02 December 2012


Here is an interesting story about the evolutionary value of a meat-based diet.


This blog had 2,797 visits during November, which is an average of 93.2 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 98.7.

28 November 2012


I began this blog nine years ago today. (Here is the first post.) In that time, there have been 245,434 visits, which is an average of 27,270.4 visits per year and 74.6 visits per day. My posting has slowed considerably, but I hope the archive is of use to students (no plagiarism, please!) and anyone else who is interested in the moral status of nonhuman animals.

01 November 2012


This blog had 2,784 visits during October, which is an average of 89.8 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 89.2.

24 October 2012

From the Mailbag

Dear Professor Burgess-Jackson,

I'm a great admirer of your animal ethics blog, which I've found to be an invaluable resource. I just wanted to share a link to Gary Francione's recent philosophy bites podcast. An interesting debate has taken place in the comments section regarding Francione's (mis)interpretation of Peter Singer—hope it will be of interest!

best regards,
Spencer Lo

01 October 2012


This blog had 2,378 visits during September, which is an average of 79.2 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 73.3.

17 September 2012

From Today's New York Times

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.

President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va., Sept. 10, 2012

14 September 2012

Tom Regan on the Animal-Rights Movement

Tom ReganIn 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."

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 399-400 [ellipsis added] [first edition published in 1983])

09 September 2012

Bernard E. Rollin on Animals as Ends

Bernard E. RollinAs 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)

08 September 2012

From Today's New York Times

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.

Jeju, South Korea, Sept. 4, 2012

The writer is vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Note from KBJ: I take it that rats are not a "charismatic species."

06 September 2012

Tom Regan on the Use of Animals in Science

Tom ReganAll 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.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 388 [first edition published in 1983])

01 September 2012


This blog had 1,803 visits during August, which is an average of 58.1 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 53.4.

24 August 2012

Tom Regan on Wild Animals

Tom ReganWith regard to wild animals, the general policy recommended by the rights view is: let them be! Since this will require increased human intervention in human practices that threaten rare or endangered species (e.g., halting the destruction of natural habitat and closer surveillance of poaching, with much stiffer fines and longer prison sentences), the rights view sanctions this intervention, assuming that those humans involved are treated with the respect they are due. Too little is not enough.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 361 [italics in original] [first edition published in 1983])

21 August 2012

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Some in California Skirt a Ban on Foie Gras” (news article, Aug. 13) might give readers the impression that California chefs are free to serve foie gras as a complimentary side dish and so evade the state ban on sales.

Not so. When a diner pays money to a restaurant with the expectation that he or she will receive foie gras and then is served the dish, that constitutes a sale. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauds the efforts of those district attorneys and animal control officers who are enforcing the law against those few chefs who continue to flout it.

Foie gras is the diseased liver of ducks or geese that have been force-fed through pipes shoved down their throats. PETA urges everyone to avoid this product of cruelty to animals.

Counsel, PETA Foundation
Norfolk, Va., Aug. 13, 2012

15 August 2012

Tom Regan on Endangered Species

Tom ReganThe rights view is not opposed to efforts to save endangered species. It only insists that we be clear about the reasons for doing so. On the rights view, the reason we ought to save the members of endangered species of animals is not because the species is endangered but because the individual animals have valid claims and thus rights against those who would destroy their natural habitat, for example, or who would make a living off their dead carcasses through poaching and traffic in exotic animals, practices that unjustifiably override the rights of these animals. But though the rights view must look with favor on any attempt to protect the rights of any animal, and so supports efforts to protect the members of endangered species, these very efforts, aimed specifically at protecting the members of species that are endangered, can foster a mentality that is antagonistic to the implications of the rights view. If people are encouraged to believe that the harm done to animals matters morally only when these animals belong to endangered species, then these same people will be encouraged to regard the harm done to other animals as morally acceptable. In this way people may be encouraged to believe that, for example, the trapping of plentiful animals raises no serious moral question, whereas the trapping of rare animals does. This is not what the rights view implies. The mere size of the relative population of the species to which a given animal belongs makes no moral difference to the grounds for attributing rights to that individual animal or to the basis for determining when that animal's rights may be justifiably overridden or protected.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 360 [italics in original] [first edition published in 1983])

01 August 2012


This blog had 1,721 visits during July, which is an average of 55.5 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 48.4.

24 July 2012

Tom Regan on Utilitarianism

Tom ReganThe initial attractiveness of utilitarianism as a moral theory on which to rest the call for the better treatment of animals was noted in an earlier context. . . . Because animals are sentient (i.e., can experience pleasure and pain) and because they not only have but can act on their preferences, any view that holds that pleasures or pains, or preference-satisfactions or frustrations matter morally is bound to seem attractive to those in search of the moral basis for the animal rights movement. Especially because animals are made to suffer in the pursuit of human purposes—in the name of "efficient" factory farming, for example, or in pursuit of scientific knowledge—the utilitarian injunction to count their suffering and to count it equitably must strike a responsive moral chord. But utilitarianism is not the theory its initial reception by the animal rights movement may have suggested. It provides no basis for the rights of animals and instead contains within itself the grounds for perpetuating the very speciesist practices it was supposed to overthrow. To secure the philosophical foundation for animal rights requires abandoning utilitarianism.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 315 [italics in original; ellipsis added] [first edition published in 1983])

14 July 2012

Tom Regan on Rights

Tom ReganWhether individuals have legal rights depends on the laws and other legal background (e.g., the constitution) of the society in which they live. In some countries (e.g., the United States) citizens meeting certain requirements have the legal right to vote or run for elected office; in other countries (e.g., Libya) citizens do not have these rights. Moreover, even in those countries that give this right to its citizens, the requirements are not always the same and are subject to change. In the United States, for example, citizens once had to be twenty-one years of age to vote in federal elections; now they must be eighteen. At one time one could not vote if one were black or female or illiterate; now one has this right regardless of race or sex or educational achievement. Legal rights thus are subject to great variation, not only among different countries at the same time but also in the same country at different times. When it comes to legal rights, not all individuals are equal. This should not be surprising. The legal rights individuals have arise as the result of the creative activity of human beings. Those rights set forth in the Bill of Rights, for example, were not rights that citizens of the United States could claim as legal rights before these rights were drawn up and the legal machinery necessary for their enforcement was in place.

The concept of moral rights differs in important ways from that of legal rights. First, moral rights, if there are any, are universal. This means that if any individual (A) has such a right, then any other individual like A in the relevant respects also has this right. What counts as the relevant respects is controversial. . . . What is not controversial is the exclusion of some characteristics as relevant. An individual's race, sex, religion, place of birth, or country of domicile are not relevant characteristics for the possession of moral rights. We cannot deny that individuals possess moral rights, as we can in the case of the possession of legal rights, because of, for example, where they live.

A second feature of moral rights is that they are equal. This means that if any two individuals have the same moral right (e.g., the right to liberty), then they have this right equally. Possession of moral rights does not come in degrees. All who possess them possess them equally, whether they are, say, white or black, male or female, Americans or Iranians.

Third, moral rights, unlike legal rights, do not arise as a result of the creative acts of any one individual (e.g., a despot) or any group (e.g., a legislative assembly). Theoretically, one could, it is true, create legal rights that accord with or protect moral rights, but that is not the same as creating these moral rights in the first place. If there are moral rights, they do not "come to be" in the way legal rights do.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 267-8 [ellipsis added] [first edition published in 1983])

09 July 2012


A professional football player has gone vegan. It's not clear whether he's doing it for moral reasons, for health reasons, or both.

08 July 2012

Tom Regan on Cruelty

Tom ReganCruelty is manifested in different ways. People can rightly be judged cruel either for what they do or for what they fail to do, and either for what they feel or for what they fail to feel. The central case of cruelty appears to be the case where, in Locke's apt phrase, one takes "a seeming kind of Pleasure" in causing another to suffer. Sadistic torturers provide perhaps the clearest example of cruelty in this sense: they are cruel not just because they cause suffering (so do dentists and doctors, for example) but because they enjoy doing so. Let us term this sadistic cruelty.

Not all cruel people are cruel in this sense. Some cruel people do not feel pleasure in making others suffer. Indeed, they seem not to feel anything. Their cruelty is manifested by a lack of what is judged appropriate feeling, as pity or mercy, for the plight of the individual whose suffering they cause, rather than pleasure in causing it; they are, as we say, insensitive to the suffering they inflict, unmoved by it, as if they were unaware of it or failed to appreciate it as suffering, in the way that, for example, lions appear to be unaware of, and thus are not sensitive to, the pain they cause their prey. Indeed, precisely because one expects indifference from animals but pity or mercy from human beings, people who are cruel by being insensitive to the suffering they cause often are called "animals" or "brutes," and their character or behavior, "brutal" or "inhuman." Thus, for example, particularly ghastly murders are said to be "the work of animals," the implication being that these are acts that no one moved by the human feelings of pity or mercy could bring themselves [sic] to perform. The sense of cruelty that involves indifference to, rather than enjoyment of, suffering caused to others we shall call brutal cruelty.

Cruelty of either kind, sadistic or brutal, can be manifested in active or passive behavior. Passive behavior includes acts of omission and negligence; active, acts of commission. A man who, without provocation, beats a dog into unconsciousness is actively cruel, whereas one who, through negligence, fails to feed his dog to the point where the dog's health is impoverished is passively cruel, not because of what he does but because of what he fails to do. Both active and passive cruelty have fuzzy borders. For example, a woman is not cruel if she occasionally fails to feed her cat. She is cruel if she fails to do so most of the time. But while there is no exact number of times, no fixed percentage, such that, once it is realized, cruelty is present, otherwise not, there are paradigms nonetheless.

We have, then, at least two kinds of cruelty (or two senses of the word cruelty) and two different ways in which cruelty can be manifested. Theoretically, therefore, cruelty admits of at least four possible classifications: (1) active sadistic cruelty; (2) passive sadistic cruelty; (3) active brutal cruelty; and (4) passive brutal cruelty.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 197-8 [italics in original; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

01 July 2012


This blog had 1,880 visits during June, which is an average of 62.6 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 62.4.

27 June 2012

Tom Regan on Kant's View of Animals

Tom ReganUnlike [John] Rawls, whose considered views on our duties regarding animals are unclear at best, [Immanuel] Kant provides us with an explicit statement of an indirect duty view. That Kant should hold such a view should not be surprising; it is a direct consequence of his moral theory, the main outlines of which may be briefly, albeit crudely, summarized. . . . On Kant's view, rational beings, by which he means moral agents, are ends in themselves (have, that is, independent value, or worth, in their own right, quite apart from how useful they happen to be to others). As such, no moral agent is ever to be treated merely as a means. This is not to say that we may never make use of the skills or services of moral agents in their capacities as, say, mechanics, plumbers, or surgeons. It is to say that we must never impose our will, by force, coercion, or deceit, on any moral agent to do what we want them [sic] to do just because we stand to benefit as a result. To treat moral agents in this way is to treat them as if they had no value in their own right or, alternatively, as if they were things. As Kant remarks, "beings whose existence depends, not on our will, but on nature, have nonetheless, if they are non-rational only a relative value and are consequently called things."  Moral agents are not nonrational, do not have "only a relative value," and are not things. Moral agents (rational beings) are ends in themselves.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 174-5 [italics in original; ellipsis added; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

12 June 2012

Tom Regan on Harm to Animals

Tom ReganThat individuals can be harmed without knowing it has important implications for the proper assessment of the treatment of animals. Modern farms (so-called factory farms), for example, raise animals in unnatural conditions. The animals frequently are crowded together, as in the case of hogs, or kept in isolation, as in the case of veal calves. Since the only environments these animals ever see are the artificial ones in which they live, it sometimes is claimed that they don't know what they are missing and so cannot be worse off for having to forego [sic] an alternative environment they know nothing about. The unspoken assumption is not that what you don't know can't hurt you; it is that what you don't know can't harm you. This assumption is false. If I were to raise my son in a comfortable cage, in isolation from other human contact, though seeing to it that his basic biological needs were satisfied, and if, in all of my dealings with him, I went to considerable trouble to insure [sic] that he experienced no unnecessary pain, then I could not be faulted on the grounds that I was hurting him. However, I would have quite obviously harmed him and this in a most grievous way. How lame would be my retort that my son "didn't know what he was missing" and so wasn't harmed by me. That he doesn't know what he's missing is part of the harm I have done to him. Those animals who are raised intensively, then, let us assume, do not know what they're missing. But that does not show that they are not being harmed by the conditions under which they live. Quite the contrary, just as would be true in the case of my son, what we should say is that part of the harm done to these animals by factory farming is that they do not know this.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 97-8 [italics in original; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

01 June 2012


This blog had 2,768 visits during May, which is an average of 89.2 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 106.0.

28 May 2012

Tom Regan on Human Chauvinism

Tom ReganThere is a neglected other side to the anthropomorphic coin. This is human chauvinism. The anthropomorphic side reads: "It is anthropomorphic to attribute characteristics to nonhumans that belong only to humans." The human chauvinism side reads: "It is chauvinistic not to attribute characteristics to those nonhumans who have them and to persist in the conceit that only humans do." Human chauvinism, that is, like all other forms of chauvinism, involves a failure or refusal to recognize that those characteristics one finds most important or admirable in one's self, or in members of one's group, are also possessed by individuals other than one's self or the members of one's group, as when male chauvinists fail, or refuse, to see that they are not alone in possessing admirable qualities. With the argument of the present chapter serving as the backdrop, the conclusion we reach is that to deny consciousness or a mental life to mammalian animals is an expression of human chauvinism.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 31 [italics in original; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

01 May 2012


This blog had 3,341 visits during April, which is an average of 111.3 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 152.1.

16 April 2012


Here is a New York Times story about veganism.

13 April 2012

Sustainable Meat

Here is a New York Times op-ed column about "sustainable meat."

10 April 2012

In the Company of Animals

Here is a New York Times blog post about companion animals.

03 April 2012

Global Animal

My friend Mylan Engel spoke at a conference on human use of animals. Here is a report.

01 April 2012


This blog had 3,175 visits during March, which is an average of 102.4 visits per day. A year ago in March, the average was 134.9.

12 March 2012


The word is spreading. PETA cares more about celebrities than it does about animals.

08 March 2012


PETA is the worst thing ever to happen to animals.

01 March 2012


This blog had 3,026 visits during February, which is an average of 104.3 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 124.8.

27 February 2012

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:
Re “Don’t Presume to Know a Pig’s Mind” (Op-Ed, Feb. 20): 

Blake Hurst, a former hog farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, cautions that “we can’t ask the pigs what they think.” But we can ask, and they can answer. Not in words, of course, but they can answer in ways that we can understand if we are paying attention. 

People who study pigs say they are as intelligent as a 3-year-old child, smarter even than the dogs we share our homes with. Would anyone in this day and age dare to say that we cannot presume to know a dog’s mind, that a dog cannot tell us if it is happy or sad, frustrated, lonely or bored? 

I think it is safe to say that yes, an intelligent animal is unhappy, even downright miserable, being confined to a crate two by seven feet for months on end. 

Norfolk, Va., Feb. 21, 2012 

To the Editor:
Blake Hurst’s observations about happy pigs and unhappy farmers aren’t about the well-being of either. They’re about protecting a system that produces cheap food. That system may treat sentient animals like car parts, ruin antibiotics we need for human medicine, and destroy rural communities by polluting our air and water, but at least it’s “efficient” (a word Mr. Hurst hammers three times). 

The meat industry loves to squeal that “the cost of bacon will rise” whenever it’s faced with pressure to change. I served on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which released a report in 2008 that detailed exactly how much these “efficiencies” are costing America. 

This week, Bon Appétit Management Company vowed that by 2015, none of the three million pounds of pork we serve a year (including 800,000 pounds of bacon) will come from hogs confined in gestation crates. It’s time to send the message that cost is not the only important consideration. 

Chief Executive, Bon Appétit
Management Company
Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 20, 2012 

To the Editor:
Blake Hurst asserts that “production methods should not cause needless suffering,” but the position he takes does just that. 

Mr. Hurst flippantly questions the ability to measure a pig’s happiness, but sound science—not to mention common sense—clearly establishes that mother pigs locked in gestation crates with so little space that they cannot turn around for most of their lives do indeed suffer. There are more humane alternatives available that would reduce that condition, and according to experts at Iowa State University, some forms of alternative sow housing could actually cost less in dollars and labor—savings that could potentially reach the customer. 

Moreover, pigs are not the only ones that would be happier with welfare improvements: according to a nationwide poll commissioned by the ASPCA, a majority of Americans want farm animals to be treated in a way that inflicts the least amount of pain and suffering possible. That sounds like a win-win to us. 

Dir., Farm Animal Welfare, ASPCA
New York, Feb. 22, 2012 

To the Editor:
Blake Hurst dismisses companies and consumers who are embracing food production methods that provide more respect for animals and the environment as being motivated by “nostalgia.” He doesn’t recognize the public health and ecological harms caused by industrial food animal production methods, including increased antibiotic resistance, polluted drinking water, huge fish kills and impaired air quality leading to respiratory illness. 

How does the health of a farmer’s family and community figure in when they are making the decision to continue industrialized production methods? 

In addition, producing more meat worsens worldwide hunger and food insecurity by dedicating precious farmland and water resources to the production of animal feed. Reducing meat consumption and shifting to more ecologically sensitive methods would improve public health by cleaning up the environment and reducing intake of saturated fats, a worthy goal not rooted in nostalgia but in ecologic and biomedical science. 

Baltimore, Feb. 20, 2012
The writer is a doctoral fellow, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. 
To the Editor:
Thanks to Blake Hurst for reminding us how bizarre it is for humans to think that they know what makes other animals happy. We have a hard enough time figuring out what makes people happy, but chickens? Are they happier scratching around the barnyard or sitting confined in cages? Who knows? 

The idea that eggs from free-range chickens are somehow morally superior to other eggs is, frankly, weird. No one, Mr. Hurst and me included, wants animals to be subjected to unnecessary pain. But let’s not play psychiatrist with other animals’ minds. 

Cabin John, Md., Feb. 20, 2012

26 February 2012


PETA is the worst thing ever to happen to animals. Morally serious people ignore this organization.

10 February 2012

Animal Rights

PETA's latest publicity stunt was to file a lawsuit in federal court alleging that five orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego are slaves for purposes of the 13th Amendment. I'm a longtime proponent of animal rights, but this suit is ridiculous. First, the 13th Amendment was designed to abolish human chattel slavery. Applying it to nonhuman animals is a stretch. Second, it is not a necessary condition for the possession of rights (legal or otherwise) that one be a person. Nonhuman animals can suffer. That fact alone suffices to grant them a legal right not to be made to suffer. The right is defeasible, of course, as it is in the case of humans. (Dentists make people suffer.) Third, the Constitution is a pact between autonomous beings. It sets forth the terms on which these autonomous beings will associate with one another. If nonhuman animals are to be granted legal rights, it will be through legislation or common-law adjudication, not constitutional adjudication. As always, PETA is more concerned about drawing attention to itself than it is to improving the legal status of nonhuman animals. I have said it before and I will say it again: PETA is the worst thing ever to happen to animals. Nobody who cares about animals should have anything to do with it.

01 February 2012

Steven M. Wise on Farm Animals

Steven M. WiseThe problem of the unjust use of farm animals is large, growing, historical, institutionalized, governmentally encouraged, and fundamentally unregulated at either the state or federal level. Farm animals are treated essentially as raw materials. Their ethological needs and direct interests are neglected to the extent that their needs are not as congruent with higher productivity and profit. Their interests are primarily protected, if at all, through archaic state anti-cruelty statutes that were not passed in contemplation of the factory-farm or genetic engineering. They are of little use and little used. Farm animals remain helpless, because they are legally incompetent, and assertion of their interests are barred by the traditional legal doctrine of "standing," a concept that is sound only when applied to competent human beings. Though factory-farming and biotechnological techniques massively violate the moral rights of farm animals, they have no remedy.

American consumers know little of the needs of farm animals, little of the health risks of eating them, and almost nothing of modern factory-farming and biotechnological techniques. The federal government neither adequately protects nor informs consumers about the animal products they eat or of the health hazards of eating them. Instead it aids industry boards that exist solely to sell animal products. It also provides tax incentives to factory-farmers. Because Congress has pre-empted the field, states have been unable to enact additional laws that require meat producers to provide consumers with accurate and relevant product information. Consumers should have the right to know in order to make informed decisions.

Anglo-American justice has reformed or abolished the unregulated wholesale exploitation of the helpless by the strong; women, children, blacks, and the disabled have all tasted its sweet fruits. "[F]iat justicia, ruat coelumtet," spoke Lord Mansfield, upon deciding that a Virginia slave was a free man on English soil. The factory-farming and genetic engineering of farm animals, based as it is upon their unregulated institutionalized exploitation in a manner that inherently and unnecessarily infringes their basic needs and concerns, is unjust. Because it is unjust it should be abolished.

(Steven M. Wise, "Of Farm Animals and Justice," Pace Environmental Law Review 3 [1986]: 191-227, at 226-7 [brackets in original; footnotes omitted])


This blog had 2,643 visits during January, which is an average of 85.2 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 102.9.

30 January 2012

Steven M. Wise on Legal Rights for Animals

Steven M. WiseThe legal rights of nonhuman animals might first be achieved in any of three ways. Most agree that the least likely will be through the re-interpretation or amendment of state or federal constitutions, or through international treaties. For example, the Treaty of Amsterdam that came into force on May 1, 1999, formally acknowledged that nonhuman animals are “sentient beings” and not merely goods or agricultural products. The European Community and the member states signatory to the treaty are required “to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.” In 2002 the German Parliament amended Article 26 of the Basic Law to give nonhuman animals the right to be “respected as fellow creatures” and to be protected from “avoidable pain.” Half of the sixteen German states already have some sort of animal rights provisions in their constitutions.

In the United States, most believe that gaining personhood is much more probable through legislative enactment than through a constitutional change. But a change in the common law (which Germany does not have) may be the most likely of all. What is the common law? Lemuel Shaw, the nineteenth century chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, provided this good definition: it “consists of a few broad and comprehensive principles, founded on reason, natural justice, and enlightened public policy, modified and adapted to all the circumstances of all the particular cases that fall within it.”

Why the common law over legislation? The common law is created by English-speaking judges while in the process of deciding cases. Unlike legislators, judges are at least formally bound to do justice. Properly interpreted, the common law is meant to be flexible, adaptable to changes in public morality, and sensitive to new scientific discoveries. Among its chief values are liberty and equality. These favor common law personhood, as a matter of liberty, at least for those nonhuman animals, such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, dolphins, and whales, who possess such highly advanced cognitive abilities as consciousness, perhaps even self-consciousness; a sense of self; and the abilities to desire and act intentionally. In other words, they have what I call a “practical autonomy,” which is, I argue, sufficient, though not necessary, for basic legal rights. An animal’s species is irrelevant to his or her entitlement to liberty rights; any who possesses practical autonomy has what is sufficient for basic rights as a matter of liberty. And as long as society awards personhood to non-autonomous humans, such as the very young, the severely retarded, and the persistently vegetative, then it must also award basic rights, as a matter of equality as well, to nonhuman animals with practical autonomy.

(Steven M. Wise, “The Evolution of Animal Law Since 1950,” chap. 7 in The State of the Animals II, ed. Deborah J. Salem and Andrew N. Rowan, Public Policy Series [Washington, DC: Humane Society Press, 2003], 99-105, at 103 [endnotes omitted])

27 January 2012

The Great Climate Hoax

Don't fall for it, folks. "Global warming" is the pretext for taking over your life. That "scientists" are behind this will do immeasurable harm to science. Mark my words.

04 January 2012


Not all bodybuilders are meat-eaters. See here.

02 January 2012

01 January 2012


This blog had 2,713 visits during December. That's an average of 87.5 visits per day. A year ago, the average was 111.6.