I think she is wrong.
First, I need to go out of my way to emphasize that I think that transparency in animal slaughter would result in some, perhaps even most, animals suffering less before being killed. That is to say, I think that video cameras in slaughterhouses would indeed lead to enforcement of animal welfare laws. This is, of course, exactly what Elaine says in her sample letter to congress to get the ball rolling.
Transparency is a really good step to improving farm animals’ lives and preventing egregious cruelty like that shown in the HSUS video. It’s also a great idea to improve accordance with labor laws, public health laws, and environmental protection laws.I agree that transparency has a good chance of achieving those goals.
The question I have is: are those goals worth achieving? Certainly, all animal rights advocates (and all decent human beings) would rather animals suffer less than more, all things being equal. Nobody would argue that, say, a chicken with room to flap its wings (unlike virtually every chicken used for food today) would not be better off than a chicken that cannot. The issue is not whether some measure will achieve some welfare goal, but wether it will achieve that goal to the exclusion of the ultimate goal that I, Elaine, and other advocates of animal rights wish to achieve: the abolition of animal use entirely.
The argument is that, after drawing attention to the most egregious cruelty and ending it, people will choose to continue paying attention to the not so egregious killing part, and eventually start objecting to that as well. The problem here is that it is no surprise to people that animals are killed for meat. Everyone knows this. They only object, to the extent that they do at all, to it being done in an inhumane manner. Once they are assured by all of this transparency that the animals aren't being mistreated while being killed, they will stop paying attention. In fact, if history is any indication, they will consume more meat, secure in their knowledge that the meat came from cruelty-free slaughter.
I know this seems counterintuitive to some vegans, most of whom weren't born believing in animal rights. We think, "If only they can see what happens, they'll stop." And in some sense, this is true. Seeing how awful slaughterhouses are, through Meet Your Meat or Earthlings or anywhere else, has made many a vegan. But those videos do not come with the promise of fixing the problem. Transparency in slaughterhouses doesn't say to the public, "Look at how cruel animals are treated, let's stop eating them." Transparency in slaughterhouses accepts slaughterhouses! Transparency in slaughterhouses says, "Slaughter, but slaughter gently!"
Can we see the difference here? We can work to end cruelty in a way that also works to abolish animal exploitation. It can be done. This isn't how to do it. We only have so much energy to spend on advocating for animals, and we ought to focus that energy only where it will best achieve our goals.