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Veganism and animal welfare
The first time I read about Earthlings – a documentary about the use of animals for humans – it was by chance;I was looking for entertainment for a Sunday night. Instantly caught my attention. Having recently read about the rights of animals in an article in the New York Times, I thought it would be an excellent way for a meat consumer like me to learn more about the cause of animal rights, the problems it addresses and the possiblesolutions. I hoped to find solid proposals and thorough and deep investigation on the subject. I must admit that I approached it with skepticism, but ready to learn and change your mind. I press play.
After an incessant hour and a half of hidden chamber frames and bloody images I discovered that, unfortunately, the documentary did not meet my expectations. It is a visual diatribe, a sensationalist SNUFF video that made little effort to appeal to reason. Yes, the documentary shows inhuman practices within industrial farms and that will do perhaps that many come to support the cause of feelings of guilt or simple horror;See the stomach of a cut cow and living pigs being treated as garbage are difficult images to forget. But also – in bold exaggeration – compares to meat dining rooms with the Nazis. At the end of the video I cannot help feeling that, although the creators must have had the best intentions, Earthlings was a wasted opportunity. Instead of providing a nuanced and instructed perspective on one of the most important questions of the 21st century, it presents an approach to ‘All or nothing’ that will not change the opinion of most people about the flesh, will have enormous economic and social objectionsAnd, for people like me, it does not offer responses to the problem in a pragmatic and sustainable way.
In any ideological or political struggle, if what you want is to move forward with a specific agenda, it is important notThe opposition to advance. If the objective of animal rights movements is to reduce the suffering of animals and maximize their happiness, then preach to vegetarians with efforts such as Earthlings not only is not efficient, but it is redundant.
It is especially redundant if you consider the universe of possible supporters that could join the cause of improving animal treatment if you opt for a less alienating strategy to achieve it. After all, potential supporters can be not only those who really wantpesticides and those who seek to promote a more sustainable food industry. Peter Singer, the ‘father’ of the movement for animal rights, promoted in his book Animal Liberation that anyone who wanted to protect animals should become vegan.. But he did not condemn the consumption of meat to the extent that it came from animals that were raised and sacrificed humanly. But in 1975, when Singer promulgated those ideas, very few farms worked like this, so it was not the most efficient option to fight against abuse and vegetarianism was the only available tool. However, 44 years later the situation has evolved a lot. There is a volume of ‘human’ greater farms, and social conscience is more sensitive to animal abuse and the same economic forces that saw industrial farms (where there are animal abuse) are awakening to the need to reduce it. Vegetarians, animal rights activists, those who eat meat and meat producers can – and need – work together without alienating each other. Although with different degrees of intensity, the reality is that all these groups seek the same: reduce animal abuse, improve the quality of the food available for the population and increase the sustainability of the livestock industry to reduce the impact on the environment. Working together and compromising can achieve more than undermining the efforts to each other.
Industrial farms in the USA.UU.: Origin and definition
At the end of 2012, in the USA.UU. The population of poultry, pigs, cattle and other food -producing animals was 2 billion, surpassing citizens in number for seven to one. In the course of a typical year, more than 9 billion animals are sacrificed in farms. Achieving this scale has been possible due to industrial farms, originally introduced to achieve greater productivity, cost-efficiency and thus be able to produce more food at cheaper prices in the shortest possible time, which happened: as a result of this transformation, theAgriculture of the United States has become increasingly efficient and has contributed to the general growth of the country’s economy. This has allowed consumers to spend an increasingly small portion of their food income and has released a large part of the population for non -agricultural occupations that have driven economic growth and society development. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, the agricultural production level has increased exponentially until today. For example, in the mid -twentieth century, the typical dairy cow produced 5,300 pounds of milk while today, the average cow produces 22,000 pounds of milk according to a report by the Blanca Economic Advisors Council. As a result, ‘throughout that period, the amount of dairy cows in the United States has been reduced by more than half, but the production of the United States has almost doubled’. On the other hand, in the 1930s, 24 percent of the American population worked in agriculture, compared to 1.5 percent in 2002;In 1940, each agricultural worker supplied 11 consumers, while in 2002, each worker supplied 90 consumers.
Currently, approximately 95% of all raised animals for human consumption are raised in industrial farms. This type of crop operation is usually called concentrated animal feed operation or concentrated animal feeding operation. This system begins to develop from the 1950s, when the animal food production system began to change a diversified and extensive system with more than one outdoor -raised species on a farm, to a specialized system andIntensive with a large number of animals of the same species raised in confined spaces that resemble industrial buildings. The industrialization of agriculture radically transformed the way the vast majority of animals are raised to feed.
This change, which has led to some economic efficiency, has also caused serious problems in public health areas, the environment and animal welfare. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an industrial farm is a farm in which large amounts of cattle are raised in interior conditions, with the purpose of maximizing production and minimizing the costs of the same. The result is often hundreds of thousands of animals confined in dark, narrow and poorly ventilated areas. Without access to fresh air, in sunlight or grass while keeping them near other animals, these animals often develop health problems, as well as physical and mental problems. Beyond animals, it has been shown that industrial farms pollute the environment and – due to improper and excessive use, and the dependence of antibiotics in our food system – create the possibility of being developed and spreading dangerous and resistant bacteriato medications between people and animals, such as.coli and salmonella. Standard industry practices as these are accepted and even protected under the law. However, these methods are considered by many as cruelty and animal abuse, so industrial farms are increasingly social resistance and a few legal and economic limitations.
Welfare (and suffering) animal: scientific summary and historical development of social attitudes.
Animal well -being is an issue that is difficult to address if it is not from multiple dimensions, such as science, ethics, economy and politics. From the publication by the British Government of the Brambell report in 1965 on the well -being of farm animals, animal welfare is based for the first time as a formal discipline when approaching for the first time with a scientific methodological approach. This methodology was used to study the main topics involved in the concept of well -being itself: the suffering, need and awareness of those two. This implies the study of both biological functioning and the relationship between body and mind, considering the organism in a more comprehensive way. The main problem of this, however, is that considering animal welfare as the expression of how the organism ‘feels’ implies feelings are impossible to measure directly, since these experiences are not available for scientific research. However – to maintain the scientific approach to research – what is possible, since the biological needs of animals are known, is to study the links between biological needs and the consequences of fulfilling them or not for the organism. In fact, through the advancement of discipline, animals today are recognized as ‘sensitive beings’ from the Amsterdam treaty in 1997, which gives them special consideration under the law in several countries.
Because of this, many promote a radical approach to eliminate all types of animals for humans, and fight for animals rights. On behalf of the latter, Gary L. Francione, Professor of Law at the University of Rutgers in the United States, promotes the abolitionist approach;He affirms that animals should not be used, or be owned by humans, in any way or for any reason and affirms that the regulation of animal welfare – that is, attempts to reduce it – have theoretical failures and it is wrong. Francion says that, although there are ‘relevant differences between humans and non -human minds’, ethical veganism recognizes the ‘moral personality of animals’ based on their sensitivity;It is this characteristic that invalidates them as property and makes them worthy of the same rights that we give to human beings. Franciona holds his position appealing to consequentialism;He argues that the regulation of animal welfare does not work since ‘there is no evidence’ that it will reduce the use of animals in the future and condemns the way in which several animal defense groups help the meat industry . He argues that, by making consumers feel comfortable with the use of farm animals raised humanly, prolongs their use and status as property. As a result, veganism considers as the last and only option: it is all or nothing. Efforts like Earthlings are direct descendants of this type of thought. As expected, the categorical and ‘gold standard nature’ of Francion’s ideas find several difficulties in the real world. Subjective efforts such as Earthlings and extremism as Franciones are inflexible, therefore politically and pragmatically unlikely.
Find an ‘average term’: progress through collaboration
Many have approached the impracticability of abolitionist approaches;Robert Garner, professor at Leicester University at the USA. UU., In his most pragmatic approach to the theme, many of the obstacles that he will inevitably find. Like Francione, Garner also recognizes the sensitivity of farm animals, but he does not agree that this is automatically attributed as ‘person’ and his death as equivalent to a human loss. Among other things, he argues that experiences such as the loss of beliefs, desires, goals, and significant relationships are very different in animals in animals. It also emphasizes that Francion’s abolitionism is of a utopian nature, since it is based on the premise that animals have a similar moral condition, if not the same, to that of humans;A fact that is not accepted by the vast majority. As the human population in general will not stop eating meat in the foreseeable future, Garner prefers to be more sensible and focus on the best way to achieve better conditions for farm animals;He writes: ‘In a pluralistic universe … the foundation is not that a set of ideas prevails, but that a plurality of ideas coexists’. The fact that a cow has internal motivations does not imply that the right to be the owner of a house or drive a car, but we must minimize unnecessary pain and frustration. Finally, what Garner sees as an important advantage for his approach with respect to Francione is that a gradual introduction of ideas and habits is a much more effective long -term approach compared to asking for a radical change through shock campaigns such as Earthlings). Public awareness on the issue is increasing and has already led to changes in cultural norms and technological developments, directly and positively impacting the lives of millions of farm animals in the United States.
The Americans, being a western capitalist society, focus the question of a better food production around two seemingly conflicting axioms: that farm animals are sensitive beings – so they should not be treated as basic products and must havein account its well -being – and that a free market (which promotes basic products and drives food production) is crucial for the generation of wealth and human well -being. Although they seem to be in conflict, a detailed study of both provides the key to their unification;that is, the key that allows the introduction of the first in the second. It is vital to understand this to be able to maneuver and find consensus successfully. Human beings are motivated by their own interest to be comfortable and happy;It is this own interest that acts as an ‘invisible hand’ in the market. As consumers are free to choose what they want, they define the true value of goods. Then the producer, also motivated by their own interest, gives consumers what they want. The United States market, being a free market, protects and is driven by consumers’ interests. What this shows is that consumers are catalyst agents and those who must go;No farmer will increase his costs if the consumer is not willing to pay that additional margin. Therefore, the only way consumers will accept an increase in price is whether the value they give to the product increases. What does this mean? In order to justify an increase in food prices for animal welfare, the value of farm animals in the eyes of consumers must increase;They have to gradually go from being considered as a mere product to be perceived as a sensitive being of which we are responsible and, therefore, we must be treated with respect and care.
The problem is that, although many consider animals as ‘sensitive beings’ and are recognized as such by entities such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization treats them as a resource (or merchandise). Again, philosophy clashes with practicality. The set of values for which a dog is treated is very different from those that govern the well -being of a cow on an industrialized farm;An accepted practice in intensive bound of cows can be interpreted as cruelty in a kennel. This is what should change: the concern for the well -being of an animal must be determined by the intrinsic, non -extrinsic value of its life. Unfortunately, this moral judgment is as little practical as attractive to many. Probably, several of the 62% of Americans who believe that stricter laws on the treatment of animals should be approved are good thinkers, they do not realize the true economic commitment they imply for them: Are they willing to invest in happinessand comfort of a cow?. Some can go back, which is also a valid posture;If you can’t, or don’t want to invest in animal happiness, maybe no one should force you to do it. However, if the purpose is to reduce animal suffering, the best path could be implemeWith personal interest: a system that makes people responsible for what they preach, but also represents a midpoint between the protection of animals and respect for human freedom of choice.
The previous juxtaposition of Francion’s and Garner positions showed us what is typical of this debate;One part is unwavering, something that is possibly intrinsically to any absolutist approach, while the other looks for solutions. Many praise the firmness of vegans by following their ethical beliefs and I think it is admirable in some ways;contributes to the welfare of animals in their own way. However, if the purpose of having ethical beliefs is to choose the best course of action in the circumstances and consider all the characteristics of the situation, then adhere to such a abolitionist approach fails to understand the complexity of the problem. Arguing that becoming Vegan is the only ethical option is to take a very simplistic position in a very multifaceted situation.
The fact that it is multifaceted is what makes the appropriate information so important. Earthlings try to do this, but fails due to their aggressiveness and hostility;makes the viewer feel that it lacks objectivity, something so crucial in situations of this nature. To become a ‘conscientious omnivore’, one must be informed about his food, every aspect of his production, so that he can make an intelligent decision that is in accordance with his beliefs and is sustainable in time. As the Americans realize the importance of animal welfare, their link between the quality and safety of food with their own health, and its impact on the environment, concerns about human treatment increase exponentially, especiallyDue to the development of an implicit social contract that promotes higher well -being standards by producers. Fortunately, both for animals rights activists and for those who eat meat, this opening is becoming, although not by steps yet, in the main current in the United States: food not only free of antibiotics and hormones, but alsothat are certified as producers that use methods that take care of animal welfare.
In response to concern for growing interest in animal welfare, many certification programs have been developed that guarantee human treatment in the last 10 years in the United States. These programs assure the consumer that animals receive human treatment, from birth to sacrifice, through the objective, third. Voluntary audits of the party whose standards are based on the premise that farm animals should be able to live their lives with the most natural behavior possible, in a physical and psychological state of well -being. Developed in collaboration by veterinarians, animal scientists, researchers, farmers and livestock experts to guarantee a rigorous set of guidelines, these certifications are constantly updated with respect to new technologies, scientific research and findings in farms.
One of the most outstanding examples of the effective. He was the first to be implemented in the USA. UU., More than 10 years ago and, to date, continues to monitor the well -being of more than 135 million animals in the country, ensuring that their lives are free of inhuman treatment. Its norms govern all aspects of its reproduction and management, from specific measures such as the ‘condition of the legs’ in cattle to broader prohibitions, such as the prohibition of using ‘excessive force’ in its management. Another program, Certified Humane® is endorsed by more than 35 humanitarian organizations, including the highly recognized American society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (ASPCA) and currently certifies more than 80 farms in the USA. UU.
The advantages of these voluntary and independent certification programs are at several levels. First, they reconcile the two axioms mentioned above that govern American society: they ensure that animals are treated in accordance with their status as syndor and that their independent and voluntary nature eliminates any conflict with free market policies. They are a market -based solution and consumer -oriented, which has buyers – that benefit from information and freedom of choice – as well as producers – that benefit from competitive advantage and advertising – equally interested. Secondly, and what is more important, they have proven to have a growing attraction and a tangible effect;Certification programs influence the choice of consumers and this, in turn, has proven to motivate a growing number of producers to improve their practices, certify and maintain the standards throughout the years. Although the use of certification programs is not yet widespread, the best food market is increasing, growing at a rate of around 20% per year . Taking into account that food demand grows to 2-4% per year, it is clearly a result of consumer preference. This is what I consider one of the most important points of the attractiveness of the certification program: its potential development and impact. As certification becomes a competitive advantage, the "invisible hand" of the market will force more to the voluntary audit that will inevitably increase competition and reduce prices. The result: humans raised by humans ceases to be a privilege, a high moral position to which only tributaries have access and, on the other hand, it becomes a standard, a duty, something that will cease to be questioned;Human treatment as the only practice.
In a situation as complex as that facedfarm animals. since it is based on the idyllic world, and not on the real. If the situation is analyzed pragmaticly, a meat consumer, provided that the meat comes from one of the humanitarian farms, is financially supporting the well -being of the animals every year, since it pays more for the humanly raised meat that would do for astandard steak that margin directly finances animal welfare. Refraining from meat is not necessarily an improvement and, definitely, it is not the only way to contribute. Human standards are a great step towards the ultimate goal of animal rights activists;The promotion of human standards persuades people to worry about animals. I am not affirming that the certification programs are the perfect solution, or we should all strive to achieve it, but I do believe that they are an eclectic solution for a multifaceted problem and a real step in the right direction.