26 February 2005

Paul W. Taylor on Biocentrism

When a life-centered view is taken, the obligations and responsibilities we have with respect to the wild animals and plants of the Earth are seen to arise from certain moral relations holding between ourselves and the natural world itself. The natural world is not there simply as an object to be exploited by us, nor are its living creatures to be regarded as nothing more than resources for our use and consumption. On the contrary, wild communities of life are understood to be deserving of our moral concern and consideration because they have a kind of value that belongs to them inherently. Just as we would think it inappropriate to ask, What is a human being good for? because such a question seems to assume that the value or worth of a person is merely a matter of being useful as a means to some end, so the question, What is a wilderness good for? is likewise considered inappropriate from the perspective of a biocentric outlook. The living things of the natural world have a worth that they possess simply in virtue of their being members of the Earth’s Community of Life. Such worth does not derive from their actual or possible usefulness to humans, or from the fact that humans find them enjoyable to look at or interesting to study.

(Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986], 12-3)

25 February 2005

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

I suppose we think it's bizarre that a century ago women wore dead birds on their hats and it was considered the height of fashion (Editorial Observer, Feb. 22). Yet look around, and you'll find women strutting down the avenue wrapped in the skins of dead mammals. The brutal feather trade is gone, but the brutal fur trade lives on.

Jane Shakman
Ossining, N.Y., Feb. 22, 2005
The writer is grass-roots coordinator, Westchester Animal Rights Activists.

24 February 2005

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Testing New Ban, Britons Run With the Hounds" (front page, Feb. 20):

Likening the ban on fox hunting with dogs in Britain to the end of a tradition should in no way mitigate the barbarity of this practice.

Just as slavery was once a tradition whose abolition was decried by many, so, too, is the vicious fox hunt another tradition that the world could surely do without.

Matthew A. MacDonald
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Feb. 20, 2005

Addendum: One of my readers sent a link to this.

23 February 2005

Healthy Living NYC

Here is a site that should be of interest to readers of this blog.

19 February 2005


Tom Chatt is rethinking his diet. See here.

18 February 2005

Billy J's Benevolence

Here is Billy J's post on the morality of eating animals.

14 February 2005


Many readers will not like my saying this, but there is more rationalization about meat-eating than about any other topic. I say that without the slightest exaggeration. I believe meat-eating violates most people’s moral principles, but they conspire in various ways to keep this uncomfortable fact from themselves. Why? Because they enjoy the taste of meat. That fact—taste—drives everything.

If animals matter at all, morally speaking, they win. Think about it. If animal suffering has any weight on the moral scale (i.e., if it weighs more than nothing), it outweighs your taste preferences. To hide this ugly fact, people pretend that animal suffering has no moral weight. Some people, such as RenĂ© Descartes, have gone further and denied that animals are capable of suffering. Descartes said that animals are elaborately constructed (by God) robots: bĂȘtes machines. But you don’t think that. You know that cows and pigs are subjected to horrible suffering to produce the flesh you so happily consume. Why does this suffering not matter to you? Do you live with a dog or a cat? Does your dog’s or cat’s suffering matter, morally? Why should one animal’s suffering matter morally but not another’s? Isn’t that like saying that white suffering counts for more than black suffering? The fact that you’re not inclined to eat your dog or cat, but are inclined to eat cows and pigs, doesn’t show that the suffering of cows and pigs doesn’t matter. It shows that you’re putting your own trivial interests ahead of their basic interests.

Don’t rail out at me. Don’t displace blame for your actions. Take responsibility for your actions. Live up to your moral principles, one of which, I assume, is that it’s wrong to inflict suffering on others. This means that unless there is a good moral reason to inflict suffering, it’s wrong to do so. Your taste preferences are not moral considerations. Saying that they are, or thinking that they are, is a rationalization. And even if your taste preferences have some moral weight, it is easily outweighed by animal suffering. To see this, suppose you had a taste for human flesh. How much human suffering would that justify?

12 February 2005

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Your Feb. 6 editorial "What Meat Means" indicts the United States meat industry in an outrageous manner.

Worker safety guidelines developed in 1990 by the American Meat Institute, in collaboration with government and union officials, have reduced injury and illness rates by two-thirds. Days lost due to work-related injuries dropped 220 percent.

Line speeds are a function of engineering assessments that assure that tasks can be safely performed in a prescribed period of time. That injury rates have been declining for a decade demonstrates that staffing levels are appropriate.

Meat packing has been a gateway industry for new Americans. That's because meat jobs pay more than twice the minimum wage and offer generous benefits, making these jobs highly desirable.

Department of Agriculture data show that bacteria on meat and poultry have declined substantially over the last decade. Those gains would not be possible if our systems are antiquated, as your editorial suggests.

J. Patrick Boyle
President and Chief Executive
American Meat Institute
Washington, Feb. 8, 2005

11 February 2005

Singer the Teacher

One of my readers sent a link to this story about Peter Singer.

Twenty-Four and Counting

It's been 24 years—more than half my life—since I ate red meat. No cow, pig, sheep, or deer has suffered or died on my account.

09 February 2005


As I wrote the other day, vegetarianism is overdetermined. That is to say, there are multiple individually sufficient reasons to abstain from meat. If you care about animals, you should abstain from meat. If you care about the natural environment, you should abstain from meat. If you care about other human beings, you should abstain from meat. If you care about yourself, you should abstain from meat. See here for the book that demonstrates the adverse health effects of meat-eating. You can be sure that the meat industries will not like it. (Thanks to Khursh Acevedo for the link.)

06 February 2005


We already knew that the editors of The New York Times are twisted. This proves it. The editors care far more about overworked humans (poor babies!) than about the animals those workers slice to pieces (sometimes while alive).

02 February 2005

Boxing Chickens

Now I know why he's called Mike Tyson. (Thanks to Mylan Engel for the link.)