Is Gary Francione Right About Single Issue Campaigns?
Can vegans support single issue campaigns without compromising on animal rights? Does advocating for the welfare of some animals undermine our desire to seek justice for all animals?
Are all single issue campaigns bad?
Gary Francione has long argued that “Single Issue Campaigns”- campaigns that focus on a single aspect of animal rights or welfare – are bad for the vegan movement. I agree that many single issue campaigns make non-vegans feel better about alternative forms of cruelty (leather instead of fur, duck instead of foie gras). Obviously, it doesn’t do any animals a big favour to encourage other forms of animal use. As I mentioned to one viewer, that would be a bit like going into a prison and saying “stop arresting redheads for no reason! We’ll give you blondes in exchange.” You’ve changed who the demographics, but you’ve done nothing to address the underlying issue.
Some single issue campaigns are great.
Building consensus is extremely important if you are attempting to make legislative change. For example, I’m personally very interested in stopping the egg, dairy and meat producers from spreading pro-industry propaganda in our public schools. That might be perceived as a “single issue” but I think it’s worth participating in.
Removing propaganda from schools gives children the chance to recognize the toxicity of speciesism. Something that is hard to do when kids are constantly being indoctrinated about the supposed benefits of animal products in their schools.
For the abolitionists, promoting anything other than the total liberation of animals is compromise.
But I disagree.
I think vegans should be willing to work with other animal activists on issues that don’t compromise veganism. For this reason, I think vegans are probably wise to avoid becoming involved in supporting “humane” animal products. Likewise, miniscule (and questionable) improvements in animal welfare, like slightly larger cages, etc. are problematic because they reinforce the public’s notion that making the lives of animals living in confinement is all that needs to be done to satisfy any moral obligations.
We certainly don’t want to send a message to the public that encourages them to abandon one form of animal use, only to pick up another. This is evident in campaigns that criticize the use of fur, while on the other hand failing to mention wool, leather or silk – all of which harm animals in their own way.
Above all, please don’t promote “humane” animal products
Similarly there is no such thing as “humane” animal products.
I believe no vegans should promoting them.
A few months ago, Earl’s, a chain of smart casual restaurants that operates in my home province of Alberta, decided to ditch Alberta beef in favour of “certified humane” beef from the United States.
The problem with this particular initiative was that “certified humane” beef in the US actually has lower standards than those already in place on Alberta cattle ranches. The entire thing was pure marketing designed to fool the public about the issue at hand.
In the end, Earl’s was forced to apologize for their mistake and return to serving Alberta beef.
The Moral Impulse
What’s interesting to me, is that Earl’s based their initial decision to offer “humane” beef off customers’ requests for better treated animal products.
People want animals treated well. But the reality is that as long as we are imprisoning other beings for life, then slaughtering them and selling their carcasses at a profit to satisfy consumer tastes – it is impossible to “treat them well”.
In the most basic sense imaginable, no animal wants to die! No matter how humanely treated, no dairy cow volunteers at 5 years old (1/4 their natural lifespan, but the ideal time for slaughter because their productivity has decreased) to die. They just don’t.
Human beings have sold themselves the ridiculous fiction that these tasty animals actually want to die. They’ve had happy lives, and they’re just sort of sick of it all and ready to go.
The problem, of course, is that’s a lie.
In reality, these animals have led miserable lives, and they’d rather not die, just like most living creatures.
Is that so hard to understand?
Of course it’s not.
But we don’t want to understand. We’d rather live in ignorance, chewing on the bodies of slaughtered animals while they cry out from the grave for justice. THAT is reality.
I encourage you to stop fooling yourself.
No animal wants to die. All animals want to live.
Work to fight animal oppression wherever you can, and whenever you can.
And if you see a campaign that matters to you, go for it. Make your voice heard and discourage speciesism wherever you can. But don’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. The world will be vegan one day, if we can learn from our mistakes.
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