More Joan Dunayer on Animal Rights vs. Animal Rights Welfarists

In response to criticism of her book, Speciesism, and specifically its attacks on the more non-abolitionist elements of the animal rights movement, Joan Dunayer recently posted a long section of her book which deals with this topic to animal rights mailing list AR-News.

Dunayer charges that animal rights activists who work for reform of certain practices are hypocritical or, at the least, not true to their ideals,

Asking KFC or any other company to implement less-cruel slaughter of chickens conveys this message: “It’s alright for you to kill chickens, provided that you do it in the least cruel way.” As David Nilbert has stated, nonhuman advocates shouldn’t ask a company to sell body parts from chickens slaughtered less cruelly; they should demand that the company “stop selling fried body parts of chickens altogether.” . . .

“Welfarist” campaigning perpetuates a speciesist double standard between humans and nonhumans. As expressed by Francione, treating “the nonhuman context different from the human context” indicates “species bias.”

If I were in a Nazi concentration camp and someone on the outside asked me, “Do you want me to work for better living conditions, more-humane deaths in the gas chamber, or the liberation of all concentration camps?” I’d answer, “Liberation.” In fact, I’d find the question bizarre and offensive. I’d regard any focus on better living conditions or more-“humane” deaths as immoral. It’s equally immoral to focus on better living conditions or more-“humane” killing of enslaves and slaughtered nonhumans.

. . .

Time, money, and effort always are limited. Activists should devote every available minute and dollar to reducing the number of victims and bringing the day of emancipation closer — by promoting veganism and building public support for nonhuman rights. Over the long term, the best way to reduce hen suffering is to increase opposition to hen enslavement, not to seek “improvements” in that enslavement.

Dunayer goes on to argue that animal rights activists who campaign for improved treatment of animals might actually increase their suffering,

Groups such as UPC and AVAR have campaigned against total-starvation forced molting. A ban on any or all types of forced molting would be “welfarist,” not abolitionist. Such a ban-actually a requirement that enslavers give hens adequate food and water-would leave hens to be killed when their egg laying declines.

The forced-molting issue epitomizes the tradeoffs that “reforms” often entail. A ban on forced molting would mean that many more chickens would be enslaved and murdered. “Laying hens” would pass through the egg industry at a faster pace: egg-factory owners who previously used forced molting would “dispose of” and “replace” them after a shorter period. The number of hens and roosters used as breeders also would increase. So would the number of male chicks born and killed.

Even so, Paul Shapiro, Campaigns Director of Compassion Over Killing, has argued that, overall, a forced-molting ban might reduce the suffering of chickens because forced molting causes suffering and prolongs the time during which a hen lives in horrendously cruel conditions. Whether or not the total amount of chicken suffering would be less without forced molting-which is impossible to determine-what are we doing when we ask that the longer suffering of fewer individuals be replaced with the shorter suffering of many more individuals? We never would say of innocent humans, “Please improve the conditions of those who are imprisoned and killed, but imprison and kill more people.” Do we really want more hens and roosters living lives of utter misery and more male chicks being born only to be suffocated or ground up alive? To a rights advocate, the whole idea of attempting to calculate which causes more suffering-torturing and killing fewer chickens over a longer period or torturing and killing more chickens over a shorter period-is morally objectionable. Either way, chickens suffer and die. Either way, their moral rights are completely violated. Remember: chickens shouldn’t be imprisoned in the first place.

According to an industry article on forced molting, the low-nutrition method of starvation was developed because “animal welfare interests” criticized the no-food method as “inhumane”; the new method “addresses the negative welfare connotation that fasting has with animal welfare organizations and consumers.” In other words, while continuing to starve hens, the industry now will claim to feed them. As a result, consumers will feel better about eating eggs.

Of course as Norm Phelps noted in his review of Speciesism, what Dunayer is calling for in practice is no improvement and no abolition, since liberation in Western societies is a non-starter. Lets hope all activists adopt Dunayer’s views!


Speciesism. Joan Dunayer, 2004.