Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Animal Welfare Is Not That Complex

A speaker at the recent conference of the Animal Agriculture Alliance set about explaining the rise of the farm animal welfare debate by saying...

Pet owners have to find a way to deal with a certain cognitive dissonance in their lives: they live with some kinds of animals as pets/companions, while they eat other kinds.

The guilt involved in treating pets one way and food animals another way goes to one of the activists’ core messages; people donate money to alleviate that guilt.

The speaker seems to imply that the actions of a compassionate carnivore are, in a sense, irrational. People, the speaker explains, give money to HSUS because they are mentally confused. The comments are akin to those in the mid 1900's when some believed that animal rights activists had a mental problem.

Is it really that complex of a problem? I don't think so, and I don't think the majority of Americans feel any guilt from eating meat while raising pets at the same time.

The issue is so very simple. People want to eat meat, but they do not want the animals they eat to be treated inhumanely. That does not sound irrational. It sounds perfectly reasonable.

Often I feel comments like these are meant to placate livestock producers who feel their morality is questioned by animal advocates. By telling producers that the average American is mentally confused in some way, it belittles consumers' efforts to increase the welfare of animals on animal farms, and justifies the conventional factory farm.

If this is the case, it is unnecessary. Farmers are not doing anything wrong; farmers are producing the exact food item that consumers are demanding. This is the sole economic, social, and ethical duty of farmers. It is up to consumers to demand and pay premiums for more humane food, and the modern animal welfare movement is the market and political process for doing just that.

Again, let me repeat the simplicity of the animal welfare movement. Most Americans want to eat meat, dairy products, and eggs. They also want the animals to be free of suffering. What is so odd about that?