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flop 2

July 9, 2010

In April I posted a very inspiring speech by Nicoal Renee Sheen. I loved it and hoped she would be able to grace us with her words again. And now she has! Sit back and enjoy as Nicoal keeps it real…

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by Nicoal Renee Sheen

Just a few days ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed legislation that many animal welfarists are calling a “victory” for factory-farmed hens. By January 2015, every single egg sold in California must come from hens who are granted a more comfortable enslavement.

As someone who affirms animals are equals and fights for their right to live freely, this piece of sh –  I mean – legislation is what I call a pseudo-victory or a mass distraction. First of all, this law does not stop the slaughter. When I speak of moral consideration for animals, their rights and liberation, faster killing methods or bigger cages is not the future I envision – more importantly, neither do they. So-called “free-range” or “cage-free” farms result in many thousands of chickens crammed into a shed with no real or practical access to the outdoors. In addition, all male chicks are ground up alive right after they are born regardless of a “cage-free” environment.

And does this law really matter to the chickens? Are they thinking of the few extra inches of room given to them when their beaks are sheared off with a hot saw? Does one seriously think chickens will reflect on the “pleasant” and “humane” experience before their throats are slit and their whole family is next in line to be murdered?

The answer is an obvious no. This law distracts us from real change that we can bring about for chickens– their liberation. We begin to compromise and negotiate for a few more inches of space instead of considering what we would want if we were in their position. Its easy to constantly reassure ourselves that bigger cages will ease some of the agony and suffering hens experience everyday. However, I am not fighting for what is easy. I fight to see them liberated from the sadistic places of their torture. No one said freeing animals would be easy in such a speciesist society, but I am not willing to fool myself in believing this law actually betters the lives of chickens.

We should reject such laws as “victories” since they are far from being victorious.  At the end of each day, approximately 20 million chickens are slaughtered in North America alone . In addition, what welfarists want to believe helps chickens is actually contributing to more suffering and enslavement. More eggs are purchased because people can excuse themselves with a “humane alternative” and do not have to feel guilty about buying eggs.

Instead of spending millions of dollars bettering the egg industry’s image, animal activists should encourage others to adopt a vegan diet and/or fund rescuing animals from factory farms. We do not have time to be distracted. I know the chickens cannot afford to accept such a law, so neither will I.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Jorgen permalink
    July 9, 2010 12:04 pm

    I agree, fighting for the *rights* of slaves is an oxymoron. The phrase “Animal Rights” can sometimes act as a pacifying term – especially to those who are indolent and somewhat ignorant. This is why animal *liberation* ought to be stressed, and nothing less. Slaves have never revolted to gain the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to cheap insurance packages, or for any other right… they revolt for freedom, plane and simple. Everything else – all of these so-called “rights” – come after. If we had celebrated minor improvements during the Holocaust, Jews would no longer exist, and concentration camps would be full of some other group of people… we’ve passed the ‘ask nicely’ phase; it’s time for smash and grab.

    • Nicoal permalink
      July 9, 2010 7:33 pm

      I completely agree Jorgen. I would also add that we see other recent social movements fighting for rather passive demands such as the mainstream LGBT movement — focusing on marriage equality rather than smashing homophobia and retaining the right not to live in fear of being bashed, for example.

  2. andy permalink
    July 9, 2010 3:59 pm

    There is something to be said however for the economic impact the farms will face as a result of trying to change their means of production. The increased surface area per bird will also limit the amount of birds that can fit within the confines of the farm, less birds per area will equate less killed per year. Lastly something needs to be said about the industry reports that are freaking out over this.

    Morally I think everyone should think as you do, and act accordingly. Tactically, however, some of this legislation could make sense.

    Andy

    • July 9, 2010 6:24 pm

      The problem is that if people think “happy eggs” are cruelty free then it may actually increase consumer desire to eat eggs. A recent study makes it look like this may be the case. (I describe it in a previous post: https://vegina.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/prop-2-hasn%E2%80%99t-saved-the-chickens/) That increase in demand will make it worth while to farm more chickens for their eggs. Also, I don’t think this is an economic cost for these places. The changes are set so far in the future that I am guessing that factory farms are probably buying the new cages at roughly the same time they would have to replace their cages anyhow. The only reason that The Schwartzenator’s bill might not be a total loss is that it appears as if no one really lobbied for it (though I did not research this point, so I could be mistaken), so at least it didn’t divert other animal right efforts as did prop 2.

    • Nicoal permalink
      July 9, 2010 8:01 pm

      Welfarists believe that these laws will help when they actually trivialize each animal’s experience and reduces their suffering down to what size cage they will live in — as if that is all animals have to worry about in factory-farmed conditions. People feel better about giving space to chickens and continue to eat animals, eggs, dairy, etc. (in increasing amounts due to Prop 2) thinking the animals are “better off” or “happier”. If they are “happier” than no one can claim that cruelty was inflicted, therefore people are not morally obligated to care. Look at HSUS for example, many people within the organization are not vegan and frequently spearhead campaigns to make it “safer” for people to eat eggs, flesh, etc. They are focused on consumer demand – instead of considering what the animals would want – which perpetuates murder and speciesism. We shouldn’t aim for the little scraps because at the end of the day farm animals are murdered whether their cage is a little more “roomier” or not.

      That is why I advocate direct action as being most effective to save animals. Animals will only truly be saved when people deconstruct speciesist thought, smash the physical barriers that segregate them from a normal, healthy life and liberate each and everyone of those animals from their places of abuse so they will never have to sit another minute in misery.

      • July 11, 2010 8:46 am

        @Nicoal:

        “People feel better about giving space to chickens and continue to eat animals, eggs, dairy, etc. (in increasing amounts due to Prop 2) thinking the animals are “better off” or “happier”. If they are “happier” than no one can claim that cruelty was inflicted, therefore people are not morally obligated to care.”

        Wouldn’t it follow from this proposition that we should be INCREASING the harm in farmed animal exploitation? In other words, if the proposition is that the “happy” farmed animal movement ensures MORE animal exploitation BECAUSE people are more comfortable doing so, then as a causal matter, shouldn’t we be increasing the suffering and death, thereby making people further UNcomfortable with that exploitation, which makes veganism a more tenable option?

  3. July 9, 2010 9:50 pm

    If people are looking to do better, then they’re going to do better. Clever marketing and word play wont stop the good people, it’ll only stop the people that dont really care for animal rights.

    The way animals are farmed will change when people do, not the other way around. If anything, it’s an indicator some people are starting to care. A small, painful reminder of a victory, but a victory.

    • Nicoal permalink
      July 10, 2010 9:14 am

      If slaves in the nineteenth century were given more comfortable beds or their shackles were a bit longer, would we call that a “victory”? Or if people advocated for faster killing methods for people in Darfur, Sudan – where a mass genocide of peoples is happening, would we call that a victory?

      I want people to reevaluate what we consider “victorious” for animals and contrast it to the standards we hold for humyn rights. Thinking that bigger cages matter to these chickens rather than their ability to live their lives free of subjugation is ludicrous.

      If we really consider animals our equals, than it makes absolutely no sense to ask for “better conditions” YET keep them enslaved.

      • July 11, 2010 8:54 am

        @Nicoal: As I see it, the fallacy in your argument is making direct comparisons between, say, the Darfur genocide and the modern exploitation of animals. The two are clearly dis-analogous because of #’s and scope. If, for example, rape was AS prevalent and literally economy-making as our exploitation of animals, I see the logic in arguing that NOT cutting the noses off of rape survivors is, all things considered, better (a “victory”) than the alternative: cutting their noses off during the rape.

        However, that said, this whole question DOES turn on the empirical matter of whether or not harm is ACTUALLY being reduced AND whether or not, in the long run, people WILL eventually stop eating animals (or do these welfare measures prolong the exploitation). On the first question, I am dubious; on the second I suspect that Francione is right.

        But the counter-argument you have offered here is wholly unconvincing.

  4. July 10, 2010 11:01 am

    Thank you for this post.
    I did not vote yes on Prop2…I left the box blank.
    Prop 2 is an absolute disaster for farmed animals. It might possibly be one of the worst frauds ever to be brought about for animals lives as well.
    Number one. Although it may be a cliche to mention that prop 2 and legislation similar will only make people more comfortable and therefore feel better about buying animal products, it is exactly what will and is actually what is happening. More people are feeling better about the big animal rights action they took by voting yes on prop 2. Horrible.
    The other aspect (#2) never discussed is that HSUS and other welfare organizations involved with prop 2 actually make money when an animal business wants to have their animals “certified humane”. It is truly disgusting that these welfare groups will profit off of animal slavery and killing yet never mention it while doing fund raising for campaigns like prop 2.
    Also…(#30 one of HSUS’s major selling points to big agri business was that the profits would actually increase as a result of prop 2. So…HSUS have become business consultants to the animal killing industries and they have kept all info that from the voters.
    Also I urge everyone to look at what is happening with the enriched cage issue now beginning to take shape. Again… horrible for the animals as a result of Prop 2.
    There is nothing at all good for the animals about prop 2. Prop 2 went out of its way never to mention going vegan or ending animal use. It is a joke and was a huge money raising campaign for HSUS.
    Prop 2 legitimizes animal use and animal killing.
    I just spent a week in Northern Calif wine country where happy meat and having voted yes on Prop 2 are all the rage with everyone including a few of my former veggie friends who now consume supposed humane eggs, grass fed beef..etc.
    The main goal of Prop 2 without a doubt…was about making Californians feel more comfortable about animal exploitation, killing animals and raising money for HSUS.
    HSUS has an annual budget of $150 million and financial records indicate that HSUS has assets of almost $225 million. None of this is spent on advocating vegan education but rather spent in promoting happy killed animals.
    It is a true disaster and they are now moving on to other states.
    Thanks…

  5. July 10, 2010 9:24 pm

    It may not be a victory but it is a step in the right direction. Cameron is correct in saying that the way animals are farmed (I’ll add – that they are farmed) will change when people do. It is consumers that drive animal product “production”; without consumption of their products the entire industry would cease to be. Legislation such as this engages people, it enables education of the masses that animal advocacy groups alone often cannot reach. People that never knew how their eggs were produced now know the cruelty of it. People who knew the cruelty their choices were perpetuating but ignored it can no longer do so as the masses start chanting that battery cages are cruel. Suddenly people are more aware of what goes on behind the security line. The wave builds.

    So no, it’s not a victory. But in engaging people and educating them of the impact of their choices it IS a step. It’s likely more people in California are aware of egg production now than ever were before. That’s more people to help with the next step.

  6. July 12, 2010 1:02 am

    my point was not that its a victory for chickens to have bigger cages but a victory for people to want them to have bigger cages.

  7. July 20, 2010 3:15 pm

    I believe in total liberation and abolition, and I view Prop 2 and AB 1437 as successes, not failures. It’s fun to daydream about a future when humans will no longer eat or exploit animals. But we won’t get there any time soon, and I believe in the meantime, we must do everything we can both to improve conditions for animals in this moment, and to advance the movement’s progress toward its ultimate ideals.

    An egg-laying hen has a lifespan of more than two years. Say you knew you would die in two years and were given a choice of confinement in either a tiny area or a large area. Wouldn’t you choose the large area? I know I would, and think any hen given the choice would. Yes these hens are still debeaked and confined, yes they are still killed when they’ve outlived their useful careers, and yes male chicks are killed inhumanely. Let’s address each of these problems as soon as possible, through further legislation. But let’s not throw up our hands and do nothing to help the millions of hens in captivity today, just because we can’t permanently free them.

    Overnight change is not possible for this or any other social movement. It took thousands of years for humans to abolish slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was criticized by abolitionists who argued it was nothing more than a halfway measure that freed slaves in only 10 Southern states. Prop 2 is a halfway measure, but it’s something. It’s a small step in a journey of a thousand miles.

    Research shows that because of Prop 2, California consumers changed their buying habits and shifted, in statistically-significant numbers, to buying cage-free eggs. Research also shows that Californians are better informed about conditions on egg farms than consumers in other states. These are great results, and they show that Prop 2 educated many people on an important issue. Yes, many are still deluded about what “cage-free” means; many still don’t know about debeaking or the killing of male chicks. The solution is to better inform these consumers, to pass more measures like Prop 2, and to keep winning battles. But it is wrong to blame measures like Prop 2 for misleading people about farm conditions. Blame the meat, dairy and egg industries for that. Measures like Prop 2 help educate and influence an uninformed public.

    • July 22, 2010 1:19 pm

      This “half measure” is not close to the emancipation proclamation. No one has been freed. But the real question is does Prop 2 help or lead to the death of MORE chickens? In a previous post I discuss the only systematic and academic (i.e. non partisan) study to look at sales of cage free eggs. It suggests prop 2 leads to more total eggs begin purchased overall as a result of prop 2, so, even if a greater proportion are cage free (and cage free is not anywhere close to torture free), there are more eggs being sold. That means prop 2 is a big ol’ fail

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