Planting the seeds of change

Planting the seeds of change – animal protection efforts by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Humane Education Society

Gus W. Thornton

Organizations in the animal-protection community face a dizzying array of challenges every day. At the MSPCA/AHES, we’re on the front lines of the pet overpopulation battle. We’re working to reduce the numbers of animals used in research, testing, and agriculture and to improve these animals’ quality of life. We’re giving people new strategies to live side by side, and peacefully, with wildlife. We’re advancing veterinary care, enforcing anticruelty laws, and educating children and adults. And we’re constantly setting priorities–one of our greatest challenges.

We set those priorities by asking ourselves how we can achieve the most good for the greatest number of animals. When it comes to protecting animals reared on factory farms (the focus of this issue’s Special Report, page 24), our organization has chosen a pragmatic approach–to create positive change by evolution, not revolution. In other words, we don’t expect to change conditions overnight, but we do expect to change them gradually, and in ways that are far reaching, meaningful, and lasting.

Within the animal-protection community, there are varying approaches to farm-animal concerns–from promoting an animal-free diet to lobbying for reforms. At the MSPCA/AHES, we’ve chosen to work to place animal welfare on the agendas of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and of the meat, egg, and dairy producers the agency regulates. Why? Because with more than one-quarter billion people in the nation, and only a minority vegetarian population, efforts to abolish food-animal production are unlikely to succeed in protecting as many animals as reforms can.

Progress is under way. In 1995, animal advocate Henry Spira convinced the USDA to establish the Farm Animal Well-Being Task Force, which includes representatives from the MSPCA/AHES and several other major U.S. animal-protection groups. The task force’s prime focus has been to urge the agency to improve standards and then enforce them. As a result, the USDA has formed an animal-welfare working group within the agency.

Of the 9 billion food animals born in the United States each year, many are subjected to horrendous conditions. Yes, we need to reduce the numbers, but we also need to make sure that the animals that will inevitably be raised for food now and in the future have the utmost protection.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group