Animal welfare groups are jumping for joy over Walmart’s latest animal welfare announcement. But it’s hard understand why.
The company is asking its suppliers “to engage in improved reporting standards and transparency measures regarding the treatment of farm animals” and to adopt animal welfare standards that include sufficient space and easy access to food and water.
The Humane Society of the U.S. calls it “the most definitive statement yet that the era of confining farm animals in cages will come to an end,” adding that “we applaud the company for adopting a comprehensive animal welfare policy.”
Like most other humane groups, the HSUS doesn’t pretend to be an animal rights organization; it simply works toward better conditions for animals in factory farms, laboratories, entertainment shows, etc. (But even animal rights advocates have drunk Walmart’s Kool-Aid and are calling this “huge news.”)
Welfarism is compromise. And while compromise is fine when you’re voting on tax bills and marijuana laws, it has no place in matters of life and death.
Two weeks ago, in the Washington Post, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer laid it out very simply:
I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale – for the eating.
Describing himself as “a moderate carnivore”, Krauthammer admits to “living in Jeffersonian hypocrisy” (referring to the Founding Fathers’ participation in slavery). But that’s no reason, he writes, for condoning the continued exploitation of our fellow animals:
One measure of human moral progress – amid and despite the savageries we visit upon each other – is how we treat the innocent in our care. And none are more innocent than these.
Animal welfare groups squirm at being lumped in with those who profit from the abuse and exploitation of nonhuman animals. But really, what would you say if I were promoting child welfare by arguing for an hour’s extra sleep for 10-year-olds who are forced to work in factories? (And yes, Walmart uses child labor, too.) Or if I were lobbying for better anesthesia for girls who are forced into genital mutilation? Or for a compromise that would have headed off the Civil War by giving slaves extra food? Sure, if you were a child in a factory, an hour’s more sleep would be better than nothing. But it could hardly be called a triumph.
Sure, if you were a ten-year-old in Bangladesh, an hour’s more sleep would be better than nothing. And sure, you’d appreciate the anesthesia if you were being mutilated. And sure, a bit more food would doubtless have kept you alive a bit longer as a slave on the plantations. But none of these could ever be called a triumph.
Rather than bringing out the champagne, any true abolitionist would be gearing up for the next round, knowing that these “concessions” were being implemented very deliberately to blunt efforts to abolish these rotten, evil institutions.
Neither is it a cause for celebration, then, when Walmart, bowing to public concern, decides to give a nod to pig factories that allow the animals the small relief of being able to turn around in their cages.
The fact that factory farms and their retail outlets have been scrambling to recover from the release of deeply disturbing undercover videos of what goes on in their horror houses is not a cause for self-congratulation and applause from animal protection groups.
By all means, take note of the fact that the factory farm industry is feeling the pressure. But these latest welfare workarounds don’t bring our fellow animals any closer to being freed from life as a commodity in a factory.