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On “Knockout Animals”

Today's New York Times gives us Adam Shriver's Op-Ed "Not Grass-Fed, But at Least Pain-Free," which presents its dilemma at the end:

If we cannot avoid factory farms altogether, the least we can do is eliminate the unpleasantness of pain in the animals that must live and die on them. It would be far better than doing nothing at all.

Some might consider this a false dilemma, as built into it is the presumption that "we cannot avoid factory farms altogether" when we easily can. It's a choice. Anyone can make it if they want to.

But let's say I have chosen to avoid factory farming, and in fact the consumption of animals entirely (to the extent that it's practical), while most people will make no such choice. Is it true that the least I can do is support the engineering of animals who experience less unpleasantness than they would have had they not been engineered that way?

Before you answer, here are some details to inform your decision:

  • The first "knockout animals" were laboratory rats, whose anterior cingulate cortex have been damaged/blocked so that though they might still feel pain, they do not find it unpleasant. In other words, the perception of pain is affected. Now, any medication we take and surgical procedures we undergo also have a long line of breeding, enslavement, torture and killing of sentient nonhumans leading up to them, so objecting to "knockout animals" on those grounds is to stand on somewhat thin ice. My objection is: Why do such research when you don't need to? Why kill and maim and waste taxpayer dollars–or any dollars–on such things?
  • Here's the part that either I'm misunderstanding, or makes one wonder what all of the buzz is about:

Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to recognize and avoid, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured.

Like when they're about to be, say, slaughtered?

This is where I'm confused. This proposed measure would take away some of the perception of pain, but what about the terror? What about all of the elements of being confined and enslaved and killed and watching others meet their untimely demises? What about boredom and frustration? What about being torn from your family? What about being raped?

Here's what I see: Once again, as with attempts to convince the public that animal farming could ever be humane, humans are desperate to provide alternatives to consuming animals that don't include not consuming animals. This reinforces the notion that you have to have some kind of superhuman degree of willpower to decide not to kill anyone or have anyone killed for you (if it's not necessary).

I don't think that people who are going to eat animals no matter what care what degree of pain the animals are feeling because they're currently feeling more pain than any of us can imagine and those people are still eating them.

Not to mention the reality that there is so much more involved in being bred for slaughter than pain, and none of that is addressed. And of course, the reality that all of this involves using sentient nonhumans when that's unnecessary isn't even considered.

If a person cares about what "livestock" experience on their way to becoming "meat," there is one easy, inexpensive action that person can take to make certain s/he is not a party to the various kinds and levels of suffering and injustice the animals experience. That action is to opt out and go vegan.

40 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yes! This.

    February 19, 2010
  2. Jeffrey Coolwater #

    Right on, Mary

    February 19, 2010
  3. Thank you for a great critique Mary. I read the NYT article first and found myself asking the same questions you did. Especially where boredom is concerned. And also on the unjustified use of animals for testing in this case. I wonder what Shriver has to say in reply.

    February 19, 2010
  4. Adam Shriver #

    Hi, thanks for the feedback, and thanks to one of your readers who pointed me to this post. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. You mention that there are other forms of suffering than physical pain. Of course this is true, and I agree with you that these are likely even more significant forms of suffering for the animals than pain. However, the anterior cingulate has in fact been implicated in a wide range of negative experiences:depression, anxiety, and social exclusion for example. Thus, it is an open question whether knocking out the ACC would only influence the affective dimension of pain, or would in fact eliminate a wider range of suffering. But even if it can't, I don't see any in principle reason why these other negative experiences can't be selectively targeted as well.

    2. You write, "humans are desperate to provide alternatives to consuming animals that don't include not consuming animals." I personally am vegan and have been vegetarian since I was five years old, so I don't think this psychoanalysis applies very well to me personally. However, it does get at one of the central issues in the article: I start from the assumption that whether or not people will be willing to change their eating patterns is, at least in part, an empirical question. Your position seems to be that its a moral choice and everyone can make the right choice and therefore we should focus entirely on convincing people to make the right choice. Thinking that there's some fact of the matter as to how everyone will act and thinking that it's a personal choice for everyone are, of course, two different ways of looking at the same issues.

    I should start by saying that I completely agree that it's a personal decision and that we all should be encouraging others to stop eating meat and especially to stop supporting the factory farming industry. Nothing in my proposal bars us from doing that. However, as I think anyone who has been involved in a campaign with a goal of actually winning reform rather than just being right knows, there has to be some sort of realistic assessment of where people are at and how likely they will be to support your position. If you're trying to pass healthcare reform, you can't just say I'm only going to advocate for a universal single-payer system and will refuse to compromise to get lesser reforms that save people's lives because that's the right thing to do and anyone who opposes it is wrong. If you're trying to decide whether to run a congressional campaign, you can't just say, "well this is the candidate that all good people will vote for so obviously she will win." You have to take into account facts about the population. So, sadly from my perspective, the reality is that per capita meat consumption has actually increased in the U.S. over the past 30 years. China's meat consumption is increasing at a rapid rate. I hope we can eventually get rid of factory farming, but there is no realistic possibility that we will get rid of it in the near future. So, given that we're not going to get rid of it in the near future, is it really fair to cause billions of animals to suffer while we're waiting for a more ideal solution that may or may not ever actually happen? My answer is no, it's not fair; we should eliminate unnecessary suffering wherever possible. But even if we do genetically engineer animals who don't suffer, there' no reason to stop advocating for the elimination of factory farms altogether.

    3. Finally, I disagree with your psychological assessment in the claim, "I don't think that people who are going to eat animals no matter what care what degree of pain the animals are feeling because they're currently feeling more pain than any of us can imagine and those people are still eating them." I've wondered all my life how people can eat meat given the suffering it causes. Meat eaters in general don't really want to talk about it. In my opinion, this is due to the powerful force of tradition and a long history of people having positive experiences associated with eating. These things mentally block people from even considering the suffering that takes place on factory farms, because they don't want to think about anything that challenges what they regard as such a central part of their lives. My proposal, I hope, provides a way for people to get around that mental block. It allows them to consider the suffering caused without directly feeling like their eating habits are being challenged. So a big part of why I wrote this is to make it easier for most people to acknowledge that factory farms are inherently inhumane situations. I hope that it provides a new way for people to start really grappling the issue.

    February 20, 2010
  5. I'm holding to the same position I stated when we had our exchange on Facebook after you saw my own post ( and the comments there responding to your editorial, Adam. Your proposal has the effect of helping humans eat animals far more than it has the potential to truly help animals. And I'm disturbed that anyone who considers himself an advocate for animals thinks this is the best use of his (and our) resources –time, money, and so on. Quotations such as this from you in the media speak volumes: "I'm offering a solution where you could still eat meat but avoid animal suffering." The goal and end result of a plan such as yours is not to end the myriad forms of animal suffering and the injustices of animal agriculture, but to reinforce them and appease people's guilt.

    And I find myself not entirely understanding your reasoning in point 3. Your proposal "allows [people] to consider the suffering caused without directly feeling like their eating habits are being challenged" because they *aren't* being challenged. You just told people that the way things are is the way they're going to stay, and all they have to do is get behind this disturbing plan to genetically mess with the animals, so that people can continue doing what they're doing. If you truly believe in advocating that people stop eating animals, and you find yourself with a mainstream NYT platform, why not *say* that in your editorial, briefly at the very least, rather than only claim that we have to just accept "factory farming" and that this engineer-the-animals idea is the best solution? Your approach seems completely backward to me. It doesn't provide a way for people to start examing their eating of animals. It provides them hope for another way to justify it.

    And you're also throwing your support to experimentation on lab-confined animals with this obscene proposal. But hey, institutions such as Wash U and their researchers stand to gain a whole lot financially from this idea, so screw the caged animals who have to suffer and die so that we can further justify eating other animals?

    February 20, 2010
  6. @Adam, also:

    I feel like maybe I owe apologies for some of my tone here and in my own post. Sometimes I write well while angry. And sometimes I write, well, too angrily while angry. And I recognize that had I known you were a vegan yourself, I probably would have taken a different approach/tone, but that's another thing that troubles me: your NYT op-ed didn't come across at all as from a vegan animal advocate, as from someone who wants to encourage people to stop eating animals; it came across as from someone within the system who more or less accepts the system and merely wants to modify it so that it can continue. I actually find myself more horrified by the piece now that I know a vegan wrote it. With remarks such as others I've previously quoted here and elsewhere and this one — "The people who consumed meat from such genetically engineered livestock would also be safe" — you're really not encouraging people to stop eating animals, at all. You're just encouraging them to support this plan to *maintain* the system with some adjustments. And I find this so very disturbing. And I find your reasoning for it defeatist; I'm not a fan of self-fulfilling prophecies.

    February 20, 2010
  7. MJ #

    Mr. Shriver:

    1. To assume any single species has the right to force its collective will upon another species is a questionable premise. Whether you intend this or not, this is the perspective from which you are operating. If humans were involved, I imagine you wouldn't be making such a proposal. To haphazardly experiment on other individuals is plain unethical, especially when one realizes there are unavoidable damaging consequences. "Collateral damage" is not acceptable to me.

    2. Your assumption is insulting to the people. I find it rather bold you intend to speak for the people and decide for them. You gravely underestimate the potential of the people to adopt vegan living. Considering how the mainstream media and animal-using industries suppress and distort information (not to mention, relentlessly generate bucolic myths about farming), my own assumption is that most people do not even realize all the problems related to all animal agriculture. Presented with the entire truth, many people do choose a path of least harm for the earth. This is difficult when we live in a culture that is nearly entirely unsustainable in its daily actions–but it's not impossible to achieve. If anything needs improvement, it's not methods of exploitation but more effective education outreach that helps people connect to the animals with their hearts.

    No one has a right to a "personal decision" if it causes harm to another individual. Eating meat is not a personal decision like harmlessly choosing which scarf to wear with an outfit.

    By misdirecting energy into advocating new excuses for meat consumption to continue, business as usual, is to indefinitely postpone change. According to your strategy, the general public won't be "inconvenienced" and will never have to question why it's wrong to murder the animals in the first place. Advocating a boycott works. Boycotting "veal" was effective until many animal advocates joined the meat industry to confuse the public and peddle the humane meat myth of "happy rose veal," which killed the considerable progress of the anti-veal campaign.

    3. I cannot see how your proposal, which clearly indicates it is okay to continue murdering the animals, can possibly do anything but reinforce the myth of "compassionate animals standards" and help exploitation thrive. You wonder how people can keep eating meat when they know that the animals suffer? Because they still fail to discern the animals as *individuals*. Only a handful of animal advocates, writers, and filmmakers have addressed this. By evolving the focus of animal advocacy to this very vital point, each of us can help many people make the compassionate connection. This was how I was able to finally adopt a vegan life–with surprising ease. Please don't underestimate the people.

    February 20, 2010
  8. Mary #

    Thanks for stopping by and clarifying your position.

    You write: "Your position seems to be that its a moral choice and everyone can make the right choice and therefore we should focus entirely on convincing people to make the right choice."

    I do think it's a moral choice. And in 2010, with what we know about sentience as well as the other aspects of nonhuman animal life studied by people such as Jonathan Balcombe and Marc Bekoff, in addition to the growing awareness that the creation and domination of animals to perpetuate the "tradition" of eating them or otherwise using them is entirely unneccessary in the developed world, it's pretty easy to make the moral argument. (Of course, what people do in response I cannot control.) Other arguments, such as health, environment, and the further exploration of the social justice argument are also solid as well (assuming healthy and environmentally-friendly choices and few processed foods).

    Now, several years ago I was a vegan who promoted animal products if they were created "humanely." I have since been convinced that not only is that impossible, as killing someone who is not already suffering gravely cannot be considered "humane," but my argument was dishonest. I do not believe we have the right to create beings to use and profit from, therefore I cannot promote the use of any animal.

    The real issue for me is what I wrote early on–that of "support." We can all agree that less suffering is always better than more. But to actively support a product or a practice, when one can spend her time advocating for her own position which is effectively in opposition to that product fundamentally, is a different story.

    This sounds to me just like "humane" animal products–a way to make people feel better about using animals, a way to even further industrialize and engineer their exploitation, and a way to avoid the question of whether we have any right to use them. The most important issue, for me, isn't how much they are suffering, but *that* they are suffering–that we are using them when they have a right to their own lives free of us.

    February 20, 2010
  9. Shriver states:

    Like the animals given brain lesions, these mice are normally sensitive to heat and mechanical pain, *but they do not avoid situations where they experience such pain*.

    But Shriver then states:

    "… scientists could genetically engineer pigs and cows in the same way. Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to *recognize and avoid*, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured".

    1- If the altered mice don't avoid situations, why would the altered pigs and cows?
    2- What goes into creating/recognizing the sensory dimension of pain (and the subsequent aviodant behavior)- subjective experience of pain?
    3- how can animal ever "avoid", when *possible* 'situations' in a factory farm?

    This approach is animal welfare from the inside(the animal) out. Don't change conditions, just how the animal experiences it.

    Shriver states:

    "It would be far better than doing nothing at all".

    "nothing" is your assessment of alternative actions that vegans etc are working towards?

    We need to stop consuming animals for additional reasons -environmental, for instance. This solution, which supports the increased use of animals, contributes to increased suffering for all earth's inhabitants (by way of continued environmental degradation).

    February 20, 2010
  10. Adam Shriver #


    Points (1) and (3), I'm not saying we have the right to murder or force our collective will on other species. Rather, I'm saying that *given* that people will already be doing these things in the near future, we should take steps to improve the lives of the animals that are forced to be in these conditions. I don't think it's right for us to be factory farming, but nevertheless I'd say that we should take steps to improve factory farms (for example, increasing cage sizes) *given* that they will continue to exist in the near future.

    Point (2), I understand your point, and I think it's a good one. I agree that this sounds like a rather bleak assessment of humanity. In fact, however, I think that people raised with the right sort of values in the right kinds of conditions could easily become vegans. However, we ultimately are products of our environment, and it certainly seems to me that the vast majority of people are very resistant to any proposals that involve them eliminating meat from their diets. We should keep the faith that someday people will do the right thing, but in the short term I think we make a mistake by allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good (or, in this case, of the "less bad").

    I'm not familiar with the "happy rose veal" case, but I'm well aware of industry attempts to co-opt social movements. Could you give me a link where I can read more about it?

    February 20, 2010
  11. Adam Shriver #

    Mary, just so I fully understand your position, do you think it's wrong to "create beings to use and profit from" even if the animals don't suffer at all? I suspect that answer is yes and, if so, we're going to get into some pretty wonky philosophical issues (which is fine, but I just want to be sure I understand where you're coming from).

    February 20, 2010
  12. Mr. Shriver,

    It must be “utilitarian sentientist” premises that accounts for the inherent contradiction in performing painful biomedical experiments on one set of animals OUT OF A CONCERN for the suffering experienced by another set of animals. It would be blatantly speciesist if Mr. Shriver didn’t reason similarly in the case of human animals.

    This statement is logically problematic: “Thinking that there’s some fact of the matter as to how everyone will act…” It assumes the answer to the question, “How will people act?,” by reasoning from the contextual framework that would NECESSARILY have to change for Mr. Shriver’s proposal to be adopted, or given serious consideration.

    One might ask: Why would we care about the “pain-free” option given that the “fact of the matter” is that we DO NOT? (I might add that we do not because advocates such as Mr. Shriver continue to reinforce a moral paradigm that implicitly justifies the exploitation of nonhuman animals BY NOT explicating the morally problematic nature of this exploitation.) If Mr. Shriver assumes that people would choose otherwise and advocate painlessness then it seems equally reasonable that those same people would accept the logical conclusion that any suffering we cause animals for the purpose of eating them is by definition unnecessary (or outweighs the “benefit” in utilitarian logic) and should be ended.

    February 20, 2010
  13. Alex #

    Mr Shriver:

    I disagree with the route you are taking and believe that it would increase the demand for animal products (and I am doubtful that you could even remove all forms of pain and suffering from a sentient animal anyway — you don't take animal emotions into account).

    I just have one question. Starting from your conclusion that people will not stop eating meat, wouldn't the logical direction to move be towards vat meat? By developing that technology, there would be a much greater potential to 1. eliminate animal use entirely and 2. produce meat more efficiently (a problem which is not addressed in your proposal).

    February 20, 2010
  14. Adam,

    Thanks for participating in the dialogue on Mary's and Stephanie's blogs. It's great to have an opportunity to directly interact with the author of the piece we are all currently reading and discussing.

    You write: "I'm not familiar with the 'happy rose veal' case, but I'm well aware of industry attempts to co-opt social movements. Could you give me a link where I can read more about it?"

    Here's a link where you can read about both those subjects (Invasion of the Movement Snatchers):

    For some background, here's another link of interest (Veal to Love, Without the Guilt):

    I also highly recommend you read this article on the Politics of Optimism:


    Optimism is a political act.

    Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change…

    Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful–cynicism is obedience.

    Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary.

    Best wishes,
    Jenny Stein

    February 20, 2010
  15. To answer Mr. Shriver's question, "…do you think it's wrong to "create beings to use and profit from" even if the animals don't suffer at all?," I would answer "Yes" as a substantive, concrete matter, that is to say, reasoning from the actual; and "No" as a purely abstract matter. To realize the end of creating beings who are not sentient, sentient beings will necessarily be harmed (in the form of suffering, distress, etc.) in the process. Therefore, Mr. Shriver would have to justify the initial harm.

    February 20, 2010
  16. MJ #

    Mr. Shriver,

    My response to your reply to my post above…

    If you want to advocate for the animals, why not do just that? What is wrong with advocating the entire truth about all agriculture and advocating a boycott? Let's leave the business of “improving exploitation” to the meat industry. I'm certain they have no shortage of such experts.

    Who among us knows when the tipping point will come? It could very well be in the near future. To assume otherwise is to only lend a voice to hopelessness and resignation. Your current premise is that many people are unlikely or incapable of tremendous change in the near future. History illustrates that we are capable of the most profound and difficult changes against the most unimaginable odds, again and again. We learn to adapt and even to thrive.

    I'm not at all advocating for some sort of unattainable, mythical vegan “perfection.” Not supporting murder of the animals is not being a perfectionist. Isn't that the very least any ordinary human being can do?

    The links Jenny Stein recommended in her comment cover the “humane rose veal” problem comprehensively.

    And just scan the meat sale statistics to see the spike in profits in the U.S. and overseas since the “happy meat” propaganda began. I know from firsthand experience that the humane meat myth campaign is effective and causes damage. I used to buy “cage-free” eggs and “organic chicken.” Had I known all the plain facts, I would have been able to go vegan much earlier.

    Supposedly the UK has high “animal welfare standards” but look at the problems that persist: . This article also shows how avoiding the basic issue that it's unethical to eat animals leads to never addressing that injustice. The injustice is totally obliterated by “concerns” about “reform.” Yet true reform is ending all animal agriculture, not continuing it.

    I think these problems and new problems can easily be prevented by supporting a no-compromise boycott. The difficulty I perceive is not that animal agriculture is too pervasive to stop; it's that there are far too few animal advocates clearly speaking up for a boycott.

    February 20, 2010
  17. Mary #

    You are correct that my position is that it is wrong to create beings to use and profit from "even if the animals don't suffer at all." There are two issues here: 1) what is suffering, and does it include domination and exploitation and life-taking (I don't agree with the idea that there is no suffering at all); and 2) the injustice of creating beings to use and profit from.
    Thanks again for responding to my post and the commenters (also on Stephanie's post at Animal Rights & AntiOppression).

    We do indeed come from very different places even though share veganism. As others have said, there are plenty of people–both vegans and not–who advocate for some sort of use of animals. That will likely always be the case. But that doesn't mean I have to compromise and join them.

    February 20, 2010
  18. Nice post, Its very interesting blog post

    February 20, 2010
  19. babble #

    The entire proposal rests on not advocating veganism. We're starting from a completely incorrect underlying premise: that promoting veganism "never" works, and that factory farming will persist, forevermore, so we really ought regulate the consumption of animals, and make it "humane" rather than advocate that they ought not be consumed, at all.

    This is a failed approach; we've been advocating versions of this approach for *generations*, with what to show for it? Is factory farming declining? Is the suffering of animals on those commercial farms in any way affected by even this utterly preliminary research?

    February 21, 2010
  20. Speciesism is the same underlying irrational prejudice as racism, sexism, and heterosexism, each in a superficially different form. The irrational prejudice is favoring morally irrelevant characteristics over morally relevant characteristics in deciding whether or not to respect another sentient being’s important interests.

    While animals-as-food makes up over 97% in number of nonhuman animals exploited, it is still merely a symptom of the disease of speciesism.

    I find Adam Shriver’s article and general approach to be speciesist. Alas, I expect such an article and approach in such a deeply speciesist society, but I don’t expect such an article to come from someone who self-identifies as a vegan. (Albeit, I very likely have a more restricted definition than Adam of what a vegan is.)

    We ought to educate others about what speciesism is and why it is wrong; not nurture speciesism by assuming that animal exploitation is an “empirical given”. If we would speak out strongly against creating “knockout humans” who enjoyed various forms of exploitation and pain, we ought to speak out strongly when the same is done to nonhumans. Anything else is speciesist.

    February 21, 2010
  21. Working on the premise that we cannot/will not avoid using animals altogether… One could probably say the same about violence and war. These too are horrors that most likely, will never end. So, in order to make the situation less unpleasant, why not create a race of humans, incapable of feeling pain? When the body counts are recorded, we can all rest at ease knowing "it could have been much worse".

    And while we're at it… I hear it's back-breaking work to toil in fields all day – Imagine what we could do with human laborers who couldn't feel pain? Surrogates for wife beaters? Or automaton organ donors perhaps?

    The implications of creating beings, human or not, who might fulfill our "wants" without conscience is depraved. And it certainly doesn't lead the way to our evolution as a "civilized" species; Let alone an enlightened culture.

    Sorry, I think we owe it to ourselves to be better than this… I never knew of a pragmatic "cure" that didn't cause more harm in the end. "GO VEGAN"

    February 21, 2010
  22. In discussing this article with my boyfriend, I was directed to this video:

    Maybe not too far off if we keep down this path…

    February 21, 2010
  23. Porphyry #

    Since we are going to use livestock for frivolity… the least we can do is:

    • Practice responsible husbandry and kill them swiftly to spare them the indignities of tooth and claw and perils of disease and starvation.
    • Shoot and trap carnivorous predators that come near livestock.
    • Fence in livestock to keep them safe.
    • Build large, efficient slaughterhouses to facilitate swift killing.
    • Breed livestock to be uniform so they conform to efficient slaughterhouse standards.
    • Confine livestock indoors to protect them from predators and harsh weather environments.
    • Castrate livestock to make males docile and reduce infighting.
    • Breed and engineer livestock to grow large, therefore requiring less loss of lives.
    • Choose mates for livestock to insure the species fitness for their specific ecological niche.
    • Breed livestock by the billions as a testament to their species success.
    • Feed livestock well; very, very well. They would never eat so well in nature.
    • Feed antibiotics to livestock to keep them disease resistant and healthy.
    • Cull livestock buy the hundreds of thousands if they show any signs of contagious disease.
    • Fumigate and apply insecticide to keep away flies.
    • Brand and tag cattle to protect them from being stolen by less scrupulous ranchers.
    • Have rodeos and state fairs so that people can appreciate and learn good livestock handling practices.
    • Dehorn cattle so they can’t harm each other.
    • Quickly separate newborn calves from dairy cows so that that significant bonding doesn’t occur and physiological suffering is reduced.
    • Continually milk dairy cows so they don’t suffer from swollen udders.
    • Artificially inseminate cows so that massive bulls don’t crush them when mating.
    • Slaughter dairy cows when they are past their prime and relieve them from the taxing demands on their bodies.
    • Clip the teeth of pigs so they can’t nip each other.
    • Dock the tails of pigs so that they don’t get bitten off.
    • Confine sows in crates so that they don’t crush piglets.
    • Have grated floors so that pigs don’t stand in too much of their own waste.
    • Electrocute pigs before slaughter.
    • De-beak chickens so they don’t peck each other.
    • Implant red contact lenses on chickens’ eyes so they keep calm.
    • Slaughter laying hens when they are spent releasing them from their life of suffering.
    • Have cages be wire so that feces does not accumulate.
    • Grind up male chicks by millions since their lives have no purpose and they will only suffer.
    • Use controlled atmosphere killing for chickens.
    • Artificially inseminate turkeys since they can’t reproduce naturally.
    • Marvel at the evolutionary dance we share and the wise social bargain livestock made by selecting us as symbiotic partners.
    • Say a prayer to honor their spirit and sacrifice.


    Engineering “pain-free” animals is no different from many of the quality of life “improvements” we’ve allegedly made “for their benefit.”

    February 22, 2010
  24. Mike Grieco #

    Time to end the [bloody and inhumane] treatment of others! Please vist RPA's approach >

    "Basic constitutional & legal rights are necessary for meaningful protection. That is all the more true for nonhuman animals since humans and non-living corporations have rights generating huge destructive impacts on nonhumans" –

    Thanks for being here, Mary…

    February 23, 2010
  25. Stephanie, you wrote: "has the effect of helping humans eat animals far more than it has the potential to truly help animals. "

    Prove it.

    I hear this over and over and over again whenever an animal advocate speaks their truth, tells it how they see it, and does something, anything for animals. Someone, invariably, will criticize and say, "you're making it worse! What you've done is worse than doing nothing" essentially stifling debate, critical thought, and growth.

    There's absolutely NO PROOF whatsoever that welfarism or anything remotely resembling it is bad for animals long-term. None.

    Conceptually, there are problems with animal welfarism because it's still about treating animals as commodities and asserting dominance over them. But when we look at the big picture and realize where we are today, the reality is that it will take many roads to get to where we want to go eventually and some of those roads are going to involve some temporary welfarist philosophy.

    February 28, 2010
  26. babble #


    The proof is self-evident. What has animal welfare advocacy actually accomplished in the ~200 years the welfare movement has existed?

    Is factory farming in decline?

    Are conditions for vast majority of animals used in industry in any sense "better" today than they were 30, 40 or 50 years ago?

    Are fewer people eating animal flesh, or other animal products?

    I don't know if you're advocating a "welfare to rights" approach here (you may or may not be: you may not care one way or the other about animal *rights*), but the real burden of proof lies with the welfare movement, and from where I'm sitting, that movement has utterly, absolutely FAILED, *if* the effort is to do *anything other* than provide people with comforting excuses to go on consuming animals. We tell ourselves that it's morally acceptable to once in a while eat animals that have been killed *this( way, instead of *that* way; this has absolutely *nothing* to do with "advocating for animals." This is merely advocating for the *consumption* of animals in a very slightly different context.

    You do not advocate for human rights by claiming that gross, easily avoidable violations of human rights can somehow be "managed" or made "more humane." You advocate for human rights by taking a clear, unequivocal position that violations of human rights are simply wrong, period.

    The same holds for animals.

    March 2, 2010
  27. babble #

    Further, fuzzy declarations about speaking "your truth" are just muddying the waters; something is either true, or it isn't. Truth isn't something we can opt into (or out of) on an individual basis.

    Either welfare advocacy makes things better *for animals* or it doesn't.

    What are you claiming as evidence that things are *meaningfully* better *for animals* used in industry?

    You and I may have a difference of opinion over what constitutes "meaningfully better." That's okay. But that's not a difference of "your" truth vs. "my" truth; that means we assign different weight to the concept of *meaningfully better.* Something is either true, or it isn't. It's either true, or it's not, that welfare is accomplishing something *for animals* instead of just selling indulgences to humans. From where I'm sitting, the evidence for the former is scant; the evidence for the *latter* is overwhelming.

    I'm confident that if you step back from this and look at it objectively, you'll see what folks like Stephanie are saying: welfare advocacy is part of the problem, not a solution.

    March 2, 2010
  28. jeannie #

    Animal advocates on both sides of the fence (welfarists and abolitionists) have been around for quite some time (over a hundred years); this "3-years young" stuff that some abolitionists peddle is a fantasy to sugar egos trying to create a new movement based on a brand (rather than substance/action) and to effectively erase former failures with verbal smoke and mirrors. There were folks who opposed industry-sympathetic animal organizations going back to the late 1800's. The abolitionist/welfarist debate is not new. Regardless of which paradigm is currently "dominant" – both welfarists and abolitionists have both failed to liberate other animals thus far. For a history of animal rights activism, read For the Prevention of Cruelty.

    March 3, 2010
  29. Regardless of the fact that a handful of folks that we'd NOW identify as abolitionists have existed for a while now, I'm not actually making a "3 years young" claim, here. What I'm saying is this:

    Elaine is demanding proof for something where the onus of actual proof rests with the welfare movement.

    There have been far more humans advocating for animal welfare than there ever have been humans advocating for the abolition of all use of animals by humans. Surely you're not suggesting otherwise, are you?

    The simple fact is that demanding that we should never – ever – be critical of animal welfare because apparently all roads lead to Rome, here, is just factually incorrect. Regardless of how long either side has been active, here, it's ridiculously self-edvident that advocating for animal welfare is essentially permitting indulgences for large numbers of humans, *not* communicating a message that animals are not ours to use.

    Further, even the welfare message isn't really changing things in the real world.

    Again, is factory farming in decline? Hardly. Are huge numbers of humans buying the happy meat, "cage free" eggs and other "humane" products the welfare movement keeps promoting as morally acceptable to eat? A few people are, but again, *factory farming is not in decline*. Many, MANY people say they claim about animal welfare. Very, very *few* people actually put that claim into meaningful action. Telling people they can eat "humanely" raised or slaughtered animals is simply a guarantee that the status quo will persist for the foreseeable future. This *isn't* just my opinion; the actual, real, literal evidence of history bears this out, *if* people will look at it a little more objectively.

    Are conditions for animals used in industry meaningfully better today than they were x years ago? Will they be meaningfully better tomorrow? Here's where things get dicey; we all need to dance around the word "meaningful" in order to justify welfare advocacy and/or criticism of welfare advocacy.

    If you're personally convinced that welfare advocacy is doing very many great things for animals, then it doesn't particularly matter that a handful – and let's be honest, here, we're a *handful* of ARA's, at best – are critical of "welfare to rights" conceptually. Trying to class this as a pitched battle on a level playing field as if welfarism and abolitionism were equally represented, here, is just simply, flat out wrong.

    March 3, 2010
  30. Jeannie,

    I’m not sure what planet you’re living on, but here on Earth there has never been an abolitionist movement. Sure, there have been individuals who have held abolitionist principles for 100 years now (and arguably, for 3,000 years now), but that is much different than a movement. It is quite debatable whether the small but growing group of abolitionists who have become far more outspoken during the past 3 years is a “movement” yet. Despite the fact that I sometimes call this small group of vocal abolitionists a “movement”, I tend to view it as too small yet to be a movement. (I’ll admit that I should entirely stop calling it a movement.)

    OTOH, there has been a strong welfare movement for over 200 years now (since Jeremy Bentham), and a strong “new welfarist” movement (people who claim to eventually want abolition, but promote welfarism now; e.g. PETA) for over 30 years now (since Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation). Both types of welfarism have been an abject failure in protecting nonhuman animals. The failure would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

    So get your facts straight: The only “movements” there have even been in animal protection are variations of welfarist movements. A handful of outspoken abolitionists does NOT make a movement. Perhaps if there is EVER an abolitionist movement, then you can critique it, but for now, you should stop blatantly misrepresenting facts by implying that abolitionists have had anywhere near the numbers or complete domination that welfarists, traditional and new, have had.

    March 3, 2010
  31. jeannie #

    Babble and Dan UVE, in the few sentences I wrote you read a whole lot into it and put words into my mouth that I did not write (including the assertion that I support welfare reforms, which is wrong).

    I never mentioned ratios, nor was I implying that there have been an equal number of welfarists and abolitionists throughout the history of animal activism. I was simply pointing out (to those who may not know it due to Francione-style abolitionist propaganda blocking out such facts) that abolitionists (and abolitionist groups) have been around a long time, and the fact remains that they have failed just as much as the welfarists. The reason abolitionists failed is not because they have been low in numbers (the welfarists started out in low numbers as well). Hints of why they have failed in the past can be found in the writing of your own posts. Same as it ever was.

    I’ve danced this dance on this issue before and happily left the ballroom long ago. It’s not my focus, nor am I interested in a debate that is an endless merry-go-round of "show me the evidence." I will say, however, that there are a growing number of genuine abolitionist free-thinkers who do not support welfare reforms, but who also do not focus their time dwelling and harping on what welfarists are doing – and that is heartening. It’s a refreshing positive change that might just be what the doctor ordered. I like to point it out when I can, because sometimes I fear those advocates new to the notion of abolitionism will go away with the idea that Francione-style abolitionism (with its main focus on criticizing welfarists – who they define as everyone but them) is the only kind of abolitionist advocacy there is. I also like to point out that abolitionism didn't start with Francione, and neither did his approach of criticizing welfarism. What actually does seem to be totally new (at least as far as I know) is the movement within the animal rights community toward a holistic approach in understanding oppression and its shared roots. I'll leave it at that.

    (BTW, Dan UVE, so far as I know, a movement is not defined by the number of people involved, but by the organized effort to work toward a common goal.)

    March 3, 2010
  32. Jeannie,

    The reason abolitionists have not grown in numbers is because of the dominant cultural prejudice and gravity of opinion of welfarists (who are indeed everyone except abolitionists, by definition, even though welfarists vary widely in what they consider adequate “welfare”). Humans are herd animals to an extreme and are far more influenced by majority opinion than clear, objective reasoning, especially in areas where they are biased (because, for example, they like to consume animal products).

    Abolitionist advocacy is vegan education, including criticizing any kind of welfarism or single-issue campaigns. Criticizing welfarism and single-issue campaigns is an important part of vegan education. It really has nothing to do with Francione. You can criticize welfarism and single-issue campaigns and teach people why and how to go vegan, and thereby be an abolitionist and have nothing to do with Francione. So let’s leave Francione out of the discussion and debate the merits of activities. We’ll think more clearly if we’re not carrying around personal feelings about Francione (curiously, the most despised pacifist ever to walk the planet).

    A movement must be defined by more than merely “the organized effort to work toward a common goal” or any temporarily organized group (an ad hoc committee; a hockey team; a corporation, etc) would be a “movement”. I don’t claim to know the definition (and I’d say there is no precise definition), but the magnitude of the number of people involved (e.g. hundreds v. tens of millions) certainly has a role in both the definition and relative strength of a social movement.

    March 3, 2010
  33. P.S. – I find it peculiar that welfarists and people who dislike Francione (and yes, I’m admitting that there are abolitionists who dislike Francione on a personal level) paint all who agree with Francione as inherently incapable of independent thought. It’s not that many or most of these people simply agree with Francione’s clear and compelling arguments in his work. No, that would be too simple. We must apply our imaginations and dream up *bad things* about people who agree with Francione to explain why they agree with him, that evil purveyor of pacifism.

    March 3, 2010
  34. babble #


    I'm not saying you support either one; I'm saying you're making a factually incorrect claim (or an implied claim, if you prefer) that welfarism and abolitionism are equal players in the animal rights movement. This is not the case. This is WHY the real burden of proof lies with folks making claims that welfare is doing something useful in promoting animal *rights*. Welfare has had far longer, with far more people advocating it, with far more resources, than abolition has. This is why it's disingenuous to claim (or, at least, strongly imply) that welfare and abolition are competing equally in the larger movement.

    No, they're not.

    If one is going to claim that all roads lead to Rome, as Elaine did, which I specifically pointed out, then the burden of proof rests with folks making THAT claim, *if we're never to criticize the welfare-to-rights approach*, as folks here are apparently saying.

    March 3, 2010
  35. jeannie #

    I think my points were missed (again), and I really don’t feel like reiterating or belaboring them (much to my credit). Feel free to continue discussing all the subtle nuances of welfare vs. abolition without me.

    Upon closing, I will, however, once again emphasize that instead of totally basing one’s own failed advocacy on the failures of another group (which has thus far been at the core of abolitionist principles), there are a growing number of genuine free-thinking abolitionists who are gradually moving away from the overly simplistic “scape-goat approach.”

    March 3, 2010
  36. If the shoe fits, wear it. For all practical purposes, welfarism is exploitation-and-killing and exploitation-and-killing is welfarism. End welfarism (new or old) and you end exploitation-and-killing.

    The differences between abolitionists and welfarists are so vast and deep that this discussion did not even scratch the surface.

    March 3, 2010
  37. babble #

    It was never going to be ABOUT a discussion. It was just an excuse for Jeannie to pat herself on the back for not "participating," which is convenient. Silly, but convenient.

    March 3, 2010
  38. jeannie #

    "The differences between abolitionists and welfarists are so vast and deep that this discussion did not even scratch the surface."

    Feel free to continue with your discussion then if there is so much to talk about. No one is stopping you. Or is it simply no more fun anymore when the person you want to attack leaves the room?

    Firstly, what I originally wrote was not directed toward either of you to begin with (and had you actually really READ what I wrote, you would have gotten that). Secondly, when I responded to your own responses anyway, you were not interested in listening at all. Maybe it's time to listen to what others are saying instead of making sure you are heard.

    March 4, 2010
  39. Jeannie wrote: "Feel free to continue with your discussion then if there is so much to talk about."

    Feel free to read my blog. 🙂

    March 4, 2010
  40. babble #

    "Firstly, what I originally wrote was not directed toward either of you to begin with…"

    …which doesn't really have anything to do with anything. You chose to complain about Dan or me incorrectly calling you a welfare advocate, which nether Dan or I did. What we're responding to are the flawed factual claims you're making with respect to the scope and influence of abolitionism within the larger animal rights movement. Rather than actually address that, you've gotten into a snit about people putting words in your mouth (which didn't actually happen) missing your point (which you're not really bothering to make) and congratulating yourself for not participating.

    I'm sure this entertains you, and I'm sure you'll keep at it, but again: you're the one who went out of your way to claim that abolitionism is older than three years ago (which point no one actually disagreed with) and that some subset of abolitionists you have a personal issue with are a subset of abolitionists you have a personal issue with.

    You then posted – what? Twice now? – that you were taking your ball and going home.

    March 4, 2010

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