31 October 2007

From the Mailbag

The inventor of the programming language LISP once proposed that the U.S. Declaration of Independence be debugged by adding a single syllable: change "equal, that" to "equal, in that." Abraham Lincoln made the same insert-an-“in" amendment (while changing the original spelling "unalienable" to "inalienable"). Details here.

Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

Note from KBJ: The expression "all men are created equal" is not an informative; it's a directive. It doesn't describe; it prescribes. It means the following: There are differences and there are differences; some differences make a moral difference and some do not; morally speaking, everyone is equal—in spite of our nonmoral differences (such as height, weight, age, sex, nationality, religion, skin color, and intelligence).

Note 2 from KBJ: Here is Peter Singer's essay "All Animals Are Equal." Singer is no fool, and neither was Thomas Jefferson. They knew that there are many differences among (respectively) animals and humans. What Singer is saying is that, in spite of their many and obvious differences, animals (including humans) have something morally relevant in common, namely, the capacity to suffer. (Actually, there may be some animals, such as insects, who lack this capacity.) Jefferson is saying that, in spite of their many and obvious differences, humans have something morally relevant in common, namely, possession of God-given rights.

30 October 2007

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Two Pigs” (The Rural Life, Oct. 25):

Thank you for another thoughtful piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg, who admirably makes the point that taking an animal’s life should not be a cavalier endeavor.

As a longtime vegan with three vegan-from-birth children, I would like to suggest that since vegetarians are generally healthier than meat eaters, there is no excuse for compassionate people to eat animals.

The American Dietetic Association, based on all the scientific evidence, states that vegetarians have “lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.”

There is no moral difference between eating a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken. For the same reason that most of us would not eat our pets, we should also not eat chickens, pigs or other animals.

John D. Borders Jr.
Louisville, Ky., Oct. 25, 2007

28 October 2007

From the Mailbag

Hi Keith,

I love your blog and have added it to my blogroll. It would be great if you could do the same for me :-)

My blog is www.animalblog.co.uk

All The Best

27 October 2007

Twenty Years Ago

10-27-87 Tuesday. I’m troubled by certain advertisements that have recently appeared on television. They’re apparently produced by the beef industry. The slogan is “Beef: Real Food for Real People”. I’ve seen two actors so far: James Garner and Cybill Shepherd. In the Garner ads, he talks about eating “real food” rather than vegetables and other fare, then sits back with a large, juicy steak. Music plays in the background. In the Shepherd ads, the setting is again Texas or someplace in the west. Men wear blue jeans and cowboy boots, while the women are dressed in traditional feminine clothing like dresses. The message of the ads is one of machismo, and specifically that only sissies and wimps eat vegetables and bread. The troubling thing is not that arguments are presented on behalf of beef-eating, but that they’re not. Instead, the beef industry has gone in for nonrational persuasion. The idea is to get viewers to associate beef with things that they already desire or value, such as hardiness, machismo, pretty women, and fast cars. Beef, they want us to believe, is part of a healthy and happy lifestyle. Needless to say, this is false, and if I get a chance to say it publicly, I will.

23 October 2007


Justice consists in giving each person his or her due. What do the culprits in this incident deserve?

22 October 2007


Vegetarianism is overdetermined. If all you care about is animals, you should be a vegetarian. If all you care about is the natural environment, you should be a vegetarian. If all you care about is yourself, you should be a vegetarian. If all you care about is human beings, you should be a vegetarian. If all you care about is your children, you should be a vegetarian.

21 October 2007

Twenty Years Ago

10-21-87 Wednesday. I had a nice discussion with Clark Wolf this afternoon. It ranged over music, politics, and philosophy, but the most interesting subject was how each of us came to discover and fall in love with philosophy. As I explained to Clark, I came at philosophy in an odd way. My original interest was narrow: animal rights. The book that started everything was Barry Holstun Lopez’s Of Wolves and Men [(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978); I finished reading this book on 28 December 1980]. That book exposed me to natural history (Aldo Leopold, Henry Beston, and Stephen Gould), wilderness (Roderick Nash), and moral philosophy (John Rodman and Peter Singer). Eventually these interests brought me to Joel Feinberg [1926-2004] and Tom Regan, and that opened up my philosophical world. After arriving at the University of Arizona to attend graduate school [in August 1983], my interests expanded even further, into other branches of philosophy. Now I’m interested in epistemology, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophy of language. The metaphor that I chose to describe this process is a zoom lens. Originally, I said, I was focused on animals. But gradually I’ve pulled back the lens and begun to explore or examine other subjects within what is conventionally known as philosophy.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “New Battle of Logging vs. Spotted Owls Looms in West” (news article, Oct. 18):

Saving old growth forest and spotted owls is wise for many reasons, including controlling infectious diseases. Owls, kestrels and hawks are guardians of the fields. Just as lacewings and dragonflies keep mosquito populations in check, birds of prey eat rodents that can carry Lyme-bearing ticks, hantavirus, plague bacteria and other ills.

Preservation of nature is not just an abstract aesthetic issue; our future depends on survival of things that fit.

Paul R. Epstein, M.D.
Boston, Oct. 18, 2007
The writer is associate director, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School.

12 October 2007

Dog Update

This past Monday, I wrote about my attempt to help an overheated dog. Two days later, during my next run, I noticed that both dogs, instead of just one, were moving about freely in the fenced yard. It made my day. Today, things were the same. It would be a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy to infer that my talking to the owner caused him to untie his dog, but it's possible that my intervention made a difference. Next time I see the man, I'm going to thank him. Or maybe I should leave well enough alone. What do you advise?

09 October 2007

08 October 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

It's still hot in North Texas. Today, while running in 84ยบ heat (and excessive humidity), I noticed a dog lying on a slab of concrete in someone's back yard. It looked as though the dog was lying in the shadow of a basketball backboard. When I got done with my 3.1-mile run, I was drenched in sweat. I walked a quarter of a mile to the house to inspect. Sure enough, there was a black dog (a pit bull) lying in the three-by-three-foot shadow cast by a backboard on the concrete. The dog was tied to something and had only the small shadow to stay out of the blistering sun. The dog's black hair was soaking up the sun's rays. When I approached the fence, I noticed two things: (1) the dog was panting profusely; and (2) there was no water bowl.

I knocked on the door. Realizing that I was poking my nose into a stranger's affairs, I apologized to the man who answered the door. "Please don't get mad at me," I said; "I wanted to see whether anyone was home." I pointed out that the dog was trying to avoid the sun's heat by following the shadow across the concrete. The man said, "My dogs is [sic] fine." I asked whether the dog had water. "My dogs is fine," he repeated. By this time he was walking with me around the house, to where the dog was. A second dog came running up to the fence. That one was untied. The black dog got up and approached. I pointed to the small shadow on the concrete and explained that the dog would begin to have convulsions if he or she got overheated. The man said, "My dogs is fine." He insisted that the dog had water, but I didn't see a bowl. I figured I had done enough and walked home.

The man was clearly upset with me. I knew this was going to happen, but I decided to risk injury to myself for the sake of the dog. Had I done nothing, I would have felt guilty. Now, because of the man's anger at my officiousness, I'm afraid. It was a no-win situation. What would you have done? Perhaps I should have gotten the house number and called the Humane Society or Fort Worth Animal Control. I considered this, but decided that nothing would be done. It was either go to the house personally, risking the owner's wrath, or do nothing. Can you believe that people are so cruel to their dogs? I only hope that I gave the man something to think about.

04 October 2007


I enthusiastically recommend these. You can buy them from Amazon.com or from any of these retailers.


Here is a profile of my friend and co-blogger Mylan Engel Jr. We went to graduate school together at the University of Arizona. I didn't like Mylan at the time, and I'm sure he didn't like me. Mylan worked in epistemology. I worked in ethics. Years later, after he had gone off to teach at Northern Illinois University and I had gone off to teach at the University of Texas at Arlington, we discovered that we had a shared interest in animal rights. I consider Mylan's essay "The Immorality of Eating Meat" the best thing I've read on the topic.

03 October 2007


On the relation between obesity and meat-eating, see here.

02 October 2007

From the Mailbag


We need your help. As you know, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is committed to protecting the lives of animals everywhere. But you may not know that we have filed a lawsuit against Mendes Calf Ranch for its violation of California animal cruelty laws.

The ranch is a facility that dairy producers use to house and raise newborn calves while their mothers are milked. The babies are taken soon after birth and shipped away to live in Mendes’s cramped, filthy crates with barely enough room to move.

Day after day, these calves live by themselves in crates so small they can’t even turn around or lie down naturally. They must contort their bodies even to stand in the small space, which is often covered with their own excrement. (Video footage here.)

While our lawsuit to stop this cruel practice is pending in court, there is more we can do for these animals right now. We need to reach Mendes through the people they’re most likely to listen to: their clients.

Major dairy producers Land O’Lakes and Challenge Dairy get their milk from calves confined at Mendes Calf Ranch. It’s time to let dairy corporations know that these practices are unnecessary—and unacceptable.

We’re launching the Free Baby Mendes campaign to mobilize consumers and animal lovers to sign on to a letter we’ll deliver to Land O’Lakes and Challenge Dairy. We hope that you can help us spread the word.

Would you be willing to post something on your site about the campaign?

Information about the campaign can be found here. Also available are Free Baby Mendes banners for your website here.

Together, we can make a difference for these cows—as we work to make sure that animal cruelty laws are taken seriously. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

April Nockleby
Animal Legal Defense Fund
170 East Cotati Avenue, Cotati, CA 94931
Phone: (707) 795-2533 • Fax: (707) 795-7280
E-mail: info@aldf.org • Web: www.aldf.org