Animal Welfare Reform: Total Denial, One Step at a Time

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Animal Welfare Reform: Total Denial, One Step at a Time

By Angel Flinn on Care2.com

There is a reason why human rights groups do not endorse 'humane' methods of executing political prisoners, and why children's rights advocates do not collaborate with the pornography industry to develop standards for films that make 'compassionate' use of runaway teens. To do such things is to introduce moral ambiguity into situations where the boundaries between right and wrong must never be allowed to blur.
- James LaVeck, HumaneMyth.org

Whenever discussions occur about the future direction of our society, there are always differing views. But when the discussion revolves around an issue that concerns the habits of individuals, a debate often devolves, sadly, into an argument laced with personal attacks. In such situations, it can be hard to get to the truth of an issue.

Sometimes disagreements occur because the core values people hold are very different. However, there are times when they occur because of deliberately perpetrated misinformation. There is one such issue that continues to re-surface, and it revolves around the fundamental difference between animal welfare and animal rights.

While many people believe they understand the key differences between the two approaches, there are underlying truths that have been deliberately obscured, by none other than those who profit from the continued legality of non-human animal slavery.

As detailed in numerous books and essays published by Professor Gary Francione, creator of The Abolitionist Approach, the animal advocacy movement of the past has, in recent years, been largely replaced by a different movement altogether, that promotes a diluted, contradictory and confused version of the original message. In his pioneering work, Professor Francione lays bare the hypocrisy of a movement that seems to have all but forgotten its founding principles.

"The new welfarists have become partners with the institutional exploiters to sell animal products. It is nothing short of obscene that the new welfarists are developing labels, such as the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label, the Freedom Food label, and the Animal Compassionate label, to help the institutional exploiters to market animal corpses and products. These efforts have nothing to do with the animal rights or abolitionist approach. Indeed, this is exactly what the abolitionist movement opposes."

Discussions about terms such as 'cage-free', 'free-range' and 'humanely-raised' have come to dominate the debate around ethical food options. Labels such as these go a long way toward winning consumer confidence, especially when the claims are backed by well-known animal advocacy organizations such as HSUS and PETA. What further evidence that products are animal friendly could the 'conscientious consumer' ask for than the stamp of approval of the world's biggest 'animal protection' groups?

In his essay, The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell, Francione explains his objection to welfare reform efforts:

  • First, animal welfare measures provide little, if any, significant protection to animal interests.
  • Second, animal welfare measures make the public feel better about animal exploitation and this encourages continued animal use.
  • Third, animal welfare does nothing to eradicate the property status of animals.
  • Fourth, every second of time and every cent of money spent on making exploitation more “humane” is less money and time spent on vegan/abolition education.

Professor Francione provides substantial evidence to back up these four bold statements, yet mainstream animal advocacy groups continue to largely reject the abolitionist approach, in favor of efforts to regulate and reform the institution of animal slavery.

This division is the cause of much of the conflict that the modern animal movement faces. Weakened by the dilution and trivialization of its message, and crippled by in-fighting, the movement itself seems not to notice that it has come to a kind of stand-still, walking in circles around issues such as how big the cages should be, how much sunlight a prisoner should have access to, and whether death by gassing is more humane than electrocution; questions that only serve to distract from the real issue, which is that we humans, for the sake of nothing less than our very morality itself, need to rise above our desire to feed on the bodies of other creatures.

In short, the animal protection movement, having lost sight of its goal, has gone wildly off course, while the animal exploitation industry, no doubt, is watching in delight.

But what many people do not know is that this shift did not occur organically, but as a result of a cunning and insidious PR campaign executed on behalf of the animal food industry. As part of a deliberate attempt to co-opt the values of the movement, the very language of animal advocacy is now being used to further the interests of those who peddle flesh and blood. Horrifying, barbaric and cruel practices are now being described as 'humane', 'compassionate', and 'cruelty-free'.

The remarkable essay by James LaVeck, Invasion of the Movement Snatchers, published in late 2006, "asks its readers to note how recent events in the US animal protection sector strikingly parallel a step-by-step plan of sabotage developed by a PR consultant retained by the Cattleman's Association in 1991."

Does anyone remember 'Trust Us, We're Experts' or 'Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry'? Authors John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton have made it their business to expose the dealings of MBD, a PR firm "involved in the dismantlement of citizen movements concerned about problems ranging from acid rain, dioxin, biotechnology and toxic wastes, to apartheid, nuclear energy, endangered species and oil spills."

With those credentials, who better than MBD to organize the campaign to discredit and thereby conquer the movement to protect the interests of animals, an effort that has threatened significant financial loss to the industries that profit from exploitation and enslavement?

"You never know when a PR agency is being effective; you'll just find your views slowly shifting." – a PR executive

'Toxic Sludge' describes an MBD presentation given to the Cattlemen's Association, where they outlined a plan to dismantle the animal advocacy movement:

  1. Isolate the radicals
  2. "Cultivate" the idealists and "educate" them into becoming "realists"
  3. Co-opt the opportunists into agreeing with industry

"The key to dealing with opportunists is to provide them with at least the perception of a partial victory."

It is the next part of LaVeck's article that is of particular interest here, and might be somewhat surprising to readers:

"The widespread adoption of 'cage-free' eggs? 'Animal Compassionate' lamb? Uncrated 'pink veal'? Today, these and similar developments are being widely characterized as victories by organizations with reputations for staunchly opposing animal exploitation."

The Humane Myth website, where LaVeck's article (along with many others) is published, shines a much-needed light on truths that have been obscured by the propaganda spread by the cattlemen's PR firm, assisted by unwitting animal advocates. Genuinely well-intentioned people, who truly care about animals, have been sucked in by the alluring promise of frequent 'victories', and by the claim that 'improving conditions' can help animals now, whereas to uphold the noble vision of the abolition of use is to be 'unrealistic', and thereby abandon the animals who are currently enslaved.

65 years ago, under the bold leadership of Donald Watson, there was a movement born in response to the unethical treatment of animals used for food and other human pleasures. The pioneers of this new movement had a clear, unequivocal message: that our use of animals is fundamentally immoral, and that since the industries in question exist to serve our human desire for unnecessary 'pleasures', there can only be one reasonable way to stand up against them: an uncompromising and permanent rejection of their products.

Those early ethical vegetarians were awakening to a larger truth: that all our uses of animals are unethical – from dairy and egg production, to leather, wool, fur, entertainment and vivisection. The simplicity of the message was beautiful – those who care about the suffering of animals are glad to renounce their participation in cruelty. It is a joy, it is liberating and it is easy, because the individual who is awake to the suffering inherent in every form of animal exploitation has no desire to participate in it.

For all readers who are genuinely concerned about the suffering experienced by animals used for food, please do not fall into the trap of believing that these 'humane' animal products are an ethical option. These labels have been carefully created with the purpose of covering up the extreme cruelty that occurs whenever animals are used for food.

For consumers who are genuinely seeking humane choices, there is only one reasonable option – go vegan, and encourage others to do the same.

For more information, please visit the following sites:

Abolitionist Approach
Humane Myth
Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

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