It seems that the purported father of the animal liberation movement is now openly embracing a lot of the views espoused by the "happy meat" movement. Peter Singer's been making statements for years in favour of welfarism, but this interview seems to nudge his views further away from anything remotely resembling animal liberationist views.
Professor Singer, it’s almost 20 years since your influential book Animal Factories was published. Could you summarize briefly if, given the sensation caused by the book, there have been any significant changes in farming systems? If not, what are the main reasons why there hasn’t been a radical change in consciousness?
I’m very pleased to say that there have been a lot of changes, especially in Europe, but also some in the US and other countries. In Europe, all the worst and most abusive forms of factory farming are being modified. New laws are being phased in that require giving veal calves and pregnant sows room to move a little and turn around, at least. Hens will get more space, and have a nesting box to lay their eggs in. These laws will bring improvements for hundreds of millions of animals across the entire European Union. In the US and Canada, the biggest pig producers have agreed to phase out individual stalls for sows, and in Florida and Arizona, citizens have voted to ban sow stalls. There has also been a big change in consciousness, with consumers becoming much more aware of factory farms and many more of them buying organically produced animal products instead.
Reading your book, it seems that the only truly ethical conclusion is the vegan diet. Indeed, for those who choose to follow this choice, difficulties are still lower than a few years ago but, however, according to your opinion, what is the most common attitude towards vegans?
The vegan diet, especially buying organically produced plant foods, does solve more of the ethical problems about eating than any other. But I admit that it is not for everyone, and it will take a long time before it becomes widespread. So I don’t want to give the impression that it is the only thing one can do to eat ethically. Just avoiding factory farmed products is a big step in the right direction, even if you continue to eat a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.