Barking Up the Wrong Tree for Animals

A guest post by Sarah K. Woodcock, founder and executive director of The Abolitionist Vegan Society (TAVS).

July 5, 2015

I recently received an “URGENT” letter (page 1, 2, 3, 4, and envelope) from Farm Sanctuary alerting me that, “[T]he U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) exempts poultry from the protections of the Humane Slaughter Act” and that “Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks Need Protections!”


But without even going into the specifics of the Humane Slaughter Act, let’s back up a second. We are talking about exclusion and inclusion in an act of a federal law about humane slaughter. Slaughter cannot be humane. So, right off the bat, we are talking about something that cannot be achieved. Well, that is, it cannot be achieved if we are are working for animal rights (instead of animal welfare). A screenshot (below) of a small section of the the Humane Slaughter Act or “Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act” shows one of its purposes is to “(A) prevent needless suffering;”. But therein lies a huge point. When it comes to nonhuman animals, veganism is what prevents needless suffering. Even if this act, which was passed in 1958, included “poultry” (chickens, turkeys, and ducks) and was perfectly enforced (not going to happen), it would not prevent needless suffering. Every single animal used for food, clothing, entertainment, testing, or any other use needlessly suffers and is usually killed. Nonveganism is needless suffering.

This image is a screenshot of a small section of the Humane Slaughter Act or “Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act.” The words “(A) prevent needless suffering;” are highlighted.

So Farm Sanctuary is alerting the public that “Chickens, Turkeys, and Ducks Need Protections!” and pursuing animal welfare reform. Did they at least ask the public to go vegan and stop supporting the very exploitation they need protections from? No. They asked the public to “Please help call for action now by taking these two critical steps:”: 1) to sign a petition for animal welfare reform and 2) to “include a generous contribution of $225, $350 or $450”.

Two Critical Steps
This image is a screenshot of a small section of the letter I received from Farm Sanctuary. The words, “Please help call for action now by taking these two critical steps:”, “sign the enclosed petition”, and “include a generous contribution of $225, $350, or $450” are highlighted.

Look, as someone who runs an abolitionist vegan organization, I get that it is easier to petition the government for animal welfare reform than it is to petition the nonvegan public to go vegan. But it isn’t right to do so because animals deserve animal rights—at the very least, they deserve the one right not to be property. I also get that donations are needed to fund animal advocacy programs and services, but those donations should be used for animal rights (instead of animal welfare). For example, TAVS uses its donations to fund abolitionist vegan programs and services such as providing abolitionist vegan leaflets and other resources to vegans who want to promote veganism but cannot afford to.

When we as vegans or animal organizations are using our valuable resources petitioning the government for animal welfare reform instead of petitioning the nonvegan public to go vegan, we are barking up the wrong tree for animals. Nothing is going to change in a significant way for nonhuman animals until we have a societal paradigm shift from nonveganism to veganism. And pretending the source of that paradigm shift will come from anywhere but within each and every one of us is counterproductive to helping animals. “Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks” absolutely “Need Protections!” But, first and foremost, they don’t need them from the law; they need them from nonvegans.

What can we do to help animals? We can grant animals protection from ourselves by going vegan. Then, we can educate others about going vegan. And we can adopt/foster animals who are homeless.

Sarah K. Woodcock, Founder and Executive Director
The Abolitionist Vegan Society