31 July 2007

Factory Farming

Here is a New York Times editorial opinion about factory farming. I have added the Factory Farm Map to the blogroll.

From the Mailbag


My name is Chad and I am working with the easy-to-understand explanations web site HowStuffWorks.com. The site recently posted a section called “How Dog Fighting Works” in response to the Michael Vick court case. “How Dog Fighting Works” is a look into the illegal sport of dog fighting and gives readers information on the issues and its effects. Also readers can find other information on the history of the sport, dog fighting laws, and links to other articles about dogs and pet care. You can find the article here. I think it would be great if you could link this website on your blog so that your readers can get more information on this topic.

Chad Davis

30 July 2007

W. D. Ross (1877-1971) on Animal Rights

A general discussion of right or duty would hardly be com­plete without some discussion, even if only a brief one, of the closely related subject of rights. It is commonly said that rights and duties are correlative, and it is worth while to inquire whether and, if at all, in what sense this is true. The statement may stand for any one, or any combination, of the following logically independent statements:
(1) A right of A against B implies a duty of B to A.
(2) A duty of B to A implies a right of A against B.
(3) A right of A against B implies a duty of A to B.
(4) A duty of A to B implies a right of A against B.
What is asserted in (1) is that A's having a right to have a certain individual act done to him by B implies a duty for B to do that act to A; (2) asserts the converse implication; what is meant by (3) is that A's having a right to have a certain act done to him by B implies a duty for A to do another act to B, which act may be either a similar act (as where the right of having the truth told to one implies the duty of telling the truth) or a different sort of act (as where the right to obedience implies the duty of governing well); (4) asserts the converse implication.

Of these four propositions the first appears to be unquestion­ably true; a right in one being against another is a right to treat or be treated by that other in a certain way, and this plainly implies a duty for the other to behave in a certain way. But there is a certain consideration which throws doubt on the other three propositions. This arises from the fact that we have duties to animals and to infants. The latter case is complicated by the fact that infants, while they are not (so we commonly believe) actual moral agents, are potential moral agents, so that the duty of parents, for instance, to support them may be said to be counterbalanced by a duty which is not incumbent on the infants at the time but will be incumbent on them later, to obey and care for their parents. We had better therefore take the less complicated case of animals, which we commonly suppose not to be even potential moral agents.

It may of course be denied that we have duties to animals. The view held by some writers is that we have duties concerning animals but not to them, the theory being that we have a duty to behave humanely to our fellow men, and that we should behave humanely to animals simply for fear of creating a disposition in ourselves which will make us tend to be cruel to our fellow men. Professor D. G. Ritchie, for instance, implies that we have not a duty to animals except in a sense like that in which the owner of an historic house may be said to have a duty to the house. Now the latter sense is, I suppose, purely metaphorical. We may in a fanciful mood think of a noble house as if it were a conscious being having feelings which we are bound to respect. But we do not really think that it has them. I suppose that the duty of the owner of an historic house is essentially a duty to his contemporaries and to posterity; and he may also think it is a duty to his ancestors. On the other hand, if we think we ought to behave in a certain way to animals, it is out of consideration primarily for their feelings that we think we ought to behave so; we do not think of them merely as a practising-ground for virtue. It is because we think their pain a bad thing that we think we should not gratuitously cause it. And I suppose that to say we have a duty to so-and-so is the same thing as to say that we have a duty, grounded on facts relating to them, to behave in a certain way towards them.

Now if we have a duty to animals, and they have not a duty to us (which seems clear, since they are not moral agents), the first and last of our four propositions cannot both be true, since (4) implies that a duty of men to animals involves a right of men against animals, and (1) implies that this involves a duty of animals to men, and therefore (4) and (1) together imply that a duty of men to animals involves a duty of animals to men. And since the first proposition is clearly true, the fourth must be false; it cannot be true that a duty of A to B necessarily involves a right of A against B. Similarly, the second and third propositions cannot both be true; for (2) and (3) taken together imply that a duty of men to animals involves a duty of animals to men. But here it is not so clear which of the two propositions is true; for it is not clear whether we should say that though we have a duty to animals they have no right against us, or that though they have a right against us they have no duty to us. If we take the first view, we are implying that in order to have rights, just as much as in order to have duties, it is necessary to be a moral agent. If we take the second view, we are implying that while only moral agents have duties, the possession of a nature capable of feeling pleasure and pain is all that is needed in order to have rights. It is not at all clear which is the true view. On the whole, since we mean by a right something that can be justly claimed, we should probably say that animals have not rights, not because the claim to humane treatment would not be just if it were made, but because they cannot make it. But the doubt which we here find about the application of the term 'rights' is characteristic of the term. There are other ways too in which its application is doubtful. Even if we hold that it is our duty not merely to do what is just to others but to promote their welfare beyond what justice requires, it is not at all clear that we should say they have a right to beneficent treatment over and above what is just. We have a tendency to think that not every duty incumbent on one person involves a right in another.

(W. D. Ross, The Right and the Good [1930; repr., Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988], 48-50 [italics in original; footnote omitted])

Mandatory Sterilization

Should there be a law that mandates spaying and neutering of dogs and cats? See here for Verlyn Klinkenborg's column.

29 July 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “States Try to Weigh Safety With Dog Owners’ Rights” (news article, July 23):

Any law that deems a dog as dangerous or vicious based on appearance, breed or phenotype is unfair and discriminatory. Canine temperaments are widely varied, and behavior cannot be predicted by physical features. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

As an organization comprising dog trainers, behaviorists and other animal professionals, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers is aware that any dog can bite, any dog can maim and any dog can kill. A dangerous or vicious dog is a product of a combination of individual genetics, upbringing, socialization and lack of proper training.

Designating certain breeds as inherently dangerous implies to the public that behavior is not effectively influenced (positively or negatively), by training, and also encourages the faulty perception of other breeds as being inherently safe.

The solution to preventing dog bites is the education of owners, breeders and the general public about aggression prevention through selection, socialization and training.

Richard Spencer
Executive Director, Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Greenville, S.C., July 24, 2007

Note from KBJ: Pit bulls and Rottweilers account for the vast majority of dog bites, including the most serious ones. See here. Are we to ignore this fact in order to avoid the charge of "discrimination"? It seems to me that discrimination against pit bulls and Rottweilers is eminently justified.

28 July 2007

Another Leap Forward for Mankind

Science per se is neither good nor bad. It all depends on how it is used. What do you think of this use?

25 July 2007


Here is a New York Times story about the use of animals for food. By the way, all of my donations are to organizations that care for animals. Is that speciesist?

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

For ‘Animal Precinct,’ Reality Subject to Dispute” (news article, July 23) missed the entire point of comprehensive animal welfare: that effective animal welfare requires both response and prevention. Response is what our humane law enforcement officers do; the prevention aspect is then taken care of by the other resources of the A.S.P.C.A., be they medical, behavioral, placement or training and education so that, in the long run, the cycle of cruelty to animals is broken.

The real story here is our tireless commitment to fighting animal cruelty. We constantly stretch our limited resources to save lives as a nonprofit organization. We would welcome greater public support for our programs, which set a shining example for animal welfare across the nation.

Edwin Sayres
President and Chief Executive
New York, July 23, 2007

From the Mailbag

Hey there-

I thought you might be interested in letting your readers know about the site we just created to start an organized boycott of Nike until they drop Vick's lucrative endorsement deal.

What Vick did to those dogs is sickening, and the fact that Nike continues to sell products with Vick's name is even more disgusting.

We just launched the site this afternoon and are hoping it will really take off.

Let me know if you would like any more information or if you think you could post something on this.

rusty trump

24 July 2007

Rattus Rattus

Here is a New York Times story about the lowly rat. (I'm being facetious. Rats have feelings, just as you do.) Do you suppose stories such as this will change people's attitudes toward rats? If so, will that make experimentation on them less likely?

23 July 2007

From the Mailbag

To whom it may concern,

Please consider posting a link on your Web site to this Orange County Register Morning Read story on feral cats that are taught to be good citizens by being cared for by foster families.

Julie Anne Ines
News Assistant
Orange County Register

The Abolitionist Approach

Here is Gary Francione's new web site. I will add it to the blogroll.

19 July 2007

It's Back! The Horror of Horse Slaughter in DeKalb

Think of your favorite horror film: A brutal ruthless killer is on the loose, slashing hapless innocent victims to death right and left. After witnessing hours if not days of senseless killing, someone finally musters the courage to take on the killer and delivers what has to be a devastating blow. The vicious villain has finally been destroyed, once and for all. We relax and let out a sigh of relief, and just as we let our guard down, the wicked monster suddenly reemerges (from the flames or the lake or the bathtub or the earth itself) to kill again and again.

In DeKalb, Illinois, that monster is Cavel International, the only remaining plant in the U.S. that slaughters horses for human consumption. Since it is illegal to sell horse meat for human consumption in the U.S., you might wonder how it is that Cavel has been able to brutally slaughter horses for human consumption right here in the U.S. The answer is the proverbial loophole. One can't kill horses for human consumption within the U.S., but that leaves open the possibility of slaughtering horses for human consumption abroad. Cavel, a Belgian company, kills horses in Illinois for export to Europe.

In response to citizen outrage over horses being slaughtered in Illinois, the Illinois legislature decided to tie off the loophole for good by passing House Bill 1711. This bill amends the Illinois Horse Meat Act by banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption and also banning the possession, import or export of horse meat for human consumption. On May 24, Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the bill into law. Finally, the vicious killer, Cavel International, would have to close its doors for good. Illinoisans breathed a collective sigh of relief.

But with millions of dollars on the line, the killer Cavel wouldn't be dispatched so easily. Less than 24 hours later, Cavel was back—this time in court seeking an injunction to prevent the new law from taking effect on the grounds that it interferes with international commerce. [Apparently, Belgian citizens must have a say regarding what businesses can be engaged in in the state of Illinois!] Numerous court motions and counter-motions ensued. [A timeline of these legal proceedings is available here.] Then, on July 5, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala ruled that the new law was constitutional and violated no state or federal laws and ordered Cavel to close down its operations permanently. A dagger straight to the heart of Cavel. At long last, the monster was dead.

Or so we thought! [See the Northern Star story "Cavel's Doors Closed Forever" here, and see my post of two days ago.] Sadly, the horror continues. On July 16, Cavel appealed Judge Kapala's ruling. Yesterday, the federal appeals court granted an injunction allowing Cavel to resume killing horses in its DeKalb facility while it awaits a final decision on its appeal of the amended Illinois Horse Meat Act. [See this Daily Chronicle story for details.] The Daily Chronicle quotes Cavel Manager Jim Tucker as saying that the plant "will be operating soon." It's unclear when the appellate court will rule on the case, but since no court date has even been set yet, it will probably be weeks if not months before the final ruling is made. While we wait for the ruling, hundreds of innocent horses will be killed in true horror-film fashion—their heads smashed by captive-bolt pistols, their throats slit by the slashing knives of Cavel employees. You can learn more about the harsh realities of horse slaughter here and here. An 8-minute film documenting the horror of perfectly healthy horses being slaughtered for no good reason can be viewed here.

Freddy Krueger and Alien have nothing on Cavel. The only difference is: Cavel's victims are real.

Dog Fighting

Is there anything creepier than dog fighting? How could someone support, much less organize, such a vile practice? Dogs evolved with humans. They are our trusted friends and companions. To train them to fight one another, and then to kill the losers of these fights, is barbaric beyond words. Michael Vick should be punished to the full extent of the law if he is convicted of the charges filed against him. I also hope that the National Football League banishes him. I'm tempted to say that the man is sick, but that would exculpate him. He's vicious.

17 July 2007

Horse Slaughter No More

For several years, conscientious U.S. citizens have been struggling to bring an end to the inhumane practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption. Happily, that struggle is finally over. As reported in this Northern Star story, on July 5, 2007, Cavel International, the last remaining horse slaughterhouse operating in America, was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala to close down its operations permanently. For previous posts on the ethical issues surrounding the slaughtering of horses for human consumption, see here, here, and here. Additional AP stories about the forced closing of Cavel International are available here and here.

07 July 2007

From the Mailbag

Dear Keith,

I have discovered this essay by David Oderberg called "The Illusion of Animal Rights."

I thought that you may be interested in it.

Paul Barnes

05 July 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Don’t Cry Over rBST Milk,” by Henry I. Miller (Op-Ed, June 29):

Monsanto’s genetically engineered hormone has not held up to scrutiny. When recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH; also known as rBST) is used, it elevates levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 in milk, which has been linked to increased risk of breast, prostate and other cancers. No wonder rBGH has been banned in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Seventy-four percent of Americans are concerned about negative long-term health effects from rBGH, while Starbucks, Publix and Safeway supermarkets and others have refused to use rBGH in many locations.

I dispute Dr. Miller’s assertion that rBGH-injected cows can help reduce milk prices. The only national study on the subject contradicts his claims. Farms using rBGH are likely to use more grain, water, fuel, emit more greenhouse gases and spend more on feed and other inputs, offsetting any economic gains.

Dr. Miller’s argument distracts from the real concerns over rBGH. Consumers are right to be wary; rBGH threatens to undermine the safety of nature’s most perfect food.

Andrew Kimbrell
Executive Director
Center for Food Safety
Washington, June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Henry I. Miller argues that we should “embrace” the use of bovine growth hormone (rBST) in order to feed people more cheaply, save the environment and so on. He characterizes opponents of rBST as “cynical,” but I read Dr. Miller’s arguments as cynical.

I have no idea if rBST is safe. But I do know that the dairy industry and its lobbyists do not want to require labeling milk produced with rBST. In fact, they are so intent on reducing information available to consumers that they are lobbying to prevent dairies from labeling their milk as “rBST-free”!

There’s good reason for cynicism.

George Entenman
Chapel Hill, N.C., June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Henry I. Miller’s Op-Ed article provides a welcome breath of fresh air.

Anticorporate activists have campaigned against this and other ag biotech products for years in denial of the demonstrated environmental, economic and health benefits. It is most welcome to see the facts finally given some exposure.

The data speak to a clear reality: If we are to meet the challenges of feeding and clothing a growing population in the 21st century without totally despoiling the planet, we will need all the tools we can find.

Biotech is already making huge contributions toward meeting these challenges, and more to follow. There is in reality no greener approach than biotechnology.

L. Val Giddings
Silver Spring, Md., June 29, 2007
The writer, a consultant, was vice president for agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group, from 1997 to 2005.

To the Editor:

I read in horror Henry I. Miller’s latest recommendation for biotechnology in food. Is this really the conversation we want to be having about nutrition—how to pump cows full of even more chemicals to keep up with our ravenous, fat-laden diets?

Dairy is the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the American diet. It is also full of cholesterol and hormones (natural and otherwise). Trying to make unhealthy foods cheaper by genetically modifying them is absolutely the wrong direction to be moving.

How about spending all that time, energy and money on something productive, like figuring out how to get fatty foods out of the American diet and replaced with whole real fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.

It would make my life as a dietitian a lot easier.

Susan Levin
Washington, June 29, 2007

To the Editor:

Urging more hormone injection of cows to increase milk production is backward. It suggests there’s a milk shortage. The United States has long vastly overproduced milk. In recent years, the government accumulated a $1 billion stockpile of powdered milk from excess production.

Consumers want less use of drugs and chemicals in milk production, not more, as shown by skyrocketing organic milk purchases. Such hormones may increase the risk of breast, colon and gastrointestinal cancers, according to a University of Illinois study.

In cows, the hormones have been shown to increase lameness, udder infections and bone cancer. Europe and Canada outlawed using hormones on dairy cows because of such human and animal health concerns.

Increasing rBST milk would just move food production in the wrong direction.

Bill Niman
Nicolette Hahn Niman
Bolinas, Calif., June 29, 2007
The writers are cattle ranchers.

To the Editor:

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s article about the benefits of rBST is correct and thoughtful. Sustainable agricultural in the future, of necessity, will be largely sustainable intensive agriculture—an agriculture that produces more (and often better) food, fiber and fuel on a smaller environmental footprint.

Dr. Miller has clearly stated the evidence that shows rBST to be part of sustainable agriculture: more milk that is identical to all other milk, produced by fewer cows with reduced environmental impacts.

As a society, we can make sensible choices to promote sustainable agriculture. Choosing rBST is one such sensible choice.

Drew L. Kershen
Norman, Okla., June 29, 2007
The writer, a law professor, collaborated with Dr. Miller on a published article in Nature Biotechnology and on a book chapter several years before the published article in Nature Biotechnology.

To the Editor:

What parent or teacher has not noticed that girls are maturing far earlier than they used to? Years are being stolen from their childhoods. These added years will extend the time their bodies deal with adult hormones.

There is as yet no medical research showing the cost of several extra years of hormones flooding the system. Since this is a new phenomenon in our lives, we can’t know the ultimate costs to our children.

But for Henry I. Miller to write blithely of the benefits of rBST to farmers, and to Monsanto, without considering the effects on our children is shortsighted at best. If the Food and Drug Administration chooses to value benefits to business above the health of our children, we should at least be informed of its decision.

Label the milk that is rBST produced. Place obvious labels, and then let parents choose the milk they deem best for their children.

Sally E. Carp
Staten Island, June 29, 2007

04 July 2007

Food Labeling

It's outrageous that powerful industries, such as the beef industry, are able to prevent labeling of food to show where it originated. Consumers have a right to know not only the nutritional value (if any) of the foods they eat, and not only whether it was organically produced, but where it originated. See here for a New York Times editorial opinion on this topic. One way for meat-eaters to send a message to the beef industry is to stop consuming beef.

02 July 2007


Here is a New York Times editorial opinion about the house cat.

From the Mailbag

Dear Keith,

I work with Wesleyan University Professor Scott Plous (founder of Social Psychology Network), and I'm writing to let you know of a new web site related to animal protection.

The site uses a unique interactive technology to offer "human-like" interviews that probe the ethical dimensions of diet and lifestyle choices. This probing often leads people to examine their own practices and to better understand the choices made by others.

Please stop by for a visit, take the interview as a meat eater to see how it works (regardless of whether you eat meat), and consider adding a link to eInterview.org from your web site. You are also welcome to contact Professor Plous for further information.

With kind regards,

Jen Spiller
Wesleyan University