The notion that we should promote happy or humane exploitation as baby steps ignores that welfare reforms do not result in providing significantly greater protection for animal interests; in fact, most of the time, animal welfare reforms do nothing more than make animal exploitation more economically productive by focusing on practices, such as gestation crates, the electrical stunning of chickens, or veal crates, that are economically inefficient in any event. Welfare reforms make animal exploitation more profitable by eliminating practices that are economically vulnerable. For the most part, those changes would happen anyway and in the absence of animal welfare campaigns precisely because they do rectify inefficiencies in the production process. And welfare reforms make the public more comfortable about animal exploitation. The happy meat/animal products movement is clear proof of that. We would never advocate for humane or happy human slavery, rape, genocide, etc. So, if we believe that animals matter morally and that they have an interest not only in not suffering but in continuing to exist, we should not be putting our time and energy into advocating for humane or happy animal exploitation.
Gary L. Francione
There are some animal advocates who say that to maintain that veganism is the moral baseline is objectionable because it is judgmental, or constitutes a judgment that veganism is morally preferable to vegetarianism and a condemnation that vegetarians (or other consumers of animal products) are bad people. Yes to the first part; no to the second. There is no coherent distinction between flesh and other animal products. They are all the same and we cannot justify consuming any of them. To say that you do not eat flesh but that you eat dairy or eggs or whatever, or that you don’t wear fur but you wear leather or wool, is like saying that you eat the meat from spotted cows but not from brown cows; it makers no sense whatsoever. The supposed line between meat and everything else is just a fantasy–an arbitrary distinction that is made to enable some exploitation to be segmented off and regarded as better or as morally acceptable. This is not a condemnation of vegetarians who are not vegans; it is, however, a plea to those people to recognize their actions do not conform with a moral principle that they claim to accept and that all animal products are the result of imposing suffering and death on sentient beings. It is not a matter of judging individuals; it is, however, a matter of judging practices and institutions. And that is a necessary component of ethical living.
Gary L. Francione