Agree to Disagree
I appreciate Satya providing a forum regarding the pros and cons
of animal welfare standards [September
2006 issue]. But I thought
showing the same photo of a piece of flesh labeled as “not compassionate,” “almost
compassionate,” and “purely compassionate” was counterproductive.
When I die, I will be cremated, and I suspect that my remains will
look identical to those of my relatives killed in Nazi death camps.
If their ashes were available, picturing them along with mine would
also convey a “dead is dead” message. Oversimplifying
complex issues serves little purpose.
I’ve spent the last two decades tabling at street fairs, leafleting,
etc., and I always advocate veganism. I’ve distributed thousands
of vegetarian starter kits and Why Vegan? pamphlets in the last few
years alone. When someone tells me they only eat “happy meat” (or
a different oxymoronic term for murdered animals), I don’t throw
my hands up in defeat and blame Peter Singer, PETA or Whole Foods.
I smile, knowing I’ve got them on a slippery slope. If this person
took a stance against factory farming, there’s a good chance
they will be open to learning about male chicks being murdered the
day they are born, bodily mutilations being done without anesthesia,
horrific transport and slaughterhouse conditions, and the other egregious
cruelties involved in all animal agriculture. I clearly have a better
chance of converting this person to veganism than someone who won’t
even acknowledge that their food had a face, mother or bowel movement.
If I spent my life obsessed about compromising my personal purity,
I’d become dysfunctional. I compromise my values every time I
get into a car, board an airplane, buy food that wasn’t grown
locally or organically or fair trade certified, buy a product packaged
in plastic, turn on the heat, etc. But when I offer compassion to an
animal, whether it’s untangling a dog from a chain she shouldn’t
be on in the first place or advocating that a chicken be murdered painlessly,
I’m not compromising my values. I’m living them.
Those who embrace welfare reforms as a step to abolition won’t
be changing their minds soon. Nor will those who think advocating abolition
is the only path and believe that small steps are counterproductive.
I respect both opinions and think it’s time both sides agree
to disagree and get back to the monumental task ahead.
Banning the Cruelest Practices
I was heartened to read the essays of my friends in the animal movement
on both sides of this important debate. Such dialogue is positive and
Satya should be applauded for providing a space for it.
While I certainly agree that we shouldn’t be calling alternative
animal products “cruelty-free,” when we oppose campaigns
to ban the cruelest practices associated with factory farming, we
abandon animals to face worse misery than they would otherwise have
The public already agrees that animals should not have to endure
battery cages, veal crates, gestation crates, force-feeding and other
It’s up to the animal movement to translate that existing public
support into meaningful victories for animals, which is what groups
like HSUS are doing.
There’s a reason agribusiness officials are obsessed with fighting
against campaigns to ban their most abusive practices. The animal
movement is making strides to reduce massive amounts of animal suffering,
is something we should be proud of.
The Humane Society of the United States
My Thoughts as they Are
What a really great/important issue of Satya. By far and
above the best article in my opinion was by James LaVeck, who articulated
precision our dilemma, and then of course the interview
with Patty Mark. I was uncertain of my stance on this issue before,
but now my thinking has sharpened by reading this issue of Satya.
think it’s a question of welfarism vs. abolition anymore, but
a redefinition of the third wave of our movement. As Patty so brilliantly
articulates, she has changed and is changing, which is the mark of
a true revolutionary—they deal with the conditions that exist
now, not concepts from 20 years ago. Another element made clear is
that our movement is being co-opted to make a profit for others—the
good energy of thousands of activists is being sucked into a move,
not of their imagining but of someone else’s idea of realism,
capitalism and compromise. I don’t think it is our job to be
accepted by the mainstream but for the mainstream to come toward
the concept of life before profit. To do that, we have to be clear
what our message is. It may not be realistic. We are about changing
the world not adapting to the world. That may be an elitist view,
but who in the heck shops at Whole Foods? Certainly not the poor
Accommodation and compromise do ameliorate the terrible conditions
in which animals exist, and the activists that achieved this must
be applauded, not the animal slavers, who have discovered a new market
in “compassion.” Has the animal rights movement been reduced
to “consumer choice”? If you don’t like pork then
how about free-range buffalo?
As for Singer, he is wrong. Cows do mourn. Any dairy farmer will
tell of the mothers who just gave birth, crying for days and days
newborn calves are taken away from them. Female human babies are
killed at birth in certain African nations like Somalia because the
cannot afford another girl. No doubt this is in the best interest
of that family and tribe, but does that make it right? Should not
most frail amongst us be given the most support? Why not kill the
elderly who no longer can contribute their labor to society? Who
does the killing?
Who decides that this person has no right to live? Utilitarianism,
like Marxism, is not a theory to be applied mechanically. Consistency
is not always truth, it can reflect a lack of empathy and imagination.
Utilitarianism can lead to untenable moral quandaries. We are not
a uni-crop species of sameness, all blowing in the wind like identical
blond corn cobs. Singer has contributed so much to our movement,
like anything, it has its time, and then its time passes—that
Singer suggests the countries with the most “humane” standards
of slaughter would create a mass movement of vegans, but the reality
is, poorer countries consume very little animal products—their
diet is primarily plant-based. Animals are not well protected in
Britain, contrary to what Singer says. For goodness sake, the government
slaughtered every single sheep, lamb and pig, only a few years ago,
because they could be exposed to a non-fatal foot and mouth virus,
whereas in developing countries, foot and mouth is dealt with using
herbs on the animal, not slaughter. So much for the bigger cages
of England. It may have forwarded the consciousness of the masses
when push came to shove, millions of healthy animals were slaughtered
and buried in mass pits without so much as a murmur.
The chickens were allowed a step outside onto grass, but now the
government is saying those chickens who are free-range risk spreading
so they are back in the sheds. How quickly can the concept of “humanely” raising
an animal be manipulated back to ground zero, when profit is at stake.
Another point which Singer misses, I think, is yes, there are billions
of animals whose lives can be improved by larger cages, but the numbers
are misleading. It’s billions and billions, and then more billions
and billions because the life of a factory farmed animal is so short.
Would not more animals suffer less if there was a decreased demand
for their flesh? I cannot think of any activist I know who would be
critical of raising the standard of life for a “food animal”—but
I do believe there is a danger in individuals presuming to define
the steps toward liberation. No one has a crystal ball as to what
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