Recent Headlines:

Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore
New York Times
October, 2006


Veal to Love,
Without the Guilt

New York Times
April, 2007


Fighting animal cruelty?
Eat meat

Daily Utah Chronicle
March, 2006


Why Vegetarians
Are Eating Meat

Food & Wine Magazine August, 2007

The Carnivore's Dilemma:
Could conscientious meat-eating be better for animals than vegetarianism?

Chicago Reader
July, 2007





Lyman to Niman

Rancher-turned-vegan or vegetarian-turned-rancher?
Which was a featured speaker at the nation's largest conference
on animal advocacy, and why?

                                    Printable version of this essay here.

Project for the New American Carnivore

From Lyman to Niman in 10 Short Years

July, 2007

In 1997, while attending our first national animal advocacy conference in Washington, DC, we were surprised to find that one of the speakers was a former cattle rancher. His name was Howard Lyman, and not only was he now a vegan, but he had publicly renounced the exploitation of animals and dedicated the rest of his life to sharing with the world the lessons he had learned about ethical eating, environmental sanity, and peaceful grassroots activism. His message, along with that of several other people we heard at that conference, inspired us to change our own diets and join the movement for nonviolence and animal rights.

Now, ten years later, another conference is happening in our nation's capital. While several of the speakers and supporters remain the same, this year's most publicized animal protection conference will not be featuring any cattlemen gone vegan. Instead, it will be putting on the podium a multi-million dollar rancher, a pig farmer, a turkey farmer, and others known for talking of compassion and animal welfare while at the same time profiting from their unapologetic killing of animals.

Now, ten years later, a well-known animal sanctuary, as well as organizations that are the public face of animal advocacy in the United States, have partnered with members of the meat industry to develop "new and improved" standards for the exploitation of animals, and to actively promote consumption of products such as "cage-free" eggs and "animal compassionate" veal.

Now, ten years later, veganism, once widely understood within our movement to be a moral and ethical imperative, a commitment to not participate in the exploitation of others nor to cooperate with those who do, is rapidly being reduced to a mere "lifestyle choice," a "tool," to be selectively used as a means to an end. Similarly, the concept of animal rights, once widely understood to represent a zero-tolerance policy on the exploitation of animals, has become so diluted and degraded, as we shall later see, so as to be comfortably invoked by those who butcher thousands of baby cows and lambs every week.

For us, and for many other activists we have spoken with over these last months, this turn of events has been equal parts disturbing and bewildering. For some it has even been the cause of despair. There is a sense that the movement we have given our lives to is being cynically co-opted and transformed into a caricature of itself.

As we have worked to understand what is happening and why, we have gradually realized that something about this dark experience is eerily familiar. It is, in fact, strongly reminiscent of the cultural and political changes that have befallen our country over the last several years, changes resulting from the Neo-conservative domination of Washington politics.

Rise of the Neo-carns

As most of us know, the Neo-cons are a relatively small network of policy analysts, political operatives and elected officials who have been the driving force behind the radical shift that America's foreign policy has taken over the last several years. Their Project for the New American Century, a think-tank now famous for spawning most of the players and policies behind the US invasion of Iraq, openly advocates for world domination through military force.

What fewer are aware of, however, is that amongst the founders of the Neo-con movement were several former liberals, and it was their insider knowledge of progressive politics that made the Neo-cons so effective at discrediting their former ideology and advancing a new and radical agenda. It was the Neo-cons who conceived of making a doctrine of pre-emptive war official US policy. It was the Neo-cons who found a way to make secret prisons and systematic torture not only legal, but also socially acceptable.

We have developed a hypothesis that some of the more mystifying changes that have come to the movement for veganism and animal rights in recent years can largely be explained by the adoption of the Neo-con mindset and methods by a handful of influential animal organization leaders, philosophers and animal husbandry consultants, several of whom are former animal rights activists. They are the Neo-carns, and they have partnered with certain segments of the animal exploiting industries, using their insider knowledge to redefine the animal movement just as radically as the Neo-cons have redefined the policies of our government, with a similarly disastrous effect.

Our hypothesis is not a conspiracy theory, but rather a theory of cultural influence and unconscious imitation. By speculating about what might be some significant parallels between Neo-conservatism and Neo-carnism, we hope to inspire a community-based critical thinking process in service of a healthier and more effective movement.

Enriching the exploiters

Over the last few years, thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been killed, maimed, and psychologically scarred, their families torn apart. The economies of both countries have been bled just as severely to pay for all the mayhem, all in the name of "bringing democracy" to Iraq and "preventing terrorist attacks" in America.

As doubtful as the benefits of this endless "War on Terror" will continue to be for those millions of individuals whose lives hang in the balance, its perpetuation is nothing short of a goldmine for the management and stockholders of a number of multi-national defense contractors and oil companies. For no matter how many innocent people die, these corporations will get paid huge sums of money to build the bombs, and then after the bombs are dropped, get paid even more money to rebuild the buildings and infrastructure the bombs have blown apart. In fact, the greater the destruction, the more money they will ultimately make. Such corporations have close ties to the Neo-cons, and it is well-known that some of the profits they make flow right back into the coffers that fund the Neo-con political machine.

Similarly, the Neo-carns have formed an alliance with a group of large-scale meat sellers and animal exploiters who publicly proclaim their concern for the well-being of those they kill for profit. Working together, they are developing and promoting new standards for the exploitation of animals, and co-producing media events and public relations campaigns that culminate in mutually-beneficial legislative initiatives, all of it amounting to what we might call an endless "Campaign to Refine the Process of Exploitation."

(To watch this video directly, click here)
Read Industry Press Release here
Read Animal Organization Press Release
s here and here

However uncertain the benefits to the animals and the animal movement will be, this endless campaign waged under the banner of "protecting animals" and "reducing suffering" is virtually guaranteed to bring millions in new profits to the "cage-free" egg industry, the "humane" meat industry, the organic dairy industry, and numerous other purveyors of "happy" animal products. In fact, the more the public is taught to channel their concern for animals into the purchase of these new and pricier products of suffering, the more money these large scale exploiters will ultimately make. Some of this money is already being spent within the advocacy movement, being used to sponsor animal conferences, for example, that are now presenting some of these animal exploiters as respected speakers alongside long-time animal rights advocates.

Butchers for Animal Rights?

Nicolette Hahn Niman, in a recent New York Times op-ed, writes with considerable passion and authority about the cruelty and brutality of the common agricultural practice of cutting off the tails of pigs and cows. "Eventually," she says, "our consciences and common sense as well as science should tell us that we need an outright ban."

Described in Neo-carn media as being "haunted by the pigs she saw while touring pig confinement operations as an environmental attorney," Niman notes that "Studies have shown that sows confined in gestation stalls exhibit behavior characteristic of humans with severe depression and mental illness.'" Niman's seeming recognition of the intelligence and emotional capacity of pigs is so persuasive, it nearly succeeds in obliterating our awareness of the 2,000 pigs whose lives are taken each week by her 100 million dollar company, Niman Ranch. One wonders if Ms. Niman has ever taken the time to observe whether each of these 2,000 pigs exhibits physiological and psychological behaviors characteristic of humans, innocent of any crime, being brutally executed one after the other.

Then there's Randy Strauss of Strauss Veal & Lamb, who is quoted in Neo-carn media saying that veal crates are "inhumane and archaic" and "do nothing more than subject a calf to stress, fear, physical harm and pain," and has even gone so far as to say that "Animal rights are important."

Strauss's strong-sounding "pro-animal" language, as well as his being highlighted and praised by the Neo-carns, distracts us from realizing that he, like the war profiteers, has a vested interest in the endless expansion of the exploitation and the killing. In Strauss's own words, "We're now the largest veal company in the United States... We're slaughtering and processing between 1,700 and 2,500 calves and breaking three to five loads of domestic lamb a week at our Franklin facility."

"There are a growing number of people who, if they feel good about what they're eating, will eat veal," says Strauss. "If we can capture that market, we're going to increase the 0.6-pound per capita consumption market resulting in a healthier veal industry."

Squandering the Work of Generations

In a recent New York Times article titled "Veal to Love, Without the Guilt," it was noted that twenty years ago, Americans were eating eight times more veal than today, and that this dramatic change was due to a successful animal rights educational campaign and boycott carried out for years by thousands of animal advocates. The article then goes on to feature the comments of numerous parties who declare how delighted they are to once again be eating veal, except now, the "humanely-raised" veal products are rosy colored and sport a more zesty taste. At some upscale restaurants, this new "guilt-free" delicacy is rapidly becoming one of the most popular items.

Could this have anything to do with a prominent farm animal sanctuary and numerous animal protection groups putting their moral authority and the names of their organizations behind new "more humane" standards for the exploitation of dairy calves? Does it have anything to do with their publishing lists on the internet of restaurants that virtuously serve up the flesh of "uncrated" baby cows, or their elaborate PR collaborations with meat sellers such as Whole Foods and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, who is only too happy to tell the world how much tastier "happy" animals can be?

Puck has recently launched a high profile PR initiative that includes the development of new "humane" exploitation standards. His company told Special Events magazine that it would use the resulting media exposure "to educate consumers and provide 'how to' information on using fresh, natural, organic and humanely treated ingredients." [Emphasis added].

This initiative succeeds brilliantly at marketing Puck's expensive products, among which veal is one of the top selling items. It also has caused the animals themselves to disappear. Now they are no longer individuals, sentient beings being exploited and killed. They are merely "humanely treated ingredients." This single example captures the essence of what is wrong with so many Neo-carn "victories." Lots of press and hoopla, the public image of animal exploiters lifted to the heavens along with that of their Neo-carn partners, and the basic truth of what is being done to the animals, the most inconvenient truth of them all, methodically swept under the rug.

Irrational Rationalizations

The architects of the Neo-carn revolution seem as blithely untroubled by the unraveling of the veal boycott as the Neo-cons are by the unraveling of American civil liberties. One prominent Neo-carnist offered the following in response to an advocate's criticism of his organization's role in the breaking of the veal boycott:

Of course, when people stopped eating veal in the 1980s, it meant more animals were being exploited, since people largely switched from veal to chicken and/or fish (who are much smaller animals). Lots of animal people tout the anti-veal campaign as the paradigmatic "incremental abolitionist" campaign, even though the result was that far more animals ended up being raised/killed as a result of it.

So just as the Neo-cons ask us to believe that we should allow our civil liberties to be curtailed as a means of protecting our "freedom," the Neo-carns ask us to believe that putting the animal movement seal of approval upon the new "humane" veal is actually saving the lives of animals. In both cases, there appears to be a comfort with assuming ownership and control of -- and then "spending" -- the decades-long work of large numbers of well meaning people in ways that directly contradict the original intent.

Compassion for Sale

And then there is Whole Foods Markets, one of the largest meat sellers in America, and now a major sponsor of numerous animal conferences. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is commonly presented as a business visionary committed to reconciling record levels of profit with philanthropic altruism. The Catholic Reporter, in fact, described Mr. Mackey as one of the few CEOs who "remain as models of ethics in both their personal and professional lives."

However, it was recently reported in the New York Times that over the course of eight years, Mackey made more than 1,000 posts on a popular internet financial forum under a false identity, touting his own company's stock and deprecating a competing company's stock, a company he is now in the process of attempting to buy.

In a popular vegetarian magazine, where Mackey has now twice been honored for his "vegan" values, he was recently described like this:

Mackey's compassion for animals led to Whole Foods' implementation of a humane production system to ensure the industry's highest quality conditions for animals raised for food. Whole Foods Markets' stringent quality-standards program requires frequent auditing and compliance from animal agriculture producers, making it tricky for even the slickest rancher to slip beneath this progressive company's radar.

However, after years of such unqualified animal movement endorsements and what is essentially a massive branding and advertising campaign carried out for free by trusting animal activists, apparently not even one of the "animal compassionate" exploitation standards Mackey and his suppliers developed in collaboration with participating animal organizations has been put into practice. According to the Whole Foods Animal Compassion Foundation web site, "although no producers have met these standards yet, many are exploring the opportunity."

Perhaps the problem will be solved when Whole Foods fills its new Alternative/Compassionate Farm Animal Production Coordinator position. "We are looking for someone," says the job posting on the Whole Foods web site, "who can bring solid evidence that they can produce a meat product in a pasture based system that will leave the taste buds screaming for more, and then get out there and help others do the same."

Curiously, at the upcoming national animal conference, Mackey's multi-billion dollar grocery chain will be presenting a talk titled "Whole Foods Market: The Journey Towards Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility with Farm Animal Welfare."

Curious, and Curiouser

Is it not strange that while the institutional animal movement has historically struggled to develop and sustain any significant collaborations with the peace, environmental, and human rights movements, it seems to have had no problem at all developing elaborate and rather intimate alliances with animal exploiting corporations such as Whole Foods, Niman Ranch, and Wolfgang Puck?

And is it not also strange that nearly every adult in America is now aware of their option to buy some sort of "humanely-raised" animal product, an option that is being exercised more and more frequently yet, at the same time, hardly any Americans are aware of the fact that animal agriculture is estimated by United Nations scientists to be directly responsible for 18% of global warming emissions, and that adopting a plant-based diet saves more carbon pollution than driving a hybrid auto?

What the World Needs Now

Rather than launching a much-needed massive global warming education campaign that teaches people how to transition to a plant-based diet, the Neo-carns have instead elected to commit millions of dollars and countless activist hours to convincing people to buy "happy" animal products linked to largely symbolic legislative initiatives. Possibly voted down, and more than likely to be weakly enforced, such initiatives suffer many potential limitations in terms of the real benefits they might offer animals. Yet, regardless of the outcome, these initiatives are a winner from the word "go" for "happy meat" corporations and Butchers for Animal Rights.

Committing serious resources to the promotion of a plant-based diet, while it may be great for the animals, a moral imperative, and one of the most effective tools for addressing the global warming crisis, isn't going to sit well with the Neo-carns' animal industry partners. And let's face it, it is also unlikely to bring in as many donations as legislative initiatives that aspire to modify animal husbandry practices while introducing the public to new and tastier animal products. Actually confronting and criticizing the use and killing of animals creates some stress, and stress is bad for business.

Consider how the Neo-cons scoffed at the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty, and have failed to push Detroit to develop electric and hybrid vehicles, opting instead to offer tax breaks to buyers of Hummers. Could it be that Neo-carn leaders, enthralled with their newfound ability to conjure one illusory victory after the other, have all but missed the greatest educational opportunity the animal movement has seen in a generation?

Normalizing the Unthinkable

The methods of the Neo-cons and the Neo-carns are often both overwhelming and outrageous, and this tends at first to stun and immobilize those they are attempting to control. Recall, for example, the voting public's paralysis in the face of the Supreme Court deciding the 2000 election. And then came the difficult and discouraging interval between the run up to the invasion of Iraq and the "Mission Accomplished" moment. More and more people were awakening from the trance, yet still, most of us remained silent, unsure of ourselves, afraid to step out of line and become a target like the Dixie Chicks and others who were the first to say out loud what many of us knew in our hearts to be true.

That's where we are now in the animal movement. "Victory" after "victory" is being declared, and in such a climate, it seems "unpatriotic" to raise any questions or doubts. But the troubling consequences are mounting. It is getting harder and harder to hide the fact that segments of the meat industry are being enriched just like the corporations profiting from the war, and that hard-won progress in the battle for public respect for the rights of animals is slipping away. And as one boundary after another is violated, what was unthinkable and shocking the previous year becomes normal and accepted the next. The relentless quality of the process brings on a kind of learned helplessness.

The Doctrine of Pre-emptive Defeat

So here we come to a crucial point. Neo-cons and Neo-carns both damage the integrity of individuals and society in general by convincing us that we must violate our core principles in order to serve the common good, that by insisting on upholding cherished beliefs and values we are actually impeding progress. We must torture prisoners in order to be safe from attack. We must invade and occupy other countries in order to spread democracy. We must vote for politicians whose policies in nearly every other area are repugnant, because they have promised to support a certain animal welfare bill. We must partner with the animal exploiting industry to promote "happy" animal products even though we know in our hearts that using and killing animals is wrong.

Both the Neo-cons and the Neo-carns offer grim proclamations about the future, creating a climate of despair that enables public acceptance of their radical violations of moral and ethical codes. The Neo-cons, for example, emphasize that the "War on Terror" is likely to go on for generations. They tell us that we must steel ourselves for the nasty business of an unending conflict on many fronts, and that those who insist on questioning their policies are "aiding and abetting the enemy," or "abandoning our troops."

The Neo-carns similarly repeat over and over that "this isn't going to change in our lifetimes," presenting as fact their operating assumption that large numbers of people will not stop eating meat in the foreseeable future. The Neo-carns put forth this doctrine of pre-emptive defeat, and then convince other well-meaning people that their "happy meat" program is the only sane and compassionate course of action. Those who persistently question the wisdom of their approach are likely to be characterized as being "willing to abandon the billions of animals suffering now."

Such intimidating rhetoric distracts our attention from the simple truth that there are other choices, including addressing the root causes, rather than the symptoms of violence and injustice. This begins with the simple act of saying "No," of refusing to participate in the domination and exploitation of others, or to cooperate with those who do.

The Road Not Taken

So what might saying "No" look like? Consider the following excerpts from a 2006 American Psychological Association press release, clarifying the association's position on the issue of torture and abuse:

The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has approved a resolution reaffirming the organization's absolute opposition to all forms of torture and abuse, regardless of the circumstance.

The Association unequivocally condemns any involvement by psychologists in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This APA policy applies to all psychologists in all settings.

The resolution, approved on August 9, 2006, further underscored the duty of all psychologists to intervene to stop acts of torture or abuse as well as the ethical obligation of all psychologists to report such behavior to appropriate authorities.

"Our intention is to empower and encourage members to do everything they can to prevent violations of basic human rights - at Guantanamo Bay or anywhere else they may occur," said Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, President of the American Psychological Association. "It is not enough for us to express outrage or to codify acceptable practices. As psychologists, we must use every means at our disposal to prevent abuse and other forms of cruel or degrading treatment."

Contrast this with the language from a letter published on the Whole Foods web site, signed by 17 animal advocacy groups regarding their position on the development and use of "compassionate" standards for animal exploitation:

The undersigned animal welfare, animal protection and animal rights organizations would like to express their appreciation and support for the pioneering initiative being taken by Whole Foods Market in setting Farm Animal Compassionate Standards. We hope and expect that these standards will improve the lives of millions of animals.

As you consider these two approaches, ask yourself what message each sends to the world about the morality of practicing violence against others. Ask yourself which inspires you to get involved and take a stand against injustice.

[Note: after this essay was published, the letter mentioned above was removed from Whole Foods' web site and the link became dead. We have since replaced the link with a pdf of the letter which had formerly been displayed on the Whole Foods web site for the last nearly three years. As of Sept. 17, 2007 you could still find the name of the press release that once linked to the letter in Whole Foods' press archives, titled "Animal Rights Groups Express Support for Animal Compassion Foundation," dated January 24, 2005. And you could find mention of the letter, referred to as a "statement of support", in another Whole Foods press release dated January 26, 2005. You can still read an article about how the letter was prominently displayed at Whole Foods markets' check out counters.]

The Journey Home

It is time to stop selling off our movement's ethical foundations piece by piece in exchange for illusory short-term gains. It is time instead to devote our collective wisdom, energy and resources to creating the nonviolent culture our planet is crying out for. It is time to put our full support behind those developing a nonviolent cuisine, nonviolent clothing, nonviolent art, nonviolent education, nonviolent technology, nonviolent laws, and nonviolent foreign policy.

For the first time in history, human society has the ability to evolve and transform on a planetary scale, and this new ability comes to us at the same time as our collective impact on the world's ecosystem threatens disaster. Never has the average person had the ability to do so much harm, or so much good. This time of crisis teaches us as never before how profoundly interconnected our lives are, and how we must now cultivate a holistic perspective. We must lift our gaze up from the ground at our feet, and make our decisions while looking much further down the stream of time, at least several generations ahead.

In this larger, longer term view, as great as the problems caused by Neo-conservatism and Neo-carnism may seem to be, they ultimately serve the purpose of awakening a deeper understanding and a deeper commitment in us all. These inherently flawed ideologies have only gained a foothold because we have allowed our philosophy to be corrupted and our language to be degraded, because we have lost sight of our vision, because we have forgotten who we are. In answering their challenge and regaining our movement's health, we have the chance to rediscover the best parts of ourselves and the most exciting aspect of the human journey—choice.

It's up to us to choose the vision that will shape our world, and the values that will guide us along the way.

Will it be a vision of a "compassionate" seal of approval on every package of animal flesh? Or a vision of every child in America raised on a non-violent diet and receiving a humane education?

Will it be a vision of endless supermarket shelves lined with cage-free eggs? Or a vision of vegan restaurants on every corner, in every town?

Will it be a vision of animal activists collaborating with "kinder, gentler" animal exploiters to cultivate the "sensitive carnivore"? Or a vision of animal activists and former animal farmers joining with environmental and human rights activists to combat violence, hunger, disease, and global warming?

Will it be a compromised, ends-justifies-the-means vision forged upon the assumption of defeat? Or an inspired, confident, long-term vision that fosters peace and planetary transformation?

Our vision is what gives us strength during the darkest times. It is what gives us moral authority when we speak out for the vulnerable. It is what inspires others to become involved. It is what makes our hope for the world more than just a fantasy.

If we faithfully serve our vision, if we fiercely protect and support it, if we defend it from co-option and corruption—then, and only then, will we have a real chance of bringing our vision to life.

Post script: Following publication of this essay, a helpful reader brought to our attention a powerful article recently published in Vanity Fair magazine, "Rorschach and Awe," which explores the involvement of psychologists in interrogation and torture. As it turns out, there are many outside observers as well as practitioners within the American Psychological Association that believe that the APA's policy regarding torture referred to in this essay is not strong enough, as, for example, it does not specifically prohibit their members from participating in interrogations. The article also points out the division and conflict that has developed in the APA as a result of the involvement of some psychologists in the actual design of interrogation techniques.

Other Essays from Tribe of Heart:

Compassion for Sale?
Doublethink Meets Doublefeel as Happy Meat Comes of Age

Invasion of the Movement Snatchers
A Social Justice Cause Falls Prey to the Doctrine of "Necessary Evil"

Truthiness is Stranger Than Fiction
The Hidden Cost of Selling the public on "Cage-Free" Eggs


"The reason that we actually first began working with [Niman Ranch] was that they instituted a practice I'd never seen before, which is that the stock man and woman who work with the cattle out on the range actually go with the animals to the slaughterhouse. They clear everyone else, all the strangers, out of the slaughterhouses and walk with the animal to the staging area to its death, so that that animal has the comfort of a familiar face. And the only stranger is -- there's only one stranger for that animal in the entire process, once its off the truck."
--Conference Sponsor whose organization paid $10,000 for the privilege of inviting Niman and other meat producers to speak to a gathering of animal advocates

Fact: Niman Ranch is responsible for the killing of thousands of animals each week, including cows, pigs, and lambs.

"When it's time for an animal to be slaughtered, a farm worker who knows the animal goes with the animal to the slaughterhouse. All the other people leave the slaughterhouse, so the worker, the animal's 'friend', is the only person present when the animal is slaughtered, so the animal is surrounded only by 'loving' faces when it is killed.

"I was unclear whether this means that the animal's 'friend' is the person who actually kills the animal. However, regardless of whoever actually slits the animal's throat, this description of an animal's death as a humane, kind act by the beneficent Niman Ranch owners was horrifying, the stuff of a dystopic Kurt Vonnegut novel, perhaps. Or, perhaps more fittingly, a real-life production of Arsenic and Old Lace, in which two elderly women lure lonely old men into their homes so that they can humanely poison them to put them out of their misery. This behavior demonstrated the old women's insanity could the same behavior demonstrate Niman Ranch's humanity?"
--Comments from a conference attendee, as reported on AnimalBlawg (no longer online)


Echoes in cyberspace...

Taking Action for Animals and Hierarchy

I've discussed why an overly hierarchical organization may appear stronger at first, but ultimately lacks the flexibility, creativity, and activist buy-in necessary for success. I think some of these dangers of hierarchy were apparent at the TAFA conference.

Almost the entire weekend was an extended series of lectures, speeches, and presentations by "leaders" from one organization after another. From this it was clear that this conference was organized by a collaboration between hierarchical organizations, not by a movement. A movement is a strong, nonhierarchical, informal structure that connects closely knit cells of activists.

There was no time for discussion; every second of the conference was purchased by one organization or another to speechify at us. This is not to say that there is no place for plenary sessions and speeches. I learned a lot in many of the speeches. However, without organizational breakouts by geography or by other interest to permit the activists themselves to meet with one another and get to know each other and begin the process of planning real action, the de-centralized creative upswell of activity that typifies a strong social movement can never come from this conference.

Thoughts on the Taking Action for Animals Conference
(Herbivore Magazine)

I am slow to condemn tactics that don't jive with my personal wants. One approach didn't win black folks civil rights, women the right to vote, or the 8-hour work day. Who knows what will make different people respond? Our responsibility is to be there with outreach and information for as many types of people as possible and meet them where they are, instead of expecting them to meet us where we are.


Was HSUS really going to invite meat producers to present at TAFA? It seems
like the kind of rumor that has legs. One person says it and the whole room has heard about it within minutes. I called some people who would know for sure and, yes, a pig farmer and a turkey farmer were presenting. When you donate enough money, you get to host a panel discussion. The Animal Welfare Institute, as is noted on the TAFA website, forked over $10,000, which in effect, bought them a panel. That is my understanding. AWI then invited the pig farmer and the turkey farmer to present. Those presentations included
slideshows of happy animals on their happy farms living "naturally." Those presentations didn't show slaughter and didn't show the grueling transportation those animals endure on the way to slaughter. One HSUS employee told me when pig trucks arrive to the slaughter facility there are always dead animals. And since the pigs are so close to slaughter, there is no financial incentive to feed or give water or care to these animals while in transit.

I was told when these "humane" farmers showed cutesy pictures of animals on
their "humane" farms, people in the crowd oohed and aahed.
These farmers disgust me with the shameful half-truths they use to discuss the animals they raise for slaughter. It's sociopathic. They care about these animals? They love these animals? Then why, when they are big enough, do they put them on a truck and turn them over to brutes in slaughterhouses for awful deaths?

This is not my biggest problem though. Most of the world doesn't share my vision of a perfect world.
I did, however, think HSUS and I shared a perfect world vision. Which is why I have been willing to accept a lot of incremental reform that doesn't make me all that happy or inspired. I felt, perhaps, they knew some things I didn't about getting to this perfect world we wanted and if we didn't see eye to eye on tactics, I'd trust they were doing what they thought was right.

Then HSUS decided to sell a meat advertisement for $10,000 at what many
think is a vegetarian/vegan event. If McDonald's pitched in $10,000, could they present a panel and talk about how they're using bigger cages? What about veal producers who don't use the intense confinement methods we all know? If they dropped enough cash, could they talk about their "humane" veal? Would HSUS draw a line anywhere? If they dropped $20,000 could they host the banquet and have a meat option put on the menu? If HSUS is fine promoting "humane" meat, how big of a stretch is it to see some of it being served in the years to come? If, as the welfare line goes, people are going to eat meat anyway so they should eat "humane meat," why was HSUS only serving it up in idea form? Why not the real thing? Is there any reason now they wouldn't serve it?
Of all the myriad issues facing (what I thought was) our movement right now HSUS decided to hand over a part of it to the opposition and give them an open forum to sell their murderous products. Of all the things (what I thought was) our movement needs to be "creating dialogue" about and needs to be open-minded about, selling torn apart bodies of animals is not one of them. If we can't agree that that is an egregious wrong, I'm not sure what we have left in common.

I'm a pretty patient activist. I feel like I know what we're up against. I support a host of tactics. I feel fairly certain we won't see a massive shift towards veganism very soon. But we keep working. Even if we never make the kind of progress we want, we have to keep working and fighting. We have to, no matter what, try to save those lives that are doomed. Coming up short like this is unacceptable. Coming up short like this is selling those lives out to brutes and liars. It is saying people can't be changed, can't see the beauty or benefit of a bloodless lifestyle.

But people can be changed. I changed. You changed. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "If I can go vegan, anybody can." HSUS, by selling an ad to meat producers, gave up on that little spark in countless people who can change and gave them an excuse to never fan it into a roaring flame.

Read Full Article

More on Peta, Welfare, Neocarns, Oh My!
(Neva Vegan)

Having discussed this issue many times I'm disappointed to see the repetition of the idea that those who advocate for abolition OPPOSE welfare reforms. I know of nobody who opposes larger cages or more humane slaughter methods, quite the contrary.

What is at issue is whether or not the largest and best known animal advocacy groups are in essence putting a seal of approval on certain "humane animal products" by declaring minor (though certainly positive) reforms as major victories. Or to put this another way, as I've said many times before: if PeTA gives an award to the designer of a slaughterhouse does that give the general public the impression that what goes on at that slaughterhouse is morally acceptable?

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Hogwash! Or, How Animal Advocates Enable Corporate Spin
by Lee Hall
(Dissident Voice)

We know animal agribusiness plays a major role in global warming, and the resultant refugee emergencies and mass extinctions. Surely this means animal advocates are approaching their heyday as political leaders for our time. After all, who better suited to advise a concerned public on shifting our culture away from its current reliance on meat and dairy products?

Alas. Mainstream advocates aren't taking the cue. On the contrary, they've made themselves a party to a new and ominous form of greenwashing. Allowing supposedly kinder, gentler animal farms to appear attractive, they have invented a new PR trend. One word fits: hogwashing.
Then there's Niman Ranch. This outfit exhorts us to "[s]erve with pride the world's finest natural beef, pork and lamb" and had the audacity to show up and speak at a gathering called "Taking Action for Animals 2007." Billed as the largest national conference of the animal-protection movement, Taking Action exemplified the trend to restyle agribusinesses as animal-welfare societies when "approved" purveyors of animal flesh held the microphone. A charitable organization called the Animal Welfare Institute evidently paid $10,000 to present this infomercial.

In short, hogwashing offers the customer a chance to eat animals and advocate for them in the same bite. It need not mean people are eating less of the older, unholier products. Unsure if this trend is boosting the industry? Consider this: Wolfgang Puck's branding consultant introduced the celebrity chef to the president of the world's wealthiest animal charity. The branding expert, who formerly ran Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, saw animal husbandry as the key to a profile boost for Puck. Within a year, Puck unveiled a new handling plan for the animals who will wind up braised with a side of sautéed Spätzle.
Viewing animals as commodities, even well-handled commodities, isn't animal protection. The ultimate betrayal of an animal is especially stark after the being has been treated almost like a pet (like the animals at Niman Ranch, who, we're told, are walked into slaughter by someone who knew them by name). To take animals' interests seriously is to opt out of animal agribusiness.

When animal advocates acquire too much "maturation and sophistication" for that, they're praised by the mainstream media for gaining "influence" -- praised, that is, for accepting their culture's corporate values so well. "Instead of telling it like it is, we're learning to present things in a more moderate way," one farm rescue activist told the New York Times. So only foie gras is off-limits (for now; an award-winning "ethical" foie gras is on the way). Every other animal product, it seems, is acceptable, under the "mature" advocates' guidance. Even veal can pass these days -- yes, there's an uncrated version of little dead cows, as Wolfgang Puck was quick to ascertain, and activists now praise Puck for renouncing cruel veal producers.

Granted, "telling it like it is" won't give you instant popularity. For the authoritative remark on that, the New York Times quotes the CEO of a cattle ranchers' group who declares that people opposing meat are "so off the wall" no one pays attention to them. Unfortunately, when mainstream advocacy groups seek wealth and easy public acceptance at the expense of core values, they too consider anyone committed to those values as inconvenient.

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On Misleading the Public

When I went to Whole Foods yesterday I did quite a bit of observing and listening. And during this particular trip, there was exactly zero conversation about what kind of standard anyone was operating under regarding treatment and slaughter of animals. There is, however, a large sign above the meat counter that reads: Change the world while you eat. And there were pamphlets from the Animal Compassion Foundation which, if you're not paying attention (or um, reading), you might think that the placement of the three pamphlets, in addition to the giant sign, might indicate that the meat came from a place that met some standard. You just might think you are changing the world by eating the animals under the sign.
The pamphlets talk of helping "producers make the transition to even higher levels of animal welfare as outlined in the next generation of Whole Foods Market meat standards, the Animal Compassionate Standards, which we are encouraging producers throughout the world to achieve."
There is nothing in the pamphlets that speaks of any "producer" who has actually met the standard. As a person reading the pamphlet, I conclude that the foundation is a research organization that will amass some best practices for "raising animals in a compassionate manner" (whatever that means). And if I'm not paying attention, I just might think everyone chopped up and presented in various pieces beneath the pamphlets in glass cases were once animals treated in some fabulously compassionate way...

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HSUS says:
Eat happy, clean meat

The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund had a lunch event today on the environmental impacts of meat production. Two speakers from HSUS came to discuss the contribution of meat production to climate change
The rest of the presentation dispelled any questions I had about HSUS's position on "happy meat."

They're all for it.

The speaker's powerpoint presentation listed three methods of reducing the carbon footprint:
1. Refine
2. Reduce
3. Replace

The speaker didn't discuss the "replace" prong at all. Instead, she advocated organic meat consumption, i.e., "refinement," extolling its virtues of being less harmful to the environment and containing more nutrients
The second speaker mentioned some technology-based measures that have been developed that can reduce the pollution from large animal agriculture operations. I asked whether the implementation of these measures, which can be costly for the companies, will cause the companies to move their operations overseas.

The speakers said that, yes, this is a concern; a lot of beef production is moving to Brazil. However, they're trying to figure out ways to combat this outsourcing. The one solution that the second speaker suggested was, I am not kidding, we can subsidize Brazilian beef production so that the companies can afford the environmental measures.

Excuse me? The Humane Society is talking about beef subsidies?
SALDF invited speakers from the Humane Society because it assumed they'd discuss the harmful effects of eating meat, not the benefits of eating meat, however happy and clean it is. Their priority is supposed to be the treatment of animals.

I guess that's too much to ask.