On November 5th, 2002, more than two and a half million Floridians voted "Yes" on Amendment 10 to amend the state constitution and prohibit the use of gestation crates, narrow metal cages where breeding pigs are kept for most of their lives. The full text of the amendment is available here.With successes like these, factory farmers do have cause for worry. The dark secret behind factory farm profits—cruel and inhumane animal husbandry—is getting out. Factory farmers treat animals inhumanely for no good reason. Since morally decent individuals oppose treating animals inhumanely for no good reason, factory farming is becoming an increasingly hard sell. Nevertheless, as the HPMAJ column linked to above reveals, those who profit from treating farm animals inhumanely are not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
On November 7, 2006, Arizonans voted overwhelmingly, by 62 percent, in favor of Proposition 204, to ban the cruel and intensive confinement of veal calves and pregnant pigs on industrialized factory farms. The proposition outlaws raising pregnant sows in gestation crates and raising calves in veal crates, making Arizona the first state in the Union to ban veal crates. To learn more about Arizona's precedent-setting victory for farm animals, see here.
September 7, 2006, a bill banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption(H.R. 503) was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming support in a 263-146 vote.
One outspoken proponent of factory farming cited in the HPMAJ column is "Trent Loos, a rancher, journalist and vocal livestock supporter." According to the HPMAJ column, "Loos told cattle producers the livestock industry must show the public that there are moral and ethical justifications for taking the life of an animal to feed a person. The industry is losing that argument in some segments of society, he said."
The reason that the industry is losing the argument is quite simple: There is no ethical justification for causing an animal to suffer unnecessarily. There is no ethical justification for treating an animal inhumanely for no good reason. There is no ethical justification for killing an animal for no good reason. Since no one in modern industrial societies needs to eat animals to survive or be optimally healthy, there is no good reason to raise and slaughter farm animals at all in modern societies, and there certainly is no good reason to raise them in cruel inhumane factory farms. If Loos thinks that animal agribusiness will win the argument on ethical grounds, he is sorely mistaken.
An increasing number of industry wonks appear to have come to the realization that they can't win on moral grounds, so they are trying a new tact: doublespeak. Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning. For example, "free roaming chickens" conjures up images of happy chickens running free and unfettered all about the barnyard, when in fact the label "free roaming chickens" just means chickens that were not raised in battery cages. Since chickens of the strain raised for meat production aren't typically raised in cages, the label "free roaming chicken" can legally be applied to chickens that were painfully debeaked and then permanently confined in an overcrowded shed with 100,000 other chickens each of whom had 7/10 of a square foot of floor space. These birds do not have to have access to the outdoors and are housed in such overcrowded sheds that they can barely move around, and yet, they are deceptively marketed as "free roaming" to conscientious compassionate consumers. Doublespeak at its worst. Animal agribusiness doublespeak takes on other forms as well.
Consider Charlie Stenholm, a former Texas Congressman turned agricultural lobbyist. According to the HPMAJ column, Stenholm is also concerned about the inroads being made by animal rights advocates where farm animals are concerned. Stenholm is a spokesperson for the "Horse Welfare Coalition"—a quintessential illustration of doublespeak, for the Horse Welfare Coalition is an inappropriately named organization that is working to keep horse slaughter legal in the United States. News flash: Slaughtering horses does not promote their welfare. In previous posts here and here, I discuss (i) horse slaughter as it is practiced in the U.S., (ii) reasons for banning horse slaughter in the U.S., and (iii) the bill intended to ban the practice.
As already noted, factory farming advocates are bound to lose the debate concerning the ethics of factory farming because there is no moral justification for raising animals in inhumane conditions when all of our nutritional needs can be met (and can be met better) with foods of plant origin. Since they cannot win the argument on moral grounds, they have resorted to deceptive doublespeak in an effort to bolster support for their inhumane practices. They have also resorted to a sort of Orwellian doublethink. Doublethink is the act of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, fervently believing both, despite being notionally aware of their incompatibility—rather, being willfully unaware. Recall the disturbing illustrations of doublethink in Orwell's 1984:
WAR IS PEACEJust as Big Brother wants us to accept the above slogans, Big Farmer expects us to embrace the following oxymoronic slogans where farm animals are concerned:
SLAVERY IS FREEDOM
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
CONFINEMENT IS FREEDOMBig Farmer may well have bought into his own lie—that is, of course, one of the hallmarks of doublethink; but those of us wishing to be conscientious, ethical consumers should see Big Farmer's doublethink and doublespeak for what it is: a deceptive marketing ploy. Calling an inhumane practice "humane" does not make that practice humane. Referring to battery-cage confinement, gestation-crate confinement, veal-crate confinement, and unanesthetized mutilations (including branding, castration, debeaking, tooth pulling, and tail docking) as "Acceptable Handling Practices" does not make those practices morally acceptable or humane. Any organization that is working to keep horse slaughter legal is not concerned with promoting horse welfare, regardless if it happens to be called the Horse Welfare Coalition.
SLAUGHTER IS WELFARE
CRUELTY IS HUMANE
We may not be able to stop Big Brother from encroaching on our freedoms, but we can stop supporting Big Farmer with our purchases. We can refuse to purchase products of pain deceptively marketed as "humane." As Peter Singer so aptly put it in Animal Liberation:
The people who profit by exploiting large numbers of animals do not need our approval. They need our money. The purchase of the corpses of the animals they rear is the main support the factory farmers ask from the public. They will use intensive methods as long as they can sell what they produce by these methods. . . Hence the need for each one of us to stop buying the products of modern animal farming. . . Until we boycott meat, and all other products of animal factories, we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all of the cruel practices used in rearing animals for food.We have a choice. We can willfully contribute to the prosperity of factory farmers who profit from the mistreatment of animals, or we can refuse to support factory farmers with our purchases and purchase cruelty-free plant-based meals instead. We can willingly support an industry that uses doublespeak to mislead the public about the conditions in which its animals are raised, or we can boycott those very animal agribusiness industries. When we do boycott animal agribusiness by shifting to a plant-based diet, we reduce our contribution to unnecessary animal suffering; we reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and some forms of cancer; we support a much more environmentally and ecologically friendly form of agriculture; and we support a form of agriculture that is sustainable and that reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Since there are so many reasons to shift to a plant-based diet, it's no wonder that factory farmers are running scared.
The Bottom Line: Those organizations and individuals who are working to ensure that animals receive the moral consideration they are due are winning. Factory farmers are worried about their future livelihoods, and they should be. Cruelty cannot stand the spotlight, and the Internet has made it impossible for factory farmers to hide the cruelty inherent in their intensive confinement operations. With documentary footage of factory farm conditions only a mouse click away, that spotlight on cruelty is shining brightly.