Tag Archives: animal welfare
This article was originally published August 8, 2011 on Care2.
“When it comes to animal care policies and processes, count on us to lead the way. In fact, we’re recognized by the world’s foremost experts in animal well-being as setting the standard for America’s pork industry – and we’re applying those same best practices to our global operations.”
~ Smithfield Foods: “Raising the Bar in Animal Care” (Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork producer and processor, and kills almost 30 million pigs every year)
During the past 200 years, animal exploitation – from backyard breeders to “factory farms” to circuses – has been steeped in the animal welfare paradigm. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find any large corporation using animals or selling animal products that does not boast of either their own high standards of animal welfare, or the high expectations they have of their suppliers. In short, the animal industry actually promotes animal welfare, and that is largely because the animal welfare model overwhelmingly benefits industry – not only by providing guidelines which help producers to adopt a more effective business model, but also by assuring consumers that it is possible to breed, raise, exploit, and slaughter animals in an ethical way.
But what are considered “high standards” in animal welfare? High standards generally allow for any well-established industry practice that helps producers to exploit animals in an economically optimal manner, no matter how cruel, harmful, or painful. That is, any cruelty that promotes economically efficient use is acceptable (such as branding, castration, forced insemination, dehorning, detoeing, debeaking, mulesing, tail docking, teeth clipping, forced molting, and more); but cruelty above and beyond that which promotes economically efficient exploitation is considered to be a violation of industry’s “high” welfare standards. In other words, kicking and beating your animals because you enjoy doing so is not okay. Dehorning and castrating your animals without anesthetic because it makes them easier to manage is okay. This definition of “high standards” in animal welfare explains why industry can legitimately make such ludicrous claims in the face of cruelty so severe that most of us refuse to even look at it.
“Smithfield is making the change because customers ‘have told us they feel group housing is a more animal-friendly form of sow housing,’ … Smithfield is still determining the cost of the changeover but does not expect it to dramatically affect prices for its pork products because the expense will be spread out over 10 years and will be offset by production efficiencies,’ Dennis Treacy – vice president for environmental and corporate affairs said… He stressed that the decision to change was based on what makes sense for the business.”
This statement confirms that phasing out crates will make it easier for Smithfield Foods to conduct and grow their operations. And what are their operations? Confining and slaughtering animals – by the millions. Not an activity in which you would expect animal activists to be collaborating, right? And yet, rather than using the same time and resources to promote vegan living, animal advocacy organizations spent over $1.6 million and countless volunteer hours on the campaign to convince Smithfield foods to adopt this more economically-efficient business model.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, animal advocacy organizations also work side by side with the animal industry in developing and promoting “humane” labels for animal foods. Not only does this sort of “product development” consulting provide invaluable public relations assistance for these companies, but it also effectively gives these products the “animal people” stamp of approval when they reach the consumer. Although these programs may appear on the surface to offer greater protection for animals, it is painfully clear that they are designed as an (albeit very clever) PR campaign to increase sales, by making consumers feel better about using animal products. These labels, which include Certified Humane Raised & Handled, Humane Choice, Freedom Food and the Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, could quite reasonably be viewed as the ultimate betrayal from the perspective of the victims.
The partnership between animal welfare groups and industry to promote economically efficient animal exploitation is considered a “win-win-win” not only for both sides of the partnership, but for consumers as well. Consumers are assured that they can be excused for their indulgences in the products of animal misery, due to these so-called “higher standards” of welfare, and welfare groups win by receiving tens of millions of donation dollars annually for acting as the industry “regulators” and the developers of these ridiculous labels.
But the biggest winners, by far, are the animal exploiters themselves, who not only receive consulting advice by “welfare experts” and prominent animal activists, but are also given awards and special endorsement from advocacy groups. The payoff they receive in increased consumer confidence must have them laughing all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, the most basic rights of an increasing number of animals are still being sold out to fulfill the trivial desires of those who insist on consuming and using the products that come from their bodies.
Almost everyone agrees that animals ought not to suffer any more pain or harm than is “necessary”, and that no one should inflict unnecessary pain or suffering on another. But what is considered “necessary” has historically and legally meant whatever is necessary to optimize the economic efficiency of any socially-accepted use of animals. It is still the case – as it always will be as long as animals are property and economic commodities – that animal welfare standards permit any cruelty, no matter how severe, as long as it results in optimizing economic efficiency.
But times and circumstances are changing, and so are attitudes toward the meaning of the word “necessary”. Today, an increasing number of people are becoming aware that almost all of our uses of animals are for nothing more than our pleasure, amusement, or convenience – the habitual consumption of animal-based foods; the custom of wearing animal-based fabrics; the tradition of watching animals participate in trivial (and very harmful) activities such as racing or performing. None of these uses can be considered necessary according to any coherent definition of the word necessary.
As more people become aware of how beneficial the dietary aspects of veganism are for our health and the environment, and recognize that being vegan is simply a matter of basic justice, veganism will be recognized more and more widely as nothing less than an ethical imperative and a moral baseline. Certainly, there will always be those who refuse to acknowledge the fact that our uses of animals require the violation of the most basic of rights, regardless of the scale on which these practices are carried out. But the abolition of animal slavery is nothing less than the most important social justice issue of our time. When this fact becomes widely recognized… … whose side will you be on?
In contrast to an animal welfare organization (e.g. PETA, HSUS, Mercy for Animals, et al), an animal rights organization might show the video; but if it did, the message would be first, that all institutions of animal use are unnecessary and harmful, and therefore wrong and should end; second, that the viewer should therefore go vegan as a minimum standard of decency; third, how to go vegan by providing information on vegan recipes and nutrition (perhaps in the form of Internet links to various sources of information); and fourth, perhaps consider a donation to help our work in providing vegan education to the public.
Cruelty videos are considered essential for animal welfare advocacy because it is the treatment, not the unnecessary use, to which welfare organizations take exception. Cruelty videos are nonessential, and possibly even detrimental, for an animal rights organization because it is the unnecessary use alone to which the animal rights organization takes exception. The reason that cruelty videos can be detrimental to an animal rights organization’s mission is that such videos inherently focus on treatment, not use, even though the cruel treatment is an inevitable symptom of the disease of use. By focusing on treatment, such videos do not suggest that use ought to end, but that use ought to be regulated.
Given that cruelty videos focus on treatment instead of use, a question arises as to whether it is ever appropriate for an animal rights organization or advocate to use cruelty videos in vegan education. On one hand, Professor Gary Francione provides good reasons to consistently avoid cruelty videos in vegan education. On the other hand, there have been many people who have become vegans as a result of the emotional impact that such videos can deliver. Some of these vegans have later gone on to become abolitionist vegans after hearing or reading the overwhelmingly strong evidence and cogent arguments supporting the abolitionist approach.
Is the emotional impact of cruelty videos strong and effective enough to justify occasionally showing or linking to them, despite the confusion that may arise by the focus of such videos on treatment rather than use, and other good reasons to avoid them set forth by Professor Francione? The best answer appears to depend on the circumstances.
Since cruelty videos are essential to animal welfare organizations and provide big fundraising opportunities, animal welfare organizations will continue to generate these videos and the big news stories that usually accompany the initial publication of the videos. At times when these videos are in mainstream news, abolitionist vegan advocates should at least have a response to the videos that includes, but goes beyond, the legitimate complaint that they focus on treatment, not use. A more effective response would be that all commercial use is cruel, and that virtually all cruelty and use, illegal and legal, is unnecessary, and therefore gratuitous.
There is no meaningful difference between the legal use and cruelty that is required to process animal commodity units efficiently versus the illegal so-called “gratuitous cruelty” that is not required to process animal commodity units efficiently. As Professor Francione has correctly stated, 99.999% of our uses of nonhumans are for pleasure, amusement, or convenience. None of those uses are necessary in any coherent sense of that word. Therefore, whether the pleasure and/or amusement is that of the non-vegan’s preference for animal products or the slaughterhouse worker’s preference for a diversion from the boredom and frustration of processing sentient commodity units, it is all gratuitous, and the “legal cruelty” is often far more severe than the “illegal cruelty.” The difference between legal and illegal treatment is whether or not the cruelty results in efficient processing. The severity of the cruelty is irrelevant in the eyes of the law, and always will be irrelevant as long as nonhumans are legal property.  And as long as people are not vegan, nonhumans will always be legal property.
Aside from responding to such videos by explaining that all use and cruelty is unnecessary and should be abolished, not regulated, abolitionist vegan advocates should be careful about sharing or promoting such videos while they are headline news. If the videos are shown at all by abolitionists while the videos are headline news, the abolitionist message should be front and center: that use must be abolished, not regulated; that people must go vegan to end the torture and unjustified use, not choose animal products with a vacuous feel-good label. These videos are already getting plenty of viewing attention; the problem is that the associated message is predominately for enforcement, more regulation or more efficient methods, not a call for veganism and abolition.
During quieter times when such videos are not in the news, they might be effective for emotional impact. If the video has an explicit regulationist message, such a message may override any benefit derived from emotional impact, despite an advocate providing a contrary abolitionist message, and the video should therefore be avoided. If the video has no explicit welfarist message, and a strong abolitionist message is presented both before and after the video, the video’s treatment focus may be overcome sufficiently to justify the option of its presentation for the purpose of emotional impact.
Finally, cruelty videos are always, at best, optional tools for abolitionist vegan advocates to generate an emotional impact. The abolitionist message does not depend in any way on how animals are treated; only that they are used, and that all of our uses are for unnecessary pleasure, amusement, or entertainment. When in doubt, it is best to avoid such videos.
 Professor Gary Francione provides overwhelmingly strong evidence in case law and legal theory that anticruelty laws are based solely on maximizing the efficiency of animal exploitation and have nothing to do, in any practical sense whatsoever, with the type or severity of the cruelty or maltreatment. Moreover, since humans have respect-based legal property rights of which the object of that right protection is nonhuman animals (who have no rights), the most trivial of human interests will always trump the most crucial of nonhuman animals’ interests. Our legal system strongly resists punishing rightholders in the least for violating even the most crucial of interests of their property. Consider reading 1) Animals, Property, and the Law; 2) Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement; and 3) Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog, all by distinguished law professor and philosopher Gary L. Francione for detailed analyses and numerous case law studies supporting these claims. (Note: There are links in the side bar to Amazon.com for Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement and Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog.)
Supply-side Versus Demand-side Advocacy
We live in a market economy made up of two major factors – supply and demand. These two factors determine what is bought and sold and for how much. Qualitatively, demand represents the wants and needs of buyers in an economy. Supply represents the efforts of firms to profit from existing demand. The stronger the demand for a given product, the more potential profit and resulting competition among suppliers there will be in attempting to satisfy demand for the product. If there is no demand for a given product, there will be no supply for the product because firms will not be able to profit.
The most important conclusion to draw from the simple qualitative economic facts above is that demand drives supply. Marketing firms may help a product realize its potential demand, but they cannot create demand. 
Since demand drives supply, if we focus on changing demand, we can change supply. But the reverse is not true: we cannot change demand by focusing on supply.
For example, Hellmann’s® Mayonnaise recently announced that it has switched to “cage-free eggs” in its Light Mayonnaise. In a discussion with advocates about this switch, I suggested that if large animal welfare organizations insisted on engaging in single-issue campaigns (because such campaigns are good fundraisers), then instead of “cage-free egg” campaigns, they would at least be engaging in legitimate animal advocacy to campaign for vegan alternatives in restaurants and brand-name products.
However, the problem with such vegan-oriented single issue campaigns is that they are supply-side advocacy. To use the example above, let’s assume that Hellmann’s® developed a vegan mayonnaise to compete with Vegenaise® and Nayonaise®. Only if there is sufficient demand will it be sufficiently profitable for Hellmann’s® to keep the product on the market and develop it further. If there is not sufficient demand, the vegan product will not be sufficiently profitable and Hellmann’s® will discontinue the vegan product. The marketing and chief executives and stockholders don’t care what sells (e.g. vegan products or animal products), they only care that a product or service sells, i.e. that there is a demand for the product.
So what does this imply for animal advocacy? It obviously implies that we must focus virtually 100% of our time and energy on increasing demand for vegan alternatives to replace animal products. The only way to do that is through vegan education; that is, informing people why they ought to go vegan and how to go vegan. As we create more demand for vegan products through vegan education, suppliers will respond by catering to the new demand.
There can never be enough vegan education. New vegan products can be taken off the shelf for a lack of demand; but people, once genuinely convinced that animals are persons to be fully included in the moral community, and once educated on how to be a vegan, will stay vegan for a lifetime and influence others, thereby increasing demand.
Welfare Activities Versus Vegan Advocacy
It is illegitimate to call welfare reform activities animal “advocacy” because such a paradigm and the resulting activities encourage people to continue consuming animal products. The welfare paradigm and activities are not merely neutral and unproductive; they are harmful and counterproductive. On the surface, welfare activities appear to reduce violence and suffering in their temporary focus on the symptoms of speciesism. But below the surface, welfarist thinking is the very problem of exploitation itself. All animal exploiters, virtually without exception, “take animal welfare very seriously.” This is because the philosophy of animal welfare accepts, as a most basic and dogmatic premise, that nonhuman animals are here for us to exploit.
Welfare activity, because of its inherent ineffectiveness and support of animal exploitation and killing, as both a theoretical and practical matter, is the active promotion of violence.
Vegan advocacy inherently rejects all animal exploitation and the promotion of violence. Such rejection is the essence of vegan advocacy, and is the only advocacy for nonhuman animals.
Four Types of Activities
Below are four types of activities distinguished by whether they address supply or demand, and whether they are vegan or welfare activities.
Type 4 activities are supply-side welfareactivities. They generate most of the revenues for the large corporate animal welfare groups like PETA and HSUS, which is one reason they are so common and popular from the standpoint of the welfare groups. They are counterproductive because they indirectly encourage animal product consumption. They also drain resources from demand-side vegan activities.
Examples of Type 4 activities are welfare single-issue campaigns, welfare law campaigns (e.g. Prop 2 in California), welfare reform campaigns, controlled atmosphere killing and cage-free campaigns, gestation crate campaigns, and foie gras prohibition campaigns.
Type 3 activities are demand-side welfare activities. They are counterproductive because they directly encourage animal product consumption, increase demand for animal products, decrease demand for vegan products, and drain resources from demand-side vegan activities.
Examples of Type 3 activities are encouraging or condoning “happy meat” and “cage-free egg” consumption. A typical Type 3 statement is, “If you’re going to insist on eating that anyway, at least buy free-range.” If we would not say, “If you’re going to kill or rape anyway, at least don’t beat the victim as many times as you normally do”, then we should not say similar things about animal product consumption. Silence is far better than Type 3 statements.
Type 2 activities are supply-side vegan activities. With the exception of owning a vegan business, these activities do little or nothing to decrease demand for animal products or increase demand for vegan products. Owning a vegan business is an excellent advocacy activity. All other supply-side vegan activities, while not necessarily counterproductive, drain resources away from demand-side vegan activities, and in many cases (such as anti-fur campaigns), are counterproductive as they encourage speciesism by their narrow focus.
Examples of Type 2 activities are requesting vegan products from grocers and restaurants (as an advocacy tool; not because you simply want a certain vegan product available); vegan product campaign (e.g. campaigning for Hellmann’s® to develop and market a vegan mayonnaise); owning and operating a vegan restaurant (again, a great form of advocacy, largely because it incorporates Type 1 activities); vegan product development; elimination single-issue campaigns (speciesist and utterly useless unless we’ve eliminated demand).
Type 1 activities are demand-side vegan activities. They decrease demand for animal products while simultaneously increasing demand for vegan products. Because of their focus on demand and vegan education, demand-side vegan activities are the only activities capable of eventually abolishing animal exploitation.
Examples of Type 1 activities are vegan education (explaining why and how to go vegan through various media and opportunities); abolitionist education (explaining the legal and many other similarities between human chattel slavery and modern nonhuman slavery); vegan food blogs and cooking classes; educating fellow advocates and others about the problems with welfarism and single-issue campaigns.
Important: Unless we are operating a vegan business (which is mostly a supply-side activity), we should spend between 97% and 100% of our animal advocacy time doing Type 1, demand-side vegan activities and the remaining time, if any, doing Type 2 supply-side vegan activities. We should always stay entirely away from harmful Type 3 and 4 welfare activities.
Welfare activities are popular because they accept our society’s violent and speciesist belief that nonhuman animals are here for us to exploit and kill, but they are counterproductive because by such acceptance, they also promote and strengthen the violent and speciesist notion that animals are here for us to exploit and kill. Welfare activities are part of a vicious circle.
 Marketing firms are in the business of realizing the potential demand for products, but the realization they are able to generate consists in making consumers aware of a given product or service along with various psychological methods of stimulating potential consumers’ interest in the product. Marketing a product can only fulfill a product’s potential demand; it cannot create demand. We can market a highly undesirable product or service all we want, but if the product has no inherent demand, the product will not sell.
During the day or two after I published PETA: A Corporate Tangle of Contradictions, I had a friendly email exchange with a reader who wrote that she was reconsidering her support of PETA as a result of the blog entry, but that there was still a lot she liked about PETA. She mentioned specifically that she liked PETA’s undercover investigations, and that the recent Land-o-Lakes investigation was one that stood out as an example.Removed from the context of PETA’s welfarist philosophy, undercover investigations don’t seem problematic from an animal rights viewpoint. After all, human rights organizations routinely investigate, report, and display human rights violations to bring the public’s attention to the problem and garner political support to end such abuses. As such, it’s understandable why someone who objects to many of PETA’s activities might see undercover investigations as an exception – as an activity in which an animal rights organization would naturally engage.
Placed back into the context of PETA’s welfarism, however, we see that their undercover investigations are more of the same single-issue and welfare campaigns dressed up in a heroic gown. Whereas a human rights organization would unequivocally claim that rights violations – slavery, exploitation, and killing – are wrong and should end, PETA merely wants the target exploiter to observe traditional welfare standards while rights violations continue.
Undercover investigations are just another example of PETA’s role in the industry-welfarist partnership as both strategic advisor on quality control and traditional welfare cop. An analogy in capital markets is the independent auditor reporting on the financial statements of publicly-held corporations. The auditor isn’t looking to end the financial reporting or the client’s business, but to make sure it complies with existing financial reporting standards. Auditing welfare conditions and financial reporting are both lucrative businesses. PETA doesn’t oppose industry’s exploitation per se; they just want industry to exploit and kill according to generally accepted exploiting standards and to receive their compensation from consumer-donors for their work as industry’s quality control auditors.
Using the Land-o-Lakes investigation as an example, we see that PETA’s blog report on the investigation emphasizes how important it is for Land-o-Lakes to “buy milk only from farms that meet our 12-point animal welfare plan, which would prevent much of the suffering we documented at this farm.” PETA’s 12-point animal welfare plan reads like an industry consultant’s quality control recommendations and refers to industry’s own standards and literature (e.g. Elanco Body Scoring Chart for Dairy Cattle and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia). 
Does PETA suggest that people go vegan? No. The blog report states “For those of you who can’t stomach the thought of eating butter after watching that video, take a minute to tell Land-o-Lakes to implement our 12-point animal welfare plan. Then check out one of the many vegan butter alternatives that are widely available.”
What should the reader infer from PETA’s blog report on the investigation? I suppose it depends on how well the reader can “stomach the video”. What’s right or wrong for PETA depends on the reader’s visceral feelings about welfare violations in the video, not on any concept of justice or rights. Apparently for PETA, what’s right or wrong is merely a matter of our individual emotions or ability to stomach welfare violations. Further, as long as Land-o-Lakes eventually implements PETA’s welfare plan, we can infer from PETA that we should go back to eating butter at that time. PETA’s concern is not with rights violations (i.e. the enslavement, exploitation, and murder of these innocent beings), but with traditional welfare violations (i.e. treating the cows in ways that are not optimally efficient for exploiting them).
Undercover investigations should function in an animal rights movement the same way they do in a human rights movement: to bring attention to the issue and continue a dialogue about ending rights violations. In other words, undercover investigations should function solely as a catalyst for vegan education. Outside of that particular context, they are worse than useless. In supporting PETA’s attempts at improving quality control over exploitation and killing through undercover investigations, donors ultimately support industry.
 Some readers may not be aware that animal agribusiness, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association Political Action Committee (AVMAPAC) all strongly support each other politically and economically. The AVMAPAC is in a close partnership with industry’s political and economic interests as brief research on AVMAPAC’s legislative positions make clear.
PETA is notorious for calling the utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer “the father of the animal rights movement” as well as calling Singer’s book, Animal Liberation, the “bible of animal rights”. Ironically, however, Singer is an act-utilitarian who explicitly rejects rights for anyone, human or nonhuman. In contradiction to PETA’s motto, Singer believes that animals are ours to eat, wear, and experiment on (1, 2, 3). According to Singer, as long as we raise and kill them “humanely”, or as painlessly as reasonably possible, there is nothing wrong with using animals for our purposes. In other words, for Singer, following the 18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham who founded the animal welfare movement 200 years ago, the issue is treatment, not use.
So, according to PETA, we have an “animal rights” philosopher who “fathered” the animal rights movement and wrote its “bible”, but in bold contradiction, would agree with Jeremy Bentham that rights (for anyone, including humans) are “nonsense upon stilts”.
Why does PETA, whose motto claims that animals are not ours, and presents itself as an “animal rights” organization, promote a philosopher who rejects animal rights and strongly believes that it is morally permissible to exploit animals? This is the core contradiction that lays the foundation for most of the other contradictions that we will explore in this essay.
PETA’s Self-Contradictory Activities
Like a serious error made early in a long math problem, PETA’s philosophical self-contradiction carries through to most of the activities in which they engage, rendering those activities confusing and misleading at best, and at worst, antithetical and regressive to animal rights. If our philosophy – our blueprint and foundation for carrying out our activities – is seriously flawed, then no matter how well we execute that philosophy, it will lead us down the wrong trail and end in botched and bungled results. What follows is a list of activities regularly carried on by PETA – welfare campaigns, sexism, embarrassing publicity stunts, a self-interested business model, and worst of all, unjustified killing – that boldly contradict the philosophy of animal rights and its foundations of justice, nonviolence, good judgment, and equal consideration of others based on morally relevant criteria.
PETA’s Welfare Campaigns Contradict Animal Rights
PETA allocates a substantial portion of their money, time, and effort to high-profile campaigns that attempt to reform and regulate the methods and practices of the animal exploitation industry. This helps to reinforce the speciesist paradigm in two significant ways: 1) By adding additional layers of rules and regulations and additional “inspector” jobs, it strengthens the legislative, economic, and bureaucratic system that supports animal slavery; and 2) Through the marketing of these reforms and regulations, people feel better about contributing to the rape, torture, and murder  of tens of billions of innocent beings annually, which in turn increases industry’s profits.
These welfare campaigns are consistent with Peter Singer’s speciesist  utilitarian philosophy, but contradict any meaningful concept of animal rights. It is useless to talk about what “rights” someone may have if they do not have a basic right not to be intentionally killed or seriously harmed for the preferences of others. For example, consider how we would assess a human rights organization running campaigns for regulations prohibiting certain methods of slavery, rape, torture, and murder, instead of campaigning consistently and unequivocally for the end of these practices. The vast majority of us would oppose such a human “rights” organization that lacks ambition to the point of implicitly condoning such activities, regardless of their superficial mottos and platitudes about “rights”. The only thing stopping us from opposing PETA for the same reasons is our speciesism.
PETA’s Killing Policy Contradicts Animal Rights
Sadly, there are thousands of cases annually in our extremely speciesist society where dogs and cats are found in a condition so painful, deplorable, and irreversible that the only appropriate course of action is euthanasia. If I’m ever in a terminal state of severe pain or coma, I hereby express my immense gratitude in advance to those who will end my life quickly and painlessly. In such cases where life no longer holds inherent value due to the permanent changes in its nature (i.e. terminal severe pain or coma), PETA does and should euthanize animals.
But PETA goes beyond merely euthanizing terminally ill or unadoptable animals. In another contradiction of animal rights, PETA kills healthy, adoptable dogs and cats who are classified as “unwanted”. PETA also opposes no-kill shelters. Of course, both of these policies are consistent with Peter Singer’s welfarist (and speciesist) view that dogs and cats have no interest in continued existence; only an interest in not suffering. But these policies are not consistent with the animal rights view that sentient nonhumans have an important interest both in continued existence and in not suffering. When these two interests strongly oppose each other, we may have a difficult decision to make, but being “unwanted” is not the same as enduring terminal suffering or a permanent coma. When PETA kills a healthy, adoptable dog or cat who they deem “unwanted”, it is a decision based on anthropocentric utilitarian preferences, not animal rights. 
Again, the vast majority of us would strongly oppose a human rights organization condoning and even engaging in the mass killing of human refugees; and attempting to justify such actions by pointing to the problem of overpopulation and the potential suffering of the refugees if we don’t kill them. It is speciesism that prohibits people, including many animal advocates, from recognizing the injustice in this act.
PETA’s Sexism Indirectly Reinforces Speciesism
Speciesism, sexism, racism, and heterosexism are all bigotries rooted in the same underlying confusion that ignores morally relevant characteristics, like sentience or interest, in favor of morally irrelevant characteristics, like species or race, in providing equal consideration to others. And yet so many people are strong, passionate advocates trying to eliminate one or more of these prejudices while ironically scoffing at another. It is common to see feminists, LGBT activists, and civil rights advocates ridicule concern over speciesism while blithely ignoring the underlying implications of their dismissal. Many condemn the bigotry of others, but cannot see their own.
The same goes in the other direction for PETA and their sexism. If PETA is exploiting women in fur and flesh campaigns, reinforcing the current societal paradigm which sees women as objects and their bodies as commodities, why should anyone take seriously what such a hypocritical organization has to say about speciesism? Advocates of social justice issues render their own cause trivial when they trivialize the causes of others.
PETA’s Publicity Stunts Trivialize a Grave Injustice
When we look at successful social justice movements of the past – 19th century abolition of slavery, the suffragists, and the civil rights movement – we see that their leaders were people of strong, serious, and noble character. Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks were not the kind of people who would have engaged in silly or embarrassing publicity stunts to grab the attention of the media of their time. When they received attention from the public, it was because of the moral power of their message and words, not because they “got naked” or engaged in shock humor or other stunts that trivialized the injustices they were fighting against.
In contrast, PETA is best-known for its obnoxious and often sexist publicity stunts and gaudy self-promotion, appealing to the lower aspects of human attitudes and behavior. Sadly, PETA cannot even attempt to speak with moral authority because it would so blatantly contradict their attitudes and actions as manifested in “Save the Whales” billboards that make fun of female obesity, banned television advertisements, and sexist campaigns like “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur”.
PETA Is a Business
PETA’s self-contradictions can be traced to two primary factors: 1) their contradictory blend of traditional utilitarian-welfarist philosophy (animal are ours…) with a façade of rights-sounding rhetoric (“animals are not ours..”) and 2) that PETA is, among other things, a corporation existing as a legal person, but with none of the potential conscience of a human moral agent.
PETA’s business cycle starts with single-issue and welfare campaigns against targets selected as low hanging fruit – practices that industry would not mind changing even if only for public relations reasons, but often for profitability reasons as well. PETA then sends out the urgent call to donors: “HELP! Donate as much as you can or we might not win this victory!” Donors – most of whom are not vegan, and are therefore contributing to the very problems to which they donate money to “resolve” – respond by opening their checkbooks and filling PETA’s coffers. After several weeks or months of campaigning, the target exploiter “gives in” to PETA’s campaign. PETA immediately declares “VICTORY!” to their donors and, usually as part of the deal with the target exploiter, PETA promotes the exploiter in a public relations campaign, as they did for KFC Canada.
The result of the business cycle is that PETA wins donations and reinforces their reputation as the “watchdog” over industry, enabling them to perpetuate the cycle indefinitely. Non-vegan donors win a “victory” and a false sense that they are doing something to offset their own personal contribution to the hell that their innocent victims endure. The animal exploiters win by increased misguided public confidence that these products are “humane” and by obtaining the public relations support of a (so-called) animal “rights” organization. The losers, of course, are the innocent beings who are exploited and killed for the trivial pleasures of those who see them as commodities.
Further, since there are so many ways in which we exploit and inflict cruelty on sentient nonhumans, and since industry is so resilient to the temporary and superficial changes brought about by the so-called “victories”, the opportunities for the welfare-campaign-donation business cycle can easily last indefinitely, or for as long as industry itself lasts.
PETA’s Opportunity Cost
PETA’s contradictions in philosophy, rhetoric, and activities – which have led to profound public confusion and fortification of the utilitarian-welfarist status quo that has been in existence since Jeremy Bentham – have been a barrier to progress in advancing animal rights, and will continue to be a barrier as long as they continue as an animal welfare organization.
However, PETA as a barrier to animal rights is only one part of the cost to any viable abolition movement. The other part is the opportunity cost incurred by PETA. We should ask not only how PETA could remove itself as a barrier, but how much more PETA could do by being consistent with animal rights philosophy in their public education. What if PETA dropped the garbage – the single-issue campaigns, the welfare campaigns, the sexism – and engaged solely in creative, nonviolent vegan education? When we add the opportunity cost to the barrier cost, the total cost to progress in animal rights is enormous and tragic.
Vegans Against PETA
Is it any wonder why vegans who are serious about animal rights and the eventual decline, fall, and abolition of industrial animal exploitation and killing are against PETA? In Abolition versus Welfarism: A Contrast in Theory and Practice, I explained industry’s strengths and weaknesses and explained how welfarism caters to industry’s strengths, while the abolitionist approach attacks industry’s weaknesses. PETA’s welfarism, sexism, and trivializing publicity stunts all play to industry’s strengths. Only a strong and consistent message that we are not morally justified in exploiting sentient nonhumans and that veganism is a minimum standard of decency will shift the paradigm and result in the eventual abolition of industrial exploitation and cruelty. Large, corporate organizations like PETA are the last groups we need to make this progress. Only a strong, grassroots, abolitionist animal rights movement will succeed.
The topic of new welfarism in general and PETA in particular is too broad to tackle with adequate depth in a blog essay. As such, I highly recommend reading Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement by Professor Gary Francione for a far more comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the problems with new welfarism and PETA. In addition, the links above offer additional information and perspective on the topic of new welfarism generally.
 By “murder”, I mean unnecessary, intentional killing. At least 99% of the intentional killing of animals in our society is unnecessary, in any meaningful sense of that word, and qualifies as murder if any act does.
 Although Peter Singer talks a lot about avoiding speciesism (and implicitly denies that he is a speciesist), his assumption that sentient nonhumans have no interest in their continued existence is itself plainly speciesist. We do not need on-going “projects” in our life, as Singer believes we must, to have a strong and important interest in continued existence. All sentient beings struggle for existence, and it doesn’t take an expert in ethology to confirm it. This struggle for existence makes the interest in continued existence obvious. To deny it in nonhumans, or to define “an interest in continued existence” to the exclusion of this struggle, is speciesism.
 An in-depth analysis of the dog and cat population and guardian management issue is beyond the scope of this essay, so I’ll only say that the underlying disease is the institution of “pet” ownership and its resultant breeding and lack of spaying and neutering that is responsible for the myriad of problems leading to enormous suffering and intentional killing of millions of dogs and cats annually. If PETA ever decides to take a rights-based approach to this issue, they’ll assist no-kill shelters; increase their contributions to TNR programs; and educate the general public about why the institution of “pet” ownership is immoral. All breeding is irresponsible; and spaying and neutering is essential for all existing dogs and cats.
As for those of us who have read a couple of reviews of Eating Animals (1 , 2) and completely reject others’ animal exploitation by rejecting welfarism, we see it as just more of the same old incoherent nonsense (albeit, allegedly “beautifully written and well-researched” nonsense) that serves as society’s moral paradigm regarding attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward sentient nonhumans and is continually promoted by welfarist organizations like HSUS and PETA.
This speciesist paradigm I’m referring to suggests, if not states explicitly, that we should treat some species (like dogs and cats) better than other species (like pigs and chickens); that humans are somehow “special” (superior to all other species in a way that ‘justifies’ breeding-and-killing them, ‘nicely’); and that animals are ‘things’ and commodities for us to exploit and intentionally kill, as long as we do it ‘nicely’.
It sure sounds familiar to me, which is why you won’t catch me wasting any more of my time on Eating Animals beyond typing this blog update. It’s no wonder the book is a big hit among the “happy meat” crowd. Perhaps if or when Foer comes around to reject the hip and popular welfarism of the day instead of promoting it, I’ll be interested in reading what he has to say. Until then, if I want to read welfarist drivel, I’ll visit the websites of PETA and HSUS.