14 April 2000

Animal Rights and Other Social Justice Movements

This Statement was prepared for the April 8, 2000 Animals and Law Conference at Pace Law School on Animal Rights and Other Social Justice Movements in the New Millennium.

From Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I would like to express our concern that the animal advocacy community would support employment that constitutes animal abuse. In particular, we are concerned that animal advocates would support making it more comfortable for people to work for the poultry industry. While we support social justice, we recognize that not all social justice interests are compatible and that not all jobs can be ethically supported. The unpleasantness of a job for a worker does not of itself entitle that job to be benefited. Some work is not fit to do. Raising animals for slaughter, rounding them up for slaughter, transporting, and killing them--the entire bundle of violent, cruel, abusive jobs that constitute the poultry industry cannot logically be supported by animal or peace advocates.

However underpaid, poultry industry employees are neither legal property nor slaves, whereas the birds are both. Workers' choices may be limited, but people with limited choices leave jobs all the time for reasons that are far less compelling than why a person should get out of the poultry industry instead of demanding better pay to abuse birds for a living. Poultry industry employees are not children but consenting adults, and while they may be victimized by Perdue and Tyson, etc., they themselves violently and directly victimize animals. The fact that they do not object to such work as long as they get sufficiently paid to do it shows the insensitivity and lack of empathy such work produces.

United Poultry Concerns opposes any alliance that animal advocates would make with individuals or groups that support and perpetuate animal abusing employment. Commitment to a worthwhile life for humans and nonhuman animals means supporting morally responsible occupations, not cruel and unconscionable ones, like working for the poultry industry. Making it more lucrative and "dignified" for people to mistreat animals is a misguided approach for animal advocates to take. It is a betrayal of our mission and a betrayal of the birds and other animals whom our species has already desolated and deprived of everything but misery, horror, and murder. Helping people to feel and be more comfortable in a cruel and abusive occupation does not help them. It would be wrong for the animal advocacy community to facilitate the illusion that it does.

United Poultry Concerns. April 14, 2000

May 12, 2000

Dear Karen Davis,

I wanted to thank you for the statement you prepared for the Animals and Law Conference at Pace Law school, this year. I know it takes a great deal of integrity--and courage--to speak the truth about the immorality of supporting better working conditions and wages for those who choose to work at jobs that abuse animals.

Besides my work for Humane Religion, I also work with the National Farm Workers Ministry. We support migrant farm workers who harvest the produce that feeds us in this country. And from my experience with addressing local churches and political groups, I know full well that my fellow liberals have no understanding that being financially disadvantaged does not mean that you are ethically challenged. The liberal cliche that you need to be financially secure in order to do the right thing, is actually a terrible bias against the moral character of the poor.

Thank you for your work,