28 December 2010
(J. J. C. Smart, "Ethics and Science," Philosophy 56 [October 1981]: 449-65, at 453 [italics in original])
18 December 2010
01 December 2010
28 November 2010
21 November 2010
Re “Hero Dog From Afghan Base Is Killed by Mistake in Arizona” (front page, Nov. 19):
The story of Target, the Afghan hero dog, is truly heartbreaking. The important lesson, however, one that would add to Target’s legacy, is that all of us who love our dogs need to make sure that they have a tag and, even better, a microchip. This misadventure could have been avoided!
Elkins, N.H., Nov. 19, 2010
12 November 2010
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 114-5)
01 November 2010
31 October 2010
Re “New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side” (front page, Oct. 22):
PETA is proud to see that its hard work behind the scenes with Bell & Evans and other companies to encourage implementation of this new, less cruel form of slaughter is finally coming to fruition. By carrying out a slaughter system that greatly reduces the suffering of chickens, Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens show that animal welfare and good business go hand in hand.
With controlled-atmosphere killing, chickens aren’t dumped from their transport crates and do not suffer broken wings and legs while being shackled upside down, they’re never scalded to death in defeathering tanks, and there is no opportunity for workers to further abuse birds at the slaughterhouse, as PETA has documented in undercover investigations.
While ever more consumers are going vegetarian or vegan, almost every consumer is demanding that companies take steps to reduce animal suffering. Bell & Evans has heard them and set a new standard in the chicken-supply industry.
McDonald’s, are you listening?
Executive Vice President
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Los Angeles, Oct. 25, 2010
04 October 2010
Re “Working to Keep a Heritage Relevant” (news article, Sept. 26):
The “heritage” of hunting will continue its decline into irrelevance and will eventually disappear.
It is useful to dispel two myths. First, there is no “heritage” of hunting as it is practiced today. In the early days trappers and others hunted for survival. They would be appalled to see how their survival “heritage” has been transformed.
Second, hunting is not a “sport,” since any true sport involves two or more competitors, either individuals or teams, similarly equipped, playing by the same rules, let the best individual or team win. There is no “sport” when one “competitor,” the hunter, equipped with a high-powered weapon, camouflage clothing and other devices, pursues an unsuspecting animal.
The reason hunting has no future in this country is that the next generation of potential hunters will not accept these myths. The next generation understands that the slaughter of our precious wildlife is unethical and has no place in modern society.
Robert H. Aland
Winnetka, Ill., Sept. 29, 2010
01 October 2010
27 September 2010
(Philip E. Devine, "The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism," Philosophy 53 [October 1978]: 481-505, at 502 [footnote omitted])
20 September 2010
(H. J. McCloskey, "Some Arguments for a Liberal Society," Philosophy 43 [October 1968]: 324-44, at 330-1)
19 September 2010
01 September 2010
25 August 2010
Re “A Hen’s Space to Roost” (Week in Review, Aug. 15):
We are glad to see an article describing the intensive confinement of egg-laying chickens, but we disagree when it says that animal advocates and consumers are “driving big changes” in the treatment of chickens.
Thus far, the state ballot initiatives and agreements that will expand space for chickens (as well as for gestating pigs and veal calves) are really very minor. At most, chickens will be guaranteed room to spread their wings. They will still lack the freedom to engage in natural behaviors like foraging and nesting. Most will never know sunlight, breezes, plants or soil.
At our farm sanctuary, we see how much chickens rescued from factory farms delight in these experiences. Like humans, animals have a right to enjoy life.
Poughquag, N.Y., Aug. 15, 2010
The writers are co-founders of Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary.
20 August 2010
Re “A Hen’s Space to Roost” (Week in Review, Aug. 15):
I have one very simple piece of advice for consumers interested in higher-quality eggs from humanely treated chickens: stop buying eggs at the grocery store. I distribute locally produced, free-range eggs from my home to a small group of friends, but these kinds of eggs are widely available through farmers’ markets at prices that range from $2 to $3.50 a dozen.
The eggs we eat come from chickens that spend their days outside, scratching and eating grubs. In addition to allowing me to feel good about eating the fruits of their labor, they are the most delicious eggs—with shockingly rich, bright-yellow yolks—that have ever graced my lips. I’ll never go back.
La Crosse, Wis., Aug. 15, 2010
The writer is farm-to-school coordinator for the La Crosse County Health Department and a former W. K. Kellogg food and society policy fellow.
11 August 2010
Re “Disgusting but Not Illegal” (editorial, Aug. 2): We disagree with your contention that the First Amendment protects animal “crush” videos.
In United States v. Stevens, the Supreme Court last year overturned a 1999 law banning depictions of animal cruelty on the grounds of overbreadth. The justices were legitimately concerned that the law could impede valid speech. But they explicitly reserved judgment on a statute narrowly tailored to crush videos.
These videos, the subject of House legislation and of a bill that we plan to introduce, are beyond “disgusting”—and go beyond conventional conceptions of animal cruelty. They depict truly extreme forms of animal cruelty—often involving young women torturing small animals—and are created for the prurient interest of a small sick segment of society.
While all 50 states and the District of Columbia have animal cruelty laws, the anonymity of the perpetrators in the videos severely frustrates enforcement efforts, so we need to ban the sale of these videos.
We share your opposition to tinkering with the First Amendment. And the Supreme Court’s decision is a reminder of the importance of narrowly tailoring this legislation, but it has not determined that these crush videos constitute protected speech. We believe our new legislation will pass constitutional muster.
Washington, Aug. 5, 2010
The writers are United States senators.
01 August 2010
21 July 2010
In your July 12 editorial “A Humane Egg,” you disparage the modern, sanitary housing systems for egg-laying hens, which have improved chickens’ health and well-being, improved consumer food safety and kept eggs a nutritious and economical staple on kitchen tables and restaurant menus nationwide.
These modern systems allow hens to stand up, turn around, lie down and walk to clean water and nutritious food troughs. Groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association support these modern egg-laying housing systems.
The California law adds an arbitrary and unscientific requirement that chickens be prohibited from touching one another or the side of any enclosure. Yet there is no scientific proof that the requirement will improve chicken well-being or food safety.
The new law will cost American family farmers, and ultimately California consumers, hundreds of millions of dollars.
President, United Egg Producers
Alpharetta, Ga., July 13, 2010
To the Editor:
Today tens of thousands of American farmers don’t even own the livestock they raise, and the conditions they raise animals in are dictated to them by a handful of extremely powerful companies that are concerned only with the bottom line.
So while The Times is to be commended for continuing to highlight the many terrible aspects of factory farms, including inhumane confinement practices, let’s not forget that because of the extraordinary consolidation and vertical integration of American agriculture over the last 60-plus years, American farmers are enduring extraordinary suffering as well.
Inhumane confinement, illegal anticompetitive practices and factory farming hurt animals, the environment, the consumer, the public health and the farmer. Reversing the agricultural trends of the last half century is a policy area where almost everyone’s interests are aligned.
Brooklyn, July 12, 2010
12 July 2010
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 114)
The life of animals raised in confinement on industrial farms is slowly improving, thanks to pressure from consumers, animal rights advocates, farmers and legislators. In late June, a compromise was reached in Ohio that will gradually put an end to the tiny pens used for raising veal calves and holding pregnant sows, spaces so small the animals can barely move.
In California last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law requiring that all whole eggs sold in the state conform to the provisions of Proposition 2, the humane farming law that was embraced by state voters in a landslide in 2008. By 2015, every whole egg sold in the state must come from a hen that is able to stretch her wings, standing or lying, without touching another bird or the edges of her cage. This requirement would at least relieve the worst of the production horrors that are common in the industry now.
Since California does not produce all the eggs it eats, this new law will have a wider effect on the industry; every producer who hopes to sell eggs in the state must meet its regulations.
Heartening as these developments are, there is also strong resistance from the food industry and from fake consumer-advocacy groups that are shilling for it.
In fact, there is no justification, economic or otherwise, for the abusive practice of confining animals in spaces barely larger than the volume of their bodies. Animals with more space are healthier, and they are no less productive.
Industrial confinement is cruel and senseless and will turn out to be, we hope, a relatively short-lived anomaly in modern farming.
01 July 2010
12 June 2010
(J. J. C. Smart, "Ethics and Science," Philosophy 56 [October 1981]: 449-65, at 450 [footnotes omitted])
01 June 2010
01 May 2010
20 April 2010
05 April 2010
04 April 2010
01 April 2010
30 March 2010
Re “Animal Abuse as Clue to Additional Cruelties” (news article, March 18):
As someone who deals with dozens of cruelty-to-animals cases every week, I applaud states that are imposing stricter penalties on people who hurt animals and that are working to establish online registries of animal abusers.
Animal abusers are cowards who take their issues out on “easy victims”—and their targets often include their fellow humans. I cannot begin to say how many incidents I’ve seen involving animal abusers who commit violent acts against humans, and animal neglecters who have also neglected their children or other human dependents.
Treating cruelty to animals with the seriousness it deserves doesn’t only protect animals, it also makes the entire community safer.
Norfolk, Va., March 18, 2010
The writer is director of the Emergency Response Team, cruelty investigations department, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
04 March 2010
01 March 2010
22 February 2010
This film provides an accurate portrayal of small-scale, non-intensive animal farming. This is as humane as "humane farming" gets. One of the farmers interviewed says: "We give our pigs and our chickens many weeks of relatively happy life." The farmer fails to note that the natural lifespan of pigs is 11-15 years and the natural lifespan of chickens is 5-11 years, depending on breed. After watching the film, the viewer can decide whether giving these animals a few weeks of "a relatively happy life" is humane enough to justify taking these animals' lives for products that no one needs.
12 February 2010
06 February 2010
(Philip E. Devine, "The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism," Philosophy 53 [October 1978]: 481-505, at 491)
Note from KBJ: Devine's argument takes the following form:
1. Either the vegetarian argues on utilitarian grounds or the vegetarian argues on nonutilitarian grounds.The argument is valid (i.e., truth-preserving), and the first premise is true, but the second premise is false. Devine seems to think that if humans cease eating meat, they will derive no pleasure from eating. But not eating meat doesn't mean you get no pleasure from eating; it means, at most, that you get less pleasure from eating. Think of the difference between eating a hamburger and eating a veggie burger, for example. It is not as though the latter produces no pleasure! So the choice is between inflicting terrible pain and deprivation on animals and getting slightly less pleasure from eating. It's pretty clear that utilitarianism supports vegetarianism. Certainly Devine has not established that it does not.
2. If the vegetarian argues on utilitarian grounds, then vegetarianism is unsupported.
3. If the vegetarian argues on nonutilitarian grounds, then vegetarianism is unsupported.
4. Either vegetarianism is unsupported or vegetarianism is unsupported (from 1, 2, and 3, constructive dilemma).
5. Vegetarianism is unsupported (from 4, tautology).
05 February 2010
The basic difficulty is that the altruistic values that we acquire by social conditioning and perhaps by heredity are vague and open-ended. Primitively the premium is on kin, and primitively therefore the tribe in its isolation affords a bold boundary between the beneficiaries of one's altruism and the alien world. Nowadays the boundary has given way to gradations. Moreover, we are prone to extrapolate; extrapolation was always intrinsic to induction, that primitive propensity that is at the root of all science. Extrapolation in science, however, is under the welcome restraint of stubborn fact: failures of prediction. Extrapolation in morals has only our unsettled moral values themselves to answer to, and it is these that the extrapolation was meant to settle.
Today we unhesitatingly extrapolate our altruism beyond our close community. Most of us extend it to all mankind. But to what degree? One cannot reasonably be called upon to love even one's neighbor quite as oneself. Is love to diminish inversely as the square of the distance? Is it to extend, in some degree, to the interests of individuals belonging to other species than [our] own? As regards capricious killing, one hopes so; but what of vivisection, and of the eating of red meat?
One thinks also of unborn generations. Insofar as our moral standards were shaped by evolution for fostering the survival of the race, a concern for the unborn was assured. One then proceeds, however, as one will, to systematize and minimize one's ethical axioms by reducing some causally to others. This effort at system-building leads to the formulation and scrutiny of principles, and one is then taken aback by the seeming absurdity of respecting the interests of nonexistent people: of unactualized possibilities. This counter-revolutionary bit of moral rationalization is welcome as it touches population control, since the blind drive to mass procreation is now so counter-productive. But the gratification is short-lived, for the same rationalization would seem to condone a despoiling of the environment for the exclusive convenience of people now living.
It need not. A formulation is ready to hand which sustains the moral values that favor limiting the population while still safeguarding the environment. Namely, it is a matter of respecting the future interests of people now unborn, but only of future actual people. We recognize no present unactualized possibilities.
Thus we do what we can with our ultimate values, but we have to deplore the irreparable lack of the empirical check points that are the solace of the scientist. Loose ends are untidy at best, and disturbingly so when the ultimate good is at stake.
(W. V. Quine, "On the Nature of Moral Values," in Values and Morals: Essays in Honor of William Frankena, Charles Stevenson, and Richard Brandt, ed. Alvin I. Goldman and Jaegwon Kim [Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1978], 37-45, at 44-5 [italics in original])
01 February 2010
28 January 2010
17 January 2010
Re “More Perils of Ground Meat” (editorial, Jan. 10):
Instead of encouraging efforts to improve food safety, you demonize a company that had the courage to invest in innovative technology proved to be effective in reducing dangerous pathogens.
The American food safety system is the highest standard in the world, and our ground beef is the safest.
According to the most recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s FoodNet Data, there have been no significant increases in food-borne illness since 2005, and there were significant declines before then.
Furthermore, recent analysis by the Food Safety and Inspection Service for E. coli O157:H7 shows that in the last year the percent of positive raw ground beef samples has dropped from to 0.30 percent from 0.47 percent at federally inspected establishments.
Furthermore, where there was a modest increase detected in raw ground beef components, Beef Products Inc.’s rate of positives is well below industry averages (0.05 percent for 2009 versus 0.99 percent).
Food safety is the No. 1 goal of industry, government and consumers. Beef Products’ technology, which has been approved by both the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration—as is thoroughly set forth on its Web site—provides consumers safe products.
Director of Communications and Government Relations
National Meat Association
Oakland, Calif., Jan. 11, 2010
To the Editor:
I’ve been involved in beef safety research since college, and I don’t recognize the industry you’ve depicted in recent articles.
Your readers probably don’t realize how many different individuals—university researchers, lab technicians, quality assurance managers and so many others—work daily to bring safe beef to dinner tables across the country.
E. coli O157:H7 and other food-borne threats are tough, adaptable foes. But the people who raise and package beef share a commitment to aggressively finding and applying safety solutions that keep them out of our food.
Beef farmers and ranchers alone have invested more than $28 million since 1993 in beef safety research, and the industry as a whole invests an estimated $350 million a year on safety.
I know the people of the beef industry, and I’m proud of the work we do every day to provide safe food.
Mandy Carr Johnson
Executive Director of Research
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Centennial, Colo., Jan. 11, 2010
16 January 2010
As a historian or even an anthropologist, one could make the argument that being a vegetarian limits one's ability to understand other cultures. I, like you, am not a complete vegetarian. In fact, my diet is worse, but I do justify my eating habits. I refuse to eat pork, but eat grass-fed beef when I am making Persian food, and certain forms of chicken and lamb with other ethnic foods I consume. I also have a rule to eat any cultural food when I am traveling to another country or am a guest or have guests of people from another culture who eat food with meat. Food is such an important part of history. In many ways, it has a lot to do with defining one's culture. If a person is in a discipline in which he or she is attempting to understand a culture or wants to experience a culture, vegetarianism is nearly impossible. So, how you would respond a person like me who cares for animal welfare, consciously stays away from the worse meat he can, and eats it mostly for cultural reasons. When I do cook it (which is maybe once every two weeks), I try to be a responsible as possible.
Note from KBJ: Thanks for writing, Brad. Suppose you travel to a place in which cannibalism is practiced. Do you eat the human flesh served to you by your hosts? Suppose they eat feces, grubs, dirt, or vomit; do you partake? By your logic, you cannot understand them unless you do. And why limit it to food? There are other customs besides diet. Suppose your hosts offer you young women for sex, as occurred with Lewis and Clark. Can you possibly understand them if you refuse? What if it's customary to allow guests to torture or kill one of the tribe? Can you possibly understand them if you refuse? Some things, I think you will agree, are more important than understanding. In other words, there are moral limits to science, as to law.
10 January 2010
“Company’s Record on Treatment of Beef Is Called Into Question” (front page, Dec. 31):
Would the average American have believed that hamburgers were treated with ammonia to remove salmonella and E. coli (or, in many cases, not remove them)?
An earlier article recounted an E. coli outbreak traced to Cargill (“The Burger That Shattered Her Life,” front page, Oct. 4). It, too, traced, with a great deal of investigative reporting, the journey fat trimmings take through the meatpacking industry. This is not unlike what we hear from financial institutions trying to track (or not) derivatives. It’s like trying to grip mercury.
The United States Department of Agriculture has been broken for a long time, and it is clear that it cannot protect the American public from illness and death from contaminated meat products. How many more Americans must die before something is done?
Perhaps simplifying the whole process would eliminate the need for multiple inspections, saving the U.S.D.A. labor costs and saving the lives of hamburger lovers.
Why not add only ground fat belonging to the meat being ground? Period. No outside fat trimmings! Sounds too easy, doesn’t it?
Wayland, Mass., Dec. 31, 2009
To the Editor:
Let me see if I have this straight: We are now feeding our children stuff that used to be reserved for dog food, by treating it with ammonia, in order to save three cents a pound? Hey, why not just feed the little tykes dog food? I’m sure it would save even more money.
By the way, since we are using the former scraps (described as “pink slime” by one microbiologist) for people now, what are we feeding the dogs?
Mary Ellen Croteau
Chicago, Dec. 31, 2009
To the Editor:
In the United States Department of Agriculture’s dual, and often conflicting, roles as protector of consumers and promoter of agricultural products, it has once again made a clear choice.
By approving the revolting and often ineffective use of ammonia to sanitize the results of substandard meat processing, it has chosen the profits of big business over food safety for all Americans.
Instead of allowing companies to find ways to turn food a dog might reject into cheap human food, shouldn’t the U.S.D.A. concern itself with why there are E. coli and salmonella in our food supply in the first place?
Brooklyn, Jan. 2, 2010
To the Editor:
If you can smell a chemical in your food, it’s an ingredient.
Andrew L. Chang
Stanford, Calif., Jan. 1, 2010
To the Editor:
Your article gave a whole new meaning to “Where’s the Beef?”
Not in my mouth.
Phoenix, Jan. 1, 2010
Note from KBJ: Enjoy your hamburger.
07 January 2010
(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 110 [italics in original])
05 January 2010
01 January 2010
It has never been easier to try out a vegan diet. Today marks Day 1 of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. This 21-day program is designed for anyone who wants to explore and experience the health benefits of a vegan diet, and it's free! That's right, free! You can access the PCRM's 21-day meal plan, complete with delicious easy-to-prepare recipes, here. If you would like to receive, via email, daily e-tips to put you on the path to weight loss, better health, and greater well-being, you can register for the 21-Day Kickstart here. If you do register, a delicious, easy, and satisfying recipe will be emailed to you every day that will help you break your cravings for unhealthy foods. You will also receive weekly motivational nutrition webcasts featuring Dr. Neal Barnard, President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Elsewhere in this blog (see here, here, and here), I have written about ethical synergy, the regularly observed phenomenon that simultaneously showing respect for persons (including oneself), animals, and the environment typically benefits all three groups (including oneself). Switching to a cruelty-free vegan diet is yet another powerful example of ethical synergy at work. By not ingesting animals you will not only be refusing to support the unnecessary animal cruelty inherent in modern animal agriculture, you will be taking positive steps toward improving your health, eating right, and losing weight, steps much more likely to result in permanent weight loss and improved cardiovascular health than unhealthful fad diets that cannot be sustained for the long haul. You will also be dramatically reducing your carbon footprint, a boon for the environment! Eating vegan is good for you, good for animals, and good for the Earth. Now that's a New Year's Resolution we can all live with!
The Bottom Line: And this time I do mean BOTTOM line! Try the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. You have nothing to lose but your gut and your butt!