Hogwash! Or, How Animal Advocates Enable Corporate Spin

It’s obvious now: Severe damage is caused by humanity’s penchant for treating the planet as our storehouse, and all living beings as our personal stock. As public awareness grows, companies sense a need to adjust. But they’ve managed, perversely, to use the need for change as a means to avoid it. Thus the rise of “greenwashing” — the appearance of cultivating ecological awareness in hopes of getting a higher profile for whatever they happen to be selling us.

Harrogate Spa, a bottled water company, says it will sell its water in lighter bottles to save plastic — avoiding the issue that we might reconsider our love for water in plastic altogether. Boeing is taking orders for what some call “green aircraft,” as though we could keep flying while the profit-driven aircraft industry solves, or at least ameliorates, the ecological damage.

Ranchers, too, are learning public relations techniques.

We know animal agribusiness plays a major role in global warming, and the resultant refugee emergencies and mass extinctions. Surely this means animal advocates are approaching their heyday as political leaders for our time. After all, who better suited to advise a concerned public on shifting our culture away from its current reliance on meat and dairy products?

Alas. Mainstream advocates aren’t taking the cue. On the contrary, they’ve made themselves a party to a new and ominous form of greenwashing. Allowing supposedly kinder, gentler animal farms to appear attractive, they have invented a new PR trend. One words fits: hogwashing.1

British and U.S. pig breeders are phasing out their smallest crates as they wrap their bacon and sausages in packaging that tells us how decent they are; and Waitrose, one of Britain’s major grocery chains, touts its milk as benefiting wildlife.2 Whole Foods Market boasts of concocting a non-profit “Animal Compassion Foundation” — and now presents sales of animal flesh as tantamount to a charitable undertaking, with the endorsement, no less, of 17 animal-advocacy groups. Similarly, advocates are promoting the use of “cage-free” eggs (a technically undefined term, usually meaning “expensive”) everywhere from the Google corporation to your local school. The eggs are so popular now that there’s reportedly a national shortage.

Ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s drew plenty of hype as the first major food manufacturer to announce it would (in a few years, anyway) use only “cage-free” eggs. At the same time, many chicken farmers say that popularizing the cage-free idea will likely mean crowding thousands of hens on shed floors, possibly leading to hunger, even cannibalism. Advocates may prefer to picture a victorious step to animal nirvana; yet all the while, plenty of animal-friendly companies produce desserts with no eggs — and, for that matter, no milk. The last thing such ethics-based firms need is competition from pious dairy vendors endorsed by animal advocates.

Then there’s Niman Ranch. This outfit exhorts us to “[s]erve with pride the world’s finest natural beef, pork and lamb” and had the audacity to show up and speak at a gathering called “Taking Action for Animals 2007.” Billed as the largest national conference of the animal-protection movement, Taking Action exemplified the trend to restyle agribusinesses as animal-welfare societies when “approved” purveyors of animal flesh held the microphone. A charitable organization called the Animal Welfare Institute evidently paid $10,000 to present this infomercial.3

In short, hogwashing offers the customer a chance to eat animals and advocate for them in the same bite. It need not mean people are eating less of the older, unholier products. Unsure if this trend is boosting the industry? Consider this: Wolfgang Puck’s branding consultant introduced the celebrity chef to the president of the world’s wealthiest animal charity.4 The branding expert, who formerly ran Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, saw animal husbandry as the key to a profile boost for Puck. Within a year, Puck unveiled a new handling plan for the animals who will wind up braised with a side of sautéed Spätzle.

Ultimate Betrayal

Viewing animals as commodities, even well-handled commodities, isn’t animal protection. The ultimate betrayal of an animal is especially stark after the being has been treated almost like a pet (like the animals at Niman Ranch, who, we’re told, are walked into slaughter by someone who knew them by name).5 To take animals’ interests seriously is to opt out of animal agribusiness.

When animal advocates acquire too much “maturation and sophistication” for that, they’re praised by the mainstream media for gaining “influence”6 — praised, that is, for accepting their culture’s corporate values so well. “Instead of telling it like it is, we’re learning to present things in a more moderate way,” one farm rescue activist told the New York Times. So only foie gras is off-limits (for now; an award-winning “ethical” foie gras is on the way). Every other animal product, it seems, is acceptable, under the “mature” advocates’ guidance. Even veal can pass these days — yes, there’s an uncrated version of little dead cows, as Wolfgang Puck was quick to ascertain, and activists now praise Puck for renouncing cruel veal producers.

Granted, “telling it like it is” won’t give you instant popularity. For the authoritative remark on that, the New York Times quotes the CEO of a cattle ranchers’ group who declares that people opposing meat are “so off the wall” no one pays attention to them. Unfortunately, when mainstream advocacy groups seek wealth and easy public acceptance at the expense of core values, they too consider anyone committed to those values as inconvenient.

Here, then, is an inconvenient truth: While some advocates play footsie with wealthy steakhouse owners, ice cream vendors and ranchers, the annihilation of the world’s free animals — caused largely by the dairies and ranches of the world — runs out of control. Wouldn’t a true animal-protection movement consistently support work that attempts to conserve water and wilderness and avoid boosting that which deforests and pollutes it? Another popular animal protection group has called Burger King’s “preferential option to chicken plants that slaughter animals in a controlled atmosphere” (that means slaughterhouses that contain gas chambers) “praiseworthy.” Gee. Wouldn’t a true animal-protection movement promote, say, juice bars?

Ah, but roughly 97% of the potential donors to animal charities eat chickens.7 Thus, few organized groups choose to risk their growth potential as the world’s forests are cut down for animal farms and animal feed. It’s easier for the heads of charities to maintain that a return to something like the old family farm will restore an “ethic” to our relationship with the planet and its life. And that’s how Niman Ranch managed to style itself as “taking action for animals.”

Setting a Precedent

Environmentalists rightly warn that the chemicals and pathogens which plague mechanized farms can also contaminate soil, water, animal products, and our own bodies. But ecological problems aren’t limited to high-volume producers. A cow on a pasture is still a cow, needing plenty of water and food — and somewhere to eliminate it all. All forms of animal agribusiness demand large quantities of fossil fuels and generate a potent mix of greenhouse gases. The free-range movement just spreads it around more. Nevertheless, some who are vegetarian for reasons of conscience or politics are “beginning to take that activism and shift it towards eating sustainable meat,” Reuters recently declared, quoting a chef who avoided meat for 20 years but now thinks the “grass-fed movement is the new vegetarianism.”

Such bizarre statements can easily find their way into print, given our culture’s traditional willingness to maintain our life-or-death authority over other animals. The least convenient truth of all? We must question our own authority if we would heal our relationship with our planet. We must learn reverence for life before life as we know it is gone.

Our present course is expected to extinguish half of all plant and animal species by 2100, according to biologist Edward O. Wilson. Even as you read this, free-living animals are being wiped out for companies such as Niman Ranch, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, and Whole Foods Market. Their habitat will be converted to hold living commodities, scheduled to die in a place where human workers are driven to perform dozens of soulless acts throughout the hours of their days.

And now that biofuels, along with animal feed, vie for space with food crops, we’re headed for a serious food shortage. This crisis will be exacerbated as the effects of climate change hinder crop growth, leading to riots and political instability. Given all this, what kind of precedent do activists in well-off regions set? Imagine what the planet would look like if everybody ate as much meat and dairy as North Americans.

Indeed, within just nine years, people in developing economies will expectedly eat 30% more cowflesh, 50% more pig meat and 25% more domesticated birds. Hogflesh and animal fats in general make up a quarter of the average caloric intake in China, compared to just 6% two decades ago.8 China’s now the world’s third dairy producer, and that’s a population that has long considered dairy products distasteful. Although research has linked the switch to a Western diet with heightened breast cancer risk, Xinran, author of What the Chinese Don’t Eat, says the “dairification” of China may involve admiration for Western customs. Even India, with its substantial vegetarian population, has seen chicken consumption nearly double since 2000. What appears to market analysts as an economic-development success story is actually a strain on our grain crops, Newsweek has acknowledged, because seven kilograms of feed go into every kilogram of cattle flesh.

We the people of the already affluent world, who have been able to make time for activism, ought to provide rational advocacy models, in which the point is not to accept animal use. Excellent models are available, from community gardens and co-operative vegan-organic farming projects to educational and culinary fairs exemplified by the tremendously popular London Vegan Festival.

Last year, the University of Chicago News Office announced the work of assistant professors Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin — work that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization soon accepted as a key study — with the headline “Vegan Diets Healthier for Planet, People Than Meat Diets.” These researchers have shown how vegans spare the atmosphere about a ton and a half of greenhouse gases per person per year, compared to omnivores eating the same number of calories. The university press office distributed its release accompanied by photos of the two scientists preparing fruit and vegetable salads on a kitchen-style countertop amidst their bookshelves — offering an inspiration to others to put conscientious culinary interests right in the middle of their work and thinking. Notably, Eshel was once a cattle farmer, but now cultivates an organic vegetable farm. Everyday activism like this will start people thinking that the fertile plains of North America, and the rain forests to the South, should be reclaimed from the feedlots and the vast monocultures of corn and soybean feed crops. As demand wanes and ranches are phased out, the pressure we exert on populations of free-living horses and burros, elk and bison, and the big carnivores too, will begin to ebb, while we cultivate something we’ve long missed: a feeling of living harmoniously with the rest of our biocommunity.

How tragic if we fail to see the opportunity. How tragic if the up-and-coming activists of China and elsewhere come to see animal advocacy as purporting to treat commodified cows humanely. Worldwide, the space used by six-point-six billion humans is vastly expanded as animals are bred into existence to be food. There is nothing sustainable, let alone kind, about it. So let us stop fantasizing and get to the point. What animal agribusiness is selling, we don’t need.

  1. James LaVeck, in “Compassion for Sale?” (Satya, September 2006), defined “hogwashing” as “the practice of generating the public appearance of having compassion for animals while continuing to kill millions of them for profit.” []
  2. Stonyfield Farm has partnered with various non-profits, beginning with Jane Goodall. Using packaging that described African habitats and animals, the company assured children they could be “planet protectors” by caring for the environment — presumably, in part, through Stonyfields’s dairy products. []
  3. According to the website of “Taking Action for Animals 2007, the largest national conference of the animal protection movement,” sponsors of $10,000 and above received the “[o]pportunity to organize one event or conference session” as well as two “premium exhibit spaces at Conference.” []
  4. See Kim Severson, “Bringing Oinks and Moos Into the Food Debate,” New York Times and International Herald Tribune, July 25, 2007. []
  5. Nicolette Hahn Niman, Taking Action for Animals, Washington, D.C. (July 2007) (audio on file with author). []
  6. See “Bringing Oinks and Moos Into the Food Debate” (note 4 above). []
  7. A series of surveys by the US-based Vegetarian Resource Group shows between two and three percent of respondents consistently avoid eating flesh products, and about 1.4 percent of the total population is vegan, avoiding all animal products, including eggs and dairy. []
  8. “Revenge of the Pork,” China Economic Review, July 2007. []

Lee Hall is legal director for Friends of Animals, an animal-rights advocacy group founded in New York in 1957. Lee can be reached at: leehall@friendsofanimals.org. Follow Lee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VeganMeans. Read other articles by Lee, or visit Lee's website.

66 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on August 29th, 2007 at 1:11pm #

    Given a choice between animal rights partly hijacked by cynical interests and no animal rights at all, I know which this animal prefers, and I suspect my four-footed brethern might agree with me! The great advantage of the hijacking, as with the rest of ecology, is that it has brought the core issue out into the mainstream and made it respectable. 15 or 20 years ago, no cattle man would have bothered describing anyone as “off the wall” and even if he had, no press outlet would have bothered to report it.

  2. Ellie Maldonado said on August 29th, 2007 at 7:44pm #

    Promoting “humane animal products” for “compassionate consumers” has nothing to do with animal rights. It’s a marketing tool that encourages consumption of exploited living beings, under the guise of regulations that can’t possibly be enforced. More so, the interests of non-human animals go far beyond larger living quarters, and getting killed with a minimum of pain. Respecting animals as personal beings, rather than resources, is essential to the health of our environment.

  3. Heather Steel said on August 29th, 2007 at 9:47pm #

    ‘Hogwash’ is a word we need to start using more often if we want to see the hogwashing stopped. Euphemistic language and behaviour only serve to perpetuate the status quo. Lee’s article does an *excellent* job of outlining the reasons why the recent trend to accept ‘less suffering’ in lieu of ‘no suffering’ is a dangerous one. I believe that many of the people who buy into the idea of ‘less suffering’ are well-meaning – though misguided. However, I don’t for a second believe that Wolfgang Puck and people of his irk have the best interest of the animals at heart. All that’s on their mind is $$$$. This is a dangerous combination when you have well-meaning people listening to people practiced in the art of hogwashing.

    If what we want is truly respect for animals, we will not accomplish this by supporting actions which do not demonstrate respect. We need to ask directly for what we want: if you feel you deserve a raise at work, you do not go about getting this by asking for a better office chair.

  4. Dustin Garrett Rhodes said on August 30th, 2007 at 7:28am #

    It’s sad to me—this new lexicon driving the conversation: “sustainable,” “humane,” “cage-free.” The public, quite literally, is eating it up.

    Of course it’s hogwash. And unfortunately, so called animal advocates are perpetuating the myth that any kind of animal product consumption can ever be humane or sustainable (or any other of those cliche, feel-good catch-phrases). Animal agribusiness does nothing more than perpetuate our fixation with death-culture—the unnecessary deaths of human and non-human animals alike.

    Thank you, Lee Hall, for challenging all of us: if we are truly interested in making the world a better place, this change needs to begin with our plate.

  5. Marie A said on August 30th, 2007 at 8:35am #

    “Hogwash” is almost certain to leave the reader in an awe of agreement or scurrying to find trite, age-old rationalizations for continued bad behavior. Lee Hall has a no-nonsense style of presentation and sufficient factual data to help one sort out areas that have become clouded with “hogwash”! In our frantic search for a way to better the earth and inhabitants, the answer is right next to us: Anyone who disagrees with the power of veganism by the end of this article should simply save time and admit that they just “don’t want to do it”. Thank you for the opportunity to read this brilliant piece.

  6. Dave Shishkoff said on August 30th, 2007 at 10:48am #

    Why must these false dichotomies be created? Why is a ‘co-oped AR movement or no AR movement’ the scenario presented in one of the comments? Does reality not offer better options?

    I think it’s important to recognize and admit that very little *actual* AR has been accomplished by the mainstream movement, and this is in great part due to the described co-opting of the movement.

    Further, why not envision and encourage activists to actually educate themselves and practice animal rights, such as Lee Hall is doing? Are these animals only worth ‘bigger cages’? Or are they deserving of actual respect and freedom? Should we not be armed with the best knowledge to advocate for this then?

    I’d also argue that where mainstream animal activism is currently standing is far from ‘respectable’ (i’d say ‘tolerable’ is a more accurate description), and i think it’s safe to assume that the industry is quite comfortable with how they’re shaping the movements of many of these activists — and on a disturbing level, they even get assistance from these mainstream groups in pushing actual AR advocates to the sidelines as they attempt to devalue our arguments and marginalize our position.

    If these things aren’t setting off alarm bells in our movement, i don’t know what will.

    Thank you, Lee, for explaining this issue so concisely!

  7. Tracy Habenicht said on August 30th, 2007 at 1:59pm #

    Thank you for such a great article!

    It’s so sad how Americans continue to ruin the only world we have.

  8. David Cantor said on August 31st, 2007 at 6:07am #

    By documenting and presenting so clearly the decay of what was once a burgeoning animal-rights movement into a flesh, milk & egg industry P.R. network, Lee Hall does an immense service for the animals and for people working to obtain for them the meaningful legal rights they need in order to have meaningful protection against harmful human practices.

    The “right” to crowded floors instead of cages for short, miserable lives before their throats are slit? That’s no more an animal-rights victory than it would be a human-rights victory for us to be stoned to death rather than burned at the stake for promoting animal rights. Promoting such a double standard belies claims of working for equal protection for equal interests without regard to species.

  9. Mary Martin, Ph.D. said on August 31st, 2007 at 6:20am #

    Until about a year ago, I was one of those vegans whose style of advocacy was not rational or honest. I did indeed tell people that, if they must eat animals, they should shop at Whole Foods (and this was prior to all of the new labels). I cringed, at least inside, each time I made such a recommendation, knowing full well that I didn’t mean it. Talk about hogwash! But I saw no other way.

    There is a way. It’s called honesty.

    Thanks, Lee.

  10. Chris Kelly said on August 31st, 2007 at 11:06am #

    Wow, I counted, among the nine previous posters, the word respect at least six times. Isn’t that what Lee Hall continues to emphasize. Animal use takes us in numerous and convoluted directions, but what I get from reading Hall’s books and articles is a desperate and unrelenting call for simple respect. Respect can’t coexist with enslavement and killing. I wonder why more so-called rights advocates and orgs fail to understand that compassion is almost always a back-end approach to a bad situation –not an efficient way to achieve what we really want.

    Those who work in concert with user industries, imo, truly need to be called animal husbandry advocates –this was suggested to me by one of our most thoughtful rights thinkers recently, and it was like a lightbulb going off in my head. For too long these people have used the term “animal welfare” when, in fact, it is not in an animal’s best interest to be enslaved, raped, and killed no matter how gently the process. I understand Hall to be supportive of caring for current victims of domestication while diligently working with only those activities which move nonhumans away from enslavement and toward respect and personhood. This article illustrates a very troubling movement which will surely benefit only user industries, including animal orgs who continue to make a lucrative living from the status quo.

    Thanks to Lee Hall for another insightful and informational article.

    Chris

  11. Derek Oatis said on September 1st, 2007 at 6:09am #

    Excellent piece, Lee.

    Perhaps even more troubling than the fact that the new welfarist movement has already begun to capitulate to corporate interests and destroy the animal rights movement while it was only in it’s infancy, is the fact that describing the exploitation and kiling of millions of animals as consistent with the values of “compassion”, “peace”.

    It’s bad enough the notion of animald rights is being perverted. The very concept of compassion, peace, and love is being perverted.

    Thank you, Lee

  12. Lisa Zalaski said on September 1st, 2007 at 6:20am #

    Exceptional piece by Lee Hall. This says it all. Today, we have those of us who refuse to support the ‘humane meat’ movement, being called ‘extremist’ by the major animal advocay groups……used to be only ranchers referred to us this way. Today, I find that acquaintances who still consume animals are more open minded to abolitionist principles than the everyday welfarist now is.

  13. Mike B) said on September 2nd, 2007 at 8:21am #

    Seeing through the attempts to humanely sell the Earth and the creatures who live here is essential. Consumer boycotts are fine; but what’ll really do the trick is taking, holding and operating the means of production for ourselves. Until we translate our moral outrage into organizing to abolish the buying and selling of the Earth and the animals who live here by socially owning the productive apparatus of the societies which we live within, we will remain relatively powerless, while the people who do own and control the productive apparatuses of societies will look at us with a mixture of disdain and interest—as potential markets for their incessant commodification, sale and profit of everything we consider sacred.

  14. Amy Carpenter said on September 2nd, 2007 at 5:26pm #

    Suffering: bad.
    Less suffering: better.
    No suffering: best.

    My way of advocacy is to try to explain all the issues. Just saying either, “buy free range”, or “don’t buy any eggs” (for example), without explaining why someone should do either, I don’t think is the best way. I assume the person I’m talking to is intelligent and can make up their own mind, given the facts.

    If someone says they’re going to eat eggs, I’ll say, buy certified free-range, because the hens get a better deal.
    I’ll also say, the male chicks are gassed or ground up alive almost as soon as they hatch, whatever the hen housing system. I’ll still say, the hens have been bred in recent years to produce far more eggs than is natural for them. I’ll say, the free-range hens are kept in much larger flocks than they would naturally prefer, causing them stress as they won’t find a pecking order, and the hens still suffer from a range of medical problems. I’ll say, even free-range hens are rounded up after less than 2 years, put into crates, and trucked to the same slaughterhouses as non-free-range hens. I’ll talk a little about the environmental and health issues. I’ll say, eating no eggs is best if you care about hen welfare, but certified free range is better than battery cages.

    After reading this article, I may also start to suggest they question whether we really have a right to use the hens at all, given that they are sentient, feeling beings, and in this sense much more like humans than many like to believe.
    But it’s so ingrained in our society that “animals are to use”, that this suggestion is gonna throw many people. It’ll be something they’ve never considered and as such may immediately reject. It’s asking people to step into a whole new paradigm. I don’t think basing our advocacy entirely on the “is it right to use animals” question is going to get us far enough quickly enough. For the animals, we can do better by explaining all the issues – whether people have the right to use them, is only one issue.

    (I’m also interested, if anyone has more experience arguing this issue, what arguments/evidence do you use? I know of Jeffrey Masson…)

    Fantastic article, thanks for making me think.

  15. Ellie Maldonado said on September 2nd, 2007 at 8:12pm #

    Hi Amy, I think the arguments and evidence are right here in Lee Hall’s article and in our discussion. They speak for a holistic respect of animals; for honesty; for not compromising our message to please animal users or increase a group’s bankroll; and for the health of our planet. That animals have a moral right to not be products is central to these arguments.

    I don’t think the suffering of animals is much reduced by free-range or cage-free farming. As you said, male chicks are promptly killed, hens suffer from a range of medical disorders, and they soon get killed. Add to that, they are still debeaked, and that it’s impossible to monitor how billions of animals are raised and killed.

    We would be unrealistic, imo, to think living beings can made into commodities and yet be treated “humanely”. As one poster said, this perverts the very meaning of compassion. So why support a myth that might make us feel better, when it reinforces animal exploitation; and while animals continue to suffer, makes industries and welfare groups rich?

  16. Amy Carpenter said on September 3rd, 2007 at 3:21am #

    Hi Ellie, you said, “That animals have a moral right to not be products is central to these arguments.”
    I don’t question this. I just wonder how to explain it so someone with no concept that animals have such a right? Just stating it is not going to convince many people – we need actual reasoning behind it. I think it’s a difficult one, but probably one we as animal advocates need to think about more. For me, I guess it goes into the realms of the spirit, especially a disdain for dominance. But to explain to someone who doesn’t think in those terms already…?

    If you had the choice to be a battery hen, or a free-range hen, which would you choose? What an horrific choice. But the systems really aren’t all equal.
    (I’m from Australia, here the certified free-range birds aren’t debeaked or otherwise mutilated – only those who are certified by a particular organisation though)
    I don’t support ANY animal farming. It’s not to feel better that I would say “free range is better than battery” – it’s cos I hope fewer hens will suffer in the more barbaric system. I mostly advocate for veganism, and for people to reduce their consumption of animal products. But if someone asks specifically, I’ll tell them what I know about each system, and try to explain that none is very good for the animals. I think for most people, knowing about how much suffering animals experience is more likely to get them to reduce/eliminate their animal product consumption, than being told that it’s just inherently wrong to use animals.

    I guess I don’t think that the “welfarist” and “abolitionist” points of view are necessarily mutually exclusive. I support a reduction in and eventual end to all animal farming, and also improved welfare so there is less suffering in the mean time.

    I’d even argue that it’s a bit of a moral luxury to have the stance that only the end of animal production is worthwhile. For the animals who are already suffering in dreadful conditions, and will do for many years to come unless someone tries to improve their conditions, it’s not going to help.

    However yes, I really don’t like that there are some organisations who are saying that just improved conditions are enough, as mentioned in the article. If they were saying, “these conditions are better than most, but animal production will always cause at least some unnecessary suffering, is inherently exploitative, polluting, wasteful, and entirely unnecessary for optimum human health,” I’d support what they’re saying. That’s what I always try to say, I guess.

  17. Ellie Maldonado said on September 3rd, 2007 at 10:38am #

    Amy, I think non-human animals have moral rights because they have self awareness– they perceive their experiences in relation to themselves and their environment; i.e., they are living beings with personal interests. Recognizing their personhood, and not just our own degrees of cruelty, means that we respect their right to be protected against exploitation.

    And as Lee Hall shows us, we ignore their rights at our own peril.

    You asked if I were a chicken, how would I prefer to be farmed. My answer is I would prefer to not be farmed at all. I am a thinking, feeling living being; and every part of my being tells me that my body and my eggs belong to me.

    So there you have it, Amy, animal ‘welfare’ and abolition are, I think, mutually exclusive.

  18. Amy Carpenter said on September 4th, 2007 at 12:46am #

    Yes, I think you’re right – it’s self-awareness. It’s the ability to know and to experience. This is why humans have rights – then since animals have the same sort of awareness and ability to know and experience, they must also have rights. A rock or a carrot has no awareness or ability to know and experience, therefore it has no rights.

    I still think it is a bit dangerous saying that there’s no point in advocating for improved conditions. I agree with everything else you and Lee Hall have said.

    Suppose there are human slaves, and they’re in atrocious conditions, made to work in terrible danger, not getting enough to eat, being beaten, etc. We try and try to talk the slave owners into releasing their slaves, but have no luck. We lobby the government. We organise rescue efforts, but there’s just too many to free them all that way.
    But suppose we determine it is likely the slave owners may improve the slaves’ conditions if we ask. We could ask for them to stop the beatings, increase the food available, improve safety etc. Then we can continue trying to win their freedom, by lobbying the government, raising awareness, etc.

    Wouldn’t the slaves thank us for improving their conditions, as well as trying to get them freed?

    I hope this better illustrates what I mean by “welfarist” and “abolitionist” not being mutually exclusive.

    The issue is with how to keep the two in balance. We have to work out how much effort and time we put into each side, for the best overall result – that’s tricky and very debatable.

    We have to ask ourselves:
    If we are trying to improve conditions, is it taking too much time and resources (and society’s attention) away from reducing or eliminating the slavery/farming entirely?
    But then is eliminating slavery/animal farming likely to happen anytime soon? If not, for the sake of the slaves or animals who are now being exploited, and will be for the indefinite future, is it worth spending at least some time trying to improve their conditions, and the rest of the time trying to reduce or eliminate slavery/animal exploitation? How much effort should each side receive?

    I’m also thinking it’s important to respectfully make it clear, whenever we are working for improvements in conditions, that we’d much rather see a reduction and eventually an end to the farming (or slavery). Keeping that possibility in the popular consciousness, working towards it eventually becoming a popular enough notion for there to be a stronger push within society to stop the exploitation. This would hopefully also remove the danger of the public thinking that welfare improvements are good enough.

    I feel these issues are something it would be good to discuss more, as an animal advocacy movement. If only to remember that neither approach (advocating for only welfare improvements, or only for total abolition) will deliver the best results for the animals in practice, but some combination each.

    For the animals, perhaps it would be best for those whose efforts are directed more towards the “welfarist” side, and those whose efforts are more towards the “abolitionist” side, can acknowledge one another’s work – maybe this would make the animal advocacy movement more cohesive and effective overall.

    Obviously the hogwashers who are in it for their own profits wouldn’t be interested in acknowledging abolition as a possibility – these people should be exposed (Lee Hall’s article is excellent in attempting to do so). But there are others who work for welfare, who are genuinely in it for the animals. These people, if reminded, would most likely acknowledge that abolition is best of all, and these people should not be grouped with the hogwashers.

    I waffle on. Sorry people.

  19. Lee Hall said on September 4th, 2007 at 9:04am #

    Thanks to Amy Carpenter and thanks to everyone who’s commented. Both the encouragement and the questions are most thoughtful, helpful, and sincerely appreciated.

    Amy, regarding your point that the animals would be thankful for improved husbandry standards, we suspect that while ameliorated conditions might make the consumer feel better, the captive being involved in such “victories” has no idea about such politics and such changes; the individual involved is used, and used up, and can hardly be expected to breathe a sigh of relief and thanks that the cage could have been slightly smaller. Moreover, as we’ve studied each of these compassionate victories we learn that the industry has consistently benefited from the adaptation. If a veal company states that producing less-stressed (the so-called pink or rosé) veal will make the product viable into the future — as they actually have stated — then one must wonder if more animals are harmed than helped through such husbandry adjustments. It is best to consistently campaign for opting out of animal agribusiness. As we succeed, the industry itself will attempt to make their offerings more palatable. Activists should avoid involvement with that.

    In 1944, Vegan Society founder Donald Watson envisioned people cultivating the acceptance of the ideal of non-exploitation, thereby abolishing vast industries and replacing them with peaceful, respectful methods of providing for ourselves. The core of animal rights theory hasn’t changed since then. It’s the forthright claim that nonhuman animals should be allowed to live on their terms, not humanity’s. Thus, animal rights is not dedicated to the rearrangement of the ever-changing rules and conditions inside profit-making industries. Although we need not oppose adjustments to industrial conditions, we do have the ability to work in a different sphere — and we do. Animal rights, in our view, will be found on the tundra, in the forest, in the oceans and in the air. It will ~not~ be found in the shop, lab, factory or farm. The situation of workers too would vastly improve in a culture that relinquishes its reliance on animal agribusiness and the vast monocultures and chemical industries needed to support it, and instead comes to value organic cultivation, natural fertilizers, and peaceable, meaningful occupations. And time is short.

    Handing authority to exploitive institutions (big or small) in order to get respect for the beings whose bodies they buy and sell never did and still does not make sense. When vegan activists consistently refrain from tweaking the Animal Welfare Act or asking for “humane” slaughter, and when we decline to follow the trend of constructing factory farming campaigns or departments, this is precisely why. We assert that the customary uses of nonhuman animals ought not be regulated, but ended. The point of our activism isn’t to seek and reduce various painful methods of using animal bodies as raw materials and destroying them when their usefulness ends. We are here to offer a positive vision: that other animals should be left free to experience their lives –with all the pain and pleasure, autonomy and uncertainty, risks and adventure that freedom involves.

    So it’s important to keep in mind that conscious beings, human or non-, are so much more than the sum of suffering we impose on them. If it were only about reducing their suffering, the logical conclusion could involve confining every last one of them and using our scientific know-how to devise methods of numbing them, turning them into zombies. Industry wouldn’t mind that at all.

    The writer most closely associated with the view that less suffering is better is Peter Singer. One interviewer recently asked Singer if genetically engineering chickens without brains would be considered an improved practice in agribusiness. Apparently in earnest, Singer answered, “It would be an ethical improvement on the present system, because it would eliminate the suffering that these birds are feeling. That’s the huge plus to me.” This attitude — that more manipulation, not less, is best for animal welfare — has a parallel in the promotional rhetoric of biotech itself, which, for example, has declared, “Because breeding the best possible stock improves the over-all health and disease resistance of animal populations, cloning should reduce animal suffering over time.” (See the FAQ page of the website CloneSafety.org, a project sponsored by three animal cloning and livestock genetics companies, “in cooperation with the Biotechnology Industry Organization and leading scientists.”)

    Singer’s reduction-of-suffering paradigm, as we’ve seen it develop over the years, is not “animal liberation.” If anything it has been an impediment to a straightforward movement directed to the end of exploitation. It can justify all manner of exploiting animal bodies, by making assurances that such actions don’t exceed some vague level of physical pain. This view offends rights theory, no matter what species of beings are being enslaved and commodified. It offers much leeway for human indulgences, and it appears to take for granted that Homo sapiens have and will keep certain prerogatives. It has reduced animals ~to~ suffering by influencing activists to regard the animal body as a repository of measurable pain. We can do better.

    In 2002 Donald Watson said, “We don’t know the spiritual advancements that long-term veganism — over generations — would have for human life. It would be certainly a different civilisation, and the first one in the whole of our history that would truly deserve the title of being a civilisation.”

    Certainly it poses a most radical challenge to the status quo, which has meant the commodification of life and its assumptions that some classes of beings should always be subjugated by their superiors. To begin, we should agree never to say anything that allows such habits to be deemed acceptable. Yes, I’m prepared to believe that some reformers may genuinely want the end of exploitation; yet as long as they are requesting husbandry adjustments, the listener is likely to sense that animal advocates themselves don’t believe an alternative to the animal business is actually possible. When they ask for what they really want, activists are most inspiring. It’s due to straightforward conscientious objection that “vegan” is in leading dictionaries today, and that, rather than relying on endless charity initiatives, we have a radical vision that respect can and will prevail.

  20. Ellie Maldonado said on September 4th, 2007 at 10:44am #

    Amy, I don’t doubt your sincerity and that of many activists who want to lessen the suffering of animals, but you seem to not understand these ‘improvements’ really don’t change the lives of animals, and they don’t encourage consumers to reject animal products. Quite the opposite. Animals still suffer, and many vegetarians have resumed eating meat, because now they are told they can buy “humanely raised and killed” animals.

    Before human slavery was abolished there was a paternalistic movement that sought to improve the lives of slaves, which was accepted by many notables of the day. Abolitionists, in contrast, believed the only meaningful way to improve the lives of slaves was by freedom. Rather than work for improvements– which gave tacit acceptance to slavery, as it does animal exploitation– they worked to end it. Slavery continued for well over a century, but they never compromised their goal. And where slavery exists today, I think most people would speak, not for improvements, but for freedom.

    So I hope you understand why I think activists have to make a choice between more acceptable methods of animal exploitation or freedom– because it really can’t be both.

  21. Chris Kelly said on September 4th, 2007 at 12:25pm #

    Ellie, I agree with you totally. I would only add, and I’m sure you’d agree, that advocates must carefully choose their activities to be certain that they are, indeed, working for abolition. A good example of this is the CHIMP Act. Almost all the major organizations, with the exception of Friends of Animals, supported it, citing “improvements” in the lives of lab primates. Lee Hall was one of the few advocates who pointed to the clause which allowed NIH to take back so-called “retired” primates. Along with FoA, she stood almost alone against all these orgs as well as the accepted “experts.” The claim was the same as it always has been with animal husbandry activists (aka, welfarists); i.e.: at least their lives will be better than before. At the end of the day the rich animal orgs spent PR dollars patting each others’ backs, and the researchers had a place to house potential victims.

    Organized animal protection can be traced back to the 18th and early 19th centuries. With all the activities and laws dealing with animal suffering, we now have factory farming, pet overpopulation, expanded research, and I could go on…. Lee Hall wrote (paraphrasing): “Animal rights advocates should demand what they really want.” Most welfarist activities are, imo, self-serving and impedimental to rights progress.
    Now we have the “green” movement with industry PR departments working overtime to cash in.

    I encourage activists to thoroughly research all potential activities to be sure they won’t be supporting user industries with their time and money. I would also hope abolitionists do the same when considering donations to so-called “rights” orgs, many of which are now working in concert with the users.

    Chris Kelly

  22. BrandonXVX said on September 4th, 2007 at 1:13pm #

    Lee Hall expresses a voice of reason that is crucial to confront the money and power embodied by welfarist organizations and industry (who are increasingly becoming one in the same) that stand in the way of justice.

    By advocating welfare reform we continue to legitimize the property status of animals. If we want to shift the paradigm from animal use to animal rights, we should have no part in regulationist campaigns predicated on “humane” treatment. It is a zero-sum game – any moment spent advocating reform is a moment not spent advocating abolition.

    As a vegan animal rights advocate, I want to end the human use of animals. Let’s be true to ourselves and stand up for what we believe – that animals are not ours to use for any purpose.

    As more and more people become vegetarian and subsequently vegan, industry will reform itself to stay profitable – we do not need to become its spokespersons.

    Abolition, not reform, is the solution to this unjust system. Let’s strike the roots that will bring it down by spreading an unequivocal and no compromise vegan abolitionist message. Justice demands nothing less.

  23. Ellie Maldonado said on September 5th, 2007 at 2:11am #

    I most certainly agree, Chris.

  24. CC said on September 5th, 2007 at 2:33am #

    Firstly, I would like to commend Lee Hall’s article here. When I read it, I was filled with thoughts of solidarity. However, as an animal advocate and vegan myself (rodeo is my activist “thing”) I have found it very difficult in real life to advocate to family and friends from a complete abolitionist stance. I have tried to engage environmentalists also.. and the greenwashing/hogwashing in those communities defies adequate description of apathy and ignorance.

    I would like to ask those of you engaging in this conversation how much ground roots/out-in-the-street advocacy you have attempted, and to share your experiences. The academic argument for complete abolition is sound and beyond fault, however, the masses are so brainwashed and apathetic, it is beyond frustrating to try and explain.

    My question is, how do we take the abolitionist stance to the masses and make it salient? Policy decisions usually follow on the heels of public opinion, so how do we change public opinion to turn the tide?

    In this way, I understand where Amy is coming from with the softly softly approach. I doubt we can achieve abolition without a firm welfare mentality behind us. Empathy tends to generalise, and the only thing stopping it is fear of the unknown. So many people claim to love animals, and would “like” to not eat them or use them, but the powerful lobby groups like the Meat and Livestock Association (MLA) of Australia are constantly flooding the media with poor science and big advertising expenditure. I do believe that most people really think they will become sick if they do not eat animal products, due to this horrendously slick media indoctrination. Respected dieticians are silenced, and in Australia, free speech is being silently squashed in favour of corporate protection. It seems that $$$ talk.

    I wonder if the real way to make change is for animal advocates to spend their money on buying slaughterhouses and farms, thus ending the cycle from the root cause. Abolishing the industry by buying into it for a loss. Perhaps instead of spending $$ on leafletting, we can accrue and use those $$ to out the institutions themselves. Really impacting on supply would drive the cost of animal products up, thus making them less affordable to the average person. Making any sense?

    Money makes “this” world go around. Are there enough of us to really make a difference? I hope so.

    Regards,

    CC

  25. Amy Carpenter said on September 5th, 2007 at 4:58am #

    Have no doubt, you’re all making me question very deeply where I’m coming from with my advocacy work. But I’m not convinced, and the reason seems to be, from a practical point of view, whether just giving the abolition argument is going to work.

    What do you do, in your own advocacy? How effective is it? Or, what ideas do you have, to foster awareness of the abolition argument, and/or work towards the end of animal production?

    I’ll explain a little about my own advocacy work.

    I do a lot of leafletting, giving out a booklet called “boycott cruelty – go vegan” which is very similar to the “why vegan – boycott cruelty” leaflet which Vegan Outreach in the US gives out. (Also a smaller leaflet about environmental issues.) From the title, you can tell it’s about the issues of physical and psychological cruelty. There’s actually nothing in the booklet about animal production being inherently exploitative despite whether or not the animals are suffering. (However I’m researching and working on an updated version for the next printing, and now thinking that may be something to include.) So I guess the title and content is almost implying that if we could end the physical and psychological cruelty, then it would still be ok to exploit animals. I hadn’t thought about it this way before reading this article and your responses.

    Nevertheless, I believe this booklet will make more people go vegetarian or vegan, than a booklet outlining the fact that we shouldn’t exploit animals per se, because it is immoral to use other sentient beings for our needs (without any ugly pictures and descriptions of suffering).

    Ultimately, the more vegans and vegetarians, the less demand for the products of farming (assuming with vain hope that the industries won’t just seek new markets overseas). Some people may be sufficiently outraged after receiving the booklet, to become animal activists themselves, growing the animal advocacy movement.

    I just can’t see that only presenting the one “it’s just wrong” argument, is as effective as presenting the welfare aspects too. I see it’s definitely important to mention that exploitation is wrong per se, but not as the exclusive argument.

    I’m also supporting a campaign to ban battery cages, I’ve written some letters etc. Lots of other people have been sitting in scaled-up battery cages in public places (the “human battery cage”, all around Australia, winning public and media attention. The campaign is not advocating an end to all egg farming, just the cage system. I know the people running the campaign are vegans themselves, certainly not advocates of egg eating, and there’s no doubt they’d say that no egg farming is better than free-range. However I think they must be assuming that most people aren’t going to stop eating eggs any time soon. I imagine they’ve considered what they’re doing from all aspects, and thought that in this case, they’re more likely to effect positive change for the animals, by raising awareness about the worst system and asking for it to be banned, than for a total ban on egg production. The welfare insults of the battery system are so outrageous, and the free-range system is significantly better from the hen’s point of view, I consider it worth supporting this campaign, so the hens that are exploited (no doubt that they are exploited in any production system) have a better life until public opinion starts to move towards the notion of ending the exploitation entirely. I’m concerned that the latter is not going to happen any time soon – however, yes, this is what I would like to hear your ideas about.

    What sort of work do you do, or what ideas for campaigns etc do you have, which will move our society towards the abolition of animal production (which is what it seems we all want, ultimately)?

  26. Dustin Garrett Rhodes said on September 5th, 2007 at 9:06am #

    I know this is going to sound simplistic, especially in response to some very real, legitimate questions many of you have posed. However, when you ask what one does to promote an abolitionist position, I always find myself coming back to the same issue: vegan food. That’s where I think the vegan revolution will begin.

    Over and over again, I find that it’s not theory or intellectual speak that convinces people to go vegan (although I do NOT discount the importance of either), but it’s baking them black-eyed pea croquettes and vegan sticky buns—some literal food for thought. As ridiculous as it might sound, I think all of us vegans should learn how to cook and cook well; we should share our delicious, satisfying and healthy meals with others—every chance we get. After all these years, I think it’s really what’s holding us back: the belief that vegans live a life of deprivation rather than abundance.

    I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with (non vegan) others about animal rights/abolitionism that ends with the concession that 1. yes, the position, indeed, is not only legitimate but also ethically sound and 2. “I simply couldn’t give up meat.” It’s a broken record.

    Food is activism. When the food is wonderful and interesting, I think the activism has the potential to be revolutionary. A lot of people can buy into the argument for animal rights, but too many aren’t sold on the food. The message is not subtle when the only thing I can order on the menu is a plain baked potato or pasta marinara. Vegans are constantly and inadvertantly reinforcing the belief that to live this lifestyle is challenging.

    We need to get cookin’.

  27. Dan Brook said on September 5th, 2007 at 10:32am #

    Thanks to Lee Hall for another thoughtful and important article and also to the many interested and thoughtful readers who commented. It is nice to see how respectful and engaged we are in multiple areas of our lives.

    If you found this article worthwhile, I urge you to read Hall’s book, Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror. It’s a slim volume that packs a wallop!

    Also, please visit my veg web site: Eco-Eating at http://www.brook.com/veg

  28. Joel Marks said on September 5th, 2007 at 10:59am #

    I am fascinated by this discussion. First of all, Lee’s article clarifies an issue that has long been relatively inchoate in my mind, and so I am very grateful to her. I think it is a superb piece, as does everyone else, and I am in complete agreement with her position.

    Meanwhile the subsequent commentary has also helped me understand the particulars of an issue I know in more general terms from my work as a philosopher. Do you folks remember John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism and Immanuel Kant’s deontology from Ethics 101? This is where the great welfare/rights debate was joined in earnest a couple of centuries ago and continues to this day unabated in academic circles. To see it now applied so explicitly to the matter of nonhuman animals does, I must admit, warm the cockles of my analytic heart. (Of course it is no secret that Peter Singer is modern-day utilitarian.)

    Being a Kantian myself, I am firmly on the same side as all of you. Among traditional Kantians, however, this can seem paradoxical, since Kant himself defended a very human-based ethics. As it happens, I myself am trying to work out a form of Kantianism that will include other animals essentially, and not just derivatively as Kant’s own version does. I’m looking at, you might say, an animal-based ethics.

    Why does such theorizing even matter? I could not help but notice the internal debate along the posters about what rational alternative there was to welfare other than just insisting that animals have rights or it’s wrong to treat them disrespectfully. That is preciously where theorizing comes in: the effort to provide an articulate foundation for these strongly felt assertions. Actually, I think among your set of comments all of the crucial ideas have been broached.

    If I may now make a different kind of observation. I cannot remember ever before having read such a right-on set of comments about nonhuman (and human) animals. But of course they evidence a real schism in the animal advocacy sector. As a relative layperson in this discussion, I am chagrined to learn of this deep division. It is like finding out that those rascally Islamics who hate the Crusaders consist of Shiites and Sunnis who hate each other even more! This will never do. Again, I am absolutely and totally on the side of the animal-rightists in this debate. But there has to be a better way to proceed than becoming embroiled in internecine warfare. I admit, however, to being stumped as to what it might be, given my own irascible nature too.

  29. Amy Carpenter said on September 5th, 2007 at 7:37pm #

    Dustin, I think that’s a great idea. Definitely something to concentrate on more!

    This reminds me, I wrote to a lot of restaurants (about 200) in Brisbane earlier this year, both by email and post, introducing veganism. It explained what we don’t eat, gave a comprehensive list of foods we do eat, mentioned how just about any recipe can be altered to be vegan, and asked the restaurant to consider including vegan options on their menus, offering help with recipe suggestions etc. It had some really positive responses!

    It was such an easy thing to do, bringing veganism more into the mainstream, and it’s something that people could do in their own cities all around the world. If anyone was interested in doing more of this, I could even send a copy of the letter and give some advice about what seemed to work and didn’t. My email is amwhyc @ yahoo . com . au (remove spaces first, just did this to avoid being spammed).

    Sorry again, I guess that’s rather off-topic. Still very interested in others’ ideas & opinions.

  30. Ellie Maldonado said on September 6th, 2007 at 12:38am #

    Hi Joel, I really wish there were a way to resolve this, but rights are based on respecting animals as whole and personal beings. Welfare (and can we even call it welfare?) is based on using animals as resources. How can it be resolved when one negates the other?

  31. Ellie Maldonado said on September 6th, 2007 at 12:39am #

    Great website, Dan.

  32. Amy Carpenter said on September 6th, 2007 at 6:21am #

    I guess I’m arguing that you can respect animals (including recognising their rights), and care about their welfare at the same time. Just like you can respect humans, and care about their welfare at the same time.

    “Welfare” is well-being. It’s about health and happiness, as experienced by the being concerned. Although sometimes the term “welfare” is used in hogwashing, to try to convince people that animals are being looked after well when in fact they are still suffering terribly.

    This I think is where we’re not understanding one another, just the definition of the term.

    Here’s a webpage
    http://www.animalliberation.org.au/henneed.php
    presenting an argument, well referenced, that hens really do prefer to be in the outdoors, than in cages. It negates the argument that the hens aren’t really better off in free-range situations than in cages. The studies cited have shown that the hens themselves choose free-range conditions over cage conditions, when that is their only choice.

    We humans know, from studies like the above, that hens prefer free-range conditions. The evidence is as good as though the hens told us themselves. That’s what they want, to be out in the open (though some have found they don’t like to be open to the sky, they like the shelter of trees and shrubs).

    No doubt if the hens were philosophers like us, they’d actually choose total liberation, and ask for that and fight for it. But as it is they’re oblivious to that possibility. If we could solve their other welfare (well-being) issues (the ones which still exist in free-range production systems, like oversized flocks, the males being killed at hatching, and the hens’ eventually being sent to slaughter) most members of their species would probably be quite content.

    (We know, both that hens like to be out in the open, and that it’s wrong to exploit animals and consider them as resources. Two independent facts, not mutually exclusive.)

    It’s only for our own sense of morality that we work for the end to their being considered resources, which is quite a conceptual matter, and beyond the understanding of hens.

    If all their well-being needs are addressed and none of them suffer because of what people do to them (though that’s not going to happen as long as they are farmed in any system), since it is not going to affect the hens in any way whether we consider them as resources or not, perhaps our sense of morality is misplaced, and our effects and time can be better spent trying to end other types of injustice?

    I’m sure you’re also aware that capitalist economic theory considers humans as resources, too. Our society’s penchant for looking at things as resources is all inclusive, it’s not at all speciesist in this respect. (I do strongly reject this aspect of our society.)

    In this sense, it’s not just about the animals. If we don’t like things being considered as resources, we’ve got to address the capitalist system itself, under which humans and other animals and minerals and the air, and the trees and plants, and the fresh water and our genes, and EVERYTHING are considered as resources. I don’t think you can just isolate the animals from the argument. It may be useful to isolate living, thinking beings from the argument, in which case you at least have to include humans with other animals.

    But the way in which our society considers humans as opposed to animals as resources is not quite the same. What’s the difference? It’s that animals suffer so, so, so much more than the humans (in general).

    So, maybe we should be trying, as animal advocates, to convince people to drop the entire capitalist system. (Many people are, and I’m totally in support!)

  33. Chris Kelly said on September 6th, 2007 at 7:28am #

    The reason slavery continues to exist and thrive (intra/interspecific) is because it is culturally tolerated. Every time an abolitionist backs away from stating exactly what he or she wants, it’s an indication to others that the message is flawed in some way. There’s nothing wrong with providing for the welfare of nonhumans who have been made dependent through years of enslavement. As I enjoy the company of those animals sharing my home, I am ever mindful of how they got to the point of dependency. So, I make the choice to speak out against the pet mentality while providing care for those victims of same. There is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical about helping victims of human domination while clearly calling for a phasing out of domestication altogether. The way to do this, imo, is to support only those activities that are anti-slavery, and openly oppose those which benefit users by reinforcing the status quo (again, the CHIMP Act is an example of the latter).

    While cultural conditioning is difficult to overcome, I suspect there are many who have a nagging inclination to find a more peaceful lifestyle. This is why I encourage activists to speak as they really believe, to avoid obfuscation. Abolition has always been the high ground in the slavery debate. We are the groundbreakers through veganism and words. The more we speak out, the more credible we will become. Does anyone really think that users don’t already ~know~ what we really want anyway? Ellie summed it up: “I really wish there were a way to resolve this, but rights are based on respecting animals as whole and personal beings. Welfare (and can we even call it welfare?) is based on using animals as resources. How can it be resolved when one negates the other?”

    Chris
    PS: Amy, I’m encouraged that you may consider revising your booklet to indicate the inherent exploitation of using other animals.

  34. Joel Marks said on September 6th, 2007 at 10:46am #

    First of all, I’d like to chime in with another bravo for Dan’s suggestion about promoting animal liberation through better cooking. That’s what I call cutting to the quick. Even in my own case, as a mere human, I find myself backsliding on occasion due to matters of mere “taste.” It would surely make a difference to many people if the vegan alternative were made to appear more literally palatable. Let me just add: and more convenient. Many times I have urged my students who major in Hotel/Restaurant to consider starting up a vegetarian fast food chain. I think with the right marketing this would be a road to riches for a savvy and ethical entrepreneur. And the marketing would itself promote the vegan cause.

    Now, putting on my analytic philosopher hat again, I’d like to make a few more observations about the welfare/rights issue. First, I noticed that several of the posts mention that, when you get right down to it, the abolitionist/rights approach will be better for the animals. The slavery analogy is again instructive: no doubt in the short-term it was even more horrible to be “liberated” for many of the Southern slaves for all sorts of reasons, but the long-term payoff for subsequent generations of citizens presumably more than made up for the shorter-term pain. Well, guess what, folks: that’s not the classic rights/respect approach at all; that’s just good old Singer-type utilitarianism! It is a misconception of the welfare approach that it is only about calculating costs and benefits. Yes, it is that at the abstract level, but in terms of actual practice, anything whatsoever could turn out to be justified by the utilitarian calculation, including … adopting an abolitionist/rights approach! Thus, I do see a lot of you as arguing for rights over short-term welfare on the basis of long-term welfare.

    Second, to expand on my earlier post a little more: I see a real danger in only like-minded folks conversing among themselves. There is in fact some diversity of viewpoint in this set of posts, but it’s still pretty much a coterie of believers (including myself). The ones who are not represented, at least so far, are those who do actively collaborate with animal user industries. I would be very curious to have them participating here. The danger of not having them involved in this discussion is that we become more and more assured of the correctness and righteousness of our own position and reasoning, when in fact there could be some very interesting arguments on “the other side” that would open up our eyes to something. This is why philosophers value dialogue above almost anything else. It’s not just for the purpose of winning a debate or trying to convert the heathens by nonviolent means. It’s about genuinely open interchange with opponents for the sake of mutual understanding and pursuit of truth. Otherwise, one risks becoming a fanatic.

    Finally, another fine theoretical point: the classic rights theorist, Immanuel Kant, did not hold that use was prohibited. The exact formulation of his so-called categorical imperative is that one ought never treat anyone, including oneself, merely as a means. The word “merely” is crucial. Kant recognized that it is impossible not to use people (not to mention, animals). One uses oneself as a means even getting out of bed in the morning and of course in countless other ways throughout the day. My students use me to learn, for which I am supremely grateful. But when they use me to cheat, they are “merely using” me; that is the definition of exploitation. But use per se does not equal exploitation. Hence, the idea of using animals may not automatically be anathema to rights theorists. (There could be something else about the human/animal exchange that would make it automatically exploitative, for example, their inability to consent. But that case has to be made separately.) The question is what kind of use – exploitative use? So this really does suggest possible moderation of the abolitionist position and also some sort of accommodation with the so-called welfarists.

    I’m just thinking out loud, and please forgive me if I sound like the academic I am. But it really does seem to me that these very abstract ideas have some purchase on the discussion taking place here. Again, I’m digging it all.

  35. Ellie Maldonado said on September 6th, 2007 at 2:22pm #

    Amy, studies are based on controlled conditions, so when hens are evaluated for how they behave in cages or free- range, conditions would represent the optimal environments of both.

    I don’t think the Animal Liberation organization in Australia is an animal rights group– but putting theory and practice aside for the moment– it’s not realistic to think the norms of caged and free range farming are reprsented in these studies. I find that to be one of the biggest deceptions in animal welfare. Surely, the average battery and free-range farms will be very different. That, and it’s impossible for small farms to supply a nation of animal consumers.

    One could say a small number of animals would have it comparatively better than others, but what about the rest? To spend time and effort on something that can’t possibly work doesn’t make sense to me.

    Like yourself, I’m no fan of capitalism, but I think unless we begin to give animals the respect they deserve as personal beings, no system of government can end animal exploitation.

  36. Ellie Maldonado said on September 6th, 2007 at 2:45pm #

    I feel the same way, Chris, and in speaking against the pet mentality, I’ve found it helps to ask people to think about the bigger picture– not just how much we love our pets and the care they get in our homes. When we dont ask for what we really want, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t get it. If we set the bar low enough, it’s easy to claim false victories, but what really has been won? This has gone on for centuries, and as you’ve said, it’s only led to more animals being bred, used and killed more efficiently.

  37. Ellie Maldonado said on September 6th, 2007 at 4:12pm #

    Joel, I like academics, but I’m not sure I understand. If you mean that changes in animal husbandry neither liberate animals or speak for their rights, I agree. An exact comparison to the abolition of human slaves would be freeing dependent non-humans to a world where they can’t possibly survive, and of course no rational activist would think that’s a good idea.

    If animals are truly free, their right to experience their lives on their own terms would be protected. They could not be bred to accomodate us, whether as pets, food, or any other resource. And like humans, we would have to respect their right not to be killed, except in the most extreme circumstances.

    How can humans use other animals and yet protect these rights?

  38. CC said on September 6th, 2007 at 6:21pm #

    Joel, I agree with you that dialogue amongst like-minded folks, while pleasant, does not take into consideration other viewpoints. As mentioned earlier, I have actively engaged in conversation with opponents of animal rights. My experiences has been one of frustration as issues of culture, tradition, employment, human rights, environmental “responsibility” etc. emerge. It’s really a different kind of thing to try and speak with those who disagree with everything you suggest. I have found on the whole that humans tend to be self-interested and are unwilling to concede any AR point for fear of having to concede to them all.

    One example that comes to mind is beef cattle farming. Australian environmentalists will argue that we HAVE to have grazing cattle, as there are now too many introduced grass species that need to be grazed in order to prevent them spreading into the natural environment. When you suggest that the animals don’t actually then need to be bred, slaughtered and eaten in order to achieve this.. the argument then shifts to “What will the poor farmers do without an income”. Then the arguments shifts to the dangers of broadacre cropping and mono culture to feed a vegan world. All the data in the world showing how much land is used for livestock production versus plant production is ignored.

    When one comes face to face with the high levels of denial when offering alternative viewpoints, it really becomes quite disheartening, especially as these people are the ones driving environmental change.
    I have withdrawn from these kinds of conversations for the moment from sheer frustration. I was hoping that some of you might offer some good arguments for these types of situations, as logic and reason do not seem to prevail in the face of the non-academic arguments.

    Regards,

    CC

  39. Joel Marks said on September 7th, 2007 at 11:56am #

    CC, I fully empathize with your frustration in dialoguing. This has been a problem since the “beginning,” as when Socrates considered whether virtue could be taught. Curiously, this champion of dialogue concluded that it cannot! (Although perhaps dialoguing is not the same thing as teaching.) A recent personal experience, both despairing and amusing, was a discussion of veganism with a neighbor after he read my latest op-ed on the subject. I had reviewed Singer and Mason’s latest book, which relates the atrocities of factory farming, and concluded that no person with feelings could support this. (Yes, a sort of welfare appeal this time.) Well, my neighbor jauntily replied that he already knew all about that and in fact had seen all the exposes on TV. He was scoring a point, you see, since I don’t have a TV. That was it: the superiority of TV over print! Meanwhile he remained totally unmoved to action in his personal eating habits by what he had seen, which presumably was even more graphic than what I had read in the book. Now, he’s a good neighbor, a good husband, father, and pet-owner, and works for all sorts of charitable organizations. But he’s not going to give up his steak. Well, what’s the point of arguing, indeed?

    I think there is a point. Perhaps the answer is simply that one must be patient and persistent and consistent. I think after my good neighbor has read enough op-eds by his good neighbor (me) and seen my seriousness and dedication to the cause, his “resistance” may break down over the long haul. Anyway, I don’t plan on shooting him, even though I believe he contributes to an atrocity. Here I can begin to understand abortion foes who murder doctors who perform abortions, or secretaries in their clinics; if they really believe this is mass murder of the most innocent, aren’t any means justified? But I think the answer is no, and the trick is to come up with the rationale that makes sense of all these apparent contradictions.

    One argument against murdering, or even vilifying, the enablers of atrocities is that we are all “sinners in the eyes of an angry god.” Just by being a taxpayer, for example, I’m enabling the Iraq war, among thousands of other truly awful things. You can multiply such examples endlessly. So in very short order it would be war of all against all, or at least total mutual hatred or disdain. You just can’t have a functioning society under such circumstances. (I won’t argue that there are no exceptions; sometimes revolutions are justified, I suppose, and you just have to make the call. There’s no formula.) Well, that’s a welfare argument. Meanwhile, a respect-type argument is that we recognize that all of us are blind to one thing and another given our necessarily limited perspectives, so we really ought to treat others in dialogue as we would wish others to treat us when we might be failing to see something that the other sees clearly (a little Socrates plus Kant plus Hillel there).

    OK, that’s all very general, and also about a more extreme response than anybody has suggested in the present discussion. Still, it’s what guides me in my approach to particular problems (when I’m in my rational mode). Admittedly it has conservative overtones and would seem to favor the status quo, with the hope of a gradual progressivism. In “real life” I’m not always so patient.

    Ellie, I really like your take on some of my comments. It isn’t what I had in mind, but I think it’s even better than what I did! Yes, I would say that it could be a useful exercise for those of us who are of the rights-persuasion to try to rid our arguments of any trace of welfarism. (I have lapsed myself in recent writings, and now I will try to rededicate myself to the purer approach.) Whenever we argue that treating all animals with respect is likely to be better for them (and us) in the long run, we are just arguing like utilitarians (like Singer). And the danger of this is that our argument can easily be co-opted by the (so-called) welfarist, who will then point out that it is an empirical question which strategy is really the best for the animals in the long run.

    The beauty (but also a kind of danger in its own right, alas – more on that below) of the rights/respect conception of ethics is that it does not reduce acting rightly to an empirical question! The most extreme formulation of this independence from outcomes is the expression, “Do the right thing even though the sky may fall.” And so I guess one of my essential theoretical points, which may also be a strategic point, is that if we are really going to be rights/respect advocates of animals, we must be prepared to assert that there’s a right and a wrong way to treat living beings, and we’ll leave it up to God or Nature to determine whether it all turns out for the best in the end. That is a very scary position to hold when you really think about it, but I do believe we should understand it is our position if we truly believe in rights and respect for living begins as such. Every time we suggest that this will also be best for the animals, we slide into welfarism, and then the “opponent” can turn the tables on us.

    As I, and I think it was Amy, noted before, one then definitely wants to know what basis there is for asserting with such assurance that animals (including us) have rights that transcend or even ignore welfare considerations. That’s where good old ethical theory comes in, like the one I’m trying to develop along Kantian lines. For sometimes … and this could be true in terms of individuals’ actual personal histories … there could be a mere romanticism at work in people’s minds about how the “wild” animals ought to live. Gosh, it’s like talking about the good old days for humans … except that those good old humans would gladly have traded their idyllic lives on the farm for some good modern dentistry, etc. So we really need to flesh out, I would of course say in a theoretical way, what grounds our strong intuitions about rights and respect.

  40. Ellie Maldonado said on September 7th, 2007 at 2:07pm #

    Thanks, Joel. I appreciate your response, and completely agree that animal rights must be grounded in moral theory. Imo, it should be an ethic that disengages the ideology in which animal exploitation is rooted, which is that non-human animals are not persons, and therefore it’s ok to use them. When we assert that non-humans are persons in their own right, it follows, I think, that we cannot treat them as mere resources. Nor as “lesser beings” to be bred, used and killed with so-called compassion.

    It’s key, imo, to define their ‘personhood’ in the most basic and meaningful way– such as, awareness of experience in relation to themselves. We might talk about that more. I know you’re not suggesting we evaluate their ‘animal IQs’, but since others have, I think that’s a very bad idea. Rights and respect cannot be based on intelligence anymore than it should be for human animals.

    And I think it takes time to lay the groundwork for the animal rights ethic. The focus of welfare and utilitarian philosophy is reducing the pain inherent in using them. At best, that can only lead to less pain, not recognition of their right to own themselves. That doesn’t require us to abandon animals who’ve been born as our dependents, but a resolve to end this cycle of using them while trying to stop abusing them.

  41. Amy Carpenter said on September 7th, 2007 at 9:56pm #

    My mind’s about to blow! Thanks for all your insights.

    In the end, it’s what works, what will free the animals from their suffering and exploitation. Whether or not that can be explained in theory or not. The world is infinitely complex – whatever we theorise to be the most effective, or most correct, way of doing something, there’ll always be infinite other factors acting on the situation, which we didn’t foresee.

    Something else, tomorrow, who knows, might come and free all the animals, and bring everyone in the world to treat them with loving respect. If so, then guess what, that was that thing, whether or not it had anything to do with our philosophies and theories and plans and advocacy work, that finally worked to end the exploitation! Does that make sense? Then our theorising is over, the proof of what worked to free the animals, would be before us.

    So, what will work?
    It seems many people think that arguing using purely rights/respect for animals arguments, with meat-eating people who’ve never in their lives thought about farmed animals other than in relation to their being tasty, will be what eventually frees the animals and ends their suffering and exploitation.
    I think that arguing BOTH the welfare/suffering side, and the rights/respect/sentient-beings-like-humans arguments, with these sorts of people, will bring us closer to the animals’ freedom and the end of their suffering and exploitation.

    If you can convince me that the former is more likely to work, then, you’ve got me, I’m fully convinced. That’s what I care about, What Will Work.

    Either way though, as Joel has said, I think it is very important to work out HOW to argue the rights/respect/no-exploitation side. If we’re content that our theories are sound, how do we put them into practice, to effect real change in the world?

  42. Ellie Maldonado said on September 8th, 2007 at 6:43am #

    Amy, if you’re looking to be convinced, how about what’s been explained on this board? Do you not think regulating animal husbandry gives tacit acceptance to the use of animals; and as such can only lead to “imrpoved” methods of breeding, raising, and killing a very limited number of animals?

  43. Joel Marks said on September 8th, 2007 at 12:21pm #

    Amy, I completely dig what you are saying and, in general, am of the “let one hundred flowers bloom” theoretical persuasion, although of course I have my favored approach. However, the danger of a non-unified theoretical approach is that it gives a dialectic opening to animal abusers to divide and conquer our arguments (or gleefully watch as we dissect one another’s), which could have negative practical ramifications in the public sphere for what we all care about. Yet to enforce regimentation of thinking is the very opposite of the free and open discussion we want to have, to ensure that our thinking is sound. So I guess what I seek is that each advocate be clear about what their own position entails, so at least we are not tripping over our own feet; and from this clarity of internal opposition, perhaps a unified practical front can emerge.

    For example: Since I myself strongly side with the rights view over the welfare view, as do several others in this discussion, I would want all of the rights folk to be clear in our minds about what that argument really asserts – namely, that, yes, in a crunch, rights trump welfare (for example, let animals be free, even if their lives are “nasty, brutish, and short”)! – and also what premises and assumptions back that up (see below for my suggestion). However, a welfarist could easily argue for the same practical conclusion, that animals be free, on the ground that their biological adaptation to their environment makes them far better “judges” of what is best for them than we could be.

    Which brings me to Ellie. Here is what I have come up with (again, with a tip of the Hatlo hat to Immanuel Kant) as a theoretical grounding of the rights view. Please note: this is an excerpt from the draft of the book I am working on, so I would appreciate that it not be quoted as my definitive view but a work in progress, on which I would love to have any and all feedback:

    “So I too would extend the realm of ethical concern beyond humans, but not because there may be other beings who are rational but because there are other beings who are ends-in-themselves. That latter is of course a technical term, which comes from Kant, which is why I would still refer to the theory I am discussing as “Kantianism” even though I have rejected aspects of Kant’s own conception of it. What are “ends-in-themselves”? Because of the use of the terms “end” and “means” in Kant’s Formula of Humanity, it is tempting to think of ends-in-themselves in those terms. We could illustrate the general notion with countless examples. Suppose you own a precious Chinese vase. It is of course possible that you could “treat” it as a means, for example, to hold flowers. But you might very well forswear any such use of the vase and value it simply for itself. So it is tempting to say that you would then be treating the vase as an “end-in-itself.” There is no further end being served, such as holding flowers.

    “But that is not what Kant means by an end-in-itself. For consider that the preciousness of the vase is relative to a human being or human beings in general. Even though we refer to its value as “intrinsic,” we do so only to preserve the distinction from its being used for some further purpose. But its value is not intrinsic in the sense of being self-sufficient. The intrinsic (not to mention instrumental) value of a vase would evaporate instantly if there were no human being(s) to appreciate it. Thus, it is we who bring value into the universe. It is not that we have value, although that is true too (both kinds); but for ethical purposes what matters most is that we are value-makers. It is we who have purposes, create meanings, and so forth.

    “And who are “we”? Not only humans, surely. We are, at the very least, animals: all animals are value-makers. A cat can appreciate, for example, the meaning of being in pain. Therefore a cat is “a being that is an end-in-itself” as much as you are. Again, this is not because pain may have negative value “intrinsically,” as a hedonist or utilitarian would have it, but because it is the cat to whom that value has meaning – the cat who brings that very value into existence by its own being. A cat may be valued as useful because of her rat-catching ability; and she may be valued intrinsically by you for her loveableness. But the cat is also an end-in-itself because things are valued by her. This is an order of magnitude beyond simply having value, even intrinsic value.” Copyright © 2007 by Joel Marks

  44. Ellie Maldonado said on September 8th, 2007 at 5:40pm #

    Joel, I realize free-living animals may have short lives, but I support their right to experience it freely, rather than have a longer, but compromised life in, say, a zoo— but —I don’t see this position set in stone. There may be conditions where I would not blanketly support an animal’s freedom. A captive animal may never have learned, or have forgotten how to live in the wild. I wouldn’t favor releasing an animal whose surival is compromised either.

    Coincidentally, I just responded to a question about whether I agreed with releasing bighorn sheep to the wild after they had veterinary amputations. I don’t know why they had the surgery, or how severe their limitations, but I think this is another example of when we can’t just support freedom in good conscience. I don’t think it makes me a welfarist to take these conditions into consideration, but I’d be willing to discuss it with you, or anyone who disagrees.

    I’m certainly interested in Kantian philosophy, but confess to not knowing much about it. I sometimes refer to my “Oxford Companion to Philosophy”, wherein Kant is mentioned under the topic of animals. According to this book (and I don’t know if philosophers would find merit in the publication), Kant’s view was similar to that of Aquinas– in that he didn’t think animals were autonomous, or that they could reason– but he thought kindness to animals was important as training for kindness to humans. So I’d imagine you’d have a lot to disagree with, even as you accept other facets of his philosophy. And I also think Kant’s philosophy could well be modified in light of our current understanding of non-human animals.

  45. CC said on September 9th, 2007 at 12:00am #

    Ellie, now I am confused! If you do not support freedom for Bighorn sheep amputees (which does seem like an extreme example.. by the way) being released in the wild (I assume they were rescued for surgery from the wild, and are being hypothetically returned to the wild?) then I see that as a welfare stance. Rather than protecting the right of the individual to freedom, you are making a welfarist judgement on what is best for the animal. Mind you, I don’t disagree, but it is still an essentially welfare based stance, as is giving the animal surgery in the first place.

    I see the animal rights stance as the ultimate expression of the right to live and die in freedom, without intervention. Cruel? Maybe, probably yes. Welfarist? No. Now this is where the rights vs welfare argument gets very complicated in my eyes.

    I think the rights vs welfarist argument come down to freedom vs incarceration, respectively. The quality of life in both freedom and incarceration can be argued infinitely, I suspect. Both have a price, or a cost benefit ratio if you like. I don’t believe that rights can be selectively applied, if the ultimate goal is rights.

    Comments and rebuttals welcome! :)

  46. Ellie Maldonado said on September 9th, 2007 at 11:50am #

    CC, I’m making a judgment about bighorn sheep who have already been compromised by veterinary surgery, with doubt as to how they can function with amputations. Now that humans have changed the condition of the sheep, there are other factors to consider.

    Yes, the surgery seems to be welfarist, but I don’t know what happened to the sheep in the first place. For example, were they harmed by human interference with their environment? Where did human intrusion begin?

    Also, I don’t think we can say they were returned to the wild on behalf of their freedom. Big horned sheep are an endangered species, so I suspect people involved may have hoped some of them will produce offspring. If that was their motive, it’s not about the personal interests of the sheep at all. It’s about human interest in preserving an endangered species.

    But as I said, I don’t think it’s welfarist to care for animals in certain situations. We don’t “free our pets to the wild” because we know their ability to survive has been compromised by domestication. But we do speak for their right not to be bred to accomodate our interests. We don’t free captive (free-living) animals, unless they know or have learned the skills they need to survive. Rather, we respect their freedom, and if they need rescue, we return their freedom as soon as they are well enough to handle it. Often this means just entangling them from human interference.

    I think the animal rights position is based on a holistic respect of animals as personal beings. We can certainly respect them, even if we help them once in awhile, just as we help our fellow humans.

  47. Ellie Maldonado said on September 9th, 2007 at 11:53am #

    Looks like my response to CC didn’t post. Have we reached the end of this page?

  48. Ellie Maldonado said on September 9th, 2007 at 12:10pm #

    Apparently not, so I”ll repost:

    CC, I’m making a judgment about bighorn sheep who have already been compromised by veterinary surgery, with doubt as to how they can function with amputations. Now that humans have changed their lives, there are other factors to consider.

    Yes, the surgery seems to be welfarist, but I don’t know what happened to the sheep in the first place. Were they harmed by human interference with their environment? Where did human intrusion begin?

    Also, I don’t think we can say they were returned to the wild on behalf of their freedom. Bighorn sheep are an endangered species, so I suspect people involved may have hoped some would have offspring. If that was their motive, it’s not about the personal interests of sheep at all. It’s about human interest in preserving a species.

    But as I said, I don’t think it’s welfarist to care for animals in certain situations. We don’t “free our pets to the wild” because we know their ability to survive has been compromised by domestication. But we do
    speak for their right not to be bred to accomodate our interests. We don’t free captive (free-living) animals, unless they know or have learned the skills they need to survive. Rather, we respect their freedom, and if they need rescue, we return their freedom as soon as they’re well enough to handle it. Often this means just entangling them from human intererence.

    I think the animal rights position is based on a holistic respect of animals as personal beings. We can certainly respect them, even if we help them once in awhile, just as we help humans.

  49. Niilo John Van Steinburg said on September 9th, 2007 at 12:37pm #

    I really appreciate and enjoy Lee’s writing. Thanks again for a wonderful article.

    I used to waffle on the ‘welfare’ issue myself, primarily from lack of self-educating. However, as my ethics and mentality continue to evolve, I find it impossible to appreciate the efforts of self-proclaimed welfarists. As has become obvious from recent events, in my opinion, this middle ground stance is actually hurting the overall movement to an exploitation-free society. For instance, I fear that, as PETA and HSUS celebrate a huge ‘victory’ over veal crates, the consumption of veal calves will actually increase. It’s humane now, after all…

    “Today, I find that acquaintances who still consume animals are more open minded to abolitionist principles than the everyday welfarist now is.”

    Quoted for truth. In my time as a vegan advocate at university, I found environmentalists to be the most unlikely to accept changes to their lifestyles. How dare anyone suggest they weren’t doing all they could for the environment – after all, they put a brick in their toilet and use recycled paper. Now we have welfarists in the same frame of mind; they have deluded themselves into thinking that they are already doing all that they can.

  50. CC said on September 9th, 2007 at 3:57pm #

    Ellie, thanks for your reply.
    Ellie, thanks for your reply. ;)

    As I said, I don’t disagree at all with what you are saying, but if the animals cannot be released back into the wild, and they are endangered, then doesn’t that open the door for a captive breeding program? And, as you say, it is the interests of humans that are being served.

    Niilo, I agree with you that environmentalists are extremely resistant to further lifestyle changes, and your experience echoes with a familiar ring. However, sometimes I feel that the toughest mobs are the ones that need to be focused on the most. The point of greatest resistance may yield the greatest change when it finally “gives”.

  51. Ellie Maldonado said on September 9th, 2007 at 4:56pm #

    Niilo, I think that’s exactly what’s happening. The proud self righteousness of some activists is really hurting the animals. Of course, it doesn’t help that mainstream media is totally confused about the meaning of animal rights, and insists on using PeTA and HSUS as examples of animal advocacy.

    Like yourself, I’ve found the “average person” more inclined to consider abolition than ‘welfarists’, or as Chris said, animal husbandry activists. Maybe because, like the envirionmentalists you mentioned, their egos are in the way. Sorry if that’s not very nice, but I have to wonder.

    Since mainstream media is a big problem, one thing I’ve tried to do is bring the animal rights message to it, via TV station message boards. To my surprise, two posters have told me they were interested in being vegetarian.

  52. Ellie Maldonado said on September 9th, 2007 at 5:30pm #

    CC, I’m opposed to breeding captive animals, as well as domesticates. When asked about the bighorn sheep, I suggested they be cared for in a sanctuary, only if the amputations hindered their ability to survive in the wild. A true sanctuary, that is– not a place that warehouses animals for research, or which breeds them, or makes money on visitors feeding and taking pictures of them.

    I accept that you don’t agree, though I don’t understand why. Animal rights is a moral philosophy, which I think should allow us to act morally under varying conditions.

    What if animal personhood were established? Would we leave captive lab animals in the wild when they have no idea how to live independently?

  53. CC said on September 9th, 2007 at 10:33pm #

    Ellie, to be clear, I do agree with you. Without knowing the full circumstances and context, I just needed to clarify the outcome for animals that were not released back into the wild.

    If animals were granted personhood, I imagine there would be a considerable period of adjustment and caring required for presently captive animals. I know of instances where rescued battery hens recover fully and revert to natural behaviours, so it is not inconceivable that the innate tendencies of animals would flourish under the right conditions, despite a previous life of sensory deprivation. Of course this would need to be monitored and some would be more psychologically and/or physically damaged than others.

  54. Ellie Maldonado said on September 10th, 2007 at 6:02am #

    Thanks for clarifying that, CC. I agree, some animals can regain their
    natural survival skills, quite possibly by learning from other free-living animals. And as you said, some are more damaged than others. Despite our best efforts, they may always need care, and I think that’s when true sanctuaries would be the alternative.

  55. Amy Carpenter said on September 10th, 2007 at 5:03pm #

    Ellie, I thought I made it clear what I would need to be clarified for me to come over to the “don’t even talk about welfare” side. I have been following this thread with deep interest, and loving the debate it’s raised. But perhaps, as you suggest, I’ve missed something – would you be able to draw my attention to parts of the discussion which already addressed what I said I was not yet clear about? As a reminder, my concerns are with What Will Work, in practical terms, as opposed to theories without plans and campaign ideas etc.

    I’m starting to realise there’s 2 sides to welfare itself.

    1. Welfare (well-being) can be considered important in-and-of-itself. Some people will work towards welfare improvements exclusively. Some people (including me) will work towards reduction/abolition, as well as welfare improvements if it seems at all likely to improve the lives of at least some individual animals.

    2. Welfare can also be used as a tool to use in working towards reduction and abolition of exploitation, i.e. shocking meat eaters etc with information about what goes on.

    It’s an interesting issue, whether we should let animals suffer just because improving their conditions might make people more complacent about their predicament, and reduce the shock-impact of information about industry practices.

    If the “rights only” argument is good enough in itself without welfare aspects, then there should be no problem in trying to improve the conditions for animals in our spare time (even some animals – it’ll make a difference to those individuals), while working for the animals’ rights and an end to their exploitation, more full-time. If we do this, it would be important to make clear that welfare improvements are not enough, the animals are still suffering somewhat and being exploited, and that’s not on. But I don’t personally think the “rights only” argument is enough for most people (unless, anyone here can give some practical examples of how this is the best way to advocate for animals).

    So I think this maybe a very real issue. But, I’m not going to leave animals to suffer if I can help them at all, just so I can point to their suffering and say, “look, they’re suffering, that’s bad, I in my vegan purity don’t support it, neither should others.” The people who I’m saying that to, if they’re on the ball, will say, “I agree, it’s bad, but didn’t you have that opportunity some time ago to improve their conditions? Why didn’t you take that opportunity?” And I’ll have to say, “I wanted them to continue to suffer so my argument is still strong.” Then that argument wouldn’t be very strong at all.

    However, this doesn’t have to be an issue. There will always be welfare insults, as long as there is animal production. The solution lies not in leaving the animals to suffer in conditions we can improve, but in educating ourselves about the welfare insults of even the “best” farming systems.

    I guess that’s a bit of a tangential issue, but it may have relevance and help to clarify things for some? Perhaps (or perhaps not) some people are worried that – if the animals’ living conditions appear to be ok, then the public aren’t going to pay attention to the rights debate? if so, this means the welfare issues are an important aspect of the rights debate, (at least in the real world, whether we like it or not)…

  56. Ellie Maldonado said on September 10th, 2007 at 9:58pm #

    Amy, this is not about purity– it’s about what animals need us to undertand.

    If activists want humans to stop using other animals, they should speak for them as thinking, feeling, personal beings, who should not be exploited. And they should not compromise that message by offering consumers lesser degrees of cruelty—- because that (especially coming from people who are supposed to care about animals), makes animal use more acceptable. It does not work to reduce the use of animals.

    Consumers don’t care about what we want. They don’t care if you’d rather they didn’t eat animals at all. They want to eat what they want and not feel guilty about it, and that’s what welfare campaigns allow them to do.

    For the sake of non-human animals, we have to challenge the root of exploitation which designates them as non-persons. We have to show such thinking is outdated because now we know animals have their own interests– not just for open space and getting killed ‘nicely’– but to choose how they will live, who they will befriend or not, when and with whom they will mate, and how they will care for their children.

    There’s plelnty of information about the personal lives of animals. Jeffrey Masson, for one author, has written several books, most recently “Altruistic Armadillos to Zenlike Zebras”. So we’ve got lots to work with.

    The only campaigns that can work are those which end a particular use of animals. For example, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York City is working to end this practice. It does not suggest horses can pull carriages if they have bigger stables, or longer resting periods, or other welfare measures that are totally impossible to enforce.

    A campaign to end battery cages won’t stop hens from being farmed, or any of the other abuses that go with it. Do you see the difference? What’s worse is that it suggests it’s ok to farm hens, so long as they have open space. Promoting such measures, even when you say they’re not enough, makes animal consumers happy.

    Meanwhile, as they rush to buy a variety of “humanely handled” cows, chickens, and other products, very few animals benefit from even these superficial measures. Free-range farming cannot replace factory farms because there are too many meat eaters, and too little land. If you want other practical reasons why animal welfare doesn’t work, see Lee’s article, and other posts above.

    A small number of vegans, who encourage others to join them in respecting living beings, will do more for animals than millions of consumers who think they’re eating humane meat.

  57. Joel Marks said on September 11th, 2007 at 8:34am #

    This discussion has burgeoned to a point where it seems almost impossible to do justice to it all. I yearn to provide a systematic analysis, at least to my own satisfaction, but perhaps can only continue to make random responses. I am also eager to hear how Lee is reacting to it all, although maybe she is equally overwhelmed. Anyway, without further ado.

    Amy, I think you have really hit on something when you say there are two welfarist positions: welfare for its own sake, and welfare as a means to a further end, namely, total human respect for animals. I do sometimes see Ellie, for example, as advocating for the latter. What bothers you is that this would seem to turn animals into mere tools, whose individual welfare could be sacrificed for the greater, long-term good. Now what I find interesting is that the welfare-as-a-means stance not only runs afoul of the welfare-for-its-own sake stance, but also seems to be exactly the opposite of what the rights stance itself is supposed to be about! For using an animal as a mere tool is the very antithesis of treating it respectfully.

    Let me try to tease this out a little further, using the theoretical terminology and analysis that is my stock in trade. Welfarists like Peter Singer, who are called utilitarians, hold that we humans are always obligated to do what is best for the totality. This would seem to have the uncomfortable implication that we will often be ethically obligated to harm or ignore the welfare of the few to better promote the welfare of the many. Utilitarians have two, almost opposite ways of dealing with that implication. One is just to bite the bullet and say that if we take welfare seriously, we simply have to be prepared to sacrifice some (ourselves or others) for the greater good (just as we personally commonly undergo short-term pain for long-term gain, like when we go to the dentist). The other response is to argue that in fact the greater good will be promoted by paying attention to the “smaller” goods. In fact, a welfarist could conceivable argue that caring about the welfare of each individual animal you come across (including yourself) is the best long-term strategy for uplifting the totality of animals. Adam Smith argues something analogous to that in promoting the selfish, or egotistic, entrepreneurialism of capitalism. In fact, as I mentioned in my last comment, a welfarist could even argue that respecting all animals is the most effective strategy for assuring their best welfare, since evolution has prepared them to deal with their own welfare better than any human intervener could hope to.

    So welfarism, and in particular utilitarianism, is a wonderfully flexible theoretical approach. That is both its boon and its bane, of course, since it could be twisted to support just about any course of action, including flying airliners into skyscrapers. But it may also happen to be the correct way to conceive things, in which case the whole issue among those of us who advocate for animals is a strategic one: what is the most effective way to promote the best welfare of all animals (presumably including also the human ones)? Some would say “by respecting them and setting them free,” while others would say “by trying to improve their conditions incrementally,” and so forth — but in the end, we are all welfarists, concerned about prompting the best good of animals and just differing as to the best means.

    Meanwhile, the true rights theorist sees rights not as a means to procuring the greatest good of all animals, but as the highest intrinsic value we should be promoting on behalf of animals. This would seem to have its own uncomfortable implications, such as that animals should be left to fend for themselves even if we could help them in a welfare sense; and also, as Amy suggested, could prove to be exceedingly callous if it resulted in an all-or-nothing stance of abolitionist purism, while meanwhile animals continue to suffer unabated and be slaughtered cruelly and prematurely in the billions into the indefinite future.

    Without studying everybody’s posts more intensively, my impression is that the abolitionists among us are confusing or conflating the above theoretical positions (pure welfarism and pure rights/respect), which it is quite natural to do unless one happens to be a trained theoretician (and even then)! But this, as I have been arguing, does have the practical implication of making our arguments vulnerable to easy divide-and-conquer rebuttal by the animal-abusers.

    So here is my own suggestion (subject to your critique!) for a unified and coherent stance. I have to say that this discussion has somewhat turned me around. I began as an arch-rights theorist, but I can see how advantageous the welfarist approach is, having now thought it through more carefully in light of everybody’s commentary. Welfarism is the Big Tent, as I have tried to articulate above. It means that all of us are on the same page, but we are just trying to work out the best strategy for promoting the best welfare of all animals. There is ample room for legitimate and good-faith disagreement about strategy, from reform to abolition (although of course there could be self-serving or misguided advocates in either camp), and also of course different strategies will work under different circumstances.

    Meanwhile, I remain a committed rights theorist in my philosophical work; but I think the practical upshot would be the same. That is, my own theoretical work is to try to show how rights theory not only works better as pure theory, but is also up to the task of grounding practical recommendations that we can all accept. But as of now I think that particular discussion would not best serve the interests of animal advocacy.

    To conclude: The way that rights ideas do clearly serve animal advocacy is in terms of the general consideration that promoting animal rights may be the best way to promote the best long-term welfare of animals. For example, Ellie and of course Lee and others have made the important point that most animals will still be treated abominably, and maybe even more than ever, if “successful” reform movements result in more consumer complacency. But that’s still welfarism, but as advancing or at least including in its “arsenal” respect for animals (but probably also certain kinds of reform movements).

  58. Ellie Maldonado said on September 11th, 2007 at 5:48pm #

    In my opinion Joel, there’s a huge difference between caring about the well being of animals, and the activism known as “animal welfare”. In the former, we can certainly support animal well being, without subscribing to utilitarianism, or requiring or condoning animal use. In the latter, the effort is to reduce suffering within animal use. And I’ve already explained why I think this is unrealistic. So if there are two forms of welfare, perhaps one is broadly philosophical, the other is specific to activist strategy.

    I couldn’t disagree more with the view that animal welfare activism will lead to veganism, or recognition of animal personhood. The evidence I’ve seen strongly suggests the opposite. And while I wish this divide did not exist, I don’t if broadening the meaning of welfarism would change our differences– but then that’s without knowing your theoretical work.

  59. Amy Carpenter said on September 12th, 2007 at 5:37am #

    Ellie, you said “I couldn’t disagree more with the view that animal welfare activism will lead to veganism.”

    Leafletting the booklet about animal cruelty (I mentioned earlier), does make people go vegetarian or vegan, I know because sometimes we have people come back and say so. So this is at least one way using welfare arguments can work to lead people to veganism and reduce animal production. I don’t think the booklet as it is, will lead very directly to animal personhood, but it’s making people think of animals as feeling beings, so I don’t think it’s going backwards on that issue.

    The booklet uses information about how animal’s well being (welfare) is compromised, to educate people, for the benefit of animals. It doesn’t advocate for free range, it’s message is clearly “go vegan”. so it’s not the sort of activism that says, “this production system is better than this production system”, but it is welfarist in the “horror, shock treatment – stop supporting altogether” way.

    So – sometimes i’m getting confused in this argument. I think because there are so many aspects to welfare, as Joel said, it’s like a big umbrella we all sit under. I think sometimes using welfare arguments, or working directly for welfare improvements, is going to benefit animals – in fact, it does, as in the leafletting example. Sometimes it won’t – hogwashing. I now think welfare arguments should be coupled with the rights/respect/sentient beings argument, for maximum benefit. I’m really glad to have had (be having, if it continues?) this discussion with you all, thank you, it’s made me realise where I do stand and want to go with my activism, including that it’s best to couple the rights/respect argument as often as possible with the welfare aspects.

  60. Ellie Maldonado said on September 12th, 2007 at 9:54am #

    Amy, I haven’t seen your booklet, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about it. I am referring here to broad-based activism, which focuses on how (non-human) animals suffer as a result of certain methods of animal husbandry.

    While I’m sure many humans opt for vegetarianism because other animals suffer, the problem is once their misery is regulated to what ‘welfare’ groups find acceptable, these same vegetarians often resume meat eating. I’ve read numerous articles, including some by famous vegetarians, who are eating meat again because of “humane” animal farming.

    Obviously, these former vegetarians never stopped regarding animals as resources, who have interests beyond how they are farmed, in fact, in not being farmed at all. But when activism tries to modify animal husbandry, it’s no wonder people don’t understand that.

    Rather than stand under an umbrella, I think there’s need to define our efforts, and clarify our terms in the simplest way possible. In my view, it’s essential to distinguish and separate activism that tries to modify animal use. Long before any of us were born, this came to be known as “animal welfare”. I don’t know about your booklet, Amy, but I think regulating husbandry and animal rights are opposing dimensions.

  61. Amy Carpenter said on September 17th, 2007 at 10:53pm #

    If you’re interested in our booklet, here’s the US version – I can’t find a pdf of the Australianised version, but it’s very similar:
    http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/WhyVegan.pdf

    I agree, Ellie, there are two sides to the animal-advocacy movement. However to me it seems the divide lies here: those who want the total abolition of animal exploitation, and those who think it’s enough to just improve animals’ conditions while still exploiting them. It seems to me that everyone who’s posted here is quite clearly on the “total abolition” side, and no one thinks it’s ok to still farm animals if they are just looked after better. So it seems we’re in full agreement about our goals :-) but maybe not our methods.

    I’ve been considering further what trumps what, rights or well-being?
    For me, always well-being. Because this is how animals think. I consider myself an animal advocate, and I’ll speak for what I believe the animals want. Like a lawyer, they must represent the client and speak for what they want. The animals want to be healthy and at peace and free to pursue their own lives as they want, without humans taking their flesh and bodily products. In other words, animals want their well-being. The concept of “rights” is something humans have invented to work out how we humans think of and treat other humans, animals and anything else we give “rights” to.
    However, I’m also 100% pro-rights – because I think it’s only by affording animals rights, that they’re ever going to be entirely free from humans using them to fulfil their selfish desires, causing them suffering and deprivation. So the “rights” argument is a tool, and a very major one, in the quest for total “well-being” for the animals.

    Those who say that it’s possible for animal production ever to entirely embrace an animal’s well-being, are kidding themselves. “Welfarists” in the improvements-only sense, are either kidding themselves, or making a compromise (the animals are the ones compromised).

    Considering again the campaign that’s been going in Australia, educating about, and trying to ban, battery cages, but not other forms of egg farming.
    I was beginning to question whether it’s a worthwhile campaign, in the light of everyone’s comments above. Maybe it’s a flawed campaign, if after hearing about battery cages, people start to get a jolly feeling when they buy free-range eggs. If that’s happening, perhaps the campaign could have been better orchestrated?
    However, nothing’s so clear-cut. If they’re successful, I’m not going to lament the end of the battery cage! Maybe the next year, someone runs another campaign as a follow-on, asking for the end of all egg-production. Perhaps, in the real world in which we live, it would not have been possible to bring an end to all egg-production in one sweeping campaign. Perhaps two steps, or ten steps, would actually work out easier and quicker than one step. I don’t think the battery cage campaign is sending us backwards on the quest for abolition – it’s encouraging people to think of hens as feeling beings who can suffer. Once people are thinking like that and buying free-range eggs, next step would be to present all the well-being impediments to do with free-range eggs, also the argument that any exploitation is wrong per se, other arguments including health and environmental, and asking people to consider not supporting egg farming at all. Can the end of egg-production be effected in one big step, from battery and other systems, to no egg farming at all? Tell me how! I don’t think campaigns encouraging people to think about animals as feeling beings, are a blow to our abolition goals – it’s just taking smaller, maybe more manageable steps.

    Just because in the past, well-being based campaigns haven’t been successful in abolishing exploitation, doesn’t mean we should discard them as a tool in working towards abolition. Working out what exactly has and hasn’t worked, such campaigns can be used as part of our larger strategy. The trick is for us to use the awareness generated by such campaigns, as an opportunity.
    I’ll do another post with some ideas about strategies etc…

  62. Amy Carpenter said on September 17th, 2007 at 11:03pm #

    Here’s some ideas about where we could be going with the abolition movement. Not many people here have made suggestions about how to bring about the abolition of animal exploitation. It’s not enough just to refine our own ideas, and hope to affect society by telepathy.

    So I’ll make an attempt at starting to map out a strategy, and would encourage members of our movement to develop it. These are just some random undeveloped ideas, that have been floating around in my head for a while.

    We should first of all be clear about our goal. This is not difficult, it seems everyone who’s posted here wants total abolition, as quickly as possible.

    We need to spend time strategising, reflecting, and assessing the effectiveness, or likely effectiveness, or our advocacy work. (Too often I think well-intentioned grass-roots advocates miss this step, and their work hasn’t a hope of succeeding. They may even bring bad publicity etc, to the detriment of their cause. We ought to take the time to work out how to avoid this happening in our advocacy!)

    We should take account of all the tools in our advocacy toolbox. We shouldn’t dismiss any for our own moral reasons – I believe any such dismissal is based on flawed morality – remember the goal is total abolition, and THEN ask what will be most effective.
    These are our tools:
    * the argument that animals should be given rights
    * the argument that animals are sentient beings, able to know and to experience, to think, to feel pain and joy and everything else.
    * the fact that animals suffer dreadfully in all forms of animal production, physically and psychologically. Facts are readily available from many sources, including veterinary and farm science journals and others, industry publications, government, and others. There’s an incredible amount of information, which members of society are very likely to believe, depending on the source (which should always be stated for this reason).
    * The facts that vegan food is fantastic, that veganism is 100% healthy, that veganism in no way equates to food deprivation, etc.
    * The fact that the environment suffers in animal production.
    * Probably many others.

    Things we should be careful of:
    * As spokespersons for veganism, to keep ourselves healthy and well-presented.
    * The animal industries have highly skilled people, trained in public relations, how to deal with negative publicity and how to promote their products. We have to meet them at their level, to have any hope of competing. Luckily we have the truth on our side, but it’s not enough against their might and money.
    * Abolition is just not going to happen overnight, it’ll have to happen in steps, taking probably a long time. Don’t dismiss any campaign as ineffective based on rigid theories. Nothing is rigid, things change and we can guide change. E.g. the battery cage banning – consider it just a step towards abolition. If we can effect a ban on battery cages, we shouldn’t stop there! Re-strategise and use the public awareness etc raised by that victory, to start to work towards the total abolition of egg farming.

    Some ideas about what to do, practically speaking:
    * Promote veganism. Food producers will meet demand (if no meat is demanded, they won’t produce it). Governments are more likely to change policies based on ideas that are popular in society (but not always).
    * Suss out how people think, so we can address people’s specific concerns. Encourage psychologists to be interested in the minds of meat eaters – conduct surveys about attitudes towards vegetarianism and veganism, asking questions about what people see as the barriers to becoming vegan etc. Then, if certain trends occur in people’s attitudes, we will know what we have to address. (Commercial advertisers do this sort of thing, to see how to best promote their products.)
    * I imagine that it’s still a very common belief that vegans are unhealthy and deprived – we need to do a lot of work to change this fallacy! Many people already know about the pain and suffering, but will not go vegan because they still think animal products are necessary in our diets, or that it’s difficult and complicated to have a healthy vegan diet. If it’s made easy for these people, they may readily embrace veganism. (That’s just from my observations & comments I receive – they don’t want to cause suffering, but “no way, veganism’s unhealthy”)
    * Get people who’ve studied business etc, to advise about what the industries are doing so well to get their messages across, that we’re not yet succeeding in
    * Advertise. I think this is why the industries are so effective in getting their foul, deceptive messages across, while we with our truths and our compassion sit here aghast. Fundraise to pay for more bill-boards etc. Be careful about our message – e.g. one campaign I heard was refused, had a bloody lamb on a cross, to be put on bill-boards around Easter time – even I thought that was distasteful.
    * I think leafletting is very effective too. Depends on the leaflet. It’s also good because it’s social and informal, and you get to meet and get to know other animal advocates, and discuss advocacy ideas regularly – more fun and less intimidating than formal meetings.
    * Encourage other people to become involved in animal advocacy, at every appropriate opportunity, to grow the movement. Support the new people who are entering the movement, because if they’re anything like me, they may feel overwhelmed and intimidated by many aspects of advocacy work, for some time. The first advocacy I did was environmental, and I was very naive when I started. I worked with such a fantastic organisation, with people who seemed to work at a far superior level to that of anyone I’d ever met before. Even the way they acted towards one another was foreign, and yet so much better than I’d been used to. There were amazing and positive things going on, and somehow I felt overwhelmed and ineffective, and eventually I left (later to join animal advocacy, a little less naive). But maybe they could have caught me and kept me? Or maybe not. But I know that a lot of people who join advocacy organisations don’t stick around – we need to work out what we’re doing that turns people away, and how to help people develop their skills so they feel they’re doing something positive, enjoy what they’re doing, and want to keep working.
    * Work out what else may be effective. Keep an open mind about it.

    Never loose sight either of our ideals, or of reality. The two must work together, to move us towards our goals.

  63. Ellie Maldonado said on September 20th, 2007 at 3:44am #

    Amy, thanks for posting your booklet. I think it clearly supports a vegan diet. It’s very sad to see the misery we’ve inflicted on non-humans. The photo of hundreds of hens packed in a room on a “free-range” farm shows it’s nothing like what consumers want to imagine.

    We don’t agree about campaigns to modify animal husbandry, but I think you should feel glad about your advocacy, and move forward toward liberating animals, a goal we certainly share.

  64. Cheryl said on November 24th, 2007 at 10:14am #

    I really wish that people cared enough about animals to drastically change their habits. But after working for animals for over 20 years now, I realize that this change will take decades (if it can happen), unless some compelling reason appears, like food shortages or global warming causes changes people can see and affect their lives. Not everyone is like you. Some people aren’t wired to think about the suffering of others, but only change if it hurts themselves. And before we condemn them, how many of you are sitting around in sweat shop clothing, unconcerned about the conditions of the women and children (basically slaves) who created them? So for now, I applaud any change that makes it a little easier for animals! Please, get realistic. Less than 2% of the population is even vegetarian, folks. You’ve been working on it for decades now. Big changes take time. Help the animals now. Any little bit to improve their conditions helps! When people start thinking about the welfare of the animals they eat, which previously was unheard of, it starts the thought process about other changes they can make. Baby steps…

  65. Ellie Maldonado said on December 4th, 2007 at 8:32am #

    When people don’t care about the suffering of others, there’s something wrong with their thinking– not ours. Advocates need not cater to their vacant mentality.

    Promoting “baby steps” in animal husbandry is like campaining for better equipment in some sweatshops. Both make exploitation more profitable for the owners of these systems, yet do little, if anything, to relieve the suffering of individuals involved.

  66. tobe said on January 14th, 2008 at 1:34am #

    Amy ,Keep up your leafletting! me and a friend went out just before xmas with a placard and a bundle of the go vegan booklets they are great booklets and really expose the suffering of animals suffering for ppls food.