It's probably a good thing I never attend these conferences, as it would just get me aggravated. Bruce Friedrich is clearly a better debater than Alex Hershaft, but he just gets his facts wrong. For example, when the ban on gestation crates was passed in Florida, the companies did not respond by moving the pigs to group housing. They responded by slaughtering all the animals, and all pork production moved to other states. They deemed that complying with the law would be too expensive. So, the same number of pigs are in gestation crates, it is just that the pork is imported into Florida from elsewhere.
Also, it is not about letting the animals suffer more just so that vegans will have a better argument to convert people. It is about not telling people that animals are being treated well, when the fact of the matter is that they are being tortured. If animal advocacy groups succeed in passing welfare reforms, but the message to the public was about one of how animals are still being treated horribly, that would be one thing. But that is not the way these campaigns ever work in practice. The public is told, by people in these animal advocacy groups that helped passed the law, that these animals are now well treated, when nothing could be further from the truth.
It is not just that we are giving our seal of approval to killing animals "humanely." We are giving our seal of approval to the torture of animals. Something which most members of the public would consider an abomination if they had to deal with it face to face. We are not elevating society to a higher level of ethics. We are sinking far below the social norms which already exist.
I agree with you on that point. I personally always make it a point when discussing animal issues with someone that just because some animals live "better" than others, they're still being treated very poorly. I don't sugarcoat the fact I wouldn't personally eat a pig or chicken even if it were treated as well as my mom's dogs and cats. That's the place where I part ways with major animal welfare groups. On the other hand I can't stomach the exclusive, short sighted rhetoric of the hardcore abolitionists. What does that make me, a hypocrite? I'm not sure. The organizations I choose to support aren't perfect but I do think they do more to actually raise awareness about animal suffering in an effective way than 99% of the ones out there.
Animal welfare seems to be a bit of a joke. As long as animals are considered property, their "owners" will treat them accordingly. This is especially true when there's a profit motive. Farmers and producers will only treat them as well as is economically feasible to do so. I frequently hear "We don't abuse animals on our farm cuz then they won't produce as well" from farmers. You can see where their priorities lie. Plus, if a person is against the unnecessary murder of animals, animal welfare reforms really do nothing for them other than make people feel good about their actions. This has already happened in Europe.
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