Thought of the Day: Why Animal Welfare Reform Is Not Helping Animals

Thought of the Day: Why Animal Welfare Reform Is Not Helping Animals


Hi everyone. I’m Gary Francione. That was Maggie. Maggie is one of our other wonderful non-human companions, who had a very sad story, but now lives with us, and I hope is happy. I want to talk this morning about the problem of animal welfare reform. The Abolitionist Approach takes the position that Abolitionists should *not* support welfare reform campaigns. Welfarists often ask me: “why do you take that position?” Well, the answer is sort of complicated. I mean, I’m working on this issue for 25 years now, but, to give you a brief summary, there are three primary problems with welfare reform campaigns. The first is a moral problem. If animal exploitation is wrong– if animal use cannot be morally justified– then we ought not to be proposing continued animal use, as long as it’s supposedly humane. Think about this in the human context. If we make the judgment that human slavery is wrong, then we shouldn’t be promoting “humane” human slavery. We should be promoting the abolition of human slavery. Whatever fundamental rights violation you want to talk about in the human context, once we identify it, once we reject the practice altogether, we ought not to be promoting supposedly more humane versions of that practice that we have acknowledged [that] involves fundamental rights violations. Secondly, animal welfare reform doesn’t work. It can’t work. Animals are chattel property. They are are things; they are things that we buy and sell. There are markets for animals for, you know, there are commodities markets that trade animals. Animals are things; they have no inherent or intrinsic value. They only have external or extrinsic value. And so they’re property; And it costs money to protect the interests of animal property. Unlike other forms of property, animals have interests. They have preferences, desires, or wants. You know, your computer or your car, you know, the other forms of property, those forms of property do not have interests. But animals have interests. It costs money to protect the interests of animals. And so, the more we spend on protecting animal interests, the more valuable the animal becomes in terms of its status as a thing, and the more the animal has to be sold for in order for producers to make a profit. So, if we had animal welfare that really protected animal interests: it would still be wrong, absolutely wrong. I don’t care how humane animal use is; it’s morally unjustifiable. But let’s assume you had a situation where animal interests were protected to a much greater degree. It would cost a great deal more money. Producers aren’t going to do that because they can’t pass that along — and certainly in any significant way — to consumers, and the government is not going to impose it, because the government would be damaging an extremely important, would be injuring an extremely important industry. So, if you look at the history of animal welfare (which I’ve been doing for a long time), you see [that] the level of animal welfare is very, very low. It’s very low because it *has* to be very low, because animals are property, and because we’re going to protect their interests to the extent we *need* to do so, to exploit the animals in an efficient way. So, by and large, what animal welfare reform does is to eliminate gratuitous injury to animals; injury that doesn’t really have an economic value and that may, in some cases, actually be non-… you know… be economically not sensible to do. But it’s very very low… it provides a very very low standard of protection because animals are property. And so, you know, we can protect their interests all we want, and the more we do so, the more money it costs, and you gotta… you gotta pass that along to consumers or you have to have the government mandate it, and then, neither of those situations is realistic. So animal welfare reform is really severely limited by the fact that animals are chattel property. The third reason why animal welfare reform campaigns are problematic is that animal welfare reforms actually encourage the public to believe that it’s alright to continue to exploit animals. Now, welfarists often ask me: “Why do you think that?” “Why do you think that welfare reforms make people more comfortable about continuing to exploit animals?” I have to tell you: that question takes my breath away because that’s exactly what they are intended to do. Why do these groups have these campaigns in which they promote these welfare reforms that when… when they get them, they then declare “victory”, and they call, they say that … whether it’s Walmart, or whatever, or Bell & Evans chicken, or whatever, who is ever agreeing to the welfare reform is then praised as really caring about animals. And these campaigns are *intended* to make… I mean how can that *not* translate into making people feel more comfortable about continuing to exploit animals? When you have leaders of the animal movement on the web page of Bell & Evans chicken saying, you know, Bell & Evans is setting a whole new standard for Animal Welfare. How can that *not* promote the continued consumption of chicken sold by Bell & Evans? It’s what it intended to do [dog barks] — and Maggie agrees. Maggie agrees, as she should. OK. And, you know, why do we have these corporations promote having “happy exploitation” labels? Do you really think that the reason why these corporations have these labels and promote these products is because it’s causing everyone to go vegan? No! It’s making people feel more comfortable about animal exploitation. So you have some of these high-end supermarkets like Whole Foods, which says to the public: “we sell more humane, more humanely produced animals; you have to pay more money for them because, again, we’re protecting animal interests to a greater degree (they claim), than they’re ordinarily protected. So we’re protecting those interests more (they claim) and you have to pay more money for them.” Well, that may be okay for a small segment of the population that can afford to shop in those places. I would also say: I don’t really care how humanely produced these animals are. Any animal that you buy in any of these stores, however supposedly humanely produced, has been subjected to treatment that would be regarded as torture were humans involved. There is no such thing as happy exploitation. It is complete nonsense. It is a fantasy of the animal welfare movement and it’s wrong. So, of course these welfare reform campaigns make people feel more comfortable about continuing to exploit animals. That’s what they’re intended to do! And as I said, the corporations wouldn’t go along with this, if everybody was going vegan! This is not leading in a good direction. What this *is* doing is encouraging people to believe that there’s a right way to do the wrong thing. And there isn’t. If animals matter morally, then we are morally obligated to be vegan. Thank you.

Daniel Yohans

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