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June/July 2005
Standing Up For Farmed Animals
The Satya Interview with Paul Shapiro

 

Paul Shapiro. Photo courtesy CoK

This past January, founder and long-time Campaigns Manager of Compassion Over Killing (COK), Paul Shapiro joined the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) staff as the manager of their new Factory Farming Campaign. Kymberlie Adams Matthews recently talked with Shapiro about his new position to end cruelty to animals in agriculture, and the ever-changing face of the animal rights movement.

Tell us about your position at HSUS and some of the campaigns you are working on.
I joined The HSUS staff on January 24, 2005, as the manager of the newly formed Factory Farming Campaign. Our goal is to help reduce the suffering of animals raised for food by working for the phase-out of the most abusive agribusiness practices and promoting vegetarian eating, as well.

The most successful effort so far has been our No Battery Eggs campaign, which seeks to reduce the number of egg-laying hens confined in battery cages; confinement that’s so intensive, the birds can’t even stretch their wings. We’ve been working with stores to stop them from carrying eggs from caged birds, and several have already removed battery eggs from their shelves as a result. These efforts have already generated positive coverage everywhere from the Washington Post to egg industry trade journals.

As well, we’re creating an HSUS Guide to Vegetarian Eating that will help show why so many people are choosing vegetarian foods and how to make the transition to a vegetarian diet.

As the founder and active leader for Compassion Over Killing for years, why the move to HSUS?
After ten years at COK, four of them as an employee, it was a terribly difficult decision to remove myself from the day-to-day work of the organization. COK is a fantastic group, and I believe that dollar-for-dollar, it’s one of the most effective organizations in the movement. I still serve on COK’s advisory board and have complete confidence in Erica Meier, COK’s new director. Since COK is continuing to do the great work it has done in the past, I’m very heartened to be able to help build a strong anti-factory farming campaign at the largest animal protection organization in the country. It’s wonderful to know that COK will continue to thrive as I help shape HSUS’s farm animal advocacy efforts.

How does your move affect COK?
The people who are now employed by COK are veterans within the organization. In fact, each one has been a regular volunteer manager or coordinator for many years and is extremely knowledgeable about COK’s work. They are doing a great job, and I have no doubt that the organization is in very capable hands.

What are your thoughts about fighting within the AR movement? It seems that there are people in this movement who waste precious time attacking the wrong people.
I think we’re seeing less movement infighting now than in some moments in the movement’s past. That said, I agree wholeheartedly that groups which spend time attacking other animal organizations need to critically rethink how they spend their resources.

Do you think AR activists should focus more on outreach to groups with common interests, like environmentalists? Do you plan to do this with HSUS?
There’s much common ground between the environmental and animal movements. Fighting factory farms are just one example. We certainly intend to build bridges with anyone who might be interested in advancing animal protection for any reason. I think we need to reach out to other social movements and try to gain as much support for animal protection wherever we can, no matter from which side of the political spectrum.

Do you feel hopeful about the American mentality towards animals and their welfare?
Poll after poll shows that most people agree that many of the most abusive confinement practices used in agribusiness—battery cages, veal and gestation crates, and so on—are inhumane and should be outlawed. We saw Floridians banning gestation crates for mother pigs in a 2002 ballot initiative and California banning the force-feeding of birds for foie gras in 2004 legislation. We will certainly continue to see the cruelest confinement practices banned, and that certainly makes me feel cautiously optimistic.

As someone who has been vegan for a long time, can you believe how easy it has become—all the options offered to us now! Do you have a favorite soy ice cream?
It’s never been easier, and the options just keep on growing. My favorite soy ice cream? Hands down, Soy Delicious Purely Decadent’s Turtle Trails. If it were nutritionally complete, it would be the only thing I’d eat. (Well, maybe I’d fit in a trip or two to Red Bamboo, also!) n

For more information on the Humane Society of the United States and their campaigns visit www.HSUS.org.

 


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