The FARM Report - Fall, 2007
by Alex Hershaft, Ph.D.
The Siren Song of Welfare Reforms
"The world won't go vegan in the near future, so let's reduce the suffering of innocent animals through welfare reforms." Few people who care about animals can resist a proposition so enticing. And that included myself, when I founded the Farm Animal Reform Movement more than 30 years ago. For half of those years, I vigorously pursued campaigns to ban the veal crate and to fund and enforce the Humane Slaughter Act.
However enticing, this proposition is based on several faulty premises. First, our work is not about the world going vegan at any specific date, but about reducing animal suffering by cutting their consumption, one person and one meal at a time. Each friend, relative, or passerby who "kicks the meat habit" saves 34 land animals per year (in excess of 2,000 in a lifetime), from factory farm and slaughterhouse atrocities, as well as countless aquatic animals.
Second, significant welfare reforms would require a great deal of money, land, energy, manpower, and other resources, and thus, a fundamental restructuring of the meat and dairy industries. This is much more far-fetched than the likelihood of a significant number of consumers cutting their meat consumption.
But the worst consequence of advocating welfare reforms is the public perception that such advocacy sanctions continued abuse and slaughter of animals for food. Sadly, on the campaign trail, welfare reform advocates are frequently forced to deny their animal liberation ideology.
What I find even sadder is that some welfare reform apologists find it necessary to slap us with derogatory labels. We are not "dogmatic radicals," "predatory zealots," or "members of an intimidating clique" just because we believe that animal rights ideology should not be sullied by "humane" slavery.
The statistics are clear: 93 percent of American consumers oppose farmed animal abuse and 97 percent continue eating them. Welfare reforms are a win-win situation for consumers and industry. Only the animals lose. We need to send a clear message that the only way to help animals is to stop eating them. And, we need to stop fighting one another.