Happy as a Pig With a Tail and a Ring-Free Nose


This week The New York Times ran a story about how egg, dairy, and meat producers are trying to attract customers by claiming to treat their animals better than the average farmer. Although there's a subtext suggesting that government regulation is necessary to organize and rationalize this niche market, in which people pay a premium for the assurance that their pork chops used to be a reasonably happy pig, there's also evidence that private certification is preferable. The competing standards that the Times suggests are confusing are actually a strength of the market, letting consumers decide which organizations are reliable and which criteria are important.

I was also struck by the way the Times refers to all organizations concerned about animal welfare as "animal rights" groups. There's a big difference between a group like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes all human use of animals, and a group like the American Humane Association, which certifies "free farmed" meat. The ultimate goal of animal rights supporters is to eliminate these farms, not to make them nicer places to live prior to slaughter.