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How conflict of interest and industry collaboration are damaging animal advocacy

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Comment by Roy Gordon on October 23, 2012 at 22:06

According to Wikipedia and the article The Lynching of Jesse Washington, it is scenes like these which turned the tide on lynching only 100 years ago.

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on October 1, 2012 at 8:37

Hi Lucas, 

I agree that most often when advocates call for "movement unity" what they are calling for is total support and adherence to their own positions and views. In Wayne Pacelle's blog post, the first paragraph states: 

"Our anti-gestation crate campaign is something of a locomotive barreling down the tracks and heading in the direction of the finish line—which, in my mind, is the day that these extreme confinement crates are relegated to the dustbin of history. I don’t know when that will happen, but I do know we are getting closer to that goal every day." 

Of course, that is a ridiculous statement in my opinion; the finish line is absolutely not when pigs are enslaved in larger cages as they are commodified, objectified, exploited and slaughtered as babies so that humans may take pleasure from eating them. 

I agree with you that the actions and vision of HSUS is appalling and in virtually no way supports the philosophy of animal rights. But, as far as I know, they don't claim to either. You said: 

"So yea, let the welfarists do welfare. But the welfarists in this case are calling for everyone else to unite by going along with welfare too, which apparently has led to "a litany of successes" (which, of course, is debatable)."

I don't know of many "successes" or "victories" according to HSUS that I would class as a success or victory. I also think that if those of us who believe that other animals should be accorded the basic right to life and liberty could educate more and more advocates why we believe in the importance of ending exploitation, as opposed to regulating it, we would be doing far more for other animals than if we were spending our time attacking (I have seen some awful personal attacks on these people) other advocates, we would be serving the interests of other animals way better. 

I fully support critical analysis of advocacy organisations, I think that is vital in any social justice movement. what I am referring to are the oh so boring personal attacks on advocates from groups like HSUS, VO and Farm Sanctuary by people who seem to have little understanding of the mission or vision of these groups. Do these people seriously believe that people like Bruce Friedrich, who has devoted his entire life to helping others, are interested only in their own career and status? As far as I'm concerned, that's absurd

Comment by Lucas Hayes on September 28, 2012 at 12:19


In the video, Laveck and Stein put all the content therein in the context of Pacelle's blog post calling for movement unity "for animals", implying that everyone should stop criticizing (some have said "attacking") HSUS and their initiatives, because that doesn't help animals (presumably like sitting on the board of an organization that lends it's "welfare standards" to events like Meatopia and a butcher contest -- talk about "moral consideration" for animals!)

Pacelle's post includes a pathetically shallow quote from Will Potter stating, "if your main form of animal activism is attacking other animal activists then you are one of the animal abuser's best assets", as if blending with the 2nd largest flesh retailer in the US (by having Mackey sit on the HSUS board and with Pacelle sitting on the GAP board) which holds events like Meatopia isn't being the animal abuser's best asset! In Pacelle's post he also makes mention of, and agrees with, James Mcwilliams piece for Slate that ultimately calls for those he identifies as abolitionists to stop "attacking" HSUS, and for movement unity behind HSUS initiatives that are "undoubtedly doing something good" (this is the same piece that McWilliams could not, and would not defend against to Francione when Francione called him out on it and invited McWilliams to debate).

At the end of the video, after pointing out the tremendous conflicts of interest with HSUS, Laveck and Stein ask what we, as vegans and animal activists, are being asked to unite for. Given the information they present, this is a great question.

So yea, let the welfarists do welfare. But the welfarists in this case are calling for everyone else to unite by going along with welfare too, which apparently has led to "a litany of successes" (which, of course, is debatable).

Additionally, and importantly, Laveck and Stein call in to question whether HSUS in particular, with it's conflicts of interest, can fulfill their stated obligation to animal protection or animal welfare: "Imagine what might happen if investigative video footage were to emerge that vividly documents the violent deaths endured by animals who came from GAP-approved farms. Or even footage that reveals GAP-accepted practices that still involve the torture and suffering of animals whose flesh, bodily fluids and eggs are sold under GAP’s “humane” banner. Will Mr. Pacelle distribute such footage as widely as possible in the media to further HSUS's animal protection mission? Or will he be tempted to ignore or even suppress distribution of such footage, in order to protect GAP's reputation, and by extension, the reputations of both HSUS and Whole Foods?   And what about Mr. Mackey? As an HSUS board member, will he approve the distribution of footage that will undermine his interests as a GAP board member? And more importantly, will he allow footage to be released that almost certainly will cost his Whole Foods shareholders money? Whole Foods greatly benefits from its public image as the most "animal-friendly" meat retailer, an image HSUS has directly contributed to creating since 2005.

In 2011, GAP executive director Miyun Park (formerly a VP at HSUS) reported that 1500 farms were participating in GAP. Given HSUS’s enmeshment with GAP and John Mackey’s enmeshment with HSUS, it would seem highly unlikely that Whole Foods, or any of the farms supplying animal products to them through GAP, would be candidates for investigation and exposure by HSUS, or by any of the many advocacy organizations under HSUS's influence or direct control.

This is just one example of how engagement in extreme conflicts of interest cripples the ability of advocacy organizations to fulfill their stated missions".

Comment by Spencer Lo on September 28, 2012 at 11:12

Excellent video, and I recognize how disturbing it is to say "we love meat and love animals." One potential positive aspect: improving animal welfare could encourage cognitive dissonance, which is sorely needed in our carnistic culture. The farmer who insists that he loves animals, "like children," has to confront the inherent contradictions in his behavior - they can't be far from his mind. I think that's a step up from the view held by many that animals don't matter at all.

Consider farmer Bob who believes his profession to be unethical:

"What I do is wrong. I know it in my bones, even if I can’t yet act on it. Someday it must stop. Somehow we need to become the sort of beings who can see what we are doing when we look head on, the sort of beings who don’t weave dark, damning shrouds to sustain, with acceptance and celebration, the grossly unethical, solely for shallow sensual pleasure. Deeper, much deeper, we have an obligation to eat otherwise."

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on September 28, 2012 at 10:44

Thanks, Lucas!

Joe Maxwell (the pig farmer you refer to) made the speech in which he made those claims to a group of farmers in Nebraska, whilst trying to persuade them to accept his association with HSUS and to convince them to welcome the regulations that HSUS were trying to enforce as I remember it. I think that would go some way to explaining the words he chose to use. But, I am very open to being corrected on that! 

I don't know much at all about the Global Animal Partnership. In fact, I'd not heard of that group before this week, but HSUS are a traditional welfare organisation who are open about not being interested in ending animal agriculture, or the use of other animals in any way that I'm aware of. Their mission is to allow the continued use of other animals for the pleasure of humans, whilst allowing those humans to be at ease in the way in which they commodify and exploit other animals, by claiming that those individuals lead a "happy" life prior to being slaughtered and ripped to pieces.

I don't see the support of "higher animal welfare" to conflict with the goals and mission of HSUS, or what I know of GAP. I also don't see the positions on the board of HSUS of a pig farmer or the CEO of Whole Foods to conflict with HSUS's values. 

I can't see how focusing so much time and energy on pointing out that "welfarists" do welfare is beneficial to anyone. It's unfortunate that HSUS refer to themselves as an animal "protection" organisation. Animals Australia refer to themselves in the same way. They are both clearly organisations that focus on regulating the exploitation of others, and not protecting them or considering their needs and desires. I certainly understand how the language can be confusing and misrepresents the truth, but I would assume that those who have been in the animal advocacy community for some time would understand these issues and perhaps accept that welfarists do welfare. It may not be what we want, but it is what it is. 

I often post this essay of Roger's because I think he explains what I believe is important to understand far better than I could.

Comment by Lucas Hayes on September 28, 2012 at 8:58

Hi Carolyn,

The point of the video is not that it's surprising that Whole Foods promotes and celebrates animal exploitation. Rather, the point is to highlight the extreme conflicts of interest in the animal protection movement. As is shown in the article I posted here in the comment section (which accompanies the video on the Humane Myth website), HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle sits on the board of Global Animal Partnership (which you can read about in the article) with John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. The same John Mackey sits on the board of HSUS, along with a pig farmer who credits HSUS and the Global Animal Partnership with helping him increase his profits from exploiting and killing pigs. Miyun Park, ex VP of HSUS, co-founder of Compassion Over Killing, and current executive director of the Global Animal Partnership, introduces the butcher competition giving a "huge thank you" to Whole Foods, the chef's, and to all in attendance for supporting the butcher finalists ("the best of the best")! "But most importantly" she wants to thank all that are there "for supporting higher farm animal welfare". It's just sickening.

And there are other examples therein also.


Comment by Carolyn Bailey on September 28, 2012 at 8:16

Hi Lucas, thanks for posting this video here! 

Could you please help me understand the point of this video? I struggle to understand why anyone would be surprised that Whole Foods (a corporate non-vegan organisation who profits from the exploitation and sale of the bodies of other animals) would sponsor an event called Meatopia, which celebrates the exploitation and sale of the bodies of other animals. 

This event seems repulsive to me, but I don't understand the point of highlighting that Whole Foods sponsor the event, and that being a surprise to anyone. 

Perhaps I'm missing something? 

Thanks! :) 

Comment by Lucas Hayes on September 28, 2012 at 4:18


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