With our bar debate on animal welfare coming up on May 6, it’s worth noting that one charge against the wacky animal rights group (and occasional terrorism sponsor) PETA is not as heinous as it first appears. They were found to be euthanizing animals and in some cases improperly disposing of the carcasses despite seeming to offer perpetual loving care. Good for a laugh and charges of hypocrisy, except that as they illustrate with these disturbing retort photos (DO NOT SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED), sometimes euthanasia is the kindest option — indeed, sometimes it’s hard to believe animals are still alive to be euthanized. Thanks — I think — for pointing those pics out goes to my vegan pal Diana Fleischman (one of my vegan pals, I should say — almost all of them female, as is the general pattern with meat-avoidance, whether philosophical or neurotic).
On a brighter note, here’s a story containing the phrase “the dog apprehended one suspect” — which makes poochie sound almost like he does paperwork. Paperwork or not, he’s laying down the law (and the Onion, which had some better than usual stuff up this week, weighed in on the related issue of anthropomorphizing animals, or rather, a golden retriever did) — but the most inspiring dog story of the week is surely this one, no doubt destined to become a Disney movie very, very soon, complete with desert island survival tactics and a happy ending.
Ah, and as it happens, there’s a fairly balanced column by Nicholas Kristof in the _New York Times_ on the animal welfare revolution today, so consider this your advance reading for our May 6 debate between Mariann Sullivan and Justin Shubow:
From Nicholas Kristof
“For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.”
Eating meat is the infliction of gratuitous suffering.
And Todd, one day we have to get into exactly what the definition of terrorism is as applied to ALF which you allege Peta supports. ALF only takes responsibility for those actions which do not kill or injure any humans or animals. ALF does however advocate property damage. Is property damage terrorism?
I don’t necessarily agree with “direct action” like that committed by ALF but I do agree when they say that it is the factory farmers and slaughterhouse workers, the people who exploit animals for capital who have a body count associated with them, not the ALF. As far as I know no human or non-human animal has been injured or killed as a result of an ALF action.
According to the market research firm Yankelovich, roughly 33% of vegetarians are men, while roughly 67% are women. That doesn’t sound like “almost all” to me.
Not that it matters, anyway – unless you’re more concerned with conformity than truth. The question is whether we can continue to justify slaughtering millions of animals a year in brutal, inhumane conditions, simply because it tastes good. What to speak of the health and environmental costs of industrial-scale meat production and consumption…
Lefty — a _male_ vegetarian?
And ALF associates have repeatedly said they think violence against people would be justified but that they don’t “officially” encourage it — and with good reason, since that’s illegal. They have, however, claimed responsibility for, for example, a firebomb attack on a scientist that could well have killed people if the bomb hadn’t been a dud.
That the mindset of ALF is that of extremists who think they are morally entitled to violent “retaliation” against the system they denounce is obvious to anyone not herself philosophically biased in ALF’s favor, and suggesting otherwise is as absurd as saying “zealous Muslims do not commit terrorist acts, only self-defense.” Give me a break.
Good article by Kristof, by the way.
Have you ever read Dominion by Matthew Scully? He was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, and wrote about animal welfare issues from a conservative (and Catholic) perspective. It got a lot of positive reviews in the conservative press when it first came out.
I wrote sympathetically of _Dominion_ here —
– and though I’ll otherwise keep statements of my own views to a minimum prior to our May 6 debate (as a good host), I will say that there is something odd about one species being so timid about using others while those others all mercilessly slaughter each other all day long without a care in the world.
And now I best resume concentrating on the maintenance of that _other_ website I just linked to.
You can’t possibly be suggesting that we base our moral and ethical aspirations on those of animals, can you? If that’s the case you may also want to rethink your positions on murder, rape, and incest. Property rights, too.
“Something odd”, indeed. Now get back to work!
I make that point in a Comment after today’s blog entry, as it happens…
…and will just briefly say, without further response, that one just has to wonder how much of a dent, in utilitarian terms (which is what matters), changes in human behavior toward other species really make, given what a vast charnel house the rest of the biosphere will inevitably remain.
Approximately 10 billion animals are slaughtered for food (specifically poultry, beef, pork, and lamb) each year. So if, hypothetically, we were each to simply cut our meat consumption by 50%, FIVE BILLION fewer animals (per year!) would be subjected to modern factory farm conditions. That sounds like a pretty big impact to me.
That doesn’t require you to become a vegan. It doesn’t even require you to even become a vegetarian. Hell – you could still eat meat every friggin’ day if you wanted! Just try to eat a little bit less meat every day, and a little bit more food that is healthier, lower in cholesterol, and more humane.
Thanks Lefty for pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in Todd’s arguments against vegetarianism.
“There is something odd about one species being so timid about using others while those others all mercilessly slaughter each other all day long without a care in the world.”
as I’ve said before, with this argument Todd is more than welcome to eat all the carnivores, cats, dogs, sharks, bears and people that he pleases. Those poor defenseless animals that do not eat each other- cows, chickens, pigs and many others- why should they suffer simply because some animals eat one another?
And about the ALF, I guess we are just getting our information from different sources. From listening to lots of interviews with ALF members I got the impression that the basis of their movement was nonviolence and to stop violence against animals. It’s true that I do not have a cynical view of their sincerity.
A crank profiled on April 15 in the _New York Times_, by the way, makes scientifically dubious arguments that meat consumption is “unnatural” for humans — whereas the day before that, as it happens, animals themselves weighed in on the “naturally carnivorous” vs. vegan issue in a fashion that I think we can all agree does justice to the full moral complexity of the issues discussed above:
What’s the name of the article? I’d be interested to read it, though I find arguments that attempt to prescribe human behavior on the basis of what is or isn’t “natural” to be highly suspect. That’s the case whether the argument is that meat-eating is “unnatural”, that vegetarianism is “unnatural”, that homesexuality is “unnatural”, that genetically modified foods are “unnatural”, etc.
Of course, as any doctor will tell you, it is the case that the human body tends to be better equipped to handle a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, etc. than the meat-centric, high-saturated fat diet that many Americans have grown obese and sickly on.
Any doctor who tells you that is wrong — but I’ll leave that for ACSH to handle, over at my real job, since that’ll be the topic of an upcoming report.
In the meantime, have some flimflam:
I will look forward to reading that ACSH report! I hope you guys will also send copies to Harvard Medical School (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/), the American Medical Association (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/169/6/543), and the FDA (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdfats.html), as it looks like they’re going to have a lot of re-writing to do.
We have had to try on many occasions to get these very institutions to adhere to their own stated scientific standards instead of the rules of political correctness — the left-wing rot in our culture is far deeper than most people realize, and I must be forgiving of them because of it.
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