Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Gene Baur's ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Gene Baur's ARZone Guest Chat

29 January 2011 at:

5pm US Eastern

10pm UK Time and

30 January 2011 at:

8am Brisbane Time


 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would, today, like to welcome Gene Baur as our Live Guest. Gene is president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the first animal rescue organization dedicated to farmed animals. He is vegan and has been at the forefront of animal protection since he began the Sanctuary in 1986.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from California State University, Northridge and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University.

 

In the 1980s, Gene began investigations into factory farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses. Gene felt the conditions he observed were unacceptable, and these experiences helped motivate the creation of Farm Sanctuary. The sanctuary's first rescued animal was a downed sheep found on a pile of dead animals behind Lancaster stockyards in 1986.

 

He also participated in the efforts of human rights, animal rights, consumer and environmental organizations. Gene's investigative exposés and advocacy efforts on behalf of farm animals have earned international media coverage, including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times.

 

In 1996, The Peace Abbey awarded Gene with its Courage of Conscience Award.

 

In March 2008, Gene released a book entitled Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. It has appeared on the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe bestseller lists and was named to Booklist's Top 10 Sci-Tech Books: 2008.

 

Gene appears in Peaceable Kingdom, a film made about Farm Sanctuary and the people who support Farm Sanctuary.

 

Farm Sanctuary claim that “legislative reform complements our aspiration to achieve a world free of the violence visited daily upon farm animals in animal agriculture” and, “Incremental improvements are steps in a larger process. Given this, Gene has been supportive of a number of controversial animal welfare reforms, including Proposition Two.

 

Gene welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members on a number of topics today. Would you please join with me in welcoming Gene to ARZone?

 

Mangus O’Shales

Hi Gene!

 

Carolyn Bailey

Welcome, Gene!

 

Sky

Hi

 

Roger Yates

Hello

 

Brooke Cameron

Hey gene!

 

Tim Gier

Hello Gene!

 

Erin

Hello

 

Ben Hornby

Hi Gene, thanks for being here today!

 

Gene Baur

Hi everybody

 

Will

hiya

 

Daphne Dimitriadi

hi Gene!

 

Jason Ward

HI Gene

 

Sadia V madie

Hello Mr .Baur! nice to meet you.

 

Douglass

Good to have you here, Mr. Baur.

 

Carolyn Bailey

Gene will be replying to many of his questions spontaneously today, and welcomes follow-ups on each question if necessary, to clarify his position. If you’d like to address Gene, please feel free to send one of the admin a private message at any time. I’d now like to ask Brooke Cameron to ask Gene his first question, thank you, Brooke.

 

Brooke Cameron

Hi Gene, and welcome! What are the goals, both short term and long term, for Farm Sanctuary; what is its mission and what are you most proud of?

 

Gene Baur:

Thank you. It’s nice to speak with you here. In the short term, Farm Sanctuary is working to raise awareness about the abuses of animal farming and the benefits of vegan living, as well as to outlaw some of the worst factory farming cruelties while rescuing and caring for individual victims of the animal farming business.

 

In the long term we seek to reshape our relationship with other animals so they are regarded as friends, not food.

 

We believe that all animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion and we oppose the commodification of sentient life. I am most proud of the impact Farm Sanctuary has had in causing citizens to rethink how they relate to other animals, and specifically to choose vegan foods instead of animal based foods.

 

We are in the midst of a burgeoning food movement in the U.S. with a growing interest in farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs, and community gardens where fresh, local plant foods are readily available. And, we’re seeing more vegan foods available in restaurants and supermarkets as well. I’m proud of the role Farm Sanctuary has played in moving people toward more plant based eating.

 

Roger Yates:

The next question comes from Tim "I'm dying of flu" Gier.  Tim...

 

Tim Gier:

I view veganism as a moral imperative, that is to say, it is something that we ought to do, even if doing it would cost us something dear. Would you explain what veganism means to you?

 

Gene Baur:

Veganism is living in the most compassionate way possible, and to me, it’s a moral imperative. I wish everybody saw the world as I do, but I recognize that different people are in different places on the spectrum.

 

I believe it’s important to make veganism inviting and attractive and to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.

 

I see veganism more as an aspiration than a destination. For example, I buy organic produce, but it might be grown with animal manure and slaughterhouse by-products as fertilizers, so technically, one could say that eating organic produce isn’t vegan. Rather than fixating on this imperfection, I accept it for what it is, while also doing as much as I can to support and promote veganic agriculture.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Gene, Barbara DeGrande has the next question, when you're ready Barbara..

 

Barbara DeGrande: 

On your Farm Sanctuary website, it states, "ACT advocates for laws and policies that prevent suffering and promotes compassion by reaching out to legislators, businesses, restaurants, veterinarians, media and other influential members of society." But film after undercover film reveals that no one is even following the existing laws. The word "vegan" is rarely used on our site, but it would seem the ration way to help farm animals - by ending the demand for their bodies. Why is veganism (vegan education) not a clear position of Farm Sanctuary rather than working with legislators?

 

Gene Baur:

Supporting veganism is a clear position of Farm Sanctuary, and our hope is to create a vegan world. There are many ways to promote veganism without explicitly using the word ‘vegan’.

 

For example, telling the stories of rescued animals at Farm Sanctuary connects people with the fact that these are sentient creatures - they are friends not food. This is a way to promote and model veganism without labelling it as such. Undercover video has done a lot to educate people, and when it leads to legal prosecution, it legitimizes that abusing animals in certain ways is unacceptable in our society.

 

We work both to expose abuses and then to prohibit them legally. I believe each of these activities helps raise awareness that farm animals are sentient beings whose lives matter, which in turn helps spur people to think and question whether they should be eating animals in the first place.

 

Barbara DeGrande

Follow up question okay?

 

Gene Baur

Sure

 

Barbara DeGrande

Isn't there a danger in emphasizing treatment rather than use? If people think there is a "kind" way to raise and slaughter animals, they will not change their attitudes towards their intrinsic value?

 

Gene Baur:

I think speaking about treatment gets us to the bigger question of use.

 

Tim Gier

Thanks Gene, Ben Hornby is up the with next question, go ahead whenever you are ready Ben...

 

Ben Hornby

Hi Gene, and thanks for everything you do! I’ve read that your first rescued animal was a “downed” sheep found on a pile of dead animals behind Lancaster stockyards, in 1986. At the time, what was your motivation for being at the slaughterhouse?

 

Gene Baur

In 1986, there was very little attention or awareness about the suffering experienced by animals exploited in agriculture. I felt that it was important to witness first-hand what was happening to become informed so I could educate others, campaign for changes, and rescue individuals from time to time. Hilda was rescued from a dead pile behind Lancaster Stockyards in 1986, and she lived with us for more than 10 years.

 

Roger Yates

Next up is our own Carolyn Bailey

 

Carolyn Bailey

Thanks, Roger. Part of the Californian Proposition 2, which you supported, involved the banning of veal crates. When this proposition was passed, it was referred to as an historic victory. Could you please explain why it was regarded as a success, and what happens now to the male babies of cows born on a dairy farm?

 

Gene Baur

Yes, Proposition 2 bans the use of veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages in California. It will lessen the suffering of 20 million animals and it also led to a law in California prohibiting the sale of eggs … from conditions that don’t meet the requirements of Proposition 2, so it will impact animals in other states too. Despite millions of dollars spent by agribusiness to defeat Proposition 2, voters supported it by a 2 to 1 margin, and sent a powerful message to agribusiness that factory farming practices are outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. Proposition 2 also raised awareness about the importance of treating other animals with respect, and ripples are now being felt across the U.S. Proposition 2 focused on specific inhumane confinement practices, but there are many other problems that need to be exposed and stopped, including the sad fate of unwanted calves born on dairies. Baby male calves born on dairy farms in California are sometimes killed within a couple days of birth for ‘bob’ veal, or increasingly, they are being raised to be killed as beef. 

 

Carolyn Bailey

Thanks, Gene! Alex Richards has the next question but is unable to be here, so Jason Ward will ask instead.

 

Jason Ward

Thanks Carolyn  Gene, I was impressed with and inspired by the book you wrote. I also think it's wonderful the undercover and rescue work Farm Sanctuary does for "farm" animals. As the multi-million dollar organization you have become, however, do you feel an element of status quo may have crept into your decision-making? That possibly the undercover and rescue work you do has quietly morphed into more of a front for the purposes of maintaining a high donor base? That possibly your mission, rather than being one of sincerely trying to end the injustices to "farm" animals, has slipped into one that is more vested in income for income's sake (possibly even from big agribusiness)? I realize donations are necessary and important. But the reason I pose this question is I can't understand how, on the one hand, you can care so much about "farm" animals, yet on the other hand, campaign for weak, minimalist legislation, then publicize victory announcements, knowing that cumulatively these strategies end up resulting in people feeling more comfortable consuming animals, not less, due to the public being led to believe the legislation is bringing about more humane treatment of the animals. Thank you.

 

Gene Baur

I disagree with the notion that welfare reforms cause people to feel more comfortable about consuming animals. In fact, empirical evidence suggests the opposite. Welfare reforms lead to more awareness about the issues, which leads people to eat fewer animal products.

 

The number of animals killed for meat in the U.S. has levelled off (and might even be dropping) after decades of annual increases. This reduction in meat consumption coincides with recent, effective welfare reforms.

 

I believe that welfare reforms are steps that reduce suffering in the short term, and move us toward a vegan world in the longer term. Farm Sanctuary is committed to combatting the injustice and suffering endured by nonhuman animals who are abused in the food industry.

 

We oppose agribusiness’ notion that animals are mere commodities to be exploited for profit. We oppose ‘factory farming,’ which we define as an attitude that commodifies sentient life.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, again, Gene! Next up, Tim Gier would like to ask another question, when you're ready, thanks, Tim

 

Tim Gier:

Farm Sanctuary’s report summary “Truth Behind Labels”, concludes “According to Webster’s Dictionary, ‘humane’ means ‘characterized by kindness, mercy or compassion.’ Commodifying & slaughtering sentient animals is incompatible with this definition.” Given this acknowledgement, aren’t legislative or negotiated measures to reform (and thereby prolong) the institutional slaughter of other animals incompatible with the humane treatment of them?

 

Gene Baur:

Our position is that commodifying and slaughtering sentient animals is incompatible with the definition of ‘humane’. I’d love to wave a magic wand and wake up in a vegan world tomorrow, but unfortunately, societal change usually happens incrementally, over time. We need to be patient and persistent.

 

Welfare reforms assert that animals have feelings and interests that need to be taken into consideration. I think the logical extension of this attitude leads to veganism.

 

Legislation and other efforts to prevent cruelty help spur ethical discussions about how we treat other animals and ultimately about whether we should be eating them. When people begin thinking about these issues seriously, and when they recognize that humans can live well by eating just plants, I believe most will want to make ‘humane’ choices. I believe a key part of our goal is to promote and support choices that align people’s actions with humane values.

 

As more people make compassionate choices, others will emulate them. Humans are social animals and we are influenced by those around us, so it’s important for vegans to serve as positive role models. Compassion can be contagious.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Gene, Carolyn has the next question, Carolyn??

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim!  When you rescued that first discarded sheep, did you have any idea Farm Sanctuary would become so important? Why do you feel Farm Sanctuary is so popular?

 

Gene Baur:

When Farm Sanctuary started, we had no idea how much the organization would grow or the impacts we’d have. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the years. 

 

There is more momentum now than ever for ending factory farming and promoting vegan living, but we still have a long way to go. I think people respond positively to Farm Sanctuary’s work, because it is about transformation, taking horrible situations and creating beautiful outcomes by saving animals from slaughter and providing a sanctuary. As the animals are rescued and healed, so are we.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

Thanks, Gene. Roger Yates would like to ask a question now, thanks Rog

 

Roger Yates:

In http://www.farmsanctuary.org/about/position/ there is the following claim: “Ending factory farming as we know it will save countless animals and spare our fragile ecosystem significant stress.” I can just about see how there ~may~ be ecosystem benefits but why would ending factory farming save a single nonhuman individual? 

 

Industrialized animal agriculture exploits animals by the billions. Slowing down the factory farm machine and the massive consumption that goes along with it will result in a reduction in lives being taken.

 

Gene Baur:

Industrialized animal agriculture exploits animals by the billions. Slowing down the factory farm machine and the massive consumption that goes along with it will result in a reduction in lives being taken.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Gene - can I have a follow-up, please?

 

Gene Baur:

Sure

 

Roger Yates:

The context of this quote is talk of cultural speciesism and also legal welfare moves which you support. From previous answers, and as a sociologist, you are clearly aware of the need for fundamental social change and the suggestion that welfare reforms act against that change. If people reject factory farming and instead use animal products from less intensive systems without cultural change, surely the same number of animals will be killed?

 

Gene Baur:

I think fewer animals will be killed in a less industrial system. But, I also agree that we need to aim toward fundamental cultural change. It needs to be addressed on both the supply and demand side of things.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gene. Barbara DeGrande would like to ask another question now, thanks, Barb

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you Carolyn. Gene, your organization signed the appreciation letter to Whole Foods for institution of humane certification. Even Michael Pollan who has visited the supposedly free range and organic farms is on record saying these animals are being raised nearly the same as any other factory farmed animals and that WFMI is being deceptive in their portrayal of the lives of these animals. Doesn't this confuse the public and harm the movement towards freeing animals from being viewed as "things" and "products?"

 

Gene Baur:

I agree that animals should be seen as sentient beings with whom we share the planet, not things or products. Unfortunately, other animals, especially those killed for food, are legally and culturally treated mainly as things or products. We need to change that, and I believe recognizing that they have feelings and interests is part of that process. 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gene. Alex Richards would like to ask the next question, when you're ready, thanks, Alex.

 

Alex Richards:

Thanks Carolyn. Gene, as one who can't reconcile donating to an organization whose legislative initiatives contribute to the continuation and increase of "farm" animals being used as objects of production, could you let me know if you would be willing to campaign first and foremost for veganism as the best and most effective means of helping animals? Farm Sanctuary's influence could have such a positive effect in this direction...for the animals. Thank you.

 

Gene Baur:

I don’t believe campaigning for laws to ban certain cruelties contributes to the increased commodification of sentient life. In fact, it helps raise awareness and depresses demand for meat.I don’t believe campaigning for laws to ban certain cruelty Farm Sanctuary promotes vegan living, and we also work to expose and outlaw cruelty. Both efforts lead in the same direction.

 

Jason Ward:

Up next is Tim Gier with a question for Gene - Please go ahead Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Farm Sanctuary calls itself an “animal protection” organization and, as far as I can tell, not an animal rights organization.  Would you please explain what the difference is and why Farm Sanctuary calls itself the former and not the latter?

 

Gene Baur:

There has been an unfortunate and unhealthy division within the animal protection movement, and people sometimes feel they have to choose between animal rights and animal welfare labels.

 

When asked if Farm Sanctuary is an animal rights or welfare organization, I say we’re both. I don’t believe that rights and welfare are black and white distinctions, but rather exist on a continuum. The animals living at Farm Sanctuary have rights, but we also want them to have good welfare. Animal protection is a more inclusive term that avoids what has come to be unnecessary divisions that sometimes come with rights vs. welfare labels. 

 

Tim Gier:

May I ask a follow-up?

 

Gene Baur:

sure

 

Tim Gier

As a sociologist, you must thnk about claims-making? Is it possible to make claims about animal rights while negotiating welfare reforms?

 

Gene Baur

Some would say that passing laws is explicitly giving animals 'rights' not to suffer in certain ways. Again, I believe welfare reforms and rights exist on a continuum, with the former leading ultimately to the latter.

 

Roger Yates

The second last pre-registered question comes from Brandon Becker who cannot be here. He's at a vegan pot luck! So Jason is asking his Q. Jay

 

Jason Ward

Thanks Roger Hi again Gene.  How much of a factor are government subsidies, in the form of direct payments as well as "animal science" programs and the like, to the economic viability of the flesh, milk, and egg industries? ... Since Farm Sanctuary is active in political campaigns on behalf of animals used for food, have you considered campaigning to cut these subsidies?

 

Gene Baur:

Government subsidies are a very important area of concern. I believe if these were eliminated, animal foods would be much more expensive and animal agriculture would not be economically viable. Yes, Farm Sanctuary is interested in cutting these subsidies and have had some success. When the last Farm Bill, which directs farm policy in the U.S., was addressed we identified a $12 million subsidy to the veal industry that we were able to get removed. The Farm Bill will be coming up again in 2012 and we’ll be looking to remove support for animal agriculture.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gene. Eduardo Terrer would now like to address you, thanks, Eduardo.

 

Eduardo Terrer:

Hello. Farm Sanctuary seems very successful both in terms of the number of supporters it has and also financially. Well done. Isn't it time to drastically increase the amount of land you own so that you can save a lot more nonhuman animals?

 

Gene Baur:

Farm Sanctuary operates two sanctuaries, one in Watkins Glen, NY and one in Orland, CA. We currently care for about 1000 animals. The animals at our farms are ambassadors whose stories help raise awareness and inspire vegan living. It is not possible for any sanctuary to rescue all the animals so we engage in education and advocacy efforts beyond the shelter.

 

We’re open to expanding our shelters and possibly to having a facility closer to a large population center, but even if we rescued a million animals a year, it would still be a drop in the bucket when we consider that 10 billion land animals are slaughtered ever year in the U.S.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Gene. This concludes the pre-registered questions for today, and I'd like to thank you for some excellent responses to some great questions.

 

I'd like to ask Douglass UberVegan to begin the open session of questions now, and if other members would like to address Gene, please feel free to PM myself, Roger, Tim or Jason with your intent. Go ahead, Douglass.

 

Douglass:

Thanks stunning Carolyn! Mr. Baur, thank you for taking the time to be here.  How are you? I am going to ask a couple of quick setup questions if I may (intended as yes or no style, answer as you like), depending on your response, to prep for a primary question.

 

My studies have shown meat consumption is at an all time high, and rising (look at all the two dollar burger specials at fast food restaurants). http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html?_r=3

Mr. Baur, with that said, would you agree that animal use and cruelty, at this present moment, is at an all time high, and only rising?

 

Gene Baur:

In the U.S. USDA stats show that animal consumption is not increasing, and may be decreasing. I agree, there are problems with global meat consumption increasing.

 

Douglass:

Do you (speaking for Farm Sanctuary) stand by the Whole Foods Market, Farm Animal Compassionate Standards that Farm Sanctuary endorsed (with a number of other groups and Peter Singer) in 2005?

 

 Gene Baur:

That program has changed, and the word 'compassion' isn't being used anymore. Farm Sanctuary continues working on reforms as well as promoting vegan living. We don't believe these efforts are in conflict.

 

Douglass:

With that said, how can Farm Sanctuary condone Whole Foods (or anywhere) business practices of exploiting animals, in any form, when that's the very problem that I began my question with in observing?

In other words, how can you condone exploitation and killing of animals for Whole Foods? Thank you!  Ahimsa.

 

Gene Baur

We don't condone any killing, at Whole Foods or elsewhere.

 

Douglass

Thanks again!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Gene, and Douglass

 

Barbara DeGrande would like to ask a question now, thanks, Barb.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Gene, thank you for your patience with our questions. I did not fully understand how talking about treatment will inform the public about ceasing the use of animals. Recent stats seem to indicate just the opposite is happening. Would you explain further?

 

Gene Baur:

Sure, happy to chat here. The evidence I've seen indicates that with discussion of welfare, meat demand is depressed. Too often, people consume animals without thinking much about it. Welfare campaigns get the discussion going.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Gene. Roger Yates would like to ask a question now. Thanks, Rog.

 

Roger Yates:

You’ll know that most of the answers you have given would be severely criticised by those who adopt Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach? Have you spoken to them - and have you thought of taking up Francione’s challenge to debate people such as yourself?

 

Gene Baur:

I'm happy to speak with Gary or anyone else about these issues. I'm an abolitionist, but have a different view of how to get there than some others. We can learn from each other. Different opinions are healthy, as long as everyone is willing to listen to others.

 

Douglass:

Great! let's do it!

I've got a quick follow-up, please.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Go ahead, Douglass

 

Douglass:

Mr Baur, you state "meat demand is depressed", by what evidence are you referring to?

 

Gene Baur:

There was a published study done by Kansas State (I believe) making that case. Also, USDA statistics are hard evidence.

 

Douglass:

Thanks again!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Minku Sharma would like to ask a question next, thanks, Minku

 

Minku Sharma:

thanks

 

Thanks, Gene, for coming on and chatting!

 

Gene Baur:

My pleasure

 

Minku Sharma:

When I mention veganism and ending animal use, people talk about treatment anyway, in order to try and dilute my message and get me to approve of their consumption of "humane" or "compassionate" animal products.

 

If you want people to stop exploiting animals, why not just be honest and up-front about it from the very beginning and have a high-profile and well-funded consistent "Go vegan" campaign? Why has the mainstream animal rights movement NEVER done this?

 

Moreover, why does the mainstream animal rights movement blatantly marginalize those of us who want vegan advocacy & education to be the *primary* tactic of the animal rights movement?

 

Why are we called "fanatical" or "fundamentalist" or "idealistic" or "divisive" or whatever by leaders in this movement? Vegan advocacy is far cheaper, more direct and honest, and will result in more people going vegan than any reform campaign can ever hope to achieve. Won't you agree?

 

Also, if you want to attack the supply side, why not do that honestly, too, and consistently demand the immediate and unconditional release of all animals from their slavery (just like a human rights campaign would do), rather than simply demanding some reforms? Why not send a CLEAR message of veganism to address the demand-side and abolition to address the supply-side, rather than spend 30 more years diluting the issue?

 

Gene Baur:

Farm Sanctuary is straightforward about promoting veganism, and we'll continue doing so in the most effective way we know how. We work with vegan food companies, and also try to slow down the factory farming machine. One agribusiness ad campaign can be larger than the budget of the largest animal groups in the U.S. We need to be tactical and creative about creating change.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

Thanks for that, Gene. For the last question for today, Mangus O'Shales would like to address you. Thanks Mangus.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

thank you and hi again Gene, what do you think about people like the ALF? can they be part of the solution?

 

Gene Baur:

sure as long as nonviolence and compassion drive the action

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks very much, Gene!

 

Gene Baur:

Thank you everybody. Go vegan!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'd like to thank Gene Baur for being so generous with his time today and replying to some difficult questions

 

Sky:

go vegan yeah!

 

Alex Richards:

Thanks, Gene.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone sincerely appreciate your time and insight..

 

Erin

bye

 

Tim Gier

Thank you Gene

 

Carolyn Bailey

Thanks, Gene!

 

Jason Ward

Thanks Gene

 

Beth Hardesty

Thank you Gene!

 

Brooke Cameron

Thanks, Gene, for everything you do

 

Mangus O’Shales

thanks Gene

 

Sadia V madie

Thank you much.

 

Barbara DeGrande

Thank you Gene!

 

Ben Hornby

Thank you

 

Daphne Dimitiradi

Go Vegan go tell that to Greeks{{{{{{ thx Gene

 

Kate Go Vegan

Thanks Gene, for everything you're doing to help nonhuman animals.

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after chats by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

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Comment by Tim Gier on November 28, 2011 at 7:02

The study cited extrapolates data from the years 1964-66 and 1997-99 to make a projection about the use of other animals in 2030. This has nothing at all to do with whether the use of other animals as food is actually increasing or decreasing now. However, there is data from the USDA about year-to-year production of food from other animals, and since, holding all other things constant, supply follows demand, we can learn something from this data about consumption rates in the US.

What does the data show? It shows two interesting things.

First is that per capita consumption decreased from 2007 to 2008 and again from 2008 to 2009 (data from 2010 is not yet available). Two years of data can't support any conclusions about long term trends, of course, but in those two years consumption of other animals did decrease nonetheless (by 1.8 and 1.6% respectively).

The second interesting thing is that although the overall trend for the last 100 years is one of increasing consumption, the rate of increase has been decreasing. That means that in general Americans are not increasing their consumption of other animals at the same rate they had been previously, and it means that, if the trend of the last few decades continues, the rate of increase will become a rate of decrease and actual per capita consumption will go down year after year. Naturally, there are no guarantees that this trend will continue, but it should give advocates for other animals some cause for hope.

Unfortunately, as demand for food from other animals increases in China and India, even though the demand may decrease in the Western world, those decreases will be offset. There's still much work to do.

One final thing, one of the criticisms usually leveled against welfare reforms is that those reforms supposedly lead to an increase in demand for animal products. The trend that shows the decrease in the rate of increase indicates that that isn't the case-- we would expect not to see the rate of increase slowing down if welfare reforms really did make people more comfortable eating other animals - we would expect to see the rate of increase accelerating.

Comment by Douglass on November 28, 2011 at 6:43

Gene Baur:
"In the U.S. USDA stats show that animal consumption is not increasing, and may be decreasing."

Recent UN studies indicate otherwise:
http://tiny.cc/q0o32

Comment by C. Anderson on February 22, 2011 at 9:54

http://www.evana.org/index.php?id=63506

 

Thought this might be relevant to some of the discussion at the end of the chat about the empirical evidence for whether welfare campaigns affect animal use. It's an fairly full description by Norm Phelps of the Kansas study that Gene referenced.

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on February 6, 2011 at 16:40
I think it's great that you're asking questions, please never apologise for doing that! :)
Comment by red dog on February 5, 2011 at 21:14
Thanks, that's fair enough. Sorry I'm still catching up with the transcripts and only thought to ask the question at the last minute.
Comment by Carolyn Bailey on February 5, 2011 at 20:04

Hi red dog,

 

Thanks very much for your kind words. We really do appreciate your support, very much.

 

Gene studied for his degree in agricultural economics in order to understand what and who he was in opposition to. From my understanding, this study was undertaken after he'd started Farm Sanctuary, as a strategy.

 

 

 

Comment by red dog on February 5, 2011 at 18:21
One more thing: I was surprised to learn that Gene holds a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University, and disappointed that no one questioned him about it. I'm curious as to whether he studied for his master's part-time while also managing Farm Sanctuary? If so, what made him feel the need for such a qualification and how has it affected his work at the sanctuary?
Comment by red dog on February 5, 2011 at 18:12
Also to Tim: I can see that you and the other admins feel a lot of pressure to justify the direction ARZone is taking and to explain why you've chosen certain guests. This was an informative chat and, as you've said, hopefully the beginning of a productive dialogue. The value of these chats and of ARZone in general is self-evident to most of us who are reading, and I hope you won't let the unconstructive criticism discourage you. Thanks for organizing this event and all the others.
Comment by red dog on February 5, 2011 at 18:03

In response to Tim: You've raised some extremely important points in this thread. Sadly, many people who support animal rights feel they need to hide or tone down their views because they think they will just be dismissed if they're open and honest about where they stand. I guess they think society isn't ready for a strong animal rights stance yet and that the public (or those in positions of authority?) won't take them seriously if they just politely tell animal farmers to go out of business. As you've suggested, some animal advocates want "a seat at the table" and will pursue that at any price. I don't know if that's the case with FS or not, but personally I liked its former approach better.

Carolyn: I think we need to be skeptical about some of the media reports and blog posts you mention--the ones where people who claim to be former vegetarians or vegans explain why they're so happy to have discovered (or rediscovered) happy animal products. It seems highly likely that at least some of those stories are fakes, generated by highly paid industry representatives to influence public opinion.

Comment by red dog on February 5, 2011 at 15:10

I agree with Flavia's recent post. I had a chance to visit Farm Sanctuary in the 1990s and it was a wonderful place where "farmed" animals could live out their lives in decent conditions, and ordinary members of the public (those of us who were not experts in animal care) could see what it means to treat animals well. (And "treating them well" did not involve slaughtering them.) So few people are able and willing to help these animals--it is truly a miracle that FS has been able to save as many as it has over the years.

With that said, it comes as a shock to hear Gene admit that he's no longer promoting veganism as aggressively as he once did. I remember hearing him say on film (I think it was in "A Cow at My Table"?) that he was politely telling animal farmers to go out of business. What happened?

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