Saturday, September 26, 2009

Use of Word "Franchise"

I often refer to all movements within the farm animal welfare debate as a franchise. I hope it does not offend anyone, as that is not the intent. Being an economist I am always searching for economic principles underlying behavior, including behavior of individuals within an idealogical movement.

Livestock farmers find a sincere meaning in life through their work, which is why many farm despite its unprofitability. Their social network consists of other farmers, and when they are attacked by groups they will ban together and reinforce their social norms to preserve the meaning they find in life. So when they discuss farm animal welfare they are doing more than just stating their perceptions. They are protecting an institution that is important personally and financially to them. They are protecting their franchise. This is they will sometimes make statements they know to be false, like when they assert that sows in confinement facilities have pleasant lives and have no desire to be raised under the Animal Welfare Approved label. They don't believe this (they just can't really believe this), they are protecting their franchise.

The same goes for animal advocacy groups. These are individuals dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals, and for many it is their life-calling. Just as a business franchise must be in tune with its consumers' attitudes animal advocacy groups must take into account how its members will react to something and must protect the movement at all costs. This is why you hear so few animal advocates speak out against the ban on horse slaughter, despite the fact that there must be many, many, who understand it has led to horrible consequences for horses.

Ham and Eggonomics is also a franchise. I know that I am susceptible to influences other than truth. I extract much meaning in life by believing that I am providing consumers with the objective information they need to understand the farm animal welfare debate. Yet I belong to a college that sees itself as a consultant to the livestock industry, and I also know that only animal advocates read my blog. Despite my sincere efforts, I know that this affects what I say. Because I cannot honestly eliminate the influence, I try to be open about it. Because I know every other group is also influenced by these forces, I often refer to movements as a franchise.

When I refer to a movement as a franchise, do not consider it an insult. It is only an assertion that a movements consists of people, and people can only be human.