between those who maintain that veganism is merely a way of reducing suffering, and those who maintain that it is a fundamental commitment to justice, nonviolence, and a recognition of the moral personhood of nonhuman animals.

The difference between these two groups is not merely a matter of abstract theory—it has profound practical consequences.

The prevailing position on veganism among new welfarists is that veganism is a way—one way—of reducing suffering. Understood in this way, veganism is no different than cage-free eggs or meat produced from a slaughterhouse designed by PETA-award winner Temple Grandin. These are, new welfarists claim, all just ways of reducing suffering. If X chooses to reduce suffering by being a vegan, great; if Y chooses to reduce suffering by eating cage-free eggs, great. If X decides to reduce suffering on Monday by eating no animal products and on Tuesday by eating “humanely” produced animal products, that’s fine. To maintain that, as a moral matter, X should be a vegan on Monday and Tuesday and every other day is “absolutist,” “fundamentalist,” or “fanatical.”

People like Peter Singer, and groups like “Vegan” Outreach and PETA maintain this position. For example, Singer maintains that being a “conscientious omnivore” is a “defensible ethical position.” He claims that being a consistent vegan is “fanatical.” Singer labels himself a “flexible vegan” who will be non-vegan when it is convenient. He mentions eating free-range eggs and dairy. He talks about the “luxury” of eating meat and other products from animals who have been well treated, in his view, and killed “humanely.” PETA claims that adherence to veganism as a matter of principle is a matter of “personal purity,” “narcissistic cultural fad,” and “fanatical obsession.” “Vegan” Outreach makes the emphasis on suffering clear and downplays the use of animals in claiming that veganism:

is not an end in itself. It is not a dogma or religion, nor a list of forbidden ingredients or immutable laws—it is only a tool for opposing cruelty and reducing suffering.

A fundamental assumption of the new welfarist position is that killing animals does not per se inflict a harm on them. Animals do not care that we use and kill them; they only care about how we treat them and kill them. As long as they don’t suffer too much, animals are indifferent to our using them. They have no interest in continued existence.

It is this thinking that has led to the “happy” meat/animal products movement, which has been the most serious setback in the struggle for justice for nonhumans in decades. It is this thinking that leads PETA and Singer to maintain that we may have a moral obligation not to be vegan in situations in which others will be annoyed or disconcerted by insistence on veganism.

I reject this view. I believe that it is speciesist to maintain that nonhumans must have minds similar to human minds in order to have an interest in continued existence. Any sentient being has an interest in continued life in that she prefers, wants, or desires to remain alive.

We can no more justify using nonhumans as human resources than we can justify human slavery. Animal use and slavery have at least one important point in common: both institutions treat sentient beings exclusively as resources of others. That cannot be justified with respect to humans; it cannot be justified with respect to nonhumans—however “humanely” we treat them.

The abolitionist approach sees veganism as the application of the principle of abolition to the life of the individual. It is our personal expression that we embrace the moral personhood of all sentient beings and we reject the status of nonhumans as chattel property. Veganism is an essential part of our commitment to nonviolence.

Veganism is not just a way of reducing suffering; it is what justice for nonhumans requires at the very least. It is not the last step in our journey to reject the moral schizophrenia that characterizes the human/nonhuman relationship; it is the first step. If animals have any moral significance, then we cannot eat, wear, or use them. A vegan is not a vegan only on Mondays, or only when it is convenient. A vegan is a vegan all the time. I would no more not be vegan just because my being vegan made someone else uncomfortable than I would remain silent if someone told a racist joke or harassed a woman because to object would make the perpetrator uncomfortable.

It is no more “absolutist” or “fanatical” to be a consistent vegan as it is to be consistent in one’s rejection of rape or pedophilia. Indeed, to characterize consistent veganism as “absolutist” is itself speciesist precisely because we would not so characterize our complete rejection of fundamental forms of human exploitation.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It really is easy. It is better for our health and reduces the violence that we do to ourselves. It is better for the planet and reduces the harm that we do to the home of sentient beings and to the ecosystems that sustain all life. But, most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do. We all say we reject violence. Let’s take what we say seriously. Let’s take an important step to reduce violence in the world starting with what we put in our mouths or on our bodies.

And remember, it’s not an impossibility: THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione