In Defense Of Farm Sanctuary

hen Over 200 hens who were destined for slaughter now have a safe home with Farm Sanctuary. But some animal advocates see a problem:

“Farm Sanctuary is asking for donations [click here to read more] to help it rehabilitate (some of) the victims of the welfarist paradigm that it – promotes! (Farm Sanctuary was an aggressive promoter of Proposition 2 in California, for example, a regulatory measure that will – it is claimed (by welfarists) – make animal agriculture more ‘humane,’ but which will, in reality, do nothing to protect animals from the abuses inherent to being used as property).” says James Crump.

Problems with Crump’s reasoning:

  1. Banning battery cages =/= promoting free-range. They are not the same thing and they do not go hand-in-hand.
  2. “These chickens were found crowded together on the second level of a barn, not freely roaming green pastures.” (source)
  3. Farm Sanctuary is a sanctuary for animals from farms. It’s absurd to think they shouldn’t offer a safe home to these chickens, regardless of their politics.  (example)
  4. Prop 2 hasn’t taken effect yet. When it does, it’s only for California.
  5. Many of these chickens came from New York, not California.
  6. The proposition’s language doesn’t “promote” anything. It merely bans some of the most egregious forms of cruelty to farm animals: “a person shall not tether or confine any covered animal, on a farm, for all or the majority of any day, in a manner that prevents such animal from: (a) Lying down, standing up, and fully extending his or her limbs; and (b) Turning around freely.”
  7. All of the chickens deserve better than they received at the farms. These individuals need sanctuary.

From the Farm Sanctuary story:

“The first group of hens to arrive at Farm Sanctuary included 151 Rhode Island Red chickens from a Pennsylvania ‘free-range’ farm that closed down and planned to send the birds to slaughter only days after we received a call to save them. Though raised in an environment thought to be humane, the hens we greeted were what the industry calls ‘spent’ – their bodies strained and exhausted from years of unnatural egg production and their beaks marred from the painful mutilations they endured as chicks.”

“Once confined and crowded together on the second level of a barn, not free-roaming as their classification as ‘free-range’ suggests, the chickens have since discovered the pure delight of unlimited access to the outdoors. Even with the cold and snow at our New York Shelter, these girls will not be deterred from going outside and burst forth from their barn each morning to search for the next big thrill to be had in their new life. Their love of freedom and fresh air is so great that nothing easily lures the hens inside at day’s end.”

15 Responses to In Defense Of Farm Sanctuary

  1. I don’t understand people like James who make such incendiary claims against people or organization that are on his side. Farm Sanctuary is a vegan organization that promotes animal liberation. It is disengenuous to say otherwise. Just because it rescues animals from factory farms and supports laws that at least offer some protection for farm animals does not mean that it promotes so-called “humane” meat or other welfarist ideals. These kind of people do more to harm the animal liberation movement than they do to help because they try to divide people by using misleading rhetoric. James, how about directing some of that anger at KFC instead. When chicken factory farms have gone out of business then we can start nitpicking animal rights organizations about the good work they do.

  2. “These kind of people do more to harm the animal liberation movement than they do to help because they try to divide people by using misleading rhetoric. .. When chicken factory farms have gone out of business then we can start nitpicking animal rights organizations about the good work they do.”

    Solid irony there, unfortunately.

    Frankly, I think it’s sad that anyone on either side is so sure of himself that he can spend time berating the other. Abolition is clearly a worthy goal with some potential downsides. Reformists have the same goal with different potential downsides. Who can say?

  3. The sad part is that there are people who misrepresent the issue. Some abolitionists try to paint animal rights activists who work for incremental improvements toward complete animal liberation as welfarists. This is a false charge. There are the “all or nothing” abolitionsists who think that working to ban certain cruel practices is counter-productive and that banning battery cages, for example, implies it is okay to eat cage free eggs. Then there are abolitionists who think that incremental improvements, like banning battery cages, can lead to total abolition off animal exploitation and that the “all or nothing” approach hasd unfortunately led to nothing.

    The problem is that some people, like James, try to paint the abolitionists who take the incremental approach as welfarists who think that animal exploitation is okay as long as it is done “humanely.” That argument is completely baseless and worse, it divides the AR movement. We are too small a group to be divided. We need to be a unified force to combat the hugely powerful animal exploiting industries. In fighting and diviseness will only make us weaker, especially when the divisive rhetoric is false or misleading.

    Farm Sanctuary was the first animal rights organization to come out against “humane meat” labels. It was the first organization to produce a leaflet showing the public that there is really very little difference between how “free-range”, “cage-free”, “grass-fed,” “organic” etc. animals are raised and killed and how factory farmed animals are raised and killed. The organization has never said that “humane meat” is okay. But just because it supports the incremental improvements and legal measures to ban some of the worst practices of factory farming there are those who have the gall to say the organization is “welfarist.” This is a blatant and harmful misrepresentation and hurts the AR movement.

  4. “I think it’s sad that anyone on either side is so sure of himself that he can spend time berating the other. ”

    Excellent point, Jay.
    There’s a place for criticism, to be sure, but there’s a place for reflection, too. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, but we’re all on the same team.

    I think it’s good to talk about this, to keep it out in the open and to bring transparency and accountability to animal advocates, particularly to organizations. But we must also prioritize and use our time in the best way possible. Splitting hairs and arguing semantics won’t reduce or end animal exploitation, it just won’t. And the more time we spend fighting each other, the less time we spend fighting the real enemy: animal exploiters.

  5. I don’t get the sense in reading the linked blurb that Crump thinks Farm and other reformist orgs believe that animal exploitation is permissible. Rather, he believes that reformist/welfarist behavior *in fact* promotes animal exploitation. If this is true, then since Farm inarguably uses reformist tactics, there is a sense in which they promote animal exploitation. And if *that’s* true, then you can surely see why Crump would want to make inflamitory posts about it.

  6. Oops, missed your last post, Eccentric Vegan. Yes – I think you’re right that the circumspect and low priority approach is best.

  7. “he believes that reformist/welfarist behavior *in fact* promotes animal exploitation.”
    a) I think he’s wrong.
    b) That’s got nothing to do with these particular chickens. They need help regardless.

  8. There is a difference between an incremental approach to animal liberation and reformist/welfarist approaches to continue animal exploitation. Farm Sanctuary (not FARM) makes it very clear that it is against all forms of animal exploitation. To call the organization welfarist is not only wrong in a semantic case, it is slanderous. Slander has no place in a fair debate.

    Welfarists believe that it is okay to use animals as long as they are treated “humanely.”

    Farm Sanctuary clearly states that it is not okay to use animals, even if it is done “humanely.”

    Calling Farm Sanctuary a welfarist organization is slanderous. It is an abolitionist organization that believes welfare reforms will incrementally lead to abolition, while purist “all or nothing” abolitionist methods will unfortunately lead a small number of people going vegan while the population at large continues to exploit animals and view vegans as a fringe, radical group.

    A true defence of Farm Sanctuary might start with the organization’s position statement on its website:


    “At Farm Sanctuary, [farm] animals are our friends, not our food.”

    “Farm Sanctuary opposes the slaughter, consumption and commodification of farm animals. Those who are sincere in their concern for animals and for the environment make a knotty compromise if they choose to eat ostensibly crate-free or free-range meat instead of a vegan diet. The degree to which so-called humane meat is more sustainable than factory-farmed meat is negligible; plant-based agriculture is far more environmentally sound than animal agriculture-whether “humane” or factory farmed. And, while some farmers may treat animals better than others, we achieve a much deeper compassion when we do not eat animals at all.”

    “Farm Sanctuary has never and will never support so-called “humane” meat. We maintain that the words “humane” and “slaughter” are mutually exclusive.”

    “Farm Sanctuary holds that legislative reform complements our aspiration to achieve a world free of the violence visited daily upon farm animals in animal agriculture. Incremental improvements are steps in a larger process. They serve to educate millions who have never before considered the plight of farm animals; they create modest improvements in the lives of farm animals; and they can squeeze the industry, making big agribusiness more accountable for the harm it causes.”

  9. Matt is absolutely right. I have spent a lot of time volunteering at Farm Sanctuary; I know many FS staff people very well, and to call them or their work “welfarist” is not just inaccurate but offensive. It is a vegan organization, run by vegans–several of whom actually have “vegan” tattooed on their bodies–with a vegan message. FS staff work long hours for little money because they care deeply about their mission to spare farm animals from as much suffering as possible. If that means rescuing pigs from the floodwaters of Iowa last summer, they do it. If that means lobbying to ban some of the worst cruelties in factory farms, they do it. If that means cranking out pro-vegan literature, they do it. I personally went vegan after taking a guided tour of their shelter in New York, and I know I’m not alone. So please, stop trying to tear down one of the best animal organizations out there.

  10. “I personally went vegan after taking a guided tour of their shelter in New York, and I know I’m not alone.”

    Likewise, my husband and I went vegan partially because of a FS tour. And my nephew went vegetarian because of the same tour. Admittedly, the sanctuary tour was part of a larger picture of multiple causes and wasn’t the sole cause of our transformations, but it played a significant role.

  11. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to complain about the term ‘welfarist’. For one, even in a human animal context, welfarism does not take the plight of its subjects to be satisfactory. For two, ‘new welfarist’ was coined by Francione, as I understand it, with the explicit assumption that new welfarists were abolitionists opting for an incremental approach. That is, someone who is overtly opposed to the project is admitting that they share a common goal.

    Obviously I have a different background on ‘reformist’ and ‘welfarist’ – perhaps it would be helpful if someone could point me to some reading that explicitly characterizes welfarists as something other than abolitionists? (No, I don’t think Crump’s inflammatory post counts, though it is misleading.)

  12. Good question Jay. I am not sure exactly when the terms “animal welfare” and “animal rights” started, but for decades they have been used in common language to mean very different things.

    From Wikipedia: “Animal welfare refers to the viewpoint that it is morally acceptable for humans to use nonhuman animals for food, in animal research, as clothing, and in entertainment, so long as unnecessary suffering is avoided. The position is contrasted with the animal rights position, which holds that other animals should not be used by, or regarded as the property of, humans.”

    Francione deliberately used the term “new welfarist” to refer to abolitionists who take the incremental approach because it is inflammatory. It is insulting to call an animal rights activist a welfarist and Francione means to be insulting when he uses such rhetoric. Regardless of your position in the debate between the incremental vs the purist abolitionist positions, the term welfarist is misleading, slanderously inaccurate, insulting, and devisive.

    Instead of fairly arguing the merits of either abolitionist position, Gary Francione, James Crump, and many others, use inflammatory rhetoric like this to imply that people who work for incremental change “support” or “promote” welfarist ideals. Basically, instead of arguing their position that incremental changes may empower animal exploitation, they are saying that animal rights activists who believe incremental changes will lead to animal liberation believe it is okay to use animals for food, research, slavery etc. Of course, that is not true, but for Francione and Crump, the truth doesn’t seem to matter.

    Crump specifically states that Farm Sanctuary “promotes” the welfarist paradigm. He is saying that Farm Sanctuary thinks it is okay to use animals for food as long as it is done “humanely.” That is slanderous and does not help the movement in any way. He could have argued his purist abolitionist opinion without slandering Farm Sanctuary. This isn’t about which side of the abolitionist debate you are on. This is about being fair and honest.

    One of the main reasons I lean toward the incrementalist approach is because of the slanderous rhetoric that Francione and others use to advance their purist position. Their position must be rather weak if they have to resort to slander and misleading rhetoric. It is a lot easier to gain support for the purist abolitionist position if you can paint the incrementalists as welfarists. No abolitionist would support a welfarist organization, but many abolitionists do support the incrementalist approach to abolition.

    Read the next comment to see my position:

  13. In general, I think both the incrementalist and the purist approaches have merit. I think that we certainly should advocate veganism to the general public. Everyone can change his or her own diet and lifestyle. But, in the meantime, while we work on getting people to go vegan, billions of animals are still suffering on factory farms and agribusiness is profiting. While we may be able to convince an individual to go vegan today, we are not going to be able to convince KFC to stop selling chicken flesh today, tomorrow or anytime soon. Since the demand for vegan food is not as big as the demand for chicken flesh, asking KFC to stop selling chicken would be the same as asking it to go out of business. No company is going to willingly go out of business and no CEO can legally make a decision to intentionally hurt the profits of the company’s shareholders. So, it doesn’t make sense to ask KFC to go vegan until there is sufficient demand for vegan food. But, in the meantime, KFC’s suppliers abuse a billion (A BILLION) chickens a year in ways that are almost unimagineable. I am not going to say anything negative about an individual or an organization that thinks it can convince KFC to require its suppliers to at least provide some minimal protection to the billions of suffering animals it has killed each year. And just because someone asks KFC to make some welfarist reforms, does not mean that that person is saying it is okay to eat chickens.

    Another example, and then I’m done. Imagine that your neighbor keeps his dog on a 3 foot chain in his backyard and regularly fails to provide the dog with food and water. The dog is miserable, suffering from thirst, hunger, cold, etc. You ask you neighbor if you can take the dog and provide him with a loving home, but your neighbor refuses to hand the dog over and threatens to shoot you if you try to come on his property to rescue the dog from his miserable condition (just like the police would do if you tried to break into a factory farm to rescue animals). Let’s say that there are no laws to protect dogs from this type of abuse (just as there are no laws protecting farm animals from abuses on factory farms) What are you going to do? What can you do?

    You can tell all your neighbors to not buy dogs. You can work to pass legislation to protect dogs from this type of abuse. But that takes time. Winter is fast approaching and your neighbors dog has been without food for 3 days. What are you going to do?

    Now, let’s say that you are able to convince your neighbor to let you build a doghouse for his dog and to give the dog food and water everyday. So you do that. Now the dog at least has enough to eat and drink and has some shelter from the cold and the rain and the snow. Of course, the dog is still chained up and miserable, but his life is a little better. You still work to get people to stop buying dogs and you still work to pass laws to protect dogs.

    Now, let’s say that someone like James Crump sees what you did for that dog and calls you a welfarist. He tells people that you think it is okay to keep dogs on 3 foot chains in your backyard as long as they have food, water and shelter. How would that make you feel? Would you think that James was being fair and accurate or would you be insulted and say that that type of slander was inappropriate?

    I know how I would feel about it.

  14. I think the Farm Sanctuary is doing its best to publicize and to make aware the plight of animals raised for food. If these steps (proposition 2) could be taken to shine a light on just how animal products are brought to the consumer maybe more people would say no thanks to the whole industry.


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