Mary Bale, Michael Vick, and Moral Schizophrenia

Dear Colleagues:

Mary Bale dropped a cat into a dumpster where the unfortunate animal was trapped for approximately 15 hours before being released. Her callous act was captured on video and it was disseminated on YouTube. One report described the public reaction in this way:

The “cat bin woman” from Coventry became reviled around the world, receiving abusive phone calls and death threats from as far afield as Australia, after what she described as a “split second of misjudgment” – which was captured on CCTV and uploaded to YouTube.

Thousands of people signed Facebook pages claiming “Mary Bale is worse than Hitler” and calling for the “Death Penalty for Mary Bale” as she attracted newspaper headlines from “It’s a fur cop” to “Miaow could she?”

Bale was prosecuted by the RSPCA for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and was fined £250 but was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge and costs, a total of £1,436.04.

Think about this.

The RSPCA, which actively solicits and encourages the public to engage in inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on animals through its “Freedom Food” program (read 1, 2), prosecuted Bale for causing unnecessary suffering to the cat.

The public, most of which consumes animal products and thereby directly supports and participates in conduct that is in no way morally distinguishable from what Mary Bale did, condemned Mary Bale.

This situation is very similar to the one involving American football player Michael Vick. Vick pleaded guilty to dog fighting. He served prison time for this horrible crime and is still vilified by many people. It seems that Vick liked to sit around the fighting pit and watch dogs tear each other apart; most people who vilify Vick enjoy sitting around a barbecue pit roasting the corpses of animals who are tortured every bit as badly as Vick’s dogs. And both Vick’s dogs and the animals humans eat suffer and die for one and the same reason: human pleasure.

Both the Bale case and the Vick case are stunning examples of moral schizophrenia.

As a friend of mine said, “If we experience no horror and shock when we drive past a McDonald’s, what’s the big deal over Mary Bale tossing her property into a dumpster?”

And just as no one would propose that “humane” dog fighting would be acceptable, it is absurd to suggest that the “happy” exploitation of animals used for food is morally acceptable.

There is a simple cure for moral schizophrenia: go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism in creative, non-violent ways.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

The Friendly Face of Torture, Death, and Animal Exploitation

Dear Colleagues:

If you question whether animal welfare reform is in the interests of industry, look no further than the October 21, 2010 article in the New York Times about controlled-atmosphere stunning of poultry, which, as I discussed in an essay here in 2008, is promoted by PETA and PETA award-winning slaughterhouse designer, Temple Grandin.

From the New York Times article:

“When you grab a chicken, turn it upside down and put it on the line, it’s stress, stress, stress,” said Scott Sechler, the owner of Bell & Evans. “Our system is designed so that we put them to sleep without stress and we kill them without stress.”

Anglia Autoflow, the company that is building the knock-out systems for the two processors, calls the process “controlled atmosphere stunning,” but Mr. Pitman [owner of Mary’s Chickens] said his company was considering the phrase “sedation stunning” for use on its packages. Also on the short-list: “humanely slaughtered,” “humanely processed” or “humanely handled.”

The trick, he said, is to communicate the goal of the new system, which is to ensure that the birds “not have any extra pain or discomfort in the last few minutes of their lives.”

Mr. Sechler said the system was designed to put birds to sleep gently, in the same way that a person undergoes anesthesia before surgery.

To evoke that image, he wants to put the words “slow induction anesthesia” on his packages and advertising, which already tell customers that the birds are raised in roomy conditions with natural light and given feed free of antibiotics or animal byproducts. Customers who want to know more will be able to go to the company’s Web site.

Mr. Sechler said the system he chose, after years of research, was better than similar gas-stunning systems used in Europe. Those systems, he says, often deprive birds of oxygen too quickly, which may cause them to suffer. They are also designed to kill the birds rather than simply knock them out, something that Mr. Sechler is not comfortable with.

“I don’t want the public to say we gas our chickens,” he said.

And, of course, better treatment means better meat:

Mr. Sechler and others promoting the new system said that they expected the meat to be of higher quality because the birds faced less stress and also there would be less bruising and broken wings when they died.

PETA, which promotes the gassing of chickens, also maintains that gassing is in the economic interests of producers. In its Analysis of Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric Immobilization from an Economic Standpoint, PETA argues for the gassing of poultry, claiming that the electric stunning method of slaughter “lowers product quality and yield” because birds suffer broken bones and the process results in contamination dangerous to human health. The electric stunning method also “increases labor costs” in various ways. PETA argues that gassing “increases product quality and yield” because broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging are supposedly eliminated, contamination is reduced, “shelf-life of meat” is increased, and “‘more tender breast meat’” is produced. PETA also claims that gassing “lowers labor costs” by reducing the need for certain inspections, reducing accidents, and lowering employee turnover. Gassing provides “other economic benefits” to the poultry industry by allowing producers to save money on energy costs, and by reducing by-product waste and the need to use water.

This sort of campaign is doing nothing but making the public feel better about animal exploitation. Indeed, the large animal welfare groups have become active partners in animal exploitation by helping industry to put a little smiling happy face on death, torture, and exploitation while, at the same time, helping industry to make animal exploitation more economically efficient and profitable. If you are questioning whether “happy” meat is, and is intended to, make the public feel better about animal exploitation, you are not paying attention.

This “happy” exploitation nonsense represents a very big step backward. People are never going to go vegan if they believe that they can exploit morally. And that is exactly the message that the “happy” exploitation movement is trying to convey: we can continue to exploit animals and treat ourselves to animal products as long as animals are treated “humanely.” As Peter Singer has stated:

[T]o avoid inflicting suffering on animals—not to mention the environmental costs of intensive animal production—we need to cut down drastically on the animal products we consume. But does that mean a vegan world? That’s one solution, but not necessarily the only one. If it is the infliction of suffering that we are concerned about, rather than killing, then I can also imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and are then humanely killed on the farm. (The Vegan, Autumn 2006.)

The “happy” exploitation movement represents the promise of “compassionate” exploitation so that we may indulge in the “luxury” of animal exploitation.

That’s a “luxury” that animals cannot afford.

There is no such thing as “humane” exploitation and even if there were, it would still involve the unjustifiable killing of sentient nonhumans. Singer and his “happy” exploitation movement are not bothered by killing because they do not believe that animals have an interest in continuing to live, as I have discussed in other essays, including these: 1, 2, as well as in my new book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?, in which I debate the “happy” exploitation movement with Professor Robert Garner.

If you are opposed to animal exploitation; if you regard animals as members of the moral community; if you reject the notions that nonhumans are just things that exist as resources for humans, you have one choice: go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. If you are not vegan, then you are participating directly in animal exploitation. You don’t get off the moral hook by eating gassed chicken.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism in creative, non-violent ways.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Added October 26, 2010:

PETA put a press release praising Bell and Evans. PETA quotes Bell and Evans:

“We are pleased to once again lead the way for the rest of the chicken industry,” says Scott Sechler, Bell & Evans’ chair and president. “Animal welfare is a key component of our business; we put our money where our mouth is because it’s the right thing to do.

It should be noted that Mr. Sechler conveniently ignores that gassing poultry is economically beneficial for his business, as this PETA analysis shows.

And PETA states:

“By pledging to adopt a slaughter system that greatly reduces the suffering of chickens, Bell & Evans shows that animal welfare and good business go hand in hand,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman.

It’s all rather breathtaking. But then, PETA and Bell and Evans are partners in exploitation and it’s just business for both of them.

The only way that gassing chickens is good for Mr. Sechler’s business if he sells more dead chickens or he reduces his production costs or both. And it is clear that gassing chickens reduces production costs and an indulgence from PETA, Mr. Sechler can expect to sell more dead birds. And PETA proclaims a “victory” for the animals and then collects the donations that the public pays in gratitude for PETA making everyone feel better about eating chicken.

Bell and Evans wins. PETA wins. Only the animals lose.

And what about the principle that animal rights means veganism? Well, Ingrid Newkirk summed it all up: “Screw the principle.”

Go vegan. Unlike eating gassed chicken, it’s the right thing to do.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

A Welfarist Dream Come True: The Animal Abuse Registry

Dear Colleagues:

Imagine you want to find a single-issue campaign that will allow you to fundraise endlessly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that you (and, more important, your donors) can “help the animals.”

Imagine that this campaign will not require anyone to change their behavior toward animals. They can continue to eat steaks, drink milk, and wear wool or leather, attend the local circus and spend the afternoon at the horse racing track while, at the same time, they can feel good about being a “compassionate” person.

Imagine a campaign the very point of which is to define “animal abuse” so narrowly that just about no potential donor, however much meat, milk, eggs, cheese, butter, ice cream or whatever they consume or whatever form of legalized exploitation in which they participate, will be considered as engaged in “animal abuse.”

All anyone has to do is to support a completely meaningless gesture—with a donation, of course.

Look no further: I have the campaign for you: the animal abuse registries campaign.

Suffolk County, on the eastern half of Long Island, has created the the nation’s first animal abuse registry this week. This law will require that people convicted of cruelty to animals to register with the authorities or face jail time and fines. The Suffolk law is modeled on “Megan’s Laws,” which create registries of child abusers.

So now, we will be able to identify “animal abusers,” at least on part of Long Island.

But wait.

Will supermarkets in Suffolk County that sell the body parts and products of animals be on the registry? Well, no, because the sale of animal parts and products is perfectly legal. That’s not “animal abuse.”

And will those Suffolk County residents who consume animal products—those of us who create the demand for animal products in the first place—be on the registry? Well, no, of course not. Consuming animals is not a violation of the anti-cruelty law.

So just who is this law aimed at?

Well, according to story linked to above, there was the woman who tortured cats:

The law was prompted by a number of animal abuse cases in recent months, including that of a Selden woman accused of forcing her children to watch her torture and kill kittens and dozens of dogs, then burying the pets in her backyard.

It should be clear to you by now what the problem is here. By defining “animal abuse” as a rare, pathological behavior that runs afoul of the anti-cruelty laws—and that probably accounts for less than one millionth of one percent of animal use—we leave alone what is considered “normal.” We reinforce the notion that use is not abuse, that abuse only occurs as an exception to the rule rather than being the rule of every second of every day. Moreover, this law will also apply for the most part to situations involving the animals we fetishize—dogs, cats, etc. You know, the ones we love and regard as members of our families while we stick forks into all the others.

In short, this is a meaningless gesture that will serve only to reinforce the notion that it is okay to exploit animals as long as we do not “abuse” them. Indeed, it declares that our “normal” use of animals is not abuse.

It should also be clear why this sort of campaign is a welfarist’s dream come true: this is a campaign that just about everyone can support and that will make people feel self-righteous. Only “bad” people are animal abusers and they are in the criminal registry; the rest of us are “compassionate” people.

I can assure you that this campaign will be an unstoppable animal welfare gravy train. In fact, if you want to climb on board, you had better hurry; it’s already pulling out of the station:

Animal welfare activists hope the law, passed unanimously Tuesday in the suburban New York City county of 1.5 million people, will inspire governments nationwide in the same way Megan’s Law registries for child molesters have proliferated in the past decade.

More than a dozen states have introduced legislation to establish similar registries, but Suffolk County is the first government entity to pass such a law, said Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

PETA has already declared its enthusiastic support for the registry. Does PETA think that slaughterhouse designer and meat-industry consultant Temple Grandin should be on the list? Is she an “animal abuser”? No; PETA gave an award to Grandin.

How about Whole Foods, which peddles “happy” meat and other animal products from animals who have been tortured? No, because PETA (along with most other large animal welfare corporations) supports the “happy” animal products sold by Whole Foods.

How about animal organizations that have large budgets but that kill animals rather than have an adoption program? Are they “abusers”? No, PETA kills 90% of the animals it takes in at its facility so that cannot constitute abuse, can it?

How about people who consume animal products? Does PETA consider them “animal abusers”? That would be a bit embarrassing given that half of PETA’s membership, according to PETA Senior VP Dan Mathews, is not even vegetarian.

This proves my point that the abuse registry idea is just an attempt to define “abuse” as the pathological incident of torturing kittens and dogs in the backyard. But that is extremely unusual. It’s the daily exploitation by ordinary people, including that perpetrated, facilitated, and approved of by animal welfare businesses, that constitutes the real abuse.

There are 50 states and Washington, D.C., various territories, and hundreds of thousands of counties, cities, villages, etc. This is a campaign that has the potential to go on for decades and will have an almost unlimited shelf life for fundraising purposes. I can already see Walks for the Registry led by various celebrities, allowing every woman, man, and child to buy their way out of the class of “animal abusers” by making a donation to ensure that the real “animal abusers” among us are on some criminal registry while the rest of us continue to feel good about ourselves. I am sure that there are already plans to have media events with naked women wearing only pieces of paper with the names of registry offenders. Oh, the sacrifices that some will make “for the animals.”

And what about the Long Island woman who tortured the kittens and dogs? Isn’t it a good idea that we have a registry to identify people like that?

To the extent that the registry can provide information to shelters that will help identify bad risks for future adoptions, fine. But in a fundamental sense, the woman who did those terrible acts is no different from anyone who consumes animals.

You see, that person tortured kittens and dogs because she got some pleasure or satisfaction out of doing so. Was that wrong? Most certainly. But how is what she did really any different from what everyone else does? Most of us eat animal products and the animals from which those products were made were tortured every bit as much as the kittens and dogs in the Long Island case. But she’s a criminal and the rest of us, who support the registry and similar gimmicks, are “compassionate.” Go figure.

Several years ago (2007), I made the observation that Michael Vick, who served time for dog fighting, was really no different than the rest of us. He liked to sit around a pit watching dogs fight; the rest of us like to sit around the summer barbecue pit roasting the corpses of animals who have been tortured every bit as much (if not more) than Vick’s dogs. The only difference is that most people pay someone else to do the dirty work. But we enjoy consuming the products of exploitation just as Vick enjoyed what he did.

It’s all moral schizophrenia.

If you are not a vegan, go vegan. It is easy, better for your health and the planet, and, most important, it is the right and just thing to do. It’s what we owe other animals. If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Blessing Exploitation

Dear Colleagues:

If you promote being a “conscientious omnivore” as the “compassionate” choice, guess what? People will continue to eat animal products. They will continue to participate directly in animal exploitation and see nothing wrong with it. After all, the “experts,” the “animal rights” people have blessed their consumption of animal products.

If you promote vegetarianism as the “compassionate” choice, you are giving people the green light to consume dairy and other animal products. You are telling them that they are being “compassionate” as long as they only consume some animal products. That explains why we all know many vegetarians who have never gone vegan. Why should they when they are being told by the self-appointed experts that they have discharged their moral obligations to animals by being vegetarian? Why should they change if “animal rights” groups have told them they are being “compassionate”?

If you regard animals as members of the moral community, you stop consuming them. Period. Its not a matter of “happy” exploitation; it’s not a matter of exploiting them for some animal products but not for others. It’s a matter of no consumption; no use. All animal products, whatever they are and however “humane” are the products of torture and exploitation.

If you are not a vegan, go vegan. It’s easy, better for your health and the environment, and, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

“Unnecessary” Suffering and Death

Dear Colleagues:

We all agree that “unnecessary” animal suffering and death are morally wrong. If that means anything at all, it must mean that we cannot justify animal suffering and death by reasons of pleasure or convenience. But what is our best justification for imposing suffering and death on the 56 billion animals (excluding fish) we eat annually?

Pleasure. Convenience.

So the only justification we have is that which we agree cannot suffice. This is moral schizophrenia.

If you are not a vegan, you are participating directly in animal exploitation. Being a vegan is easy, better for your health, and the most powerful way that you, as an individual, can say “no” to animal exploitation.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

New French Abolitionist Approach Mirror Site

Dear Colleagues:

Marc Vincent, Meryl Pinque and Valéry Giroux have created a mirror site in French. I am delighted that French-speaking animal advocates will now have a site that is an exact replica of our original site.

Although there are sites that regularly present authorized translations of my blog essays in Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and although the English site offers our videos, Abolitionist Approach Pamphlet, and other materials in multiple languages, this is our first fully mirrored site.

Thanks to Marc, Meryl, and Valéry.

And, I would like to add that in whatever language you speak, the truth is the same:

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.

If you are vegan, then educate others in a creative, nonviolent way.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Viva! vs. the RSPCA…And Don’t Forget the “Donate” Button

Dear Colleagues:

In the wake of a controversy in Britain over the sale of halal meat, which involves exsanguination rather than stunning, and the comment by British new welfarist organization Viva! that, “Consumers can do their bit by boycotting places that persist in selling meat from unstunned animals,” I wrote two essays.

In the first essay, I pointed out that, in addition to jumping on the Islamophobic bandwagon being driven by reactionary media, Viva! was promoting a supposedly “happier” form of animal slaughter when it should be promoting the notion that the only coherent response to a moral concern about animal exploitation is to stop eating, wearing, or using animal products altogether and to go vegan.

Viva! responded and I wrote a second essay in which I noted that Viva! distinguishes between flesh and other animal foods and promotes vegetarianism as a morally coherent choice, characterizes veganism as difficult and “daunting,” sells vegetarian cookbooks with nonvegan recipes, and advertises vegetarian restaurants/inns that serve dairy products. In short, Viva! promotes animal exploitation of the non-flesh variety.

Well, Viva! has just issued an indictment of the RSPCA, which sponsors the Freedom Food label, claiming that the RSPCA is not properly monitoring things and “happy” eggs are not really “happy.” But Viva! is not telling us anything new. It has been clear from the inception of the Freedom Food scheme that it is nothing more than a marketing device to enrich the RSPCA and producers of “happy” animal flesh/products and that Freedom Food animals are tortured just as much animals whose suffering and death are not blessed by the RSPCA. Nevertheless, welfarist groups from the U.S., U.K., and other countries are falling over themselves in a frantic effort to form new partnerships with institutional exploiters that will involve even more “happy exploitation” labels.

Back to Viva! vs. the RSPCA. We have one organization that supports animal exploitation accusing another organization of supporting animal exploitation. I can hardly wait for Viva! to trot out some of its nonvegan celebrities to tell us all that RSPCA nonvegans are less “compassionate” than the Viva! nonvegans. Perhaps PETA can sponsor a “compassionate” mud wrestling contest between scantily-clad nonvegans from Viva! and the RSPCA. Anything for the animals.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Sure, “happy” animal products are not really happy (unless, apparently, they are served at a nonvegan restaurant promoted by Viva!). But you can help. Directly to the right of the Viva! indictment of the RSPCA is the solution: “Help us save animals. Donate to Viva!” and there is a space to put in an amount and a “donate” button.

Ah, yes, the standard refrain of all of the large groups: things are bad for animals but we can make it better. Send us money and we’ll solve the problem. We’ll “save animals.”

That is, of course, a fantasy. The only thing that you will save by clicking the “donate” button is the jobs of the people who work for Viva! There is one way to solve the problem of animal exploitation; there is one way to “save animals”: shift the paradigm away from animals as commodities that exist as human resources and toward the view of animals as members of the moral community, as nonhuman persons. But that will never happen—can never happen—as long as animals are sitting on our plates or are on our backs or feet. The paradigm will never shift in the absence of a strong movement of ethical veganism.

So you can help but not by sending money to anyone. You do not need a large group or a “donate” button. These large animal businesses are obstacles to change and not facilitators of it.

You just need your decision to do the right thing and go vegan.

Make no mistake about it: if you are not a vegan, you are participating directly in animal exploitation. There is no morally significant distinction between flesh and other animal products. There is as much suffering in a glass of milk or a piece of cheese served at some “happy” exploitation restaurant promoted by Viva! as there is in the flesh sold with some “happy” exploitation label. And all animals, whether used for meat or dairy, or whatever, and whether the products are promoted as “happy” or not, end their lives amid the noise and squalor of the same hideous slaughterhouse.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. Despite the negative proclamations of Viva! and many other large animal businesses that veganism is difficult or daunting, it is very easy. And however difficult you may find it to be a vegan, just think of how difficult it is for animals that you are not vegan.

Veganism is better for your health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do. Ethical veganism is a powerful way of saying “no” to animal exploitation.

If you are vegan, then educate others about veganism. Your own veganism and your efforts to engage in creative, nonviolent vegan education are the most effective ways to help.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Effective Animal Rights Advocacy—in Three Easy Steps

Dear Colleagues:

Do you want to be an effective animal rights advocate? It’s easy. Here are three simple steps:

First, go vegan.

If you regard animals as members of the moral community—if you reject the notion of animals as things—you really have no choice but to stop eating, wearing, and using animals or animal products.

You cannot reject animal slavery as long as you are a direct participant in animal slavery through your use of nonhumans as human resources.

Becoming vegan is the single most important thing you can do to help animals and to express your support for justice for nonhumans. Becoming vegan is applying the principle of abolition to your own life. Becoming vegan is saying “no” to animal exploitation.

It’s not a matter of compassion alone; it’s a matter of fundamental justice. Compassion may move us emotionally but veganism is the least that we owe to animals as a simple matter of moral obligation.

Despite that large animal welfare groups blather on endlessly about how difficult it is to be a vegan, that is simply wrong. Going vegan is easy; it is better for your health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s better for your spirit because it’s the morally right thing to do.

Second, do creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Try to talk to at least one other person each day about veganism. You’ll find that it’s easier than you think and that people are receptive.

Don’t fall into the welfarist trap of promoting vegetarianism. There is no difference between flesh and other animal products. Animals used for dairy are usually kept alive longer, treated as badly, if not worse, than “meat” animals, and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse anyway. Don’t promote “happy” cage-free eggs or “happy” meat or “happy” dairy. All of that involves animal exploitation. Don’t let anyone tell you that the public is too stupid or too uncaring to take veganism seriously. That’s elitist propaganda that allows large animal welfare groups to sell indulgences to the public by making people feel better about animal exploitation.

We can recognize that people will “get there at their own pace” but we should not ever concede that the “there” is anything less than veganism. Those who are not ready to go vegan will take whatever interim step they choose but at least the message that veganism is the moral baseline should be crystal clear.

Third, adopt a homeless animal.

There are millions of animals who need homes. We have an obligation to care for these animals. So offer a home to whomever you can: dog, cat, fish, gerbil, turtle—or a cow or goat or chicken—anyone.

Adoption is the best way to add love to your life at the same time you do the right thing by animals.

There you go. Animal rights advocacy in three easy steps. No big groups, no naked women sitting in cages, no merchandising of morality or selling of moral passes needed or wanted.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione