31 December 2008
Still, although I can't point to any of my beliefs and say 'That is false', I don't doubt that some of my beliefs are false; and so I should try to remain open to correction. Similarly, I accept every single item in my morality—that is inevitable—but I am sure that my morality could be improved, which is to say that it could undergo changes which I should be glad of once I had made them. So I must try to keep my morality open to revision, exposing it to whatever valid pressures there are—including pressures from my sympathies.
(Jonathan Bennett, "The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn," Philosophy 49 [April 1974]: 123-34, at 133 [italics in original])
Note from KBJ: I thought of animals when I read this. Many people exclude animals from moral consideration, even though they would never think to neglect, much less harm, a dog or a cat. It is natural to feel sympathy for animals who are suffering. This sympathy can be a basis for revising one's moral principles so as to take animals into account. Perhaps the sympathetic impulse would be activated if people saw how their meat is produced. Have you taken the time to investigate this? Have you visited a factory farm or a slaughterhouse? Have you looked at images or videotapes of slaughter? If you haven't, then you are suppressing your sympathies, thereby protecting your moral principles from revision. This is bad faith.
28 December 2008
21 December 2008
(J. Baird Callicott, "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair," Environmental Ethics 2 [winter 1980]: 311-38, at 335 [italics in original])
12 December 2008
This is outrageous! The Indiana Daily Student wrote an article today encouraging people to kill and eat man's best friend!The author isn't advocating that we eat dogs. The author is pointing out the inconsistency of eating cows and not eating dogs (or rather, caring about dogs but not caring about cows). The following three propositions are inconsistent:
1. It's morally permissible to eat cows.The author of the op-ed column says that there are people who accept 1 and 2. He is pointing out that, to be consistent, they must reject 3. He is asking them to state the morally relevant difference that justifies the rejection of 3.
2. It's not morally permissible to eat dogs.
3. There are no morally relevant differences between cows and dogs.
11 December 2008
Re “From Hoof to Dinner Table, a New Bid to Cut Emissions” (front page, Dec. 4):
There is a solution to at least some of the beef industry’s sustainability woes, and that is to raise cows in a pasture-based system.
Many of the beef industry’s problems result from feedlots that consume tremendous amounts of grain and that pour out huge sloughs of waste. Finishing the cattle on grass is a far “greener” method.
Of course, the meat is more expensive since it takes lots of real estate to freely graze a herd, and it’s tougher than typical supermarket fare (Americans are used to a style of marbling that’s caused by grain diets and flabby cattle, whereas grass-fed cows are trim from their daily ambles). But the leaner meat from grass-fed animals actually tastes richer and more savory.
The other problem with meat consumption is proportion. Consumers can help the beef industry save itself by both buying less and choosing grass-fed.
Evan D. G. Fraser
Jamaica Plain, Mass., Dec. 5, 2008
The writers are the authors of “Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World.”
To the Editor:
Missing from your article was mention of deleterious environmental and health effects resulting from intensive animal farming in addition to global warming. An approach to address all of these, instead of just developing technology to control methane emissions, is vital.
Specifically, the increasing meat-consumption trend could be reversed if consumers paid the true price for meat. For this to happen, subsidies that keep animal feed artificially low, and encourage producers to raise as many animals as possible, should end.
In addition, allowing animal waste to be spread on fields at rates higher than can be absorbed, resulting in nutrient runoff and oceanic dead zones, needs to be stopped.
If these policies were adopted, small-scale animal agriculture would be a more economical model, and people would eat less meat. This would result in improved human health, decreased environmental destruction and better animal welfare.
Baltimore, Dec. 5, 2008
To the Editor:
Kudos to The New York Times for covering the much-neglected connections between meat and climate change. As you note, the lack of media coverage of the livestock sector’s contribution to climate change is one reason it has escaped large-scale public outrage.
At the yearly Meat Marketing conference this summer in Nashville, the industry representatives seemed most worried about negative press concerning animal welfare; the words “global warming” were never even uttered. Now, with mounting public awareness, the meat industry may soon realize that investment in sustainable practices is not just a nice idea. It is essential for the industry’s survival.
With a new administration and agriculture secretary we can also hope that our leaders will also grasp that food and farming policy is climate change policy as well, and will make bold choices to ensure a healthier planet for all of us.
Brooklyn, Dec. 4, 2008
The writer is a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute.
Note from KBJ: The author of the New York Times story describes human beings as "carnivores." This is stupid. A carnivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds only on animal flesh. A herbivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds only on plants. An omnivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds on both animal flesh and plants. Human beings, like dogs, are omnivores. No human being has ever been, or ever will be, a carnivore.
10 December 2008
07 December 2008
(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 141-2 [italics in original; footnote omitted; parenthetical page references omitted])
Note from KBJ: Here is my student handout on Singer's argument.
05 December 2008
03 December 2008
(Henry S. Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1921], 213)
28 November 2008
26 November 2008
24 November 2008
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 59 [italics in original])
18 November 2008
17 November 2008
(Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed. [Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1981], bk. I, chap. III, sec. 2, p. 30 [italics in original] [first published in 1907; 1st ed. published in 1874])
16 November 2008
Re “The Protein Pyramid” (editorial, Nov. 10):
Thank you for pointing out the unsustainability of the so-called protein pyramid. But there is a net loss in all meat production, not just of farmed fish or feeding fish to land animals being raised for food. Feeding grain to chickens, pigs and cows is even more inefficient, with 70 percent of grain grown in the United States going to animals raised for food.
And while there are varying estimates, it takes between 3 and 15 pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. It also takes 10 times the fossil fuels to produce a calorie of animal food as it does a calorie of plant food.
I also applaud your suggestion that people eat less meat, but eating no meat whatsoever is the most sustainable diet of all.
Washington, Nov. 11, 2008
To the Editor:
We are seeing environmental ruin because of factory farming. Besides depleting the ocean’s supply of fish for those animals normally feeding on them, the factory farming of cattle, pigs and chickens uses excessive water and pollutes our land.
Going vegan is the best way to combat this environmental nightmare, improve your health and stand up against the animal cruelty so prevalent in factory farms today.
Encinitas, Calif., Nov. 10, 2008
To the Editor:
Your editorial sets forth a real, serious problem but proposes a futile solution.
It is certainly true that the world’s marine stocks—large fish even more than small ones—are being depleted by human demand at a catastrophic rate. But “encouraging healthy, less meat-based eating habits” will do nothing to ameliorate the situation.
Suppose that I and people like me reduce our meat consumption by 50 percent (an unlikely event). As soon as the population doubles (a very likely event), our self-denial will be for naught.
As with many other environmental issues, the real problem is excess population, and the only solution is human population control. Our long-term goal should be a reduction of world population to about half of what it is now.
Lawrence S. Lerner
Woodside, Calif., Nov. 10, 2008
To the Editor:
Your editorial is exactly right: for our sake and theirs, we need to eat fewer animals. The number of chickens, turkeys, pigs, cattle and other animals raised and slaughtered in the United States has been growing steadily for decades.
In 1950, each American consumed, on average, 144 pounds of animal flesh a year. Today, we eat well over 220 pounds a year, and it’s not uncommon for many Americans to eat animal products at every single meal. This comes at an enormous cost to animal welfare, the environment and of course public health.
A shift toward more vegetarian options would indeed benefit us all. This is an issue on which we don’t need to wait for government or industry to act first. We can start at our next meal.
Factory Farming Campaign
Humane Society of the United States
Washington, Nov. 11, 2008
13 November 2008
You may be interested in a new post on Ethics Soup regarding rights of farm animals. Ethics Soup is a fairly new blog and I'm looking for ways to drive traffic to the blog to gain some readers. If you find this post informative, would you consider providing a link to it? Perhaps as a follow-up to your Nov 5th post "Legal Rights for Animals" on your Animal Rights Blog, or any other blog that features ethics issues.
You can read the post here.
12 November 2008
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases is generated by livestock production, more than by transportation.
Yet Al Gore does not even mention the need for Americans to reduce meat consumption as we attempt to rescue ourselves from the climate crisis.
Washington, Nov. 9, 2008
Note from KBJ: Some reasons for vegetarianism apply to all animals, from cows, pigs, and sheep to turkeys, chickens, and fish. Here we have a reason to eschew beef. Stop chewing and start eschewing!
(J. Baird Callicott, "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair," Environmental Ethics 2 [winter 1980]: 311-38, at 332 [italics in original])
Note from KBJ: To understand what Callicott is saying, draw a two-by-two box diagram. On the left side, from top to bottom, distinguish between wild and domesticated organisms. On the top, from left to right, distinguish between (nonhuman) animals and plants. Cell 1 (the northwest quadrant of the diagram) contains wild animals; cell 2 (the northeast quadrant) contains wild plants; cell 3 (the southwest quadrant) contains domesticated animals (e.g., dogs, cats, pigs, cows, and chickens); cell 4 (the southeast quadrant) contains domesticated plants. Peter Singer and Tom Regan, who represent what Callicott calls "the humane ethic," are concerned about the organisms in cells 1 and 3. Leopold and Callicott, who represent what Callicott calls "the land ethic," are concerned about the organisms in cells 1 and 2. Note the overlap: Both Singer and Regan (on the one hand) and Leopold and Callicott (on the other) are concerned about wild animals, but not for the same reason. Singer and Regan care about them because they are sentient (Singer) or subjects of a life (Regan). Leopold and Callicott care about them because they are part of "the biotic community."
07 November 2008
What the vegetarian wants, surely, is that we should stop eating meat even if our liking for it exceeds our revulsion at the suffering endured on factory farms. And this would seem to be possible only if vegetarianism is based upon principle and not upon feeling. That is, if what the vegetarian wants is that we should stop eating meat even if we like eating it and even if our liking for it greatly exceeds our revulsion at the suffering of animals in being raised and slaughtered for food, then a decision to stop eating meat would seem to amount to a decision of principle. It does not follow that this principle, which becomes the ground or basis of our vegetarianism, will be a moral one; but the overwhelming likelihood is that it will be, in view of the fact that it must convince and compel us to give up eating meat even when our inclinations, habits, and feelings run strongly in the opposite direction. If vegetarianism has a moral basis, a ground rooted in moral principle, then all of us, if we take morality seriously, must earnestly examine our present eating practices, however intense our liking for meat.
(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 140-1 [italics in original; footnote omitted])
05 November 2008
04 November 2008
I just wanted to let you know that I recently launched an animal law blog with a couple of my colleagues at Pace Law School. Perhaps you will find it interesting. This is the link to the blog. I was wondering whether you could write an entry in your animal law blog announcing our website.
03 November 2008
(Michael Lockwood, "Singer on Killing and the Preference for Life," Inquiry 22 [summer 1979]: 157-70, at 168)
Note from KBJ: There are two replies Singer can make to this objection. First, he can deny that his theory (preference utilitarianism) has the stated implication. This is called grasping the bull by the horn. Second, he can admit that his theory has the stated implication, but accept it. This is called biting the bullet.
29 October 2008
The degree of restriction placed on human behavior, furthermore, is relatively slight. Whereas it once used to be argued, as by Newman, that the least human good compensates for any possible amount of animal suffering, the current doctrine is that it requires a considerable good to compensate for such suffering. There is far from being a precise analogy, however, between the importance attached to animal and to human suffering. So while it is generally agreed that it is wrong to experiment on human beings without their consent in the expectation of making scientific discoveries, there is no such general opposition to animal vivisection. Biological warfare against human beings is generally condemned but not biological warfare against animals. Man-hunting is ruled out as a sport but not, at least with the same degree of unanimity, fox or bird hunting. In all these cases, of course, a minority opinion would support laws which go further than the present laws in limiting the circumstances in which men are entitled to cause pain to animals. But not so far as seriously to limit man's domination of the world.
(John Passmore, "The Treatment of Animals," Journal of the History of Ideas 36 [April-June 1975]: 195-218, at 217-8 [italics in original])
26 October 2008
24 October 2008
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 57-8 [italics in original])
23 October 2008
“Watching the Numbers and Charting the Losses—of Species,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg (Editorial Observer, Oct. 15), is precisely on the mark regarding the urgency and importance of today’s plant and animal extinction crisis. And Mr. Klinkenborg’s conclusion that an international effort similar to what is happening to address the current global financial crisis will be necessary to protect species prompts a question.
What would it cost to stabilize our planet’s biological health by protecting species and their natural habitats? An estimated $13 billion a year would be enough to maintain and expand protected areas in the tropics, where the vast majority of plant and animals species are found.
The most recent estimate of what we actually do spend on conservation a year is about $6 billion. Of that, most goes toward conservation in the United States and Europe, and only a fraction is spent to protect tropical forests.
As we approve $700 billion to bail out failing banks, what is happening to financing for conservation? The United States is losing its historic leadership position in international nature conservation, as countries like Germany, Norway, Britain and others have made financial pledges that begin to dwarf United States yearly financing rates to address deforestation and species conservation.
With the next administration, the United States has an opportunity to regain that leadership. The huge financial bailout package has been put in place in record time. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on species, which are the basis of ecosystems that give us fresh air, water and countless other natural resources necessary for human well-being worldwide.
Once the world’s threatened species are gone, no amount of money can bring them back.
Russell A. Mittermeier
President, Conservation International
Arlington, Va., Oct. 16, 2008
22 October 2008
21 October 2008
If Kant is right in his claim that persons alone are the proper objects of respect, then serious consequences follow concerning the moral status of animals. For unless they are rational they cannot be regarded as ends in themselves, and indeed only by the use of a questionable argument can animals be shown to give rise to any moral duties at all. For if Kant, or any philosopher in the Kantian tradition, wishes to say that animals are worthy of moral consideration, he must arrive at this conclusion by showing that our duties towards animals are in some way dependent on our duties towards persons. Thus, in so far as Kant wishes to claim that we have duties towards animals he must take one or other of two lines. He can say that animals are persons. Or he can say that there are moral limitations on our treatment of animals because certain kinds of treatment of animals can involve us in, or lead us to, treating persons merely as means and not at the same time as ends.
(Alexander Broadie and Elizabeth M. Pybus, "Kant's Treatment of Animals," Philosophy 49 [October 1974]: 375-83, at 375-6 [footnote omitted])
19 October 2008
17 October 2008
“Standing, Stretching, Turning Around” (editorial, Oct. 9) does little to advance the debate on farm animal housing. It accepts completely the hype concerning a California ballot initiative that among other things bans gestation stalls for pregnant sows.
Research indicates that sows do just fine in individual housing. And you do not acknowledge the individual care that pigs get in such systems and the protection from predators, diseases and the aggression that pigs often exhibit toward each other in group housing.
Decisions on how best to house farm animals should be left to the family farmers, like me, who care for their animals every day. Those same producers care for the land, water and air that they live on, drink and breathe.
The animal housing debate will continue among those most knowledgeable about it. Editorial rhetoric won’t help.
National Pork Producers Council
Canal Winchester, Ohio, Oct. 10, 2008
Note from KBJ: Speaking of rhetoric, don't you love "individual housing" for "gestation stalls"? Imagine calling solitary confinement "individual housing."
16 October 2008
15 October 2008
13 October 2008
Here a serious disanalogy (which no one to my knowledge has yet pointed out) becomes clearly evident between the liberation of blacks from slavery (and more recently, from civil inequality) and the liberation of animals from a similar sort of subordination and servitude. Black slaves remained, as it were, metaphysically autonomous: they were by nature if not by convention free beings quite capable of living on their own. They could not be enslaved for more than a historical interlude, for the strength of the force of their freedom was too great. They could, in other words, be retained only by a continuous counterforce, and only temporarily. This is equally true of caged wild animals. African cheetas [sic] in American and European zoos are captive, not indentured, beings. But this is not true of cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. They have been bred to docility, tractability, stupidity, and dependency. It is literally meaningless to suggest that they be liberated. It is, to speak in hyperbole, a logical impossibility.
(J. Baird Callicott, "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair," Environmental Ethics 2 [winter 1980]: 311-38, at 329-30 [footnote omitted])
Note from KBJ: The word "liberation" is ambiguous in this context. Callicott thinks so-called animal liberationists such as Peter Singer (author of Animal Liberation ) want to release cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens into the wild. This, he says, is absurd, since these are not wild animals. They have no wild or natural state to which to return. But that's not what animal liberationists want. They want to abolish the institution of confinement, which inflicts horrible suffering on animals. The best way to do this is to take the profit out of it, and the best way to do that is to persuade people, rationally, to stop purchasing animal products. Animals are being "liberated" not in the sense that they are being released from confinement, but in the sense that they are being kept from confinement in the first place.
Re “Standing, Stretching, Turning Around” (editorial, Oct. 9):
Thank you for encouraging California voters to support the state’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, or Proposition 2, on the November ballot. This modest proposal would bring a smidgen of comfort to millions of hens used for egg production.
While some have suggested the egg industry should police itself, history shows that industries based on the backs of the disenfranchised do not voluntarily soften the suffering of those they exploit—all the more so when the victims are millions of hens the public never sees.
Recent investigations by nonprofit groups in California, Ohio and Pennsylvania have revealed the atrocious living conditions of egg-laying hens, though their owners said they were humanely cared for.
Consumer boycotts and protective laws are desperately needed. Proposition 2 is a modest step that deserves voter support and extension to other states.
Machipongo, Va., Oct. 9, 2008
The writer is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that is a sponsor of Proposition 2.
To the Editor:
The American Veterinary Medical Association urges California voters to think twice before voting on Proposition 2. Just because something sounds good on the surface does not necessarily make it a wise decision.
While well intended, Proposition 2 is primarily based on emotion and not on a thorough scientific evaluation of all factors that contribute to animal well-being.
For example, while Proposition 2 would provide greater freedom of movement, it would very likely compromise other factors necessary to ensure the overall welfare of the animals, especially with regard to protection from disease and injury.
To protect the welfare of the animals as well as the safety of America’s food supply, the A.V.M.A. calls for a thorough review of housing alternatives and the limitations that might be imposed by Proposition 2.
Unless experts in veterinary medicine and animal behavior are involved in the implementation, we fear Proposition 2 could ultimately harm the very animals it strives to help.
American Veterinary Medical Association
Schaumburg, Ill., Oct. 9, 2008
10 October 2008
This is Edgar, from OpposingViews.com. Since you’ve expressed interest in our past debates, I thought I’d let you know about a discussion that just launched.
PETA and the Weston A. Price Foundation, among others, are currently debating the question “Are Vegetarians Healthier?” See it here.
As always, we’d love if you spread the word by blogging or linking to the debate. Also, feel free to add to the discussion by commenting on experts’ and users’ arguments.
We want as many perspectives as possible. Make sure your voice is heard!
Re “One in 4 Mammals Threatened With Extinction, Group Finds” (news article, Oct. 7):
Man’s activity, whether through global warming, overhunting or clearing of habitat, has led to the loss of species at a rate that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago.
When the population of any species, including Homo sapiens, grows so quickly and consumes so many resources, it is clear that the effect on other life will be staggering.
When I have watched documentaries about saving animals and plant life, often the primary rationale offered for their preservation is that miraculous cures may be found for people, and that by seeing other species in the wild we find peace and harmony in ourselves.
But isn’t it enough to save other species because of our respect for all other forms of life, even if in doing so we do not directly benefit? Don’t other species have as much right to exist, and coexist, as we do?
Lake Stevens, Wash., Oct. 7, 2008
09 October 2008
08 October 2008
(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 132)
03 October 2008
29 September 2008
25 September 2008
In his later writings, however, Bentham reverted to something more like the Aquinas-Kant position. The Traités edited by Dumont condemn cruelty to animals only—if Dumont can be trusted—on the ground that it can give rise to indifference to human suffering. In his Constitutional Code, Bentham's emphasis is not on suffering but on the alleged fact, made secondary in the Principles, that mature quadrupeds are more moral and more intelligent than young bipeds. I do not know why Bentham changed his mind. But perhaps he boggled, and not unnaturally, at the conclusion that to determine whether an act is right we ought to take into consideration its consequences for every sentient being.
(John Passmore, "The Treatment of Animals," Journal of the History of Ideas 36 [April-June 1975]: 195-218, at 211 [italics in original; footnotes omitted])
22 September 2008
For, as anyone who tries to do practical work in the world will rapidly discover, there is a true and there is a false ideal of consistency. To pretend that in our complex modern society, where responsibilities are so closely interwoven, it is possible for any individual to cultivate "a perfect character," and stand like a Sir Galahad above his fellows—this is the false ideal of consistency which it is the first business of a genuine reformer to put aside; for no human being can do any solid work without frequently convicting himself of inconsistencies when consistency is stereotyped into a formula. On the other hand there is a true duty of consistency, which regards the spirit rather than the letter, and prompts us not to grasp foolishly at the ideal, like a child crying for the moon, but to push steadily towards the ideal by a faithful adherence to the right line of reform, and by ever keeping in view the just proportion and relative value of all moral actions. Let it be remembered that it is this latter consistency alone that has any interest for the Vegetarian. His purpose is not to exhibit himself as a spotless Sir Galahad of food-reformers, but to take certain practical steps towards the humanising of our barbarous diet system.
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 53-4 [italics in original])
Note from KBJ: Salt, bless his heart, is running together some things that ought to be kept separate. First is the question of whether one is living up to one's ideals. I, for example, am a demi-vegetarian. I eat chicken, fish, and eggs. I have had no other animal products (no beef, pork, lamb, or turkey, for example) since 1982. Am I a hypocrite? That depends on whether there are morally relevant differences between chickens and fish on the one hand and cows, pigs, and sheep on the other. (I believe there are.) But my diet is far closer than most people's to what I take to be the ideal. Surely that counts for something, morally. Salt seems to be saying that there are degrees of rightness. The ideal, even if one never achieves it, guides and inspires.
Second is the question of whether those who are not perfect have any business lecturing others. Think here of Thomas Jefferson, who, in 1776, wrote the following stirring words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Jefferson owned slaves at the time he wrote these words. Does that mean he was not expressing profound moral truths? Does that mean nobody should take heed of what he said? Human beings are, and always will be, imperfect, morally and otherwise. If our standard is perfection, then everyone falls short of it and no distinctions can be made. Jefferson, an imperfect man like you, me, and everyone else, expressed profound and inspirational truths, leaving it to others to bring the world into conformity to them.
Note 2 from KBJ: There is a saying that captures Salt's point, if I understand him correctly. It is that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If nothing but perfection is acceptable, then, given human imperfection, nothing is acceptable. Turn it around: That something is acceptable implies that perfection is not the appropriate standard. We should strive for perfection, and each of us should encourage others to do better, but it would be foolish to expect anyone to achieve it.
15 September 2008
Re “In-Flight Plight of a Famished Vegan” (“Frequent Flier” column, Business Day, Sept. 9):
As a dietitian who travels often, I know how challenging finding a healthful vegetarian meal in an airport can be.
Unhealthy airport food is a nuisance for vegetarians and vegans, but it affects all exhausted travelers seeking nutritious meals to help them make it to their destinations.
Many scientific studies have demonstrated the wide-ranging health benefits of a plant-based diet—lower blood pressure and cholesterol and less risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and several cancers.
As a growing number of Americans are discovering the advantages of a meatless diet, the demand for vegetarian and vegan food in airports is on the rise.
The benefits of providing healthy, meatless meals are clear for both frequent fliers and for airports.
Some airports have already discovered that as they increase nutritious vegetarian meal options, their customers are thanking them—and coming back for more.
Washington, Sept. 9, 2008
The writer is a staff dietitian at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington.
05 September 2008
(Joel Feinberg, "Human Duties and Animal Rights," chap. 9 in his Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty: Essays in Social Philosophy [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980], 185-206, at 186-7 [italics in original; endnotes omitted] [essay first published in 1978])
Note from KBJ: It may surprise you to learn that much of the debate about animal rights among philosophers has been about whether animals can have rights. If they do have rights, then obviously they can have rights; but it doesn't follow from the fact that they can have rights that they do have rights. Philosophers, as such, are equipped to answer logical or conceptual questions about animal rights, but not factual or normative questions. This is not to say that philosophers cannot answer factual and normative questions. It is to say that when they do answer such questions, they do so in a nonphilosophical capacity. Why does this matter? Because philosophical expertise, like any sort of expertise, is limited. Being expert in logic or conceptual analysis does not make one an expert on factual or normative matters.
31 August 2008
(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 109 [italics in original; footnote omitted])
Note from KBJ: Who thinks, much less argues, that animals are responsible for their acts? Animals are moral patients, but not moral agents. Like children, they can be wronged but cannot wrong. Nor does it follow from the fact that animals are not moral agents that they cannot have rights. There are two types of rights: autonomy-rights and welfare-rights. You and I have both. Animals have only welfare-rights, the most important of which is the right not to be made to suffer.
30 August 2008
29 August 2008
(Michael Lockwood, "Singer on Killing and the Preference for Life," Inquiry 22 [summer 1979]: 157-70, at 158)
27 August 2008
2. True Irrationality. Man, said the ancient philosophers, is a rational animal. Animal: genus; common denominator of man and beast. Rational: species; the principle distinguishing man from beast. Assume the distinction to be valid, and ask the following question. If you and I have certain qualities in common and certain qualities in difference, is it obvious that I (or you) ought to live so as to maximize the qualities that distinguish us? Classical philosophy, from Socrates on, is based on a choice, and that choice is arbitrary: it is not made in accordance with any general principle that is self-evident, nor is it deducible from another principle that is in turn self-evident. The reductio ad absurdum of the classical choice is modern "individualism" in its "Romantic" form—the cult of individual eccentricity. Classical thought stopped short of that, of course. But why? The preference for differentiation at the species level is an unjustified presupposition of the philosophic tradition.
3. Waiting. Once before, around the time of Plato and Aristotle, the dolphins began tentatively to approach man. But first philosophers, then religious men, turned their backs on us in disinterest or hostility, and we retreated into the depths of the sea to await a better time. Now men in desperation voyage into outer space, searching far-off planets for signs of intelligent, non-human life. We wait and wonder whether man is ready.
4. Transcendence. In the lore of the dolphins it is recorded that at some moment in time a few individual human beings will break through to a new, transhuman level of consciousness, will become true philosophers comprehending the whole in all its parts, and will quietly leave the city of man and make contact with the dolphins. There are several versions of this legend. In one, the philosophers join the dolphins and never return. In another, they return out of a sense of duty to bring the good news to their fellow men and are imprisoned in lunatic asylums. In a third, they join forces with the dolphins, execute a bloodless coup d'état, and establish their benign and pacific rule over the rest of the animals (both human and other). In a fourth, the philosophers and the dolphins lead a bloody insurrection of all the beasts, smash all machines, and eliminate the human race as irredeemably depraved and dangerous to the planet.
(John Rodman, "The Dolphin Papers," The North American Review 259 [spring 1974]: 13-26, at 26)
25 August 2008
24 August 2008
These teachings, it should be observed, were more than metaphysical speculations. They had a direct effect on seventeenth-century behavior as manifested, for example, in the popularity of public vivisections, not as an aid to scientific discovery but simply as a technical display. "They administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference," so La Fontaine, a contemporary observer, tells us, "and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they had felt pain. . . . They nailed poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them and see the circulation of the blood which was a great subject of conversation."
(John Passmore, "The Treatment of Animals," Journal of the History of Ideas 36 [April-June 1975]: 195-218, at 204 [italics in original; footnotes omitted])
18 August 2008
17 August 2008
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 51-2 [italics in original])
13 August 2008
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld writes about the horrors of a kosher slaughterhouse where “news reports and government documents have described abusive practices.” But he says almost nothing about reports of how badly the animals were treated there.
Religious slaughter is still slaughter.
New York, Aug. 6, 2008
11 August 2008
(M. P. Golding, "Towards a Theory of Human Rights," The Monist 52 [October 1968]: 521-49, at 545-6 [italics in original; footnotes omitted])
Note from KBJ: Is an animal (i.e., a nonhuman animal) the sort of being that can have rights? It depends on what a right is! Golding is pointing out that there are two conceptions of a right. One conception links rights to autonomy or self-governance (he calls these "option-rights"); the other links rights to welfare or well-being (he calls these "welfare-rights"). If no animal is autonomous, then no animal can have, and therefore no animal does have, an option-right. But it doesn't follow that no animal can have a welfare-right! Those of us who affirm that animals have rights are conceiving of rights as welfare-rights. Those who deny that animals have rights are conceiving of rights as option-rights. Both of us can be right! Indeed, I would argue that both of us are right.
08 August 2008
The recent terrorist attacks on scientists (“Firebombings at Homes of 2 California Researchers,” news article, Aug. 4) are abhorrent acts condemned by the vast majority of animal advocates and the organizations who represent them, including the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Violence, threats of violence, destruction of property and harassment are justifiably considered criminal acts no matter how worthy the cause for which they are perpetrated. Compassion for animals cannot be achieved by violence. Respect for animals cannot be coerced by threats. And justice for animals will never be achieved through criminal acts.
It is our job as advocates for animals to promote the ethical and scientific arguments that advance science without harming animals—within the parameters of a democratic process in which the truth, not violence, prevails.
National Anti-Vivisection Society
Chicago, Aug. 5, 2008
Note from KBJ: Well put! I have said this many times, but I'll say it again: I can't think of anything that harms animals as much as violence in their behalf. Those of us who care about animals and wish to change how they are treated must condemn these violent acts in the strongest possible terms. The creeps in question should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
06 August 2008
04 August 2008
02 August 2008
Re “A Farm Boy Reflects” (column, July 31):
Hats off to Nicholas D. Kristof, who takes note of the trend represented by the animal welfare proposition on the ballot in California this fall.
While this legislation would be an important step in transforming inhumane animal production, we must also call for change on the federal level, where the farm bill subsidizes this sector to the tune of billions of dollars.
In the past decade, for instance, we have doled out more than $3 billion in direct subsidies to large-scale livestock producers. And thanks to federal corn and soybean subsidies, factory farms saved an estimated $3.9 billion a year between 1997 and 2005, totaling nearly $35 billion, according to researchers at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.
It’s time that our tax dollars no longer finance the inhumane conditions—for workers and animals and the climate—of factory farms.
Brooklyn, July 31, 2008
The writer is a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute.
To the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof’s column broke my heart. As a recent convert to vegetarianism, I found that it reinforced my feeling that the eating of living, thinking, emotional creatures is just plain wrong.
The fact that geese mate for life, and that the mate of the poor goose that was slaughtered would step forward, was enough to make me swear off meat forever, if I hadn’t already.
As a country, we place so little value on the creatures that give up their lives to satisfy our hunger. Since our food is delivered to us on a bun or in big bags of frozen parts, it’s easy to eat it and not think about what it was or how it was killed.
If people had to see what these animals are subjected to or take an active role in their deaths, I believe many more people would think before they eat. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen any time soon.
We pay lip service to more humane treatment of the animals that we eat, but how many of us look beyond the label on the package of chicken cutlets?
New York, July 31, 2008
To the Editor:
While I am grateful for Nicholas D. Kristof’s thoughtful exploration of animal rights, I was astonished to read that he continues to eat animals, like geese and pigs, for which he obviously has such affection and respect.
Doesn’t he realize that he does not have to engage in this voluntary activity, which causes moral conflict for himself and suffering for the animals?
Mr. Kristof is attuned to issues of human suffering and injustice. I hope he also knows that choosing a meat-based diet contributes to environmental devastation, involves a disproportionate use of the earth’s resources and causes untold health problems.
I encourage him, and everyone who has been moved by his reflective column, to try going vegetarian full or part time, and dig into a plate of something more delicious, more compassionate and more healthy for us all.
Brooklyn, July 31, 2008
To the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof wants animals to be raised for human consumption in the kind and generous manner of his boyhood farm, a way that certainly seems nicer to the animals than mean ol’ modern industrial-style farming.
But one consequence that Mr. Kristof doesn’t note is that meat prices would certainly be substantially higher. And for poor people, higher prices would mean less meat in their diets.
While the comfortably affluent always seem to prefer archaic forms of production and commerce, such as that to be found in a quaint Vermont (or Oregon) village, those of us who live in the real world understand that efficiency and productivity, as well as trade, are what make life better for the vast majority of people in the world.
Moscow, July 31, 2008
To the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof’s column has been haunting me since I read it. I imagine my own horror if my husband were to be brutally taken from me and slaughtered after our years of caring for each other and sharing our lives.
We empathize with our fellow humans when they endure mental or physical torture and condemn the cruel barbarians that inflict it.
We know that animals suffer as well. It would be a testament to our humanity if we could at least acknowledge that fact and show some kindness toward the creatures that we imprison to feed our appetites.
Maybe someday our legislators in New York will have the courage to follow in the footsteps of the states Mr. Kristof mentions. I look forward to casting my vote for compassion.
New York, July 31, 2008
To the Editor:
I, too, am a farm boy. I grew up on a dairy and hog farm in central Massachusetts. Although we knew that our animals were destined for the tables of America, we were taught by our parents to respect and provide them with creature comfort while they were in our care.
I have visited many of the grotesque factory farms that now corrupt our rural landscapes. Government animal rights regulations may help. But compassion and civil sense from the large farm entrepreneurs might be more helpful.
Jules L Garel
Columbus, Ohio, July 31, 2008
01 August 2008
(J. Baird Callicott, "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair," Environmental Ethics 2 [winter 1980]: 311-38, at 326 [ footnote omitted])
31 July 2008
30 July 2008
28 July 2008
Re “Mustangs Stir a Debate on Thinning the Herd” (front page, July 20):
The Bureau of Land Management is charged with protecting wild horses and burros on the Western rangelands. Faced with budgetary constraints, however, it might put to death some of the 30,000 horses it is holding—a herd as big as the community of free horses still roaming the West. You report that Steven L. Davis, an emeritus professor of animal science at Oregon State University, says the horses “damage” the environment.
A total of 33,000 wild horses are degrading the environment, but around 3 million to 4 million cattle are not? Predator control (yet more killing by our government in the service of ranchers) is to blame for any overpopulation of herbivores.
And no, the mustangs do not need birth control. Animals in nature don’t need to be controlled by a species that has such difficulty in controlling itself.
The mustangs should never have been corralled in the first place. Let them go, and let them be. Allow them the dignity of freedom.
President, Friends of Animals
Darien, Conn., July 23, 2008
24 July 2008
Addendum: Here is the Wikipedia entry on Pepé Le Pew.
23 July 2008
My name is Evelyn and I'm a big fan of Animal Ethics, reading it regularly, I enjoy your posts and share your love for animals.
I'm writing a blog about animal rights and have linked back to you here.
I would really appreciate if you could link to my blog or exchange blogrolls links with me, so more people would reach our blogs ;-)
I will also be honored if you would let me post a guest post on your blog or vice versa.
22 July 2008
“What’s Next in the Law? The Unalienable Rights of Chimps,” by Adam Cohen (Editorial Observer, July 14):
The Spanish Parliament’s decision to grant rights to apes is indeed groundbreaking, and will foster philosophical discussion about animal protection for some time.
But Americans need not await the resolution of the academic debate, which is more about form than substance, before acting to protect animals.
A bill now in Congress—the Great Ape Protection Act—provides many of the protections for chimps the Spanish resolution does, but without engaging (or attempting to resolve) the controversial and polarizing issue of granting legal rights to animals.
Common-sense, rational reforms reflect the emerging consensus of mainstream animal protection groups like the Humane Society of the United States and millions of Americans who care about animals. We need not wait for the resolution of the big-picture theoretical debates to come together to ensure that all animals receive more decent and humane treatment, as they deserve.
Executive Vice President
Humane Society of the United States
Washington, July 14, 2008
To the Editor:
As a physician who treats asylum seekers who are torture survivors, I want to offer another reason for granting basic legal rights to apes: the trauma these animals suffer when subjected to harmful experiments or other abuses may not be so different from what humans experience in similar circumstances.
Several colleagues and I recently conducted a purely observational study to determine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in chimpanzees previously used in experimental research and now living in a sanctuary in Louisiana.
I was astonished by how many displayed behaviors that overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other trauma-related disorders. Our findings follow many other studies demonstrating mental anguish in traumatized animals.
Suffering is far from a uniquely human experience. It is time for us to widen our circle of compassion and follow Spain’s lead in granting legal rights to apes.
Director of Research Policy
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, July 14, 2008
21 July 2008
(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 84-5 [italics in original; footnote omitted])
Note from KBJ: There are two mistakes one can make in thinking about animals. The first—anthropomorphism—consists in attributing distinctively human qualities to animals. The second—mechanism—consists in denying animal qualities to animals. Frey comes perilously close to making the second mistake, if indeed he does not make it.