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Mercy For Animals Opposes And Promotes Animal Exploitation, Somehow.

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Joe Loria, communications and content manager for Mercy For Animals (MFA), discussed in an October 11 essay published by Alternet Why It’s Basically Impossible to Be an ‘Ethical” Meat Eater. The byline reads, “No matter how animals are raised, they are all killed the same way.” He informs us that the notion of “humane” animal products is meaningless:

Doing something ethical by definition means that you’re doing something right or good. And while a lot of companies sell animal products using labels such as “humane” or “free-range” to ease the minds of consumers and increase business, the truth is that cruelty is inherent in these products. This is especially true of meat, which requires the violent slaughter of the animals.

Meat is no more morally problematic than any other animal product. All animal products involve violent slaughter. The problem is not being a “meat eater;” the problem is being a non-vegan.

But aside from this, I can’t help wondering if Loria is afflicted with transient global amnesia. It appears he doesn’t remember from one moment to the next who it is that’s paying his salary. His employer, MFA, is a major promoter of the idea that we can exploit animals “humanely,” that is, ethically. MFA works precisely to help companies “ease the minds of consumers” and “increase business” by convincing them to sell “happy” animal products. I wrote about this not long ago when I exposed the duplicity of MFA in their posture of condemning cage-free eggs while simultaneously and relentlessly promoting cage-free eggs. They’ve accepted grants from the Open Philanthropy Project (OPP) totalling $2,000,000 to do just that. And now, as of November 2016, MFA has availed itself of yet more money from the same source to finance their “Broiler Chicken Welfare Corporate Campaign.” OPP was obviously so pleased with how assiduously MFA has used their money to promote “happy” eggs, that they’ve rewarded them with an initial grant of $1,000,000 to promote “happy” chicken meat as well.

Right at the top of MFA’s blog we see their latest post celebrating “Progress!” at Nestlé’s adopting an “animal welfare policy” for broiler chickens “that meets the standards set by Global Animal Partnership (GAP).” They then proudly list a number of other food retailers who’ve also decided to sell “happy” chicken meat, thanks to MFA’s encouragement, typically agreeing to make the change by 2024. GAP is a welfare rating organisation that grades animal torture according to the level for which the customer is willing to pay. As Gary Francione has repeatedly pointed out, promoting higher welfare animal products necessarily promotes the idea that consuming these products is a desirable and ethical thing to do and reassures the non-vegan public that they can be “compassionate” animal exploiters. It works directly against promoting veganism as the solution.

So it’s a déjà vu experience. Once again we see MFA scamming the public that they oppose animal exploitation while being fully engaged in promoting animal exploitation.

If MFA’s aims were in line with what Loria implies they are, they would be about ending all animal exploitation. But we see that what they say they are about is “Together we can end factory farming.” There could not be a clearer statement that MFA has no intention of ending all animal exploitation, but only of making the treatment of farmed animals more “humane.” This directly contradicts and falsifies Loria’s purported rejection of “humane” or “ethical” exploitation on behalf of MFA.

But, you may object, MFA promotes veganism! Look at all the mouth-watering vegan recipes, and all the cool vegan posters on their Facebook page! MFA do not promote veganism as a moral imperative, but as just one option among others like reducing meat consumption, vegetarianism, and consuming “happy” meat and eggs. What this means is that they don’t promote veganism. Someone who actually promotes veganism promotes only veganism.

But aside from this, does anyone really think that posting a few vegan recipes and the odd poster with the word, “vegan,” or talking about the latest celebrity to go vegan comes anywhere near the expenditure in resources that $3,000,000 represents that MFA have spent on pushing “happy” eggs and meat? And here I’m only talking about the money that’s been provided to them by OPP since February 2016, and not all the donation money they’ve spent prior to that promoting welfarist measures. I don’t see MFA dedicating anything like those kinds of resources to promoting veganism, let alone veganism as a moral imperative.

Can you imagine where we might be in terms of growth in the number of vegans if MFA had allocated just this $3,000,000 to abolitionist vegan education instead of flogging “happy” eggs and meat? The vegan recipes, posters and celebrity gossip are nothing more than a distraction from MFA’s main business—selling out animals for money. They serve to obfuscate what is really going on and to make sure that vegans remain loyal donors. Loria’s comments decrying the idea of “humane” animal products lend an abolitionist tinge to MFA to dupe those with abolitionist sympathies and provide a veneer of animal rights cred while MFA carries on with its filthy business as usual. It’s a thoroughly cynical exercise that unfortunately fools many unsuspecting, well-intentioned people. It’s all about maintaining the widest possible donor pool.

We need to remember that the only reason MFA and similar groups have the huge financial resources they do is because they are not promoting veganism as a moral imperative. The corporate model simply can’t perform this task. Only a grassroots movement can.

If MFA were at least up front about being an organisation whose main focus is promoting “happy” exploitation, that would not be good, but it would be better than pretending to reject all animal exploitation, including so-called “humane” or “ethical” animal exploitation, as Loria is doing. And not just in this Alternet piece, but for some time now in his posts on MFA’s blog (see here, here, here here and here). And yes, that’s the same blog that celebrates cage-free eggs and “happy” chicken meat, featuring numerous posts congratulating companies for “pledging” to start selling these products at some far-off future date.

If Loria believes that there can be no such thing as “humane” or “ethical” meat consumption because, aside from anything else, regardless of how they are treated, the animals all end up being killed, why is he working for an organisation whose current priority is promoting higher welfare, i.e. “humanely” raised chicken meat? All of these animals end up dead, even if it’s by controlled atmosphere killing. Does the fact that these chickens are gassed rather than having their throats cut, according to GAP “standards,” render their deaths “humane” or “ethical”? According to Loria—no. So why is he collaborating with an organisation that promotes and celebrates just that? None of it makes any sense, so don’t strain your brain trying to find the logic here. The only logic at work is the cold, ruthless logic of the marketplace, which views animals and their bodily products as commodities for sale, and the fortunes of MFA as a player in that marketplace. As I said in my previous essay regarding MFA:

One thing is clear: corporate welfarist groups like MFA are not only in partnership with commercial animal exploiters; they are commercial animal exploiters. They are the sector of the animal exploitation industry that helps legitimise it to the public. They reassure us that we can continue exploiting with a clear conscience.

I realise Joe Loria has living expenses like everyone else, but surely he can manage to find another job less dishonourable than fronting for MFA, helping them to perpetuate the illusion that they oppose “happy” exploitation while actively promoting it. If Loria really believes that there is no right way to do the wrong thing; that there is no such thing as “ethical” consumption of meat, dairy or eggs, then he needs to quit aiding and abetting MFA in its scams. As long as he continues to accept a salary from, and to act as a mouthpiece for, what should rightly be called No Mercy For Animals, Loria can only be regarded as just another animal betrayal expert. He could choose to take a different route: working at an honest job and doing creative, non-violent, grassroots abolitionist vegan advocacy in his own time, as many others are doing, very effectively, and with a clear conscience.

The final incongruity in Loria’s essay is that he advises us to “switch to a compassionate vegan diet” while directing us to MFA’s Vegetarian Starter Guide. Failing to understand that veganism is not a matter of compassion, but a matter of fundamental justice, the Guide he recommends is a non-vegan, vegetarian, reducetarian, excusitarian, eat beef and pork instead of chicken and fish manual. The only thing this “guide” will start people on is the path of confusion in which MFA specialises.

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  • Christopher

    You’ve been spending too much time on Gary Francione’s Facebook page. MFA has its problems like all organizations, but their commitment to abolishing animal agriculture is not one of them. To put them in the “happy meat” camp when they are staffed full of vegans and on the front line of factory farm investigations is absurd. See, e.g., the anecdote you started this story with calling for veganism over “ethical” meat-eating.

    • Linda McKenzie

      You start with what is obviously a derogatory reference to Gary Francione, which has no content; no substance. Then, you say that “MFA has its problems like all organizations, but their commitment to abolishing animal agriculture is not one of them.” When a so-called animal advocacy organisation is heavily engaged in convincing food businesses to sell “happy” animal products, and publicly congratulating them when they agree, that’s more than a “problem.” It’s a disgrace.

      And what you say about MFA having a commitment to abolishing animal agriculture is factually wrong. As I pointed out in the essay, their own “About” page says that what they are about is “Together we can end factory farming.” What that’s saying is they don’t consider animal use the problem, as abolitionists do; they consider the way animals are being treated on factory farms to be the problem.

      And their major commitment is to pushing cage-free eggs and “higher welfare” broiler chicken. They’ve spent millions of dollars on promoting “happy” exploitation. That’s an undeniable fact. This, along with the rest of their relentless focus on welfare reforms, getting rid of the “worst abuses” and showing graphic images of cruelty demonstrates that their aim is to improve the treatment of farmed animals, not to abolish it. And this makes sense for them from a business point of view because welfare reforms and promoting “happy” exploitation is what is most lucrative for fundraising. But for the animals it’s a disaster. If they were about abolishing all animal exploitation, their “About” page would say “Together we can end all animal exploitation.” There’s a reason they don’t say that: because that’s not what they are about. If they were, they would be advocating veganism as a moral imperative, which they certainly are not doing.

      The welfarist approach they pursue is a dismal failure. They are flogging a thoroughly failed approach. They ignore the evidence of 200 years of this approach being tried and failing—we now have more animals being exploited in more horrific ways than ever before. Aside from this, it’s morally wrong. But Gary Francione has written extensively about this and if you haven’t yet read his work, I suggest you do. Another disgrace on the part of MFA and other welfarist organisations is that they boycott the work of Professor Francione, the most intelligent, coherent and truthful voice on animal ethics in the world today. That is a sad reflection on their priorities.

      The fact that the people running, or working for this outfit are vegans is completely irrelevant. If anything, it just makes what they are doing far worse. If we understand the need to be vegan, why would we not put all of our efforts into educating others to go vegan? Why would we sell out so egregiously by promoting animal exploitation? One thing is for sure: it’s not for the animals.

      For MFA, veganism is just one way, along with reducetarianism, vegetarianism, cage-free eggs, eat “other options” instead of chicken and fish, to lessen suffering. That is not what those who want to abolish all animal exploitation promote. Abolitionist vegans promote veganism as a moral imperative, and as a matter of fundamental justice, not as just one way of reducing suffering. There’s a vast difference between those two approaches. When I see MFA promoting the latter, then I’ll believe that they are committed to abolishing all animal exploitation. As long as they continue to put most of their resources into promoting “happy” eggs and meat, that notion will remain a bad joke.

      • Vanda Kadas

        Dear Linda McKenzie: thank you for indeed having been spending enough time on esteemed longterm vegan educator, Professor Francione’s Facebook page to learn that somebody has to say it as it is when it comes to justice and fairness. Ending “factory farming” may seem like a step to the right direction when we need to be mindful of the financial health of our donation pool as MFA neefs to.
        But how is that not selling out the animals? How is it fair to misguide the nonvegan public by alluding them to think the problem is factory farming versus the nonvegan paradigm?
        Fairness requires us to say it as it is and that is exactly what you did yet in another thought-provoking and truthful essay, Linda.
        Thank you kindly for doing so!

        • Shu Hashimoto

          I can tell this isn’t going to be well liked in this echo chamber, but I think it’s important enough of an issue. Do you honestly think that this “unapologetic” approach is more effective than MFA or other organizations in helping animals? Just what evidence besides your moral indignation do you have in believing this?

          If the empirical evidence tells me I was mistaken, I’m more than happy to revise my views, but something tells me that’s not the case with you. The efficacy of interventions are hard to measure, but unlike the ideologues here, some people actually try, like the Animal Charity Evaluators and the Effective altruist organizations. Where is the evidence that everything but your intervention doesn’t work? To say that it’s failed for 200 years completely ignores the history of how much WORSE animals are treated now, largely due to economic reasons. To suggest that it’s black or white completely ignores the reality that things have gotten so much worse for the animals in the last 50 years.

          Veganism is one of many solutions to a fundamentally economic issue. Yes, speciesism is at the core of why animals are the ones victimized, but progress needs to be measured by something more tangible than personal moral indignation. You can talk about justice all you want, but being a more pure vegan isn’t helpful to animals in the least bit, on its own, aside from your personal contribution to the problem. Vegans are what, 2-5% of people, at the most generous? Vegetarians are what 5%? Even at a prima facie level, what do you think is going to be more efficacious? Messages critical of the 2-5% who already do far more than the other 95% or messages focused on bringing the 95% over to the 5%?

          The most broad interventions – say, “Meatless Mondays” or whatever, has surely helped more animals in the order of magnitudes than the “unapologetic vegans” have ever contributed in their attacks on moderate “sell-out” organizations. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest contribution to animals that this wing of vegans has contributed to, is making normal vegans seem less “weird” and more rational to regular omnivores in comparison.
          I really don’t give two shits about the inter-vegan politics, but I’d like to see less moral indignation and more critical thinking that revolves around evidence and reason in this community.

          • Vanda Kadas

            Dear Shu Hashimoto: for someone who stated “I really don’t give two shits about the inter-vegan politics” I noticed you have spent a considerable amount of time to comment on a topics which you referred to as “inter-vegan politics”. Did that happen, perhaps, because deep down you know the topicd was about something lot bigger than any politics?
            Because it was. The topics is about a life and death issue, literally.
            The topics is about fairness versus unfairness towards the animals. No, it is not about any “inter-vegan politics”, because veganism is not about us. Veganism is about the animals.
            The question is if not even us, vegans, will speak up unequivocally for the animals than who will?
            Do you see now why the animals deserve and need
            our unapologetic voices in the world where sentient beings are still degraded to a property status, where sentient beings are being used as if they were mere things?
            Perhaps you are not ready to see the world from their perspective yet..the victims’ perspective. Perhaps you are not even a vegan yet. In that case I wholeheartedly encourage you to become one. I have been a vegan for over two decades now and I can clearly see how much paradigm change took place worldwide: we have more and more vegans! Now imagine if every vegan just convinced one other person to become a vegan every year? We would have the vegan world before we know It!
            But in any case: advocating for anything less bit veganism is injustice. The victims would never approve that. Moreover, it is completely unnecessary to do so since during our weekly vegan tabling we hear it from others we educated that they may “not go vegan right away but will consume less”, etc. Shortly, people will do as their decide to do once we educate them. But to act within the principles of fairness we need to educate them right. After all we would most certainly do that if the victims were humans versus animals.

          • Linda McKenzie

            Thanks, Vanda Kadas. Well said!

          • Linda McKenzie

            The struggle to abolish animal exploitation is indeed a political issue. We’re about changing the paradigm of speciesism and injustice towards animals; of animals as commodities to animals as persons. It’s not about forming a feel-good, mutual back-slapping society for “vegans.”

            There is zero evidence that the welfarist approach of groups like MFA is effective. Quite the contrary, the evidence over 200 years is that it’s a dismal failure. That’s simply an irrefutable fact. And besides, it’s utterly speciesist to say that we need “evidence” in order to take an unequivocal stand against the violation of the fundamental rights of animals. We would never ask for “evidence” that we ought to say that, where human rights are concerned, we should take an absolutist approach. That is, we don’t expect to be provided with “evidence of effectiveness” before we are willing to advocate that rape or child abuse is absolutely wrong and needs to stop. To demand that kind of evidence where animals are concerned is speciesism and nothing more. It’s right to advocate unequivocal veganism based on the moral principle alone. Anything else truly is a massive sell-out.

            And besides, it can’t be about “inter-vegan politics” when one of the parties involved is focused on flogging cage-free eggs and “happy” chicken meat. That’s not what vegans do. This is about opposing the promotion of non-veganism; it’s not about “inter-vegan politics.”

  • T.A. McDonnell

    Brilliant expose of a morally-bankrupt organization. “Mercy for Animals” is a sham, as Linda McKenzie has clearly documented in this important piece as well as her other recent essay.

  • Jennifer

    Clearly documented? I don’t see any sources! There is reason to celebrate that Nestle changed their policy! Yes it,s not the best thing that they could do, but it’s better than what they were doing! And if you read the whole thing, it is clearly stated at the end: ”Of course, the best way for individual consumers to prevent the suffering of chickens and other farmed animals is simply to leave them off their plates.”. So no, they do not promote animal exploitation. This shitty article was probably written by a meat eater or someone who really can’t make any sense. People will also be more inclined to get a vegetarian guide than a vegan guide to start with since the change is less direct, less ”restrictive”. They know it’s gonna reach more people.

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