In The Longest Journey Begins with a Single Step: Promoting Animal Rights by Promoting Reform (http://www.satyamag.com/sept06/singer-friedrich.html), Peter Singer and PETA's Bruce Friedrich claim that an “odd” controversy has developed in “recent years” about whether animal advocates ought to pursue animal welfare as a means to achieve animal rights. This controversy is neither “odd” nor “recent.” The controversy is not “odd” because there is a fundamental inconsistency between the regulation of animal exploitation and its abolition. The controversy is not “recent” in that the tension between rights and welfare has been a constant in the animal advocacy movement for the past fifteen years. What is “recent” is that there is an emerging worldwide grassroots movement that is challenging the hegemony of corporate animal welfare organizations that have dominated the movement and that is attempting to formulate an alternative, abolitionist paradigm. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Singer, who is the principal formulator of welfarist ideology, and PETA, which implements that ideology and maintains that any dissent or even discussion is “divisive” and threatens movement "unity,” are expressing concern.
There are at least five reasons for an abolitionist to reject the welfarist approach presented in the Singer/Friedrich essay.
1. Animal Welfare: Making Exploitation More Efficient
Singer and Friedrich claim that welfare reforms will recognize that nonhumans have “rights” and “interests”—that the reforms will incrementally move animals away from the status of being property or commodities that have only extrinsic or conditional value. They are wrong. The reforms they support have nothing to do with recognizing that animals have morally significant interests that must be protected even when there is no economic benefit for humans. For the most part, these reforms, like most animal welfare measures, do nothing but make animal exploitation more economically profitable for animal exploiters and further enmesh animals in the property paradigm.
For example, consider the campaign that led to agreement by McDonalds to require supposedly more “humane” standards for slaughterhouses and increased space for battery hens. Singer applauds these actions by McDonalds, which were followed by Wendy's and Burger King, as a “ray of hope” and “the first hopeful signs for American farm animals since the modern animal movement began.” (N.Y. Rev. of Books , May 15, 2003) Friedrich claims that “[t]here's been a real change in consciousness” concerning the treatment of animals used for food ( L.A. Times , Apr. 29, 2003 ), and PETA's Lisa Lange praises McDonalds as “‘leading the way' in reforming the practices of fast-food suppliers, in the treatment and killing of its beef and poultry.” ( L.A. Times , Feb. 23, 2005 )
The slaughterhouse standards praised by Singer and PETA were developed by Temple Grandin , designer of “humane” slaughter and handling systems. Grandin's guidelines, which involve techniques for moving animals through the slaughtering process and stunning them, are based explicitly on economic concerns. According to Grandin, proper handling of animals that are to be slaughtered “keep[s] the meat industry running safely, efficiently and profitably.” Proper stunning is important because it “will provide better meat quality. Improper electric stunning will cause bloodspots in the meat and bone fractures. . . . An animal that is stunned properly will produce a still carcass that is safe for plant workers to work on.” She maintains that “[g]entle handling in well-designed facilities will minimize stress levels, improve efficiency and maintain good meat quality. Rough handling or poorly designed equipment is detrimental to both animal welfare and meat quality.” (www.grandin.com)
In discussing as a general matter the slaughter and battery-cage improvements to which Singer and Friedrich refer, McDonalds states: “ Animals that are well cared for are less prone to illness, injury, and stress, which all have the same negative impact on the condition of livestock as they do on people. Proper animal welfare practices also benefit producers. Complying with our animal welfare guidelines helps ensure efficient production and reduces waste and loss. This enables our suppliers to be highly competitive.” ( www.mcdonalds.com ) Wendy's also emphasizes the efficiency of its animal welfare program: “Studies have shown that humane animal handling methods not only prevent needless suffering, but can result in a safer working environment for workers involved in the farm and livestock industry.” (www.wendys.com) In a report about voluntary reforms in the livestock industry, the Los Angeles Times stated that “[i]n part, the reforms are driven by self-interest. When an animal is bruised, its flesh turns mushy and must be discarded. Even stress, especially right before slaughter, can affect the quality of meat.” ( Apr. 29, 2003 )
This example (and there are many others) illustrates how the producers of animal products—working with prominent animal advocates—are becoming better at exploiting animals in an economically efficient manner by adopting measures that improve meat quality and worker safety. But this has absolutely nothing to do with any recognition that animals have inherent value or that they have interests that should be respected even when it is not economically beneficial for humans to do so. Supposed improvements in animal welfare are, for the most part, limited to and justified by economic benefits for animal exploiters and consumers. Moreover, large corporate animal exploiters can now point to the fact that animal advocates such as Singer and PETA are praising them for their supposedly “humane” treatment of nonhuman animals. PETA quite remarkably presented its 2005 Visionary of the Year Award to Grandin, who is a consultant to McDonalds and other fast-food chains, for her “innovative improvements” in slaughtering processes and PETA's Ingrid Newkirk praises Grandin as having “done more to reduce suffering in the world than any other person who has ever lived.” ( New Yorker, Apr. 14, 2003 )
There is also serious doubt as to whether these changes actually provide any significant improvement in animal treatment apart from the issue of efficient exploitation. A slaughterhouse that follows Grandin's guidelines for stunning, prod use, and other aspects of the killing process is still an unspeakably horrible place. Battery hens that supply some of the major fast-food chains may now live in an area that is equivalent to a square of approximately 8 ½ inches rather than the industry standard—a square of approximately 7 inches—but it would be nonsense to claim that the existence of a battery hen is anything but miserable.
2. Animal Welfare: Making the Public More Comfortable About Animal Exploitation
Singer and Friedrich claim with no support whatsoever that animal welfare reforms will lead to greater protection for animals and then to “animal liberation” (more on that below). We have had animal welfare for about 200 years now, and there is no evidence whatsoever that welfare reforms lead to significant protection for animal interests, much less abolition. Indeed, we are using more nonhumans today, and in more horrific ways, than at any time in human history. To the extent that we have made marginal improvements in some aspects of animal treatment, those improvements have, for the most part, been limited to measures that make animal exploitation more profitable. Although it is possible, in theory, to go beyond this minimal level of animal protection, the status of nonhumans as property and the resulting concern to maximize the value of animal property militate strongly against significant improvement in our treatment of animals and ensures that animal welfare will do little more than make animal exploitation more economically efficient and socially acceptable. In any case, the reforms that Singer and Friedrich propose, and that are presently being promoted by the corporate welfare organizations in the United States , do not go beyond the minimal level.
Singer and Friedrich claim that opponents of welfare are saying “that before these reforms, large numbers of people were refusing to eat meat, but now they have decided that, because animals are not treated so badly, they can eat meat again.” Neither I nor any critic of animal welfare of whom I am aware has ever said any such thing. What I have said is that animal welfare has quite clearly not resulted in large numbers of non-vegans changing their behavior and refusing to eat meat or other animal products, and that welfare reforms are not likely to lead in that direction anytime soon for the very reason that they make people feel more comfortable about animal exploitation. That comfort is the explicit message of the welfarist movement. Animal advocates claim that we can “consume with conscience.” ( N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 2004 , statement of Paul Waldau) Indeed, in Singer's most recent book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter , he and co-author Jim Mason claim that we can be “conscientious omnivores” and exploit animals ethically if, for example, we choose to eat only animals who have been well-cared for and then killed without pain or distress.
The message that this approach sends is quite clear, and if Singer and Friedrich really think that it does not encourage the consumption of animal products, they are deluded. Moreover, welfare reforms may increase demand and increase net animal suffering. The relationship between increased demand and “humane” standards is recognized by the welfarists themselves. For example, literature produced by The Humane Society of the United States to promote its campaign for more “humane” alternatives to the gestation crate for pigs states explicitly that adoption of alternative systems may result in some increased demand or market premium for producers.
I would like to share with you a story that, while anecdotal, illustrates the problem. When the Whole Foods store near my house opened, it sold meat products but did not have a meat department. There is now a large fresh meat and fish department. There are also signs in the store advertising the “Animal Compassion Foundation” established by Whole Foods, which provides funding so that ranchers and farmers can develop ways of raising their nonhumans more “humanely.” Several weeks ago, I was walking by the meat counter and I remarked to an employee standing there that I thought it was a shame that Whole Foods sells corpses. The employee responded: “Did you know that PETA gave an award to Whole Foods for how well they treat animals?” Yes, that's right. In addition to giving an award to Temple Grandin , PETA has also lauded Whole Foods for “requiring that its producers adhere to strict standards.” (www.peta.org ). The Way We Eat features Whole Foods and has pages and pages of adoring praise of the company as an ethically responsible seller of animal products.
Putting aside that there is some serious question as to whether the “strict standards” that PETA and others praise have any meaningful effect on the lives and deaths of the animals whose corpses are sold at Whole Foods (a forthcoming article from Professor Darian Ibrahim at the University of Arizona maintains that the standards are lacking), this sort of approach can only encourage confusion where there should be clarity and encourages people to believe that we can “consume with conscience,” which serves to perpetuate—and legitimate—the consumption of animal products. In the words of a reviewer of The Way We Eat on Amazon.com: “You don't have to become a vegetarian or even a vegan, although becoming one could be a good way to live, both healthwise and morally, but the book sure makes you want to shop at Whole Foods and to buy free range chickens and to do whatever you can to make your food supply come from a decent source.”
3. The Goal? What Goal?
Singer and Friedrich talk about how welfare promotes “animal rights” and claim that opposition to animal welfare is “counterproductive to the goal of animal liberation that we all share.” Exactly what goal is it that we all share?
Singer is a utilitarian who has consistently rejected moral rights for both nonhumans and humans although he confusingly uses rights language when it is convenient. So from the outset, those who maintain that humans have certain moral rights, such as a right not to be enslaved or used as a commodity by others, do not share Singer's goal as far as humans are concerned. As for nonhumans, Singer is not opposed to use per se of most animals; he is concerned only about treatment. To the extent that he discusses use, it is only in the context of a concern that we may not be able to assure adequate treatment. But his goal is not the abolition of all animal exploitation; given Singer's general moral theory, abolition cannot be his goal. Singer has maintained consistently that most nonhumans do not have an interest in continuing to live because they are not self-aware in the same sense that normal humans are and, as a result, they do not care whether we use them; they only care about how we use them. This reflects the views of Jeremy Bentham, the 19th century utilitarian on whom Singer bases his theory. Bentham argued that although animals could suffer and, therefore, mattered morally, animals do not care whether, for instance, we eat them. They care only about how we treat them until we eat them.
This view—that it is not use per se but only treatment—is the foundation of animal welfare ideology and differs from the animal rights position as I have articulated it. I maintain that if animals have an interest in continued existence—and I argue that any sentient being does—then our use of them as human resources—however “humanely” we treat them—cannot be defended morally and that we should seek to abolish and not regulate animal exploitation. I also argue that Singer is wrong to maintain that it is possible to accord equal consideration to any interests that he acknowledges animals do have as long as they are human property. The interests of property will almost always be regarded as weighing less than the interests of property owners.
You do not have to get deeply into philosophy, however, to assess the nature of Singer's “animal liberation.” Singer's most recent book not only maintains that we can ethically eat animals and animal products, but it also has a disclosure that should inform our views about Singer and his views about violence toward nonhumans. In The Way We Eat , Singer and Mason tell us that they learned that a turkey factory needed workers to assist in artificial insemination. “Our curiosity piqued, we decided to see for ourselves what this work really involved.” Singer and Mason spent a day “collecting the semen and getting it into the hen” They caught and restrained the male turkeys while another worker “squeezed the tom's vent until it opened up and the white semen oozed forth. Using a vacuum pump, he sucked it into a syringe.” Singer and Mason then had to “‘break'” the hens, which involved restraining the hen “so that her rear is straight up and her vent open.” (28) The inseminator then inserted a tube into the hen and used a blast of compressed air to insert the semen into the hen's oviduct.
And it wasn't just the turkeys who had an unpleasant time. Singer and Mason complain that their day at the turkey factory was “the hardest, fastest, dirtiest, most disgusting, worst-paid work we have ever done. For ten hours we grabbed and wrestled birds, jerking them upside down, facing their pushed-open assholes, dodging their spurting shit, while breathing air filled with dust and feathers stirred up by panicked birds.” All that, and they “received a torrent of verbal abuse from the foreman. We lasted one day.” (29) One wonders whether Singer and Mason would have returned for a second day if the working conditions had been better.
It is deeply disturbing that Singer and Mason regard it as morally acceptable to engage in violence against nonhumans for any purpose, particularly to satisfy their curiosity about what “this work really involved.” I suggest that there is no non-speciesist way to justify what Singer and Mason claim to have done without also justifying the rape of a woman, or the molestation of a child, in order to see what those acts of violence “really involved.” Perhaps Singer's perverse actions with the turkeys can be explained by his claim in 2001 on Nerve.com that “ sex with animals does not always involve cruelty” and that we can have “mutually satisfying” sexual contact with animals. In any event, if violence against nonhumans is permitted under Singer's theory, we do not need to know much more before concluding that the theory has some very serious flaws and his goals are probably not ones that, as Singer thinks, we share.
As for the goals of Friedrich and PETA, one thing that has become clear over the years is that PETA'a understanding of “animal rights” is, to say the least, idiosyncratic. To cite one example of many, no theory of animal rights of which I am aware would sanction the mass killing of healthy nonhumans, as occurred at PETA's Aspen Hill “sanctuary” in 1991, or, more recently at PETA corporate headquarters and by PETA employees who allegedly used deception to obtain healthy animals who were subsequently killed and dumped. I suppose that if you agree with Singer—that the animals that PETA killed did not have an interest in their lives, but only wanted a “kind” or “compassionate” death—this makes sense to you. I, however, would disagree.
When animal advocates question the corporate welfarists, the stock reply is to say that we all have the same goal, we are all working for the animals, and that dissent or discussion will threaten the unity of the movement. Like “compassionate consumption,” the notion of “movement unity” is a fiction that is used to maintain control of discourse and strategy. There is no movement “unity” because there is an irreconcilable difference between the abolitionist/rights position and the regulation/welfare position, between those who maintain that we should be as “fanatical” (to use Singer's disparaging description) about speciesism as we are about human exploitation, and those, like Singer, who do not. Proclamations about movement “unity” are simply another way of telling advocates not to question the control of the movement by corporate welfarists.
4. Animal Welfare or Nothing: The False Dichotomy
Singer and Friedrich maintain that those who are concerned about nonhumans have two choices: pursue animal welfare or do nothing to help animals. The implication here is that the abolitionist position is too idealistic and cannot provide a strategy to pursue for the short term. This is a standard ploy of welfarists and it is not clear to me whether they really believe this, or if it is just a slogan. In any event, Singer and Friedrich present us with a false dichotomy.
We are inflicting pain, suffering, and death on billions of nonhumans every year. No one—including the most convinced abolitionist—maintains that we can stop that overnight or, indeed, anytime soon. The issue that confronts the advocate is what to do now . Moreover, we live in a world of limited time and limited resources. We cannot do everything. So the issue—at least for those whose goal is abolition—becomes: what do we choose to do now that will reduce suffering most in the short-term, that is consistent with the abolitionist approach, and that will build a political movement for further change in the abolitionst direction?
I would suggest that welfarism is not the rational choice for the abolitionist. It is a bit late in the game to promote animal welfare as the “single step” that will start on us on our long journey. We have spent billions of dollars and what do we have to show for it? I submit that the answer is: nothing and certainly nothing that could be described as an effective use of our limited resources. Singer and Friedrich cite the Animal Welfare Act (a federal law in the United States that purports to regulate the use of nonhumans in experiments and exhibition) and the U.S. Humane Slaughter Act as examples of welfarist laws that would leave animals worse-off if we did not have them. I disagree.
The Animal Welfare Act, which does not even apply to 90% of the nonhumans used in experiments, imposes no real substantive limits on what vivisectors can do with animals in the laboratory. The Act does, however, provide a resource for the research community and for people like Singer and Friedrich to point to in order to assure the public that there is regulation of vivisection. The Humane Slaughter Act, which also does not even apply to most animals who we eat, is, in any event, focused on reducing carcass damage and ensuring worker safety. Again, the primary purpose of the Act is to make consumers feel more comfortable. The Act does not require much more protection than a rational property owner would provide in the first place, and there have been countless instances in which the U.S. government does not enforce the Act.
Singer and Friedrich also cite as an example of the progress of animal welfare that “the stocking density changes for hens, although meager, mean that conditions have gone from 20% percent annual death rates to two or three percent annual death rates.” This is particularly bizarre in that 100% of the chickens will ultimately be killed. Any reduction in deaths before the slaughterhouse keeps the birds alive longer in horrible conditions and increase profit for exploiters. So welfarists have succeeded in educating exploiters about how to, in McDonalds's words “ ensure efficient production and reduce waste and loss.” Singer and Friedrich may find this exciting. I do not.
So what can an abolitionist do now that will reduce suffering more effectively in the short term and is consistent with the abolitionist end? The abolitionist approach provides practical guidance in a number of respects. The most important form of incremental change is the decision by the individual to become vegan. Veganism, or the eschewing of all animal products, is more than a matter of diet or lifestyle; it is a political and moral statement in which the individual accepts the principle of abolition in her own life. Veganism is the one truly abolitionist goal that we can all achieve—and we can achieve it immediately, starting with our next meal. If we are ever going to effect any significant change in our treatment of animals and to one day end that use, it is imperative that there be a social and political movement that actively seeks abolition and regards veganism as part of the moral baseline. There is, of course, no rational distinction between meat and other animal products, such as eggs or dairy, or between fur and leather, silk, or wool.
Most national animal advocacy organizations in the U.S. focus on animal welfare even if they pay lip service to veganism. An excellent example of this is PETA. On one hand, PETA purports to encourage veganism. On the other hand, PETA's campaigns are, for the most part, focused on traditional welfare regulation and PETA actively and confusingly promotes the concept of “humanely” produced animal products.
There is, however, no sense in which veganism is promoted as a moral baseline of the movement. Rather, veganism is presented merely as an optional lifestyle choice and is often portrayed as being difficult and only for the committed few rather than as an easy way to eliminate exploitation. That is, the corporate movement, many of the “leaders” of which are not themselves vegan, itself sets up the vegan/abolition position as the “fringe” or “radical” position, making the “normal” or “mainstream” position the one where we try to “consume with compassion.” Indeed, Singer claims that we “don't have to be fanatical” about food issues, and “[a] little self-indulgence, if you can keep it under firm control,” is acceptable. ( The Way We Eat , 281, 283) We would, of course, never say that “a little self-indulgence” is acceptable where rape, murder, child molestation, or other forms of human exploitation, are involved, but the so-called “father of the animal rights movement” assures us that “a little self-indulgence” in participating as consumers in the brutal killing of nonhumans is nothing to worry over. It is acceptable—indeed, expected—to be “fanatical” about not molesting children or other serious forms of human exploitation, but Singer tells us that it is acceptable to be flexible when it comes to nonhuman exploitation.
A movement that seeks abolition must have veganism as a baseline principle and should not have as its “mainstream” position that we can be “conscientious omnivores” who can “consume with compassion.” We must be clear. “Compassionate” consumption is an insidious myth. All animal products, including those insidiously stamped “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” by various corporate animal welfarist organizations, involve unspeakable brutality.
Veganism and abolitionist education, including boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, school programs, and other non-violent acts aimed at informing the public about the moral, environmental, and health dimensions of veganism and abolition provide practical and incremental strategies both in terms of reducing animal suffering now and in terms of building a movement in the future that will be able to obtain more meaningful legislation in the form of prohibitions rather than mere “humane” regulation. If, in the late-1980s—when the animal advocacy community in the United States decided very deliberately to pursue a welfarist agenda—a substantial portion of movement resources had been invested in vegan education and advocacy, there would likely be hundreds of thousands more vegans than there are today. That is a very conservative estimate given the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been expended by animal advocacy groups to promote welfarist legislation and initiatives. The increased number of vegans would reduce suffering more by decreasing demand for animal products than all of the welfarist “successes” put together and multiplied ten-fold. Increasing the number of vegans would also help to build a political and economic base necessary for more pervasive social change as a necessary predicate for legal change. Given that there is limited time and there are limited financial resources available, expansion of traditional animal welfare is not a rational and efficient choice if we seek abolition in the long term or even if we only seek reduction of animal suffering in the shorter term.
Singer claims that the reality is that “going vegan is still too big a step for most.” (The Way We Eat , 279) Putting aside the fact that more people might be inclined to go vegan if Singer and the corporate welfare movement were not telling them that they can consume animal products "with compassion," the solution is incremental veganism, not "humane" animal products. For example, a campaign to get people to eat one vegan meal a day, and then two, and then three, is much better than encouraging them to eat “free range” meat, eggs, or dairy at all three meals. But the message should be clear: veganism, and not “compassionate consumption,” is the baseline principle of a movement that promotes abolition.
At this point in time, it is unlikely that most legislative or regulatory campaigns that seek to go beyond traditional welfare reform are going to be successful; there is no political base to support such reforms because the corporate movement has not sought to build one. If, however, advocates wish to pursue such campaigns, they should at the very least involve prohibitions and not regulations. These prohibitions should recognize that animals have interests that go beyond those that must be protected in order to exploit the animals and cannot be compromised for economic reasons. At no point should animal advocates propose alternative, supposedly more “humane” substitutes. For example, a prohibition on the use of all animals in a particular sort of experiment is to be preferred over the substitution in the experiment of one species for another. But I want to be clear that I do not favor investing any resources in legislative or regulatory campaigns at this time. The political compromise required usually results in evisceration of the benefit sought. Rather, the abolitionist movement should focus on veganism, which is a much more practical and effective way to reduce animal exploitation.
I stress that the abolitionist movement should embrace a non-violent approach, both on the level of individual interactions and as a matter of movement ideology. As I have long argued, the animal rights movement should see itself as the next step in the progress of the peace movement; as a movement that takes the rejection of injustice to the next step. The problem of animal exploitation is complicated and involves roots that go deep into our patriarchal culture and our disturbing tolerance for violence against the vulnerable. Not only is violence problematic as a moral matter, it is unsound as a practical strategy. We will never address the problem successfully by using violence to try to create a social movement in favor of abolition. As Mohandas Gandhi maintained, the most powerful force with which to oppose injustice is not violence but non-cooperation. There is no better way to refuse to cooperate with the exploitation of nonhumans than to eliminate it from your own life through veganism and work to educate others to do the same. It is disturbing that PETA spends much more time criticizing those who oppose the welfarist approach than it does those who will only marginalize the animal issue further by associating it with violence.
It is also disturbing to see the extent to which PETA uses sexism in its campaigns, literature, and events. Speciesism is closely tied to sexism and other forms of discrimination against humans. As long as we continue treating women like meat, we are going to continue treating nonhumans as meat. It is high time that serious animal advocates make clear to PETA that its sexism is destructive and counterproductive.
5. "Whose Side Are You On?" Good Question.
Singer and Friedrich end their essay by asking: “Whose Side Are You On?” They tell us that the animal exploiters all oppose animal welfare and ask whether we want to be on the side of the animal exploiters who oppose animal welfare or on the side of Singer and Friedrich, who support animal welfare. This question by Singer and Friedrich is problematic in at least two respects respects.
First, it assumes that if animal exploiters oppose animal welfare, it must be because animal welfare is really harmful to animal exploiters. That is nonsense and indicates either naivety or disingenuousness. An industry may oppose regulation even when it does not really oppose it and even when the regulation may benefit it. A case in point involves the federal Animal Welfare Act amendment of 1985, which created “animal care committees” to monitor animal experiments. These committees have not only failed to provide any meaningful limitation of animal experiments, they have effectively insulated vivisection from public scrutiny more than it was before 1985. Vivisectors publicly opposed the 1985 amendment although I had many vivisectors tell me privately that the amendment was, on balance, not harmful for the practice of animal use. They opposed it because they oppose the principle of any governmental regulation of animal use. It would be difficult to find a vivisector who would say, with a straight face, that the 1985 amendment has done anything to restrict vivisection, and many are delighted that they can now assure the public that there is a committee that reviews all animal experiments.
Second, Singer and Friedrich are wrong factually in that a number of large animal exploiters openly and publicly embrace the welfare reforms that Singer and Friedrich applaud. McDonalds and others have done so because they understand that they got a bargain. They made minimal changes that were more than offset by the great publicity that they got from prominent animal welfarists. A shareholder of these companies would be justified in complaining if they did not take the “deal” that PETA and others offered as it can only maximize shareholder wealth.
Although I generally do not think that questions such as “whose side are you on” are helpful, I am going to make an exception in this case and ask the same question. Here goes:
Singer maintains that animal use per se does not raise a moral issue because most nonhumans do not have an interest in continuing to live;
Singer maintains that we can consume animals in an ethical manner;
Singer regards inflicting violence on nonhumans as an acceptable way of learning about animal exploitation;
PETA kills (“euthanizes” is the wrong word because it implies a death that is in the interest of the animal) thousands of healthy animals because PETA apparently accepts Singer's view that animals do not have a fundamental and morally important interest in continuing to live. “Animal rights” means “humane” executions.
PETA promotes campaigns that are embraced by corporate animal exploiters, and gives awards to animal exploiters.
PETA has thoroughly trivialized the animal rights movement by turning the issue of animal exploitation into one large, self-promoting media stunt, and has made sexism a constant theme of its animal campaigns.
In a recent eBay auction, Ingrid Newkirk, President/Founder of PETA, offered her services for a day to the highest bidder as a fundraiser for PETA. Winning bid: $43,600.00. As part of the ebay format, potential bidders can ask questions of the seller (in this case, PETA). And, as you can imagine, there were a lot of questions asked, and they were answered well with a bit of humor and sometimes sarcasm.
Hire PETA President as a Personal Assistant for a Day
Bidding has ended for this item
Winning bid: US $43,600.00 (Reserve met) Ended: Nov-10-05 07:00:00 PST Start time: Oct-31-05 07:00:00 PST History: 42 bids (US $100.00 starting bid) Winning bidder: bearautovista ( 9 ) About Me Item location: Norfolk, Virginia United States
Description (revised) Hire PETA President as Your Personal Assistant for a Day
Here’s a unique chance to hire hands-on corporate administrator and founder Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as your personal assistant for a day.
Use her experience in animal matters and corporate know-how to good advantage, perhaps by having her accompany you on your annual hunting expedition or to the rodeo or a bullfight.
What about having her redesign your animal testing lab or your bear bile farm, check your trapline, sharpen the lamb mulesing shears on your Outback farm or unload your poor old sheep from the docks in Dubai, build supports to stop your cattle from slipping off the truck ramps at the leather market, or count how many times the workers at your slaughterhouse miss with the captive-bolt gun?
You can have her clean rodent cages or racehorse stalls, serve customers at your dog-soup restaurant, or just have her listen for hours to your hunting club members expound on their manhood.
Of course, as one of the world’s most prominent animal rights leaders, Newkirk would gladly also help you veganize your corporate cafeteria or cook your family’s dinner, bring your wardrobe into the 21st century by going with you on a compassionate shopping spree, or cap your chimney to keep wildlife out of your fireplace this winter. She could help you select cruelty-free holiday gifts, train you to be nicer to your Rottweilers or teach you how to talk to your cats, restock your bathroom cabinet with cruelty-free toiletries and cleaning products, or swap out your sticky glue traps for Havahart® humane box traps.
Or perhaps you have other ideas.
Newkirk is available to give you honest critiques or humane advice or just do what you’d like her to do as long as it’s legal and, if animal suffering or death is involved, you did not cause it or add to it in any way specifically for this occasion.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 850,000 members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.
PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in factory farms, laboratories, the clothing trade, and the entertainment industry. PETA also works on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds, and other so-called &ldquoests” and the abuse of backyard dogs.
PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns. For more information, see PETA.org.
Ingrid Newkirk will only engage in legal activities (for example, only Louisiana and New Mexico still allow cockfighting) and will only serve as a personal assistant for activities that are a normal part of the lifestyle of the winner, not for any activities in which pain and suffering are inflicted specifically for this offer.
Ingrid Newkirk reserves the right to refuse any bid.
Accommodations and round-trip air travel between Norfolk, Virginia, and the job site are the responsibility of the winner and are not included in the purchase price.
Ingrid Newkirk may choose to be accompanied by a videographer or member of the media.
When you bid, please send details of how you plan to have Ingrid Newkirk assist you to IngridNewkirk at peta.org.
>From the last page of the Q&A:
Questions from other members : Hire PETA President as a Personal Assistant for a Day Item number: 5630325919
Question & Answer Answered On
Q: Hi there, I just ran across the auction. What a great idea! And kudos to you for how you're handling all the ribbing--some of it good-natured, some not--keep up the good work! I hope you raise lots of money for the cause and get a few people to think about some things along the way. Nov-08-05
A: Well, thank you. We hope so too.
Q: hey freaks, why it is OK for her assistant to take penasilin that is derived from animals and tested on animals for her diabetes? Or if she thinks abortion is acceptable? Nov-08-05
A: Oh my, where to start? It’s a vice-president, not her assistant; it’s insulin not penicillin; and all insulin produced these days is non-animal based since there were so many problems with allergic reactions to animal-based insulin. PETA even has a free booklet you can order on peta.org on how to control diabetes and how going vegan would reduce your need for additional insulin. PETA’s mandate concerns animals, so it does not have any opinion about abortion. If you win the auction, you may ask Ms Newkirk about her personal opinion on the subject.
Q: i was wondering if she could help me find the deer i shot on nov.6? is that a possibility? i really dont like it just laying in the woods, and would she be willing to hunt with me, im not a good shot when they are running so there might be a accident if you know what i mean. Nov-08-05
A: Thank you for identifying yourself as a slob hunter. Most of your ilk don’t. Hunting accidents are tragedies but unlike drive-by shootings the victims aren’t usually innocent bystanders.
Q: Answer me this, if I understand correctly a vegan must be very careful and make sure to eat a certain variety of foods/beans in order to get the proper protein and nutrients. If this is true, it just does not sound natural to me. Our ancestors were not designed to go out of their way to find a certain vegetable or bean. That lends itself to this, why is it so bad to just not eat meat? I understand the conditions on a dairy farm are not to your standards but what about free range eggs / milk / cheese which lends itself to a veg. diet where one doesn't have to make a special effort. I believe if we were not intended to eat meat we wouldn't have the capacity to do so. Nov-08-05
A: That view is a bit outdated. Actually, as long as a vegan eats a balanced diet with plenty of fresh food and enough calories and gets enough B12 in cereal or soymilk, s/he will be fine. You might look at pcrm.org for advice or goveg.com. We eat well. And, hey, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is grains, nuts and fruits in one bite! Add a banana and you can pretend you are Elvis Presley. How much meat do you suppose our ancestors really ate? You may have noticed that we’re not exactly designed to chase down antelope and rip their throats out with our teeth. I suppose prior to the use of fire they were also raw foodists. It just doesn’t feel natural to me to chew on raw meat when there are so many delightful fruits, nuts and vegetables grown ready-to-eat. Sure, if you’re not ready to stop eating eggs or milk products, those from free range animals probably caused less suffering, but you should try some of the wonderful soy and rice based products – cheese, sour cream, yoghurt, even soy ice cream.
Q: I'm not sure you know your facts on the gentle and quiet creatures. Deer and other animals are by no means gentle and quiet. Try petting one of them sometime in the wild. You might be knocked back into reality, if you live through it. I'm not trying to be sarcastic or make you mad in any way. I don't agree with animal cruelty and such. On the other hand, I hunt for food, not trophies. Why is that so hard for PETA to understand? I don't like to see animals suffer any more than anyone else. I never take a questionable shot when hunting. When I shoot an animal, it is over very quickly. If you want to see something sick, get into a deer stand, unarmed and watch a coyote take an adult deer down and start tearing it apart before the deer is dead. I'm a law abiding hunter and I don't see that changing, it's a family tradition that is being instilled into my kids. One note, I'm also 100% Native American. Where did your ancestors come from? Nov-08-05
A: You’re right, but we would certainly never encourage anyone to try to pet any wild animal. We understand that you eat the animals you kill and as we’ve said that’s a more honest way of relating than buying them shrink-wrapped in the supermarket or as a plate of chicken wings in a bar. Still, these days, there is no real need to hunt wild animals for food, as safer, more nutritious food is readily available. Our ancestors were also Earthlings, so we share a common background. More specifically, I think Ms. Newkirk is originally from Africa. All Europeans are.
Q: Is PETA trying to make domesticated animals extinct? If we don't eat beef, chicken, etc., and if we neuter every dog and cat on the planet, then what becomes of these poor beasts? Do you really think people will keep a herd of cattle just to look at? I think PETA has gone nuts. NANCY Nov-08-05
A: Hi, Nancy - People are doing their best to keep a herd of elephants in captivity just to look at, so, yes, they probably would do the same with cattle. The reason there are so many farmed animals is that they are relentlessly bred to keep up with the demand for cheap meat. Modern day chickens have been bred to grow to full size in just weeks – a process that used to take months – to produce food faster although it makes them unable to stand and barely even move. I appreciate what you’re trying to say but there is very little danger of domestic or companion animals becoming extinct.
Q: Does this day consist of 8 hours or 24 or somewhere in between? Also, how come vegeterians die on average earlier then meat eaters? Nov-08-05
A: Well, we were thinking of a normal work day but I guess it depends on what you have in mind. Ms Newkirk will try to accommodate your schedule if you win. Not only don’t vegetarians die at a younger age than meat eaters but they are healthier throughout their lives - their longevity rate is superior. Check http://www.goveg.com. Your comment would have more zing if it were accurate.
Q: hi, i don't know anything about your organization. i just so happen to stumble upon your auction through ebay's most watched auctions page. CONGRATULATIONS! Anyhoo, let the president know that she is a beautiful woman in and out for caring so much for God's creatures. Here's my question...when you say that animals are not for us to eat, what information did you use in order to come to that conclusion? Nov-08-05
A: There is a lot of evidence that humans aren’t ideally designed to eat animals – from the shape of our teeth to the way our digestive systems work. We’re not true carnivores like tigers. We’re primates, and primates aren’t big meat eaters. In fact, most don’t eat meat at all. But our creed that animals are not ours to eat is based more on a philosophical stance that each animal has his own interests, desires and a unique place in creation and that for animals this place is certainly not a factory farm or a veal crate or having her wings sold for 29 cents each during ‘Happy Hour’ at your neighborhood bar. Simply because we are the cleverest and most powerful animal does not mean that the other animals were put here for us to do with as we please. In fact, we are in an ideal position to protect those weaker than us.
Q: Great publicity stunt idea, who came up with this one? To bad that’s probably all you will get. I very seriously doubt you will see the cash on this one. Not exactly hi-rollers bidding so far haha.. At least it has given people a forum to lash out at PETA which I found very funny. You seem to have a good sense of humor. How much do you think this Auction will net PETA I would put my money on a loss. Nov-08-05
A: I don't know. More than 50,000 people have looked at this auction, it’s on Ebay's most viewed list, is featured on several other sites, and bidding has already passed $14,000. We're glad to hear that the high rollers haven't checked in yet – we can hardly wait!
Q: L@@K auction # 5631870282 I just wanted to say that I think you all are great... my three puppy dogs along with myself are watching your auction hoping for a great outcome. Good luck!!! Nov-08-05
A: Thanks – keep an eye on those pooches or they'll outbid you when you leave the room.
Q: Just because she is the self-titled -President- of PETA does NOT equate her position with that of the President of the United States. She should not have to be accomodated in a room that would be of the caliber fit for George Bush, the President of the United States. She is worthy of respect, but the levels due are NOT equivalent based on titles. For President Bush, I would would make special accomodation; for -President- Newkirk, she gets what everyone else gets. Nov-08-05
A: Well, then, she and George can visit at the same time!
Q: Blessings to Ingrid and to all of the wonderful folks at PETA for doing such great work. Thank you for making our world a better place for ALL living creatures -- furry and hairless, big and small, the intelligent, and the not so intelligent (who are well represented as the authors of some of these questions!). Your responses here have made me laugh and your good hearts give me hope. Best wishes from me, and my three darling rescue kitties (Julia, Kate, Sasha, and Molly). Nov-08-05
A: Thanks for your comments. Glad to see that your cats get equal billing in your family! I'm sure they wouldn't have it any other way.
Q: I would like to know one thing, many great scientific discoveries have been made through testing on animals. If we do not use animals how can we possibly make any progress? Maybe you would suggest using prisoners on death row, or maybe we could auction someone on eBay to do this, like say, a certain President of an Animal Advocate group. Nov-08-05
A: Good question, but like many people I think that you might be confusing progress with growth. Animal testing has grown to become a huge business but it hasn't made much progress – more people die today of cancer, heart disease and problems caused by medical treatment than ever before – and that's with tons of animal testing. Prisoners were once asked to volunteer to test yellow fever vaccinations in exchange for a reduction in their sentences. I think that this might be a useful contribution that prisoners can make to repay society, if they choose to, but not if they are coerced. Better than the animals who are innocent, have no choice and will certainly be killed. But there are also many healthy and sick people who would be glad to be included in an experimental study either for the chance for a cure or to help humanity. Look at Rock Hudson trying desperately but without luck to get into an experimental program and having to go to France for one when it was too late. Keep in mind that many of the tests that you are supporting are often to investigate drug, alcohol or tobacco addiction in animals, HIV or dozens of other diseases or conditions that do not normally occur in animals. Today's epidemiological studies and human cell cultures, and more allow us to use humans without harming them.
Q: I agree with you. I love animals too. They are beautiful to look at, fun to shoot, and delicious to eat. Nov-08-05
A: We love original ideas like this. The first time we heard it, about 25 years ago, we laughed ourselves silly.
Q: If I win, will Ms. Newkirk come hunting with me, and explain to me overpopulation of animal species? could she possibly explain how an animal dying a slow & painful death starving over the course of a winter because of overpopulation & lack of food is better than harvesting an animal & feeding a family (possibly more than 1 family)? If you vegans stop reproducing & eating all the animals natural foods maybe this wouldn't occur? Is she capable of such in depth conversation, or is it animals feel pain & the veggies don't? Nov-08-05
A: You know, she would, but save your money and don't bid. If you won, you might not be able to follow her explanation and might feel cheated.
Q: Hi, What a wonderful thing you are doing. I think cruelty to animals is truly horrible. I must say there has been a lot of questions already! I just finished reading through them & there are (some) valid points made on the ~non-animal lovers~ side. Personally I think that we should not consider animals to be more important than humans. I wonder how many staving people in our current world humanitarian crisis could be given LIFE by the efforts of volunteer's like yourself? Not to mention all the money and resources (+ time) that could be used to help desperate people. I feel that people should not be cruel to animals and I am very upset that (some) people are however you will never stop (merely slow) the cruelty of animals. I think that mother teresa could have really used you people on the mission fields and I personally would love to see you handing out food to starving children and giving first-aid to bomb victums or helping rescue people from earthquake rubble. Thanks. Nov-08-05
A: Wow. Funny you should mention Mother Theresa. Some of Ms Newkirk's earliest memories are of this sainted woman. Ms Newkirk’s mother volunteered for Mother Theresa in India and St. Theresa's lessons of compassion and love for all were not lost on her or her daughter. It was probably while the young Ingrid was rolling bandages for lepers on school break (yes, she did that) or stuffing cloth dolls for the orphanage kids that her mother said to her, 'It doesn’t matter who suffers, but how.' Her mother also took in human and non-human waifs and strays, she didn't slam the door on anyone who was hungry or ill. It isn't necessary to rank either humans or animals as more important, any more than it's necessary to kick a stray dog while going to feed a homeless person, all are deserving of our care, love and consideration. PETA works to help animals. Other groups work to help human victims of violence, war and abuse. Some people do nothing of any good for anyone. You can support whichever groups you feel are working towards goals that you share. Thanks for keeping an open mind and for your own efforts for those in need.
Q: I'm all for PETA, what I want to know is if I hire her, will she smoke a joint with me (it will be within the bounds of my business to do so)? Nov-07-05
A: Wow. Nice work if you can get it… Far out! We won't even ask what business you're in. Send us your pager number and what corner you'd like to meet on and we'll discuss it, but it would have to be legal in your jurisdiction – no, don't even tell us where you live.
Q: Hi - Good Luck raising money! Isn't it a shame about some of the really dumb questions you've had from the REALLY dumb rednecks (is it ok to call them that? i'm from UK not sure what's allowed). One question, my other half says eating fish is ok, coz they don't have any feeling and catching them doens't cause any pain or distress. What does the newest research and Ms Newkirk say about this? I take it Ms Newkirk doesn't eat fish or like fishing! How about auctioning a 5 minute phonecall from her to lecture the person of your choice? (Like my other half to tell him fishing IS a blood sport?) Nov-07-05
A: Like the idea: thanks! Scientists have proven that fish are intelligent animals who feel pain just like all animals do. Fish learn from one another, have long term memories and can recognize one another. Fish gather information by eavesdropping and fish even use tools- which until recently was thought to be a uniquely human trait. To learn more about the amazing lives of fish, please visit FishingHurts.com (or get your other half to) - you can also read about the cruelty of the fishing industry, the health problems caused by eating fish and, of course, what you can do to help them! These days there are also many vegetarian faux fish products that would probably satisfy the other half. Oh, we don’t call them 'really dumb rednecks' – it’s redundant.
Q: I agree with parts of PETA but feel things have gotten way overboard in some of your views. Keep going after the cruel people but please leave the honest hunter and fisher alone. Best of luck with the auction. Nov-07-05
A: Thanks. Sometimes our views might seem over the top to people who are kind and caring to most animals but still enjoy pursuits like hunting or fishing. It is true that hunters and fishers are more honest than those who pay someone else to do their killing, but they need to discipline themselves to not just be up front about it, but to stop it as we’re not survivalists any more. Check out peta.org and read our positions on hunting and fishing – you may be surprised to find you agree.
Q: I am dismayed that someone in a position of power has nothing better to do than sell their time away to the highest bidder. Maybe you should reconsider your position as the leader of a powerful organization, and take on a more profitable career. Nov-07-05
A: Ms Newkirk replies: I gave up a profitable career a long time ago to do something that has its rewards, even when it comes to dealing with rude and critical people, because I see every day that more eyes and hearts and minds are being opened, even against such resistance to change.
The very first question from Q&A:
Question & Answer Answered On
Q: Is this for real? Seems an unusual item for ebay. Cheers Oct-31-05
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