31 October 2005

Stuart Hampshire on the Inapplicability of Moral Terms to Animals and Infants

Moral terms are inapplicable to animals and infants, just because animals and infants are not language-users and do not entertain arguments or self-consciously make up their minds to act differently; we can train them and we may cause them to act in one way rather than another, but we cannot persuade them.

(Stuart Hampshire, “Freedom of the Will,” The Aristotelian Society, supplementary volume 25 [1951]: 161-78, at 165)

26 October 2005

Peter Singer on Vegetarianism and Absolutism

Vegetarianism is, for me, a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Whether we ought to be vegetarians depends on a lot of facts about the situation in which we find ourselves.

Some writers find this strange. They think of vegetarians as moral absolutists, who will stick to their belief in the immorality of eating meat no matter what. Thus Cora Diamond writes: “. . . one curious feature of the Peter Singer sort of argument . . . is that your Peter Singer vegetarian should be perfectly happy to eat the unfortunate lamb that has just been hit by a car.” Why is this curious? It is only curious on the assumption that vegetarians must think it always wrong to eat meat. No doubt some vegetarians are moral absolutists, just as there are absolute pacifists, absolute antiabortionists and absolutist truth-tellers who would never tell a lie. I reject all these forms of moral absolutism.

(Peter Singer, “Utilitarianism and Vegetarianism,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9 [summer 1980]: 325-37, at 327-8 [italics and ellipses in original; footnote omitted])

24 October 2005

Tom Regan on Factory Farming

Anyone writing on the topic of the treatment of animals must acknowledge an enormous debt to [Peter] Singer. Because of his work, as well as the pioneering work of Ruth Harrison, the gruesome details of factory farming are finding a place within the public consciousness. All of us by now know, or at least have had the opportunity to find out, that chickens are raised in incredibly crowded, unnatural environments; that veal calves are intentionally raised on an anemic diet, are unable to move enough even to clean themselves, are kept in the dark most of their lives; that other animals, including pigs and cattle, are being raised intensively in increasing numbers. Personally, I do not know how anyone pretending to the slightest sensitivity or powers of empathy can look on these practices with benign indifference or approval.

(Tom Regan, “Utilitarianism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9 [summer 1980]: 305-24, at 308-9 [footnote omitted])

12 October 2005


The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is using one of my essays without permission and without attribution. It's one thing to link to something that's posted on the Internet. It's another to reproduce it in its entirety without permission, especially when (1) I'm easily contacted and (2) I say, on my blog, that all material is copyrighted. Worst of all is that my name doesn't appear on the page. This is plagiarism, folks.

By the way, I repudiate the aims and methods of ALF. See here. The only method of belief revision and behavior modification I endorse is rational persuasion. I reject force, coercion, and manipulation.

May I ask a favor, dear reader? Please write to ALF to complain about its use of my essay without permission or attribution. Tell ALF that you will not support it until it does right by me. (This assumes that you might otherwise support it, which may not be the case.) I don't want to have to take legal action, but I will.

Addendum: I sent a copy of this post (together with a link) to ALF. The plagiarized page has been taken down. I'm glad to see that someone at ALF has a conscience (or perhaps a healthy fear of litigation). By the way, it's easy to find my essay on the Internet. All I have to do is copy and paste a string of words from the essay into Google, using quotation marks. Google will find any document that contains that string. As of this moment, all is well. I'll keep checking. It would give me a great deal of pleasure to sue the creeps at ALF, who have no respect for property rights.

Bear Farming

Sometimes people don't get their just deserts. Sometimes they do. See here for a case of the latter.

09 October 2005

Walter Woodburn Hyde on Porcine Justice

One of the most amusing cases of the trial of a domestic animal was that of a sow together with her six pigs at Savigny-sur-Etang, in Bourgogne, France, in January, 1457. The charge against her was murdering and partly devouring an infant. The sow was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, though her offspring, partly because of their youth and innocence and the fact that their mother had set them a bad example, but chiefly because proof of their complicity was not forthcoming, were pardoned.

(Walter Woodburn Hyde, “The Prosecution and Punishment of Animals and Lifeless Things in the Middle Ages and Modern Times,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 64 [1916]: 696-730, at 707 [footnote omitted])

06 October 2005


Here is an essay by one of my favorite writers, Wendell Berry.