Book Review: Erik Marcus (2005) Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, & Money (Bio Press: Boston, MA)

Price: *****
Ease of use: *****
Value for EAA beginners: ***
Value for EAA pros: **

This book is divided up into several different “parts” or sections, each of which fulfils quite a different function and would appeal to different readers.

  • The first part, “Animal Agriculture”, pages 1-60, covers the state of animal agriculture as it was in 2005, with some statistics in chapter 1, some descriptions of the suffering of various types of animal in chapter 2 and some suggestions for possible reforms in chapter 3. This will likely be a useful resource for newer advocates.
  • The second part of the book , “Dismantlement”, pages 61-126, analyses “the three existing movements for animal protection” – “the vegetarian movement”, “the animal rights movement” and “the animal welfare movement” – and suggests the creation of a fourth movement, to unite these various parts – “the dismantlement movement”. This is primarily a call for a shared proactive approach to helping farmed animals, including both institutional and individual outreach. The idea was proposed a while ago, and does not seem to have been taken up (a Google search revealed nothing obviously relevant, except a single reference back to the book itself), even if some elements of Marcus’ ideas are now fairly commonly held views in the EAA community. Nevertheless, some more experienced EAAs might be interested in the term as a potential driver of progress and unity within the movement. For instance, if we think that more consistent messaging is a priority for animal advocates, might this be the sort of term that they could unify behind?
  • The “Activist Essays”, pp. 136-178, summarise various intervention types, but some are outdated from an effectiveness perspective. For instance, the EAA community has shifted away from a focus on leafleting. They may, however, be useful for those seeking motivation – reading about the actions of others may inspire you to act too.
  • The appendices, pp. 179-232, focus on discussion of some issues related to the animal advocacy movement. These may be useful starting points for advocates, although there are a variety of free websites which address these issues equally well. Many animal advocacy non-profits cover such information in their “why” or “about” sections online. Additionally, some of the data may be a little dated now, though I only skim read these sections.

The book is therefore partially intended as a “go-to” introductory resource. It could still serve this function, but some content is outdated now. It is also partially intended as an argument in favour of specific suggestions for reforms to animal advocacy. This is primarily through the idea of the “dismantlement movement”, but contains some other core ideas, such as the note that individual outreach hasn’t been very successful to date, an emphasis on increasing the use of institutional outreach, and support for measures which might decrease trust in the animal agriculture industry, to pave the road for more radical reform at a later date. Some of the ideas are quite well-supported among more experienced EAAs, while others may prompt a little reflection.

As with the recently reviewed book by Ball and Friedrich, the book is notable for sharing some ideas which later became associated with the EA and EAA movements, despite being written before these movements were established. For example pp. 93-4 attempts some rough and ready charity evaluation (although it misses the EA focus on cause prioritisation), with quotes reminiscent of the story of the foundation of GiveWell: “donating is, after all, simply a form of investing – with the payback being social progress rather than money”. Pages 112-119 give some career advice similar to that of 80,000 Hours, including a focus on “dabbling” and career exploration.

At many points, the book touches on some of the key questions that face the EAA movement today. For instance, chapter 9 on “the militancy question” is similar to the confrontation vs nonconfrontation debate (and reflects a common EAA perspective), though it is more about use of illegal tactics compared to outreach.

The book starts by providing some useful statistics about the animal agriculture industry in the USA, but as a whole is based mostly off personal experiences and intuition. References to external research are few and far between after first two chapters. There is some reference to evidence from historical social movements on pages 81-82, though this is neither thorough nor well-explained, and as such is potentially more misleading than helpful.

The book is very easy to navigate, with a clear contents page, and is available very cheaply on Amazon. I think the title is misleading, as only a relatively small portion of the book focuses on the “meat market” or on the role of “money”. Discussion of “ethics” is also quite limited.

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Book Review: Nick Cooney (2011) Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach us About Spreading Social Change (Lantern Books: New York)

Price: ****
Ease of use: ****
Value for EAA beginners: *****
Value for EAA pros: ****

 

This book by Nick Cooney is an excellent resource for understanding how psychology affects our work in social movements. It draws primarily on external psychological studies, combined with Cooney’s personal advocacy experience, primarily for the Humane League (he had worked for or helped to found many organisations by 2011, and done so for more since then) and some strategic thinking and common sense.

The book is intended to be applicable to any social movement, with his examples frequently alternating between animal advocacy, environmentalism and other causes. This does not significantly detract from its value for animal advocates (even if some of the specific suggestions aren’t directly relevant), although I suspect that advocates for other causes might find that the book focuses on issues most pertinent to animal advocacy.

The structure of the book is simple. Chapters 1 to 3 lay out a variety of cognitive biases that affect how successful various types of advocacy efforts are likely to be. This section leaves you with the impression that successful advocacy is incredibly difficult, and that you shouldn’t rely on your intuitions.

After building up your sense of the gravity of the problems (in the manner of a successful salesman?), Cooney then moves on to demonstrating solutions for the issues. Chapters 4 to 7 all list a huge number of “Tools of Influence” to support our advocacy. The final three chapter then contain wider social scientific learnings and business strategy ideas which put the ideas from the rest of the book into context.

The book is therefore packed full of useful information. Here are some of those who might benefit, organised roughly in order of who I think would benefit most:

  • Advocates hoping to increase the effectiveness of their individual outreach, or increase their chances of success in discussions with corporate, institutional or governmental contacts, partners and targets
  • Those currently working for non-profit organisations who might want to read through to see if the ideas contained might help to streamline their work, and improve efficiencies.
  • Aspiring social scientists, EAA researchers, or those working in non-profits interested in measuring the impact of their own programmes, to read through the first few chapters to broaden their understanding of how cognitive biases might affect their research.
  • If you are already familiar with both psychology and the animal advocacy movement, you might not learn as much from this book, although I imagine that it might still piece some ideas together in ways that you had not already done yourself.

The wide appeal of the book necessarily means that it won’t be consistently 100% useful, word for word, for any one reader. It contains an overwhelmingly large number of useful new ideas for those new to the field of psychology, which makes the book almost intimidating to use.

For those under time pressure, I’d encourage you to follow one of these two strategies to get the most out of the book:

  • Read this list I have created of 23 of the different cognitive biases and 42 of the tools referred to in the book. This list cuts out much of the useful explanation and examples given in the book, but condenses the key concepts. You could copy and paste the information into a separate Excel/Google sheet and add an additional column for the relevance of the concepts to your work. I would advise also buying the book, so that you can look up the specific examples and relevant studies, as and when appropriate.
  • Flick through the book, looking at the clearly labelled subtitles, and stopping to read those strategies which seem most useful for you.

As usual for such books, the Kindle edition is relatively cheap, but the paperback is more expensive than most paperbacks. It gets 4*s anyway, because the book is so packed full of information, most readers would easily get their money’s worth!

For those looking for easier (i.e. less research-heavy) introductions to effective animal advocacy outreach, I’d recommend starting with Friedrich and Ball’s Handbook or Leenaert’s book.

Note, that whilst I am fairly unreservedly endorsing the helpful information and advice contained within Cooney’s book, I am not endorsing his personal conduct. Although I know very little about the issue beyond hearsay, this article addresses some of the concerns. It is a complicated issue, so if you are engaging with it, I encourage you to read to the bottom of the article, which includes some replies. The accusations are grave, but we should not stop benefiting from Cooney’s (otherwise unrelated) productive work – to do so would be to prioritise personal purity over effectiveness in reducing animal suffering.

An additional criticism might be that some of Cooney’s suggestions essentially accept (and therefore, implicitly endorse?) certain assumptions and prejudices. To reject these strategies in favour of challenging privilege might lead to reduced effectiveness in the short term, but might be considered important for the long-term health of the movement, or for its intrinsic value. I don’t have strong views on this issue, but if your views are stronger than mine then you might reject some of the advice in the book, although only a relatively small proportion of the book would be affected. Those interested in the topic might find Melanie Joy’s new essays on privilege useful.

There are some other reviews of Cooney’s book. This one has some interesting rough and ready estimates about the (meta level) impact that this book might have on the effectiveness of animal advocates.

(Outdated post) Call to action: Make sure that the UK government protects animal sentience through the law!

NOTE: this post is now out of date (essentially, the government responded to pressure from individuals like you! Well done!) – see this newer post for the more recent developments.

If you are short of time (and UK-based), just complete this one action!

Tell your local MP to make sure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit!

You can use the following tool and my suggested message template below to do so. Make sure that you select your MP, rather than local councillors.

I will start with the actions which can currently be taken, for the time-constrained, but detail my thoughts and reasons below, for those who are interested.

 

Useful actions which can currently be taken

At the moment, there are 4 different types of actions that can be undertaken by the public to make it more likely that animal sentience will be included in EU Withdrawal Bill. These are mostly limited to UK residents.

1. Lobbying MPs and the government to make sure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit, however that might be.

 

First action:

Tell your local MP to make sure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit! You can use the following tool to do so, but make sure that you select your MP, rather than local councillors.

I recommend that you base your communications on this suggested letter template, but that you take some time to personalise the message (this will make them read it more thoroughly):

Letter or email template:

Dear [YOUR MP’s NAME],

I am writing to you to ask that you speak up to ensure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit.

Conservative and DUP MPs rejected Caroline Lucas’ amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which would have required that, “since animals are sentient beings” the UK would “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”.

I recognise that this forms part of a wider debate around Brexit, but the interests of animals must not be ignored.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 “makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal”, but this does not apply to farmed animals in practice. Since these animals, as much as our beloved pets, are sentient beings, they also need to be protected from “unnecessary suffering”. Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty has done this to some extent so far.

Please speak to your colleagues about this issue, so that we can ensure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit, however that might be. It is absolutely crucial – for the sake of millions of animals, who cannot speak for themselves – that the government makes a firm commitment on how it will address this issue.

Yours sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

Second action: Tweet @michaelgove and/or @DavidDavisMP, asking them to make sure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit!

Twitter template:

@MichaelGove Brexit is a complicated issue, but the interests of animals must not be ignored. The government needs to make a firm commitment on how it will ensure that animal sentience is protected in a meaningful way after Brexit!

2. Writing letters to the editors of newspapers or other news outlet, so that they are then published in debate or readers contributions sections.

In some sense, this may help to apply public pressure and make it more likely that politicians will feel that there is significant public demand for change (if they read the editorials, or if word indirectly reaches them).

More directly, however, this is just good opportunity to get people to discuss animal issues in a positive manner and make people think more about animals as sentient beings. The rejection of the amendments makes the issue topical. To make your letter even more up-to-date, and therefore more likely to be published, you could refer to recent developments, such as the creation of the demonstration scheduled for 5th December, or any minor updates that may occur as a result of further debate in the House of Commons.

There are many good places to get tips on how to write letters to editors effectively. One good source for this is written by Tobias Leenaert, here.

3. Tell people about the issues, and encourage them to take the actions above! This might be on social media, but person-to-person conversations are probably more likely to result in people taking action.

4. OPTIONAL: Although it is a complicated issue, some groups are advocating simply transferring Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty over to UK law, through the EU Withdrawal Bill. If you are interested in finding out where you stand on this issue, you may like to read some of the information below.

First action: Sign the two online petitions which have been created, encouraging Article 13 from the Lisbon Treaty to be carried over into UK law, as the upcoming parliamentary amendments suggest.

First petition second petition

 

Second action (open to international supporters): sign Compassion In World Farming’s petition to Michael Gove, here. 

Third action: email David Davis MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU and Lesley Griffiths AM, Welsh Government to ensure animal welfare is not left behind. You can use the RSPCA’s email tool and template here.

 

Note that in the background, animal rights activists will also be working to create a clearer, unified set of demands to the government.

Some will also be working lobby the members of the House of Lords, to ensure their support when the EU Withdrawal Bill reaches them. In the near future, I will update this post with some further tips about how to contact peers (in the House of Lords) to build support there, if needs be. If you want to get proactive on this issue too, then you can use this list to contact them.

 

The details of what has happened

On the 15th November, MPs voted to reject the inclusion of a clause that would transfer the recognition of animal sentience into UK law after Brexit.

Animal Sentience was already set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty. It reads:

“In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”

An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill was proposed by Caroline Lucas of the Green Party to include this.

“EU Protocol on animal sentience”, “obligations and rights contained within the EU Protocol on animal sentience set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty shall be recognised and available in domestic law on and after exit day, and shall be enforced and followed accordingly.”

The New Clause was rejected with an 18 majority for the Government. 313 against, 295 in favour.

The list of those voting for and against can be seen here.

 

Why the original amendment failed

It seems that government’s main argument is that this is already covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 “makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal”, but this does not apply to farmed animals in practice. Since these animals, as much as our beloved pets, are sentient beings, they also need to be protected from “unnecessary suffering”. Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty has done this to some extent so far.

Oliver Letwin (a Conservative MP) noted that Michael Gove was planning to introduce new environmental legislation at some point, suggesting that this might be a better place for the suggestions of some of the amendments than the EU Withdrawal Bill. There are, however, no current guarantees that this would happen, or that it would include animal sentience.

All the Conservative and DUP MPs present voted against all the amendments proposed (while all opposition MPs present voted against), so I suspect it was just a whip issue to speed it up through parliament and avoid criticism of the withdrawal bill as a whole, which might have damaged Brexit negotiations.

 

There is still hope

There are three separate routes through which animal sentience might still be protected.

  1. Firstly, there are two other amendments to the bill which seek to protect animals’ sentience, and are yet to be voted on, so MPs can still have an impact:

Amendment 350, put forward by Labour: This is set to be voted on either December 12th or 19th, although this is not guaranteed and the date could change (I’m currently waiting to find out how to keep an eye on this).

New Clause 28, put forward by MP Kerry McCarthy (Labour): Overall, “this new clause ensures that public authorities carrying out their duties arising by virtue of this act, must have regard to environmental principles currently enshrined in EU law.” Importantly, however, the new clause reiterates the exact wording for Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty.

These two issues are set to be voted on either December 12th or 19th, although this is not guaranteed and the date could change.

MPs could therefore still be lobbied or persuaded to encourage support for these amendments.

 

  1. Alternatively there is still time for a government amendment to be introduced, and this would have more chance of gaining wider support, and passing through the House of Commons.

As a minister at DEFRA, Michael Gove also has the ability to table a government-backed amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Previously, when asked, in the Commons in July, if Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty would be included, Mr Gove told MPs: “Absolutely.” He added: “It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.” (This quote was reported in an article by the Independent here.)

Gove may therefore be susceptible to pressure to introduce an amendment.

David Davis MP, as the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, may also be susceptible to pressure.

MPs could also be lobbied or persuaded to encourage support for these amendments.

 

  1. When the EU Withdrawal Bill goes to the House of Lords, there is another opportunity to make sure animal sentience continues to be recognised in the UK.

The House of Lords will not have the same political split and enforcement of voting by the party whips which clearly led to the government rejecting the initial amendment. This seems likely to have been the case, since all Conservatives present (except Ken Clarke) voted against the amendment, and since all the amendments in the session were rejected by a similar margin.

Peers are not subject to public pressure like MPs, since they are not directly elected. This makes them harder to lobby. Lobbying peers will therefore likely need to be conducted sensitively by pressure groups with insider knowledge (such as the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming) and through All Party Parliamentary Groups (there is a list here of all APPGs, including one on animal welfare)

 

  1. Rather than bring across Article 13 from the Lisbon Treaty, the Animal Welfare Act could be improved, so that animal sentience of all animals (farmed and wild, as well as domestic) could be protected.

This could actually be far more meaningful a protection for animals than Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty is. This would avoid the partisan issues of trying to sabotage the Brexit process.

The key message here is that even if Article 13 is not brought into UK law, the issue of animals’ sentience – and their protection – cannot be sidelined.

MPs could therefore still be lobbied or persuaded to encourage a firm commitment by the government to introduce meaningful legislation to protect animals.

As the relevant government ministers, Michael Gove and David Davis could be pressured to introduce meaningful legislation to protect animals.

 

  1. Entirely new legislation could be created, most likely through some sort of environment bill.

This would likely have the same effects as altering the Animal Welfare Act.

 

There is also some precedent to suggest that the government – or Parliament – may be susceptible to public pressure. One example is the change over National insurance. This was set to rise in the last Conservative budget. Concerns were raised that it would squeeze the self-employed and public pressure helped to encourage its abandonment.

There have also been other examples of government U-turns. For one list of examples, see this article.

Accordingly, please follow as many of the actions listed above as you have time to complete!

 

What will be best for animals going forward?

It is unclear whether Article 13 is in itself the best legislation for protecting animals.

Caroline Lucas says it has informed further EU law since it’s passing: “The resulting protocol, which came into force in 1999, changed how animals were regarded and ensured that future EU legislation was not implemented on the basis of the lowest standards of animal welfare, but that it took animal sentience into account. That understanding ​has since informed more than 20 pieces of EU law on animal welfare, including the ban on sealskin imports, the ban on conventional battery cages and the ban on cosmetics testing on animals.”

In contrast, Luke Steele, Campaign Strategist at PETA UK, writes: “Foie gras, fur farming, bull fighting and live exports are just some of the plainly obvious abuses of animals which the European Union allows to be exempt from the Lisbon Treaty, the international agreement which recognises animals as sentient. Not only does permitting the most indefensible cruelties to be inflicted on animals betray the very notion of sentience, but it also shows how downright ineffective the agreement is. Lip-service legislation does nothing in practical terms to enhance the lives of animals.” He suggests, therefore, that a complete change of legislation would be preferable.

Furthermore, the issue is hugely complicated by wider debate around Brexit. The fact that Lucas’ amendment was voted for by all opposition MPs present, and rejected by all government MPs present, reflects that the issue has been subsumed into a wider debate.

Many (probably most) MPs and members of the government do believe in animal sentience. Indeed, there are Conservatives on the All Party Parliamentary Groups for animal welfare and for vegetarianism/veganism. This further suggests that the disagreement is more about technicalities and wider political disagreement than it is about a conflict over animal sentience.

In support of this point, here is (an extract from) a reply that one Conservative MP wrote to one of their constituents: “There is no question that animals have feelings – the fact that they do is self-evident and undeniable. We voted against an unnecessary amendment that would do more harm than good in creating legal confusion around an already adequate piece of legislation.”

Nevertheless, the government must be persuaded to act; we cannot allow the animal sentience issue and the protection of animals to be side-lined by a wider political dispute.

The government is therefore probably more susceptible to general public pressure that the government must act in a meaningful way to protect animals after Brexit, than it is susceptible to public pressure to support specific amendments.

Meanwhile, animal advocacy organisations will be working towards creating a more unified set of asks to the government.