A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 21, 2012

Food for Thought...

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I recently attended a conference on multiple perspectives of animals and the law. Gary Francione, a professor of law at Rutgers Law School was one of the presenting speakers. Some of his remarks have stuck with me this week, and so, I thought I would share them with you.

Professor Francione asserted that the animal rights movement focuses on reducing animal suffering while tolerating the killing of animals. This results in the widely held platform that it is permissible to use animals for food, clothing and research as long as they don't suffer in the process while ignoring both the question as to whether the use itself is moral and the consequential fact of the death of the animal.  He was concerned with this paradox.

To that end he referenced a national animal rights group that ironically euthanized most of the animals in its care. He then referenced another national humane organization that campaigns across the country to reduce the size of battery cages for hens by a few inches. While it is questionable that such a modification would even end the suffering of those confined animals Professor Francione then announced the one certain result is that this particular animal rights organization has essentially become an adviser to those who would abuse, exploit and ultimately kill animals. He used an example of a person, though opposed to water-boarding, counseled the use of a padded water-board to be used to torture the hapless victim instead! Of course this produces a bizarre result. The torture continues despite the use of pads or filtered water!! In both cases the actual killing of the animals is not seen as the main issue.

The cynical reality is that these humane groups, who "advise animal abusers" raise millions for these legislative and ballot initiatives while simultaneously easing the conscience of those who want to believe that suffering is eliminated and the use of the animal is therefore justified.

A worse thought is that the factory farmers are laughing all the way to the bank as they can charge more for their product (fewer animals in larger spaces) and tout the endorsement and approval of animal rights activists to generate corporate good will and secure more customers while still behaving in precisely the same way as before plus or minus 6 inches.

Everybody wins of course, except those who need the help.

I concur with Professor Francione that it is certainly time for those of us advocating for animal rights to engage in some self-reflection, long term strategic planning and to commit to talking about these things.



  1. The promotion of a vegan lifestyle is key to reducing overall suffering. I wouldn't oppose legislation that gives hens more space, just as I would not have opposed policies that gave slaves a better environment, while fighting for the end of slavery. This is a big battle we are in for, and the more people who even try vegan diets...even for a little while...will help the animal protection movement to grow. It is not possible to be an animal lover and to eat animals, and hopefully more people will realize this hypocricy (which is hard to do in our very carnist culture). I recommend books like Animal Camp, Farm Sanctuary, The Blind Horse or Ninety-Five to learn more about farmed animals. This is a great topic.

    1. I dont understand the concept of vegan or vegitarian lifestyle. I mean if you are doing it for yourself then it makes sense but it is completely absured when you say you are doing this for the animals. Some animal species are made for man to consume. I mean what are you going to with all the chicken in the world. They can overpopulate and lead to the imbalance in our ecology eating all or grains. I mean even a grade 6th kid know how it would have a ripple efect on our ecosystem.

      My philosophy is that we should stop being the controllers of this universe, it was there before us , will be here after us, it shall only end when the real Creator wants it to.