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HSUS’ Paul Shapiro Discusses Alliances With Labor

By Jon Hochschartner - Species and Class, October 9, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Paul Shapiro is the vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States. He recently agreed to an interview with Species and Class in which he discussed alliances with the workers’ movement, among other things.

Species and Class : You recently coauthored a piece with the vice president of the United Farm Workers. How can the animal movement develop a better relationship with the labor movement, so we might work together on issues we agree on?

Paul Shapiro: Factory farms are terrible places to be a farm animal, and they’re also bad places to be a farm worker. There’s a reason turnover is so high at these facilities. Not only is it physically draining to work inside animal factories, but the mental toll which comes from being around such violence all day long is also quite serious. One need only peruse Human Rights Watch’s report on the working conditions for slaughter workers, for example, to know that these are very dangerous jobs.

So there should be a good amount of common ground between those seeking to help farm animals and those seeking to help farm workers. That’s one reason The Humane Society of the United States regularly works with the United Farm Workers on joint efforts. We’ve also partnered with other workers’ rights organizations to challenge a particularly inhumane poultry slaughter method that also causes traumatic injury to workers.

These are just a couple examples, but certainly there are more.

SC: For you, how, if at all, are the campaigns against worker and animal exploitation linked?

PS: They’re linked in many ways. For example, many dairy farm workers don’t want to perpetrate cruelties against cows, but are forced to do so to remain in their jobs. They sometimes have to cut the cows’ tails off, and without any pain relief for the animals. This practice causes substantial animal suffering, and yet many dairy workers still are compelled by management to do it, despite the fact that they don’t want to.

In other cases, workers who are treated poorly may sometimes in turn take out their frustrations on animals, leading to a cycle of violence. And yet in other cases, such as in conventional poultry slaughter, the very method of slaughter which is so terrible for the birds also increases the risk of injury to workers compared to other methods which cause less animal suffering.

SC: How do you respond to those animalists who argue the species politics of the Humane Society are too conservative?

PS: There’s a reason the meat industry routinely attacks HSUS above any other organization in the animal movement. The editor of Pork Magazine, for example, says, “HSUS won’t go away; in fact it has gained strength. It has the formula down and will replicate its strategies within the pork sector as well as across the agriculture sector.” And the editor of Egg Industry magazine seems to agree, writing in 2013 that “The Humane Society of the United States is a formidable adversary for all of animal agriculture.”

SC: Does the Humane Society have any sort of democratic mechanisms so that those animalists who are dissatisfied with the organization might help steer it in a more agreeable direction? If so, can you describe these mechanisms?

PS: HSUS policies are largely determined by our board of directors, and board members are elected by a vote of the HSUS membership.

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