Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Animal Welfare Labeling: A Trojan Horse

In reality, the meat industry is interested NOT in animal welfare, but in maintaining its “market share” or bottom line—and that means substituting euphemistic labeling for true ethical reform and getting anti-cruelty laws compromised. Read this essay by James McWilliams: http://freefromharm.org/farm-animal-welfare/animal-welfare-labeling...

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Comment by Paul Hansen on September 6, 2012 at 16:41

Pranav, as you say, “awareness [of one’s own tendencies] is not of much value” if it doesn’t lead to a change in lifestyle. But blaming ‘human nature’ (like blaming Satan) can be a cop-out. Once we admit a need to change (or an ought to change), we are then operating on a meta-level of awareness (thought & action), which defies law-like predictability (even in principle) of the sort that is commensurate with biological or neurological determinism. Some philosophers have suggested that this notion of ‘free will’ leads to an infinite regress—from “second-order” deliberation to “third-order” deliberation and so forth. The discussion gets complicated, so I won’t pursue it here. But Timothy O’Connor argues that sooner or later the regress must end, or it leads to asking the absurd question, “Who controls the Controller?”

This query into the foundations of personal responsibility is fascinating, but is taking us away from the main topic of James McWilliams’s article, which was to expose the industry’s misleading (and euphemistic) nature of ‘animal welfare’ labeling to ensure the continued patronage of meat eaters.

Comment by Paul Hansen on September 6, 2012 at 3:13

Good points, Tim. Standardized welfare labeling—if desirable at all—will require some “political will.” Eliminating market demand (i.e., going vegan) would, in theory, eliminate the supply, but that is unlikely to happen on a grand scale. Still, culture can gradually move in that direction. For instances, the habit of smoking was once very commonplace, but through education and example, has dwindled. Native Americans (even before Africans) were once enslaved and sold like cattle by early Colonists, but that practice has ceased. So there’s at least hope. And so my reaction to your last assertion—“industrialization of the food supply isn’t the cause of animal suffering; human nature is”—is mixed. Yes, it’s true that “the industrialized beast is a natural response to the demands of the market” and “human beings have always slaughtered other animals for food (as well as for other uses)”, but those two propensities don’t JUSTIFY their perpetuation. Again, we find ourselves in the IS-OUGHT or FACT-VALUE dichotomy. If we get continually appeal to what IS the case, we will never be motivated to pursue what OUGHT to be the case, or (to put it minimally) to IMPROVE society, and the status quo will persist. Surely, the “industrial beast”—the result of “economies of scale”—exacts greater harm than the subsistence hunter. But that scale of harm is avoidable.

Perhaps this leads to a discussion of whether ‘human culture’ is changeable and ‘human nature’ is not. Thanks for the comments.

Comment by Tim Gier on September 6, 2012 at 0:19

The article concludes "However, given the reality of the western diet–that is, given the endless depth of our dedication to eating meat–we have an obligation to think seriously about establishing a legitimate welfare label. Should we continue to brook the unregulated welfare designations that are growing in popularity, we’ll only fuel the industrial beast that caused all this suffering in the first place." I agree with the first sentence, if welfare standards are to mean anything then they must, in the first instance, be standardized according to a controlling legal authority. Given the opposition to any sort of legal reforms by the most vocal of the so-called abolitionists, I have to wonder where the political will to formulate such standards will come from. However, the second sentence of the quote is false. The "industrialized beast" is not the cause in the first place of all this suffering. The industrialized beast is a natural response to the demands of the market. Granted, it is true that suppliers will create or stimulate demand in any ways that they can, but human beings have always slaughtered other animals for food (as well as for other uses) and I suspect that, to some degree, we always will. This is not to say that the answer to the problem is a simplistic prescription of "go vegan" in order to eliminate demand (as if a majority of people would ever do such a thing), but rather it is to say that the industrialization of the food supply isn't the cause of animal suffering; human nature is.

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