Animal Rights and Fair Trade
Fair trade certification appeals to socially and environmentally conscious people. A sound, transparent certification process educates and guides all of us who care about poverty alleviation, gender equity, workplace safety, abolition of child labor, and the encouragement of sound environmental practices.
But among these many progressive, admirable goals, one is missing. Why not also recognize the interests of other conscious animals? If we seek to protect the environment, why not also respect the animals who inhabit it? If we question the use of harmful chemicals, why not confront the emissions of methane, waste runoff, and other dangerous effects of animal agribusiness? Why not set a standard, based on pure vegetarian principles, that prohibits commodities derived wholly or partly from animals -- beings who are never workers by choice?
This proposal is a logical extension of the established Fair Trade standards, and would be welcomed by the health-conscious and humane -- people who usually support fairly traded goods already.
Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) is the umbrella for over 20 initiatives in Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. TransFair, the U.S. certifier and FLO member, does not certify any products derived from animals. (Some of its commodities, such as vanilla and cocoa, may, however, find their way into dairy chocolates or ice creams.) A visit to Global Exchange’s online fair-trade store reveals that other FLO members do certify products derived from animals, such as honey and soccer balls made from leather.
Recently, we noted Global Exchange’s name endorsing a bid to put industrial husbandry adjustments (for egg and pig-flesh processors) on California’s November 2008 ballot. The changes sought through this initiative are largely cosmetic, but if they were substantial, they would expand the space taken up for animal farming, which is ecologically problematic. As our population grows, animal farming spreads -- bringing deforestation, water pollution, heavy chemical use, and the killing of predators to preserve ranchers’ wealth.
Did you know? Opt out of animal agribusiness, and you’ll generate about a ton and a half less greenhouse gas this year than an omnivore consuming the same amount of calories.
And what would the animals consider fair trade, if they could vote? Surely, trade that doesn’t turn them into commodities.
So Friends of Animals legal director Lee Hall wrote to Global Exchange, expressing concern with their listing as an endorser.
Then, through the lively electronic political journal Dissident Voice, Lee discussed the issue with Nora Kramer, the Bay Area coordinator of the ballot campaign. Lee wrote, “It is because of my respect that I wrote to Global Exchange to convey the opinion that the trade in animals is not fair trade.”
In December 2007, we received word from executive director Kirsten Moller that Global Exchange had not endorsed the “Californians for Humane Farms” ballot initiative. The name Global Exchange was then deleted from the campaign’s endorsement page.
This is an issue to watch. It’s time to make it clear that the route to fairness involves showing people how to cook and plan enjoyable gatherings without doing so at the expense of other animals.
Fair trade organizations are always considering new commodities for certification. To ask TransFair USA to continue to avoid certifying animal products, write to:
Paul Rice, CEO
1500 Broadway, Suite 400
Oakland , CA 94612, United States .
To ask FLO to consider altering its certification standards to exclude animal products, write to:
Barbara Fiorito, Chair
Board of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International
Bonner Talweg 177
53129, Bonn, Germany.
The message to convey is: Together with Friends of Animals, we view a animal agribusiness as degrading to human health, other living beings, equitable distribution of resources, and the environment. We support meaningful work for people, without the commodification of other animals.
- Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International; available: www.fairtrade.net/about_us.html (last visited 14 Jan. 2008).
- See TransFair USA, “Fair Trade Products”; available: www.transfairusa.org/content/shop/products.php (last visited 14 Jan. 2008).
- Global Exchange; available: www.globalexchange.org (last visited 14 Jan. 2008).