The danger of big animal rights organisations

I think Mercy for Animals is one of the most impactful animal rights organisations in the US. In just a couple of years, they have grown out to be a group that very regularly gets big media coverage for its undercover investigations. Thus, it has exposed what happens in factory farms to millions of people in the US and beyond.


And yet, today I found this on Facebook:


I have a reallly hard time getting this. I do not like to question people’s motivations and intentions, but in this case it is really hard for me to see this as a sincere attempt to help animals. At the very least, given what MFA has done, this seems to me to be terribly and sadly misguided.

There are also other possible interpretations. One is that the author of this has had a personal bad experience with the group in question – they could be, for instance, an ex-employee. The second is that things like this are set up by the opposition: the meat industry itself.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by a long shot, but think about it. What would be some efficient ways to fight against the success organisations like Mercy for Animals are having? The ag-gag laws, which in some US states have made it illegal to make photographs of factory farms are one thing. Another tactic could be to damage animal rights organisations from within the movement.

A good way to do that would be to try to diminish the credibility of organisations like MFA by accusing them of all kinds of things: saying they are corrupt (out to get money for themselves), inefficient, or not pure in their mission. Basically it’s a “divide and conquer” strategy.

More generally, I believe that trying to spread, within our movement, a very rigid, dogmatic, no-compromise strategy would be a great thing for the industry to do. I’m not saying that everyone who believes in no-compromise black-and white solutions and who dislikes any sort of pragmatism has been inspired by the opposition, obviously. But I do believe that the industry loves to see the increase of fundamentalism or radicalism (I’m using the words not in their derogatory but more in their philosophical sense). Fundamentalist ideologists are, I believe, by far not as dangerous as pragmatic, strategic thinking people. When individuals get together to build an organisation, and acquire money enough in order to get huge media attention and afford lobbyists, that is the moment they get really dangerous. And that is the moment they would need to be discredited by all means necessary.

Whether the industry is behind some of this or not, don’t fall into the trap of believing the big organisations are betraying the animals or wasting your money. They consist of committed individuals like you and me, doing the best they can for the animals every day. Support them.

Disclaimer: I founded and for 15 years led EVA, a Belgian veg organisation. It isn’t “big” (12 staff at most), but it is definitely above grassroots level.

16 thoughts on “The danger of big animal rights organisations

  1. Hi Tobias,

    I agree with everything in this post, thanks for covering this somewhat hidden aspect of things that are sometimes very difficult to figure out, and who is behind what, etc.

    Can I ask where on Facebook you saw that image? Do you have any idea if it is an “official” MFA? I
    have been a huge supporter of MFA for several years now, mostly because of the undercover investigative work they do.


      1. Thanks for the link. And sorry, I meant to write “official MFA image”…thinking about it more now, I’m now guessing that’s not the case, and someone from took the logo and made that new bigger pic with it.

  2. p.s.
    I find it so hard to comprehend how those whose very core belief states that animals must not be allowed to harmed by humans can apply this logic only if and when it pertains to “all species of animals”. By default they are saying that individual animals and their suffering does not matter.

    After reading this, I can’t help but have a picture in my mind of someone from standing in front of a sow in a gestation crate, or a still-conscious chicken about to be scalded alive, or any single other of the billions of animals who must endure horrific suffering every second of their lives in factory farms.

    I wonder if as this person was standing in front of one of these animals, if they could say to him or her, “Sorry, but we unfortunately can’t help you, a “single” animal, until “all other species of animals” can be saved. Again, we are really sorry, but we are ALSO going to have to try and stop any other people who may be trying to help you and reduce your suffering. Yeah, we know it sucks, and the whole premise behind our beliefs is to stop animal suffering at the hands of humans…but we unfortunately can’t help individuals like you. It’s got to be all or nothing.”

    If they had the opportunity and power to help reduce the suffering of that animal, even if only a little, could they face that animal, say those things, and then turn their back on that animal?

    As the song by Little Richard says, “A Little Bit of Something Beats a Whole Lot of Nothing”.

  3. Hi Tobias

    Regarding your comment about MFA being ‘one of the most impactful animal rights organisations in the US’.

    I disagree. I think they’re THE most impactful animal rights organisation in the world bang for buck.



      1. My apologies if I am “over-commenting” with all my comments, but I just wanted to let you know that l agree with Karen, and that your voice and this blog really are a gift to our movement.
        And Karen’s work, too, of course! 🙂

  4. Here’s a thought: maybe when you write an article that examines and refutes a meme and if your goal is to stop the spread of the meme then maybe you shouldn’t post an image of the meme. Or if you do choose to post that image, you post another better image alongside so that when people share the article on facebook and such, they’re not just spreading the meme. Just a thought. A strategic one 😉

  5. Tobias, your writing is ill-informed, superficial, and inconsistent… You accuse those who criticize Mercy For Animals as being associated with the “meat” industry, yet Mercy For Animals was a direct partner with that industry in the form of United Egg Producers when MFA reversed its position against cruel “furnished” battery cages and engaged in a deceptive campaign for them, with other big organizations, as the egg industry wanted. Here you have an organization actually partnering with industry, and you accuse critics of it? What nonsense! Mercy For Animals has joined with Nestle’s and Walmart to deceive the public about furnished battery cages, cage-free, and the freedoms that the animals whom they kill will enjoy including freedom from pain, injury, distress, disease, hunger, and thirst. These are unattainable promised made to the public on behalf of animal killers by Mercy For Animals. Mercy For Animals supports battery cages, misleads the public about cage-free conditions, and enriches itself through worthless undercover releases that do nothing but hurt some poor workers while the offending corporation has its image rehabilitated based on false promises. Mercy For Animals partners with the Humane Society of the US, a rancher advocacy group led by a pig farmer that distributes discount coupons for bacon, and promotes events like “Hoofin’ It” a four day restaurant slaughter-fest featuring a different hoofed animal on the menu daily. They couldn’t possibly be associated with the “meat” industry, could they, even though they are serving animals on platters? And you seem so willing to cheer a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor so quickly that, hey maybe you and this blog are a part of the “meat” industry too.

    1. thanks for commenting bob. your and my views and interpretations on/of things are probably as far apart as it is possible for two people in the movement to be, so i think it is better to agree to disagree.
      (my main point here was to say that the meat industry would make the same points)

  6. It’s true that MFA have done many good deeds to help nonhuman animals. However, by selling out and allowing themselves to be co-opted by the flesh industry, they have also contributed to their suffering of non-humans.

    If MFA had an unlimited amount of income then they would openly promote veganism rather than ‘humane meat’.

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