I have been asked by a number of people as to my views on using the expression “farmed animal” rather than “farm animal.”
I suppose that the former is a good expression in that it emphasizes that these are nonhumans who are exploited by being farmed and gets away from the notion that they represent a type of animal. There are no “farm animals.” There are only animals whom we exploit by farming them.
The point is similar to saying that we should not use “laboratory animals” because there are no such animals. There are only animals we exploit in a laboratory.
I see the point. I do not think it is a particularly earth-shattering one and I do not think that it will make any practical difference. But I can appreciate the point.
However, what I find puzzling is that many (not all!) of the animal advocates who use this expression–indeed, many of those who have popularized it–talk about “happy” meat and animal products. They talk about how we should abandon the “worst abuses” (a meaningless concept when the entire process is abusive) of factory farming and move towards the idyllic “family” farm, which, by the way, misses the basic moral point and is just a fantasy anyway.
I heard one of these “happy” advocates say that we had to go from having “farmed animals” in factory farms to having “farm animals” on “family” farms.
To the extent that “farmed” refers to animals who are involved in the industrial agricultural process and that, if these animals were exploited (supposedly) more “humanely” on “family” farms, they would once again become “farm animals,” I see that as problematic precisely because it suggests that in a “humane” context, these animals are a type of animal.
Either way, I do not think that calling them “farmed” or “farm” animals will amount to much.
Promoting veganism as an unequivocal moral baseline and stopping the promotion of “happy” exploitation would, however, make a great difference.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University