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where did the movement’s morals go?

June 20, 2012

This past weekend I received an “urgent” call to action from Mercy For Animals. I am not typically a list-serve kind of girl, and I had never received an email from MFA before, so I was not sure why this was in my inbox.  But MFA is an organization that I have respected for its undercover investigations and liberation-focused outreach and this email said: “Urgent Action Alert: Help Protect Egg-Laying Hens Nationwide.” So I opened it up, ready to act. I thought that maybe, amidst all of the bullshit with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) striking a deal with the United Egg Producers, MFA was actually doing something useful for hens with their donor dollars. I was sorely, sadly, heartbreakingly wrong.

MFA was urging me to write my congress members and encourage support of the Farm Bill amendment, No. 2252 co-sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein. FYI, this bill is identical to the Senate bill S. 3239 and its House companion, H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012.  Luckily (though not for reasons having to do with animal rights I’m sure), the Senate struck down their version of the bill yesterday and for now it is off the table.

Even though the bill was struck down I am going to harp on it a bit because of what this whole saga means for the animal liberation movement. If you don’t want to read any further, I will give you the punch line now. What we learned from this is that as a movement there is serious moral slippage occurring. Professionalization of liberation activists has led to a leadership full of welfare advocates. To actually help animals we must, at every turn, refuse to use our resources for anything less than liberation. If the majority of us can agree to stick together by sticking to our principles, we will be able to make change.

what is Farm Bill Amendment No. 2252 (S. 3239/H.R. 3798) and why is it so bad?

S. 3239/H.R. 3798 would have established federal regulations for the US egg industry moving forward—defining what carton labels mean, specifying space requirements, and establishing time-frames within which to comply.

You can read the full text of the bill here if you are interested. However, without even taking a peek at the bill it is obvious that this is no good for hens. Senator Diane Feinstein was a leading sponsor on the bill. This is the same woman who sponsored the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act (AETA). Her concern is obviously not with animals, but with doing what is best for animal exploitation industries. If a woman, who worked for years to pass repressive legislation that stifles First Amendment speech in order to protect animal exploiting industries, wants to pass this bill, you would be negligent to make any good-faith assumption this will do anything useful for hens.

Add to this that the United Egg Producers, an organization established to promote and advance the egg industry in the US, helped develop the bill. That is a telltale sign it is not designed with the safety or protection of hens in mind. HSUS, which worked on the bill alongside the United Egg Producers, has the following title on their webpage encouraging support of the bill: “Amendment to Improve Welfare of Egg-Laying Hens and Provide Stable Future for Egg Farmers.” That’s right, an ‘animal protection’ group states clearly that this bill will “provide [a] stable future for egg farmers.”

As for the actual substance of the bill, there are a lot of reasons the bill is problematic—this federal bill would essentially override state legislation banning batter cages (such as California’s Prop 2), it was written with the protection of egg farmers in mind, the gains for birds are so minimal that they do not even raise hens into a welfare standard that will allow them to live in conditions considered anything but torturous, the phase-in periods are exceptionally long, it will institutionalize a norm that our movement will make huge concessions for puny gains, and the list goes on.

I found this blog post on Animal Rights Ruminations to be particularly insightful and helpful in understanding the problems with this bill. Since this great summary already exists, I will only discuss in detail one of the substantive problems with the bill, which should have been enough to make any animal advocacy group refuse to spend money, time or energy promoting this measure.

One of the greatest “achievements” of the bill is that for farms that have more than 3,000 hens (smaller farms were totally exempt from anything in this bill), there would be a requirement of at least 124-144 square inches allotted per hen, depending on the breed.  At its maximum, this requirement means that each hen gets the amount of space equivalent to a square that is one-foot in length on each side. That is shit considering the fact that the wingspan of an average egg-laying hen is 2 ½ feet.

To make it easy on you I drew you a picture of the largest required space, compared to a hen’s wingspan, to show you what it looks like:

And did I mention that farmers have FIFTEEN years to comply with this requirement? The average lifespan of a hen is 5 years. And that is only if they are not on a factory farm, in which case their lifespan will be significantly shorter. That means three entire generations of hens will die before they get this measly little “right” to more space, which is still far from enough space. I believe that in 15 years, if our movement stopped wasting resources on bullshit like this, we could accomplish a lot more.

compromising for concessions

MFA is not the only organization going down this morally abject road. Plenty of other organizations hopped on board. Why is it that so many animal organizations would funnel hard-to-get donation dollars toward such an impotent measure, which does no more than establish long wait periods for incremental gains that still amount to cruelty? Why is it that the movement leaders are partaking in such a moral slippage?

The really is no good answer, but I think there is an answer. These organizations and their employees are being swayed by the institutionalization of their organizations and the professionalization of their activism. Having so many long-term, salary-providing, professional organizations in the field is a curious thing given the movement’s goals. The point of a social movement is to stop a social injustice, right a wrong. A social movement is successful when it can end. When career trajectories and individual salaries come into play, an organization’s longevity is what is valued. In this context, making small nudges in the right direction makes more sense. Some of these small “gains” may even preclude actually ending the problem in the lifetimes of ourselves and the next many generations of people (and even more generations of chickens), but if you already decided animal rights could be a long-term career you probably don’t imagine an end point.

Further, for organizational longevity, money needs to flow. The more supporters an organization has the more money they can bring in. Moving closer to the center will increase the cash flow. Sociologists, Dennis Downey and Deana Rohlinger, have described organizations’ position within a social movement in terms of the depth of challenge sought and their breadth of appeal. Basically, with more shallow challenges will come a wider breadth of appeal, meaning a wider base of support (i.e. more $$).  Along these lines, if animal liberation groups shift their orientation to welfare they become more palatable to a new and broader class of donors. If they go a step further and accept menial concessions (even when they are nothing more than symbolic gestures), they look like they are “winning” campaigns, thereby keeping morale up and showing themselves to be a good investment.

What is telling is that grassroots groups and activists did not support S. 3239/H.R. 3798. Look at this list of groups that, along with United Poultry Concerns, opposed the bill:

“…Humane Farming Association…Friends of Animals, United Poultry Concerns, Last Chance for Animals, Action for Animals, Northwest Animal Rights Network, Defend Animals Coalition, Political Animals, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary, SAFE, Humane Farming Action Fund, Animals Unlimited, Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, Chicken Run Rescue, Associated Humane Societies, and the vast majority of rank-and-file animal advocates.” –PR Newswire

The above are all smaller grassroots groups; the membership is more invested and hands-on and the leadership is not driven by organizational security.  It seems to be when people are asked to be a “professional” about their activism that they begin to conform and become more tolerant of animal abuse and animal abusers. The animal rights movement is, unfortunately, not unique in this respect. Social movement scholars studying various movements have noted a similar trend—as social movement participants become institutional actors they are more likely to shorten their goals, lessen their challenges, and accept incremental and/or symbolic gains.

The professional shift in our movement could be good, as it can help consolidate resources and streamline efforts. However, it can only be good if individuals and organizations avoid selling out and stopping short. We are trying to change the status quo nature of animal cruelty, abuse, torture and murder. Conforming to typical institutional structures and playing nice with the very government and industries that allow the mistreatment of animals will not lead to change.

a widespread problem

This downward spiral into conformity for the sake of symbolic concessions is not contained with the failure of the Farm Bill Amendment No. 2252. For the most part, large animal rights organizations are not taking a stand against those who were in support of this bill. This year, for the first time in years, HSUS has decided to make an appearance at the largest national animal rights conference in the US, AR 2012. HSUS will be represented by the Senior Director of Factory Farming Campaigns, Paul Shapiro, who will be given (perhaps, rewarded with?) four separate speaking slots at a four-day conference. AR 2012 is organized by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). It seems a once liberation-focused organization that had nothing but hatred for bigger-cages campaigns is giving a big fat thank-you, instead of a much-deserved fuck-you, to HSUS for this bill.

Examples of moral slippage move beyond this Farm Bill ordeal as well. For example, Compassion Over Killing (COK), once known for hard core activism like open rescues, actually started a website called WeLoveSubway.com to encourage the fast food giant to serve vegan options. An animal ‘protection’ group actually promoted a fast food restaurant. The fast food industry is one of the greatest drivers for factory farmed meat in this country, and COK promoted them. They diverted donor dollars to supporting them, encouraged us to “love” them, and pushed ethical vegans to spend money at them. They did all of that for a little convenience, which almost certainly has no potential to shift the market in any meaningful way. Put more simply: vegan options at Subway have no realistic hope of saving animals’ lives and by vegans eating there they are now supporting a business responsible for millions of deaths a year; nonetheless, an animal rights group diverted its efforts to the cause.

From an email sent to vegina from COK

We need to ask ourselves when this will stop. Something has allowed this trend toward protection over liberation to take hold. Maybe our fear of intra-movement drama or our undeserved trust in large animal rights organizations has led to our acceptance of what is happening. While it is important to support all available tactics for liberation, we need to remember to reject that which is a barrier to liberation.

Setting a precedent that it should take 15 years to allow enough space for birds to remain horribly and inexplicably tortured does not advance liberation; rather, it reasserts the already-present notion that animals are objects to be used by humans. Setting a precedent that we will use our money for convenience foods that bring monetary gain and strengthen animal exploitation industries will not promote liberation; rather, it establishes our movement as lifestyle-centered and concerned with reducing animal exploitation, rather than ending it.

If our movement wastes energy and resources on anything short of liberation, animals will still be objectified, tortured, and murdered, and that is simply not acceptable. In order to support all of the tools available for liberation, we must reject all of the paths that lead away from it. Those paths may lead to a prettier version of exploitation, but it is still exploitation.

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. Vegan permalink
    June 21, 2012 12:29 am

    I think that it’s easy for the one outside the cage to say if not EVERYTHING, then nothing.
    Total Liberation or NOTHING at all. Working towards total liberation does not mean that a decrease in suffering, however incremental would not directly affect the a currently suffering animals.

    Is it right for you then to say, this is not enough, so don’t support this at all until it is good enough for my standards? While those animals wait for ANY help and relief? Yes, you can still work to explain the problems with the bill and the problems with animal welfare folks.
    Changing a core cultural belief system is not easy and in the meantime the animals suffer while we bicker internally from our privileged posts about what is righteous enough.

    Yes, animal welfare is reformist and yes the weakness in the bill need to be explained and revised and worked to improve…However,think it’s very privileged to say don’t take this small step or encourage this small step that could help suffering be reduced maybe even for one animal-because you want total liberation.

    Any liberation movement is comprised of many parts, all equally important. While the increased cage space is not ideal, you can’t tell me that might not help that animal feel a little less pain,while he/she waits for a rescue that might never come.

    Intellectualizing a struggle is not the way to make strides towards total liberation.

    • June 21, 2012 12:38 am

      I suggest we don’t take the limited resources we have and focus them on this sort of stuff. This bill guarantees and legally codifies long-term suffering. Let Senator Feinstein and the United Egg Producers use their resources fighting for this, not animal rights groups.

      • Candice permalink
        June 21, 2012 12:16 pm

        where would you focus the resources in a way that would be efficient and make a practical difference?

      • June 21, 2012 1:18 pm

        Candice, please see my comment below about this.

  2. June 21, 2012 12:43 am

    Just a few thoughts…

    To me it seems like the moral slippage (great phrase, btw) has been happening for a long, long time. Read (Last Chance for Animals founder) Chris DeRose’s book In Your Face, or–I shudder to recommend this mass-killers work, but it is a tremendous and militant read–Free the Animals by the president of PETA, aka People Exterminating Thousands of Animals; the broad 80s animal rights movement was so much more militant and uncompromising and in-your-face than the “movement” now. What happened? Why did we (well, more like “they,” meaning welfarist groups) call off the boycott? Why did PETA start giving FREE ADVERTISING to Murder King and KFC; why did HSUS give MASSIVE PROMOTION to Wolfgang Fuck and Michael Vick; why did, as you mention, Compassion Over Killing give free advertising to Subway (Eat Flesh)? What a WONDERFUL deal for the animal brutalizers!!–they make tiny concessions that don’t go into effect for many years (if ever), are rarely if ever enforced, and make nano-differences in the lives of real, living animals–or more likely no difference at all. Chicken vaginal secretions get to be called “Free Range,” and all it means is there’s a doggie door at the back of a 20,000-hen shed that none of them even know or care to use, beyond which is a concrete slab the size of a studio apartment in the Tenderloin. Among the zombified masses there are a few here and there who realize that thing atop their neck isn’t just a hat rack, and they think, “Hey, PETA says KFC is nice to animals, now I don’t have to even think twice about eating there!!” YAY, VICTORY! Meanwhile 10,000,000,000 chickens are slaughtered ever year in this idiotic country, and is that number going down?

    WE–meaning the grassroots, we individuals, we who refuse to join in the corporate bureaucratic clusterfuckery of mainstream money-grubbing Big AR–we need to evolve greater militancy, more open support for liberations and sabotage, more uncompromising advocacy of radical veganism and liberation ideology. The “movement” seems to be taking no steps forward for every two steps back! Given population growth, the ever-increasing dead zones and plastic patches in the oceans, global deforestation and climate catastrophe, we need to move in MORE radical directions, not saddle up to the oppressors and beg for a few measly table scraps on the deck of the Titanic.

    It’s just getting worse, that’s my point. It’s been happening for a long time, but now even the casual activist can look at what groups like HSUS and PETA and MFA are doing and stop and say, “What the FUCK?!” It’s more blatant, more absurd, more excruciating to watch and not be able to stop, and worst of all, it is spreading like a Coronado-lit fire–except, unlike the latter, it is a wretched development.

    I call for a rejection of this nauseating animal-killer-promotion. I call for a return to 1980s militancy and beyond–a new militancy for a new world, a planet crumbling and collapsing under the weight of its own ecological excesses. Just like with Earth liberation, animal liberation will not come from the big groups. It will come from us. Those who see the moral slippage and say, “Uh-uh. No way. No more. Animal and Earth abusers are not our fucking friends. They are our enemies, and should be looked at and treated as such.”

    Love and Liberation always,

    Jan @ The Rewild West.

    • Candice permalink
      June 21, 2012 12:26 pm

      I wonder why some make statements as if the morals of these activists are being eroded. It’s not like there is a clear solution to the problem (able to be actually implemented, not groups calling for ‘revolution’, calling the people they want to change ‘enemies’, and so forth…there is no fucking plan there.) It is easy to criticize others who aren’t meeting your personal standards, but a lot less easy to make better inroads yourself, or you would be achieving that now, wouldn’t you?

      Tell us how you are going to overcome the enemies. Calling for militancy means nothing, what’s the fucking plan?

      • June 21, 2012 1:17 pm

        The “fucking plan” is to be a movement that does not wate resources validating and institutionalizing long term cruelty. We don’t know what works as you point out above so I say we should all support everything and anything that is focused on liberation. Protest, direct action, write ins, calls ins, city council meetings, civil disobedience, animal rescue, direct care, research, writing. ANYTHING, as long as the goal is freedom.

        My personal plan it to, at all times, to be involved in one (inter)national and one local campaign OR to be an organizer on one local campaign, in addition to writing and researching AR topics. If al the welfarists demanded more and joined in with the rest of the movement we would be getting much more for animals. Stopping short at a square foot of space in 15 years is useless and harmful as it shows how little we want for animals.

      • June 21, 2012 4:57 pm

        The plan is to build a movement that sees a total collapse of civilization as its end goal; or rather, a return to bioregionalism, sustainable human population, the reemergence of threatened species, an end to human caused mass extinction (http://www.well.com/~davidu/extinction.html), etc. At the same time, I think it’s great to work for the liberation of animals, as long as we’re also prepared to accept the inevitable changes that are coming as the Earth is collapsing under the weight of our own ecological excesses.

        Plan? Decisive Ecological Warfare is the best plan I’ve seen lain out, in terms of actually stopping the destruction of the planet and millions of species of plants and animals.

        http://deepgreenresistance.org/dew/

    • May 11, 2013 3:13 pm

      You have facts wrong in this as there are in lots of these rants about “WTF?” are animal rights groups doing. And I’d ask, WTF will you be accomplishing sitting in a prison cell for breaking the law to help animals? Is that how you think you could cause the largest reduction in suffering? I know what the big groups are thinking and it’s just that: How can we reduce the most suffering for animals? It’s not getting worse – it has always been this awful. It is spreading to India and other countries, though. So, beyond being upset about it, I’d ask WTF are we doing getting in the way of the groups making those massive changes and WTF are we doing not speaking to people to show them the truth so that they can actually change their habits? And HOWTF are you going to do that behind bars?

      • May 11, 2013 3:17 pm

        And if you were that hen that got more space, I imagine your space and less suffering would mean a HELL of a lot to you. So, it’s not stopping short at all. It’s not AR to deny her that because you don’t think it’s “enough.” You go ahead and figure out how to get that “enough” accomplished and we’ll get there. Smashing the world around you isn’t going to help and I’m sorry but this stuff about destroying civilization as we know it is insanity, wrong, will harm human-animals, and also isn’t animal rights / AR – humans are animals, too. Please stop forgetting that.

      • May 11, 2013 6:01 pm

        Um. If you were in a prison cell for breaking the law to help animals, you would’ve accomplished whatever you did to get thrown in jail in the first place. And you can still make a difference from prison, both by your example and through writings, etc. See, for example, Peter Young, Jeff “Free” Luers, Daniel McGowan, Marie Mason, etc. etc. I handwrote a 1,600 page hardcore animal liberation epic novel in prison, and I think someday it will be published and will hopefully make some waves and change people’s perceptions and get people talking about upping the ante. And I published articles in the Earth First! Journal from prison. And I got people to stop eating meat and dairy and eggs there. So there’s plenty you can do to help animals in prison–and even more you can do BEFORE you go to prison, meaning with illegal direct action. Look what Rod Coronado achieved, how much he did, and ended up serving a measly 4 years–he and his Western Wildlife Unit of the ALF brought the fur industry to its KNEES; Peter Young has gone on record as saying that, if the anti-fur intensity of the 1990s had continued, there would *be no fur industry* today. I’m just sayin!

        –Love and Liberation–

        Jan @ TheRewildWest

  3. E Weiss permalink
    June 21, 2012 12:52 am

    What or who inspired you to write this blog post?

    • June 21, 2012 12:57 am

      The Urgent Call to Action form MFA. And all the other reasons listed. Why do you ask?

  4. Olive permalink
    June 21, 2012 9:00 am

    • Jacob permalink
      June 21, 2012 6:56 pm

      Thank you, Olive, not many people could illustrate the complete idiocy of the abolitionist movement better than Bruce. Using the very animals we are trying to help as cushion for a “better” argument is disgusting and these “activists” should be ashamed of themselves. I dare them to go meet one chicken who lived in a cage where she was never able to nest. Or do anything natural, and then tell her that sorry she just has to stay in that –no nesting boxes — until the entire fucking world goes vegan?! Give me a break.

      • June 21, 2012 7:02 pm

        Jacob, fighting for a law that guarantees that chickens will never be able to nest, and which OVERRIDES any state laws (like prop 2) that have allowed chickens more freedom, is a stupid use of the movement’s resources and it is a horrible thing to do to any chicken. We can get more in 15 years than that, I am sure of it. But only if people like you step up to the plate and stop being pacified by easy wins for organizations that amount to nothing for animals. I didn’t say let’s let animals suffer “until the entire fucking world goes vegan.” Rather I said, lets not HELP animal exploitation industries pass laws that THEY wrote that protect their ability to torture animals.

      • May 11, 2013 3:20 pm

        No one was fighting for a law that meant hens would “never” get any better space. That was not what any of them (we or them depending on what time period you were talking about) were EVER fighting for. That’s false and the facts need straightened out. And people who write for blogs and the media need to verify their facts and actually speak to the orgs they are slamming. It’s dishonest to do otherwise.

        And trust me, those industries didn’t “write” the legislation. It’s much more complex than that. Sometimes, yes, they do. With this one, they did not. Again, facts aren’t right here. These are assumptions.

  5. Julia permalink
    June 21, 2012 12:44 pm

    Great post (as usual). I hadn’t even heard of this bill, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’m very disappointed to hear that MFA have joined the large ranks of organizations who have gone welfarist.
    As for the AR conference, I have to admit I’ve been confused about this for a while. FARM, as well as the majority of the attendees of the conference, tend to be rather anti welfare reforms in my experience. And yet every year a number of welfarist speakers are given a platform. And now Shapiro, of all people. Ugh.

    • May 11, 2013 3:23 pm

      If “welfarist” means you don’t think they are promoting veganism and fighting for veganism then you are wrong and need to go to the source about your facts rather than reading a blogger’s interpretation of the issue which is full of problematic accusations and partial facts.

      There is NOTHING animal rights about denying hens some space. Nothing. Is it welfarist to promote veganism and admit and work toward improvements that reduce suffering? It’s NOT vegan to fight against it. It’s not.

  6. Jessica permalink
    June 21, 2012 2:02 pm

    I see the subway campaign in a different light. I think that the easier it is to be vegan, the more people will be. One of my struggles in becoming vegan has been eating out. I find it easy to cook vegan food at home and quickly turned my grocery list vegan. But for those days that I work until 9 or 10 and am too hungry or exhausted to cook, I wish that places like Subway had vegan options. I of course love to see and to support 100% vegan restaurants. However, I think reaching out to restaurants that serve meat and then encouraging them to serve vegan food is progress for two reasons 1) it reaches meat-eaters (people who are unlikely to go to all-vegan restaurants) with the message that vegan eating is affordable, accessible, and tasty and 2) it gives vegans more options when traveling, working late, etc. One of the main things I hear from non-vegans is that veganism is too “hard”. I don’t see anything wrong with making it easier. I think that the promotion of vegan options at chain stores is very different from the promotion of “happy meat”. The first makes veganism easier and more accessible. The second promotes the illusion that there can be meat without suffering.

    • June 21, 2012 7:13 pm

      Convenience is nice, but I think it is a sorry way to use to limited dollars our community has to fight injustice. They had a national campaign and a website promoting a restaurant responsible for SO MANY animal deaths. What COK is doing is paramount to paying for the advertising for the business of someone who beats a dog, just because they happen to sell vegan t-shirts.

      • June 21, 2012 9:19 pm

        Truedat. FREE ADVERTISING for a fast food restaurant. The Subway one isn’t as egregious as PETA promoting Burger King or HSUSeless promoting Wolfgang Puck, because at least they’re promoting the VEGAN sandwiches rather than the “more humane” animal products, but still…

    • Dana permalink
      June 26, 2012 4:45 am

      I agree, Jessica. The Subway campaign is not in any sense welfarist. It encourages people to eat fewer animals. A welfarist campaign would encourage people to eat the same number of animals but have them be slightly-less-tortured animals. Getting people to eat fewer animals is progress toward abolition.

  7. Adrock permalink
    June 21, 2012 2:49 pm

    Thanks for such a powerful, insightful post! While I’ve shared many of these very sentiments, it’s nice to hear them discussed in such a clear and comprehensive way.

    A not-so-minor-detail that I’d been unaware of prior to reading this is that Feinstein co-sponsored it- who of all people has helped to structure the law in such a way that animal-activist groups (e.g. MFA, COK) could be tried as terrorists. It’s sad and terrifying, really, that groups like MFA would encourage hand-shaking with the very people who quite literally seek to bind all our hands and silence our voices. That said, if this weren’t a topic with such profound moral implications, I’d find it very ironic that MFA encourages supporting a main force behind those whose efforts explicitly aim at criminalizing the work they do (e.g. under-cover footage).

    • June 21, 2012 6:57 pm

      Adrock, this is a terrific and hilarious line: “It’s sad and terrifying, really, that groups like MFA would encourage hand-shaking with the very people who quite literally seek to bind all our hands and silence our voices.”

      Haha nice! So sad, so true.

    • Dana permalink
      June 26, 2012 5:03 am

      I’m shuddering right along with you. If ANY group should be wary of Feinstein and her whistle-blowing=terrorism bills, it’s MFA. It would be like gay rights groups channeling their money into supporting Prop 8.

  8. June 22, 2012 8:47 am

    Vegina, I totally agree with you. I think those arguing against you are not getting the picture- that the money used to promote welfare should be used to promote veganism and compassionate education. I personally don’t think a chicken would be comfortable in a cage with even twice the wingspan- she is still a slave and an abused one at that. Welfare allows those that are meat eaters to assuage any guilt they may be feeling, and this sets the movement back several steps. It’s hard enough that we’re fighting thousands of years of indoctrination; why spend money helping those who are intent on keeping the masses uninformed.

  9. Anastasia permalink
    June 22, 2012 10:59 am

    Thanks for the post! I really enjoyed reading it. I appreciate that while it was backed up with evidence, you didn’t hesitate to bite and speak from the heart. The biggest lag I’ve noticed with some animal advocacy groups is the gap between the evidence that moves individuals (e.g. paying viewers to watch the violence against animals in factory farms) versus the call to action. It’s the call to action that’s been lacking. From someone who’s had experience in the nonprofit sector, I know how nonprofits can chase after money to save their jobs, and it’s even more justified if their main purpose is to create and maintain jobs, for instance, if they’re providing services that in all fairness the government should be doing but chooses to allocate taxpayer dollars elsewhere (military, factory farm subsidies, space travel, etc.) rather than to an “underserved” population. My animal rights and vegan activism tends to be imbedded in the African American community. Much of what black folks in the south are experiencing, as far as oppression, hasn’t changed tremendously since the 1950s and many of the nonprofits “leading the way” for racial and economic justice have made tremendous concessions with the local city and county governments and businesses and their interagency boards that have had a heavy hand in marginalizing, fragmenting, and terrorizing the black community. I’ve found that the most effective grassroots tactics for helping people of color help themselves is widening their access to the tools, space, and support they need to be self-reliant, self-affirming. I think the same is true for animals. What can we do as allies, from our place of privilege, do to give animals the tools, space, and support they need to liberate themselves?

    • July 1, 2012 11:16 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I think that your last question is so difficult because with other human groups we can ask what people what they want and need, which is something that we can’t do here.

      • Anastasia permalink
        July 2, 2012 7:31 am

        “…we can ask what people what they want and need, which is something that we can’t do here.”

        How so?

      • July 3, 2012 6:30 pm

        What do you mean? Do you not ask communities you work in what their needs are? Am I missing something?

  10. June 22, 2012 2:09 pm

    Thank you very much for this important post. I just recommended it to readers of my blog.

  11. Steve permalink
    June 22, 2012 8:17 pm

    I pretty much love all your posts… however I’m still trying to get my head around this one. I like your concept and explanation of moral slippage and I think that Wayne at HSUS is the poster child. I think it may be rooted in his ego. I first became aware of it with the Victory Dogs.

    The part that is throwing me is the latter part… mostly after the “a widespread problem” subheading and especially this:

    “If our movement wastes energy and resources on anything short of liberation, animals will still be objectified, tortured, and murdered, and that is simply not acceptable.”

    it seems to me that would mean (in your opinion) that supporting, promoting, and voting for california’s prop 2 was bad… is that correct? if so, that seems to me to run counter to an older post of yours a few months back (that I also really loved) where you spoke about how people should be supportive of those who are doing their part, in their own little way, even if it is less than what others are doing (words to that effect)

    • July 1, 2012 10:53 pm

      Steve, Thank you for this comment so that I can clarify. I try, when I say to always support activists no matter their tactics, to be clear I am only talking about liberation-oriented activism. The post in which I make the strongest case for not denigrating activists who use different tactics is my post “In support of total liberation,” in which I meant to be very clear that total liberation is the movement I am fighting for. I see animal liberation as a goal wholly separate from welfare and believe that many (not all) welfare-oriented campaigns embrace and bolster the dominant ideology that fosters animal abuse.

      • steve permalink
        July 2, 2012 7:59 pm

        Thanks for getting back to me. Okay- got it now. (and for all I know, maybe that was clear to me when I first read that post all those months ago, but forgot as time passed)

  12. John Sanbonmatsu permalink
    June 23, 2012 6:18 pm

    Bravo–this is a real service to the movement. In the face of organized, systemic atrocities being committed on a scale never before seen in history, here come the welfarists bedding down with industry to put a soothing public relations spin on the continued murder of billions of sensitive and vulnerable beings. The so-called reforms being championed not only leave the underlying apparatus of terror and violence intact, and not only do nothing substantive to improve the quality of life of these victims, even worse, they take the wind out of the sails of animal liberation as a movement and as an idea, by sanctifying all this violence and presenting animal exploitation as essentially a moral enterprise. We must find a way to reverse this trend, or we will completely lose this movement.

  13. June 24, 2012 10:53 pm

    The butchers of H$U$ have infiltrated and hijacked” the movement”. The problem is “the movement’s” inability to recognize who animal killers are and who animal advocates are. H$U$ is a partner with the chicken-massacring egg industry, Nebraska Farmers Union, Wolfgang Puck, and has a pig farmer director (Joe Maxwell). H$U$ is conducting experiments on wild horses using drugs made from pig eggs. H$U$ admits it is not for animal rights, and is pro-slaughter, and anti-vegan. It is unacceptable that it be at an “Animal Rights Conference”. It steals all resources of the animal rights movement. Paul Shapiro will be picking your pocket at this conference and poisoning minds. I am writing extensively about this on my BOB LINDEN facebook pages, @GoVeganRadio on twitter, and on my radio program – http://www.GoVeganRadio.com. I strongly suggest you listen to the Sept 5 2009 archive at http://www.GoVeganRadio.com for Wayne Pacelle’s self-incriminating remarks.

  14. Dana permalink
    June 26, 2012 4:53 am

    I’m really sad to hear that MFA promoted a piece of legislation like this. This even goes beyond the usual welfarist vs. abolitionist debate. The bill was terrible for welfarists and abolitionists alike. Nathan, WHY?!

  15. David Rutan permalink
    June 26, 2012 9:09 am

    MFA’s response to the criticism over this bill. http://www.mercyforanimals.org/hen-bill-faq.aspx

  16. July 6, 2012 4:00 pm

    According to Bob Linden (Go Vegan Radio), he got an email response from PETA asking for their position on the bill, and they apparently OPPOSED it. They don’t come right out and say it, but they say they “oppose cages of any kind, including ‘furnished’ or ‘enriched’ cage systems.” Just to throw a wrench into the idea that it is just the smaller groups that have been in opposition to it. Why PETA never publicized this we can certainly speculate, but it is interesting to see PETA opposing the other big groups. I’ve included their response below:

    ————————————–

    As we’re sure you know, while striving for the abolition of factory farming and slaughter, PETA generally supports animal welfare legislation. We all realize that millions of chickens are suffering in battery cages right now, and immediate action is needed to alleviate that suffering. Of course, we prefer that no chickens suffer, which is why we vigorously promote a vegan diet as the very best way to help chickens and all animals who are used and killed for food.

    The main provision of the bill, similar to the one passed in Europe in 1999, calls for a move to “enriched” cages. PETA and many other animal protection groups, here and in Europe, oppose cages of any kind, including “furnished” or “enriched” cage systems for hens because they do not provide anywhere near sufficient space for the birds to exercise natural behaviors and can never be thought of as humane. At best, they are simply less cruel.

    Furnished cages, which can house as many as 60 birds, may include a nest box, a perch or perches, and a small space for dust-bathing, but these “enrichments” are inadequate considering that the space is still miniscule, the noise is still overwhelming, the stress factors are enormous, the lack of privacy a hen seeks in nature for her egg-laying activity is not available to her, veterinary care is still lacking, and slaughter will still be as frightening and painful as ever.

    Birds are crammed into furnished cages, often by the dozens, in conditions that would merit cruelty-to-animals charges if they were dogs or cats. Chickens are naturally curious, active animals who spend their time foraging, exploring, and dust-bathing together—but furnished cages’ small spaces prevent them from engaging in these natural behaviors. Birds cannot perform their instinctual practices when confined to a cage—including proper dust-bathing, nesting, exploratory pecking and scratching, running, jumping, wing-flapping, and flying. This can lead to serious health issues, including intense fear, frustration, distress, osteoporosis, bone breakage, fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, hernias, and circulatory disorders. The complexity of these cages also poses a physical risk to hens because the birds can get caught in the moving parts.

    We do not know how long it will take to enact this legislation; it may take years and it may take other forms. If passed, it would provide some very helpful regulations but we are concerned that such a law will legitimize and engrain cages, “enriched” or otherwise, at a time when the public and many companies are clamoring for a move away from all cages. No one really knows.

    Of course no consumer should be fooled into thinking that the egg industry produces a humane product. In fact, the suffering that the egg industry causes becomes impossible to justify when one realizes that humans do not need to eat saturated fat- and cholesterol-laden animal products. In fact, we’re healthier if we don’t.According to the American Dietetic Association, vegans are less prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity than meat-eaters are. To learn more about the health benefits of a vegan diet, please go tohttp://www.PETA.org/living/vegetarian-living/eating-for-life.aspx. To read more about the egg industry’s cruel practices, please go tohttp://www.PETA.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/egg-industry.aspx. For information on why “free-range” and “organic” animal products are also cruel, please go tohttp://www.PETA.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/free-range-organic-meat-myth.aspx. To learn more about PETA’s campaign to end the worst cruelty to chickens and turkeys at the slaughterhouse, please seehttp://www.PETA.org/features/the-case-for-controlled-atmosphere-killing.aspx.

    For alternatives to eggs, please visit http://www.PETA.org/living/vegetarian-living/egg-replacements.aspx. To learn more about leaving cruelty to animals off your plate, please order PETA’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit athttp://features.PETA.org/VegetarianStarterKit/index.asp.

    • May 11, 2013 2:31 pm

      Note:
      The following opinions are purely my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of my current, former (or future) clients, nor do they reflect any of my former employers within the animal protection movement.

      Me:
      I think all of the “big groups” also oppose cages “of any kind.” Supporting an incremental change that will reduce suffering does not mean one suddenly opposes animal liberation; it means that to publicly oppose the legislation would in fact merely hurt animals. THAT’S the ENTIRE POINT. I do NOT oppose anything that reduces their suffering and I certainly do NOT approve of anything that causes suffering and in being CONSISTENT WITH MY BELIEFS (which is what I ask everyone else to do every day whether for human animals or non-human animals) I ask all of our movement to also start being consistent with their beliefs because it is (explanation of use of all caps below):

      … it is ABSOLUTELY DIRECTLY IN CONFLICT WITH A VEGAN BELIEF SYSTEM TO FIGHT AGAINST SOMETHING THAT REDUCES SUFFERING!

      (I would have underlined most of my use of caps rather than using all capital letters; however, WordPress unfortunately is not allowing me to do that OR I just don’t know how to use it in a post. I don’t want to bust into HTML and then post it only to potentialy discover that it didn’t work and I have just posted a bunch of gibberish for you all that I can’t then edit. I posted something earlier and it looks as permanent as I would hope, so I’ll use caps this time.)

      This might have just got to me to finally use my blog and say a few things. I’ll certainly let you know if it has because I’ve been “blogging” without posting things for well over a year. And I have SO much to say, my friends and fellow activists. If you don’t know who I am, you might recognize the cases I oversaw, prepped for or had massive influence upon which as of today include everything except the Canadian investigation (Puratone as legally the Canadian entity is it’s own “corporate entity” (I do not know the legal language for it in Canada, but Twyla and her partner get two thumbs up from me for putting up with all that they had to in order to do this work with MFA – kudos!) and two of the early egg cases (Norco and Gemperle Enterprises). All of the other employment-based investigations as well as those in between from the House of Raeford Slaughter plant in 2007 through Christiansen Farms in 2012 have a lot of my soul and being and all that I had to give (and unfortunately quite a bit more than than) in them. And I provided holistic care and counseling to my staff – always (those who were open to it, anyway – one of them is really going to be on his own with his feelings but that was and remains his own doing really … I was always there for him and remain so).

      Those are:

      House of Raeford Farms (birds including chickens though mostly turkeys – slaughter)
      [year spent working at PETA]

      Quality Egg of New England (hens used for battery cage eggs)

      Hy-Line Hatchery (egg industry whether it’s caged or cage-free or free range or whatever else they might come up with to make it sound as though they aren’t harming their animals who all end up at slaughter at a fraction of their natural lifespan)

      Country View Family Farms (pigs by the pork industry – NOTE: “FAMILY” farm)

      Willet Dairy (dairy … and ultimately veal calves if they survived the place because the males are “trash” to the egg industry)

      Conklin Dairy Farms (dairy … and ultimately veal calves if they survived for not only the reason above (the industry has no use for them) but also because of the despicable abuses that we captured all staff either doing, bragging about, or discussing other staff [i.e. owner Gary Conklin and one other young male] doing on film)

      Buckeye Veal Farm (veal and by its very nature, the dairy industry overall – in separate and CLEARLY MARKED sections AFTER we are done discussing Buckeye Veal.

      Catfish Corner (fish slaughter)

      • May 11, 2013 3:06 pm

        Hit “Enter” apparently somewhere along the way. Here is the entire reply:

        Note:
        The following opinions are purely my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of my current, former (or future) clients, nor do they reflect any of my former employers within the animal protection movement.

        Me:
        I think all of the “big groups” also oppose cages “of any kind.” Supporting an incremental change that will reduce suffering does not mean one suddenly opposes animal liberation; it means that to publicly oppose the legislation would in fact merely hurt animals. THAT’S the ENTIRE POINT. I do NOT oppose anything that reduces their suffering and I certainly do NOT approve of anything that causes suffering and in being CONSISTENT WITH MY BELIEFS (which is what I ask everyone else to do every day whether for human animals or non-human animals) I ask all of our movement to also start being consistent with their beliefs because it is (explanation of use of all caps below):

        … it is ABSOLUTELY DIRECTLY IN CONFLICT WITH A VEGAN BELIEF SYSTEM TO FIGHT AGAINST SOMETHING THAT REDUCES SUFFERING!

        (I would have underlined most of my use of caps rather than using all capital letters; however, WordPress unfortunately is not allowing me to do that OR I just don’t know how to use it in a post. I don’t want to bust into HTML and then post it only to potentialy discover that it didn’t work and I have just posted a bunch of gibberish for you all that I can’t then edit. I posted something earlier and it looks as permanent as I would hope, so I’ll use caps this time.)

        This might have just got to me to finally use my blog and say a few things. I’ll certainly let you know if it has because I’ve been “blogging” without posting things for well over a year. And I have SO much to say, my friends and fellow activists. If you don’t know who I am, you might recognize the cases I oversaw, prepped for or had massive influence upon which as of today include everything except the Canadian investigation (Puratone as legally the Canadian entity is it’s own “corporate entity” (I do not know the legal language for it in Canada, but Twyla and her partner get two thumbs up from me for putting up with all that they had to in order to do this work with MFA – kudos!) and two of the early egg cases (Norco and Gemperle Enterprises). All of the other employment-based investigations as well as those in between from the House of Raeford Slaughter plant in 2007 through Christiansen Farms in 2012 have a lot of my soul and being and all that I had to give (and unfortunately quite a bit more than than) in them. And I provided holistic care and counseling to my staff – always (those who were open to it, anyway – one of them is really going to be on his own with his feelings but that was and remains his own doing really … I was always there for him and remain so).

        Those are (http://www.mercyforanimals.org/investigations.aspx):

        House of Raeford Farms (birds including chickens though mostly turkeys – slaughter)
        [year spent working at PETA]

        Quality Egg of New England (hens used for battery cage eggs)

        Hy-Line Hatchery (egg industry whether it’s caged or cage-free or free range or whatever else they might come up with to make it sound as though they aren’t harming their animals who all end up at slaughter at a fraction of their natural lifespan)

        Country View Family Farms (pigs by the pork industry – NOTE: “FAMILY” farm)

        Willet Dairy (dairy … and ultimately veal calves if they survived the place because the males are “trash” to the egg industry)

        Conklin Dairy Farms (dairy … and ultimately veal calves if they survived for not only the reason above (the industry has no use for them) but also because of the despicable abuses that we captured all staff either doing, bragging about, or discussing other staff [i.e. owner Gary Conklin and one other young male] doing on film)

        Buckeye Veal Farm (veal and by its very nature, the dairy industry overall – in separate and CLEARLY MARKED sections AFTER we are done discussing Buckeye Veal.

        Catfish Corner (fish slaughter – first of its kind that I know of still, engaged international fish experts all of whom said it was painful and wrong and none of whom were willing to say so publicly – interestingly sickening, eh? Oh, and there was one who sent me just sweeping accusations in an email rather than information about the treatment of the animals)

        E6 Cattle Co. (calves – dairy industry. Remember the pickaxes and hammers and know that that is common in that region particularly within the dairy industry. I had a worker at the hotel of my news conference tell me that that is how they killed the calves in Amarillo right there were he was, too)

        Iowa Select (pigs by the porn industry. “Pigs are very [pause] bouncy. … It’s [throwing piglets] is like a roller coaster for piglets.” Throwing piglets is also how the pork industry does it all over. I’ve never seen a facility NOT throwing piglets. See above for evidence of that at Country View Family Farms).)

        Sparboe Farms (eggs in battery cages in three states – McDonald’s supplier after which I met with executives there along with Runkle and an avian expert to discuss phasing out battery cages and gestation crates)

        Butterball (turkeys – criminal charges. UGH, the disgusting filth of that place)

        Robert Celedon’s facility called “Illegal Slaughter Operation” in MFA’s online discussion of it. I can hardly comment on the sickness and sadness of this case. It hurts me to think about it just as they all do.

        Ontario Livestock Sales in California (multiple species – suffering animals just left to die. Livestock auctions are despicable and all you have to do to see suffering animals is go to one, but be warned they will notice your presence, so unless you can blend it don’t bother unless you are going so that your presence reduces the abuses there. We used to do that for elephants – Ringling wouldn’t normally hit them in front of us because we were all standing there watching and they knew we were filming).

        Christensen Farms (pigs by the pork industry. More and more of the same and the disgusting.)

        Final Note:
        Sad sad infuriating and obtained as they all are by the larger groups with the funding to do it right and not mess it up and the funding and the know-how to make waves around the world with the video-documented truth of it all through those opposed incremental changes of this movement’s bigger players that according to this original piece are *lacking morals* by pushing for those reductions in suffering. If I wanted to use the aggressive tone, which I normally prefer not to, I would say WTF are we doing getting in the way of any and every bit of progress to reduce animals’ suffering based on a non-proven theory (that stands in opposition to the evidence we have if we look at Europe as an example). WTF are we doing KEEPING hens in the conditions I’ve been documenting them in with a team of dedicated vegans who suffered tremendously in order to document the truth because no one else could or would do it – and refusing to give them some space and some “enrichment.” My God, folks.

        And on that tip I’d also say that the accusations such as these (that I and my colleagues and former colleagues and colleagues from other organizations [big and not so big] are lacking in morals because we take actions that we can to reduce suffering while promoting cruelty-free vegan foods and making everyone aware of the issues in approachable, kind, non-offensive ways that even my mom could hear without making a valid excuse for closing off her eyes, ears, and mind … those accusations are offensive and make a mockery of the hard work we are all doing, which no one can understand who hasn’t done it.

        The ONLY reason I am here doing this work is and was for the animals. Ultimately, I am answering to their memory and for that I hold my values and act upon them consistently.

  17. May 10, 2013 8:32 pm

    I have so much to say about this and I don’t even know where to start. A little over a year ago I finally got to hand the disgusting and grueling job of juggling hours and hours of undercover footage and troubleshooting and providing holistic care (something I certainly never got) for the undercover investigators at Mercy For Animals … juggling those roles with media interviews, news conference roll outs, development, strategy, and fundraising to pay for the work. I was sad in a way and so happy in a way to be moving on. I’m not going to go into it right this second, but let me say that the reality (the REALITY) of it all for us and the covert investigators is one of smells, visions we’ll never rid ourselves of, and brains that are forever altered and hurt – in order that we could get such a small incremental change that would reduce the suffering of these hens … that work was all done for them, not to make our arguments for veganism easier. I sincerely ask anyone who would question the abolitionist beliefs of my operatives and me (or the department filled and shipped off to Los Angeles and left that is … finding it’s way) and think that we would go through all of that (ALL of that – it’s damaged me in ways I can’t even begin to address) for ladies to rethink it for a while. Vegan and abolitionist. And suffering for them who suffer sooooo much worse than we did or do. Give them some room and continue to fight on their behalf. You (and even I) only know fragments of the overall work to get this possibility on the table. Let me tell you, it’s not a “vegan” pitch that gets the media to cover the investigations I oversaw. It was going after low hanging fruit (worst practices in massive industries where there is plenty of room for change) that expose for most people for the first time how animals are actually treated and violently killed. It is that “welfarist” work that has decreased the number of animals killed each year in the U.S. and has pushed and pushed this topic into the mainstream dialogue. Massive props are owed to all of the folks who worked all of this. Just focusing efforst of farmed animal issues is a major achievement. Most people didn’t go vegan overnight. I didn’t. Plant the seed. Nurture it. Compassion is growing. Please don’t fight reductions in suffering for the hens. They are so near and dear to my heart. Look at what our asks were just at MFA (not to mention HSUS’ COK’s, FS’ etc.) with each case. If we’d have said we wanted everyone to go vegan they wouldn’t have covered some of these cases, but since we were very smart about it, we have worldwide policies implemented at massive corporations, criminal charges, landmark civil settlements, and vegan literature shipping out of a shipping service because we no longer affixed the postage ourselves in our Columbus and Chicago offices. I guess I said more than I intended to already, but maybe I’ll revisit this tomorrow. It’s so important and I’m crushed when I see the massive holes in the discussion on WHY this legislation is so important and why we and they and I am behind it. Thanks for the dialogue and sorry for the long mega-paragraph. Long, tiring day pushing for justice. :)

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