Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Happy Meat!

The above term is one of my favorite circulating in the abolitionist animal rights movement currently. These two simple words illustrate much of what is wrong with the new-welfarist approach to animal rights, at once describing activist policy and public perception.
The public views Happy Meat (humanely raised, free range, etc.) as a morally superior choice to non-humanly produced meat, or rather a morally superior choice to meat that is not marketed as humanely produced. When it comes right down to it the real difference is in the labeling. The suffering the animals experience sure doesn’t change much with free range production, and humanly raised animals are still killed. The public’s perception of happy meat and the so-called animal “protectionists” that peddle it as morally superior is that they are doing something good for the animals. More importantly the consumers feel their choice to eat “happy meat” is sufficient. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that say “well I only eat free range, isn’t that ok?” The more informed ones might even bring up the fact that animal “protection” groups endorse and fight for humanely raised products, assuming a seal of approval from these groups. The fact that some deny the incredibly negative impact this sort of campaigning has on public perception and more importantly; the number of animal lives lost is astounding. Maybe I live in some backwards bubble unaffected by the rest of the world (and somehow judging from the stories of others I doubt it) but where I live people that are uncomfortable with eating regular animal products are just fine with eating free range animals. I call them Whole Foods customers, but whatever terminology you like is fine too. We are effectively taking people who may have went vegan given some encouragement, and delayed their growth by making them complacent with a “kinder, gentler” form of exploitation. This is also quite a poor move from an activist standpoint because it causes us to spend money campaigning to get people to eat happy meat, and then we must engage these same people again to try to get them to go vegan. The money and time wasted getting people, companies, university cafeterias, and the like to adopt free-range options would be much better spent getting people and establishments to adopt vegan lifestyles and offer vegan options.
Of course as an abolitionist, I would love to see a real focus on vegan abolitionist education campaigns on a large scale. I feel we give the public too little credit for their ability to change their perceptions sometimes. Maybe I’m mistaken, but if people understood the life’s of the animals they ate and the effect their choices really have, I think they would be less likely to continue their current habits. By peddling happy meat as animal protectionists do, we abandon the very animals we claim we are fighting to protect, and retard the growth of a strong coherent vegan movement.

P.S. The image above is of a "free-range" egg facility. You can make your own judgements as to the appropriateness of this title.


Anonymous said...

Actually, these hens actually look quite healthy. To start with, they have all their feathers, and they aren't obviously covered with raw sores and abrasions, like you'd find on hens in even the best battery cage facilities.

They also have space to walk, stretch their wings, perch, and preen, and they can actually get away from an aggressor. Much better than the hell that is a battery cage.

Granted: it's not nearly good enough, and it isn't cause to stop agitating. But to be honest, we do have to admit that it's a huge improvement for many, many animals.

Veganramblings said...

I guess I did not explain properly before but this picture is from the pictured farm's website. It most likely displays an unrealistic best-case scenario. I was just trying to be fair, and since their is only a handful of free-range egg farm pictures on the net at all it's hard to judge.
For me, the issue is that these animals are still killed in the end. No matter if it was ten birds to a shed that size it would not much matter as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for your comments!