31 March 2007


If you like nature programming (as I do), please make a note of this.

30 March 2007

A Good Day for Horses

Horses destined for inhumane slaughter in the U.S. can now breathe a sigh of relief, thanks to a recent ruling in a federal appeals court. According to this story in the Northern Star, a federal appeals court Wednesday ruled that the USDA can no longer inspect horse meat for a fee. Because animal flesh sold for human consumption abroad must be inspected by a USDA inspector, the court ruling may mean that the few remaining horse-slaughtering plants in the U.S.—including Cavel International in DeKalb, IL—may have to close up shop. Since the ruling prevents Cavel from inspecting any new horses for slaughter, the plant will have to halt operations after slaughtering the already inspected horses.

A previous post on the "Horse Slaughter Bill" (H.R. 503), a bill designed to ban horse slaughter in the U.S., is available here. A detailed exchange concerning the ethics of eating horses, including several posts by me, can be read here. Other victories by animal protection advocates and their impacts are discussed here.

28 March 2007


Somebody persuade me that this is progress. I can't help but think that, by improving the lives of the animals who are killed to satisfy human gustatory preferences, we are entrenching the idea that animals exist for human use. All we are doing by improving the lives of farmed animals is allowing people to eat meat with a better conscience. This will have the perverse effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, the number of animals killed. Burger King will be delighted by that, for it wants to kill as many animals as possible—not because it hates animals, but because it views them as a means to an end, the end being profit. How can that be progress?

26 March 2007

The Horror of Factory Farming

See here for an editorial opinion by The New York Times.

22 March 2007


Penelope Wells sent a link to this uplifting story.

21 March 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

I appreciate Nicolette Hahn Niman’s efforts in raising awareness about the conditions in which pigs are raised (“Pig Out,” Op-Ed, March 14), but I was struck by her comment that it is incumbent on us to ensure that animals have decent lives because we ask them to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. This doesn’t ring true, suggesting as it does that we actually ask the animals to make a sacrifice for our sake.

What we are doing is raising and then killing animals so that we can eat them. They don’t volunteer.

If we’re going to raise farm animals and then kill them to eat them, we should say so.

Catherine di Lorenzo
Woodbine, Ga., March 14, 2007

To the Editor:

Contrary to the assertions in Nicolette Hahn Niman’s attack on modern pork production, America’s 67,000 pork producers treat their animals humanely. They do so because it’s the moral and ethical thing to do, and it’s in their best economic interest.

For many producers, treating pigs humanely means raising them in climate-controlled facilities; safeguarding them from biosecurity hazards and the threat of diseases; placing sows in crates to stop them from fighting with one another and protect their piglets from being crushed; to ensure that they get the feed and water needed; and to better monitor their health.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, management and husbandry are more important for ensuring the health and well-being of pigs.

And while producers do use antibiotics to keep their pigs healthy, drugs are F.D.A.-approved and used judiciously, and administered responsibly under the direction of a veterinarian.

Jill Appell
Pres., Natl. Pork Producers Council
Altona, Ill., March 14, 2007

Note from KBJ: Replace "animals" and "pigs" with "slaves" in the second letter and see what happens. You get a justification of slavery!

20 March 2007


Here is a New York Times story about capybara hunting.

18 March 2007

Animal Minds

The March 11, 2007 episode of the Stanford University radio program "Philosophy Talk" focuses on animal minds. Stanford Philosophy Professors John Perry and Ken Taylor host the show. Their guest is Colin Allen of the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington. Also featured on the show are Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her African gray parrot Alex. The episode provides a fascinating look into the nature of animal minds and animal cognition. You can hear the entire episode here.

17 March 2007

16 March 2007

Julian H. Franklin on the Use of Animals in Research

To inflict death or pain on animals for scientific or medical research is wrong morally, and ought to be prohibited. This follows from everything said in the text about the rights of animals. This does not mean that animals may never be deliberately harmed or become subjects of research. They may be killed in order to protect the health of humans (and other animals) if they are infected with a serious disease and cannot be quarantined. They may be used in benign research such as teaching chimpanzees to understand and use sign language. But even when the purpose of research is to benefit the animals themselves, inflicting pain or death in the process of research is wrong. Animals cannot give consent. Hence, unlike humans, they cannot be called upon to sacrifice even for the good of other animals.

(Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 2005], 125)

15 March 2007


I don't understand the logic of this. PETA is offensive, so everyone should eat an animal? What did the animals do? Are animals responsible for the idiotic and counterproductive things PETA does in their name? I've said it many times and I'll say it again: PETA is the worst thing ever to happen to animals. It is a disgraceful, revolting organization.

14 March 2007

Factory Farms

Here is a New York Times op-ed column about pork production. Notice that the author is not opposed to the use of nonhuman animals as resources for human consumption. She simply wants to minimize their suffering before they are killed (painlessly?) and their bodies dismembered and processed. Notice that we (including, I assume, the author) would never allow such treatment of a human being. I wonder how the author justifies the double standard. Perhaps she would argue that there is no double standard, i.e., that there is a morally relevant difference between human animals and nonhuman animals that justifies the difference in treatment. I can't imagine what it is. Are the lives of nonhuman animals less important, to them, than your life is to you?

Save Elephants in Zoos

See here.

11 March 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “We Eat Horses, Don’t We?,” by Christa Weil (Op-Ed, March 5):

Ms. Weil’s paean to horsemeat should be taken with a grain of salt. The fact that horsemeat has at times been part of humanity’s diet is not in dispute. But yesterday’s hardship food is today’s gourmet treat.

Horses slaughtered in America today go not to feed the poor and the hungry but to satisfy the esoteric palates of wealthy diners in Europe and Japan. The issue is not whether slaughtering horses is un-American, but that it is inhumane and wholly unnecessary.

Yes, all food animals should meet a dignified end. But horses are not cows, pigs or chickens. Americans do have a special relationship with horses, and how we treat them reveals much about our own humanity and how far we have evolved.

Horse slaughter for meat export is just plain wrong. Congress passed an amendment to the House Agriculture Appropriations bill that defunded the Agriculture Department’s horse slaughter-related activities, but that did not solve the problem. The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act is needed to ensure that a permanent ban on slaughter is enacted.

John Hettinger
Pawling, N.Y., March 5, 2007
The writer is an owner of Fasig-Tipton, North America’s oldest thoroughbred auction house.

To the Editor:

Why would publicizing the ill treatment of slaughter-bound horses detract from the “undue suffering of other food animals,” as Christa Weil suggests?

On the contrary, if Ms. Weil is truly concerned about the ill treatment of other slaughter-bound animals, the horse could well serve as a poster animal for the cause.

Moreover, her defense of horsemeat on the grounds that it is “a traditional hardship food” is specious.

Our American horses are not being shipped to the hungry in Africa; they are being served in the most pricey restaurants in France, Belgium and Japan.

Hope Ryden
New York, March 5, 2007
The writer is the author of a book about America’s last wild horses.

Julian H. Franklin on Animals and Plants

Animals as well as humans can suffer pain, deprivation, and unwanted death. Vegetables cannot. Hence there is a very fundamental and relevant sense in which we cannot harm a vegetable. Anything we do to a head of lettuce or the bloom of a flower can be harmful (or beneficial) to one or more sentient beings who feed on these or otherwise enjoy them. The head of lettuce and the flower, however, feel nothing and regret nothing so far as we know. An exception for vegetables is thus consistent with the categorical imperative; an exception for humans with respect to eating animals is not.

(Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 2005], 45 [endnote omitted])

Remote-Control Hunting

See here. Is this sort of hunting any worse, morally, than the traditional sort?

10 March 2007

Eat Your Veggies

See here.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

As sponsors of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, we take issue with Christa Weil’s views on the horsemeat industry (Op-Ed, March 5). The horse slaughter industry in the United States has nothing to do with feeding hungry people and everything to do with animal cruelty. The facts are these:
¶Most horses that end up slaughtered are bought by buyers acting on behalf of slaughterhouses. Many of these horses have been stolen or were surrendered to buyers who promised to care for them but who sell them to slaughter instead.

¶The transport and subsequent slaughter of these animals is brutal. They are often crammed into trucks built for cattle and pigs and subjected to starvation, exposure and abuse. At the slaughterhouse, improper use of the stunning bolt frequently results in horses’ being shackled and dismembered while still conscious.

¶Every year, 100,000 horses are slaughtered at foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the United States to satisfy the palates of wealthy diners in Europe and Asia.
Last September, the House voted 263 to 146 to pass this legislation. Congress ran out of time before the Senate could act.

We urge our colleagues in the House and the Senate to take up the matter again and put an end to this barbaric practice.

(Senator) Mary Landrieu
(Rep.) Jan Schakowsky
(Rep.) Ed Whitfield
(Rep.) Nick Rahall
(Rep.) John Spratt
Washington, March 6, 2007

06 March 2007

Murderers and Animals

Phillip Barron submitted this blog post for your consideration. As I explained to him in e-mail, murderers are guilty of the most heinous offense, namely, taking innocent human life, whereas animals are not guilty of anything. That difference makes all the difference.

05 March 2007

Julian H. Franklin on Animal Rights

I don't expect that many readers will be converted to the cause of animal rights by reading this book. Indeed, the ability of intelligent and educated people to avoid confronting the issue, or to offer endless evasions and rationalizations of delay on a question as straightforward as vegetarianism, even when they have heard and (reluctantly) accepted the argument in favor, is astonishing as well as depressing. If they are to be swayed, the change is likely to come from witnessing the realities of the fate endured by animals. I have not reviewed these horrors here, because so many powerful accounts exist. Nor have I dealt with advances in the legal protection of animals both in practice and in theory. I have focused exclusively on moral theory.

Nevertheless, I believe that a good theoretical argument is worth the effort. It can reassure the committed, help the uncertain to decide, and arm the debater. There is a vital long-term benefit as well. If the idea of animal rights continues to be recognized intellectually, and if it grows in acceptance as a classroom subject, a good theory will help to solidify a cultural change toward greater concern for animals—a change that is already under way. I hope that this book will help this cause along.

(Julian H. Franklin, Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 2005], xvii-xviii)

My Friend Flicka

The author of this New York Times op-ed column argues that eating horse flesh is as American as apple pie.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

The euthanasia of more than 1,000 dogs and cats at the main animal shelter in Las Vegas is surely a major tragedy in the sheltering field (news article, Feb. 16), and the rapid spread of diseases at a facility packed with 1,800 animals required swift action to prevent even more suffering and loss of life.

The Humane Society of the United States’ recommendation to euthanize animals after 72 hours at the shelter was specific to this situation and does not apply universally, as your article might suggest.

Shelters across the country are required to hold animals to let owners reclaim lost pets. For the Lied Animal Shelter, 72 hours is the standard hold period.

Our recommendation is that shelters determine which animals are adoptable during those hold periods, with those animals made available for adoption or placed in foster care or with rescue organizations.

The best though regrettable option for unadoptable (ill or aggressive) animals is to euthanize them to avoid prolonged suffering and confinement.

In Las Vegas, housing unadoptable animals for too long contributed to the overcrowding and allowed parvo, distemper and other diseases to incubate and rapidly spread through the shelter’s animal population.

Wayne Pacelle
President and Chief Executive
Humane Society of the U.S.
Washington, Feb. 20, 2007

04 March 2007

Great American Meatout

Barton Lewin asked me to publicize the Great American Meatout, which I am happy to do. See here.

02 March 2007

Bee-ing and Nothingness

See here. Maybe the bees went on strike to protest bee-zarre working conditions. Maybe they called in sick with the hives. Maybe they went to a Queen or a Honeydrippers concert, got stoned, and couldn't find their way back. Maybe they've become postcolonialists. Maybe they had an identity crisis: "To bee or not to bee; that is the question." Maybe they think their lives are none of our beeswax. Maybe, just maybe, they came to the realization that they were "born to bee wild."

From the Mailbag

Good afternoon:

I have been reading your blog today, and must admit that I have learned a great deal! Thank you!

I am writing to ask if you would consider listing The Happy Vegan in your links list. It would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,
Birdie Pappalardo

01 March 2007

February Statistics

There were 2,113 visits to this site during February. That's an average of 75.4 visits per day, which is close to a record. Here are the figures for the past four months:
November: 77.5
December: 74.0
January: 76.8
February: 75.4
I apologize for the recent dearth of posts. Things will pick up. If you have a philosophical question about the moral status of animals (or a moral question about the philosophical status of animals), please ask it by e-mail. You can reach me by clicking "Contact" in the sidebar.