Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

"But if you do right to me, baby
I’ll do right to you, too
Ya got to do unto others
Like you’d have them, like you’d have them, do unto you."  

Bob Dylan

I don't know why it would be confusing or how it would be inconsistent for a person to advocate for making less be the current conditions of confinement of other animals while at the same time they advocate to abolish those conditions altogether. We do it all the time in the case of humans.

For example, suppose that there is a person - one who claims to be innocent - imprisoned awaiting execution. She's exhausted all her appeals and will be put to death in 12 months; it appears that nothing will change these facts, or her future. Now, would anyone claim that, during the next 12 months, it wouldn't matter in how small a cell she will be confined, or that she be denied access to the fresh air of the prison yard? I think no one would claim that. Even knowing that she soon will be killed, wouldn't we each care that she be treated with dignity in the meantime, that she not be treated as badly as would be possible?

Yes, I believe that we would care. In fact, I think that if advocates for the rights of prisoners learned that she was being confined in very small cell and being denied fresh air and exercise, they would demand that those conditions be made less bad. They would still demand her release (she claims to be innocent after all) but they wouldn't sit idly by and ignore her being abused. 

Why would any advocates for the lives and well-being of others ever be content to let horrible conditions continue when they might raise their voices against it? Ya got to do unto others like you’d have them, like you’d have them, do unto you... 

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I struggle with this all the time too, Tim. It seems like this is what the Abolitionists want us to do. I don't know what the answer is. I have seen Abolitionists say that they will not try to help any animals alive today, but will put all their limited energies where it will do the most good.

"Striking at the root", not just "cutting a branch off". Yes . . . I can see the logic, but . . . how can we betray all those billions of innocents alive now?

I have a friend who is very active in AR in New Zealand at the moment. He is wanting to put his efforts into striking at the root, and has great plans to do so, but that hasn't stopped him from liberating hens or engaging in protests at hen prisons.

I think we need to do both.

Interesting analogy Tim, though I feel it couldn't be further off the mark if it came from animal agriculture itself.

Your analogy only talks about treatment, and doesn't question demand.

The fact that your individual who I shall call Mary for simplicity has been sentenced to execution says that society has demanded that that be the punishment for the crime that she committed.

Lets say that a particular state creates the statute that those caught Jay Walking will be executed once found guilty of the offense. The civil liberties groups would jump up and down and create all sorts of ruckus educating the public as to how extreme this sentence is.

I doubt very much that they would be interested in the 'comfort' of Mary confinement. Their sole goal is to prevent Mary's execution.

This can only be achieved by the group mustering support from the same society who demanded that execution be the punishment for the crime committed.

If the group says that whilst we don't want you to execute Mary or others for Jay Walking, it is ok, just so long as you make them comfortable, society won't change the demand for this punishment.

I think that if Mary were to be executed, and this fact was not going to change, that, as Mary's advocates, we would be doing Mary a disservice if we were to claim that the way in which she is treated whilst awaiting her execution simply didn't matter. 

For example, if Mary were a vegan, would we be wrong to demand that Mary receive vegan meals whilst in prison? If we, as her advocates, could decide whether Mary were to be in a cell slightly larger than Mary's body, or a cell that allowed Mary to exercise and walk around, would the latter be the wrong thing to ask for, and would we claim that these factors didn't matter? 

Why do we, as advocates demand that Walter Bond (for example) is treated better and receives vegan meals whilst being imprisoned, but are horrified at the thought of asking for more thoughtful treatment of individuals other than human who are innocently imprisoned? 


Good points Carolyn! And I've never understood this either/or mentality when it comes to regulation and abolition. They're not mutually exclusive, and we can and must do both.

Interesting reply Carolyn, except I are missing one important fact. The method of Mary's incarceration is compliant with the minimum international standards for prisoners, that are accepted worldwide.

She has access to medical care, if required; she has a sufficient caloric intake of food to maintain an optimal body weight; and future offenders locked up for jay walking will be the benefit of an increased cell size.

The increase in cell size came after a few groups and the correction industry agreed that they should increase from the current 8ft x 6ft to the new 8.75ft x 7ft. Unfortunately due to the enormous capital expenditure that is required to build new prisons, a 25 year transition period has been agreed to. Current prisons that are being built or on the drawing board won't have to comply with the new standard, so long as they are majority completed by the end of this year.

There has also been a substantial improvement in the way that the execution is carried out. I days gone by, the condemned prisoner was shackled and dragged along a drab looking hallway to the place where they were executed. It was only due to trial and error by some industry leaders that it was discovered that if the prisoner was allowed to casually walk along a corridor with no sharp corners, and pretty pictures of clouds and green grass, and oceanscapes. That they arrived at the execution room blissfully ignorant of what was about to happen.

With these vast improvements in prisoner treatment, compared to 5 or 10 years ago, industry is less likely to go along with further improvements. Maybe in another 5 or 10 years things may be different, just not in the present volatile economic climate,

I propose that only people who actually abolish something call themselves abolitionists. All others, who advocate for "abolition" while achieving nothing, ought to call themselves something else. I suggest "dreamers".

Kath Worsfold said:

I struggle with this all the time too, Tim. It seems like this is what the Abolitionists want us to do. I don't know what the answer is. I have seen Abolitionists say that they will not try to help any animals alive today, but will put all their limited energies where it will do the most good.

Your comment appears to suppose, erroneously I believe, that there exists some possible path to the elimination of the use of animals for food. Now, I will admit that it is not logically impossible to eliminate all uses of animals as food (I can imagine that the world would go vegan), but as a practical matter, it is impossible. That is, whatever we can imagine, the actual conditions in the world will not change to the degree necessary to bring an end to the eating of other animals. Therefore, the choice isn't between eliminating animal agriculture on the one hand and doing something about the treatment of farmed animals on the other hand. To think that there is such a choice misunderstands the nature of the problem.

Cameron B said:

Interesting analogy Tim, though I feel it couldn't be further off the mark if it came from animal agriculture itself.

Your analogy only talks about treatment, and doesn't question demand.

The fact that your individual who I shall call Mary for simplicity has been sentenced to execution says that society has demanded that that be the punishment for the crime that she committed.

Lets say that a particular state creates the statute that those caught Jay Walking will be executed once found guilty of the offense. The civil liberties groups would jump up and down and create all sorts of ruckus educating the public as to how extreme this sentence is.

I doubt very much that they would be interested in the 'comfort' of Mary confinement. Their sole goal is to prevent Mary's execution.

This can only be achieved by the group mustering support from the same society who demanded that execution be the punishment for the crime committed.

If the group says that whilst we don't want you to execute Mary or others for Jay Walking, it is ok, just so long as you make them comfortable, society won't change the demand for this punishment.

Write this down somewhere please, Ms. Bailey, I agree with everything you've said. How likely is it that that will happen again? :)


Carolyn Bailey said:

I think that if Mary were to be executed, and this fact was not going to change, that, as Mary's advocates, we would be doing Mary a disservice if we were to claim that the way in which she is treated whilst awaiting her execution simply didn't matter. 

For example, if Mary were a vegan, would we be wrong to demand that Mary receive vegan meals whilst in prison? If we, as her advocates, could decide whether Mary were to be in a cell slightly larger than Mary's body, or a cell that allowed Mary to exercise and walk around, would the latter be the wrong thing to ask for, and would we claim that these factors didn't matter? 

Why do we, as advocates demand that Walter Bond (for example) is treated better and receives vegan meals whilst being imprisoned, but are horrified at the thought of asking for more thoughtful treatment of individuals other than human who are innocently imprisoned? 


Would you rather deny Mary those small improvements, Cam? Do you think those small improvements matter to Mary? Would you deny Mary vegan food, or fight for her to receive vegan food? 

If you are opposed to incremental changes in the way others are exploited, do you think we should just abolish all of the animal welfare standards that are currently in place?

  

Cameron,

If it would take 25 years to bring the industry in compliance with standards that make a marginal difference in the lives of other animals, that is no reason to not insist upon such standards. If anything, it is an indictment of the fact that such standards were not demanded in the past.

It's an interesting theory that says that in forcing an industry to adopt costly reforms - reforms that call into question the very foundation of the industry itself - that we thereby strengthen that industry and make consumers more content with it. It's interesting, but I think it's bogus. But how can we know? That is, what things would have to happen in the world to verify whether that theory is true?

For example, we have a theory about the true nature of space/time - that theory purports to explain how things are and it purports to predict how things are going to be. As it happens, the predictions of that theory have been accurate to an amazing degree; the theory (Einstein's Special Relativity) appears to be a good one.

What predictions would this interesting theory about animal use make and can we test them to see whether the theory predicts accurately?  If the theory doesn't make any predictions that we can test, or if the theory will accommodate any result no matter what, then it's not a theory at all - it's bogus. Obviously, I think the theory about how animal welfare reforms make matters worse for other animals isn't a good theory at all. When someone can provide me with some predictions that can be tested, then maybe I'll change my mind. Until then, I will just ignore the theory. 


Cameron B said:

Interesting reply Carolyn, except I are missing one important fact. The method of Mary's incarceration is compliant with the minimum international standards for prisoners, that are accepted worldwide.

She has access to medical care, if required; she has a sufficient caloric intake of food to maintain an optimal body weight; and future offenders locked up for jay walking will be the benefit of an increased cell size.

The increase in cell size came after a few groups and the correction industry agreed that they should increase from the current 8ft x 6ft to the new 8.75ft x 7ft. Unfortunately due to the enormous capital expenditure that is required to build new prisons, a 25 year transition period has been agreed to. Current prisons that are being built or on the drawing board won't have to comply with the new standard, so long as they are majority completed by the end of this year.

There has also been a substantial improvement in the way that the execution is carried out. I days gone by, the condemned prisoner was shackled and dragged along a drab looking hallway to the place where they were executed. It was only due to trial and error by some industry leaders that it was discovered that if the prisoner was allowed to casually walk along a corridor with no sharp corners, and pretty pictures of clouds and green grass, and oceanscapes. That they arrived at the execution room blissfully ignorant of what was about to happen.

With these vast improvements in prisoner treatment, compared to 5 or 10 years ago, industry is less likely to go along with further improvements. Maybe in another 5 or 10 years things may be different, just not in the present volatile economic climate,

I have taken a screenshot, just in case you delete that comment! 

Tim Gier said:

Write this down somewhere please, Ms. Bailey, I agree with everything you've said. How likely is it that that will happen again? :)




Welfare reforms not only reduce suffering in the short term, but they raise public consciousness. The importance of consciousness raising can't be overstated, since it's crucial for abolitionist goals (and what the ideal end looks like is a very complicated matter, IMO). So I agree with Tim's hypothetical.


I should also say that I'm skeptical of Francione's use/treatment distinction, often relevant to the debate over the appropriateness of welfare reforms. To me, treatment is what ultimately matters morally; animal use always implies some form of animal treatment, which is what we look at in deciding whether a practice is okay. A farmer who painlessly kills a chicken is mistreating the animal, and thus "painlessly killing" isn't automatically synonymous with "humane treatment."

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