Meat of the Matter: The Great Debate

Who's right? ‘Hardcore" activists who want complete elimination of livestock? Or ‘reformers" who want to make production humane? Who cares? Let's just hope they just keep on fighting.

It's always nice to get some recognition.

After years decades, actually of refuting the activists" messaging and rebooting industry's positioning, I guess I feel good that somebody's paying attention, especially the so-called "serious" opposition to animal agriculture.

Here's what I'm talking about. This is an excerpt from the lead story on The, an animal lovers" website, an article titled, Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights Abolitionism: Is Compromise Possible?

"Peruse the trade literature of the meat industry and you'll find that of all the forces currently arrayed against the livestock industry none evokes as much vitriol as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Flipping through Pork magazine, Feedstuffs, or Meatingplace, it becomes clear that, as one Cassandra of carnivorism put it, HSUS as ‘a well-oiled, well-funded lobbying presence with a finely tuned message machine." "

Thanks for the mention, although it's PorkNetwork. When you're bashing somebody, please get it right.

The article goes on to praise HSUS as a group that, from animal activists" perspective, is "doing something right," noting that the group has worked to "eliminate cages that confine pregnant pigs so tightly they cannot turn around," a "torture device" that was banned due to HSUS's "ceaseless nagging on behalf of a barnyard proletariat numbering in the billions."

(Hey HSUS. You are aware that in the classic novel Animal Farm, the pigs take over and end up as the oppressors of the barnyard proletariat, right? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your Marxist analogy is ironically skewed).

Fighting over factory farming

Here's what's interesting, though: the so-called schism between hardcore animal rights factions and the alleged reformers at HSUS.

"The ‘abolitionist" wing of the animal rights movement views HSUS welfare reforms as craven capitulation to industrial agriculture," the article stated. "The rift dividing HSUS from this vocal wing of the animal rights movement might seem insignificant, but it's not. In fact, it requires that animal advocates confront a challenging question: Does HSUS, in its ceaseless quest to improve living conditions for animals within factory farms, justify and perpetuate the ongoing existence of those farms? Does it perpetuate the harms that it also reforms?"

Yes! Let's focus on that challenging question. Let's have a ceaseless debate over whether HSUS is actually perpetuating factory farming. I think that activists of all stripes and all persuasions should start yesterday to tackle that burning issue, with lots of argumentation, competing factoids and dueling philosophies.

For example, the article cited Gary Francione, the author of such polemics as "Animals as Persons" and "Rain Without Thunder." Francione, a lawyer, contends that the ethical position stance regarding animals is "the complete elimination of all animal ownership."

This is a position that leads Francione "to bash HSUS at every turn."

Yeah. That's what I'm talking about!

And if I might suggest that a wonderful the outcome of this debate would be a further widening of the schism between the hardcores and the reformers. That would be highly entertaining for everyone involved in animal agriculture.

So get it on, activists.

Because no one involved in livestock production meatpacking or processing has any illusions about the goals, strategies or tactics of HSUS. They are veggies in drag, charlatans pretending to be mainstream lobbyists interested only in making animal husbandry more humane, when in fact they are dedicated to the full vegetarian agenda that demonizes livestock production, condemns meat-eating and pretends that global utopia is only a vegan lifestyle away.

But hey that's debatable!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.