Here we go again. The factory farms make a small concession to public opinion, and the animal welfare establishment falls all over itself in joy, calling it an amazing victory for “animal rights”, and heaps praise on an industry that profits so hugely from the suffering of our fellow animals.
The small concession, in this case, is that United Egg Producers – the egg industry trade group – is going to abstain from fighting a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would ban the sale of meat or eggs from caged animals.
But those millions of animals will still live their entire lives in what the industry itself calls “concentrated animal feeding operations”, where they will never even see the light of day.
Sure, anything that improves the lives of animals at these concentration farms is better than nothing. But it’s not a cause for celebration. If the factory farm industry is trying to pacify people who are distressed by videos of what goes on at these horror houses, they can go right ahead.
But it should not be the business of animal welfare organizations to give their blessing to these small changes. Nor do these small changes have anything whatever to do with animal rights.
In an otherwise well-informed report, the news organization Politico writes: “The decision hands animal rights advocates a partial victory in their push for more humane treatment of livestock.”
It should not be the business of animal welfare organizations to give their blessing to small changes that have nothing whatever to do with animal rights. But this is not an animal rights victory, and the animal welfare establishment should be clear and transparent about this. The 300 million hens who lay the 75 billion eggs at factory farms in the United States each year have no rights at all. Nor will the latest move by the egg industry give them any.
Nor are the Humane Society of the U.S., the American Humane Association, and other members of the animal welfare establishment even pursuing rights for these animals. The hens will continue to spend their entire lives crammed together at factory farms, never seeing the light of day, laying eggs for the $10 billion-a-year industry to which they are enslaved.
So much for animal rights.
Would you call someone a children’s rights advocate for applauding a shorter working day for six-year-olds in factories? Would you call them an abolitionist for negotiating for an extra slice of bread for slaves? Or a civil rights leader for lobbying for slightly better seats at the back of the bus?
An extra slice of bread is better than nothing. But it’s hardly a “victory”. It can also be a distraction from the true objective – a ploy to avoid discussion of the real issue.
Would you call someone a children’s rights advocate for applauding a shorter working day for six-year-olds?The wheeling and dealing that surrounds decisions being made by the egg industry has little to do with what’s best for the hens, and everything to do with balancing PR with profit. Industry analysts are consumed by the intricate math involved in how many extra calories hens will consume when they get to walk around a bit, how many more grains of food they will need, and how many cents they may need to add to the price of a dozen eggs. But you won’t find many of them talking about the needs of the hens.
McDonalds received much applause earlier this month for announcing that by the year 2025 the company will be buying eggs only from cage-free egg producers in the United States and Canada. Why 10 years? Part of it is to do with the fact that they’re about to roll out a new all-day breakfast menu, thus adding millions more eggs to their existing two-billion-egg supply chain.
None of this has anything to do with animal rights. Animal rights is not about pacifying public opinion with small, incremental changes. It is an abolitionist movement that seeks the end of this enslavement, once and for all.