paul shapiro, hsus lobbyist paul shapiro, senior director of factory farming campaign, hsus
c- So I have that you are the Senior Director of the Factory Farming Campaign. And I like to start with the official title of people's job and then if you could go ahead and explain what that sort of is.
p- Sure. Well, as somebody who works in our factory farming campaign HSUS um my responsibilites are to reduce the suffering of farm animals through a variety of means, whether it's creating corporate policies that reduce animal suffering in the supply chain or public policies that ban certain particularly abusive practices on factory farms and slaughter plants. Working with consumers to improve their own diets when it comes to considering animals—it's a whole range of things that we do. And so um part of my job is to oversee those efforts whether public policies, corporate policies, individual policies and so on.
c- And so, what's uh a day in the life of what you typically do?
p- Well, I travel extensively for, for work so Im in the office maybe about half the time or so. And I travel for speeches, meetings, debates, interviews, um it depends on what we're doing. For example, I was recently in Ohio meeting with a bunch of key potential supporters for our upcoming ballod initiative there um I will be going next week to Michigan to give a couple of talks at an animal convention conference up there. Ill also be next week in Wisconsin and meet with some industry groups there about areas where uh they may be seeing eye-to-eye with us. I mean of course in most areas, on many areas I should say, uh we agree to disagree. But there are some places where we find common ground and so if we can move forward in those areas uh I think that helps animals. So those are some things I will be doing next week. Uh I think you know for today uh much of my day uh has been spent on the phone talking with potential supporters of our campaigns potential endorsers, potential donors, potential signature gatherers, and so on. Uh reviewing industry trade publications to monitor what's going on in the industry. Responding when necessary to various claims that are being made and so on.
c- And last time that we had talked you had said that you had been to a conference to sort of talk about global warming.
c- And so if you could just talk a little bit about that and what you went there for.
p- Well in New York City they have a conference called the Food and Climate Summit and I gave two speeches there on the importance of recognizing animal agriculture as one of the leading causes of climate change in the world and so most of the people at this conference are already sold on the idea that food is related to climate change but their main focus is on things such as local food, organic food, (clears throat) non GMO food, and so on whereas one of the points I was making is those are important factors, however, um what is the elephant in the room or you know the chicken in the room really is animal agriculture and that the studies show that being vegetarian just one day a week does more for reducing your carbon footprint than if you ate locally a hundred percent of the time for all of your meals. Its not to say that eating local isn't important, it's just to say that it's not the most important thing out there. There are other factors that may be a lot more important when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. As well, since animal agriculture is such a leading contributor to air, water, and soil pollution, even independent of climate change, there are a lot of reasons why we should be raising and killing fewer farm animals than the billions we're currently killing right now.
c- And prior to working at the Humane Society, you had actually started and served as the director of Compassion Over Killing uh and you had worked there for 10 years. And so I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about what you um what you did there and the reason maybe why you had started it.
p- Well I had founded Compassion Over Killing in 1995 as a way basically at first to have a high school club that focused on animal protection which we didn't have at my high school and then later it became about a year later it became more of a grassroots group in the DC metro-area so rather than being confined to this particular school it really was confined to a region. And at first it started out as a very small all volunteer group. We would do things like pass out free vegan food outside of fast food restaurants, uh stage demonstrations, um you know and so on. After a few years we began to change some of our tactics and focusing more on underground investigations its not to say that Compassion Over Killing stopped doing feed-ins, its just that we added underground investigations to our repertoire. We investigated and exposed slaughter plants, we investigated and exposed factory farms, livestock auctions, the treatment of animals during transport. We wanted to shine a very bright light on a very dark world of factory farming and show Americans exactly what it is that happens to animals that are raised for food to make the point that if the victims of this type of violence and cruelty were dogs and cats the result would likely be criminal prosecution. But because they were chickens, and turkeys, and pigs, and cows, the result was not not only no prosecution, but sanctioning through daily purchasing habits of most Americans. So we would produce exposes of documentaries, online videos, of photos and so on to try and document what was going on with farm animals. And then work with the media to get that out to the public. We had, there were major features on our investigations that were in The Washington Post to the New York Times, CNN and so on all designed to help Americans see that every single time we sit down to eat we're making choices about what type of a world that we want for animals. For those of us who truly want a humane society eating the standard American diet of meat, eggs, and dairy every day is not going to get us there. So um Compassion Over Killing was all volunteer from 95-2001 and in the middle of 2001 we ended up with enough funding to hire one person, so I hired myself to work there. And then kept on expanding it in its donor base and then by the next year we hired another person and the next year we hired another person and the next year another person so by 2000, by the end of 2004 we had 4 full time employees. In the middle of 2004, um Wayne Pacelle took over the presidency of the Humane Society of the United States which of course is the largest animal protection charity in the world. You know both in terms of um budget and staff. And, he had a strong interest in making farm animals protection a greater priority for the organization and he wanted to create a factory farming campaign and so, so when he took over in a series of talks um 100% of the Compassion Over Killing staff decided to come over to the Humane Society of the US to this new farm animal program here and we replaced ourselves with longtime dedicated volunteers of Compassion Over Killing and so Compassion Over Killing continues to do great work that it was doing beforehand and we now have this effort ongoing at the Humane Society of the US too, so it's a real win-win. And over the last five years from the beginning of the campaigning in January 05 to January twenty-ten we've seen a complete change in the landscape of farm animal protection work in the United States. We've seen vegan eating become far more mainstream we've seen the number of states that that banned certain factory farming practice gone up dramatically to the point that we now have seven states that ban certain confinement practices. Uh one state that uh that bans the force feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras, a state that bans the tail-docking of cows, um so there's a whole host of progress that's been made. Obviously there's still a very long way to go. The progress that we've seen as dramatic as it is you know is dramatic relative to that which has come before, but it's still you know very modest I mean the changes we've seen are extraordinarily modest there is still obviously a long way to go.
c- Yeah I was reading a little bit about some of the legislation and one of them was the Animal Care Certified logo um on the egg cartons.
c- If you could talk a little bit about that maybe um why you started to get interested in that topic and the way that progressed.
p- Sure. Well when I was at Compassion Over Killing the egg industry started responding to a lot of these exposes that we and other groups were doing um on their standard industry practices, such as confining hens in cages that are so small they're unable even to spread their wings for their whole lives. And we um garnered a lot of press attention on this issue and the United Egg Producers began uh creating a program to try and give the appearance of you know having the ability of self regulating and so they said that if you follow these standards The United Egg Producers came up with you could label your egg cartons Animal Care Certified. And these standards permitted all types of abuse they permitted birds to be confined in cages with each bird having less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live for more than their for more than a year. At the time they permitted starvation based for smulting regimes which means they would withhold food from the bird for up to two weeks in order to manipulate their egg lying cycle. Thats fortunately no longer allowed, but at the time it was and other cruelties as well. I mean it's very misleading. When a consumer sees on a carton Animal Care Certified, she or he is likely to envision a much higher level of care than what these birds were actually getting. So we filed a legal complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the federal trade commission, the US Department of Agriculture, um Food and Drug Administration and eventually there was litigation in the courts over this and in the end we won. And the Better Business Bureau ruled that it was a misleading logo and they recommended that it be discontinued. The United Egg Producers ignored their first ruling of what's called the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau and essentially uh appealed that ruling to what's kind of like the Supreme Court of the Better Business Bureau its called the National Advertising Review Board. The National Advertising Review Board of the Better Business Bureau upheld the previous ruling and The United Egg Producers agreed to withdraw the Animal Care Certified logo from its egg cartons and changed the logo now to read United Egg Producers Certified. So its less misleading than what it was before. Um so that I think it was an important victory both from an animal welfare and a consumer protection angle. Its an important victory um but there, there out to be more. The European Union not only uh bans the misleading labels like that but they also require mandatory disclosure on the carton thats produced eggs from caged hens. So in the European Union, if you buy eggs they have to be labeled eggs from caged hens if they are indeed eggs from caged hens. In the US on the other hand you see images of old McDonald's farm on cartons of caged eggs without any disclosure at all thats the problem.
c- Yeah, I think they have um logos now for cage-free or um things like that but again you never now. If it is 100% and so this is just one of the things I had seen that sort of relates to a lot of the other labels
c- And the issues that are going on.
p- Well Animal Care Certified is one of the more egregious ones fortunately that has been pulled from the market, but you still have a real problem with confusion in the marketplace. I mean there is a plethora of egg labels out there and some of those standards are somewhat meaningful and other ones are not really that meaningful. And it's difficult for a lot of people even who have a lot of knowledge on the topic to keep it all straight let alone the average consumer for him you know laying hen welfare is uh not their primary area of expertise.
c- And so you were talking a little bit about the things that will be coming up in the next week. In terms of some of the lectures and some of the things that you will be doing but are there any current legislation or efforts that you and your department are working on.
p- Um sorry I don't think I understand the question. Say that again so are there any legislation that we are working on right now, is that what you said? (14:08)
c- Yeah or any other types of issues that are pressing at the time.
p- Well, there are a few things that are pressing. One is a um a bill in California um that would basically mandate that all shelf eggs have to be produced in compliance with the law that California voters passed in the 2008 election. Requires cage free egg production it bans battery cages. Um but it doesn't regulate the sale it just regulates the production. And so you could still have out-of-state egg producers selling in selling to California consumers. So that bill is passed the state but it still needs to go through the Senate then be signed by the governor. Thats an important bill. There's efforts relating to the tail docking of dairy cows. Many tail docks, many dairy cows have parts of their tails cut off its a very barbaric mutilation that is not only painful because they are having a limb basically cut off of their body and to this apendage their tail cut off from their body without any semblance of painkiller whatsoever but it also renders them defenseless uh or at least nearly defenseless from biting flies and other insects which can of course be a problem on factory farms so there is a lot of manure especially in the warmer months. So uh we just banned tail docking in California the nations number one dairy state and we're working in other states to do the same right now. The Ohio campaign is going to be probably our greatest priority for twenty-ten. That involves a ballod initiatives that will be statewide ballot we hope in the ballod of twenty-ten to require improved conditions for farm animals in the state.
c- And then um is there anything that there hasn't been anything addressed about it. Or it's just something that you are really passionate about that you haven't been able to work on now.
p- Chickens who are raised for meat are one of the most underserved areas in the movement. The vast majority of farm animals are these so called broiler chickens. These are chickens who are raised for meat opposed to eggs and there's about 9 billion of them 9 billion of the b who are raised and killed for food they represent more than 90% of all farm animals and there's very few campaigns for them actually its uh its uh very underserved area I I think that focusing more attention on their plate both at slaughter and in their raising conditions would be helpful.
c- In undergrad I did a project about that I plaster casted and labeled 269 newspaper chickens that I had made and
c- created an installation because every second that's how many were killed at the time.
c- Im sure that its gone up.
p- Actually its gone down this year.
c- Oh has it?
p- Yeah. The number of animals and this included chickens who've been killed for food in 2009 was less than 2008.
p- Its an anomaly. Its probably due to the recession but but theres been a constant growth curb going upwards for decades but with last year, its not the case.
c- That would be interesting as a study to see if it's related to the recession or other things.
c- Changing diets, or...
p- That would be great.
c- So, how difficult is it for you when you're working against some of these major industries—the meat industry has a pretty big um handle in certain situations as we can see they took Oprah to court
p- And lost (laughs)
c- And lost, so how, I mean do you think it is something that for you—this is what you do—but when it needs to be made aware to the public- Um, so I guess its like a two part question.
p- Yeah, well it's no doubt that the animal agri-business is extremely well funded and extremely point of opinion and an extremely powerful lobby, not only in Washington but in nearly all 50 state capitals. So we've got an adversary that is extraordinarily powerful in so many ways and it receives a lot of federal funding., both in terms of subsidies and so on., which is you know really disturbing. Um at the same time we dont nearly have as much funding as they do, but we have way more voters than they do. People who care about animals who want to prevent cruelty to animals um are passionate about these issues. And the membership of the Humane Society alone is is is very large, larger than you know the American Farm Bureau or the National Rifle Association and so on so we can uh we can play those cards for sure but we need to uh we need to ensure that um Americans who are concerned about the plight of animals, including farm animals are vocal about their concern for animal welfare. And that they dont just apply that thinking yes I care about animals but to let their elected officials know, let their corporations know to let their friends and family know, so that we can really mainstream this concept of wanting to build a more humane society.
c- What would you say is the most challenging part of your job and what is the most rewarding?
p- Well I think the most challenging is the amount of work to do for us I mean we're working toward a day when our relationship with other animals is one that is no longer based on violence and domination but one that is based on compassion and respect. And that day is a long way away. So just knowing that many of the gains that we are making as great as they are or as much suffering as they reduce as I said before are still very modest. Um, however, I think that one of the most inspirational work that we have deals deals with a few things. First, getting to work with other people who are devoting their lives to service those who cannot speak out for themselves. You know, animals are completely at our mercy. We can treat them in any ways that we want. We can show them cruelty or we can show them compassion. And so many people who are involved in the humane community are so devoted to wanting to make the world a better place for animals who cant reciprocate who really cant you know. This is a very altruistic movement um. That is one of the most inspirational parts of this line of work because you get to see humanity at some of its best. On the flip side you get to see humanity at some of its worst when you see people engaged in cruelty and the types of cases that we see everyday here. People a dog in the oven and baking the alive, people microwaving cats, people beating wild animals to death, people hanging pigs factory farm execution style, as a means of so-called euthanasia. Um so you get to see the best and you get to see the worst of humanity in this. But what rally keeps me going is knowing our work is making a tangible difference in the lives of animals—that animals lives will be better because of the work that we've done. We may not succeed in making their lives idyllic, we may not succeed in completely ending their suffering but we are succeeding in tangibly improving their lives often times in the case of millions of animals. And that, knowing that is really what keeps me going the thought that the world may have less suffering than it would have had had I never been born is one of the most compelling reasons to do this work for me to leave the world a better place than it was had I not been doing this type of work or had I never existed at all.
c- And just looking through at some of the things that you have done in the past and and the type of work that you have done. As a vegan it is often times seen as this radical way of living and there are a lot of things associated with it you know people throwing paint at people if they wear fur
c- and so how do you see this as someone starting a campaign in high school til now—maybe the growth or who you were and who you are now.
p- Hm. Yeah Im definitely a I definitely have a much different attitude toward animal advocacy now compared to when I became vegan in 1993. You know when I became vegan I was a I had a very different view. First and foremost I thought that you know the change I thought that we were going to see dramatic changes in a very short period of time um whereas now I realize that social change occurs incrementally and that some change is better than no change, that it is a marathon not a sprint, and that you dont go from A to Z without going through twenty other letters first. So I think that may be one of the key differences but also my you know my style of advocacy I mean I use to think that um that going to protests, uh doing sit-ins, those types of things um and locking myself to things with other people was you know really an effective way of advocating for animals. Thats not to say that there is no place for civil disobedience and social movements obviously thats not the case buh ut uh my form of advocacy now I think is more effective than what I was doing back in the mid 90s because we are actually changing the ways that animals are treated. Rather than I mean a lot of what we were doing made us feel good it might have made us feel like we were you know tough or whatever but I mean the reality is not much changed-really not much changed. Now, we are seeing gestation crates go by the wayside, veal crates going by the wayside, pretty soon, battery cages going by the wayside. We see the concept of vegan eating becoming more mainstream than we've ever seen before. I mean we use to celebrate if we'd get one vegan- one cafeteria to add some vegan options. We just worked with Compass Group, the worlds largest service provider to add the worlds largest service provider to add more veg options to 8,500 cafeterias in its supply chains so the concept of of viewing animals as more than as mere commodities as more than as just a mere food source and nothing else is uh becoming more mainstream that it ever has been before and I think thats due (clears throat) to a lot of factors one of them is the increasing professionalization of the animal protection movement.
c- And just going back to how the vegan diet is more mainstream now- the VegDC guide is very helpful especially for people moving to the area or even visiting to help them find a place to go and have a veggie burger or something like that that is completely vegan—that it will not be cooked on something with other meat products—like Ben's Chili Bowl is a great example.
c- But the VegDC guide is actually very helpful. And that is something actually that you worked on and helped to get started if Im not, um, mistaken. So if you could just talk a little bit about that.
p- Well, you're not mistaken. I remember the first guide that we did. Maybe ten years ago or so it a (laughs) actually it may have been more than ten years ago amazingly enough, but um you know the first guide was not very (laughs) comprehensive I mean there wasn't that many there weren't that many options. But you know through a lot of work a lot of animal advocates going around to restaurants and asking for more vegan fare more and more restaurants started catering to that demand and we kept on expanding the guide out. And the whole purpose of the guide I mean is to demonstrate just how easy it is to choose these types of humane options in the marketplace. That being a vegan advocate isnt just about saying no don't do this its about saying yes come and enjoy this fantastic delicious experience and broaden your culinary verizons to try foods that you may have never tried before and its uh its a fun and exciting thing to do. So um for a lot of people when they get that guide they think oh this is veg fare in the DC area wow look at all this. You know its not just a few vegan restaurants its so many restaurants that have so many specific vegetarian menu or separate vegetarian menus altogether and I think its illustrative of the type of change we've seen in the mainstreaming of this concept of animals as not being mere food sources.
c- And so the places that would get added that was actually from people kind of encouraging places and...
p- Yeah and it was media you know whenever there would be media coverage of new veg friendly restaurants other restaurants would see that and they would change their menu then they would contact us and say hey we've added this please include us in there. Um you know there is a whole host of things that uh that happened to widen that guide I mean the pages speak for themselves. Its uh (ha) its a different world today for sure for vegan eating than it was when that guide first came out.
c- I think even The Washington Post has you can rate certain things and you can vote for certain restaurants
c- They even have included specifically restaurants that are targeted for vegan food.
c- You can vote for your favorite vegan bakery or restaurant.
p- I love it.
p- Its great.
c- It has seen, has seen quite an expansion and I think it also goes around like cities that they are easier to have a lifestyle that is easier to cater to a vegan diet you know compared to areas where there are no restaurants that offer certain things.
p- Yeah that's true. I mean its easier to get a wider variety of vegan food in many cities than if you go out to less populated areas there is not doubt about it. I imagine that that will change too I mean it use to be that cities you couldn't really get that much vegan food whereas that has obviously changed so as as the diet becomes more mainstream uh I think you will see it becoming easier and easier and you're going to see fast food restaurants catering to the vegan demand you're going to see um you know the WalMarts of the world doing it too.
c- And so primarily for you when you went vegan back in 1993 was it for diet reasons or was it for the animal welfare aspect of it?
p- The only reason that I became a vegan was because of animal welfare I mean my thinking on the matter was that I wouldn't do this to a dog to my dogs and therefore no animal should have to go through this and so I stopped eating animals and I never looked back I mean my goal though with it wasn't adherence to some type of rigid dogma as much as it was a pragmatic attempt to reduce the amount of suffering in the world. I figured if it were a matter of survival that would be one thing. But we dont need to eat meat, eggs, and dairy in order to survive—we dont need to. Its' theres no other way around it. I had already thought you know that cosmetic testing on animals was bad. You know why should we have to subject animals to torture in order to have a new eyeliner for example. Um and I had thought well maybe you know maybe food is different because we need meat in order to survive but obviously little could be further from the truth. It is unnecessary and I've since of course I've since then the health benefits, the environmental benefits and so on and those now play a role on my decision. But the primary reason both then and now was an animal welfare based reason.
c- And um so it seems you have actually made a career for yourself out of this
c- little interest which is nice. Um sometimes that works in favor when you have something you are really passionate about you get to make a career out of it.
p- Yeah, uh helping animals is my career and my goal is to make the world a better place for animals and I also think that makes the world a better place for humans. I think that we not only degrade animals we treat them cruelly, but we also degrade ourselves. There there is an inherent corrupting influence that when we treat those that are at our mercy with uh without even a callous sense of disregard that we are both abusing them and ourselves and so to the extent that we can make the world a more pleasant place, a less miserable place, I think thats a I'll be content with what I've done in my career.
c- I guess you would be one of those people somebody wouldn't want to get in an argument with if they were trying to argue back and forth why people shouldn't be vegan.
c- So I mean sometimes when you tell people that you are vegan people will ask you well what does that mean or
p- Right.You know, what I say say is look we don't have to eat animals in order to in order to survive. There is just no getting around it. We don't have to. So the question is um how much violence and suffering are we willing to inflict on animals for something that's unnecessary? And that is a question that people need to answer uh for themselves. Its a a decision that they will have to come to. And I dont want to give the impression—two things I don't want to give the impression that all animal products are equally bad I think some cause far more suffering than others do. At the same time I dont want to give the impression that all plant based food is necessarily cruelty free. There are a lot of bad things, bad practices that cause both to animals and to humans in plant based agriculture—no diet is totally cruelty free. Theres no doubt that you cannot live a lifestyle that causes no suffering, but you can try to minimize the amount of suffering that you cause. And that's really our our real goal is to try no matter where people are on the spectrum of you know conscientious eating we want to push them in the direction of continually striving to cause less suffering—that's the reason why I'm vegan, and I understand that some people go even further yeah well I also don't want to you know for example they might not eat foods that have been treated with pesticides for example or why some people may say well I won't eat factory farm animal products but I will eat free range animal products. I think that reasonable people are going to disagree on where to draw that line and uh you know the fact of the matter is there are a number of people who are thinking about the ethical consequences of their food choices its still such a small number compared to the total population that I'm happy for any positive changes that anybody makes.
c- I think that that's a nice place to end. But I do have one last question, uh and that is what is your favorite color?
p- Ha! Uh I wear a lot of blue shirts.
c- So are you going to say blue?
p- Uh yeah I would say that I like blue. But it's hard because I don't want to be prejudice against green you know?
p- It is very pretty, but um you know I think the combination of a blue sky with some greenery that might be that might have to take it.
c- Ok well that is actually a really interesting answer. Thank you.
paul shapiro, senior director of factory farming campaign, hsus