31 August 2007

Does the End Justify the Means?

How many of you think this sort of behavior helps animals, in the long run? How many of you think it hurts them?

30 August 2007

From the Mailbag


The volume „Tierrechte – eine interdisziplinäre Herausforderung“ (literally „Animal Rights – an interdisciplinary challenge“ has just been released from Harald Fischer Verlag (publisher), Germany. Basis of this collection are the interdisciplinary lectures on Animal Rights which took place from April to October 2006 at Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg (Germany). It was the first lecture series of its kind in german speaking world organized by the members of the Interdisziplinäre Arbeitsgemeinschaft Tierethik (literally “Interdisciplinary Study Group on Animal Ethics”) – an initiative of students.

25 well-known scientists, philosophers and politicians from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United States informed in a comprehensible manner and on a high level about the current status on animal ethics studies, answered open questions and introduced their approaches. The goal was to encourage scholars and students of the university of Heidelberg to a more intense discussion on this topic and enable to give a more detailed view on the university activities in our days.

The results of the lectures are written down in this book. It should support a stronger attention in research and teaching and should guide as the latest reference for all those who are dealing with the moral status of animals and related questions.

More information on the book can be found here.

Despite this book is written in german I address this to you because we know that there are a lot of german speaking visitors attending your blogs and this information might be interesting for them as well and because we want to show the English speaking world that Germany is catching up in the Animal Rights debate.

We would be pleased if you would support us by announcing the book in your Blog (Newsletters, Website etc.). We really appreciate it!

Thanks a lot!

Kind regards from Heidelberg, Germany

Matthias Müller
Interdisziplinäre Arbeitsgemeinschaft Tierethik
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

28 August 2007

Jean Kazez

Here is a blog by one of my fellow graduate students at the University of Arizona. (I will add it to the blogroll.) Jean and I overlapped by one year: August 1987 (when she arrived in Tucson) to August 1988 (when I departed for College Station, Texas). Jean teaches philosophy just down the road from me at Southern Methodist University. Want to hear something weird? I mentioned Jean in my journal 20 years and four days ago (on 24 August 1987). I'm transcribing my journal to the computer in real time, 20 years after the fact; so four days ago I typed up the entry in which I mentioned Jean. She was new on campus at the time, so I got her name wrong. I called her "Jean Kazak." I have had no contact with Jean all these years, and today, out of the blue, she sent me an e-mail notifying me of a blog post about animals and telling me that she likes this blog. I hope I don't embarrass her by mentioning this.

23 August 2007


Is there a morally relevant difference between hunting and dogfighting, such that only the latter is wrong? If there is no morally relevant difference between these activities, then either both are right or both are wrong. Which is it?

Addendum: Let me put it formally. The following propositions are inconsistent:
1. Hunting is morally acceptable.
2. Dogfighting is morally unacceptable.
3. There is no morally relevant difference between hunting and dogfighting.
Everyone must reject at least one of these propositions. Which do you reject?

22 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Virus Spreading Alarm and Deadly Pig Disease in China” (Business Day, Aug. 16):

Given our exportation of large-scale intensive confinement facilities, it is tragic, though not surprising, that disease is devastating the Chinese industry. With this industrialization often comes overcrowding, inadequate ventilation and related physiological stress—factors implicated as heightening the risk of disease outbreaks.

Though it may be too late for too many, we can only hope that diseased animals are not left in pain but are humanely euthanized to end their suffering.

In the long term, there is a glimmer of hope for China’s pigs. In 2005, a survey commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare showed that the Chinese are similar to Americans in their concern for animals. Indeed, if public sympathy is changing in China regarding how we treat animals raised and killed for food, as it is here in the United States, then we can only expect future improvements in the welfare of farm animals.

Wayne Pacelle
President and Chief Executive, Humane Society of the United States
Washington, Aug. 16, 2007

20 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Suddenly, the Hunt Is On for Cage-Free Eggs” (front page, Aug. 12):

While this is a step in the right direction toward reducing the animal abuse inherent in all factory farming (from the chicken’s point of view), it’s still a long way from what nature intended.

Chickens enjoy being together in small flocks, sunning, dust bathing and scratching in the soil for food. The rooster watches over the flock protectively and often participates in a hen’s egg-laying ritual, an extremely important and private part of her life.

“Free range” does not solve the problem of painful debeaking, enormously oversized flocks or the unnatural isolation of the birds from other sexes and age groups.

Though chickens can live for 5 to 11 years, after two years, they are hauled away to slaughter just like battery-caged hens. All of the male hatchlings are either smothered or ground up alive.

Let chickens be chickens, and avoid the whole moral dilemma by going vegan.

Jean Bettanny
Port Townsend, Wash., Aug. 13, 2007

From the Mailbag

Dear Friends Who Love Animals,

I am writing to ask you to help me get the word out about a wonderful free service to your patrons/customers. Any links you can put up to our site will be helpful to them. Forwarding this email to any other people or groups who may be interested is also appreciated.

We are the Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains. We provide scriptural / spiritual support and free phone counseling to bereaved pet owners. Some of our professional Chaplains also provide other services (euthanasia visits, memorial services, congregational sermons, etc.) on a fee-for-service basis, while others perform them at no cost as part of their congregational ministry. Each Chaplain works independently to serve people and animals in need. To find Animal Chaplains in your area, go to our site at www.AnimalChaplains.com and click on "clergy list".

Our site also has many other free services, such as memorial readings, pet blessings, interfaith scriptural support, sermons on pet ownership, animal ministry support, guest book/blogs, etc. If you have a section of your website that assists your clients with pet loss support, we would appreciate being listed there. We thank-you for helping us to get the word out about the many free services available on AnimalChaplains.com to pet owners and the animals they love.

If we have corresponded before and you already have a link to our site, please forgive me for this duplicate email. Thank-you for the wonderful and important work you do.

Yours in peace and friendship,
Chaplain Nancy Cronk

19 August 2007

From the Mailbag

Hello Keith, Mylan, and Jonathan

We stumbled across your very worthy site and read some recent posts . . . you have a very interesting blog! We’re going to go and have an in-depth look this morning, in the meantime, please take a look at our website.

It is an animated website aimed at educating and inspiring children about endangered species, and all of our characters actually exist in a real-life camp in Tanzania which protects black rhino and wild African hunting dogs . . . whilst employing a local workforce and improving school and water supplies for surrounding villages.

Unfortunately we cannot link to your site since ours is a protected safe site for children, but we would love to be included as one of your links.

Please have a look and let us know what you think!

Thanks so much—Amanda (one of the Dotty Humans)

17 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “An Ape Types in Iowa” (column, Aug. 9):

Gail Collins writes: “Human-ape conversation was a very hot topic back in the late 1960s, when researchers first taught a chimpanzee named Washoe to use sign language. It lost steam once it became clear that while the apes could put together simple statements and requests, they were not prepared to have discussions about their deepest feelings, hopes and dreams. The Great Ape Trust is the only place in America where this kind of research still goes on.”

In fact, the Language Research Center at Georgia State University has engaged in continuous social, cognitive and biobehavioral research on primates, including language training and research, since 1981. The bonobos at the Great Ape Trust learned their language skills at Georgia State and lived at the Language Research Center for two decades before moving to the Great Ape Trust in 1985.

Georgia State and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development still support language training and cognitive research with four chimpanzees, and do other cognitive research work with resident populations of macaques and rhesus monkeys.

Andria Simmons
Public Relations Coordinator
University Relations Dept.
Georgia State University
Atlanta, Aug. 10, 2007

Note from KBJ: By what right do we take these animals out of the wild? Please don't say that they were born in captivity. They're wild animals! They're not like dogs and cats, which evolved with humans. All of their natural urges are being frustrated. They are being deprived of their liberty. Wild animals should be left alone. They are not objects for our manipulation, study, or entertainment. If you're an alumnus of Georgia State University, please consider withholding your donations until this abominable research stops.

15 August 2007


Buffalo meat is all the rage. See here.

11 August 2007

Cage-Free Eggs

Here is a New York Times story about the latest hot thing.

10 August 2007

Using Cows as a Mere Means to Their Ends

Here is a New York Times story about women who sacrifice cows on the altar of romance. What man wouldn't love a woman who's that shallow? I like the part about vegetarians being pretentious and neurotic. Could anything be more idiotic?

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

A Factory Farm Near You” (editorial, July 31) is in a time warp.

Yes, concentrated animal feeding operations, or “factory farms” as you call them, are a key feature of modern agriculture. And, yes, they are increasing in number as farmers attempt to survive the challenges of modern global agricultural economics. But today these livestock operations don’t have to be unwelcome neighbors in their communities.

You did not mention the tremendous progress made in ensuring that these farms are environmentally sound. At least as far as hog farms are concerned, catastrophic manure spills are a thing of the past. In fact, the study cited in the editorial had to reach back eight years to 1999 to find a major environmental problem associated with hog farming.

America’s pork producers have met the environmental challenges and are proud of their achievements. The pork industry has acted on its own over the last decade to solve water-discharge problems and create top-shelf manure management systems. Producers like me are ready to comply with tough new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that protect the nation’s water supply, by adopting a policy of zero discharge into rivers and streams.

There are still challenges remaining, such as tackling the issue of unpleasant odors emanating from hog farms, and pork producers continue to address this issue. Recently they have invested millions of dollars into research conducted by Purdue University. But the progress of the last decade should not be ignored.

Jill Appell
National Pork Producers Council
East Altona, Ill., Aug. 1, 2007

09 August 2007

One Mind at a Time

A reader sent a link to this column, which raises the perennial question of how best to change society. Resorting to violence against person or property is not in the long-term best interests of animals, as Peter Singer has argued. Those who break duly enacted laws should be punished. If they believe the law they've broken is unjust, they should take their punishment as a way of (1) demonstrating their sincerity and (2) opening a dialogue with those who disagree with them. This is what Martin Luther King Jr taught. It's called nonviolent civil disobedience. All of us are entitled to work within the political system to enact laws we believe just and to repeal or amend laws we believe unjust. All of us are entitled to spend our money in animal-friendly ways. (If you want, you can think of this as "punishing" those who use animals as resources.) I've been a proponent of animal rights for more than a quarter of a century. I am convinced that the best means of change, in the long run, is rational persuasion. Not force. Not coercion. Not manipulation. If you care about animals, as I do, you will work within the system to improve their lives. Yes, this will take time, for it means addressing individuals one by one, respectfully, showing that their own beliefs and values commit them (logically) to changing the way they treat animals. (See here for an example of this approach.) Nothing worth doing is quick, cheap, or easy. Think long-term. Do what's best for the animals, not what makes you feel good.

Addendum: In case you're wondering how a conservative such as me can support animal rights, I have just explained how. Conservatives are not opposed to change; that's a vicious progressive stereotype. They're opposed to exogenous change. Change that comes from within the system, practice, or institution, in response to the felt needs and desires of individuals, is perfectly acceptable to a conservative. Progressives, by contrast, seek to impose change from without. They are impatient with endogenous change. Another difference is that conservatives want change to be gradual, so that mistakes can be identified and corrected before they become disastrous. Progressives, by contrast, advocate abrupt change, which, while satisfying to those with an engineering mentality, is dangerous. It's interesting that when it comes to the environment, it's progressives who insist that, given the complexity and fragility of ecosystems, we should intervene cautiously, if at all. Society is every bit as complex and fragile as an ecosystem. Why should the same caution not apply there? In short, conservatives can and should work to change the way people treat animals. They should work within the political system to elect people who take animals seriously. They should work within the legal system to see that laws against abuse and neglect are enforced. They should spend their money in animal-friendly ways. Most importantly, they should engage in rational persuasion. I believe that rational persuasion is the most secure basis for change. You might say, cynically, that I believe this because I'm a philosopher. No. I'm a philosopher because I believe this.

06 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Should Most Pet Owners Be Required to Neuter Their Animals?,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg (Editorial Observer, July 30), is right: “The rate at which dogs are purchased and euthanized in this country is not a sign of our affection for them. It’s a sign of our indifference.”

We’ve been educating, helping and begging people to spay and neuter their animals for years, but three million to four million cats and dogs still die in shelters every year because of simple math: too many animals, not enough worthy adoptive homes.

This crisis calls for mandatory spay and neuter legislation. Given the current dire shortage of homes, no breeding is responsible. Every time someone buys a puppy or kitten from a breeder, a shelter animal loses its chance at a home and pays with its life.

Breeders kill shelter animals’ chances to find good homes. It is time to practice your A B C’s (Animal Birth Control)! Animals aren’t possessions to use, abuse and throw away when we tire of them.

If people won’t be responsible for their animals on their own, it’s time to make carelessness criminal.

Daphna Nachminovitch
Norfolk, Va., July 31, 2007
The writer is the director of Domestic Animals and Wildlife Rescue & Information for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

05 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

A Factory Farm Near You” (editorial, July 31) does not mention any issue of the morality of factory farming—treating living beings as factory products.

Cruelty to animals on such a scale should be the centerpiece of any discussion on raising animals for food. The problem is that there is no possible answer to why we allow such cruelty, other than that we are barbarians. Is that why we conveniently omit it from all discussion? Shame on us.

Mary de La Valette
Porter Cove, New Brunswick, July 31, 2007

04 August 2007

Canine Inequality

In terms of welfare (i.e., overall well-being), there is great inequality among dogs. Some, such as my niece's Tag, are utterly spoiled. They have the best food money can buy, climate-controlled shelter, comfortable bedding, ample exercise, liberty to move about, toys to play with, and medical care (including control of parasites). Some dogs have their basic needs satisfied, but little more. Some, sadly, do not have their basic needs satisfied. (This latter category includes those that are abused.) Should we be concerned with this inequality? I don't see why we should. What we should be concerned with is not the gap between "rich" dogs and "poor" dogs, but the absolute welfare level of dogs. No dog should have its basic needs unsatisfied. Think of it as creating a floor below which no dog is allowed to fall. Once we create this floor, who cares whether some dogs are above it? Who cares that some dogs are spoiled when every dog has a decent life? Do you see the distinction I'm drawing? Inequality per se is morally irrelevant. What's important is welfare.

Now let's focus on human beings. Does anything change? It seems to me that it doesn't. One difference between human beings and dogs is that human beings can see how others live, can measure the gap between their own resources and those of others, and can envy those who have more. But why should any of this matter? Should we base public policy on envy? If people who have their basic needs satisfied are pained at the sight (or thought) of others who have more than they need, they have a problem; but it's not a problem for which there is a public solution. In other words, it's not a matter of justice. You hear a lot these days about the "gap" between rich and poor, and about how the gap is increasing rather than decreasing. How many of the poor for whom crocodile tears are being shed have their basic needs unsatisfied? How many are suffering for lack of food, fuel, shelter, clothing, or medical care? If any of them are, then we should be concerned with that, not with (1) how far they are from others or (2) whether they're getting farther from others.

Progressives (i.e., egalitarians) are trying to shift the debate from welfare to equality, because they know that, as regards human beings, they have lost the welfare argument. The best sign of this is the obesity epidemic among those at lower income levels. Far from having too little food, they have too much!

03 August 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

The real thrust of the American Kennel Club’s opposition to California Assembly Bill 1634 as stated in “Should Most Pet Owners Be Required to Neuter Their Animals?” (Editorial Observer, July 30) is not economic but rather that creating a one-size-fits-all law such as mandatory spay and neuter is not a workable, enforceable solution to reduce the diverse demographics of the state’s shelter population.

Lawmakers, animal control officers and animal welfare organizations need to work together and delve into the origins of shelter subgroups—such as stray, feral or surrendered pets—to address the issues that bring them to the shelter.

California’s shelter populations have declined in recent decades, and most pet owners (70 percent dog, 84 percent cat) are acting responsibly and spaying/neutering their pets without government involvement. Targeted programs that address specific segments of the companion animal population and broad public education programs have been and can continue to be effective.

Lisa Peterson
Director of Club Communications, American Kennel Club
New York, July 31, 2007