Reproductive rights, civil rights…and animal rights.

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Click image for details on Circles of Compassion

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

Supreme Court decisions and national anniversaries can put one in an expansive mood, though applying social justice issues to nonhuman animals is always the logical next step for some of us. After all, slavery, commodification, discrimination–the evils we’ve visited upon our own and have attempted to banish–are still just business as usual where our nonhuman animal sisters and brothers are concerned.

The recent Supreme Court ruling that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare is one such instance. By chance, I came across the image above the day after the ruling was announced and was reminded–again–that, while expressing anger and dismay over the intrusion of employers’ beliefs into women’s personal reproductive decisions, most women, in turn, give no thought to the suffering females whose reproductive eggs and lactation products they consume. These are females for whom bodily integrity and reproductive autonomy don’t exist and will never exist as long as the animal-industrial complex profits from their misery. Continue reading

Cow Abuse

ABC News expose of horrific abuses by the dairy industry.  More here.

What to do About our Non-Vegetarian (vegan) Loved Ones

my freezer, 7:26PM (It's not my fault!)

my freezer, 7:26PM (It's not my fault!)

I always struggle with how to deal with my non-vegetarian (vegan) loved ones. On the one hand, I love them to death and don’t want to alienate them by continuously explaining to them the immorality of some of their food choices. On the other hand, I feel that I have a moral obligation to let them know how I feel and to at least try to get them to make food choices that are morally acceptable.

As you would expect, this becomes a big problem during holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Trying to convince someone to stop eating meat when s/he  has had turkey for both holidays for the last thirty years is a daunting task.

In my case, the problem is compounded by my Puerto Rican roots. As anyone who has visited the island knows, meat (usually factory farmed) is an essential part of the Puerto Rican diet. Trying to convince a Puerto Rican to give up eating “lechón” (roasted pig) during the holidays is close to impossible.

Ultimately, I’ve decided to deal with this problem by doing two things. First, I explain to my loved ones why I decided to become a vegetarian and why I strongly believe that our food choices have significant moral implications. Second, I try to do what I can to influence their food choices. The latter is particularly difficult to do, as I’ve noticed that the only thing that seems to (sometimes) change my loved ones eating habits is asking them to at least buy meat that is humanely raised. In essence, I ended up adopting an incrementalist approach to the problem.

Has it worked? Partially. I think that my loved ones are more aware about the moral implications of their food choices than before. They also try to buy meat and egg products from free ranging chickens. On the other hand, I just checked my freezer (see picture above), and there’s still meat there, and I suspect some of it is not humanely raised (I didn’t buy it, in case you’re wondering….).

I’m curious to know how the readers of the Animal Blawg deal with this issue. Any suggestions/anecdotes/comments/pictures of your freezer are welcome.

Luis Chiesa

U.S. Justice Dept Joins the Fight

The U.S. Justice Department has joined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a lawsuit against Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Company, Inc. for defrauding the federal government.

The Humane Society of the United States had filed a qui tam action in federal district court against the two companies following their abusive treatment last year of dairy cows at a slaughterhouse in Chino, California. The abuse came to light through undercover video footage which was released nationwide, causing massive scandal, the largest beef recall in U.S. history, prosecutions of employees involved, and the closure of the slaughterhouse involved.

The meat companies were contracting with the U.S. government to supply meat for the national school lunch program. Their contract required the animals used be handled humanely. Additionally, federal law required (with some loopholes that are now being closed) that downed animals not be entered into the meat supply for human consumption. HSUS’s suit, filed under the False Claims Act (which specifically allows for qui tam suits) claims the two companies defrauded the government by violating the these requirements.

The Justice Department is quoted here as saying: “Our intervention in this case demonstrates how seriously we will pursue allegations such as these.”

The case is filed as: United States of America ex rel. The Humane Society of the United States v. Hallmark Meat Packing Company; Westland Meat Company, Inc.

-Suzanne McMillan

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:

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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.

Best,

Sherry

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Why We Should Support California’s Proposition 2: A (Brief) Reply to Professor Francione

Several weeks ago, Professor Gary Francione urged people not to vote for California’s Proposition 2 next Tuesday (for a discussion of Proposition 2, see Suzanne McMillan’s post here). He grounded his view on the following arguments: (1) that Proposition 2 will do nothing to alleviate animal suffering in the short or long term, as it will not come into effect until 2015, and once it becomes operative it will seldom be enforced because it is riddled with exceptions, (2) that its adoption will result in increased animal exploitation because it will make the public feel better about the way that factory farmed animals are being treated, and (3) “it is important for animal advocates to send a clear message to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups to stop promoting measures like Proposition 2”.

I respectfully disagree for three reasons. First – contrary to what Francione contends – it is impossible to know ex ante whether the adoption of Proposition 2 will result in a decrease of animal suffering in the short term. While it is true that the measure will not come into effect until January 1, 2015, it is unliklely that factory farms will wait until New Year’s Eve 2014 to change their practices to conform to the new law. Some will surely begin confining their animals in a way that allows them to fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely well before the 2015 deadline. As a result, we should expect to see animal suffering in California increasingly diminish during the next several years, even if some of the suffering that the measure is designed to prevent won’t be eliminated until after 2014. Furthermore, even if it turns out that animal suffering is not reduced meaninfully until Proposition 2 comes into effect, that is no reason to vote against it. A law that requires farm owners to confine their animals in spaces that allow them to move more freely is better than what we have now, even if it will not become operative for several years. Professor Francione’s contention that the law will not significantly reduce animal suffering in the long term because it is riddled with exceptions is difficult to understand. As was pointed out in an Editorial of the San Francisco Chronicle that urged voters to reject Proposition 2 because it could destroy California’s egg producing industry, “more than 90 percent of [the State’s] 20 million egg-laying hens are kept in the battery cages that would be outlawed under Proposition 2.” This seems to be an accurate estimate, as the measure provides exceptions for scientific or agricultural research, veterinary practices, transportation, state and county fair exhibitions and during the act of slaugthering the animal. While these exceptions certainly allow for the confinement of a significant number of animals in crates and cages that do not allow them to move freely, they do not reach a majority of the 20 million egg-laying hens that are kept in battery cages in California. Therefore, it is odd to claim that Proposition 2 will not substantially decrease animal suffering because of these exceptions. Even if we conservatively predict that only half of California’s egg laying hens will be confined in a larger space due to the new law, we will be able to reduce the suffering of about 10 million animals. While not a perfect outcome, this would surely be a welcome development.

Francione’s claim that the adoption of Proposition 2 will lead to increased animal exploitation because it will “make the consumption of animals more acceptable” is akin to claiming that laws banning restaurants from using trans fat will meaningfully increase the demand for french fries and fried chicken because they make their consumption more healthy. 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.

Finally, Francione’s claim that rejecting Proposition 2 is important because it sends a message to animal advocacy groups to stop promoting such measures is not really an argument against voting against the law, unless one believes that these types of laws do not significantly reduce animal suffering. For the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraphs, I strongly believe that the enactment of Proposition 2 will meaningfully diminish the suffering of animals. Therefore, I hope that Californians support it and commend the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary for promoting its adoption.

Luis Chiesa