It’s been said many times, that the difference between ‘animal welfare‘ and ‘animal liberation‘ is – welfarists want bigger cages, liberationists want empty cages.
And this is one reason why… (click free range chickens to see what “free range” is in reality).
Words such as “free range” may allow the consumer feel better with sentimentality about chickens roaming the paddock (a New Zealand word for field or pasture) at will, but, how does the egg-laying hen cramped in a barn never seeing sunlight or cow on the way to slaughter agree?
For example, the current campaign in New Zealand, Australia and United Kingdom, to oppose the religious exemptions for humane slaughter. This means animals are being slaughtered without stunning first. It does not matter how well the animal is treated during their unnaturally shorterned life, the use of any animal for any reason for food is cruel and exploitation. Humane slaughter is still SLAUGHTER.
(This religious slaughter is discussed at Ban Religious Slaughter in New Zealand,
and NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT overturns ban on hideously cruel ritual slaughter by Loredana Versaci, two change.org petitions, that are still open for more signatures.)
An abolitionist vegan would say, the world should be vegan, and to support the ban on overturning of exemptions would suggest that any slaughter is acceptable. And to campaign for more humane slaughter is a welfarist position.
A liberationist vegan might say that animals shouldn’t be slaughtered at all, and seek to “liberate” them from their cages. Or perhaps be realistic about a situation and know that until the world goes vegan, to ignore the lack of pre-slaughter stunning inflicts more torture and unnecessary cruelty until then.
Chickens raised for slaughter
Source: Farm Sanctuary at Flickr. “Feel free to distribute freely for not-for-profit use, but please credit Farm Sanctuary” (photo linked to Farm Sanctuary, but uploaded at photobucket.
But what is the effect of more “humane” methods of raising animals for food or methods of slaughter? (I am not suggesting there are degrees of humaneness, rather that is how these issues are foisted on consumers)
For the life of an individual animal, it might be bigger cages, or equivalent depending on the animal involved. For all animals it is a set back in terms of the fight for rights.
Sales of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food chicken is up £55 million from £16.4 million to £71.6 million since March last year, compared to a drop of more than £26 million for standard chicken, figures from Kantar Worldpanel show.
The amount of Freedom Food chicken sold in supermarkets increased by more than 15 million kilos, compared to a decrease of 11 million for standard chicken, according to the research.
The result of this “freedom” foods”*, is an increase in the sale of dead chicken body parts, by four million kilos.
This effect of increasing sales due to consumers feeling less guilt is dealt with by Matt Ball, of Vegan Outreach, when he asks the question: Does working for or supporting welfare measures harm the longer-term goal of bringing about liberation?
In this essay, Ball quotes the Brazilian Landless Farmers (Subverting the current system to achieve more democracy): “Expand the floor of the cage before you try to break out.”
Matt Ball takes the position, how would you feel if it was you? In a cage being tortured for day after day. Would you want people agitating for change , no matter how small, and then keep fighting with every incremental change, Or would you prefer to have a hard-line uncompromising absolutist say, if the prisoner cannot be free all the way, then let them suffer until we win their freedom.
Fighting for incremental reforms may make one a “welfarist” (oh the horror!) but what is a label? if that person is still fighting for liberation, something the critics often fail to.
However, the fight must go on, even if reforms are gained, it is not as if liberationists give up the fight, they just know there are other battles, life and death issues that are out there, and will stay out there, until all animals are free, until all cages are empty.
*Freedom Foods, a label from the RSPCA on animal products. Welfarism in action. Regulating the cruelty, not preventing it.