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Not my Movement; Not my Orgs: Part 1

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It’s no secret to those of us who promote nothing less than veganism and who speak up for the rights of all animals not to be treated as the supply to our demand that the large animal organisations don’t stand with us. Whether promoting some forms of animal use via meat reduction or vegetarianism, or perpetuating the myth that there is such a thing as “humane treatment”, these large animal charities fail to represent the rights of the animals for whom they claim to advocate.

In this essay, I’ll detail some of the worst offenses (in a long list) of the perpetuation of animal oppression championed by these orgs. Part 2 will detail some of the forms of human oppression employed as advertising strategies by one of these groups in particular. For reasons of space, I’ve had to be selective, and am therefore only scratching the surface of their problematic campaigns, but I hope that this essay shows why the animal groups are working against us, not with us.

“Happy” Exploitation Labels

Many of the large animal organisations support the “happy” exploitation labels developed by producers. The Certified Humane Raised and Handled label is backed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Humane Society International (HSI; a branch of HSUS) has its own label (named Humane Choice), as does the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (theirs is rather ironically named, since their RSPCA Assured (formerly Freedom Food) label marks some forms of “cruelty” out as morally better). Many of the large animal organisations, including Animal Rights International (ARI), Compassion Over Killing (COK), Farm Sanctuary, HSUS, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Mercy for Animals (MFA), Vegan Outreach (VO) and the US branch of Viva! showed support for the Farm Animal Compassionate Standards employed by Whole Foods in a letter to its CEO John Mackey signed by Peter Singer claiming that these standards will “improve the lives of millions of animals” (who are only being bred so that they can have a miserable life of exploitation before slaughter). If this isn’t bizarre enough, HSUS, in 2010, filed a class action suit against Perdue Farms over the latter’s use of a “humane” label, accusing the company of duping consumers and asserting that “Companies like Perdue are exploiting the dramatic growth of consumer demand for improved animal welfare for their own profit.”

HSUS, MFA and the Humane League were recently paid between $500,000 and $1,000,000 each by the Open Philanthropy Project to promote cage-free eggs. Think about this: would you ever put your seal of approval on an animal product? Would you endorse the consumption of a steak because the cow was treated a little less horrifically (albeit still horrifically) before she was slaughtered? If not, why on earth would you back the animal charities who are doing so in your name and with your donations?

Awards

The awards given by animal groups to those involved in animal use are enough to make your head spin. There’s Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) with its Good Egg Award, “celebrat[ing] companies that use or have committed to use only cage-free eggs or egg products in their supply chain. To date, more than 53 million laying hens are set to benefit each year from our award winners’ policies.” Yes, you read that right, folks: the hens are benefitting from the policies of egg producers; I bet that they’re singing songs of praise through their severed beaks. KFC and McDonalds are among CiWF’s awardees (see my other essays on cage-free eggs). Similarly, CiWF’s Good Pig Award celebrates companies “that use or are committing to use higher welfare pig systems for sows and meat pigs in their supply chain.” More than 2.5 million sows and meat pigs, they tell us, will benefit each year from these minimal improvements in conditions for pigs who are exploited, forcibly inseminated, and then slaughtered for trivial reasons. Among their awardees are the nauseatingly named Anna’s Happy Trotters and The Well Hung Meat Company (the former perpetuating the myth that animal exploitation can ever be happy for the animal; the latter perpetuating the conflation of meat-eating and machismo).

PeTA gives out many awards each year in various categories to people or companies who are involved in animal exploitation. Temple Grandin, slaughterhouse designer, was a recipient of PeTA’s Visionary Award, and Whole-Foods (a chain that sells meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, along with other animal products) was deemed Best Animal-Friendly Retailer, with PeTA stating that Whole Foods “has consistently done more for animal welfare than any retailer in the industry.” Among the recipients of their Person of the Year award are notable nonvegans Pope Francis, Ricky Gervais, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.

The animal orgs do great publicity work for the animal industry, and they constantly reinforce the false message that you don’t have to be vegan to be a champion for animals. So many misleading messages, and funded by your donations.

Undercover Investigations

A substantial portion of the funds raised by the animal groups goes towards undercover investigations. Apart from the fact that such undercover investigations direct the focus away from the key moral issue, many of the investigations require that the investigator participate in harming animals. As Mike Wolf, former investigator for Compassion Over Killing and now working for PeTA, writes in a Reddit AMA session,

“Working in the field you have to perform the job duties that are assigned to you. This means that you have to engage in what is called standard practice—for example, castrating a pig.”

Likewise, Chrystal Ferber who also performed undercover work with COK writes that

“[I]nvestigators are required to perform the job duties we’re hired on for, which entails performing the standard practices when required.”

And T.J. Tumasse, an investigator for PeTA and Mercy For Animals, recounts his time as a back-up killer whose job was to kill with a knife those chickens whose lives weren’t ended by the automated killing machines. “I was killing the very animals I was there to save,” he says.

Your donations: funding investigations into practices that we already know are morally wrong; sending people who care about animals to kill and otherwise harm the vulnerable animals we serve to protect.

 Helping the Producers Profit

Gary Francione has written extensively about how welfare reform measures help to increase both productivity and profits for the animal industry. These linked documents from both PeTA and HSUS show how these animal groups urge welfare “reforms”—in this case, controlled atmosphere killing (or gassing) of hens—with the assurance that they will increase profits, lower carcass damage, drive down labour costs, and reduce worker injuries.

Equivocation

The large animal organisations present veganism as an option; their starter kits often promote “veggie”, “reducetarian” and “vegan” as though they are morally equivalent. They caution against a focus on purity (purity, for vegans, denoting the unwillingness to participate in any avoidable animal use) and perpetuate the idea that veganism is difficult and not a moral imperative.

PeTA writes that “Being vegan is about helping animals, not maintaining personal purity. Boycotting products that may contain trace amounts of animal products can actually be harmful to animals in the long run. For example, by refusing to eat a veggie burger from a restaurant because the bun may contain traces of milk or eggs, you are discouraging that restaurant from offering vegan options because it seems too difficult a task.” We would never refer to any other social justice issue as a matter of personal purity, or encourage others to participate in a little bit of human oppression because to do otherwise would be to make social justice look too hard. Yet, the animal groups repeatedly send out the message that sometimes animal use is okay.

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

PeTA is known for its euthanasia policies. It shelter has euthanised 81% of the animals surrendered to it since the second half of 1998, and has adopted out just over 8% of animals in the same period, according to its filings with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

HSUS sponsors an event called “Hoofin’ It”, a “farm-to-table” restaurant crawl at which “A different hoofed animal will be featured at all of the stops each evening, 4 stops in total.” Not altogether surprising since Joe Maxwell, who is the Political Director of the Legislative Fund of HSUS is a pig farmer. In addition, HSUS posted on its Farmer Outreach page a $1.00-off coupon for Applegate Farms’ crate-free bacon, withdrawing the coupon when they received backlash.

When asked by ABC if “Animals Australia have a policy of opposing the rearing of livestock for human consumption,” Lyn White, the group’s leader, responded

“No, we certainly don’t. Look, our vision, our work is towards ensuring that all animals, that—especially in human care, have protection from cruel treatment and are treated with compassion and respect. That is what we work towards on a daily basis.”

These groups’ insistence on single-issue campaigns and championing of some animals over others suggest to the general public that that form or that product is morally worse than others. This creates moral confusion and applies a moral salve to participation in the forms of treatment or consumption of products that are not targeted.

If you’re vegan, the animal orgs don’t represent you; they can’t. With their focus on welfare reforms, their cherry-picking of issues, and their repeated abrogation of the rights of animals they claim to represent, they are categorially anti-vegan and anti-animal-rights.

These animal orgs speak out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to animals. They publish videos that promote veganism or that highlight mistreatment in the production facilities that do the same things as those to which they give awards, and they also endorse “humane” exploitation. They hold protests outside, and encourage boycotts, of fast food chains to get them to use animal products from “higher welfare” producers, but they stop those protests or boycotts once this is achieved, and even praise the companies involved, suggesting that a reduction in suffering is the answer to the problem of animal exploitation.

If we take animal interests seriously, and if we believe that animals are not ours to use, then why would we campaign for more efficient exploitation, give our support to marketing campaigns that encourage people to buy their dead bodies or products, or reward those who design methods of killing them? As vegans, we believe that animal exploitation is morally wrong; this is why we abstain. To promote happy exploitation or to praise slaughterhouse designers goes against everything that we believe.

The only alternative is grassroots vegan education, and that begins with the individual. We don’t need megabucks to change the world; we just need to change hearts and minds. The power to do that starts and ends with you.

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0 Comments
  • Jana Gibson

    An otherwise only eye-roll worthy piece reaches absolute absurdity when the writer singles out, for criticism, heroes like Mike Wolf, Chrystal Ferber and TJ Tumasse. They have given years of their lives and sacrificed their own emotional health to bring the world the stomach-turning video that saves so many lives. Ecorazzi, once a good site, should be ashamed of itself for giving McCormack a platform.

    • Alan O’Reilly

      Torturing and killing animals personally, which they freely admit, makes them “heroes”? Seriously? As for these videos saving “so many lives”, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support such a claim.

  • Great essay Frances McCormack! I look forward to reading the second part.

    As documented in this essay, undercover investigators have talked about the fact that they engage daily in torturing and killing animals in order to get the video footages needed to bring in donations. Many justify the actions of undercover investigators by reasoning that those animals are destined to be killed anyway. I wonder what would our reaction be if they were gassing humans in concentration camps (who would be gassed anyway) in order to obtain horror footages? Can we create peace by waging war? Professor Gary L. Francione’s answer: “…I believe that means must always be consistent with ends. We cannot choose immoral means to achieve moral ends…”

    The abolitionist vegans who live by the six principles of the Abolitionist Approach set by Gary L. Francione never support undercover investigations. Undercover investigations always focus on breaches of animal welfare laws and inevitably send a message that animal exploitation is morally acceptable as long as we play by the rules and treat the animals “well”.

    Think about it this way: if your aim is to educate someone on the fact that all animal use is fundamentally wrong regardless how the animals are treated, and you show them any of those horror footages, you will never convince anyone that eating eggs from chickens who are free to roam on grass is fundamentally wrong too. This is of course not of concern for any large animal organisation that profits from promoting “humane” exploitation and rely on donations from the largely non-vegan population.

    We already have all the investigations we need to know how animals are treated in farms and slaughterhouses. The only reason to keep doing more is to get more money from the public as part of welfare reform campaigns. For abolitionist vegans, the simple fact that animals are used as resources is all that is needed to demonstrate the injustice and make a logical argument for veganism as a moral baseline.

  • Great essay Frances McCormack! I look forward to reading the second part.

    As documented in this essay, undercover investigators have talked about the fact that they engage daily in torturing and killing animals in order to get the video footages needed to bring in donations. Many justify the actions of undercover investigators by reasoning that those animals are destined to be killed anyway. I wonder what would our reaction be if they were gassing humans in concentration camps (who would be gassed anyway) in order to obtain horror footages? Can we create peace by waging war? Professor Gary L. Francione’s answer: “…I believe that means must always be consistent with ends. We cannot choose immoral means to achieve moral ends…”

    The abolitionist vegans who live by the six principles of the Abolitionist Approach set by Gary L. Francione never support undercover investigations. Undercover investigations always focus on breaches of animal welfare laws and inevitably send a message that animal exploitation is morally acceptable as long as we play by the rules and treat the animals “well”.

    Think about it this way: if your aim is to educate someone on the fact that all animal use is fundamentally wrong regardless how the animals are treated, and you show them any of those horror footages, you will never convince anyone that eating eggs from chickens who are free to roam on grass is fundamentally wrong too. This does not concern any of the large animal organisations because they profit from promoting “humane” exploitation and rely on donations from their largely non-vegan donor base.

    We already have all the investigations we need to know how animals are treated in farms and slaughterhouses. The only reason to keep doing more is to get more money from the public as part of welfare reform campaigns. For abolitionist vegans, the simple fact that animals are used as resources is all that is needed to demonstrate the injustice and make a logical argument for veganism as a moral baseline.

  • Lucy_P

    For the record, PETA is not a traditional animal shelter. They operate one small shelter—a shelter of last resort for animals who need euthanasia to end their suffering (many of whom have been rejected by “no-kill” shelters), including dogs who are aggressive and unadoptable because they have been kept chained their entire lives; feral cats dying of contagious diseases; animals who are wracked with cancer; elderly animals who have no quality of life and whose desperate guardians brought them to PETA because they can’t afford to pay a vet to euthanize them; and the list goes on. A painless end is a kindness for these animals, and the services PETA provides are vitally needed in an area where many people can’t afford to take their animals to a veterinarian.

  • MissKatie

    I have been involved in the animal rights movement for over a decade and my views have changed a lot, and I’m sure will still change since I’m human, and one think I’ve learned for sure is that none of us know the right answers. No one has done this before and we are all trying our best to achieve animal liberation.

    There’s a lot that I disagree with in this essay and some I agree with (I’m 100% anti-humane meat and uncomfortable with welfare measures), but I’m honestly shocked that you would go so far as to attack undercover investigations. Animal rights philosophy will surely recruit some people because it’s right, but seeing the reality of what is happening to individual animals and exposing cruelty has made a tremendous impact on the animal rights movement. Some people are hired to clean floors and others may need to be closer and participate to expose things like chickens being scalded alive to help people see why the whole system is wrong. I cannot imagine the moral dilemmas and suffering of the individuals who take this on and the reality is that someone is going to do this work whether they have a camera on them or not. The only reason many people ever take a moment imagine the animals’ suffering and think of who they are as individuals is because they have seen this footage.

    Please, go support grassroots advocacy, talk about animal rights and do what you feel passionate about, but I hope that you and your readers will take a moment to consider that we are all trying to do what’s best whether we agree or not.

    For all animals,

    Katie

    • Alan O’Reilly

      There are thousands of hours of video footage already available to demonstrate the horrific reality of animal agriculture. Undercover investigations concentrate on ‘abuse’ over and above standard procedure in the industry and are undertaken solely to provide ‘victories’ and consequential publicity and fundraising opportunities for the animal charities involved. It is shocking that there are organisations and individuals prepared to commit rights violations for this purpose.

  • vegan truth seeker

    Here we go again…

    Before I continue I’d like to emphasize that I’m an ethical vegan, I believe all animal use should end (that includes breeding animals to have as pets), and that all domesticated animals should be neutered/spayed.

    Where do I start…?

    Okay, first let me just define the following terms I’m going to use:
    – Ethical vegans – those who are vegan for ethical reasons, which is my case;
    – Part-time animal rights activists – those who fight for some animals but are not vegan;
    – Abolitionist purists – those who believe their way is the only and correct one to become vegan and who also believe they are morally superior to any Part-time animal rights activist.

    Then let’s come down to Earth and understand something once and for all: unfortunately, the majority of humans will always eat animals and peacefully educating people on veganism by itself won’t do squat to convince people to go vegan.

    Humans are emotional and not rational beings – I challenge Ecorazzi to do an unbiased poll asking people what made them go vegan (whether it was vegans who reasoned with them or videos/images of animals being abused and/or slaughtered) –, and therefore an image/video will always be more effective in making someone go vegan than any vegan article on the internet.

    So, that being said, abolitionist purists believe that it is a waste of time to:
    – fight for better conditions of how animals are raised for human consumption – okay, so we should let them be raised in the worst conditions possible by the industry (which is fine by them because it means less costs) because what ultimately matters is veganism;
    – promote single-issue campaigns – why bother with only some animals if the ultimate goal is veganism? Well, then all the conservation efforts to protect whales, elephants and other endangered animals from being slaughtered to extinction are worthless because what matters is veganism; why fight to end animals from being skinned alive for their fur if other animals are also being slaughtered?
    – do undercover investigations because who cares if they expose animal industry right? All we need is to politely explain to people that they should go vegan! And those nasty people who do undercover investigations are morally reprehensible because they are abusing and killing animals as well when they are undercover… how many people have those undercover videos convinced to go vegan? How many people have Ms. Frances’ articles convinced to go vegan?
    – protect only some animals while eating others, and therefore all part-time animal rights activists are hypocrites and their efforts are worthless – well, all of those who work in conservation projects, everyone who fights for some animals in particular, every person who rescues animals and isn’t vegan, are a bunch of hypocrites and their actions aren’t valid; if you aren’t vegan, next time see you an animal being abused just move on because it will be a waste of time due to the fact that you’re not vegan!

    Now let’s do some math… let’s say that an animal eater eats, on average and taking into account all animal products (s)he uses, one animal every day – that means a vegan just by being vegan directly saves the lives of 365 animals every year. In 10 years a vegan has directly saved 3650 animals. But let’s round it up to 5000 animals.

    How many animals does Sea Shepherd, conservation NGOs, non-vegan animal rights activists save in 10 years?
    Much more than that I’m sure!

    How many animals does Ms. Frances save in one year!?
    I’m sure that unless Ms. Frances does field work (and in that case… respect!), I’m sorry but Erin Janus and Gary Yourofsky’s videos alone have made more people go vegan than all the articles combined Ecorazzi and Ms. Frances have written, and thus those two activists in comparison have contributed to save many more animals.

    But…
    Is saving some animals and eating others speciesism and hypocritical? Absolutely!
    Is caring for some animals and eating others speciesism and hypocritical? Absolutely!
    Is trying to promote animal welfare while still eating animals speciesism and hypocritical? Absolutely!
    Is participating in single-issue campaigns and not being vegan speciesism and hypocritical? Absolutely!
    Are animal rights organizations far from being perfect? Absolutely!
    Should being an ethical vegan the ultimate goal? Absolutely!

    However, we should all be glad there are people fighting for animals no matter whether they’re vegan or not – if they are, great, perfect, but if they’re not it doesn’t mean their actions are nor valid; maybe, instead of Ms. Frances and all other abolitionist purists criticizing those people maybe they should follow their own advice and educate them on veganism and making them realize that alongside their work going vegan is the next logical step.

    No wonder the animal industry is winning in every front when there are people like Ms. Frances creating divisions among the animal rights movement!
    We’re wasting time criticizing each other and saying our way is the only and best way to help animals when we should all come together and face the animal industry in every way possible.

    If I wasn’t vegan and read this article I would think that vegans are a bunch of snob and arrogant people and that would push me away from veganism.
    I now firmly believe that abolitionist purists are doing more harm than good to the ethical vegan movement and I’m very disappointed that Ecorazzi is going down that road as well…

    Just stop criticizing other animal rights activists and start focusing your energy on fighting the animal industry and making as many people as possible go vegan!

    • Jenny

      “Vegan Truth Seeker” Professor McCormack is describing the ethical vegan’s position which is still a minority position. Most people seem to go along with the paradigm of animal use. The animal movement has been corrupted by businesses, who have been making a living off the backs of suffering animals. These businesses have found that if they give people shocking images of suffering animals, then people will wish they could do something to stop it, but they don’t know where to begin. But they are not told to go vegan, they are asked for money so some big organisation can do something. The animals lose, the business gets paid.

    • Peggy Japhet Warren

      “Vegan Truth Seeker” I’ve left you a comment in the main thread.

  • Peggy Japhet Warren

    To “Vegan Truth Seeker” You make a lot of assumptions here and
    honestly, I don’t have the time or desire to debate you point by point. While
    it is probably true that these animal orgs have caused some people to go vegan,
    that doesn’t mean they don’t promote speciesism, sexism, direct violence
    against animals in order to gather “footage” for their fund-raising SICs, etc. It
    also has no bearing on what we *should be doing in terms of advocating for
    veganism and standing up against all forms of oppression. I for one don’t ever
    want to support the violence of oppression against any person, human or
    nonhuman, even if my end goal is to help other persons. It seems to me the most
    strident supporters of welfare orgs & SICs, who love to circulate petitions
    and campaign for animal exploitation reform and “more humane” types of animal
    use have never read a book by Professor Francione, nor show any desire to do so.
    I don’t know if you’ve read any of his books, but if not, I really wish that
    you would. Education is a wonderful thing.

    Advocating unequivocally for veganism absolutely does cause
    people to go vegan. In fact it was a logical argument that caused *me to go vegan,
    not violent imagery or SICs. I’d been a SIC supporter for 40+ years, always
    fighting against fur and also veal because I thought (as was constantly
    reinforced to me) that somehow wearing fur or eating veal was supporting murder
    and wearing leather, wool or eating other animal products was normal and
    acceptable. Never did I hear a
    suggestion to go vegan, unfortunately veganism never entered my thoughts all
    the years I’d been supporting these SICs. I coughed up plenty of donation
    dollars, though.

    It took approximately three months of exposure to the logical
    argument of why I should be vegan if I cared about animal justice, before I
    went vegan. Not quite overnight, but compared to 40 years of welfare & SIC
    failure, that isn’t bad. So when someone makes sweeping statements that these
    orgs are doing it “right” and that abolitionist vegans are somehow purist extremists
    who are ineffectual advocates, my thought is they most likely have never have
    been exposed to animal theory or learned to use logic to talk to others about why
    we can and should be vegan.

    All of us should be educating ourselves constantly in order
    to become better advocates for peace and for veganism, which I see as part of the
    same whole. We should educate ourselves, and learn to educate others if we want
    to end sexism, speciesism, and other forms of the violence that is oppression.
    Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

  • Wow, I had no idea that Mercy for Animals and Compassion over Killing were supporting this kind of stuff. Ugh. I knew about the other groups, but I honestly thought that at least some of them would be thinking about this more carefully. The whole “humane” animal products idea is oxymoronic.

Mercy For Animals Opposes And Promotes Animal Exploitation, Somehow.

Someone who actually promotes veganism promotes only veganism.

The “No Animals Were Harmed In The Making Of This Film” Lie

Use is harm and that’s of any animal, in any way.

Notes From A Vegan Field… Or Three

Creative, non-violent vegan education, means talking to hundreds of people in one day and other times, it means talking to one.