Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness
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Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness

Comments by David Cantor - 16 Jun 2006

Dear Frank & Mary,

Very interesting as always!

<< we disagree that animal welfare is the antithesis of animal rights. Animal Exploitation is the antithesis of animal rights, and welfare does play into the hands of the exploiters in many cases, but at least most welfare people have an open ear and truly desire animals to be free of pain and suffering >>

Both animal exploitation and animal welfare are antitheses of animal rights -- AR can have more than one antithesis. Animal exploitation is what AR and not animal welfare seeks to eliminate. Animal welfare is the public-relations arm of animal exploitation. Due to certain positive traits most people possess to some degree (perhaps sociopaths, less than 2% of humans, are the main ones who don't possess them), we couldn't realistically have animal exploitation without animal welfare or animal welfare without animal exploitation. Animal welfare came to exist as a concept precisely because humans were exploiting nonhuman animals -- it wouldn't have come up if natural boundaries had never been violated and all nonhuman animals had remained free-living and not intruded upon by humans. Animal exploitation in turn is made to appear acceptable through notions like the Humane Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act, state anticruelty statutes, and deliberately misplaced beliefs that those laws and their enforcement minimize animal suffering. Instead they maximize it by making it possible for animal exploitation to continue in societies that aspire to be civilized.

Animal welfare is also antithetical to animal rights in that animal rights is a proposed strategy to protect animals by eliminating animal exploitation and some other root causes of their suffering (driving animals out of their homes for "development" or killing them with cars isn't exploitation but still violate their moral rights) and animal welfare opposes that strategy. Try getting the Humane Society of the United States, the American Humane Association, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- the three most prominent national animal welfare organizations -- to state publicly that they promote basic legal rights for nonhuman animals meaning an end to animal exploitation and animals' property status. They absolutely will not do it. They oppose animal rights as a strategy for protecting animals -- they are animal welfare organizations. They function as public-relations agents for animal exploiting industries.

HSUS, for example, claims the "animal science" programs at LGUs that RPA is working to abolish can possibly teach "humane" methods. But there can't be humane methods of raising animals for food for humans, who are natural herbivores. HSUS and many other organizations, including some that claim to be "animal rights" organizations, support Whole Food Markets' "Animal Compassion Foundation" established supposedly to fund research (including at LGUs) into "humane" ways to raise animals for food. Entirely as rationalization for continuing to keep flesh, milk & eggs on its shelves. The company would not respond to a detailed letter explaining why RPA opposes ACF and explaining why the only research into food production consistent with humane treatment of animals is research into plant foods and into how to get people to stop purchasing flesh, milk & eggs. Nor would the company's local P.R. person agree to meet with me -- BUT, she's helped raise funds for local animal welfare organizations.

The industries know entirely well that animal welfare is anti-AR. Find an animal-exploiting industry spokesperson who doesn't promote animal welfare and oppose animal rights. Some of the LGUs told us they "teach animal welfare" -- and are in compliance of all applicable laws. LGUs teach students that animals have no rights and that they should practice animal welfare in exploiting the animals -- though they never, as far as I know, call it exploiting.

<< Saving animals does save the individual animals, even if it doesn’t save the vast majority. These small successes also seem to lull most people into the false sense of feeling they accomplished more than they actually have, but to discourage this could be counter productive. A vegan saves at least 3 land animals a month, which is great, but every vegan also needs to be educated and encouraged to go on to greater things by helping to effectively give all animals the right to be free of pain, suffering, and human exploitation. >>

A few distinct points there. Saving animals isn't the same as promoting animal welfare as a legitimate strategy for protecting animals on the macro level. I've saved some animals and will continue to do so. I keep some helpful things in my motor vehicle in case I come upon an animal in need when driving somewhere. I've taken injured birds to a wildlife sanctuary and a vet clinic in my area. I've adopted dogs and a cat. What we do on the micro level is irrelevant to the political proposal and strategies we support for protecting animals. Animal welfare can't protect them -- that is fully proven. Animal welfare organizations are part of the network of animal exploitation industries. They don't just "save" animals; they run propaganda and fundraising departments and some use sophisticated public relations tactics and subtle phrasings to make some people think they're abolitionist animal rights organizations when they're not. Some "partner" with animal exploiters directly, giving the latter what I call compassion credentials, fully knowing they and the exploiters are using each other to maintain the status quo and that no humane treatment of exploited animals is possible.

Vegans don't actually save any animals -- even though I was present and did some of the research when a prominent organization was devising some of the early literature promoting the idea that they do. The flesh, milk & egg industry slaughter about 10 billion animals per year in the U.S. and about 50 billion worldwide. None of those animals is saved. The fact that they would slaughter more animals if no one were vegan doesn't mean vegans actually save animals. To a very small degree, the small number of humans who are vegan probably prevent a few million animals each year from being hatched or born who otherwise would come into existence. But those animals don't exist and therefore can't be saved. Also, veganism doesn't prevent the industries from continuing to grow, and it cannot do so. Animal rights can, veganism can't. Animal welfare has no incentive to since it's part of the industrial complex.

Due to human overpopulation, the use of too much land for food, mechanization of some aspects of production of some crops, pesticide use, transport of most food long distances by fossil fuels/motor vehicles, cruel "pest" control throughout the food industry and other factors, vegans, like everyone else, are caught up in the worldwide assault on nonhuman animals. Our merely not eating them or their milk or eggs doesn't change that, it just lessens our impact a bit. Animal rights has far more potential to change it than any other approach I know of or can conceive of. It's a long way off, and hardly anyone knows what it is -- least of all most animal activists -- but I still think it's the only social movement (though today it often seems like an antisocial movement!) with potential to provide net protection to nonhuman animals for the long term.

Net abuse, killing, exploitation, and lack of protection have steadily increased for thousands of years, as the same mistreatment of humans has except for those with enforceable legal rights (to some extent even those don't provide as much protection as is needed -- rights are violated all the time; it's a matter of whether they're violated with impunity; just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened Fourth Amendment protections). Despite the continued worsening of so many big problems that are truly overwhelming when we think about them, I think humans are capable of understanding and bringing about change. We have to help them understand, because the massive efforts to ensure that they don't are aided by both old and new animal welfarism that never can possibly bring about animal rights or slow the rate of growth of animal exploitation and abuse.

Best,

David C.

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