Below is Gary Francione’s pithy response to a “happy meat” peddler:
Earlier today, Anna and I went to [...] an outdoor market in the Whole Foods parking lot. Local vendors sell fruits, vegetables, baked goods–and animal flesh and products.
One vendor had decorated her “organic meat” stall with pictures of her “free-range” chickens, pigs, and cows. We stopped to look at the pictures. I pointed out to her that there were no pictures of the slaughtering process.
“Oh, well we slaughter our chickens on the premises and our cows and pigs go to a slaughter facility that is only six miles away. [...]“
Another shopper had appeared and said, “I feel so much better about buying this my meat from farms like this.”
The vendor remarked, “Oh, yes, these animals are our dear friends.”
I responded, politely but seriously: “That’s an odd thing to say; I hope that you don’t treat your other ‘dear friends’ this way.” [emphasis added]
The vendor laughed. She thought I was joking.
“These animals are our dear friends.” Think about that. Think about what terrible confusion such a statement reveals.
This is where the happy meat/animal products movement is leading us.
This is where the PETA-KFC controlled-atmosphere killing campaign is taking us.
We are moving backward. [emphasis added]
Go vegan. It’s the baseline of the abolitionist movement and is nonviolence in action.
Such a response could be employed when discussing ethical veganism with those individuals who argue that they “love” their horse companions while simultaneously forcing them to compete with others in events that are inherently dangerous. As these events occur for the humans’ financial gain and “entertainment” alone, the horse is forced to accept their potential harm and death because we enjoy doing so. Therefore, this begs the response: ”I hope you don’t love your mother in this way.”
To what extent we are “moving backward” is contestable in my opinion. However, as an anecdotal matter, I have experienced first-hand Mr. Francione’s fear: “Humanely” murdered nonhumans are more palatable – morally speaking – to otherwise compassionate - and therefore potential vegans and vegetarians - humans, which directly challenges the realization of our end: A vegan world.
Mr. Francione assumes a sort of hierarchy of importance. We have a) the premise: suffering is inherently evil, and b) the conclusion: a vegan world. Abolitionists often exist in the conclusion while forgetting the premise as a very thoughtful individual once said. Therefore, efforts to reduce suffering, which is an empirical matter of course (“Does X actually reduce suffering?”), are derided because they don’t sufficiently address the conclusion: ending the property status of nonhumans. I agree in the abstract. However, in the practical, we cannot forget the suffering. Indeed, this, in my opinion, accounts for Mr. Francione’s unjustifiable challenge to direct action campaigns by the ALF, for example. As such, holistic approaches are defensible and necessary.
I wouldn’t, however, argue that Mr. Francione is harmful to the AR movement in his manifest divisiveness. This discourse is necessary and has been an important impetus for animal welfare organizations such as PETA to articulate an explicitly abolitionist platform: “Animals are not ours to X, Y, and Z.” That means nonhumans are not our property.
The effectiveness of PETA turns on the empirical matter motioned above and on the extent of the issue raised by Mr. Francione about “happy meat” = people feel better about killing nonhumans unnecessarily. Therefore, criticize and disagree; substantive dialogue is important. Perhaps Mr. Francione is correct and the death and suffering of nonhumans is more acceptable today than ever before, which suggests the failure of welfarism. Could be true, indeed. But veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages are being phased-out as well. This may only lead to more rational measures to exploit nonhumans, but it allows us to broach the subject on a national platform, which is important. Coupled with “new environmentalism,” and informed, principled information campaigns, it could be a paradigm shift.
I’m not implying that the abolitionists, a group that I self-identify with, forget the suffering. I am saying, explicitly, however, that they prioritize the conclusion and thus fail to truly consider all the wretched evil on the farm and in the lab.
Crossposted @ That Vegan Girl