HSUS has been keeping busy trying to reassure farmers who raise animals for their products or for slaughter that HSUS is no threat to them. Back on July 1, I wrote about an AgriTalk radio interview with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, where Pacelle seemed to engage in a lot of damage control to assure the meat industry that HSUS wholly supports the continuation of animal agriculture. Yesterday, Lancaster Farmer (a trade publication of sorts based in Philadelphia) published an interview with Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of the HSUS' Factory Farming Campaign, that seemed to do more of the same sort of damage control. The former founder of welfarist organization Compassion Over Killing emphasizes throughout this interview that HSUS' concern is on making the animals comfortable--as they're raised for human consumption. For instance:
LF: What do you think is the most serious threat to animal welfare posed by agriculture?He elaborates upon HSUS' goals with regards to animal agriculture by stating that
PS: (Extreme confinement) is not the only threat, but it’s among the most serious. The top three (examples) are veal crates, battery cages for laying hens and gestation crates for pigs.
[they] are supportive of raising the bar on farm animal welfare. That means working with farmers who want to help their industries move away from some of the most extreme forms of confinement.And just in case anyone still thinks that HSUS is comprised of a bunch of wacky fringe-dwelling animal rights activists seeking to end the enslavement and slaughter of all animals, Shapiro makes it crystal clear just who and what they are:
Just think about it — we’re the largest animal welfare charity not only in the country, but in the world. Do you think that an organization that didn’t take mainstream views would be so influential? Just about two-thirds of Californians voted for the proposal we put on the ballot ... If you look at the breakdown of the vote, we won the majority of virtually every demographic ... even some of the largest ag counties.So what does the "largest animal welfare charity in the world" do with all of those contributions that well-meaning folks fork over, thinking that they're helping them fight the good fight on behalf of animals? Well, it seems it's mostly spent on getting retailers to buy animal products. Shapiro says:
By working with retailers to drive demand away from the more inhumane practices and toward better practices. For example, take eggs. Just four years ago, only 2 percent of eggs sold in the country were cage-free. Now, that’s about 6 percent, and a lot of that has to do with our work moving retailers to cage free producers.Ask the folks over at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary what sort of victory a 4 percent increase in cafe-free eggs really means to the chickens. They'll show you if you're willing to handle the truth. Is this really and truly what HSUS views as being in the best interest of an animal's welfare? It certainly does nothing to defend or protect their rights. In fact, crunching numbers seems to be what's important. The rest of the interview is spent discussing various issues, such as regulationism in general and the profitability for egg farmers to go cage-free. For instance, Shapiro states that
Of course, the profit margins on cage-free eggs tend to be greater than on cage-raised eggs, so you’d imagine (it does help the farmer). [...] The egg industry’s own economic analysis demonstrates that it costs producers less than a penny per egg more to convert to and produce cage free eggs.When asked about his own dietary preferences, Shapiro states that he's a vegetarian, but tempers it by stating his reasons for being vegetarian, as well as how HSUS manages to appeal to both those who choose to consume animals and to those who eschew their consumption:
Animal welfare is one of them. Personal health is another. Concern about global warming is another. I think that one of the important aspects of our campaign, (though), is it’s attractive to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Whether we eat meat or not, all of us can agree that animals who are raised for food should be able to turn around and extend their limbs.Is this really raising the bar for animals, though? For those of you who refrain from consuming animals or their products, are this organization's ideals the sort of lowest common denominator at which you feel comfortable throwing your financial support? Or behind which you'll throw your vocal support? Shouldn't the non-usage of animals be the starting point? Shouldn't veganism, as abolitionist blogger Dan Cudahy put it, be your minimum standard of decency? It's certainly not HSUS'.
As Professor Gary L. Francione states, veganism should be the "moral baseline of an animal rights movement"--no exceptions. Anything else just endorses the perpetuation of their consideration and usage as property--as things. If this is the sort of "mainstream" stance that Paul Shapiro and the people at HSUS are embracing, then I think that vegans and animal rights activists supporting or sitting on the fence about HSUS need to do some serious re-thinking of their own positions.