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Reforming Slavery as a Means of Perpetuating it: The Case of Calf Flesh Consumption

For several years many voices, forming part of the movement for the abolition of animal slavery, have been claiming that reforms of the conditions in which this slavery exists contribute to perpetuating this injustice and serve the interests of the slave masters. Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality is one such voice which calls out in favour of respect towards all animals and which encourages all of us to "liberate our slaves". As such we pave the way to ending all animal use. Without reforms which serve to increase the profit of the industry. Without measures that soothe the conscience of the consumer. Without depending on the approval of laws by politicians -- who tend to be more concerned with other issues -- nor on the industries lobbies groups. We plead for all of us to adopt a simple, direct and effective way of helping animals: to go vegan.

Temple Grandin, recognised expert on systems of management and murder of animals and adviser to McDonalds and other industries, states that - and offers proof that - welfare measures contribute to the industry functioning "safely, efficiently and profitably" [1]. The organisation HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) has released two economic reports about systems of chicken exploitation without the use of battery cages [2] and about confining pigs for reproduction without using gestation crates [3] which clearly lay out the benefits gained by those who adopt alternate methods of exploitation. Add to this the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) references about the murder of birds in gas chambers which concludes that this method of killing increases profits for the exploiters, reducing labour costs, maintenance and energy costs and culminates in an increase in the quality of the "product" -- the corpses of the birds [4].

In spite of the existing evidence of the direct benefit the exploitation industry gains from animal "welfare" laws, both in terms of their profit and of their public image 'which in turn increases their sales- we offer yet more proof to clear any doubt. For this we refer to the statements of the very industry of confinement, murder and sales of calf flesh ("veal") which endorses the abuse described.

In a New York Times article entittled "Veal to Love, Without the Guilt", published 18th April 2007, the author Marian Burros explains that although sales of calf flesh plummeted between 1950 and 1960 as a result of the circulation of photographs showing calves separated from the mothers, confined, and fed artificial milk formula, the calf exploitation industry learnt their lesson a few years ago. After changing the way in which these animals are exploited, and thanks to the promotion of their product as being obtained via new methods, the sales in some supermarkets currently selling calf flesh have risen again by 35%, as confirmed by New York supermarket chain D'agostino [5].

According to a statement by Jonathan White from the company Bobolink Dairy situated in Vernon: "It took several years with customers seeing calves running free with moms to come around to the idea it's O.K. to eat them, that they have actually had a life. By 2004 they were encouraging me to sell them." In the same article we find the testimony of chef Hill Telepan which states: "People are more hip to eating things that are raised right, and they trust I will get something that is well taken care of" - notice the reference to the calf as 'things' in a clear demonstration of speciesism. [5]

In another publication, this time from the industry itself, the company Strauss Veal & Lamb International Inc., US leader in sales of calf flesh, recognises in an interview with the magazine Meat Processing, that welfare reforms on calf confinement have expanded their sales as consumers feel better about consuming the said products. They now want to increase the percentage of calves raised under the new system to 100% and even exceed the official welfare recommendations. This company explicitly recognises that these reforms make consumers feel better about consuming their products and as such increase their sales. [6]

"We want to be the company to revolutionize the veal industry. There are a growing number of people who, if they feel good about what they're eating, will eat veal. If we capture that market we're going to increase the 0.6 pound per capita consumption market resulting in a healthier veal industry" says Randy Strauss, co-president of Strauss Veal & Lamb Internacional Inc. [6]

It is difficult to consider a measure which increases the profits and improves the image of an industry dedicated to raising, confining and murdering animals, to be a step forward for its victims towards ending their slavery. As has been indicated by North American author Gary L. Francione, in a system in which non-human animals are the property of humans, and one designed to protect the rights of the owners, no law which modifies the conditions of animals use can bring about meaningful change of their situation. [7]

Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality express our rejection of reforms of exploitation, confinement and murder of other animals. Just like humans, other animals are neither property nor objects to be utilised and, as such, it is a mistake to support modifications on how they are going to be used. We don't want another form of oppression for them. Just as with human slavery, justice requires the eradication of this institution and not the reform of it. We need to finish with this injustice here and now, starting with ourselves.

[1] Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide 2005 Edition. American Meat Institute Foundation. Temple Grandin. 2005RecAnimalHandlingGuidelines.pdf
[2] The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Battery Cages. HSUS. economics/battery_cages_econ.html
[3] The Economics of Adopting Alternative Production Systems to Gestation Crates. HSUS. economics/gestation_crates_econ.html
[4] Analysis of Controlled-Atmosphere Killing vs. Electric?Immobilization from an Economic Standpoint. PETA. economics/gestation_crates_econ.html
General Site: The Case for Controlled-Atmosphere Killing. PETA.
[5] Veal to Love, Without the Guilt. Marian Burros. New York Times. 18 April
[6] Revolutionizing the Veal Industry. Bryan Salvage. Meat Processing.
December 2006.
[7] Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. Gary L. Francione. Temple University Press. September 1996.

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