Sherry Colb Responds to My Post on Proposition 2

I received an e-mail from Sherry Colb (Cornell Law School) in response to my recent post disagreeing with Professor Francione’s views regarding California’s Proposition 2. She kindly gave me permission to post it on our blog. As usual, Professor Colb’s comments are thoughtful and informative. Here’s her e-mail:


Hi Luis.

We have not met, [but] I was delighted to see your new animal blog. The more attention the issue of animal concerns gets, the better. I respect your disagreement with Gary Francione on the California proposition issue, though I think my inclination is to agree with Gary because of the opportunity costs – in lost chances to foster and encourage veganism – associated with large movements to make relatively modest changes in what is a shockingly inhumane world of animal agriculture. I have so often heard people say – when they go to an outstanding vegan restaurant – “if I could eat like this every meal, I would consider becoming a vegan.”

If the Humane Society invested in vegan restaurants and education, more people who find the prospect of veganism frightening or impractical (but ethically attractive) might consider changing. [This is important] because the cruelty that produces eggs and milk is really not better (and can often be even worse) than the cruelty that produces meat. It is not the egg or milk itself that suffered, obviously, but the hens and dairy cows that produce the eggs and milk (and who are kept in horrendous conditions even on “organic” farms and who are killed for meat when their production levels drop) and – perhaps more significantly – the male offspring of hens and dairy cows (the male chicks who are buried alive, gassed and otherwise cruelly killed as babies and the male dairy cows who are robbed of their mother’s milk and then killed as youngsters for veal). Milk simply cannot be produced without impregnating cows, and their male offspring are considered a waste of resources to be quickly slaughtered. I recently had the privilege of visiting Farm Sanctuary, and even though they do press these legislative propositions, their core message is to encourage veganism. The tour guide there had a very compelling line about dairy products – in every glass of milk, there’s a little veal. [Although] we do not know each other, I was eager to reach out because there are so few friends of animals among legal academics.

Good luck on the blog.




One Response

  1. Firstly, let me say I am glad to see this blog. As Sherry said in her email to you, there are not enough of you, or these.

    I was alerted to this blog by an email from Sherry, who is a good friend and former professor of mine. The second point from Gary Francione’s letter sums up (or is close to) my entire position on the matter.

    “Second, Proposition 2, if passed, will only make the public feel better about animal exploitation and will result in increased exploitation. Animals will continue to be tortured; the only difference will be that the torture will carry the stamp of approval from the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and the other animal welfare corporations that are promoting Proposition 2. It is telling that approximately 100 farming organizations are supporting Proposition 2. Why do you think that is? The answer is plain. These producers believe that Proposition 2 will help their “bottom line.” And it will.”

    And it was that paragraph to which your only response was entirely defeatist. That is, you seem to think it is impossible to ever change the way society as a whole approaches their food and therefor we should be satisfied for any small good we can do.

    I do not think this is true, but I wanted to make sure that it was, in fact, your position. Your response of:

    “The hard truth is that a great majority of people will continue to eat factory farmed products (and french fries and fried chicken) regardless of whether measures banning battery cages (or trans fat) are enacted. Others – like me – will continue to be vegetarians and avoid french fries even if such laws are adopted. Ultimately, laws like this one don’t exert much influence over people’s eating habits. Therefore, I believe that the fear that Proposition 2 will result in increased animal exploitation is overblown.”

    seems very clear in taking the position that education cannot work.

    To the contrary, for me, I believe that “education” (or what I really prefer to think of as confronting the truth of food choices) is the only hope for animals in the long term. Taken to an extreme, can you actually envision society maintaining its animal farming if education starting at the first grade included visits to factory farms and slaughter-houses? If every adult were required to work 1 day or 1 week in a slaughter-house every year?

    If you can, then that sets you apart from the thinking of agribusiness executives. The centerpiece of their annual billion dollar advertising campaign is the lie of the “happy cow.” Every bit of packaging for dairy products, logos for food establishments, even the decor and uniforms of grocery butchers are about how the animals are happy. Why would that possibly matter to them if they did not find that lie an essential part of selling their product.

    If your view is truly merely fatalistic, then we can agree to disagree on this issue. If it is not and you think you have a reasoned response to Gary’s second paragraph, I would like to see it.

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