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Mercy For Animals and Cage-Free Duplicity (Part II)

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Guest Post By Linda Mackenzie


Find Part I of this essay here.

MFA’s regular self-congratulations on the “success” of their cage-free egg campaign typically conclude with some version of, “Of course, the best way to help animals is to leave eggs off your plate” whereupon readers are directed to a “Vegetarian (note: not “Vegan”) Starter Guide” which predictably promotes the standard welfarist baby steps, “vegetarian,” “meatless,” “cut out the worst suffering,” “plant-based before 6 PM,” reducetarian, flexitarian, excusitarian approach. Bizarrely, but completely consistently, the Guide highlights non-vegan celebrities as being the “good company” that readers are in and presumably ought to emulate. Even MFA’s statements explicitly encouraging veganism link to this decidedly non-vegan Guide.

Moreover, characterising not eating eggs (or other animal products) as “best” is tantamount to saying that other measures are also good and worthwhile. So eating eggs, as long as they are cage-free, is a good and praiseworthy thing to do. That is, knowingly and needlessly inflicting all of the horrors inherent in cage-free eggs, to which MFA claim to object, is something that, in practice, MFA positively endorses. There is simply no other way to interpret these statements, coupled with MFA’s actions. No amount of vegan recipes on their Facebook page changes this one iota.

MFA has an entire web page trying—and failing—to justify why the organization refuses to consistently use what it calls “the V word,” as though saying “vegan” is akin to using a swear word. They cite pseudoscience in a spurious attempt to back up this abdication of responsibility to communicate a clear vegan message. Executive director, Nathan Runkle, proclaims himself a “vegetarian,” not a vegan. Here’s Runkle trashing veganism and making it crystal clear that he does not regard it as a moral imperative (at 44 minutes, 30 seconds):

Q: Is even non-factory farming ethical since the animals are still killed?

Runkle answered:

You know, I don’t think that the world or life is ever in black-and-white terms…Now, we certainly think that a vegan diet is, in most situations, the most ethical, compassionate, environmentally friendly choice that we can make, so, of course, we hold that as the gold standard. But, we understand that there are gradations along the lines of agriculture…So, we think people need to know what the choices are…Do I think that we should be killing the cow rather than eating carrots? Probably carrots would be a better choice, for me, ethically. You know, if I don’t have to take a life and be violent, probably wouldn’t. But there are people who just don’t share that belief…

In most situations”? “Probably”? The speciesism here is astonishing. The abuse of the word, “ethical,” is monumental. Veganism is not a matter of “compassion.” It’s a matter of fundamental justice. It’s a moral obligation, not an optional lifestyle “choice.”

Earlier in the same talk, at 34 minutes, 40 seconds: “So by making some dietary changes, by eliminating meat on Mondays, by reducing our meat consumption, becoming a flexitarian or becoming a full-blown vegan we can help spare animals this suffering.”

Here Runkle explicitly gives his stamp of approval to the continuing consumption of animal products and engages in dishonesty about how this helps “spare animals this suffering.” And there is no such thing as a “full-blown vegan.” You are either a vegan or you are not. You are either vegan or you are engaging in animal exploitation. There is no third option.

Leaving aside the fact that MFA rejects veganism as a moral imperative, why are they expending a huge amount of resources on promoting what is, by their own definition, not best for animals, and what they admit involves torture and death for animals? The answer is clear: welfare reforms are an endless source of fundraising dollars. Each new “pledge” to adopt whatever token measure MFA is proposing by some far off date in the future—if it happens at all—is cause for shouts of “Victory!,” “Success!” and “Progress!” This is used to justify yet more calls for donations from the public to ensure more “success” and attracts large grants from OPP and other large donors. Welfare reforms allow this cycle to continue indefinitely—it’s a never-ending non-vegan gravy train. As a business model, it’s very successful. Some would even call it a brilliant scam. It’s just a pity about the poor animals who get sold out, every time.

If we consider the massive resources in money, time and energy poured into convincing food companies to engage in “happy” (actually brutal) exploitation of birds for their eggs—including staff salaries, undercover investigations, petitions, leafleting, advertisements, blog posts, Facebook posts, mass letter-writing to companies, demonstrations, as well as all the advising of, and schmoozing with, decision-makers in animal exploitation companies—we get an idea of what a tragic lost opportunity this represents for bringing about justice for animals. Imagine what could be achieved if all of this was devoted to abolitionist vegan education, the only thing that can lead to the abolition of animal exploitation.

So there we have it. MFA say that cage-free eggs are “not cruelty-free;” not “humane.” But MFA is paid millions of dollars to promote cage-free eggs. In aggressively promoting cage-free eggs they promote all of the suffering and death they claim to condemn. This they grotesquely call “success,” “progress,” a “victory” and “good news” for animals. While pumping out this “happy” exploitation propaganda, there are statements currently standing on MFA’s websites against cage-free eggs. While claiming not to support cage-free eggs, MFA are prioritising the promotion of cage-free eggs.

It is, truly, an “animal confusion” movement.

It‘s absolutely clear that if you support MFA, or other groups like them, you’re contributing to animal exploitation. You’re paying them to disseminate the obscenity of “happy” exploitation. All that MFA are doing with their cage-free egg campaign is to encourage people to feel good about consuming eggs while continuing to inflict gratuitous torture and brutal death on innocent, vulnerable beings.

MFA, and the other groups like MFA, claim to be opposed to animal exploitation but they actually promote animal exploitation. They make the excuse that they can’t take a firm moral position because they don’t want to tell people what to do. But if we are engaged in a social justice movement then we must take a position against the violations of fundamental rights. We have a moral duty to the victims to insist that these violations should stop. We must argue for the end of all animal use, and that requires promoting veganism unequivocally as the moral baseline. We should be promoting the abolition of slavery; we should not be promoting that slave owners beat their slaves more gently and declaring “victory” when the slave-owners agree. Until we get clear on this, the mainstream “animal movement” will continue to be a massive failure.

MFA is just one example—albeit a glaring one—of the way that corporate animal charities talk out of both sides of their mouths. Apparently, they’re hoping we wont notice the duplicity and keep on donating.

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If you care about animals, if you think they matter morally and are not just things, then veganism is a moral imperative. Learn more about veganism here.

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