Saturday, July 7, 2012

FARM President Hershaft Changes His Tune

The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012
Farm President Alex Hershaft Made
An Amazing Turn-around Regarding This Bill  
Summer 2011 
Below is a speech (in its entirety) that Hershaft gave at Animal Rights Conference 2011 (a portion of which was included in my earlier blog, “Wrong Direction”). 
Welfare or Abolition 
This summer, we launched a highly effective vegan outreach program called Pay-Per-View. We pay people $1 to watch a four-minute clip of graphic undercover factory farming and slaughterhouse footage. In the past few weeks, we have generated more than 4,000 individual views, mostly at street fairs and rock concerts. The reactions are dramatic: viewers cry and vow never to touch meat again. 
But now, this magnificent grass roots effort is facing a serious threat. Is it a devilish scheme cooked up by the meat industry’s marketing types? Well, yes. But, perversely, it’s also a scheme hatched, nurtured, or at least, abetted by the very same organizations that produced these highly effective undercover videos. 
Yes, I am referring to the recent welfare agreement [Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012] forged with the egg industry, that most egregious torturer of animals. It contains vague promises of industry’s support for legislation that would increase cage size in 18 years. However, its biggest impact is to lull caring consumers – the very people we’ve courting, into thinking that the atrocities they’ve witnessed at our PPV booth may be going away. That it’s safe to eat meat again. Consumers are hearing that message, however unintended, because they’re desperately searching for a way to justify and continue their flesh-eating habits. 
But, isn’t a bigger cage an improvement for the animals? Don’t we owe them improved conditions on the way to a vegan world? 
The improvements are not gonna happen. Never have and never will. How do I know? Been there. Done that. 
In 1978, I was testifying before Congress in support of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Sitting at the witness table next to me was another supportive witness – the president of the American Meat Institute. What did he know that I didn’t know? He knew that the Act would be a terrific, no-cost marketing tool for the meat industry. He knew that his buddies in Congress would provide no funding for enforcement. And so it was, to this day. 
In the 1980s, we led the national veal ban campaign. We would picket Italian restaurants and leaflet their patrons, demanding that the calves be unchained and let out of their tiny crates. Then, one day, we ran into a sympathetic owner who asked us to help him procure “humane” veal, free of these atrocities. These are the kind of issues that plague welfare reforms. 
Yes, it took us 15 years or so, but eventually, we got the message loud and clear: the only effective, long-term solution to the obscenity of animal agriculture is to encourage reduced consumption of animal products, leading to the ideal of veganism. It’s the abolitionist approach. 
This approach has been much maligned by our welfare reform colleagues, so let me clear up any misunderstandings: 
Yes, we do support a gradual, incremental approach to animal liberation, but one vegan meal at a time – not one inch of cage space at a time. The distant goal must be a vegan world – not a world with animals in huge cages. 
Yes, we do care about the suffering of billions of animals here and now, but we care even more about the hundreds of billions of animals yet unborn. 
Yes, we do believe that welfare reforms work, but only when they are proposed and implemented by the meat industry, to lure caring consumers to their products – not when they are proposed and abetted by animal rights organizations, which are viewed as ethical beacons by their supporters. 
Welfare reform campaigns are not just inconsistent with, but actually destructive of animal rights advocacy. Proponents of welfare reforms are fond of citing abolitionists of slavery calling for improved treatment of the victims while calling for their release. But this is a flawed argument, for release is never an option for animals. Legitimate human analogies are abortion and death penalty, where release is not an option. In fact, no self–respecting pro-life advocate has ever called for humane abortions. No reputable death penalty opponent has requested a more nutritious last meal. 
When we ask for improvements in the treatment of animals we exploit, we are implying agreement with their exploitation. 97% of consumers favor improved treatment of animals, yet 98% continue to eat them. Welfare reforms are a win-win solution for consumers and the meat industry. Only the animals lose. 
We are a movement based on the highest ethic of respect for life. Our challenge to the consuming public should be not “what is the right way to exploit and kill animals,” but “what gives us the right to exploit and kill animals?”

Fast forward less than one year later…. 
Recently, Hershaft dramatically contradicted himself when he announced that he “favors” passage of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012. His explanation for this major shift (full of nonsensical double-speak) is below with my responses in parentheses in a different font and following Hershaft’s piece.  
Some of FARM's supporters have inquired about our position on HR 3798, the bill that would replace state laying hen welfare standards with national ones, including conversion from traditional to “enriched” battery cages.

After extensive reading and discussions, we have decided to favor passage of HR 3798, for these reasons

  • Because HR 3798 is likely to lead to a substantial reduction in egg consumption, and therefore, to the number of hens used for food (his reasoning for the reduction is that eggs will be significantly more expensive but HSUS states the opposite – see below)
  • Because HR 3798 will phase out state-wide cage-free campaigns that use large numbers of animal dollars and volunteer activists, and create the impression that it’s OK to eat eggs (how is supporting a federal bill any different – it also creates the impression that it’s OK to eat eggs)
  • Because HR 3798 involves minimal animal resources in its enactment and none in creating the impression that it’s OK to eat eggs (this bill does use precious resources − HSUS stated that the bill is its top legislative priority which involves substantial lobbying hours and this bill costs the animal groups that support it their integrity and, by its very nature, this bill does imply that it’s okay to eat eggs)
Industry sources estimate the long-term increase in production cost associated with introduction of “enriched” cages to be 15-17% (again, these numbers are not supported by HSUS experts). The increase is unlikely to affect individual consumption of shell eggs, because eggs will remain a cheap source of protein and no suitable alternative is available. On the other hand, the increase is likely to have a substantial effect on food processors and food servers (restaurants and food services) who are very sensitive to cost increases and are likely to have suitable alternatives. Pursuit of such initiatives with individual states and retailers, in lieu of a national standard, would not generate the desired price increase for food processors and servers, because these industries would continue to source their eggs from cheap out-of-state producers (again, since his argument about cost increase is expertly disputed, the claimed result is suspect and unlikely).
Some important notes:
  • FARM believes that the only effective solution to the tragedy of animal agriculture is the promotion of veganism, along with reduction in the consumption of animal products.
  • FARM favors welfare reforms only when they are likely to reduce the number of animals used for food, do not redirect resources that should be used for promotion of veganism and reduction of animal consumption, and do not create the impression that consumption of animals raised under improved conditions is acceptable (these requirements are clearly not met by HR 3798)
  • FARM is not signing on as an official supporter of this bill – we merely favor its passage as a more effective alternative to the status quo and to state initiatives in reducing the number of animals used for food. (It’s all about semantics…..if FARM publicly “favors” this bill, how is that different from being a “supporter?”)
Hershaft argues that this law will increase the cost of eggs and, therefore, egg consumption will be reduced. However, the bill’s chief proponent, HSUS, says something very different. According to a HSUS report[1], an independent research organization found that – if the bill becomes law – the cost of a dozen eggs might be raised by only 2 cents spread over an 18 year period, which it further explains is less than the natural price fluctuations.
Some advocates believe that Hershaft changed his position on this bill in an effort to convince HSUS to participate in AR Conference 2012 after being absent from the conference for approximately eight years. According to the conference Web site, HSUS Vice President, Paul Shapiro, will speak.

What do you think?

[1] This report can be found by going to and searching for “egg producers” and then refining search to the last 30 days and then clicking on Egg Bill FAQ dated June 12, 2012.