Tuesday, January 27. 2015
I’m an abolitionist, but most people are still fur-wearing meat-eaters. So the reason fur is a good one for activists to concentrate on first is that — unlike meat-eating, which many people still believe (wrongly) to be necessary for their health, and animal research, which many people believe (mostly wrongly) to be necessary to save lives — everyone knows that fur is not necessary for their health; nor does it save lives. So that’s the strongest entry point for awakening them to the horrors they are supporting and sustaining for no vital reason. Once they see that, then the next step is the evidence that meat is not necessary for their health. And after that, the evidence that much (though not all) animal research is just curiosity- or career-driven, not life-saving. There’s no way to get most people to see all of that at once.
Wednesday, January 21. 2015
Traduction Française par Th.F. au dessous du texte en anglais.
SUMMARY: With rare exceptions (involving progeny and other kin) Darwinian evolution (if it were a matter of conscious design) would have to be described as brutal and psychopathic. Our own species, however — thanks to the evolution of language and with it the invention of civilization and the adoption of moral and legal codes of conduct to protect one another from harm — has by conscious design outlawed all but one of our brutal Darwinian tendencies: It is illegal to enslave, torture, rape or kill human beings just about everywhere on the planet. Brutality has not been eradicated; not everyone obeys the laws (there are still true psychopaths, criminals and fanatics); but most people both abide by and approve of the laws protecting other human beings from harm. The one brutal tendency that has not been outlawed is the enslavement, torture and killing of nonhuman animals. The quantity and quality of agony that our species imposes on other conscious animals, needlessly, for food, fashion and entertainment is of a scale that far exceeds the residual brutality that humans still impose on one another. It is time to outlaw this last residual relic of our species’ brutal evolutionary legacy.I am going to start by saying some very graphic words to you, although I could have shown you equally graphic images instead. The gist of my talk is that we are unconsciously supporting and sustaining something horrible, something most of us could never support if we knew the truth about it. So we need to know the truth.
Every minute, as I speak, and as you listen, living, feeling animals are being torn from their mothers, confined and caged, pumped with drugs and hormones, kept in a state of deprivation and stress and fear for the entire length of their short lives, only to meet a brutal, terrifying and agonizing end at the hands of overworked, impatient, angry and often sadistic assembly-line workers charged with slaughtering as many of them as possible, as quickly as possible, because time is money and the supermarket counters are waiting for their fresh produce.
The mother cows from which their calves are wrenched as soon as they are born, are kept standing, almost immobile, in a constant state of lactation, by hormones, under the unending stress of pregnancy, of being severed from their offspring 2 days after they are born and deprived of the natural cycle of interaction for which their genes and their brains and their hearts have been prepared by evolution, their udders grotesquely swollen and varicose and increasingly inflamed, infected and painful – that’s why they are pumped with antibiotics – they are mechanically and mercilessly sucked by machines, according to the clock, until the day – somewhere in the 4th year of the life of a creature that normally has a life span of 20 years – when their udders are utterly depleted and spent and they can no longer stand painfully on their feet and can hardly walk at all, when they are forcibly prodded and pushed to the slaughterhouse, again with the help of machines, because if they cannot be made to limp in on their own, the last piece of revenue to be sucked out of them for meat is lost to the agribusiness industry that thrives on their misery.
And it’s not just meat and fish and poultry, and dairy, and eggs: The fashionable fur trim that is making a stealthy come-back in recent years, if it does not come from coyotes and foxes and lynx that have spent agonizing days in traps that are eating through the flesh of their limbs, if they have not themselves succeeded in chewing them off in their desperate struggle to free themselves, the ones still alive when the trapper comes -- are freed with the brutal blows that end their struggles so they can be parted from their flesh and fur for your collar trim.
These days many of those collars are actually from China, and from dogs, who are bred, industrial scale for this purpose, and where efficiency dictates that there is no time or need even to kill them before you skin them, so they are violently restrained and skinned alive, leaving them afterward with 10 minutes of agony with their eyes still open and staring out from what’s left of their shocked, trembling bleeding bodies, as the skinners move on to the next victim.
This brutal, heartless, industrial-scale agony that human beings are globally inflicting, daily, hourly, every second, everywhere on the planet, on countless helpless, innocent non-human victims is by far the biggest and most pressing moral problem – and shame – of our age and out species.
Many will respond: How can that be? Surely the horrors that we inflict on our own species are an even greater moral abomination, and far more pressing. And it’s certainly true that there is not one horror that we inflict on non-human animals that we have not also inflicted on human beings, and still do. But the huge difference is that we have outlawed the horrors that humans do to humans, and most humans deplore and would never commit or support such horrors. Not so with the horrors that we inflict on non-human animals. We have, and follow, laws protecting against enslavement, bondage, torture, and killing – for human victims, but not for nonhuman victims.
Why? I will discuss the two paramount reasons we have these double standards – the first is the belief that eating and wearing animals is necessary for our survival and for our health and the second is the belief that we are doing this necessary thing in the most humane way possible. Both these beliefs are in fact false, profoundly, demonstrably and patently false. But the evidence that they are false is not widely known, and this is not because the evidence is not available but because people are reluctant to face it. Most of us are in a state of denial about it. We prefer to look away.
So I believe that the only hope for animals is a direct appeal to humans’ hearts. Not all humans have hearts. There are sadists, sociopaths and people with hearts that are impenetrably hardened for an entire lifetime.
I am not addressing myself to the sadists, the sociopaths and the hard-hearted. That only leads to conflict and anger. It doesn’t help the animals who are suffering every instant on the kill-counter. And time matters, not to us, but to them.
Every instant means mounting agony for helpless, innocent, feeling beings. By 2050, at the rate of growth of the human population and the industrial means of producing meat and milk to feed it, the kill-counter’s total, which is already grotesque, will be twice as high as today. In just two years, as many animals are killed by humans as the total number of humans killed by humans since the beginning of the human race. We feel the urge to throw up our hands and say it’s hopeless: we’re each just too small to do anything about it, and it – meaning the rest of carnivorous, fur-wearing, milk-drinking, puppy-milling, animal-experimenting and hunting humanity – is just too big. And that is even after we have set aside the minority sadists, sociopaths and impenetrably hard-hearted.
No, the only hope for animals is if that huge majority of humanity whose hearts are not impenetrably hardened can be reached – if those who have faced, and seen and understood the suffering can manage to win their hearts, by opening their eyes to the enormity, the monstrosity of animal agony imposed by us, and to the fact that this suffering is not necessary in any way, not for our survival, not for our health.
That’s two huge things: communicating the enormity of animal suffering and its utter needlessness, its gruitousness.
The vast majority of people who still have hearts do not know either of these things. They do not know how cruelly, and on what a scale animals are actually suffering in order to feed and clothe them. And they are completely unaware of the fact that that enormous suffering is totally unnecessary. They think we need to breed, use and kill animals for our own survival and health. They think that’s a law of nature. And they think that what we are doing to animals, because we need to do it, we are doing in the most humane way possible, in fact much more humanely than our ancestors did it in cave-man days.
And this potentially reachable majority is kept in the darkness of these two huge, false beliefs – necessity and humaneness – by a global conspiracy of interests, industrial and personal – that are profiting from keeping the majority ignorant.
I want to stress that this global conspiracy is not human; it does not have a heart. It is collective and corporate. And as that excellent Canadian film a few years ago, the Corporation, showed so graphically, corporations are not humans, and their behavior best fits the description of a psychopath.
The appeal to real humans with hearts is the only hope for animals. There is no way to change directly the industries that have evolved to exploit animals on the monstrous scale that they are doing it today unless there is first a way to reach and change the hearts of the individual human beings that constitute the majority that is sustaining these psychopathic industries. These industries can only be made unsustainable if the hearts of their consumers can be touched, so they realize that laws have to be changed, collectively, globally, so as to put an end to the needless, heartless exploitation of nonhuman animals.
We are in the Web era. PETA and others have provided us with the graphic evidence, many times over, of the horrors that the majority of people do not know about. Domestic pet breeding is also an abominable industry, but one of its immediate effects is that most people have formed bonds with nonhuman animals. I do not believe it is humanly possible to love a family animal and look at the atrocities that are being committed to other animals just like their loved ones.
People will try to look away, because it hurts to see such things, but we must be shown these things, kindly but relentlessly. The truth hurts, but it is hurting them far more then it hurts us.
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
L’échelle industrielle et planétaire de la souffrance infligée aux animaux par les humains est le plus grave problème moral et la plus grande honte de notre époque. Un compteur des victimes en ligne indique les chiffres monstrueux et en constante évolution des animaux qui sont cruellement tués à chaque seconde qui passe. La plupart d’entre vous êtes déjà conscients du problème et de ces chiffres monstrueux qui évoluent à chaque instant. La plupart d’entre vous êtes déjà véganes, activistes et essayez de résoudre le problème. Espérons que cette conférence vous aidera à structurer vos idées pour travailler ensemble et réussir à ouvrir les yeux et le cœur du reste du monde. Parce qu’ultimement, le seul espoir pour les animaux est de toucher le cœur des humains.
Les êtres humains n’ont pas tous un cœur… Il y a des sadiques, des sociopathes et des gens dont le cœur est dur comme la pierre et restera impénétrable tout au long de leur vie. Nous ne nous adressons pas aux sadiques et aux sociopathes ou à ceux qui ont un cœur de pierre; nous les garderons pour plus tard. Tenter de s’adresser à ces gens mène immanquablement à des conflits et cela n’aide pas les animaux. Le temps est compté; pas pour nous, mais pour eux. Je vous demande de toujours vous souvenir que le temps compte. Chaque instant que nous échouons (et nous échouons toujours), provoque des millions d’agonies pour ces animaux, innocents et impuissants.
Ceux qui ont un cœur faible voudront baisser les bras et dire que c’est sans espoir… Ils penseront que nous sommes trop peu nombreux et que le reste des carnivores, porteurs de fourrure, buveurs de lait, exploiteurs de chiots, responsables de l’expérimentation animale et les chasseurs sont beaucoup plus nombreux et ce, même en excluant les sadiques, sociopathes et les cœurs de pierre. À ceux qui pensent que la majorité des carnivores est trop grande, détrompez-vous. Le seul espoir pour les animaux est la majorité de l’humanité qui possède un cœur qui n’est pas dur comme la pierre ou impénétrable et qui peut encore être touché. Nous devons réussir à gagner leur cœur, en ouvrant leur cœur devant la réalité et la monstrueuse situation des animaux qui souffrent à cause des humains. Il faut leur montrer que cette souffrance est aucunement nécessaire, ni pour notre survie, ni pour notre santé.
Voici deux concepts très importants: communiquer l’énormité de la souffrance animale et le fait qu’elle ne soit pas nécessaire. La vaste majorité des gens qui ont toujours un cœur ne savent pas ces deux choses. Rappelez-vous qu’ici nous parlons et nous prêchons à des gens déjà convaincus et sensibilisés. Nous savons tout ça et nous avons déjà vu les images d’horreur de la réalité; ce n’est pas le cas de la vaste majorité des gens qui ont toujours un cœur. Ils ne savent pas combien cruels sont les humains et à qu’elle échelle les animaux sont en train de souffrir. La majorité ignore le fait que cette immense souffrance est complètement inutile. Ces deux concepts évidents pour nous, que nous connaissons tous, ne le sont pas pour la majorité. Ils pensent que nous avons besoin de reproduire, d’utiliser et de tuer les animaux pour notre propre survie et notre santé. Ils pensent que c’est la loi de la nature. Ils pensent que ce que nous faisons aux animaux, parce que nous devons le faire, nous le faisons de la façon la plus humaine possible. En fait, encore plus humainement que nos ancêtres préhistoriques le faisaient dans le temps des cavernes ou que les animaux font entre eux. C’est ce qu’ils pensent… Et cette majorité susceptible de comprendre est gardée dans l’ombre en cultivant de fausses croyances: La nécessité de le faire et l’exécution la plus humaine possible. Cette conspiration d’intérêts planétaires, industriels et personnels, profite de la situation en gardant la vaste majorité des gens ignorants. Je veux ajouter que cette conspiration globale n’est pas humaine. Elle n’a pas de cœur. Elle est collective et corporative. À ce sujet, un excellent film canadien présentait, il y a quelques années, les corporations sous forme de graphiques révélant ces dernières comme n’étant pas des êtres humains. En fait, le comportement des corporations concorde avec le comportement et la description d’un psychopathe.
Nous devons adresser notre appel aux humains qui ont un cœur. Ils sont le seul espoir pour les animaux. Nous ne pouvons pas changer l’industrie qui exploite les animaux à l’échelle planétaire, sans changer le cœur de la majorité des humains qui rendent cette industrie profitable actuellement. Nous devons mettre un terme à cette industrie. Nous devons gagner le cœur des consommateurs, afin qu’ils réalisent que les lois doivent changer collectivement et globalement. Nous devons mettre fin à cette industrie inutile et à l’exploitation honteuse des animaux. Nous sommes dans l’ère d’Internet. PETA, ainsi que d’autres organismes nous ont fourni des preuves et des évidences à plusieurs reprises dénonçant l’horreur que la majorité des humains ignorent encore.
La reproduction des animaux domestiques est aussi une industrie abominable, mais elle a des effets immédiats sur la majorité des gens qui développent des liens avec ces animaux. Je ne crois pas que c’est possible d’aimer un animal, tel un membre de la famille, et être capable de regarder et de tolérer l’atrocité qui est commise à d’autres animaux. Les personnes qui sont véganes sont déjà convaincues que les choses doivent changer et n’ont pas besoin de voir les images d’horreur, parce qu’elles les ont déjà vues et prennent déjà des actions pour y faire face. Par contre, nous avons besoin de convaincre tous les autres. Rappelons qu’il n’y a pas de différence entre nos animaux domestiques et les créatures qui subissent l’horreur; c’est comme voir son propre chat être torturé.
Les gens vont tenter de regarder ailleurs, parce que ça fait mal de voir les images de l’horrible réalité, mais ils doivent quand même se faire montrer la réalité; gentiment, mais pertinemment. Par qui? Par nous. Les images de la réalité ont déjà eu un impact sur nos cœurs véganes, alors notre mission est d’ouvrir les yeux de tous les autres sur la planète.
Il faut établir un ordre dans nos priorités et le compteur des victimes mentionné plus haut est notre priorité première. Argumenter avec les sadiques ou les sociopathes n’aide personne. N’entrez pas en conflit avec les gens. Notre objectif n’est pas d’ endurcir le cœur des gens, mais bien de l’adoucir. Ce n’est pas une priorité et ça n’aide pas les animaux de rendre les gens en colère envers vous. Je ne sais pas combien de fois jai entendu un chasseur ou le propriétaire d’un animal, quand il se sent confronté par une personne végane indignée, répondre “Je vais faire tout ce que je veux faire avec mon [!] d’animal” et ils rentrent chez eux et font mal à leur animal juste par vengeance à cause de la provocation. Restez loin des sadiques et des sociopathes. Réservons leur cas pour plus tard, lorsque le reste de l’humanité aura découvert son cœur et aura rédigé des lois pour protéger les animaux. Alors, ce qu’ils font deviendra illégal; pour l’instant ce n’est pas illégal. S’impliquer dans de violents conflits avec eux n’aide personne. Ça peut seulement satisfaire votre conscience, mais ça n’aide pas les animaux.
J’ai participé à un panel de discussion sur les recherches médicales. Évidement je suis un abolitionniste à 100%. Je souhaite mettre une fin à tout ça, absolument tout: les manger, les revêtir, les utiliser pour l’expérimentation, mais ça ne peut pas être fait tout en même temps. Il faut mettre de côté les cibles pour qui les deux concepts mentionnés plus haut ne sont pas applicables: l’exploitation des animaux n’est pas humaine et est aucunement nécessaire, ni pour notre survie, ni pour notre santé.
Le dossier des recherches médicales doit être le dernier dossier à être réglé. Nous devons d’abord mettre fin aux dossiers qui ne sont complètement inutiles et tout à fait inhumains. L’industrie médicale, pour ce que ça vaut, est règlementée. Elle est mal règlementée, mais au moins il y a une règlementation. Les rats de laboratoire sont traités infiniment mieux que les animaux reproduits pour l’abattage, ou que les chiens encore vivants sur lesquels on déchire la peau à vif. Je présente souvent une image d’un cas réel montrant un chien chinois qui se fait déchirer la peau du corps et qui est dans un état de souffrance et de terreur inimaginable. Ses yeux sont encore ouverts et il agonise pendant 10 minutes avant de mourir. Ce genre de chose atroce est notre priorité première. Et ce genre de chose peut être défendu avec le principe que ce n’est pas nécessaire pour notre survie ou notre santé. Ce n’est pas le cas des expérimentations et recherches médicales. Certaines recherches contribuent vraiment à sauver des vies humaines. Gardons ce dossier pour plus tard. Remettons les choses en contexte.
Tuesday, January 20. 2015
Below is a letter to the NY Times from Judith Economos about "U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit: Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry
Sir: Where do they find enough psychopaths willing to do these things?
Thursday, January 8. 2015
Saturday, January 3. 2015
In "Consider the Oyster," Christopher Cox [CC] seems to me to be rather glib in discussing animal suffering, even though his heart seems to be roughly in the right place:
CC: “There are dozens of reasons to become a vegan, but just two should suffice: Raising animals for food (1) destroys the planet and (2) causes those animals to suffer...So far, this all seems both kind and reasonable. (I would add only that (3) eating animals isn't necessary for human survival and health.)
CC: “[S]ince oysters don't have a central nervous system, they're unlikely to experience pain in a way resembling ours”1. Oysters (like all bivalve molluscs) don’t have a central nervous system, but they do have a nervous system, including a nociceptive (pain-sensing) system that resembles the nociciceptive system in other invertebrates as well as vertebrates, anatomically, physiologically, and pharmacologically.
2. The issue is surely not whether the way other species experience pain resembles the way humans do, but whether they experience pain, i.e., whether they suffer.
CC: “We also can't state with complete confidence that plants do, or do not, feel pain”We can’t feel anyone else’s pain. So forget about "complete confidence" when it comes to what or even whether others feel. (On doubt vs. certainty, see Descartes!) This is called the “other minds problem", and it applies to our own species too — and not only to prelinguistic infants but even to people telling you that they are in pain: You believe them, and give them the benefit of any doubt, because of their similarities to you and your own own pain. Those similarities are both behavioral and neural. And oysters share them (even though they can't talk). It's just a matter of degree.
Plants, in contrast, do not share these behavioral and neural similarities (fortunately, because even if they did share them, we would have to eat them anyway, or else we could not survive). Plants lack nervous systems altogether (although there is a bit of controversy over some more general similarities with tissue signalling systems that fall in the category of information transmission rather than feeling).
Not so of cows and pigs and chickens and fish and lobsters and, yes, oysters: They do have nervous systems. They do behave and function as if they feel pain. And it is not necessary to hurt, kill and eat them, for human survival and health.
So why are we speculating on the possibility that despite having nociceptive systems and despite behaving like creatures that feel pain, oysters might not feel pain? If it were a life-or-death survival issue, we would have to do the same as we do with plants, and hope they don’t feel.
But it is not a life-or-death survival issue:
CC: “make an exception for oysters—for it is surely foolish to deprive yourself of an icy plate of white-shelled Watch Hills.”In other words, CC is proposing to withold the benefit of the doubt from oysters simply because he likes the taste — which is more or less the justification of most meat eaters for eating cows and pigs and chickens and fish and lobsters.
Not something to speak about so glibly, I think.
Yes, it would be far better if everyone ate only oysters and plants, rather than cows and pigs and chickens and fish and lobsters.
But why not just eat plants only, and give the oysters, too, the benefit of the doubt? It’s not just a matter of taste, but of compassion.
[And is it not idle -- if not callous -- to speculate about whether it would be more destructive to the planet to feed the growing number of human mouths by cultivating oysters vs. cultivating plants (or waiting for a way to clone meat) while taking human population growth for granted, rather than seriously considering ways to reduce or reverse it?]
Although it is now outlawed almost everywhere, and although most of us consider it wrong and would never knowingly or willingly do it, support it, collude in it, sustain it, profit from it, or consume its products, some people still enslave, torture or murder human victims.
But by what right do we expect (or deserve) to be exempted or protected from such horrors as long as most of us still knowingly and willingly support, collude in, sustain, profit from, and consume the products of the enslavement, torture and murder of countless animal victims -- and do not consider this wrong?
[photograph by Jo-Anne McArthur]
Monday, December 22. 2014
It may or may not be true that most humans have no hearts. No one knows -- nor can know for sure -- whether it is true. What we can know for sure is that if it is true that most humans have no hearts, then that means doom for nonhuman animals.
But if it is not true that most humans have no hearts, then thinking, saying and acting as if it's true also means doom for nonhuman animals.
So the moral is that it is much better for animals if we assume that it's not true that most humans have no hearts -- that, rather, most humans are exactly like us, but are not yet aware of the horrors that humans do to animals, nor of what their own role is in sustaining those horrors, nor of the fact that those horrors are completely unnecessary, nor of what to do to help bring them to an end.
Ours is not only to help save animals but also to keep trying to open the hearts and minds of humans about the truth of animal suffering, its enormity and monstrosity, its gratuitousness, and what they can do to help end it.
For that we must assume that most humans do have hearts.
(The similarity of this observation to Pascal's Wager is ironic, not just because of the flaw in Pascal's reasoning -- which is that there is not one but a multiplicity of rival supernatural creeds on offer, all threatening dire consequences if their own dictates are unheeded -- but also because most of those diverse creeds solemnly sanction the monstrous things humans do to animals, preferring to focus on the immaterial and immortal "souls" of humans in the eternal afterlife, rather than the bodies and suffering of all creatures living in the here and now.)
Sunday, December 21. 2014
David Foster Wallace does not hide the reality in this article about the "Maine Lobster Festival" written for Gourmet Magazine in 2004.
But because he does not want to be "preachy," and because he's writing for Gourmet Magazine, and because he wants to keep on eating what he likes eating, he just raises the questions, but not the obvious answer, which is that killing and eating lobsters -- or fish or chickens or pigs or cows -- is horribly cruel and completely unnecessary for human survival or health.
To those who are honest with themselves, it is a clear case of gastronomy (or aesthetics) versus morality: my taste versus your hurt.
DFW thinks out loud:
"Try to imagine a Nebraska Beef Festival at which part of the festivities is watching trucks pull up and the live cattle get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there on the World’s Largest Killing Floor or something—there’s no way."I suggest another exercise:
"Try to imagine a Georgia Cotton Picking Festival in the 1850's at which part of the festivities is watching wagons pull up and the live slaves get driven down the ramp and whipped onto the cotton fields or something—there’s no way."(With thanks to Jeremy Greenberg for link.)
The pro’s and con’s are all familiar, many times over. This is not an area in which to make a stake for intellectual or ethical originality. But that’s because the truth is obvious, dead obvious. And all the back and forth is just about not wanting to face it. (I didn’t face it for most of my life.)
But I am not so misanthropic as to believe that self-deception and psychopathy will win out over human decency in the end. We will face the truth, and we will do the right thing. The trouble is that as long as we keep dragging out the day of reckoning, it is not, as with cigarette-smoking, our own health and well-being that is at stake but that of billions upon billions of innocent victims, undergoing unneeded, unpardonable agony every minute for the sake of our preferred tastes and habits… That human decency will win out over ignorance, indifference and worse is their only hope.
MIT Technology Review's "The Troll Hunters" (Adrian Chen, Dec 18 2014) calls to mind Mad Magazine's black/white "Spy vs Spy" (which was always symmetrical success/failure and escalation).
But it looks as if even good-spy vs bad-spy can get blurred, as internet-power corrupts...
And of course it all began "When Man First Met Troll" (c. 1987 at the latest).
Wednesday, December 17. 2014
Saturday, December 13. 2014
Alas the principle "Don't hurt unnecessarily" is not strong enough, because "necessity" is too vague: Many will argue that it is "necessary" to hurt animals so they can make more money.
What we really mean is "not necessary for human survival and health."
Maybe "Don't hurt if it is not vitally necessary" will resolve this ambiguity, maybe not. Competition and ambition and greed will continue to bend it in their own favor.
But please let us not make it even worse by arguing that even "necessity for human survival and health" is not strong enough.
We did not create the world, and this Darwinian world does have tragic conflicts of vital (life-or-death) interests, for example, between predator and prey.
Carnivores have no choice -- but we are not carnivores, and we do have a choice. We can survive and be healthy without hurting other animals.
Vital medical research -- research that really cures the sick and saves lives -- is not covered even by the "Don't hurt if it is not vitally necessary" principle.
Maybe there is some other principle. Certainly when there is any non-hurtful alternative it needs to be used. And a lot of biomedical research is just curiosity-driven (or worse), not life-saving, hence unjustifiable. And often it is far more hurtful than need be.
But I am afraid that if those who want to protect animals from unnecessary suffering push too hard on the principle that hurting is never necessary or justified, under any circumstances, they are unintentionally weakening the case for putting an end to the overwhelming proportion of the monstrous and unquestionably unnecessary hurt that is being done every day, hour, minute by the meat, dairy, egg, fish, fur, sport, pet and entertainment industries, where the only interest involved is taste, habit, supply/demand -- and of course money.
Here is a thought-experiment for those animal-rights activists who are (understandably) in anguish about the scale of needless, human-inflicted animal suffering (it is a not-so-silly variant on the philosophers' silly runaway-train thought-experiment):
You are at the helm of a train that is rapidly and unstoppably headed for a track to which your own child is tied. If you quickly throw the switch, the train will instead go to another track to which another child (unknown to you) is tied:
Do you let the train follow its course? throw the switch? toss a coin?
Even the most humane of us live in Darwin's world, and Darwin's world contains some unavoidable conflicts of vital (life and death) interest.
I don't think a world in which conflicts of vital interest all have to be settled by passivity or a coin toss would be a viable one, nor a humane one.
If someone or something forcibly holds my head under water, my medulla force me to struggle furiously to breathe, even if it means trampling on my own child, and even if I would consciously rather die.
Something similar makes most social vertebrates favor their own vital interests, and (hit-and-run egg-layers excepted) those of their kin, over the vital interests of strangers, if they conflict.
In protecting the vital interests of nonhuman animals, let us not suppose ourselves capable of being holier than that. Some of us may have reached such a state, but we could never have reached it without first being ruled from birth by vital self-interest, like every other social vertebrate.
And most of us still cannot voluntarily hold our heads under water indefinitely. -- So let's not try to protect animals on the assumption that others can -- or would, or should (voluntarily hold their heads under water indefinitely).
We need a principle that there is some realistic hope that most people will support. The ongoing agony is too terrible and urgent to allow holding out for an abstract idealism that there is little hope most people today will agree to.
If "Don't hurt if it is not vitally necessary" is not strong enough, let us work to make it prevail as a first step, to end the most and the worst of the horrors. That will already make it a different world, in which to resolve the rest.
Wednesday, December 3. 2014
Reason alone is never enough to make people do right rather than wrong.
A felt, empathic component is necessary too, so you feel why it’s right or wrong.
Sam Harris seems to have some, but not yet enough, of either (the reason or the feeling).
It is definitely not rational to start eating meat again because you develop an anemia, rather than to check why you got the anemia and do something about it.
(A B12 and B6 supplement, or a more balanced choice of plant-based foods would definitely have fixed the problem — and, to be rational, Sam Harris should have looked into that and done it from the very beginning.)
The felt, empathic component is still weak too, otherwise Sam would have had the motivation to look at causes and alternatives rather than going back to eating meat.
Being just a vegetarian is also not what is dictated by reason — nor by feeling. The dairy and egg industry are a part of the meat industry and cause horrific suffering. (mMilk-givers and egg-layers are all eventually killed for meat, and so are all their young, except the ones kept for milk-giving and egg-laying, and their lives are short and extremely wretched).
Vegetarians are also continuing to eat animal protein, which keeps their metabolisms dependent on and desirous of meat. Once you become completely vegan, your metabolism changes, your appetite for plant-based food increases dramatically, plant-based food becomes much more tasty and much more efficiently metabolized, and your appetite for meat disappears.
So any yearning to start eating meat again is gone, and if you discover you need to take more of some supplement — like B12 or Calcium or D2 or iodine, or omega-6 — you just go ahead and take the supplement instead of using it as an excuse for going back to meat eating.
Richard Dawkins seems to wish we all didn’t eat meat, and thinks we will one day look back on it as having been as awful as slavery. Yet he still eats meat. A speaker as prominent and influential as him could do a lot more good for animals if he set the right example. Rationality would seem to dictate that too.
On Noam Chomsky on animal rights:
The notion that only those individuals who have responsibilities can be accorded rights is irrational, since we accrod rights to bot infants people who are severely ill or handicapped. But instead of thinking it as our according rights to victims, we can think of it as all of our having obligations not to cause any feeling being needless suffering. This has nothing at all to do with whether the victim of the suffering has responsibilities.
Sunday, November 30. 2014
Long-time vegan advocate James McWilliams has lately proposed consuming insects instead of plants.
1. Yes, the moral imperative is (i) to cause no suffering at all to sentient beings if it is not essential for human survival, (ii) to minimize any suffering that is essential for human survival, and (iii) to reduce the rate of human population growth.
2. Yes, animals suffer and die in the plant agriculture that feeds the vast and growing human population, and all means should be developed to minimize that suffering — eliminating it altogether if it ever becomes possible.
3. But the unspeakable scale of agony that is being inflicted on countless sentient animals every moment, hour, day, worldwide today by humans' utterly unnecessary demand for meat, fish, dairy, eggs and fur is so monstrously huge and horrible that it is idle to speculate about one day switching to insect consumption rather than focussing today on re-directing existing plant agriculture to feeding humans instead of to feeding sentient victims purpose-bred, needlessly, to be brutalized and slaughtered to feed those same humans.
4. Speculations about a hypothetical future insectivore alternative, just like speculations about hypothetical future cloned or synthesized meat just give us another excuse to wait, and meanwhile continue to sustain the unpardonable agony caused by our needless consumption of meat, fish, dairy, eggs and fur, instead of taking the small and obvious first step of switching to a plant-based diet and to cruelty-free apparel.
5. If we wish to speculate, let's speculate rather (a) about inventing ways to minimize or eliminate animal suffering in agriculture and (b) about reducing the growth of the human population.
Meanwhile, the very first priority is not to persuade people to eat insects instead of plants, but to eat plants instead of animals.
And for every layman or entomologist who insists that "there’s no hard evidence to support the prospect of insect suffering," there are countless laymen and zoologists (among them Descartes) who insist that there’s no hard evidence to support the prospect of animal suffering.
What is really behind all this is the "other minds problem": The only suffering you can be absolutely sure about is your own. If we give our kin and kind the benefit of the doubt, let's give invertebrates the benefit of the doubt too, even if they are small. The nociceptive systems of insects and snails are much like those of lobsters or octopuses, which in turn are not very different from those of vertebrates and mammals, including us.
The "quick and massive and singular and decisive whack" for "minimal suffering" that James McWilliams seems to be imagining for insects is as self-deceptive as it is in the minds of the countless meat-eaters who imagine that something like that is how cows', calves', pigs', chickens', turkeys', fish' or lobsters' lives are ended for their plates -- or the way foxes', coyotes', seals'' dogs' or cats' lives are ended for their fur trim.
Tuesday, November 25. 2014
The rage of Gary Yourovsky and other militant animal rights activists is completely understandable and morally justified, but it is profoundly counterproductive, and hence unfair and harmful to the daily, hourly victims everywhere.
Aggressive vegans are just preaching to one another: to other aggressive vegans, actual and potential.
But the only hope of animals is if most of the human population is not hard-hearted, meaning that they are potentially empathic to animals’ agony, once they come to realize that the suffering we inflict on animals is both horrific and needless. Most do not know it yet.
The eyes, minds and hearts of human beings need to be opened, by the graphic evidence of the unspeakable horrors and the scientific evidence of the fact that meat, fish, milk, eggs, and fur are not needed for human survival or health. They are just cruel relics and habits of our evolutionary and cultural past that need to be brought to an end, by laws and education, just as slavery, bondage, rape and subjugation have been.
We were not bullied into becoming vegans. Bullying and aggression just hardens hearts. Our hearts naturally led us toward humaneness, once we saw the monstrousness and the gratuitousness of the horrors. Animals’ only hope is that most people are exactly like us — they just have not yet seen, heard, felt the suffering of the victims, nor that it need not be.
Thursday, November 13. 2014
1. Statements cannot be “proved” true unless they are just formal proofs in mathematics. (I am sure Jonathan Balcombe did not say “proof” as cited in Patrick Barkham's article in the Guardian.)
2. We know apples fall down rather than up, not because of proof, but because the preponderance of the evidence supports it.
3. Ditto for the law of gravitation, which explains why apples fall: no proof, just supporting evidence.
4. Ditto for the fact that animals can feel: no proof, just evidence.
5. Ditto for the fact that human animals feel: no proof, just evidence.
6. The sole exception is oneself: each person knows for sure that they feel what they feel when they feel: No need for either evidence or proof for that. To feel something is enough. (We know that since at least Descartes’ “cogito.”)
7. But for anyone else, we know they feel because of evidence, not proof. Not even when they tell us.
8. I think Marian Stamp Dawkins is being more scientistic than scientific in her call for a “cautious” approach.
9. Cautious about what? About knowing whether it hurts if you kick a dog or a calf? Should we keep kicking till we have proof, or "scientific" evidence?
10. I would extend Jeremy Bentham’s oft-quoted words: What matters “is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” [The Principles of Morals and Legislation]
11. What matters “is not, ‘Can they feel pleasure?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” [which includes depriving them of pleasure, and of life]
12. That is what should be governing our treatment of all animals, human and nonhuman.
(Page 1 of 19, totalling 282 entries) » next page
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.