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Three Takes on “Humane” Animal Products

Today’s theme is "humane" fill-in-the-blank.

  1. First, from Dallas Rising of Minnesota’s Animal Rights Coalition, we have The Humane Farming Myth
    brochure, which ties into I like that #1 under "What You Can Do" is "Eat plant-based (vegan) foods," and of course the focus on how the public is being misled by all the talk of "humane" treatment is fantastic. The "humane" discussion makes the factory farm discussion moot, I think, in that if you know what’s going on to produce "humane" animal products, there’s no way you’d find factory-farmed products acceptable. Later today I’m going to add a category–or maybe a page–for pamphlets/brochures/handouts (/leaflets? And what’s the difference, anyway?) to facilitate easy access of everyone’s materials.
  2. Check out Compassionate Cooks tomorrow for an audio file of Colleen’s commentary about "humanely raised animals" that is airing on KQED, her local NPR station.
  3. Once again, The New York Times demonstrates its confusion about animal rights. This time, it’s Nicholas D. Kristof, ironically, the champion of the voiceless, exploited and massacred (humans, that is) in his "A Farm Boy Reflects," which is largely about California’s Proposition 2. I’m surprised by how flippant he is when speaking about animal suffering, considering how passionate about and dedicated he is to decreasing the exploitation and suffering of humans. There’s an odd disconnect there.

Kristof uses the term "animal rights" no less than six
times, and obviously has the term confused with animal welfare (though
perhaps not in the sentence: "Harvard Law School now offers a course on
animal rights.") The sheer number of misconceptions in this short
Opinion piece is astounding, and I think I could deconstruct every
paragraph (sentence, maybe?), finding a problem with all of them.
Problems include being offended by sentences such as: "Our cattle,
sheep, chickens and goats certainly had individual personalities, but
not such interesting ones that it bothered me that they might end up in
a stew." That’s a new one–"interesting" as the criterion for determining whether unnecessary slaughter is acceptable.

Then there’s: "Perhaps it seems like soggy sentimentality as well as
hypocrisy to stand up for animal rights, particularly when I enjoy
dining on these same animals," which of course leaves me shrieking You’re not standing up for animal rights!

What phrase or sentence struck you most?

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national discussion seems to have shifted from factory farms to
allegedly humane ones, but what I don’t see is a significant change in
the number of factory farms. Are these allegedly humane farms just
another way to unnecessarily slaughter sentient nonhumans? I think the
logic of those who think welfare reforms will lead to use ceasing our use of animals is that more "humane" farms will pop up and replace
factory farms (due to demand), and then someday veganism will be the
prevailing choice and "humane" farms will be replaced by fields of
grain (or something like that). It makes no sense to me, but in order
for it to prove even partially correct, we should be seeing massive
changes in the number of factory farms, right? Are we?

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    So according to Kristof, uninteresting people should be slaughtered? He might want to be careful what he wishes – someone might agree with his criterion, but not think him interesting enough.

    Aside from the fact that an “interesting personality” (whatever that means to Kristof and however we are to measure such a subjective notion) is irrelevant to a being’s interest in his or her own life and the corresponding right to protect that interest, Kristof obviously is a stranger to cows, sheep, chickens, and goats, all of whom have very interesting personalities in my experience. Once again, it’s those who are most hostile to these beings who are also the most ignorant of them and most willing to display their ignorance in spades.

    July 31, 2008
  2. the bunny #

    I guess the "person of the day" to disparage is Kristof.

    Who will it be tomorrow?

    July 31, 2008
  3. -me #

    not if "I" can help it…perhaps if i piss off enough people…it will be me…

    Dan said: "Once again, it’s those who are most hostile to these beings who are also the most ignorant of them and most willing to display their ignorance in spades".

    What about vegans that are hostile to other vegans? Or those TRYING to become vegan and wanting to learn…do you think that many among us treat them with open hearts and open hands? Do you?

    July 31, 2008
  4. Bea Elliott #

    Gosh, I'm always amazed (and saddened) by the conflict that must be raging in some people's minds….. "The bunny was cute, but I wanted to eat it"…… The pigs are "unforgettable characters and have obvious intelligence" but taste good….. "I know animals are sentient but if I enslave, use and eat them "nicely" – it's okay"….. What a confused tangle of rationalizing it requires to negotiate around these "justifications" – My head would hurt with the effort. Guess I'm much too easy on my thought processes and my value system….. Perhaps I'm even a simpleton…. but if I think something is wrong – I just don't do it.

    August 1, 2008
  5. John Carbonaro #

    Kristof seems to have fashioned an article that leaves me believing that he is either intensely misguided or a brilliant marksman with his eye on inflamming A.R. people. Perhaps he wants to be controversial. What he should do is read John Robbin's 'The pig farmer'. Now there's an ol'farmer who 'refects' at his childhood experiences(controversies) and allows it to take him to a different course of action.

    August 1, 2008
  6. Dan #


    I don’t know if your questions were rhetorical and directed at-large or specific and directed at me (given our exchange a few days ago and your quote of mine). If the latter, I’m only critical of (not hostile toward) vegans who support animal product consumption. I, for one, would never be critical of a vegan who refused to support animal consumption, for they are consistent and internally coherent.

    As to people who are trying to go vegan, I’m very supportive and patient. If they don’t appear to be sufficiently interested or motivated, I disassociate with them on the issue or in general, depending on the circumstances. If they regain motivation, I’ll give them a second or third chance at support and patience.

    Here are some questions for you, “me”: Why are you critical (or in your words “hostile”) to vegans who are critical of vegans (especially when we have good reasons for our criticism)? Is it not a bit hypocritical to criticize criticism? Is the quietist shouting “Everybody STFU”? Finally, what is your real name and why do you hide behind a pseudonym? Are you hiding anything? Please be honest. I tend to have more respect for people who are forthcoming and not afraid to identify themselves.

    August 1, 2008
  7. Dan #


    I think we ought to disparage anyone who opens themselves wide to disparagement. Are you implying that we ought not to criticize moral and intellectual idiocy? If you are, I could not disagree more.

    August 1, 2008
  8. John,
    I don't think I read that. But I have read The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, by Jeff Masson
    which might make him think pigs are more "interesting," which in his world could save their lives. Kristof is such a compassionate, passionate man when it comes to helping those in dire need, and it's such a shame that such care is evidently unwarranted for most nonhumans.

    August 1, 2008
  9. the bunny #

    Dan, I just think disparagement is not (as Crump would word it 🙂 maximally conducive to the goals of an animal activist (if one is to have goals).

    Wayne Pacelle was railed on in this blog a few days ago. He is currently further ahead on the linear path to enlightenment (if there is such a thing) than I was five years ago. I was not vegan then (though I was vegetarian), I had no clue about many of the issues I'm aware of today regarding animal cruelty/death.

    You wrote recently about the "moral highlands." Whether you said it sincerely or were tongue in cheek, it appears to me that you believe you are more enlightened than those such as Pacelle. Which is fine. Perhaps you are. But if you truly are, don't you think that enlightenment also comes with a bit of empathy and compassion? Moral enlightenment is not just opening one's eyes to cruelty toward animals or educating oneself about animal rights. Enlightenment comes in many forms and at various points in people's lives.

    What Pacelle needs is someone to persuade him (DIRECTLY) with convincing evidence that animal use (and not animal cruelty/treatment) is the root of the problem. And Kristof needs some persuading as well, he needs a little help to see the connection – he is so close. I was once in denial just as much as he is, though now I am a strict vegan who believes that true animal rights is the answer (yes, Francione style, though I don't find sacred every single word he utters). Should I rail on Pacelle or Kristof because I "figured it out" sooner than they did? I realize Pacelle's bank account has driven him into substantial denial, but like I said in another post, people can change – even the worst of us.

    If someone railed on me publicly for my eating habits or my approach toward animals, no matter what the person said, I most likely would not be persuaded to see their side or make the connection. I'd "shut down" as Mary Martin calls it.

    I guess I just find some people who say "vegan education is the key to abolition" are going about things funny. To disparage someone is not educational or constructive; it doesn't lend much to vegan education or vegan goals.

    But I guess this site is not about being constructive…it's about *deconstruction*. My bad.

    August 1, 2008
  10. John Carbonaro #

    Regarding the 'Pig Farmer', you can find the essay on John Robbin's web site:

    August 1, 2008
  11. Dan #


    Wayne Pacelle has been in the “animal protection” movement for decades. Gary Francione worked on projects with him years (decades?) ago. Pacelle is very familiar with the facts and all sides of the issue and needs no education on abolition; he already quite educated on the issue.

    Pacelle, however, like his co-worker Paul Shapiro at HSUS, is an opportunist (or, in less flattering wording, a sellout). He sees a nice living with plenty of income and mainstream prestige as the head of HSUS. I don’t have a problem with people making a good income, but I do have a problem with people making a good income by promoting animal exploitation and slaughter, which is EXACTLY what Pacelle does. Pacelle doesn’t need education; he needs a conscience.

    August 4, 2008
  12. Hi Mary – thanks for including my "perspective." 🙂 The audio is up on the KQED website; it and others can be found by going to (The most recent on "humane meat" is called Compassion on a Plate.

    Colleen 🙂

    August 7, 2008

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