Winter 2002 Poultry Press UPC Forum
Forum Report: Do Animal Welfare Campaigns & Reforms Hurt or Help?

On December 8-9, 2001, United Poultry Concerns held our 3rd annual Forum at our headquarters and chicken sanctuary in Machipongo, Virginia. We are pleased to present to our members this summary of the ideas expressed by the speakers at the Forum. We thank everyone whose participation helped make our Forum a significant contribution to the Animal Liberation Movement; we thank Joyce Friedman of In Defense of Animals for moderating our two discussion sessions and Paul Shapiro of Compassion Over Killing for his video presentation of Hope For the Hopeless.

Kirsten Rosenberg, Managing Editor of The Animals' Agenda: "Looking Out for Animals' Welfare in the Pursuit of Rights." Philosophically, we can distinguish between classic welfare, welfare in pursuit of rights, and abolition without reform. Classic welfare seeks to improve our [mis]treatment of the animals we exploit, but does not seek to abolish the exploitation. Welfare in pursuit of rights seeks to alleviate the suffering of the animals we exploit while seeking to abolish the exploitation. Abolition without reform considers reform, by and large, to be counterproductive in the pursuit of animals' rights.

However, well-crafted welfare campaigns can lead society to more expanded concerns about animals, and bring more people into our movement. Welfare reforms also reduce animal suffering. While modest improvements and regulations legitimize and codify nonhuman animals as property, a modestly good law can be amended, and thus further improve the treatment of exploited animals. For example, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) keeps expanding its coverage-all the way from only animals in laboratories in the 1960s to animals used for fighting purposes, as in the current legislation to amend the AWA to ban the interstate transport of birds intended for cockfighting.

The very fact of a law acknowledges that there are practices that are wrong and creates a social perception of wrongness. The alternative is nothing on the books, no laws at all. In the legislative arena, if you're not there, you leave that arena to those who don't care about animals or animal welfare. Under these circumstances, "insider status" is not a sellout. Not to help animals who are suffering here and now is to sacrifice existing animals for a hypothetical future and to basically say that the suffering of existing animals doesn't count. However, we have a duty to ameliorate the suffering of animals on the way to abolition.

To the question of whether welfare campaigns, reforms, and regulations make people feel better about abusing animals, like eating them, there are no opinion polls yet to answer the question. Such polls are needed. To the argument that welfare doesn't work because more animals are now being used than ever before, this is true, but it is not inevitably the fault of reformists: unfortunately, the technologies of animal exploitation have increased along with the global human population. More people in the world create more of a market for animal products.

The very fact of a law acknowledges that there are practices that are wrong and creates a social perception of wrongness. The alternative is nothing on the books, no laws at all.
— Kirsten Rosenberg

Joe Miele, New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance: "Getting Back to the Core of the Animal Rights Movement." Concerning reforms and campaigns, there are welfare reforms/campaigns intended to help animals vs. welfare reforms/campaigns intended to help animal abusing industries. An example of a positive welfare campaign is the Goose People in Seattle, who stopped the US Department of Agriculture from killing harmless geese. It didn't stop the killing of all geese but it stopped the killing these geese, while gaining favorable press and public support. "Bad" reform is one that seeks to make the abuser's activities more palatable to the public. Good publicity for abusers doesn't necessarily translate into good news for the animals. Regarding the American Humane Association's Free Farmed Eggs certificate program, for example, Shape Magazine said, "If nothing else, your conscience should be lighter." Or take the McDonald's/Burger King "more space" for battery-caged hens reforms. To show you what "more space" really amounts to for each individual hen, I made these 3 cages: here's the standard 48 square inches that a "battery" hen currently receives in her crowded cage. Here is the 72 square inches of space per hen that McDonalds' is now requiring its egg suppliers to provide; and here is the 75 square inches of space per hen that Burger King is now demanding of its egg suppliers.

By giving hens a little more space, McDonald's gets positive press, and people think, "this is a responsible company." They may thus become even more hardened against abolition. Unfortunately, "more space" doesn't increase the demand for vegan food. In choosing a campaign, we must ask: Will this campaign result in saving lives? Will this campaign result in eroding the status of animals as property? Even incremental abolitionist reforms could conceivably legitimize-reinforce the legitimacy of-- institutionalized animal abuse.

What we end up with are feel- good laws that are "good" for us-not for the animals.
— Sean Day

Steve Best PhD, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, El Paso; President of Voice for All Animals and VP of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso: "Undoing False Oppositions: Lessons From the Social Revolutionaries." Other social justice movements go through the same arguments over reform vs. revolution; these arguments were part of the Marxist tradition. Unfortunately, the Marxist tradition was and remains radically anthropocentric and speciesist.

So how does the Marxist conflict between reform and revolution apply to animal rights concerns? The 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution, which brought enormous suffering to workers throughout the world. There were no child labor laws, no welfare laws. There was no social security, workers compensation, minimum wage, or workers' right to vote. In 1848, insurrections rolled across Europe, and it looked like workers would "take over." But that didn't happen, in part because capitalism gradually showed an ability to accommodate some of the basic demands being made by workers and their advocates for a better life, and because what workers wanted most was a decent life- better working conditions, shorter hours, etc. By the time Marx died in 1888, he had come to see that reforms might lead to revolutionary changes within capitalism. He was pessimistic but hopeful.

In the fight for justice, a county with no democratic options or traditions may need violence as a strategy. However, the US and other Western countries, despite huge opposition, have responded, if not totally yet, to demands to end racism and sexism, and could thus conceivably advance even further; in the US, a woman president or a black president is no longer inconceivable.

Likewise, Western society shows a growing recognition that nonhuman animals have moral claims upon us that we can no longer ignore. There is evidence that recognition of animal sensibilities is the next great step in human evolution. To make this happen, we need to find ways to link reforms so they do not remain isolated "victories," but combine qualitatively to advance the movement for Animal Liberation. The worst thing is when people become complacent with getting a little here, a little there, without the Big Goal being sought or reached.

Sean Day, Attorney: "Beyond Rights vs. Welfare: A Model for Evaluating Efforts in Furtherance of Animal Rights." Consider the fact that the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) carries no criminal penalties for vivisectors and that 85 to 95 percent of animals used in research are not covered by the Act. The case of animal experimenter Edward Taub and the Silver Spring Monkeys in the 1980s is an example of the AWA actually thwarting welfare. It was because of the AWA that the Taub case was overturned on appeal. Having been convicted of animal cruelty in Maryland, the Maryland Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that animal experimenters who receive federal tax funding do not have to obey State anticruelty laws. At the same time, current legislation that would ban the interstate transport of birds intended for cockfighting by amending the AWA is abolitionist, because it seeks to end cockfighting-not to make cockfighting "more humane."

In the legislative arena, consider the degrading of the Downed Animal Protection Act in being amended into the Farm Bill in 2001. The original downed animal bill was designed to prevent the marketing of downed animals and to promote their immediate euthanasia. But the amended form of the proposed law carries no criminal or civil penalties and can be overridden by "veterinary intent": if the crippled cow, say, fails to respond to the veterinarian's intention of making her move on her own two feet, she may then be forcibly loaded onto a slaughter-bound truck without being euthanized on the spot. And while reforms like an 8-hour workday are clearly progressive, a "humane slaughter act" could be considered a "negative improvement" because it promotes the false idea that animals are being "humanely slaughtered." What we end up with are feel- good laws that are "good" for us-not for the animals. While we do not want to sacrifice animals who are suffering now to the hypothetical goal of an abolitionist future, neither do we want to forego long-term improvements in favor of "instant gratification." Welfare is bad when it adds another layer of insulation to exploitation and abuse. What is good is to Go Vegetarian. Each vegetarian-each vegan, that is-saves about 5,000 animals. Many people believe they can be compassionate towards animals and still eat them! The most egregious cruelty is that animals are brought into this world only to be enslaved and killed. This is what we should work to abolish.

There is evidence that recognition of animal sensibilities is the next great step in human evolution.
— Steve Best PhD

Bruce Friedrich, Vegetarian Grassroots Campaigns Coordinator for PETA: "Welfare vs. Liberation: Mutually Exclusive?" My role at PETA is helping activists to promote veganism. To date, society is still pretty much arrayed against us, and even people who intellectually are for animal rights don't always emotionally or behaviorally conform to their own intellectual recognition. Hopefully, Hope For the Hopeless, Compassion Over Killing's new video showing the horror of the egg industry, which we watched today, will "haunt" everyone who sees it to go vegan.

Regarding PETA's campaigns, PETA does agonize and debate about our campaigns. For example, PETA wrote to McDonald's following the judge's verdict in the McLibel Trial, which ran from June 1994 to December 1996, that McDonald's was guilty of cruelty to chickens and other animals being raised and slaughtered by the company's suppliers of eggs, meat, and other animal products. The judge ruled that McDonald's behavior was cruel-but not illegal. Still, the acknowledgement of cruelty was a major concession!--something to work with and to advance. To discount what McDonald's did for chickens and for farmed animals in general is mistaken. And consider that while McDonald's reforms are national in scope thus far, McDonald's' followers, Burger King and Wendy's, have internationalized their welfare reforms.

To those who say, "This isn't much" or "These McDonald's reforms are counterproductive," it may be replied that these reforms push the envelop. Birds have a whole new level of recognition: the recognition that they have feelings and that these feelings must be taken into account. This is the first domino. Suddenly we are on our playing field instead of theirs.

How do you get national/international attention to animal issues as opposed to just your community and state-as important as local attention is? This is a question PETA deals with. We all agree, we shouldn't be doing just welfare reforms. For one thing, they steal resources from Liberation activity. The problem is, PETA has difficulty getting its members to do strictly vegan demos (as opposed to a "Wendy's reform"-type demo) and to give donations to vegan fundraisers. It's less scary to do fur and circus demos, which are not as challenging as the diet issue.

But to end optimistically: In 1900, there was not one country in which all adults could vote, not one country in which there was a law against child abuse. It has taken thousands of years to get people to consider the right to vote and child abuse laws as self-evident! We have progressed from Galileo, who in the 17th century was threatened with torture by the Catholic Church unless he recanted his statement that the earth is not the center of the physical universe, to the point where we have begun to recognize that humans are not the center of the moral universe-this advance has occurred in just three centuries.

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