After announcing our support for Initiative 1130, some activists have expressed concern that this measure, which regulates the treatment of egg-laying chickens, is inconsistent with our other campaigns (ending the use of primates and other animals at University of Washington, freeing the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo, vegan education and outreach) and our stated position of ending the use and exploitation of all animals.
One concern raised is that this measure would promote the “humane” myth, the idea that the passage of this measure means egg-laying hens would be treated humanely, leaving the buying consumer to buy so-called “cage-free” eggs in good conscience. That is a valid point, one which we have addressed when crafting our original post of our support with the qualification, “While this initiative will take a step towards alleviating some of the suffering, it does not ensure that the hens will be treated humanely.” We also listed the kind of treatments the measure does not address that will still occur, such as de-beaking.
In addition to qualifying our support, we will not allow to go unchallenged animal industries misleading the public into thinking that the new measure, if passed, would mean humanely-treated eggs. Our activism includes education on the inherent exploitative nature of farm production, among other animal industries, in all of its forms and practices. We have always advocated that to truly treat animals in a humane and respectful way, one should practice ethical veganism, the living practice of animal rights, and we will continue to do so.
But while we educate as many people as possible about ethical veganism, allowing industries to remain as cruel as possible is in our minds not a morally defensible position. While we will always advocate for the rights inherent to all sentient beings to live a full life, to be free, to not to be used and exploited, the hard fact is that until the majority of people believe that animals shouldn’t be raised for food, fashion, research or entertainment, billions of animals each year will continue to be bred, raised in torturous conditions, made to suffer at the hands of humans, and be killed in the prime of their life under the worst of abuses without any protections whatsoever.
We see this measure as just the start, a step to end some of the worst abuses while we continue to advocate for the end of the use of animals. This will serve as a building block upon which other measures can be passed, until there is a foundation of legal precedent for other measures recognizing the rights of animals to be built upon.
Our position is calling for both the end of the abuse and use of animals. Our approach is one of animal rights pragmatism; we must always strive for what is best for sentient beings at all times. What is better now is further progress to what is best. The converse cannot be true, that what is worse now can somehow progress to what is best. To allow the worst of abuses unchallenged while we work to secure the ultimate rights of animals puts the animals through needless suffering.
We do not see as inconsistent working to ensure better treatment for, in this case, chickens, while we also advocate for their rights and freedom; we work ultimately for the animals, not ultimately for an abstraction. Animal rights, while it is the goal we all wish for the animals, is merely a means to an end, not the end itself. The end is the sentient being. In fighting for the rights of animals, the animals themselves should be the primary focus in deciding what we can achieve now.