Animal Welfare Reform: Total
Denial, One Step at a Time
July 14, 2009
Angel Flinn Care2
"There is a
reason why human rights groups do not endorse 'humane' methods of executing
political prisoners, and why children's rights advocates do not collaborate with
the pornography industry to develop standards for films that make
'compassionate' use of runaway teens. To do such things is to introduce moral
ambiguity into situations where the boundaries between right and wrong must
never be allowed to blur."
- James LaVeck
Whenever discussions occur about the future direction of our society, there are
always differing views. But when the discussion revolves around an issue that
concerns the habits of individuals, a debate often devolves, sadly, into an
argument laced with personal attacks. In such situations, it can be hard to get
to the truth of an issue.
Sometimes disagreements occur because the core values people hold are very
different. However, there are times when they occur because of deliberately
perpetrated misinformation. There is one such issue that continues to
re-surface, and it revolves around the fundamental difference between animal
welfare and animal rights.
While many people believe they understand the key differences between the two
there are underlying truths that have been deliberately obscured,
by none other than those who profit from the continued legality of non-human
As detailed in numerous books and essays published by Professor Gary Francione,
creator of The Abolitionist Approach, the animal advocacy movement of the past
has, in recent years, been largely replaced by a different movement altogether,
that promotes a diluted, contradictory and confused version of the original
message. In his pioneering work, Professor Francione lays bare the hypocrisy of
a movement that seems to have all but forgotten its founding principles.
"The new welfarists have become
partners with the institutional exploiters to sell animal products. It is
nothing short of obscene that the new welfarists are developing labels, such as
the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label, the Freedom Food label, and the
Animal Compassionate label, to help the institutional exploiters to market
animal corpses and products. These efforts have nothing to do with the animal
rights or abolitionist approach. Indeed, this is exactly what the abolitionist
Discussions about terms such as 'cage-free', 'free-range' and 'humanely-raised'
have come to dominate the debate around ethical food options. Labels such as
these go a long way toward winning consumer confidence, especially when the
claims are backed by well-known animal advocacy organizations such as HSUS and
PETA. What further evidence that products are animal friendly could the
'conscientious consumer' ask for than the stamp of approval of the world's
biggest 'animal protection' groups?
In his essay, The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell, Francione
explains his objection to welfare reform efforts:
* First, animal welfare measures provide little, if any, significant protection
to animal interests.
* Second, animal welfare measures make the public feel better about animal
exploitation and this encourages continued animal use.
* Third, animal welfare does nothing to eradicate the property status of
* Fourth, every second of time and every cent of money spent on making
exploitation more “humane” is less money and time spent
Professor Francione provides substantial evidence to back up these four bold
statements, yet mainstream animal advocacy groups continue to largely reject the
abolitionist approach, in favor of efforts to regulate and reform the
institution of animal slavery.
This division is the cause of much of the conflict that the modern animal
movement faces. Weakened by the dilution and trivialization of its message, and
crippled by in-fighting, the movement itself seems not to notice that it has
come to a kind of stand-still, walking in circles around issues such as how big
the cages should be, how much sunlight a prisoner should have access to, and
whether death by gassing is more humane than electrocution; questions that only
serve to distract from the real issue, which is that we humans, for the sake of
nothing less than our very morality itself, need to rise above our desire to
feed on the bodies of other creatures.
In short, the animal protection movement, having lost sight of its goal, has
gone wildly off course, while the animal exploitation industry, no doubt, is
watching in delight.
But what many
people do not know is that this shift did not
occur organically, but as a result of a cunning and insidious PR campaign
executed on behalf of the animal food industry. As part of a deliberate attempt
to co-opt the values of the movement, the very language of animal advocacy is
now being used to further the interests of those who peddle flesh and blood.
Horrifying, barbaric and cruel practices are now being described as 'humane',
'compassionate', and 'cruelty-free'.
The remarkable essay by James LaVeck, Invasion of the Movement Snatchers,
published in late 2006, "asks its
readers to note how recent events in the
protection sector strikingly parallel a step-by-step plan of sabotage developed
by a PR consultant retained by the Cattleman's Association in 1991."
Does anyone remember 'Trust Us, We're Experts' or 'Toxic Sludge is Good for You:
Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry'? Authors John Stauber and
Sheldon Rampton have made it their business to expose the dealings of MBD, a PR
firm "involved in the dismantlement
of citizen movements concerned about problems ranging from acid rain, dioxin,
biotechnology and toxic wastes, to apartheid, nuclear energy, endangered species
and oil spills."
With those credentials, who better than MBD to organize the campaign to
discredit and thereby conquer the movement to protect the interests of animals,
an effort that has threatened significant financial loss to the industries that
profit from exploitation and enslavement?
"You never know when a PR agency is
being effective; you'll just find your views slowly shifting."
– a PR executive
'Toxic Sludge' describes an MBD presentation given to the Cattlemen's
Association, where they outlined a plan to dismantle the animal advocacy
1) Isolate the radicals
2) "Cultivate" the idealists and "educate" them into becoming "realists"
the opportunists into agreeing with industry.
"The key to dealing with
opportunists is to provide them with at least the perception of a partial
It is the next part of LaVeck's article that is of particular interest here, and
might be somewhat surprising to readers:
"The widespread adoption of
'cage-free' eggs? 'Animal Compassionate' lamb? Uncrated 'pink veal'? Today,
these and similar developments are being widely characterized as victories by
organizations with reputations for staunchly opposing animal exploitation."
The Humane Myth website, where LaVeck's article (along with many others) is
published, shines a much-needed light on truths that have been obscured by the
propaganda spread by the cattlemen's PR firm, assisted by unwitting animal
advocates. Genuinely well-intentioned people, who truly care about animals, have
been sucked in by the alluring promise of frequent 'victories', and by the claim
that 'improving conditions' can help animals now, whereas to uphold the noble
vision of the abolition of use is to be 'unrealistic', and thereby abandon the
animals who are currently enslaved.
65 years ago, under the bold leadership of Donald Watson, there was a movement
born in response to the unethical treatment of animals used for food and other
human pleasures. The pioneers of this new movement had a clear, unequivocal
message: that our use of animals is fundamentally immoral, and that since the
industries in question exist to serve our human desire for unnecessary
'pleasures', there can only be one reasonable way to stand up against them: an
uncompromising and permanent rejection of their products.
Those early ethical vegetarians were awakening to a larger truth: that
our uses of animals are unethical – from dairy and egg production, to
leather, wool, fur, entertainment and vivisection. The simplicity of the message
was beautiful – those who care about the suffering of animals
to renounce their participation in cruelty. It is a joy, it is liberating
and it is easy,
because the individual who is awake to the suffering inherent in every form of
has no desire to
participate in it.
For all readers who are genuinely concerned about the suffering experienced by
animals used for food,
do not fall into the trap of believing that these 'humane' animal products are
an ethical option. These labels have been carefully created with the purpose of
covering up the extreme cruelty that occurs whenever animals are used for food.
For consumers who are genuinely seeking humane choices, there is only one
reasonable option – go vegan, and encourage others to do the same.
There have been numerous concerns about organizations like the SPCA not keeping
up with our changing times and attitudes towards animals. Recently the BC SPCA
was called upon yet again to provide only vegan fare at its fundraising events,
but it has refused, stating that they are “an animal welfare organization, not
an animal right’s organization.” It’s too bad that they’ve chosen to stay mired
in the past, while other animal advocacy groups and individuals are leading the
way in effecting positive change that benefits animals, people, communities, and
August 8, 2011
Making a Killing with Animal
What are Animal Rights?
exploitation and unnecessary human use; reforming the system; give a damn
New animal welfarism equals more
"humane" exploitation; the economic effect; SPCA welfarist; activism & economics
Read more on our Ethics
& Animal Law pages