Will those who advocate for animals ever wield more influence than those who want to kill or exploit them?

Ethicist Peter Singer recently wrote a provocative column for Forbes.com in which he considers just such a thing. In a piece titled Animal Advocates Surpass NRA in Political Influence, Singer writes from the perspective of someone living in the year 2020. The world he imagines is one where “for the first time since the beginning of factory farming, in the 1950s, all farm animals were able to stand up, lie down, walk around, and stretch their limbs.” Of course, in 2020, many people have come to their senses and given up meat.

In Singer’s 2020, Humane USA has “eclipsed the National Rifle Association in the influence it wielded on politicians.” This has led to all sorts of improvements in the lives of animals. These include “stricter controls over the use of animals in research; a crackdown on puppy mills, new incentives for people to adopt animals from shelters rather than buy from breeders; a national school lunch program that promoted vegetarian meals; expansion of live webcams in slaughterhouses, factory farms, and other places where animals were susceptible to abuse.” He also foresees a change in the legal status of animals, from mere property to recognition as sentient beings.

Let’s be honest: Singer’s take on 2020 America is probably a bit optimistic. Still, things have changes quite a bit over the last decade. After all, in 2008 Proposition 2 passed in California. This bill, which seeks to improve the lives and conditions of farm animals, faced massive opposition from the animal agriculture industry. Yet it enjoyed widespread support among voters. In 2009, the European Union acknowledged it is wrong to consider animals as just property. Writing from his imagined 2020, Singer sees both of these developments as major steps in a move toward the better America for animals he envisions.

Will animal advocacy groups ever wield more influence than the National Rifle Association? It’s possible. The nation’s largest animal group, the Humane Society of the United States, has about 11 million members. The NRA has nearly 4 million. Humane USA supported 115 federal candidates who ran for election in 2008. Of those, 87 percent won. Also, with popular television personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres frequently addressing animal welfare, the public is far more aware of these issues than ever before.

Perhaps most encouraging is the fear shown on the other side. Consider, for example, the time and money spent by the corporate stooges at the Center for Consumer Freedom smearing the HSUS and PETA. Like Peter Singer, the CCF and their Big Ag sugar-daddies seem to think that Proposition 2 will eventually lead to the death of factory farms. Here’s hoping.

I plan to still be around in 2020, so maybe I can write a follow-up post for Change.org looking back at how things turned out for animals between now and then. Stranger things have happened, such as a piece by Peter Singer about animal rights appearing on Forbes.com.

Who would have predicted that?

Photo Credit: Joel Travis Sage