30 October 2006

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore” (front page, Oct. 24):

Response to the introduction of “humanely raised” meat products is a good sign that consumers are finally starting to see through the veil erected by the factory farming industry to shield consumers from its behind-the-scenes cruelty.

The sad fact is that virtually no laws exist in the United States to govern the treatment of animals raised for food. The result has been a laundry list of institutionalized abuses—from 400-pound hogs crammed into two-foot-wide crates, to chickens packed five at a time into wire cages the size of a filing drawer.

Ten billion animals in the United States suffer these abuses each year. This fact, coupled with the uncertainty behind “humane” labeling, makes it clear that the best way to stop the suffering of animals remains to simply stop eating them.

Ariana Huemer
Oakland, Calif., Oct. 25, 2006

To the Editor:

For many who eat meat yet understand that there are ethical problems involved in where their food comes from, labeling is a serious business.

If farmed animals must give up their lives to feed people, those curtailed lives should at least be pleasant, not abusive, and their deaths painless.

Since the government does not ensure these animals’ quality of life, it should at least make sure that concerned meat eaters are not misled by the labels.

Miriam M. Reik
New York, Oct. 24, 2006

To the Editor:

Whole Foods has taken a huge step in the right direction by insisting on humanely raised animals. Unfortunately, these animals will very likely reach an inhumane end at the largely unregulated slaughterhouses, where the few federal standards on the books are rarely enforced.

The best course of action to ensure the humane treatment of our nonhuman animal friends? Go vegetarian.

Jane Shakman
Ossining, N.Y., Oct. 25, 2006

To the Editor:

For the past five years, the Animal Welfare Institute has had the privilege of working with Mike Jones, the North Carolina pig farmer you profile. He is one of our “animal welfare approved” farmers whose care and concern for his hogs provide an example for how animals, farmers and consumers can benefit from a return to humane farming practices.

A disturbing trend in the marketing of humane foods is one that our standards address head on: double-standard certification, where a label program rewards one animal product for adherence to so-called humane standards while permitting the bulk of animals in other product lines to be raised using cruel practices.

This allows agribusiness to maximize profits and control the market by displacing family farmers, like Mr. Jones, who raise all their animals according to high standards.

Consumers deserve to know which operations truly treat all of their animals well.

Cathy Liss
Animal Welfare Institute
Washington, Oct. 24, 2006

To the Editor:

“Certified humane,” “cage free” and “free farmed” are not mere marketing terms, designed to boost sales. In fact, they represent an effort by certain farmers to abandon the cruel practices of modern meat production.

Many consumers are seeking out certified humane meats because of the factory farm practices like crate confinement of veal calves; the foot lacerations and infections routinely suffered by chickens kept from birth to death in wire cages; the painful injuries suffered by cows and pigs forced to stand on concrete; and the large amounts of prophylactic antibiotics applied to tamp down the resulting constant infections.

You note the cutting off of tails (which are the only means by which cows can swat biting flies and scratch itches), but the suffering of animals goes on wholesale in the industrialized meat industry.

Consumers with a conscience will continue to seek out meats produced by methods we approve of, and Whole Foods should be commended for widening the availability of such ethical foods.

Jay Weinstein
New York, Oct. 24, 2006
The writer, a chef, is the author of a book about the humane production of food.

29 October 2006

Feral Hogs

Here is a New York Times story about the hunting of wild pigs. Ceteris paribus, it's better (morally) to eat the flesh of a wild pig than it is to eat the flesh of a factory-farmed pig, since the latter suffers a great deal (more). I'm not saying it's right to eat the flesh of a wild pig; I'm saying it's better. I'm making a comparative claim. I'm pretty sure Peter Singer would agree with me (for what that's worth).

24 October 2006

The Sensitive Carnivore

See here.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

I have my students do actual dissections, not only because they get a sense of the difference in tissue textures, strength, smells and so on, but also to give them a sense of humility.

Dissections are hard to do; it’s easy to cut too deep or not deep enough, and it’s hard to tell organ from organ, let alone nerve from muscle. I think it is important that students recognize how much effort went into discovering what we know, and how much more they will need to learn.

Do the school districts that feel they cannot afford a chemistry lab or dissection kits feel the same way about their sports programs?

Nat Eddy
Deep River, Conn., Oct. 20, 2006

23 October 2006

From the Mailbag

Hi guys.

Have been reading your animal ethics blog. Really good stuff. I just noticed that M. Engel is a contributor—it was partly down to an Engel paper I read around 4 years ago that I began to take animal issues seriously!

Sorry to plug so blatantly, but I thought you might be interested in our site where we cover animal ethics fairly frequently; normally in the form of objections to the media and so on.

Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Ed Brown.

16 October 2006


Now that Mylan Engel has joined this blog, I'm doing some things that I meant to do long ago. First, I alphabetized the blogroll. I haven't checked the links yet, but I will. Some of them may not work. If you'd like something to appear in the blogroll, send me a link and I'll take a look. The idea is to make this blog useful, both as a scholarly research tool and as a way for ordinary people (i.e., nonscholars) to learn about animal ethics. Second, I've begun compiling a chronological list of books on animal ethics. (See the sidebar.) For the time being, it's limited to books (i.e., monographs and anthologies). Perhaps later, when all the books in my personal collection have been listed, I'll expand it to include articles. If you're a publisher, editor, or author and would like a book listed, write to me. I may already have your book. If not, you can send it to me. The citations will conform to the Chicago Manual of Style—except that I will omit publication details. Thanks for visiting. I hope you come back on a regular basis. I also hope you tell your friends about this blog. Links are appreciated.

15 October 2006

Eat Your Veggies

Here is a New York Times column about "the vegetable-industrial complex."

Forty Grand

It's fitting that this blog just had its 40,000th visitor, because today the blog's membership increased 100%—from one to two. My longtime friend Mylan Engel, whom I've known for more than 20 years, joined the blog. (His first post appears immediately below this one.) Thanks for accepting my invitation, Mylan. To readers: Please don't expect Mylan (or me) to post on a regular basis. As you know, I haven't posted much in recent months. Mylan knows that he is free to post as often as he wants, but he's busy with scholarly work and other things, such as saving animals. Please check the blog from time to time to see whether anything new appears, and feel free to link to this blog on your own blog, if you have one. By the way, I enabled comments. I believe commenters have to register, and, most importantly, I believe I have to approve each comment before it appears. I will approve comments that (1) are civil and (2) advance the discussion of the moral status of nonhuman animals. If you came here to abuse Mylan or me, please leave—and don't come back.

Addendum: I'm pleased to see that typing "animal ethics" into Google brings up this blog as the first item.

"Disposable" Animals

Here is a story about Wade Pilloud, a school principal who shot and killed two orphaned kittens on school property in Indus, Minn.

Why is it that people in our society view animals as disposable? I suspect that part of the reason is they are conditioned to think that way from an early age. Pilloud claims that he shot the kittens to prevent them from suffering and starvation. Surely, there were ways to prevent these two kittens from suffering and/or starving to death other than shooting them to death. While the story doesn't provide details as to how old these kittens were, presumably they could have been hand fed and nursed out of infancy and then fostered out to good homes. Think about what a positive message saving these kittens would have sent to all of the kids in the school, namely, that animals' lives matter and ought to be respected. Unfortunately, the message that was actually sent to the students by this unthinking principal was that animals are disposable—that it is o.k. to kill them for convenience. When children see adults behaving that way, they come to think that such behavior is acceptable, and the cycle continues for another generation.

Sadly, the students probably learned another lesson as well: How to do the unspeakable—e.g., kill an innocent kitten—with a good conscience! The art of rationalization: "I didn't want those kittens to suffer." As if killing these kittens were the only possible way to prevent them from suffering and starving to death. It is one thing to kill a horribly injured animal to put her out of her misery. It's quite another to kill two healthy kittens whose mother was killed by a lethal animal trap. [One wonders why there was such a dangerous animal trap on or near the vicinity of the school in the first place.]

Another disturbing thing about the story is how the kittens themselves are almost entirely absent referents. Pilloud said, "the shooting endangered no one." Well, it certainly endangered the two kittens. But they are "no ones". They don't count. The people who were upset with Pilloud's actions don't seem to care that two innocent kittens were needlessly killed. They only seem worried that the shooting might have put children at risk. Again, the kittens are nearly invisible victims in the story. Also, look at the alleged crimes Pilloud is charged with: "felony possession of a firearm on school property" and "reckless discharge of a firearm." There is no suggestion that he be charged with "animal abuse". Once again, the victims are absent.

It is bad enough that two kittens had to needlessly lose their mother to a lethal animal trap [Such traps should be outlawed. Unfortunately, these traps remain legal because of the powerful fur industry lobby. If you don't want your companion animal to be killed by such a trap, boycott the fur industry and the companies who make these traps!]. It's even worse that these innocent kittens were rewarded for their first misfortune by being needlessly killed themselves.

It's doubtful that Pilloud will be convicted of any crime, and even if he is, it is doubtful that he will see any jail time. He did, however, receive a retirement settlement from the school district. So, in all likelihood, he will get to live out the rest of his life in comfortable surroundings. Unfortunately, the kittens no longer have that option.

14 October 2006

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “‘It Was Love at First Sight,’ and So, Before Long, Benny Mason Got Hitched” (news article, Oct. 9):

Can there be any doubt that horses do not belong in the city? Life on the streets of Manhattan is miserable for these horses that have to pull oversized loads in heavy traffic, where they are constantly avoiding collisions with careless and impatient drivers, and in arduous weather conditions.

In the summer, they breathe in lung-searing exhaust fumes and plod along scorching asphalt. In the winter, they endure freezing temperatures.

It’s unfathomable that anyone can support these rides. How many dead horses and hospitalized people will it take before the City Council bans them?

Jennifer O’Connor
Norfolk, Va., Oct. 11, 2006
The writer, on the staff of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, writes for its Animals in Entertainment Campaign.

12 October 2006

09 October 2006


Here is a New York Times op-ed column about animal intelligence.

06 October 2006

Deontology for Humans, Consequentialism for Animals

Here is a sad story about animals who have been treated as mere means to human ends.

04 October 2006

James Griffin on Environmental Ethics

The history of ethics is a history of successive extensions of the boundaries of concern—from family to community, from community to humanity, from humanity to animals. What is now being attempted is a further extension to the environment. Will environmental ethics always see itself as constrained to find a link to someone’s interests? Our obligations to individual animals, as bearers of interests, tell us nothing about the respect that we may owe to their species—or, in general, to the environment. Environmental ethics is itself in its infancy, and may develop in either of two ways. We may be able to develop it by developing the resources of an already established ethical tradition. Or we may find that the problems it presents are so discontinuous with the concerns that shaped older ethics that we must develop quite new concepts, which would then have in some way to be tied in with our old ones. There have been distinguished attempts to follow the first course, but my guess is that in the end we shall have to follow the second. I suspect that we should see environmental ethics as a search for responses that are ‘fitting’ or ‘appropriate’. There are things in the environment—a virgin forest, say, or the ecosystem of a coral reef—to which the appropriate response is awe or wonder, and the appropriate behaviour is the behaviour that awe and wonder prompt. That there need be no interests at stake does not mean that there are no appropriate or inappropriate actions. It is probably better to speak, though, in terms of appropriate and inappropriate actions rather than in terms of forests’ having ‘rights’ and humans’ having ‘duties’ to them.

(James Griffin, Value Judgement: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996], 126-7 [endnotes omitted])