27 June 2008

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Getting Bacon the Hard Way: Hog-Tying 400 Pounds of Fury” (front page, June 21), about Texas hog hunters, illustrated the barbarity of hunting with dogs.

To compensate for their lack of skill, hunters set their dogs upon a wild pig—a descendant of boars brought to America solely to give hunters the pleasure of killing a helpless animal.

As the dogs tear chunks of flesh from the terrified pig, the hunters undoubtedly feel proud of their accomplishment.

Many hunters compound their cruelty by abandoning their dogs when they are no longer of use. Following hunting season, animal shelters across America see an influx of ex-hunting dogs who were cruelly left to fend for themselves.

Hunting with hounds is neither sport nor conservation. It is an exhibition of human nature at its worst.

Joe Miele
Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting
Maywood, N.J., June 23, 2008

24 June 2008

23 June 2008


Here is a story about heart disease. Key paragraph:
"It’s important that each person take responsibility for taking care of themselves," says Edmund Herrold, a clinical cardiologist in New York City and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Get a regular checkup. Watch your weight and your blood pressure and your cholesterol, and if you have diabetes, keep that under control. Exercise. Take an aspirin every day. Eliminate meat. There’s no guarantee, but you can dramatically lower the risk of a cardiac event if you pay attention to these issues."
Emphasis added.

20 June 2008

J. Baird Callicott on Value

Some suspicion may arise at this point that the land ethic is ultimately grounded in human interests, not in those of nonhuman natural entities. Just as we might prefer a sound and attractive house to one in the opposite condition so the "goodness" of a whole, stable, and beautiful environment seems rather to be of the instrumental, not the autochthonous, variety. The question of ultimate value is a very sticky one for environmental as well as for all ethics and cannot be fully addressed here. It is my view that there can be no value apart from an evaluator, that all value is as it were in the eye of the beholder. The value that is attributed to the ecosystem, therefore, is humanly dependent or (allowing that other living things may take a certain delight in the well-being of the whole of things, or that the gods may) at least dependent upon some variety of morally and aesthetically sensitive consciousness. Granting this, however, there is a further, very crucial distinction to be drawn. It is possible that while things may only have value because we (or someone) values them, they may nonetheless be valued for themselves as well as for the contribution they might make to the realization of our (or someone's) interests. Children are valued for themselves by most parents. Money, on the other hand, has only an instrumental or indirect value. Which sort of value has the health of the biotic community and its members severally for Leopold and the land ethic? It is especially difficult to separate these two general sorts of value, the one of moral significance, the other merely selfish, when something that may be valued in both ways at once is the subject of consideration. Are pets, for example, well-treated, like children, for the sake of themselves, or, like mechanical appliances, because of the sort of services they provide their owners? Is a healthy biotic community something we value because we are so utterly and (to the biologically well-informed) so obviously dependent upon it not only for our happiness but for our very survival, or may we also perceive it disinterestedly as having an independent worth? Leopold insists upon a noninstrumental value for the biotic community and mutatis mutandis for its constituents. According to Leopold, collective enlightened self-interest on the part of human beings does not go far enough; the land ethic in his opinion (and no doubt this reflects his own moral intuitions) requires "love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value." The land ethic, in Leopold's view, creates "obligations over and above self-interest." And, "obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social conscience from people to land." If, in other words, any genuine ethic is possible, if it is possible to value people for the sake of themselves, then it is equally possible to value land in the same way.

(J. Baird Callicott, "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair," Environmental Ethics 2 [winter 1980]: 311-38, at 325-6 [italics in original; footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: I quote this long passage because it shows, in the context of environmental ethics, how one can distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic value while being a value subjectivist. There are two distinctions that should not be conflated (but that often are). The first is between two types of value: objective and subjective. Objective value inheres in the world outside of subjects and would exist without them; subjective value is conferred by subjects (such as human beings) and would not exist without them. The second distinction is between two ways of valuing: intrinsically and extrinsically. To value a thing intrinsically is to value it for its own sake, as an end in itself, because of the kind of thing it is (i.e., because of its properties). To value a thing extrinsically is to value it for the sake of something else one values, as either a part of or a means to that other thing (i.e., because of its relations). Callicott is a value subjectivist, but he values land ("the biotic community") intrinsically as well as extrinsically. I'm a value subjectivist, but I value land only extrinsically.

17 June 2008

Jan Narveson on Moral Vegetarianism

What the utilitarian who defends human carnivorousness must say, then, is something like this: that the amount of pleasure which humans derive per pound of animal flesh exceeds the amount of discomfort and pain per pound which are inflicted on the animals in the process, all things taken into account. Is this plausible? I am not persuaded that it isn't, as far as it goes. But it should be noted that this is only a leading premise, as it were, of a complete argument on the issue. For we must realize that the question is whether this justifies the eating of animals in comparison with alternatives. And there are two relevant kinds of alternatives here: one is treating the animals better before we eat them, the only disadvantage of which is that it would make meat considerably more expensive. And the other is taking up vegetarianism. Utilitarians persuaded of the leading premise here should, I think, be willing to pay the higher prices, and to plump for protections of animals of the kind in question. But what about the vegetarian alternative? Here what one needs to do is calculate the pleasure, interest, satisfaction, etc., by which animal diets exceed vegetable diets for us. And most of us, of course, just don't know about this. How do we know but what, once we got used to a vegetarian diet, we would find that our pleasure is scarcely diminished at all? Human ingenuity is great, and undoubtedly a skilful vegetarian cook can come up with quite a panoply of delicious dishes. It would remain true, of course, that the vegetarian diet is more limited, since every pleasure available to the vegetarian is also available to the carnivore (not counting the moral satisfactions involved, of course—which would be question-begging), plus more which are not available to the vegetarian so long as he remains one. But unless we attach a high intrinsic value to greater aesthetic variety in our diet (and some of us do; but most of us, perhaps, do not), this won't be a decisive consideration.

Once one bears in mind that it is this comparative assessment that is required, then it seems to me there will be a strong case (1) for Humane Slaughter, and humane treatment prior to slaughter, and (2) insofar as really painless and comfortable animal-raising is not attained or attainable, giving vegetarianism a try, at least. In present circumstances, the following would seem to be indicated. Depending on the time and energy available, utilitarians persuaded of the foregoing should try a period of vegetarianism, at least, in order to see how they get on, and perhaps as a weapon in the form of boycotting such meat and dairy products as are produced in excessive disregard for the comfort of the animals in question: a much milder program than the one Singer and Regan call for, but one giving more to the animals than we usually do, and leaving our consciences rather less comfortable than they perhaps typically are.

(Jan Narveson, "Animal Rights," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 7 [March 1977]: 161-78, at 173-4 [italics in original])

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “South Koreans Assail U.S. Pact, Shaking Leader” (front page, June 11), about the large demonstrations in Seoul:

In October 1989, six Korean college students broke into the American ambassador’s residence in Seoul and did $35,000 worth of damage before being arrested by the Korean police. I was the ambassador, and the issue was beef.

Modern Korean society still has deep roots in its agricultural traditions, and Koreans can get very defensive about any issue that seems to threaten the livelihood of “grandpa and grandma” back on the farm, even if this causes them to pay twice as much for inefficiently produced Korean beef as they would for foreign imports.

This is a delicate issue that needs to be handled with sensitivity by leaders in Seoul and Washington, so that the question of beef does not derail the important free-trade agreement with South Korea being considered by Congress.

This issue also needs to be placed in a broader context. South Korea is a tremendous ally of the United States. It sent more than 300,000 troops to help us in Vietnam, was a quick and generous supporter of Desert Storm in 1991, and for several years had the third-largest deployment of troops in Iraq, following our invasion of that country five years ago.

Without our strong alliance with South Korea, our influence in Asia would be vastly diminished. Let us keep that fact clearly in mind, as we deal with the fractious beef issue.

Donald Gregg
Chairman, Korea Society
Armonk, N.Y., June 12, 2008

Note from KBJ: If South Koreans were truly concerned with their health, they wouldn't be eating beef in the first place.

13 June 2008

Meat-Eating and the Environment

Vegetarianism is overdetermined, in the sense that there is more than one sufficient reason for being a vegetarian. Here is one determination of it.

12 June 2008

Mexican Rodeos

Here is a New York Times story about Mexican rodeos.

Ethological Ethics

I found this website the other day and thought I'd bring it to your attention.

11 June 2008

Joel Feinberg (1926-2004) on Animal Rights

So far McCloskey is on solid ground, but one can quarrel with his denial that any animals but humans have interests. I should think that the trustee of funds willed to a dog or cat is more than a mere custodian of the animal he protects. Rather his job is to look out for the interests of the animal and make sure no one denies it its due. The animal itself is the beneficiary of his dutiful services. Many of the higher animals at least have appetites, conative urges, and rudimentary purposes, the integrated satisfaction of which constitutes their welfare or good. We can, of course, with consistency treat animals as mere pests and deny that they have any rights; for most animals, especially those of the lower orders, we have no choice but to do so. But it seems to me, nevertheless, that in general, animals are among the sorts of beings of whom rights can meaningfully be predicated and denied.

Now, if a person agrees with the conclusion of the argument thus far, that animals are the sorts of beings that can have rights, and further, if he accepts the moral judgment that we ought to be kind to animals, only one further premise is needed to yield the conclusion that some animals do in fact have rights. We must now ask ourselves for whose sake ought we to treat (some) animals with consideration and humaneness? If we conceive our duty to be one of obedience to authority, or to one's own conscience merely, or one of consideration for tender human sensibilities only, then we might still deny that animals have rights, even though we admit that they are the kinds of beings that can have rights. But if we hold not only that we ought to treat animals humanely but also that we should do so for the animals' own sake, that such treatment is something we owe animals as their due, something that can be claimed for them, something the withholding of which would be an injustice and a wrong, and not merely a harm, then it follows that we do ascribe rights to animals. I suspect that the moral judgments most of us make about animals do pass these phenomenological tests, so that most of us do believe that animals have rights, but are reluctant to say so because of the conceptual confusions about the notion of a right that I have attempted to dispel above.

(Joel Feinberg, "The Rights of Animals and Unborn Generations," chap. 8 in his Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty: Essays in Social Philosophy [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980], 159-84, at 166-7 [italics in original] [essay first published in 1974])

09 June 2008

R. G. Frey on Applied Philosophy

I support wholeheartedly the application of philosophy to practical issues; but it is as well to be aware at the outset of the form which the philosopher's contribution to these issues takes. It is, as R. M. Hare has impressed upon me, simply this: philosophy is concerned with testing arguments for soundness, and the occupation of the philosopher is to carry out this testing. To this end, he deploys the tools and canons of logic on behalf of accuracy in argument, explores questions of meaning, implication, presupposition, derivation, relation, compatibility, etc., pries into and generates examples and counter-examples, both realistic and hypothetical, and so on. One but only one of the tools he deploys in this task is the analysis of those concepts in which the arguments he is testing are set out; analysis is not, however, an alternative view of what the philosopher is about, in some way competing with his assessment of arguments. By contrast, though he can and doubtless should concern himself with and even soak himself in the factual material pertaining to the specific arguments under his gaze, further increases in this factual material and knowledge are not part of the philosopher's task as such.

(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 2)

Note from KBJ: Frey is right that the philosopher, as such, has no factual expertise. He should have added that the same is true of evaluative expertise. That X is a philosopher does not give X's values any greater weight. Why should it? Where in my formal study to be a philosopher did I learn correct values? Philosophy is a formal enterprise. It can tell people that they cannot believe both p and q. It cannot tell people which of the propositions, if either, to believe. It can tell people that if they believe r, they must also believe s. It cannot tell people to believe r. The only leverage a philosopher has is the principle of noncontradiction. That may not seem like a lot, but it is.

Note 2 from KBJ: Frey says that "philosophy is concerned with testing arguments for soundness." A sound argument is a valid argument with true premises. A valid argument is an argument in which the truth of the premises is incompatible with the falsity of the conclusion. I hope you can see that Frey meant "validity" rather than "soundness." The philosopher is concerned not with the truth of an argument's premises, but with whether they entail the conclusion. There is one class of truths concerning which the philosopher, as such, has expertise, namely, necessary truths. The philosopher, as such, has no expertise concerning contingent truths.

Note 3 from KBJ: The following propositions are consistent:
1. Keith is a philosopher.
2. Keith makes value judgments.
3. Philosophers, as such, do not make value judgments.
If you understood what I said in my previous notes, you will see why these propositions are consistent.

08 June 2008

John Benson on Peter Singer's Argument

Singer's supreme principle is that all sentient beings are entitled to equal consideration of their interests. A being has interests if it is capable of suffering and enjoyment. This capacity is a prerequisite for having interests at all, and the actual interests that a being has are determined by the particular kinds and degrees of suffering and enjoyment of which it is capable. Equal interests must be equally respected, without regard to the species of the creatures whose interests they are. One may treat two creatures differently because one is less sensitive than the other to some kind of suffering, but two equally sensitive creatures may not be treated differently merely because they belong to different species. If my dog and I both have headaches then the dog should have the one available aspirin if it has the worse headache. To treat the dog's pain as less important because it is a dog not a man is speciesism (a nasty word for a nasty thing).

(John Benson, "Duty and the Beast," Philosophy 53 [October 1978]: 529-49, at 530)

06 June 2008

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) on Deliberation

When in the mind of man, Appetites, and Aversions, Hopes, and Feares, concerning one and the same thing, arise alternately; and divers good and evill consequences of the doing, or omitting the thing propounded, come successively into our thoughts; so that sometimes we have an Appetite to it; sometimes an Aversion from it; sometimes Hope to be able to do it; sometimes Despaire, or Feare to attempt it; the whole summe of Desires, Aversions, Hopes and Fears, continued till the thing be either done, or thought impossible, is that we call DELIBERATION.

Therefore of things past, there is no Deliberation; because manifestly impossible to be changed: nor of things known to be impossible, or thought so; because men know, or think such Deliberation vain. But of things impossible, which we think possible, we may Deliberate; not knowing it is in vain. And it is called Deliberation; because it is a putting an end to the Liberty we had of doing, or omitting, according to our own Appetite, or Aversion.

This alternate Succession of Appetites, Aversions, Hopes and Fears, is no lesse in other living Creatures then [sic] in Man: and therefore Beasts also Deliberate.

Every Deliberation is then sayd to End, when that whereof they Deliberate, is either done, or thought impossible; because till then wee retain the liberty of doing, or omitting, according to our Appetite, or Aversion.

In Deliberation, the last Appetite, or Aversion, immediately adhaering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that wee call the WILL; the Act, (not the faculty,) of Willing. And Beasts that have Deliberation, must necessarily also have Will. The Definition of the Will, given commonly by the Schooles, that it is a Rationall Appetite, is not good. For if it were, then could there be no Voluntary Act against Reason. For a Voluntary Act is that, which proceedeth from the Will, and no other. But if in stead of a Rationall Appetite, we shall say an Appetite resulting from a precedent Deliberation, then the Definition is the same that I have given here. Will therefore is the last Appetite in Deliberating.

(Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, rev. student ed., ed. Richard Tuck, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, ed. Raymond Geuss and Quentin Skinner [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], chap. 6, pp. 44-5 [italics in original] [first published in 1651])

05 June 2008

Vegan Goes Mainstream!

Oprah Winfrey goes vegan for 21 days. See both Oprah's blog and this story for details.

On Day 1 of her 21-day experiment with veganism, Oprah aptly asked: "How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?"

On Day 2, Oprah reported: "Wow, wow, wow! I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying. I had been focused on what I had to give up—sugar, gluten, alcohol, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese. 'What's left?' I thought. Apparently a lot. I can honestly say every meal was a surprise and a delight, beginning with breakfast—strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes."

On Day 4, Oprah wrote: "I just cleaned my dinner plate, down to the last grain of brown rice left under my oh-so-delicious seasoned soy 'chicken.' I can not believe how tasty, spicy and wonderful it all was. I'm ever more surprised at how I don't miss anything and feel so satisfied at every meal."

Oprah is discovering just how delicious a heart-healthful, cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly vegan diet can be. She is experiencing firsthand the synergistic benefits that come from a vegan lifestyle. Why not join Oprah in her experiment? Try a cruelty-free vegan diet for 21 days and see how you feel. If you're like most people, you'll feel better physically, spiritually, and ethically, almost immediately.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own” (front page, May 29):

The brain really is a fascinating organ. I was also intrigued to read that “in previous studies, researchers showed that humans who had been paralyzed for years could learn to control a cursor on a computer screen with their brain waves.”

So why were the monkeys used? It seems to me that the most fruitful route to go in this sort of research that could have very important implications for humans with severe motor deficits would be to study humans and leave the monkeys alone.

Marc Bekoff
Boulder, Colo., May 29, 2008
The writer is in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of Colorado.

Actors and Others for Animals

Here is an interesting website. I will add it to the blogroll.

04 June 2008

From the Mailbag


I am a volunteer for 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com, which is North America's largest non-profit pet adoption website, and I'm trying to get the word out about homeless pet adoption.

I am looking at your site and thought you might like to add a link somewhere to 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com. Save-A-Pet is a totally free service where 5,000 animal shelters have 80,000 pets listed who need homes today, and a link from your website would be a great way to help get the word out!

Please let me know if this is possible and thank you so much!

Andrea Rasmussen

03 June 2008

Peter Singer on the Wrongness of Killing Animals

In setting out to write this paper, my intention was to fill a gap in my book Animal Liberation. There I argued that the interests of animals ought to be considered equally with our own interests and that from this equality it follows that we ought to become vegetarian. The argument for vegetarianism is not based on any claim about the wrongness of killing animals—although some careless reviewers read this claim into my book, no doubt because they assumed that any moral argument for vegetarianism must be based on the wrongness of killing. Instead the argument for vegetarianism is based on the suffering that is, and as far as I can see always will be, associated with the rearing and slaughtering of animals on a large scale to feed urban populations. I explicitly avoided taking a position on the wrongness of killing animals, for I wanted the book to reach non-philosophers, and the issue of killing cannot be dealt with briefly and simply.

(Peter Singer, "Killing Humans and Killing Animals," Inquiry 22 [summer 1979]: 145-56, at 145 [italics in original; endnote omitted])

02 June 2008

Betty White

Actress and animal activist Betty White is on the Tavis Smiley Show tonight. See here for details.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

I noticed that the sustainability house at Oberlin College enjoys barbecues with burgers and grilled corn.

Is it possible that for all their water-saving tactics, the students have overlooked a way to save huge amounts of water: cutting out beef?

It can take an estimated 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Oberlin students can time showers all they want, but one burger will cost them the equivalent of a 45-minute shower every day for a week!

I don’t necessarily advocate vegetarianism, but those looking to improve the sustainability of their lifestyles should take a look at their diet. Reducing meat consumption, particularly of beef, is one of the simplest and most rewarding things we can do.

Nadia Eghbal
Tübingen, Germany, May 26, 2008

John Rodman on the Paradox of Animal Experimentation

Beneath all else, slumbering but soon to awaken, is the paradox—old as the seventeenth century—intensified by recent studies of animal behavior: certain beasts are "human" enough (similar to man) that experimentation on them seems justified (to man) by the possible benefit to man; yet these same beasts are "inhuman" enough (different from man) that experimentation on them (in ways that would not be allowed on man) is morally permissible. Jane Goodall lamely concludes that chimpanzees should be housed and fed better in the labs.

(John Rodman, "The Dolphin Papers," The North American Review 259 [spring 1974]: 13-26, at 18)