Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Myth of "Humane" Dairy, Eggs, and Meat

Years ago there seemed to be more awareness among animal rights activists that cage-free or free-range eggs represented only marginally less cruelty than battery-cage versions, and efforts were made to point this out to each other and to the consuming public. Free-range eggs, while preferable, still involved atrocious conditions for the laying hens and the human workers, and still polluted the environment, as the economics of mass production made these things inevitable. They were clearly not an ethical or humane alternative, people were told.

Things have changed. Major animal protection groups like PETA have embraced the Orwellian ideology of “humane” animal products with misleading campaigns and labeling schemes that have the effect of encouraging people to feel noble about continuing to eat animals, while portraying the sellers of these “improved” products as socially responsible corporate citizens, worthy of awards and positive press, for torturing animals slightly less or in different, “better” ways. Rather than working to reduce demand by challenging the underlying roots of animal exploitation, resources are diverted to welfarist programs that perpetuate it. Instead of focusing in an honest, straightforward way to convince people to adopt an easily followed vegan diet and lifestyle, veganism is presented as just another choice amidst a morally compromised menu that includes “humane farming” ballot propositions,“happy meat,” organic milk, and free-range eggs. To the delight of the animal marketers, consumers are being sold the myth of “humane” dairy, eggs, and meat. This should be no surprise in a capitalist marketplace where products and services are routinely advertised as things more and better than they actually are.

Would it be acceptable or remotely rational to promote “humane war,” “compassionate racism” or eco-friendly, drive less and kill locally serial killing? It would not be acceptable, nor would it make any sense. I would not consider a group that supported such things to be a human rights organization, any more than I consider PETA to be an animal rights organization. In 2008 we should no longer be waging wars, and otherwise hating, torturing, and killing human and nonhuman others. It’s time to stop rationalizing, compromising, and believing that societal attitudes can never change. It’s time to be civilized.

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