What to Do: Work for Humane Products, or Opt Out?
South Korea’s government has proposed to regulate the husbandry of dogs in the dogflesh market. Some people are appalled that Korea would legalize such sales. But how do we feel about our own governments regulating markets for pigs or cows?
Last year, campaigners poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a measure (Proposition 204) — which, said the CEO of the Arizona Humane Society, meant a “degree of space” for animals to turn in their pens is “all we’re asking for.” Is that all the pigs would ask for? Will the future pigs, when they’re bred, bought, sold, and slaughtered, be feeling relieved that they could have had worse confinement? Is it the place of advocates to purport that they would?
The Arizona initiative passed. If it survives its seven-year phase-out period, it will mandate a new minimum pen size for calves and pregnant pigs in Arizona (affecting just one pig marketer).
The coalition of animal-protection and sanctuary groups involved referred to their ideas as mainstream, and pointed out that the law exempts county fairs and exhibitions; the group stated, “Prop 204 is only about massive factory farming operations, not 4-H kids.”
The Arizona Humane Society’s CEO actually recommended that Arizonans shop from Niman Ranch, an Internet meat market that boasts hundreds of family hog farmers.
One D.C.-based activist, who went all the way to Arizona and seemed to be wondering if it was worth burning up the ozone layer for such a trip, suggested that perhaps the ballot initiative did some good by creating a shared goal. What was that goal? Discussing advocacy plans beyond Arizona, Time magazine reported that activists seek a “federal law to end cruelty to farm animals.” Which raises still another question: Do advocates think our lawmakers can create uncruel farming?
Some apparently do. Peter Singer said, “A lot of people who eat meat would like to feel that the animals had a good life before they were killed.” But if this winds up convincing “a lot of people,” their demand for these animal products will require the return of high-volume production — precisely as “cage-free” hens in Europe became part of a multi-tiered factory system.
This year, according to an Associated Press report, Cargill Inc. told an “animal rights group” it is phasing out the use of the small, metal crates that house pregnant pigs, following the lead of Smithfield Foods Inc. The director of that group’s factory farming campaign (is that something an “animal-rights group” would have?) said Cargill’s “move away from gestation crate confinement is very significant…” (Is this the message consumers should hear?)
It’s a substantial part of our daily activism to talk with people who are interested in becoming conscientious objectors to animal agribusiness. It doesn’t help to have industries gaining praise from groups that promote company husbandry adjustments as “very significant.” Some will argue that at least groups that focus on conditions in agribusiness are bringing farm animals’ situations into the public dialogue. They do not seem to think that this supposed benefit is cancelled out when we must dispel notions that businesspeople are taking great strides in giving their animals good lives.
As an aside (thanks to Animalblawg for noting this), Cargill Meat Solutions representative Mark Klein told Meatingplace.com the media report stating the company is phasing out its use of sow gestation stalls isn’t actually true. Perhaps this underscores that husbandry decisions are really up to the corporations.
We propose that a better goal is to teach genuine respect for nonhuman animals and genuine concern for the ecology. People can opt out of animal exploitation overnight. Millions already have. Will you join is?
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