By Joan Dunayer
“Gas the chickens!” An imaginary rally cry, too morally repugnant to be real. Yet, some animal advocacy groups, such as PETA and United Poultry Concerns, have been asking that slaughterhouses gas chickens to death in their transport crates rather than leave them conscious while they’re shackled, electrically paralyzed, and slit at the throat. The mass murder of chickens is unnecessary, unjust, and invariably cruel. Urging that chickens be gassed suggests otherwise. It suggests that the problem is how they’re killed. A campaign for less-cruel slaughter proposes a new way of committing mass murder. Such a campaign is “welfarist.”
“ Welfarist” campaigns foster the notion that enslaved and slaughtered animals can have well-being (welfare). Genuine welfare is incompatible with enslavement, slaughter, and other abuse, so I put quotation marks around welfare when the context is speciesist harm. “Welfarist” campaigns are anti-rights. They advocate different ways of violating nonhumans’ moral rights. So-called humane slaughter campaigns advocate a different way of violating nonhumans’ right to life. Campaigns for less-severe confinement advocate a different way of violating nonhumans’ right to liberty.
PETA pressured McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s to require that their egg and flesh suppliers confine nonhumans less cruelly. These restaurants now have specified, among other things, that their egg suppliers must increase the space allotted to a caged hen from 48 square inches to at least 67. A hen has a moral right not to be confined to either 48 or 67 square inches. Many activists have chanted, “What do we want? Animal rights! When do we want it? Now!” With good reason, no activist ever has chanted, “What do we want? Slightly bigger cages! When do we want them? Whenever McDonald’s or some other massive abuser requires their suppliers to use them!” Any attempt to work with, rather than against, animal-abuse industries should raise a huge red flag. It’s morally wrong to exploit a nonhuman in any amount of space, inside or outside a cage. That’s the message animal advocates should convey.
More here: http://www.satyamag.com/mar05/dunayer.html
For the record, this is what made me hate PETA in the first place.