28 November 2008

Five Years and Counting

I created this blog five years ago today. There have been 112,684 visits, which is an average of 22,536.8 per year and 61.7 per day. Here, for old time's sake, is my first post. Thanks for visiting. If you're looking for something in particular, please use the search function at the top left of the blog. For example, if you're looking for posts on bullfighting, type that word into the box and you'll get a list. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has linked to this blog, which is the first item listed in a Google search of "animal ethics." One more thing. Mylan Engel asked me some time back to enable the comment function, which I did. He thought it would lead to intelligent discussion of our posts. Alas, there were very few comments, and most of those that were submitted were anonymous, so I disabled it. I don't understand anonymity, and I will not tolerate it. Philosophers don't talk to each other with bags over their heads. They take responsibility for their speech acts. You know a great many things about Mylan and me, including where we work, what we teach, and where we were educated. Why should we not know who you are?

26 November 2008


Here is Andrew Revkin's latest post at Dot Earth.

24 November 2008

Adopt a Chimp

See here.

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) on the Degradation of the Butcher

But this question of Butchery is not merely one of kindness or unkindness to animals, for by the very facts of the case it is a human question of no slight importance, affecting as it does the social and moral welfare of those more immediately concerned in it. Of all recognised occupations by which, in civilised countries, a livelihood is sought and obtained, the work which is looked upon with the greatest loathing (next to the Hangman's) is that of the Butcher—as witness the opprobrious sense which the word "butcher" has acquired. Owing to the instinctive horror of bloodshed which is characteristic of all normal civilised beings, the trade of doing to death countless numbers of inoffensive and highly organised creatures, amid scenes of indescribable filth and ferocity, is delegated to a pariah class of "slaughtermen," who are thus themselves made the victims of a grievous social wrong. "I'm only doing your dirty work; it's such as you makes such as us," is said to have been the remark of a White-chapel butcher to a flesh-eating gentleman who remonstrated with him for his brutality; and the remark was a perfectly just one. To demand a product which can only be procured at the cost of the intense suffering of the animal, and the deep degradation of the butcher, and by a process which not one flesh-eater in a hundred would himself under any circumstances perform, or even witness, is conduct as callous, selfish and unsocial as could well be imagined.

(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 59 [italics in original])

18 November 2008


The ABA Journal mentions this blog, although I'm not sure why. Very few of the items we post are law-related.

17 November 2008

Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) on Received Morality

Again, all or most men in whom the moral consciousness is strongly developed find themselves from time to time in conflict with the commonly received morality of the society to which they belong: and thus—as was before said—have a crucial experience proving that duty does not mean to them what other men will disapprove of them for not doing.

(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

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

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.

Danielle Kichler
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.

Laura Frisk
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.

Paul Shapiro
Senior Director
Factory Farming Campaign
Humane Society of the United States
Washington, Nov. 11, 2008

13 November 2008

From the Mailbag

Hi Keith,

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.

Thanks Keith,
Sharon McEachern

12 November 2008

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

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.

Michael Radkowsky
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 on Wild Life

The land ethic, it should be emphasized, as Leopold has sketched it, provides for the rights of nonhuman natural beings to a share in the life processes of the biotic community. The conceptual foundation of such rights, however, is less conventional than natural, based upon, as one might say, evolutionary and ecological entitlement. Wild animals and native plants have a particular place in nature, according to the land ethic, which domestic animals (because they are products of human art and represent an extended presence of human beings in the natural world) do not have. The land ethic, in sum, is as much opposed, though on different grounds, to commercial traffic in wildlife, zoos, the slaughter of whales and other marine mammals, etc., as is the humane ethic. Concern for animal (and plant) rights and well-being is as fundamental to the land ethic as to the humane ethic, but the difference between naturally evolved and humanly bred species is an essential consideration for the one, though not for the other.

(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

R. G. Frey on Feeling and Principle

An enormous volume of material has already appeared on the conditions under which animals live and die on factory farms, and more is almost certainly on the way. Much of this material is upsetting in the extreme, and it is difficult to imagine any normal person reading or hearing of it without being revolted. Indeed, our feeling of revulsion may be so intense that we simply can no longer bring ourselves to eat meat. In other words, we become vegetarians, not through any decision of principle, but through being unable to bring ourselves to continue to dine upon the flesh of animals. We become vegetarians in this way, however, only if we are revolted to a degree sufficient to overcome our fondness or liking for meat; and whether we are going to be sufficiently revolted by what we read and hear cannot be known in advance by the advocate of vegetarianism. If our liking for meat is in fact more intense than our revulsion at the suffering endured on factory farms, then we are going to remain meat-eaters, with the result that, if the vegetarian has grounded his case in an appeal to our feelings, then that case is in jeopardy. In order to protect himself, therefore, he is not likely to rest his case upon (an appeal to) the state and intensities of our feelings.

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

Legal Rights for Animals

Here is a Los Angeles Times story about California's Proposition 2, which passed yesterday. I'm ambivalent about the proposition. On the one hand, it improves the lives of many farm animals. On the other hand, it entrenches the idea that they may be used as mere means to human ends. In the long run, measures such as this may make things worse for farm animals.

04 November 2008

From the Mailbag

Hi Professor Burgess-Jackson,

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.

Warm regards,


03 November 2008

Michael Lockwood on Replaceability

Many families, especially ones with young children, find that dogs are an asset when they are still playful puppies (capable of keeping the children amused), but become an increasing liability as they grow into middle age, with an adult appetite but sans youthful allure. Moreover, there is always a problem of what to do with the animal when they go on holiday. It is often inconvenient or even impossible to take the dog with them, whereas friends tend to resent the imposition, and kennels are expensive and unreliable. Let us suppose that, inspired by Singer's article, people were to hit on the idea of having their pets painlessly put down at the start of each holiday (as some pet owners already do), acquiring new ones upon their return. Suppose, indeed, that a company grows up, 'Disposapup Ltd.', which rears the animals, house-trains them, supplies them to any willing purchaser, takes them back, exterminates them and supplies replacements, on demand. It is clear, is it not, that there can, for Singer, be absolutely nothing directly wrong with such a practice. Every puppy has, we may assume, an extremely happy, albeit brief, life—and indeed, would not have existed at all but for the practice. Yet the activities of the company and its clients would, I imagine, cause a general outcry amongst animal lovers.

(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.