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Animal Rights and the Meaning of “Humane”

We always hear the word “humane” used in conjunction with the state of affairs that will exist if only this or that welfare reform, which is the subject of this or that campaign by this or that large animal welfare corporation (and for which your contribution is needed “for the animals”), is adopted.

As anyone who reads this blog or my other work knows, I think that that the standard of the “humane” treatment of animals, which are chattel property, will generally be limited to that level of protection necessary to exploit the animals in an economically efficient way. To say it another way: with rare exceptions, we spend money to protect animal interests only when an economic benefit results.

A review of the history of welfare reform indicates that most of the reforms that have been implemented fit this model and that these reforms do little more than increase production efficiency. The reforms do very little to increase the protection we give to animal interests. The primary benefit of “humane” reforms is that they make humans feel better about exploiting animals.

So let us be clear that that when we propose that a reform will make animal treatment more “humane,” what we really mean is:

1. the reform may result in slightly less torture than exists at present but animals will still be tortured (and in many cases, the reform will not even result in less torture);

2. the reform will generally make animal production more efficient by reducing production costs;

3. the reform will do nothing to move animals away from property status and will, in fact, enmesh them further in it;

4. the reform will make humans feel better about animal use.

It’s a win-win proposition. Producers benefit by increasing profitability and being able to claim that they “care” about animals (look at Whole Foods). Animal groups can solicit donations both for the campaign and as a reward for the supposed “victory,” and can play hero.

Only the animals lose.

If you are not vegan, go vegan. It is very easy, better for health and for the planet. And, most important, it’s the morally right and just thing to do.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Gary L. Francione
©2010 Gary L. Francione

Related posts:

  1. “Animal Law”: Making the Use of Hooks and Prods More “Humane”
  2. Clarifying the Meaning of a “Right”
  3. The Four Problems of Animal Welfare: In a Nutshell
  4. A Most Misleading Label
  5. Some Thoughts on the Meaning of “Vegan”


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