I spent part of Sunday (and, yes, it’s taking me this long to blog about it) at the Taking Action for Animals conference in DC. I didn’t attend any sessions, as I was just there to help Josh out at the Herbivore table (did I meet any of you there?). Nevertheless, it was hard not to hear about the hubbub surrounding the presentation by humane farmers like Neiman Ranch who were brought in by the Animal Welfare Institute. Reportedly, these farmers showed slideshows that featured photos of cute animals that were all raised oh-so-well. Noticeably absent were photos of these animals meeting their demise. Needless to say, it angered a lot of people in attendance.

What surprised (and disheartened) me most, though, was that nearly half of the crowd at that presentation was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the pictures and stories of the animals, completely falling for the whole “humane meat” thing.

Should we be demonizing farmers who raise their animals in a more humane way than their factory farm counterparts? I’m not into demonizing. But should we be inviting them to speak, unchecked, at an animal rights conference? Should we give them a free pass by clapping and openly praising them? They make their money directly from the slaughter of animals, so I’d say, “Probably not.”

At the very least, we should be inviting these folks to be part of a panel discussion where they can be challenged. A short period of open questions after a presentation isn’t nearly enough.

The AWI argues that TAFA isn’t an animal rights conference and that we shouldn’t “close our minds” when it comes to hearing such presentations. The thing is, these farmers presumably were paid for their appearance. Since they were unchallenged aside from a few audience questions, it amounts to animal advocates paying someone who financially benefits from the slaughter of animals to come and do a marketing spiel.

That’s not too cool with me.

I’d love to hear some more about others who may have attended TAFA, particularly that presentation. After doing a quick blog search and checking in at a few vegan forums, I saw almost no post-discussion of the conference, which surprised me a bit. This is something we need to talk about.

I’ll close with a picture:

Vegans Eating Meat
SCANDAL: Vegans standing in front of a seafood/chicken restaurant in DC.

Pictured: Gary (from Animal Writings), Deb (from Invisible Voices), and Josh (from Herbivore).

There’s another photo with me in it, but this one’s better.

39 Responses to “TAFA”

  1. girl least likely to

    great picture!!

    i’m wondering if the reason you’re not seeing a lot of TAFA talk in the vegan blogosphere is because a lot of “us” didn’t go…? maybe word is getting around that TAFA leans heavily toward the welfare side of things?

    in any event, i agree with your comments here. it seems positively absurd to have (animal) farmers come speak at an animal rights conference! i’m pretty shocked, i have to say.

  2. Mary Martin, Ph.D.

    I did see a post here: http://www.animalblawg.com/wordpress/ that you might find interesting.

    It’s a travesty if/that the Niman people were paid to be there, and to add insult to unjury were allowed to go unchallenged.

    However, if it’s a welfare conference, they were in the right place–among friends.

  3. Sue

    I am a 20 year vegan and animal advocate, but discussion surrounding the TAFA conference and AWI have highlighted the ignorance the movement faces. First of all TAFA wasn’t and never was an animal rights conference. Duh, I figured that out by the sponsors especially HSUS. They are the lowest on the pole of even welfare groups. They support a program called cage-free which is as bad as battery cage confinement. They endorse hog crates and the list goes on.

    HSUS, WSPA, CWIF and many other groups support farming programs. In fact, HSUS and WSPA endorse Certified Humane which is an industry based program that allows confinement, mutilations and a host of other cruel practices. Why is nobody outraged about that? From what I have read AWI has always been truthful about its positions and was founded back in 1951. While I may disagree with their positions they are truthful and work to make change.

    People are going to eat meat. I don’t like it, but I am not an idiot. I was never able to get my parents to eat meat while they were alive, but they did go to local farmers markets and other places to make a bit of difference. I have realized that it is convenient to sit back and demand perfection, but the animals will suffer. Get a grip. I am here for the animals not easing my conscious by ranting on an email blog. Bye! Bye!

  4. Mike

    I had a good think about this one and I’m just not sure what to say. But I do have two things to point out:

    1. Saying that a conference sponsored by Farm Sanctuary “isn’t about animal rights” sounds…spurious to me. Is Farm Sanctuary in the practice of sponsoring things _other_ than animal rights? They are an animal rights charity, not a corporation that sponsors whatever it thinks will generate good PR.

    2. What kind of food was served at the conference? If it wasn’t vegan, well, I think that would be very telling about the mindset of the organizers. I really don’t think meat-eaters or lacto-ovo vegetarians *who have heard and understood the animal rights arguments for veganism*, yet decided not to change their food choices, are very respectable. Having all of the information about how dairy cows and layer hens are treated, yet still choosing to stop at even lacto-ovo vegetarianism is, to me, a way of declaring exactly how much more important you think you are than a chicken or a cow.

  5. ryan

    Mary — As I said, I’m not sure whether or not they were paid. It’s purely speculation on my part, however, I’m not sure it matters all that much one way or the other.

    Sue — TAFA is an “animal protection” conference (their words), which to me is close enough to “animal rights” that they shouldn’t be giving groups like Neiman Ranch what amounts to free marketing.

    Mike — The food served for lunches was vegan. And actually pretty tasty. Thankfully, it seems that all the HSUS/PETA functions that I hear about these days serve vegan food. That wasn’t always the case, but seems to be the norm now.

  6. Gary

    Hey Ryan,

    We already had some good discussions about the conference (and it was great hanging out with you), and I’m too lazy to summarize here, although you hit a lot of the main points. A few other post-TAFA thoughts:

    – The absurdly inappropriate talks by the meat producers may have had a byproduct of uniting vegan activists who don’t always see eye-to-eye. We were all pretty livid and in agreement that the cutesy, sanitized, propaganda-ish slideshows were not only shockingly out of place but downright subversive. To paraphrase one fellow activist: “I’m in favor of welfare reform but this is an outrage.”

    – The oohing and aahing was chilling, amost surreal. As if what we were watching were rescue stories, not the bloody business of killing animals for profit. It’s amazing how predisposed people are to believe fantasies that justify their cruel guilty pleasures.

    – I talked to a few people at HSUS. My impression: At least some felt the same as you and me in many respects. Ultimately, someone at HSUS ok’d AWI’s lineup, so they have to take responsibility, even though it seems to have been AWI’s idea to have “humane meat farmers” basically present advertisements for their business.

    – I don’t want to ignore the vexing problem of how to ameliorate the suffering of the billions of animals who will be raised and killed for food between now and the time when animal agriculture is abolished, but like you I think this topic should be explored in a more scholarly and holistic fashion at conferences, perhaps via a panel discussion as you suggested, with ample opportunity for counterpoint, and lots of time for questions. Then the audience could actually take home useful information.

    – The food was excellent and served as culinary activism.

    – Maybe “chicken” in the sign in the “direct inaction” photo refers to vegan chicken? (Attempt at a slightly inside joke.)


  7. Tommie

    I’m all about reducing suffering. While I agree that it would be amazing if the world were to go vegan overnight that is not realistic and frankly it’s counterproductive to think that way. It’s just not possible and in the meantime millions of animals are being killed for consumption. Isn’t it our responsibility to help these animals NOW? It’s all about baby steps people. Some of the first steps are difficult to take but after a while you take off running. I don’t think AWI should be condemned for supporting small family farms. I have many meat eating friends and they get really excited about eating at Chipotle – which sells beef provided by Neiman – because it is humane and hormone free. I think this is a great step in the right direction and people are getting more educated about the issue everyday. Just my two cents….Peace

  8. Tubby

    Nobody is really arguing against the betterment of current-day conditions. But to put them on a pedestal (or ooh-ing and aah-ing?!) because they provide more livable conditions (while still causing separation and agony at the end) before they’re killed off is ridiculous. Give me a f.ing break.

  9. ryan

    Tommie —

    I have many meat eating friends and they get really excited about eating at Chipotle – which sells beef provided by Neiman – because it is humane and hormone free.

    There are two very problematic things that come from this sentence.

    1. It bothers me when people get “excited” about eating meat. It’s hard to get someone from “excited” to “disgusted.”

    2. Can we please stop calling any meat “humane” (or “compassionate”)? It’s a misnomer for life that still ends in an early, violent death for the animals involved. It’s not humane to reduce the suffering that we, as humans, are unnecessarily causing them in the first place.

  10. Tommie

    I’m sorry, I don’t recall any pedestals.

  11. Tubby

    Sorry, not referring to you, was referring to the welfare stance and the reaction of the participants in general .

  12. cheri

    I agree that most people will not stop eating meat. I cannot even get my parents to listen when I try to tell them about factory farms. They grew up on small farms and think that is still the conditions the animals live in until they are killed. I would never go back to eating meat even if all animals were raised on these so called humane farms. But most americans will continue to eat meat no matter how the animals are treated which means factory farms will continue to grow. The reality is factory farming is teh horrific means of raising an animal. I can’t imagine what kind of people create the devices they use or who can keep the animals in those conditions but that is what’s happening. So to eliminate factory farms and at least raise animals in an environment where they can eat what they should (like grass for cattle) and not go through things like debeaking there needs to be a new system of farming and I think that is what the panel was about.

  13. Joel

    Check out http://www.animalblawg.com. We’ve been doing commentary on this conference all week, including two on the AWI panel today.

  14. Sue

    Even though I have been involved in animal rights for almost 30 years I never get involved with those who act all high and mighty when it comes to their argument. They present things oh so logical, but in doing so miss the point completely. I did go to the animalblawg.com site as Joel suggested and it is nothing but close-minded rambling. It is so easy to sit in your tower of self righteousness surrounded by more self righteous people, but what does that accomplish? Maybe you can all sleep at night having eased your conscious by attacking those trying to actually make a difference. I want to make change. As within any movement there are those out of touch with reality despite their intentions. We call them zealots or extremist. This movement has them and they tend to post on blogs, but rarely do anything. I attended a rally the other day in Washington against the Korean slaughter of dogs and cats put on by a welfare group everyone is attacking. Guess what, only three people came. Where were all of the “activists” who post on the internet about how great they are? Probably at home sitting behind their computers in their underwear drinking a diet Coke.

    Since you all seem to live in a world free of crime, hatred, slavery, murder, abuse towards women and minorities and animals why don’t you let us know where it is so we can join you? I would have loved to have raised my son in that special place because I live in this world. I have to try and change things in my world.

    Well, I will fade away because I have things to do. Reading these comments against groups working to make a change made me realize I need to turn my computer off and get outside.

  15. Gary


    I appreciate very much that you are active in your efforts to help animals. As someone who has organized many rallies, it is often very difficult to get people to come out and it is dispiriting when there is consistently low turnout.

    Just to let you know, I also frequently attend demos and protests, and have worked with HSUS, PETA, and many other groups in those pursuits. I’ve also printed up my own flyers. I’ve stood in the pouring rain, freezing cold, and blazing sun. Sometimes I’ve been the only person out there.

    I’m not trying to “out-activist” you. I just want you to know that my opinions were not formed in a vacuum, or in an ivory tower. Furthermore, many of the activists at TAFA whom I know and who also regularly attend events, help out at sanctuaries, write letters, and are out on the front lines were outraged by having meat producers show blatantly misleading, pro-meat presentations. As I mentioned in my previous comments, even some at HSUS were upset.

    I talked with someone from AWI as well and voiced my concerns, while acknowledging the rationale for trying to convert die-hard meat-eaters from the worst factory farms to less cruel alternatives as an intermediate step, in hope of relieving the suffering of animals whom we know will be raised and slaughtered for food for many years. (I also presented what I believe to be shortcomings with relying too much on that strategy. The discussion was cordial.)

    To sum up, I and many other animal activists recognize that HSUS and AWI do many good things. I have friends at HSUS and – sidebar – it also looks like they may be embarking on some new vegan-oriented initiatives. But there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, and I think this was one time when it was definitely warranted.

    OK? No hard feelings.

  16. ryan

    The impression that I’m getting here is that national groups are above criticism and obviously we should all follow what they say because they know what they’re doing. The idea that groups like HSUS, PETA, AWI, or whoever–no matter what side of the aisle you sit on–are above questioning is absurd and detrimental to the movement. I’m not saying the people in the aforementioned groups are bad people or that the people that support them are wasting their time. Absolutely not. I have friends that I respect greatly that work with or for these groups that I know care deeply about animals. This just means that we all, as activists, need to constantly reevaluate our tactics, considering what works and what doesn’t.

    The gist of what I’ve read here has amounted to “Stop criticizing us! We’re doing things are you’re not! We care about animals, how can you say we don’t!”

    What I’m contending here is that inviting “humane” farmers, farmers that still benefit directly in a financial fashion from the slaughter of animals, shouldn’t be invited to a conference about “animal protection” to give what sounds to me like a marketing pitch. If they’re there, it should be on a panel where some actual discussion can be fostered rather than just patting the farmers on the back for their pictures of cute animals and stories of “humanely” raising a cow before slaughtering and selling her.

  17. gladcow

    for what it’s worth, I heard that Neiman was added to the conference at the last minute without input from all the sponsers. I hope that is true :)

  18. Sue

    I don’t get upset about dialog, but I get upset by narrow minded dialog. I know several people at AWI and have been told they are all vegan or vegetarian. That can’t be said of HSUS where many meat eaters work. So many people have spent far too much time attacking AWI who seems to have a long record at making a difference. I admire that. They don’t seem to be hypocritical with their message like many other groups like PETA, Farm Sanctuary and HSUS. These groups promote one thing, but do somethign very different behind the scenes. I just read a NYT article about the founder of Farm Sanctuary and it would appear he does non-vegan things as part of his mission.

  19. Philip

    Huh? Duh? Uhhhh? Gahhh? Wha? Why…are animal rights people even discussing the TREATMENT of animals? This is insane! How did this all come about? Money? Donations? Trying not to offend the pro animal flesh eaters so they might support your upcoming Gala event? Real Animal rights people need to walk away from all this NOW and should only be involved with ending the USE of animals. This is not about being self rightous its about having integrity and commitment to the cause of the rights of animals NOT to be used and or killed for human pleasure. Animal rights people will have a much greater impact.. (yes as the above post says)…Sitting in front of their computer in their underwear.. than going to these lame brained conferences. Telling your meat eating cousin who says they love animals to GO VEGAN is more productive than going to TAFA or the important TACFA conference. (Taking Acting Classes For Animals)
    Just like some animals we humans live very short lives…why waste your time! And.. why further the enemies cause?
    Discussing treatment and coming up with nicer ways to confine, exploit and torture animals kinder is not only a horrible waste of time it’s actually really really damaging and… well…MORONIC.
    Would you consider helping Michael Vick make the lives of dogs a bit better or nicer before they were forced to fight to the death? How about working tirelessly to encourage the Korean dog market butchers to only allow 2 dogs per wire cage instead of the four or five now allowed? That way when the screaming dogs are clubbed to death you at least felt better that they lived a tiny bit more comfortable in their last moments and the Korean butchers got to advertise “Humane” on their dog meat. Everyone goes home happy….even the meat. NICE…GOOD WORK KIDS!

  20. zara whites

    totally true that “humaine” meat doesn’t exist…even if the animal has lived a more “humaine” life, it’s still killed in a barbarian way….

  21. Gary

    Sue: There is plenty of criticism of PETA, HSUS, and other groups. However, the incident that just took place seems to be the doing of AWI more than any other group, hence they are the current focus. HSUS does have meat-eaters, though I believe all the folks working on farm animal campaigns are vegan. I could be wrong; that certainly seems to be the trend there, though. They have been around for over 50 years, so there still is some old-school legacy.

    Philip: I find that going to conferences – in general – is useful for me as well as enjoyable because I am stimulated by meeting up with advocates of many persuasions – some whom I know, some whom I don’t know. I get lots of ideas that help me be a better activvist in the future. I do this in addition to, not instead of telling my meat-eating cousin to go vegan. The strategic connundrum occurs when I tell my cousin all the reasons to go vegan, and he listens and understands what I’m saying, and I enable him to sample delicious vegan food, but he still eats meat. What to do about those animals?

    No group is advocating better treatment of dogs used in dogfighting because the public is already largely opposed to the practice. However, they are virtually addicted to eating meat and dairy; unlike dogfighting it is deeply ingrained into nearly the entirety of mainstream culture. Right or wrong, I can understand the rationale for different tactics.

  22. cheri

    Waa? Sorry but I think I missed something here. Why are we taking stabs at groups that spend time and energy promoting the welfare of animals? Groups like PETA and the HSUS shouldn to be attacked. They are working hard to changes laws surrounding the care (or severe lack there of as the case usually is) of farm animals, animals in research, and companion animals. I think we should be united in our attack on the dairy industry, big agriculture that promotes factory farms, and the goverment for not protected animals as they should be. I feel sick reading about any inhumane treatment of any animal. And any group that is promoting and advocating for better treatment and is on the level (which sorry but I think PETA and HSUS are!) then I’m all for that. I wish I could do more, I think most animal activist do. They are not just sitting at home on their computers. They are volunteering at shelters and writing and calling in their free time when they aren’t working, and of course we have to allocate quality time to spend with our own pets, in addition to working a full time job we generally despise. I think if everyone did that and was vegan things would be great but the reality is they aren’t, and for most of us we do all we can. And so any group that is spending the effort to promote awareness about animal issues and make a different gets my vote. Again, I just have to say I cannot believe animal rights activists are debating if the HSUS or whoever is better than another group or whatever. I would prefer a discussion on how to get people that refuse to listen to the issues regarding factory farms to LISTEN and CHANGE. how do i do that? protests, handing out leftlets, emails/phone calls feels like it isn’t working. Does anyone else get so depressed and angry over this they just can’t talk to anyone sometimes!?

  23. Sue

    Thanks Gary-

    I agree with many of your points, but doing this over email highlights why I dislike the medium so much. If I were to diagram your argument it would be impossible. You start with something, move to another point and completely ignore something else. Good arguments need to be truthful, linear and not skip around to where you want to end.

    Many people agree that steps are needed to educate people because people will always eat meat – Farm Sanctuary, AWI, HSUS and even Peta. However, everyone then attacks AWI for doing it and commends others for doing the same thing behinds the scenes so long as they release a vegan book. Wow, that changes everything. Even worse that many of the group working behind the scenes are doing things that actually set progress back. Peta having a love fest with Burger King over a hollow gesture (but hey, they are selling a veggie burger that isn’t vegan), HSUS doing the same with Smithfield and a host of others (who really did nothing) or the backwards moving cage-free program. To me you have three steps factory farming, the most “humane” farm possible or veganism. Don’t just rename a factory farming practice and call it progress. The worst thing for me is hypocrisy. I understand the realism of taking steps towards change and not everyone here will agree. Nothing stops or ends overnight (equal rights, slavery, hatred all still exist in the US and around the world). However, I don’t like those out to raise money saying one thing while doing something else.

    I understand that a few people didn’t like AWI bringing farmers to speak. However, farmers did come and speak and take questions (until some disrespectful person started swearing). I bet these farmers don’t get invited to speak at a cattlemen’s meeting for farm bureau.

    If not for the groups in the middle we would have nobody working to improve the lives of animals NOW. It would be basically all or nothing. We would have all factory farming, no lab animal protections or anything else. Nobody would be talking about these poor animals while vegans sit back and talk to vegans about a time when no animals are exploited. Are these steps enough? No way. We should move towards a time when NO animal is exploited, but that is a long way off, if ever obtainable.

  24. Philip

    I agree with you that groups like Farm Sanctuary, HSUS and PETA have love fests with the animal killers and set progress back. I also really agree with you that hypocrisy is probably one of the worst crimes that animal rights groups or animal rights individuals can commit. However, I do believe that you are misguided in emphasizing the “working to improve animal’s lives NOW” concept because that way of thinking is destroying the animal rights movement NOW and putting progress for the animals actually back more than ever before. I’m telling you that I’ve been around for years in this movement and all the progress I’ve seen is now coming to an end with this whole Happy Meat industry. By working with the animals killed for food industry the animal welfare groups are helping these industries raise their prices and at the same time create even more meat eaters.
    So, what’s really taking place in all of this compassionate torture business is that welfare groups are now assisting the meat industry create more customers (turning vegetarians back into flesh eaters) and helping meat eaters feel better about what they are consuming. That’s it! That’s REALLY all That’s Happening HERE. For everyone person who turns vegan from the Happy Meat campaigns you will have hundreds and hundreds of people who will never try the non flesh non dairy eating options because they are feelin good that their meat is HAPPY. More people are eating veal now than were before the crate bans. Don’t believe me? Go check out what now is the biggest seller at Wolfgang Pucks fancy restaurants. “HAPPY VEAL” It’s actually VERY sad to me.

  25. Philip

    SUE …..Read the following essay “Project for the New American Carnivore”
    at http://www.tribeofheart.org/tohhtml/pnac.htm

  26. Tubby

    Cannot stand the likes of Wolfgang Puck. Cannot stand the TV nutritionist Joy Bauer who will defend dairy come hell or high water. Cannot. :-)

  27. Gary


    I share your concern about the downsides of debating complex issues over email. My comments were intended as brief counterpoints or affirmations in response to some of your points, not as a comprehensive analysis. Space and time doesn’t permit that here. Contact me offline if you want and we can discuss, in a friendly way, over the phone or Skype. This offer goes out to anyone, in fact.

    To reiterate what I said before, AWI is only being singled out in this instance because they were the culprit for what many people – not a few – consider to be an outrage. It was not my intention to bash everything AWI is doing; I think they have some excellent initiatives.


    – I agree there are risks to welfare strategies (though not necessarily ones we cannot overcome) and that we may exaggerate the benefits of a given welfare reform.

    – I am nonetheless compelled, from a sense of ethics and compassion, and informed by what I can glean about industry and human behavior, to consider the welfare of animals “NOW” as part of my overall mission to help animals. As best I can, I am acting on their behalf as I would want others to act on my behalf were I in their position. Let us acknowledge that thoughtul, educated, committed activists may disagree on tactics. And let us all – this includes me – keep an open mind as the movement progresses.

    – As examples on the PETA site: Judging from the horrific images of kosher slaughter plants and articles harshly condemning “free range” operations I can hardly summarize PETA’s relationship with industry to be a “love fest.” The meat industry does not love PETA; they reguarly condemn PETA. I do agree however that PETA sometimes goes overboard in their adoration of companies that make small incremental improvements in the welfare of the animals they kill. That IMHO can set back progress by overselling the accomplishents to the public, and failing to emphasize either the substantial cruelties remaining or the preferred solution of eating vegan alternatives, which effectively gets rid of all the cruelty. OTOH by engaging in dialog “with the enemy” they were able to convince Ralph Lauren and other major companies to drop fur.

    – From the numbers and my own experience, I would submit that the vast majority of people eating “happy meat” are already eating meat, not lapsed vegetarians. Furthermore, from numerous discussions and interviews, my conclusion thus far is that, in general, people buying the cheapest, most cruel factory farm meat are the most complacent, and that their decision to buy less cruel, more expensive animal products represents a disengagement from, not a solidification of that complacency. Overall, I have not found “happy meat” eaters to be more resistant to vegan outreach than meat-eaters in general.

    – I don’t claim that this is a super-thorough analysis, but from looking at USDA figures (which I can share with you), my tentative conclusion is that these are the recent trends in meat and dairy consumption in the U.S.:

    — The population is rising, therefore more animals are being killed.

    — The number of cows being killed has decreased, the number of pigs being killed has decreased by less, the number of hens used (and killed) for egg production has remained rather steady, and the number of chickens killed has gone up substantially. In short, chicken has displaced beef and, to a lesser degree, pork.

    — In terms of per-capita percentage of calories, meat consumption has gone down. The leading source of extra calories on our plates the last few decades has been plant-based oils (including trans fats).

    — Sales of meat substitutes have risen dramatically, percentage-wise. The vast majority of the sales can be attributed to non-vegetarians. (All the major groups – not so much AWI, however, from what I can tell – promote veggie meats as a transition step, which I heartily endorse, and I would like to see this stepped up even more.)

    Of course, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. For instance, one could lower the number of dairy cows killed, by forcing even more milk out of each cow, but increase the amount of suffering.

  28. Gary

    BTW, we’ve been talking about the AWI panel, but I thought the Whole Foods talk was nothing more than a 45-minute pro-forma advertisement for their meat, and thus was wholly inappropriate, if not insulting. I voiced these concerns to HSUS as well.

    I thought it was telling when someone (whom I know favors welfare reform on a case-by-case basis) asked if one of Whole Foods’ “compassionate” goals was the eventual elimination of animal products from their stores, and the WF representative deflected if not dismissed her question.

  29. Sue

    Thanks, I have seen the Tribe of Heart stuff. If reading it for the first time it is creepy how they mirror the nuts of the meat industry in their conspiracy theories and “anti” message. It is people like this who give the movement the tin foil hat images.

    I don’t think helping animals now is hurting anything. As we change the image of animals to being more than a steak on a plate we change our perception of them to being sentiant beings. Again, change doesn’t happen over night. Even as a vegan animal rights person, I can’t stand it when someone comes in my face screaming and yelling. I see them as nuts even though I believe in their message.

    The animal protection movement needs to be true and not sell out for a great press release. Again, hypocrasy is our worst enemy, not AWI bringing farmers to a panel. Attacking other groups is simply feeding on ourselves. Vegan books and vegan websites tend to be there for existing vegans (you may bring some young people in, but I imagine they come from other sources like the welfare movement).

    Yes, there are those who put on a happy face to suck others in, but again that is a part of human nature we must deal with. We can’t overlook it.

    I don’t buy the happy meat thing either. I hated the “Porktopia” campaign by Chipolte.

  30. Philip


    If I may respond to your comments. And remember…we are both longing for and aspiring to… the same end result. The unessecary suffering of all animals…humans and non humans.

    You say…
    “I am nonetheless compelled, from a sense of ethics and compassion, and informed by what I can glean about industry and human behavior, to consider the welfare of animals “NOW” as part of my overall mission to help animals.”

    I respond …
    Making conditions in a slaughter house better NOW for the animals is like giving softer mattresses to prisoners in death camps. The Nazis started using examples of how well they were treating Jews in Aushwitz as propaganda to keep the German people from questioning the final solution. The Nazis constantly left out the death part in their propaganda films and pamphlets yet the German people knew they were gassing Jewish children, women and old men but they began to accept the camps because they were part of Hitlers/Germny’s over all plan. As long as the Jews were being treated well in the camps it seemed fair and kind of OK.
    Read the section here about Nazi propaganda and how it relates to propaganda by the meat industry http://www.powerfulbook.com/
    Gary, a nicer slaughter house does not exist whether it’s a Happy Slaughterhouse or a Factory Farm slaughter house they are both horrible, loathsome and appalling places. If your over all mission is to help animals now by considering their welfare it only serves to help you feel better…NOT the animals. NOT in reality. Animal welfare tactics also make the public feel better too about eating them and this only increases the suffering because more animals will be consumed. Yes, that is how it works. I guarantee you more people are buying veal now that the public thinks veal calves have larger crates or no crates.

    You say…”The number of cows being killed has decreased, the number of pigs being killed has decreased by less”

    I respond…Yes…but people are going backwards NOW. The decrease happened because people in the last 10 years did not have the concept of Happy Meat or Organic meat therefore they decided to skip the tortured animal foods for various reasons. Plus animal rights people were pushing going vegan and it was begining to have an impact. There are dozens and dozens of articles out in the media now proving that this trend of going back now to eating meat is happening and in 5 years happy meat eating will be the norm and veganism as an option will be skipped. I see this trend happening in the yoga world where being a vegetarian has always been a foundation of the practice. I see so many compassionate people switching to Humane raised animals rather than going veg or staying veg. When you are compelled by your sense of ethics and compassion to concentrate on better treatment of animals raised and killed for their flesh you skip right over the USE of animals issue and play right into the hands of the industry who wants the public to notice the PHONY protection of food animals. Animals should NOT be used for HUMAN pleasures….that includes eating them.
    To consider the welfare of the animals NOW does almost nothing for the animals. All it really does is comfort people as they decide to eat more animals whom now they feel are HAPPY. And…considering how humans TREAT animals raised for food really does maintain the evil and morally wrong idea that animals are merely here for human use.

  31. Gary


    Let me first state unequivocally that I know we are both aiming for the same thing and that I know you are sincere and committed in your efforts. So – solidarity there, my friend.

    I draw a distinction between meat industry propaganda – which precedes the recent welfare campaigns in dispute, is applied to all meat including that which comes from the worst factory farms, and which IMHO will occur no matter what strategy we choose – and actual reforms, such as letting hens walk on solid ground and flap their wings, or giving dairy cows a lifetime of pasture in which to graze instead of making them spend their entire lives in dirt and excrement – IMHO those are not equivalent to the trivial examples you cited.

    The modest decrease over the last few decades in percentage of calories from meat has many possible factors, including industry advertising, shifting demographics, relative cost of living, and health concerns.

    In my experience, repeatedly, people who buy nothing but the cheapest meat and who pay no attention to welfare concerns are the ones most doggedly attached to meat-eating, and those who have some concern about animal welfare are most open to trying things like veggie sausages and accepting a COK guide to vegetarian restaurants.

    While there is the occasional sensationalist quote in the media from the lapsed vegetarian now eating free-range eggs, there are tons of articles, often with accompanying surveys, about the growth in vegetarianism. Also keep in mind that there have always been ex-vegetarians and they have a seemingly unlimited number of excuses for their backsliding. We cannot conveniently pin the blame on welfare reform.

    We’ll have to agree that we have different experiences. The folks I know who are concerned about the environment and animal welfare are typically eating less cruel meat as well as exploring vegetarian options. Although there are exceptions, I see this over and over.

    In Europe, where there is a stronger animal welfare movement, they are ahead of us in terms of percentage of people becoming vegetarian as well as in number, strength, enforcement, and breadth of coverage of animal protection laws. Granted, there are some differences between Europe and the U.S. (just as there are differences between regions of the U.S.); nonetheless in Europe we have large-scale proof of concept that welfare campaigns need not slow down the path to veganism and may even speed it up. We may want to learn from them, albeit taking our differences into account.

    I disagree with your assertion that I (or people in general) who are concerned about treatment of animals “skip right over” the use of animals, and specifically in my case and in the case of others whom I know, you assertion is simply wrong. I care with all my heart about ending the use of animals, and the bulk of my advocacy is vegan-oriented, with a strong (I think, unmistakable) message that it is morally wrong to exploit them in any way. I know I speak for others.

    My concern about treatment and my rejection of animal exploitation in general stem from the same place: a moral conviction that it is wrong to violate their interests if we can avoid doing so. Also, from compassion for the victims. I see this pattern all the time: people who are concerned about, say, the treatment of Michael Vick’s dogs are just as opposed to – and heartbroken over – the dogs being killed. Concern for others’ suffering does not preclude concern for their lives.

    Would you like to continue this conversation offline, over the phone or Skype? That might be more productive and less time-consuming. Also, I find that with these possibly-contentious topics that extend past three or four online “rounds,” talking tends to have a friendlier, less abrasive feel, as well as allow for more nuance. (It can be a multi-way discussion if anyone’s interested.) Just a suggestion.

    Finally, to end where I began, I intend for these points of disagreement to be in a spirit of constructive dialog so that we may be better advocates. I thank you and am deeply appreciative to you and anyone for their activism on behalf of animals.

  32. Gary


    I would like to address one more of your points. You assert that until recently, consumers had no concept of “happy meat.” I would counter that yes, they did.

    Pictures of happy, robust hens in sunny fields on cartons of eggs that came from battery cages stretch back decades. So do images of smiling cows on milk cartons and delivery trucks, and all manner of deceptive advertising. Consumers by and large thought that farm animals had good lives and were treated well. They had no idea that hens were killed after one laying cycle, that veal was a byproduct of dairy, that animals were often alive and struggling as their throats were slit, and so on. Then as now, most consumers thought that cows naturally gave milk for no reason at all, and/or that they “had” to be milked, like we were doing them a favor. They bought their meat, dairy, and eggs without the slightest worry about animal welfare.

    “Feeling better?” They felt just fine. I would argue that most of today’s consumers of cage-free eggs, free-grazing pork, or what-have-you feel not one iota better than the totally complacent buyers of the most unhappy meat; however in some instances from what I can tell they feel more conflicted.

    Also – once people are concerned about animals’ interests, once they form perceptions of farmed animals as sentient beings as Sue pointed out, rather than some vague conglomerate – or as virtually non-existent – they are far more receptive to accepting that to fully abide by animals’ interests, it is necessary to do more – to ultimately go vegan. Their willingness to spend more to avoid some cruellties is an indicator that they have some desire to take steps to avoid violating animals’ interests – and that is something we as vegan advocates can work with.

  33. Tubby

    As much as I’d like to buy into (meaning, hope that it is for real) the humane scenario, I tend to think that it is hypothetical. Take for instance, “humane” dairy production. What about selective breeding to produce more milk? What about ongoing pregnancies? What happens to the “useless” male calves? Why not use leather or other by-products? There is simply no way to regulate cruelty. Who is going to oversee very single one of these humane farms? If these people truly cared about animals, they would stop using them, period. They don’t care. What they care about is PR. Why are they being praised?
    I don’t know what the answers are, but I don’t think it is as simple as “happy meat”. Given the economics of demand, it will stay hypothetical.

  34. Gary

    Tubby: I think that grazing in grass rather than living 24/7 in a barn, chained around the neck, is real, not hypotheticical to the cow. I agree wholeheartedly that there are abundant cruelties that remain, that every consumer – everyone – should know about them, and that purveyors of less cruel meat, even if their improvements in welfare are real, don’t deserve praise – they still inflict cruelties for profit and are merchants of death.

    Sue: Let me tell you about the swearing incident. I was right there when it happened. The woman who sweared started to ask a question, when someone behind her in line said, plainly enough for me and others to hear, “Why don’t you shut up and let someone ask a real question?” Now that was totally out of line and inexcusably rude, and that’s what provoked the swearing. The woman who sweared quickly apologized.

    BTW, the provacateur a few minutes earlier had tried to cut in line, in front of me.

  35. Tubby

    Gary, unfortunately, I am hard-pressed to buy the “happy cows grazing in grass enjoying sunshine” story. If it’s truly happening, great, but I think it probably happens to be nothing more than a picture on a carton with a far harsher reality. It’s not like anyone is policing these farms. In any case, we share the same concerns. I appreciate your perspectives and input.

    Go vegan, stay vegan.

  36. bazu

    This post led my husband and me to wonder how it is that the animals from Niman ranch are slaughtered. As a vegan, I’m very intrigued (sarcastic) by the notion of a humane slaughter. After some web searching, the best I could come up with is that their animals are “relaxed” when slaughtered, because “it’s better for the meat.” The slaughterhouses are “modern” and the killing is “quick.” That pretty much sounds like any slaughterhouse in this country- don’t they all claim to be efficient and humane and modern and clean or whatever? Does anyone have solid information about where and how Niman ranch animals get killed?

  37. Christopher

    Are you having a poop?

  38.   AR 2008 Recap by The Veg Blog

    […] glad I took the time to attend some sessions this year.  Though I went to AR 2006 and TAFA 2007, in both cases I didn’t attend any talks (I just went to meet up with Josh and Isa for AR […]

  39. Jose

    Here is a good artile by James LaVeck and Jenny Stein from Tribe of Heart (authors of Peaceble Kingdom documentary) about this same issue:

    It’s called ‘Project for a New American Carnivore’

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