To the Editor:
In “Where Cows Are Happy and Food Is Healthy” (column, Sept. 9), Nicholas D. Kristof describes “happy” cows that are loved “like children” by an organic dairy farmer. I applaud his recognition that cows are individual feeling beings that share with us the ability to experience happiness and contentment, fear and pain.
The article does, however, gloss over the undeniable fact that even cows with names produce milk only because they have recently given birth to calves who, if male, have been taken away from them. Consumers should consider that cows like Edie or Sophia are often fiercely protective, grieving mothers whose anguished cries the farmer undoubtedly heard as he removed their young.
The article also doesn’t mention the common practices of castrating male calves and amputating the horns of cows and calves, typically without any pain relief. Most cows are also forcibly impregnated, and the closely spaced pregnancies impose significant metabolic stress on cows.
Even at Bob Bansen’s dairy, food comes at the cost of animal welfare. It’s a safe bet that any glass of milk is from a grieving mother, named or unnamed, that will end up dying at the slaughterhouse.
INGRID E. NEWKIRK
President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va., Sept. 10, 2012
14 September 2012
In issuing its condemnation of established cultural practices, the rights view is not antibusiness, not antifreedom of the individual, not antiscience, not antihuman. It is simply projustice, insisting only that the scope of justice be seen to include respect for the rights of animals. To protest against the rights view that justice applies only to moral agents, or only to human beings, and that we are within our rights when we treat animals as renewable resources, or replaceable receptacles, or tools, or models, or things—to protest in these terms is not to meet the challenge the rights view places before those who would reject it. On the contrary, it is unwittingly to voice the very prejudices it has been the object of the present work to identify and refute.
But prejudices die hard, all the more so when, as in the present case, they are insulated by widespread secular customs and religious beliefs, sustained by large and powerful economic interests, and protected by the common law. To overcome the collective entropy of these forces-against-change will not be easy. The animal rights movement is not for the faint of heart. Success requires nothing less than a revolution in our culture's thought and action. . . . How we change the dominant misconception of animals—indeed, whether we change it—is to a large extent a political question. Might does not make right; might does make law. Moral philosophy is no substitute for political action. Still, it can make a contribution. Its currency is ideas, and though it is those who act—those who write letters, circulate petitions, demonstrate, lobby, disrupt a fox hunt, refuse to dissect an animal or to use one in "practice surgery," or are active in other ways—though these are the persons who make a mark on a day-to-day basis, history shows that ideas do make a difference. Certainly it is the ideas of those who have gone before—the Salts, the Shaws, and more recent thinkers—who have helped move the call for the recognition of animal rights, in the words of Mill that serve as this book's motto, past the stage of ridicule to that of discussion. It is to be hoped that the publication of this book will play some role in advancing this great movement, the animal rights movement, toward the third and final stage—the stage of adoption. To borrow words used in a different context by the distinguished American photographer Ansel Adams, "We are on the threshold of a new revelation, a new awakening. But what we have accomplished up to this time must be multiplied a thousandfold if the great battles are to be joined and won."
Posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson at 6:36 PM
09 September 2012
As we mentioned, Kant restricts having intrinsic value or being an end in itself to rational beings, but it is difficult to see why this should be so. Surely any sentient or conscious being has states that matter to it in a positive or negative way—pleasure matters to an animal in a positive way, pain or fear in a negative way. Since it can value what happens to it, it has intrinsic value. Given the logic of morality, we should extend our moral attention to those states that matter to it when our actions affect that being. So what if it can’t reason?—not all or even most of our moral attention focuses on reason vis a vis people. Most of it in fact focuses on feeling, on not hurting people physically or mentally, or helping them be happy or escape from suffering. So if human beings are ends in themselves, why not animals, since they too have feelings and goals that they value?
(Bernard E. Rollin, "Reasonable Partiality and Animal Ethics," Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 [April 2005]: 105-21, at 117)
Posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson at 5:15 PM
08 September 2012
To the Editor:
Your reporting on the illegal ivory trade (“Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits,” “The Price of Ivory” series, front page, Sept. 4) is a chilling reminder of just how high the stakes have become today for elephants in the wild.
Our experience on the ground confirms your reporting that this trade is increasingly tied to organized crime. Money for greater local enforcement is now the most pressing need to combat poachers and the armed wildlife trade syndicates to which they are increasingly linked.
This holds true whether it is in the Democratic Republic of Congo or right here in New York City, where Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, recently prosecuted two jewelers selling illegally obtained ivory with a combined retail value of more than $2 million.
Unless we start taking wildlife crime seriously and allocate the resources necessary to tackle a sophisticated and well-financed global criminal network, elephants and other charismatic species will continue their tragic slide into oblivion.
ELIZABETH L. BENNETT
Jeju, South Korea, Sept. 4, 2012
Jeju, South Korea, Sept. 4, 2012
The writer is vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson at 4:25 PM
06 September 2012
All that the rights view prohibits is science that violates individual rights. If that means that there are some things we cannot learn, then so be it. There are also some things we cannot learn by using humans, if we respect their rights. The rights view merely requires moral consistency in this regard.
Posted by Keith Burgess-Jackson at 6:44 PM