“Animals Australia: soothing the public’s conscience about using animals” by Dede River

I’d like to share a commentary by Dede River on her Facebook page about “Animals Australia” (a large animal “protection” organisation). An “Animals Australia” advocate claimed that AA is pragmatic and veganism is not important in helping animals.

Here is Dede River’s Facebook commentary to this claim of “pragmatism”:

“The other day, a friend of mine asked how I would respond to the persistent claim that welfarism is somehow more “pragmatic” a way to help non-human animals than veganism.

My response is that, if their goal is to end the abuse of non-human animals, welfarists don’t understand what “pragmatic” means. “Pragmatic” generally means taking a practical, rather than an ideal, approach. An example would be, if the goal is to build an environmentally-benign house, using low-intensive energy local materials, load-bearing straw bale might be an ideal solution in some areas. However, given building codes and all that, a more pragmatic plan might be using some form of timber to carry the load, and wrapping with straw bales. This is not ideal, but since the ideal means fighting councils and state regulations, often for years, it might be more practical, hence, it is the pragmatic solution. On the other hand, using standard building practices, pre-built steel trusses, glass-fibre insulation, is really easy in terms of getting builders and council approval, but cannot be considered pragmatic, since it entirely fails at the goal of using low-inherent-energy local materials for a result that conserves energy.

If, as it should be, our goal is to eliminate the use of non-human animals, then the ideal is to absolutely stop using these other beings. Pragmatics might mean that we do continue to use some things that harm other beings, at least until there is an alternative. Most vegans continue to use cars, and roads, and computers, even though non-human animals are used and harmed in their creation, because not to would nearly completely isolate us. At the same time we try to get manufacturers to change. But wherever we can, we simply don’t use animal products, don’t eat them, don’t wear them, don’t use them as entertainment. That’s pragmatic.

It is not “pragmatic” when someone claiming to “help” animals promotes “humane” forms of animal use. It is not pragmatic, because it is not consistent with the goal of ending animal use. Using animals “better” doesn’t stop use, it makes it acceptable. Barn-laid eggs just means that instead of putting chickens in cages, we cram huge numbers into a barn. They are still bred, male chicks still killed, still live an unnatural and awful life, are still slaughtered at the dictates of economics. They are still used. The fact that someone feels a little warm glow at choosing a “barn laid” or “free-range” box of eggs does not make their action more ethical. It does not “help animals”. Quite the opposite, it allows continued exploitation of non-human animals with less guilt.

Groups like Animals Australia claim to be pragmatic, because they are reducing suffering. If the goal is reducing guilt about animal use, they can be said to be pragmatic. If the goal is actually ending use of non-human animals then they are not pragmatic, they are counter-productive. Animals Australia mainly focuses on “better” use, with almost no mention of non-use. Their ideal seems to be a world in which animals are all “free-range”, in other words, their “solution” is keeping animals in paddocks, rather than in stalls. Certainly stalls are awful. That doesn’t necessarily make paddocks better. It doesn’t change much of the “management” practices: de-horning, branding, de-sexing males, cropping tails, taking babies away, ultimately killing these beings when they are “market-ready”. I live in a rural area where I see cows in paddocks. They aren’t happy, and they aren’t free, and they are still seen as an economic “crop” that will be harvested. They certainly don’t have rights. They are certainly not “liberated”.

Making people feel they are doing something “for animals” is not the same as recognising that we have no right to do things to non-human animals. It just lets the exploitation continue. “Humane” animal products is just an exercise in marketing, that changes nothing essential. Worse, it fosters the notion that “humane” products are just another range of products, and “market choice” remains with the consumer. We decide which products we prefer at a price. Nowhere it their any call for people to recognise that using animals is simply unethical, simply wrong.

Pragmatically, telling people that using animals is wrong is the most practical way of getting people to stop using animals. Telling people that there are better, more humane ways of using animals is not a method of ending animal use, not at all. Telling people that it is wrong to use animals, and to stop, is called advocating veganism. Advocating veganism is the only practical, pragmatic way of ending animal use.”

For an earlier essay by myself about Animals Australia, please view here

aa

Animals Australia campaign
This is a spoof edited version of AA’s “make it possible” campaign poster where their focus is factory farming instead of ending animal use and where they ignore veganism.

The results are in2

The results are in

POSTSCRIPT by Dede River (Jan 11th, 2013):
I get amazed sometimes when I hear those who defend Animals Australia talking about their fabulous campaigns to “end factory farming”. What they don’t emphasize is that these campaigns promote “alternatives” to factory farming, and these “alternatives” are just other ways of marketing the products of death and pain. The other thing they don’t emphasize is that 98% of beef and sheep production is currently “free range”. About 2% of cows or sheep are ever fed in feedlots, generally only in the last few months of their lives, the rest being spent “free range”.

I’m not saying feedlots are good, not at all, but I am saying that living in paddocks, “free range”, is not a great life for non-human animals. Paddocks are often fodder-poor fenced rectangles that may, if the animals are lucky, have a tree. Temperatures vary from high 40s C(+104 F.) in summer, to below freezing in winter, and there is no shelter. Yes, there is “room” but that is not the measure of well-being, and the space of a paddock is not equivalent to the natural range of a herd of cows. In addition, cows and sheep are subjected to a variety of “management practices”, including removal of young cows (bobby calves) or sheep from their mothers, gelding of males, branding, de-horning, docking their tails, and a variety of other things prior to the decision to transport and kill them. Living in paddocks is not a “happy” life. It is not “liberation”. It is not any kind of recognition of rights. Non-humans in paddocks live and die entirely in accord with human economic decisions, with a desire to maximise profits generally translating to minimising expenses, or decision on when to kill.

With current climate-related problems, drought, flooding, fires, etc, conditions for “free-range” animals generally are getting worse.

Other things Animals Australia, and other animal welfare organisations don’t mention is that the animals Australians eat most of are cows. Chickens comes next, followed by sheep and sea creatures. Pigs are at the bottom of the list, with one study cited by the Australasian Agribusiness Review citing figures of 31% as people who don’t eat pork. In this case, increasing “free range pork” is not a great victory for non-human animals. In terms of diet, the much higher percentage of people who eat lamb, relative to people who eat “mutton”, means most sheep are killed for food before they reach maturity. Living on a paddock doesn’t change that. What else is not mentioned is that the natural habitat of pigs is forest understory, not over-grazed paddocks.

This facts mean that the whole “end factory farming” campaign is something of a bitter joke, one unlikely to affect most non-human animals used for food. When we look at chickens, generally the most extensively factory-farmed animals, and compare commercial cage production vs high-volume “free range” production, the conditions for the chickens are not substantially better for the latter. They are still raised under shockingly bad, highly stressful conditions, the “management practices” are generally the same, and the rationale for which chickens to kill, and when to kill them, are the same. “Roasting” chickens are usually killed very young, and subjected to an intense regime of hormones and water-retention agents to make them fat and tender. “Laying” chickens are subject to different chemical and hormonal regimes, the males killed brutally as chicks, and the females killed once they are “spent”, a process that doesn’t take long. These factors don’t change with “free-range” chicken production. Allowing thousands of chickens to mill in a huge crowded barn or yard is not “kind treatment”.

Simply put, ending factory farming in Australia will not markedly improve the situation for non-human animals. Buying animal flesh that has been “certified” as better in some way, might give you an inner glow, but it’s not improving the situation for nonhuman animals to any real degree. And even if animals were cossetted, fed treats, patted and cuddled, and then anesthetised prior to killing them, it is still a violation of other sentient beings, ones that have their own instinctive and considered goals and desires. It doesn’t matter how “nicely” we rob them of their autonomy, and then rob them of their lives. Using nonhuman animals for our entertainment, aesthetics, or palate pleasure is simply wrong. Which is, of course, simply another way of saying, “Go Vegan!” Not only do we need to go vegan personally, we need to let others know that using non-human animals is wrong; we need to spread veganism.

Not vegan? Please start here http://www.VeganKit.com

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For those who keep claiming that Animals Australia does not promote “happy animal exploitation” or “happy animal products”, please view a few recent tweets from their Twitter page:

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Animals Australia ‏@AnimalsAus on Twitter
“What do pork, bacon and ham labels REALLY mean for pigs? Find out how to choose kindly: http://www.MakeitPossible.com/pigs #makeitpossible ”

Animals Australia ‏@AnimalsAus on Twitter
“In great news for mother pigs, all @Coles-brand fresh pork products are now sow stall free! Thanks Coles πŸ™‚ https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid”

Animals Australia ‏@AnimalsAus on Twitter
“Every time we shop we can vote for a kinder world. Discover what different egg labels really mean for chickens: http://www.MakeitPossible.com/eggs

Animals Australia ‏@AnimalsAus on Twitter
“Thanks @Coles for helping to free hens from battery cages! Coles starts 2013 by removing all Coles cage eggs from sale! pic.twitter.com/lXDpWkz1 ”

Damir KotoriΔ‡ ‏@damirkotoric to Animals Australia:
@AnimalsAus @coles Well done Coles but let’s not forget the consumers who made this happen by shopping ethically.

Animals Australia ‏@AnimalsAus respond to Damir:
“@damirkotoric @Coles Definitely! Kind choices are powerful choices. #makeitpossible ”
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Is there any mention anywhere by Animals Australia for the public to consider becoming vegan and stop using animals for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons? No. Nowhere to be seen. This is very sad indeed.

To all of you who think this is acceptable, I want to ask you one thing. If your child was being exploited, would you want that to end, or would you suggest that it’s acceptable for them to be exploited as long as it’s “humane” (there’s no such thing), and in the end, it’s OK that your child be murdered “as long as it was “humane”.

View the video in this post of a “humane” slaughterhouse.

Remember: In the end they all end up at the same slaughterhouse whether they are from factory farms, “free range” facilities “organic” and so forth. And remember they are all forms of torture if you have ever been to a “free range” facility, it is a nightmare.

Remember too that all male chicks from hatcheries that supply Coles and the egg industry are ground up alive or suffocated. They are “by-products” of the egg industry.

Want to see a “humane” slaughterhouse video? http://youtu.be/bCcUV-Yg-bc

Don’t buy the lie. ALL use is abuse. The only sane choice. The only right and moral choice is to go vegan http://www.VeganKit.com http://www.facebook.com/VegansforNonviolence

Thank you for your consideration.

PS: I’ve been “discussing” (a polite way of saying it goes nowhere) on the Animals Australia site the problems with Animals Australia promotion of “happy animal products” and “happy animal exploitation” and their anti-vegan position with some advocates of Animals Australia. Amazingly although it’s all over AA’s “make it possible” site, advocates deny that AA promote “happy animal exploitation”. Maybe someone could ask them why people — who are not going to eat pig flesh (or any other animal products or use animals)– need to “Make sense of pork, bacon and ham labels”? http://www.makeitpossible.com/guides/pig-meat-labels.php

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