Sunday, June 14, 2009

Abolish violence, don't regulate it

The St. Catharines Standard - June 16, 2009

By Daniel K. Wilson,

Two recent news stories illustrate the problem with some of today’s animal “protection” groups.

The first is about the efforts of animal-rights activists to ban foie gras, a French delicacy made from geese that are force-fed a corn-and-fat mixture before they’re killed, from restaurants that serve it.

The other is in response to the Ontario government’s announcement that it won’t extend the annual deer-hunting season, to which one anti-sport hunting group applauded the Ministry of Natural Resources’ sensitivity and concerns about wildlife welfare.

Unfortunately, actions and reactions such as these threaten to undermine what the animal-rights movement is all about - that it’s unacceptable for humans to exploit or kill animals for any reason.

The MNR didn’t outlaw deer hunting; it only changed its mind about extending the season (for now). So why is a group opposed to the hunting of deer for sport congratulating a pro-hunting group?

And why are the animal-rights people only calling for a boycott of foie gras and not of all the steaks, pork chops, chicken wings and turkey sandwiches also served at these restaurants?

The production of foie gras is no worse than what happens to millions of other animals on today’s factory farms before they’re trucked off to slaughter.

But instead of educating the public that all creatures are worthy of respect and compassion, some groups are sending the message that it’s okay to kill certain animals, or spending vast amounts of money and resources to regulate animal exploitation.

The World Wildlife Fund works hard to save the polar bear while it supports the annual seal hunt (both the WWF Canada president and the Prince of Wales, a WWF spokesperson, are devoted sport hunters).

Last year PeTA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, ended its boycott of, and became the unofficial spokesgroup for KFC Canada, when the chicken giant agreed to gas its birds before slitting their throats. According to one PeTA rep, “It’s okay to eat at KFC Canada; they’re good now.”

Even our local humane societies, whose sworn duty is to protect those who “cannot speak for themselves”, have no problem barbecuing and serving animals at fundraisers to help other, more popular animals.

As one supporter said, “…let PeTA battle [what’s happening to pigs and chickens] right now, and let us focus on the pups.”

But it’s hypocrisy to defend some animals while causing the suffering and death of others. And expecting someone else to stop your own animal exploitation is irresponsible.

Some animal-rights activists believe that if they push for stronger animal welfare laws it will someday lead to animal liberation. This however is simply not the case. Baby steps don’t work.

According to Gary Francione, a professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers University, after 200 years of animal welfare legislation, more animals are killed for food today than ever before.

The latest figures out of the U.K. also show animal experimentation and sport hunting is on the rise, despite that country’s progressive animal welfare laws.

That’s because animal welfare reinforces the ideology that animals are property and here for us to use. It says it’s okay to exploit, kill and torture animals (with good reason) as long as they have food, water and shelter.

In truth, animal welfare actually leads to more, not less animals being killed because people feel less guilty about it, thinking (or hoping) the animals aren’t suffering as much; the idea behind today’s “happy meat” and “conscientious carnivore” movements.

Choosing which animals you’ll be kind to and which animals you won’t isn’t true kindness. Pushing for more “humane” methods of killing animals really isn’t humane. And cozying up to those who profit from killing animals won’t stop the killing.

The only way to end animal suffering is to abolish all forms of animal exploitation. Those who claim to speak for the animals should bear this in mind.

Dan Wilson is a vegan, environmentalist, animal rights activist and public education director for the Vegan Party of Canada. He is also a member of The Standard's community editorial board. You can contact him at: .

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