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Deconstructing the McCruelty Campaign

Brandon asked me to write about the McCruelty Campaign and here's what struck me:

  • I watched the video, which uses "Free Me," the Goldfinger song that originally promoted veganism. It makes sense in the promotion of veganism, but in this context, the words free me are meaningless as there's no real plea to free anyone. I found that odd.
  • I clicked on the chick on the bottom left so I could "Take Action," and my action was to write a letter to McDonald's asking them to use controlled atmostphere killing (CAK)–to kill the chickens in a different way. The subject line reads: "Reduce the Abuse."
  • I can "Learn More," such as that there is a "less-cruel method of slaughter" (CAK).
  • What is probably most surreal, is PeTA's own words regarding the original campaign against McDonald's in 2000. I don't know how many of my charitable dollars went to it, but here's the upshot:
"In 2000, following the launch of PETA's (original) McCruelty campaign,
McDonald's made some basic animal welfare improvements. Since that
time, the company has refused to eliminate the worst abuses that its
chickens suffer in the U.S., including abuses during slaughter."

So we have PeTA, by their own admission, basically saying the original campaign didn't work. And I don't think you can say that it worked but that McDonald's didn't hold up their end of the bargain. In my mind, an initiative or legislation only "works" when it does the thing it's designed to do–when the intended outcome is achieved. And of course, when there is enforcement.

Otherwise it's just words. So in 2000 we had X dollars that went to a bunch of words that didn't result in even a small impact in the welfare of chickens, let alone saving any lives. I ask you: Is this what animal rights is about?

I would have liked to have seen language about not eating chickens and going vegan. Why write letters to reduce abuse, which may or may not occur, when by doing that you're admitting that there will still be abuse? Does PeTA have members who will stop going to McDonald's until they transition to CAK, and then go back to McDonald's? (The answer could very well be Yes; I have no idea.)

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Fredrik Fälth #

    One could write something about the irony that the organization which once had a "Holocaust on your plate" campaign, now advocates for gas chambers, but I prefer to not waste my time on Newkirk's cult.

    February 18, 2009
  2. Dan #

    When evaluating any campaign, effort, or animal nonprofit mission, the questions to ask are:

    Does it challenge speciesism? [1]

    Does it cause or help people to go vegan?

    Does it challenge the idea that sentient nonhumans are resources for humans?

    Does it encourage people to focus on efforts to abolish the exploitation and property status of sentient nonhumans?

    If we cannot answer in the affirmative to at least one of the five questions above, consign it to the flames.

    The McCruelty campaign encourages *extreme* speciesism by implying that gassing chickens is appropriate. It does not help people go vegan. It encourages the idea that sentient nonhumans are resources for humans. It does not encourage people to focus on efforts to abolish the exploitation and property status of sentient nonhumans. Consign it to the flames.

    [1] To challenge speciesism, it must call all forms of exploitation wrong, not just the exploitation of dogs or horses. In fact, single-issue focus often implicitly encourages speciesism by singling out a species as ‘more important’ than others.

    February 18, 2009
  3. Dan #

    BTW, if there’s a single issue topic to campaign about, then all it takes is a slight addition of language to the problem and call for action. For example:

    [Single issue X] is just one of many examples of extreme speciesism [or exploitation of sentient nonhumans]. Please [call to action] to stop this abuse and stop your participation in all forms of extreme speciesism by going vegan.

    February 18, 2009
  4. Fredrik, you're absolutely right!

    Here's my two cents: Even "The Poultry Site" says this is bull:

    In addition, CAK isn't for animal welfare, it's for product efficiency. The "victory" fix is handed out to this poor misguided PETA supporters when industries adopt these standards for reasons of efficient production and PETA helps the industry to market it as a "step in the right direction".

    I wonder what you think about a PETA rehabilitation movement? I hear from abolitionists all the time how they were once PETA members until they "saw the light". I think there are a handful of people on the PETA forums right now who are thinking "boy, I don't know what I think about PETA dressing up as the KKK, or literally investing in the animal industry…" but their friends are all around them to encourage the "what about the good things they do?" mindset.

    I think we could go into the PETA forums, not to attack, but just to nurture these logical disagreements and let them know there are people like us who take animal rights very seriously and show them there's a better approach to all of this.

    February 18, 2009
  5. Thank you for this analysis, Mary. It is 100% right on target.

    By asking industry to modify inherently violent and unjust practices, we implicitly (if not explicitly) endorse the continued breeding, confinement, and killing of other sentient beings. When PETA "wins" this campaign, consumers will have no problem going to McDonald's and eating with a clear conscience, negating any potential reduction in suffering with a greater number of animal-derived products consumed. Not to mention the terrible prospect of positive PR from an "animal rights group" (which the media will label PETA) for the world's largest animal-oppressing corporation.

    As Tom Regan says [regarding welfarism] in the introduction to Sue Coe's "Dead Meat":
    "No, the way to end the injustice of slaughter is not through reform or regulation. Injustice reformed is and always will be justice delayed."

    We don't need these wasteful, counterproductive, and speciesist campaigns. We need to put our effort into abolitionist vegan education and animal rights advocacy. Anything less is traitorous to our principles and a betrayal of nonhuman animals.

    February 18, 2009
  6. 1) Mary asks, "Does PeTA have members who will stop going to McDonald's until they transition to CAK, and then go back to McDonald's?"
    I think they do. The majority of PETA members are not vegan or vegetarian and plenty of them visit McDonald's.

    2) I like Dan's analysis and agree for the most part.

    3) Unless you have pro-active alternative strategies, I prefer to ignore the things PETA does that I don't agree with. I think it's more a waste of my time than a benefit to animals or anyone else to criticize them much. They're not going to listen and they're not going to stop so it makes more sense to work around them or over them than to ty to get them to stop.

    February 18, 2009
  7. Of course the effort and money is tragically wasted.
    "Reduce the Abuse." Go Vegan

    February 18, 2009
  8. Elaine – On point #3, I tend to agree with you: it is a waste of time, time which could be better spent, to directly challenge PETA, for a number of reasons: their strategies are successful in raising money and creating publicity; they're stubborn, obstinate and fixed in their ways; etc., etc. etc. PETA doesn't care what I think, and that's one of many reasons why they'll never get a dime of my money.

    My concern isn't so much for PETA the organization, as for the many young activists over which they seem to exert so much influence. Through some of their more distasteful campaigns, PETA teaches the yung'uns that racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are permissible because, basically, "the ends justify the means"; they seem to discourage dissent and critical thinking, for example, by promoting myopic campaigns such as this one, while categorizing any disagreement as "anti-animal"; and they're very single-issue, not just in terms of AR issues, but in acknowledging how *all* forms of dominance and oppression are interconnected.

    So I think it's worthwhile to challenge PETA, the HSUS, etc., not because there's much hope of reforming these groups, but in order to foster a new generation of informed, educated activists. (Like my lil' sis, for example, who's a newbie veg*n herself, and sees nothing wrong in using gender-based slurs.)

    And jeez, do I feel ancient in saying that. I'm only 30! 🙂

    February 19, 2009
  9. Dan #

    My interest in criticizing PETA and new welfarism in general is to provide an abolitionist perspective on advocacy. I agree with Kelly that PETA, et al are immune to influence or change. Criticism is merely another form of vegan education.

    February 19, 2009
  10. Liz #

    Their is nothing wrong with this McCruelty Campaingne as far as I can see. Why? Because it gets people talking about it . It got all of you writing about it. They want to market to Meat eaters that respond to advertising and media to that of a 6th grader. . As well as to young kids and adults. Becuase eventualy they will dig deeper like you all did. Question Peta as they get older and then realize that it was because of these tactics and advertising that got them to become vegetarian in the first place and then eventualy vegan. It is designed to influece people but in a sudel way. They are slowly succeeding in making vegan mainstream. It's quite brilliant.

    March 5, 2009

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