Thursday, December 14. 2017
Is there anything on earth that could justify this monstrous cruelty? that could excuse doing this to countless innocent, terrified creatures every single day? for the taste? for the taste? shame. shame and horror.
A short life of relentless misery, deprivation, fear and pain, followed by a cramped 2-day transport nightmare of starvation, thirst, cold, injury and terror, to face a final paroxysm of horror and pain as the price for release from the man-made hell inflicted on them from birth -- because we must have our bacon, our ham, our rib, our pork chop.
By scale, this is already humanity's greatest crime. 10,000 per day at Fearman's alone, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sunday, November 19. 2017
Prominent cognitive scientist (name deleted):Your question is not for Marian Dawkins, who is a steady, nonconfrontational welfarist, focussed on reducing some of the suffering of the victims of animal production by trying to appeal to its possible benefits for the producers and consumers (rather than for the victims). That’s why Marian says she is not trying to claim animals are (or are not) conscious: because that approach is unconvincing to skeptics and it has not led (by Marian's lights) to much progress in improving animals’ lot, either in production or in the wild.
(Marian attributes this to the problem of trying and failing to solve — to the satisfaction of consciousness-skeptics — what has been dubbed the “hard problem” of consciousness. But what Marian really meant was solving the other-minds problem to the satisfaction of other-minds-skeptics.)
(Although Dave Chalmers did baptize the “hard problem,” giving it a name, he did not, of course, invent the problem and his own comment --- that Marian was right to cite the “hard problem" because the other-minds problem in fact follows from the hard-problem --- was just Dave's opinion. And in my opinion, this is easily shown to be wrong: Because even if we had a highly reliable “cerebroscope” for diagnosing which organisms are sentient, and when, the “hard problem” (of explaining, causally, how and why biological tissue generates feeling, rather than just generating function), would still remain unsolved, and would still remain just as hard.)
The “hard problem” is neither an ethical problem nor an animal-welfare problem. It is a problem of causal explanation. The problem for ethics and welfare is the other-minds problem. And solving it, by determining which organisms are sentient, and when, would not solve the ethical/welfare problem, because you still have to convince people that causing animal suffering matters, and needs to be acted upon.
My own answer to the question you raise about mosquitos and wasps -- (it came up here during the conference as the question about cockroaches and bedbugs) – was that while there is an elephant in the room (the monstrous suffering inflicted on animals needlessly — for food, fur, and fun -- there is no point fretting about cockroaches and bedbugs (or about being attacked by a predator): In a vital conflict of interest between sentient organisms, where life and death or health is at stake, every member of every species can and should protect its own vital life/death/health interests. The cockroach/bedbug/predator “objection” is hence just deflectionary (rather like Trump’s responses to criticism). It's just an attempt to deflect from the implication that we should stop hurting animals needlessly for food/fur/fun today, and that we should start that stopping in our own comfortable western consumer societies where every living, healthy vegan — like myself -- is irrefutable evidence of the fact that the horrors are not necessary; they are not based on life/death/health needs for humans.
So forget about the cockroach/bedbug/predator worry. (Save it for a happier day.) Philosophers would call it sophistry – if it comes from a non-vegan. Coming from a vegan it is premature, like puzzling about Zeno’s Paradox instead of just crossing the room. When the whole world is vegan, only vital conflicts of life/death/health interests with no alternatives will justify hurting or killing another sentient being. But today, while the elephant is in the room, the cockroach question is otiose.
"Worse, the whole discussion is focused entirely on WEIRD* people -- a lot of the world is not weird."By wierd you mean the lady who was distributing the pamphlets? She is just good-hearted, and shell-shocked by the unending horrors, rather than a philosopher or a scientist. My own hope is that the majority of human beings are potentially decent, like her, rather than self-interested sociopaths, bent only on holding onto their food/fur/fun perks, with otiose objections, oblivious to the real ongoing cost in needless blood and suffering to their animal victims, come what may.
I might add that nonhuman animals’ only hope is that most human beings, thanks to their mammalian ("K-selected") heritage, with its evolved darwinian empathy and compassion for their own young, their kin and their kind, supplemented by the cognitive, social and cultural capacity to learn to do the right thing, by inhibiting and outlawing portions of their likewise darwinian legacy, such as infanticide, homicide, rape, slavery, subjugation torture — the hope that most of our kind have evolved the eyes and hearts that can be opened to the unspeakable agony we are inflicting on other species, on a mounting, monstrous scale.
If we are not potentially merciful in the face of the overwhelming evidence (which only ag-gag laws are currently concealing from our eyes and hearts) -- if we are, instead, die-hard deplorables, clinging to our own orgasms oblivious to their cost in others’ agony, then of course the animals are lost, and the animal cause is hopeless. And that would perhaps have been the case if human beings, together with all their cognitive and linguistic capacities, rather than having been descendants along the mammalian (K-selected) line, had descended instead along the cold-blooded reptilian ("r-selected") line from their last common ancestor with Donald Trump (who restored the right to import the trophies from elephant-hunts a few days ago, but has just been forced by the protests from decent mammalians to freeze his order for the time being).
Let me add that the other-minds problem, in this context, is not an abstract problem for philosophers pondering epistemic uncertainties (as we are doing in much of this conference). The other-minds problem is not even our problem. It is the problem of the other minds, the ones that are feeling the agony -- while Descartes, wizard-of-oz-like, urges everyone to pay no attention to their screaming and struggles, they are just reflex robots, behaving as if they were feeling pain, but in reality just “nocicepting” without feeling a thing.
Since he wrote his book, Animal Liberation, in 1975, Peter Singer has done the most that any human being to date has ever done — especially as quantified by utilitarian calculations — to awaken the potential for human decency and to spur action in generations of human beings.*My interlocutor pointed out afterward that by WEIRD he had meant Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic and that most of the world is not WEIRD. My reply: It is the well-off weirdos in the west who can and should take the first step when it comes to the elephant in the room. After all, they are also its biggest producers and consumers."Singer is bored to death and ignores questions from the floor because he's on his laptop…."
Although I cannot agree with Peter on everything — utilitarianism is an appeal to just the head, or a computer, rather than to the heart — I think that what is misperceived as “boredom” on Peter's part is just the difference between the cerebral and the visceral — dare one call it the sentient? -- approach to safeguarding the sentience of others.
The Other Minds Problem: Animal Sentience and Cognition
Institute for Cognitive Sciences Summer School, June 26 – July 6, 2018
Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Since Descartes, philosophers know that there is no way to know for sure what — or whether — others feel (not even if they tell you). Science, however, is not about certainty but about probability and evidence. The 7.5 billion members of the human species can tell us what they are feeling. But there are 9 million other species on the planet, from microbes to mammals, with which humans share biological and cognitive ancestry, but not one other species can speak: Which of them can feel — and what do they feel? Their human spokespersons — the comparative psychologists, ethologists, evolutionists, and cognitive neurobiologists who are the world’s leading experts in “mind-reading" other species -- will provide a sweeping panorama of what it feels like to be an elephant, ape, whale, cow, pig, dog, chicken, mouse, fish, lizard, lobster, snail: This growing body of facts about nonhuman sentience has profound implications not only for our understanding of human cognition, but for our treatment of other sentient species.
Partial list of speakers who have accepted and confirmed to date:
Adamatzky, Andrew (UEW) slime mold cognition
Allen. Colin (Indiana) evolution of mind
Andrews, Kristin (York) animal mind
Balcombe, Jonathan (HSUS) fish intelligence
Baluska, Frantisek (Bonn) intelligence (and possibly sentience) in plants
Berns, Gregory (Emory) what it's like to be a dog
Birch, Jonathan (LSE) the precautionary principle
Brosnan, Sarah (Georgia State) primate sociality
Burghardt, Gordon (Tennesee) reptile cognition
Chang, Steve (Yale) primate preferences
Chapman, Colin (McGill) primate social cognition
Chitka, Lars (Vienna) bee perception
Dukas, Reuven (Mcmaster) insect cognition
Giraldeau, Luc-Alain (UQÀM) dans l’oeil du pigeon
Hendricks, Michael (McGill) perception in c. elegans roundworms
Kelly, Debbie (Manitoba) corvid cognition
Marino, Lori (Whale Sanctuary Project) cetacean cognition
Mather, Jennifer (Lethbridge) cephalopod cognition
Mendl, Michael (Bristol) pig cognition
Ophir, Alexander (Cornell) vole social behavior
Oyama, Tomoko (McGill) sensation and cognition in drosophila
Phelps, Steve (Texas) social cognition across species
Plotnik, Joshua (Hunter) elephant mind
Pravosudov, Vladimir (Nevada) chickadee spatial cognition
Ratcliffe, John (Toronto) bat cognition
Reader, Simon (McGill.Ca) evolution of social learning
Reiss, Diana (Hunter) dolphin mind
Ryan, Mike (Texas.Edu) evolution of communication
Sakata, Jon (McGill) social learning in birdsong
Simmons, Jim (Brown) what is it like to be a bat?
TenCate, Carel (Leiden) avian cognition
Wise, Steven (NhRP) primate and proboscid personhood
Woolley, Sarah (McGill) perception and learning in songbirds
Young, Larry (Emory) prosocial behavior and oxytocin
Wednesday, October 4. 2017
Amia Srinavasan's critique of "Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference" by William MacAskill
is excellent, pointing out how much Effective Altruism (EA) simply takes for granted (e.g., capitalism itself, and the status quo).
But the worst is that EA is psychopathic -- as psychopathic as Darwinian evolution itself: Evolution's sole criterion is maximizing (“satisficing,” really) net survival and reproduction, and EA utilitarianism’s sole criterion is maximizing net utility. Both turn a blind, "rational" eye on collateral damage, including proximal collateral damage.
That’s not morality, it’s mathematics. And treating emotion as if it were just a vice or a distraction is not a virtue. In fact, it was (ironically) Darwinian evolution itself (the origin of sentience, hence suffering, hence all moral problems) that implanted empathy and compassion in mammals and birds (at least), probably in the adaptive service of reproductive success (in altricial K-selected species, at least, of which we are one). Without those traits we’d all be psychopaths (as r-selected, precocial species may be).
In the trolley problem, any mother who would not flip the switch to save her own child rather than another’s would be a psychopath. If it was for the sake of saving two children of another instead of her own child that she failed to flip the switch then she’d be an EA utilitarian — and a psychopath.
Altruism needs to be compassionate, not just “effective.” And charity begins at home (or it never begins at all). Nor would an uncharitable world be a hospitable one to live in: It would be rather like a zombie world. Surely an (emotionally!) weighted combination of EA and proximal compassion would be better than EA alone.
Monday, August 7. 2017
voulez-vous un RODÉO à MONTRÉAL
ANNÉE après ANNÉE?
Alors que plusieurs villes et États dans le monde bannissent le rodéo en raison de la souffrance animale qui en résulte, se tiendra à Montréal, dans deux semaines, la « première édition » du nouveau rodéo urbain destinée à souligner le 375ème anniversaire de la ville…
§§§ While several cities and states worldwide are outlawing rodeos because of the suffering they cause, in Montreal, in two weeks, there will be the "first edition" of a new "urban rodeo" to celebrate the city’s 375th anniversary…
La réputation globale de Montréal en matière de bien-être animal s’en trouvera assurément entachée.
Montreal’s global reputation in matters of animal well-being will certainly find itself stained…Visiblement, le maire de Montréal ne s’en formalise pas :
Obviously the mayor of Montreal has no problem with this (video is in French):
Et qu’un cheval meurt lors d’une épreuve de monte extrême du même fournisseur de rodéos (St-Tite) trois mois avant son « rodéo urbain » ne le perturbe aucunement...
And the fact that a horse dies in a bronco-riding trial from the same rodeo producer (St-Tite) three months before his “urbain rodeo” does not trouble him either…
Grady, 6 ans, s’est fracturé la colonne vertébrale en raison d’une « zone de faiblesse » qui n’a pas été détectée au préalable, malgré les précautions que disent prendre les vétérinaires mandatés par le Rodéo de St-Tite. Si Grady n’avait pas été soumis au rodéo, il serait encore en vie aujourd’hui.
Grady, age six, broke his back because of a "weak area of his spine" which was not detected in advance, despite all the precautions that the St-Tite Rodeo's veterinarians boast of taking: If he had not been forced to perform in rodeos, Grady would still be alive today.NOUS AVONS BESOIN DE VOUS pour ramener le maire Coderre à la raison -- en démontrant que le rodéo est insoutenable et illégal !
Merci de soutenir notre campagne de financement (voir ci-dessous)
WE NEED YOU to bring mayor Coderre back to reason -- by proving the rodeo is untenable and illegal !
Sunday, July 16. 2017
Relatively speaking, decency is increasing (or deplorability is decreasing) (as Steve Pinker has noted) in the human population.
But alas the human population itself is increasing still faster, and with it the absolute amount of agony we are wreaking.
Otherwise put, we are (so far) becoming bigger faster than we are becoming better.
No solace for those being crushed under our collateral-damage footprint; not even when the only victims left on the planet will be the ones we purpose-breed, all the rest spared their fate only because we have exterminated them.
But the Trumps of this world — rich and poor — sleep soundly, whilst their own tomorrow is still well within sight…
As to climate-change-complacency:
A Chernobylesque comeback
millennia after the Fall
is hardly a consummation
devoutly to be desired
(other than by the daftly devout).
Wednesday, May 24. 2017
Mme Samson (ainsi que M Coderre) répètent depuis des mois exactement les mêmes phrases: « la santé de l’animal est prioritaire… [on nous a donné] l’assurance que les chevaux seront bien traités… les vétérinaires seront sur place »
On se demande, si la santé de l’animal est prioritaire, pourquoi on leur inflige les conditions qui nécessitent la présence des vétérinaires? Il y aura des médecins aussi, pour les cowboys, mais eux font ça volontairement. Les victimes animales n’ont pas le choix.
Et c’est qui qui a donné ses assurances que les chevaux seront « bien traités »? Ce n’est pas les vétérinaires salariés des rodéos par hasard? et/où le rodéo lui-même? ou l’organisation internationale des rodéos?
Car on sait que l’ordre des vétérinaires du Canada s’est opposé au rodéo; la SPCA de Montréal aussi. Et déjà presque 1000 vétérinaires et techniciens vétérinaires du Québec, du Canada, et de partout au monde, ont signé une lettre à M. Coderre demandant l’annulation du rodéo. Face à ces « différences d’opinion » M. Coderre et Mme Samson, étant des démocrates jusqu’au bout des doigts, ont pondéré les POUR et les CONTRE, et ils ont « tranché » contre la vaste majorité, en faveur des représentants de l’industrie du rodéo.
Voilà pour l’opinion des spécialistes vétérinaires indépendants. Il y a aussi trois pétitions en cours de route et déjà signées par plus de 20 000 citoyens qui ne sont pas convaincus que M. Coderre ait bien tranché.
Mais, grande surprise, Mme Samson semble avoir découvert un nouveau fait rassurant concernant les rodéos, pour renforcer sa confiance que les chevaux seront bien traités: « les chevaux ne seront pas obligés de performer »!
Ah oui? Alors ils ne seront pas mis dans un étal puis un cowboy ne sera pas logé sur leur dos, et un sangle autour de leur ventre, et puis une fois la porte de l'étal ouverte, les chevaux ne seront pas les bénéficiares des coups d’éperons aux épaules jusqu’à ce qu’ils ne se libèrent des coups en ruant désespérément pour déloger le cowboy et ses talons? Les victimes auront le droit de vote?
Thursday, March 30. 2017
As a scientist and fellow-vegan, I agree that doctors as individuals should be allowed to opt out of administering euthanasia if it goes against their conscience and that patients should be allowed to choose their doctor. Doctors are not obliged to perform abortions, and patients can choose a doctor who does (or doesn’t). But as surely as doctors should be free to decline to end sentient life if they wish, patients should be free to end their suffering if they wish. Vegans are against causing suffering and against ending life, but life is such that sometimes the two are in opposition. And personal belief in an afterlife is no excuse for imposing one's hypothesis on others.
Tuesday, March 14. 2017
My mother (Zsuzsa Suss/Harnad), who died in 2009, was a great admirer of yours.
She was also a Holocaust survivor, and the one to whom Gary Grill was referring when he reported that she (a Jew hiding under false papers in Rimaszecs in 1944) was threatened and driven off by the gendarmes of Rimaszecs when she (and others) tried to give water to the Rimaszecs Jews that were being loaded onto the cattle trains to Auschwitz for slaughter (“as if they were ‘just’ cattle”).
My mother and father survived, but my aunt, Rozsi (her sister) and their child (Anny) did not; nor did 35 other members of my family. When Rozsi and Anny were inspected at Auschwitz, the inspectors decided Anny was too small and weak to work, so they wanted to send her one way, and her mother another way, but Rozsi clung to her child, so they were both sent to be gassed and incinerated.
That monstrous brutality has been the defining image, for me, of the meaning of life and the meaning of heartless cruelty: anti-life. But I have no illusion that it applies only to my kin, or only to my kind. I recognize, both sides of it, very clearly, very familiarly, in all suffering victims of heartless cruelty and in all dispensers of heartless cruelty. And I find denying the evident, inherent commonality impossible. There are degrees of suffering, to be sure, but both suffering and the battle against those who inflict it are betrayed by exceptionalism.
Substitute for “pig” any innocent, suffering creature, made to suffer, heartlessly, and you have the essence of the evil of the Holocaust. Of course I know what was uniquely particularly heinous about the Holocaust: My kin and kind were being tortured and exterminated because of their race, and on a scale far beyond any genocide before or since.
That is genocide, and racial hatred. Pigs are not being brutalized and massacred because of racial hatred, but because we like to eat them. Not because we need to eat them: because we like to eat them. Not only is eating them (or any other animal) not necessary for our survival or our health (as you know), but the unspeakable amount of brutality with which we make them live and die is not necessary even for getting the taste we like.
Yet likening the fate of my kin to the fate of “pigs” is felt reflexively as an offence. I had the same reflexive reaction initially, until I realized that it is not an insult or a betrayal to recognize the commonality in all gratuitous suffering — as well as in all heartless cruelty. The offence is rather to hold it at arm’s length and say that the horrors imposed on others are somehow less unjustified than the horrors imposed on me and my kin and kind. I realized that that arm’s-length treatment of the suffering of “other kinds” puts me, if ever so slightly, in the camp of the dispensers of the suffering rather than its recipients and resistors. It is, in fact, a direct failure of the Golden Rule that Anita rightly invokes.
And the sense of insult in the analogy comes also in no small part from humanity’s shameful tendency to add insult to injury by vilifying its victims, be they “pigs” or “jews,” by turning their very name into a mocking expletive.
Enough said. I don’t know if I am able to do so, but I hope to inspire you to reflect that we are far more faithful to the memory of the suffering of our kin and kind if we do not claim that the suffering of other kinds is incommensurable with our own.
Many other survivors have had the same realization, not the least of them being Isaac Bashevis Singer who wrote of animals’ “Eternal Treblinka.”
Best wishes, Stevan
"What do they know--all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world--about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
Joe, if you have the courage to take a cross-species look at a mother who “do[es] not have hopes, plans for the future, romantic involvements, spiritual beliefs and attachments to relatives the way people have,” please look at this.
The point of comparison is not the quality of suffering, but the quality of brutality -- and mercy.
And it involves us all.
Best wishes, Stevan
"I am a “beast." Hath not a beast eyes? Hath not a beast hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a “man" is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?.… If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” -- The quality of mercy...I am not at all arguing about the relative value of human and nonhuman (sentient) life.
I am talking about suffering: human-inflicted suffering. And not about who suffers more or less, but about the infliction of suffering in the absence of vital (life/death/health) necessity, i.e., needless suffering; gratuitous suffering.
In a choice between the welfare of my own kin and others (whether human or nonhuman), when there is a direct conflict of vital needs, I would always favour my kin; so would you; and we would be psychopaths or robots if we said “no, I would toss a coin.” Family, community, sociality would all be gone if we did not favour and help our own in case of vital need.
But to try to set aside the fundamental issue of the infliction of unnecessary suffering (which is absolutely rampant and ubiquitous when it comes to animals, and almost everyone contributes to it, for example, in eating meat) — by focusing instead on the non-issue of who suffers more, who is worth more, or whom we would favor in a conflict of vital interests -- is simply begging the (moral) question.
I hope this makes it clearer what I am actually talking about. In the analogy with the holocaust I am not saying that the suffering of pigs is identical to the suffering of Jews. I am saying that pigs, too, like the Holocaust victims, have extreme (human-inflicted) suffering: needless suffering, unjustified, unwarranted, unpardonable suffering; and it is inflicted on them with the same heartless cruelty as it was inflicted on the Holocaust victims (and all other victims of human brutality, human and nonhuman).
I will put it another way: Do you think that humans are so superior and exceptional that it is justified for humans to inflict suffering and death on animals, not out of vital necessity, but simply for the taste, or out of habit, or for profit?
This is not a religious question; it is a moral question. And I know of no higher morality. (It’s also Anita Krajnc’s Golden Rule.)
Tuesday, March 7. 2017
It's understandable that we focus first on our parents and family in trying to protect animals from their monstrous and needless fate: if our call to justice falls on deaf ears with our own kin, what hope is there for the victims when it comes to trying to persuade the rest of the world to stop hurting them?
No one knows what will work, but I have less faith in the appeal to justice than the appeal to compassion. I believe it is the realization that horrors that we would never support and sustain if they were being committed against our kin, including our family animals, are just as horrible when committed against any feeling being: that all the victims suffer, just as we would suffer, in their place. And that -- just as Emilia Leese states -- we cause their suffering just "because [we] like how they taste and [we] are used to it," not because it is necessary for our survival or our health. It is cognitive dissonance about that profound moral contradiction, of which we are all aware, that gives rise to the excuses and the discord.
But just as it is a waste of time arguing with heartless strangers who just want to debate their defence of taste over torment, and better to move on to try to reach the hearts of decent people with hearts (the majority, I believe), we should stop trying to reach the hearts of our next of kin once we see we are not making progress. The victims urgently need wider support than that. If charity fails to begin at home, go out and seek it elsewhere.
Harnad, Stevan (2016) CCTV, web-streaming and crowd-sourcing to sensitize public to animal suffering. Animal Justice UK, 2, Winter Issue
Tuesday, February 28. 2017
Yes, there are religions that prescribe the use of animals (including Judaism — and the other two Mosaic creeds too).SH: The motivation for not eating, wearing, or using animals or animal products is moral:Anon: I don't think any of the main religions insist on using animals. There are a lot of vegetarians in Israel. There is some suggestion in Judaism that the rules for dealing with animals are a compromise between the desire for meat and the ideal, which would be vegetarian.
But I was referring to a weaker moral criterion, one whose absence is already immoral enough for me to abjure a religion: the failure to proscribe the use of animals.
"in Judaism... the rules for dealing with animals are a compromise between the desire for meat and the ideal, which would be vegetarian"Then we may as well have
"rules [that] are a compromise between the desire for [stealing, raping, killing, torturing, enslaving, annihilating](as both religious and secular laws do when the victims are members of the human species) rather than to “compromise” (as both do in the case of the desire for meat, fur, blood sports, etc. when the victims are members of nonhuman species).
Humanity’s greatest and cruelest double standard, currently well-meaningly mis-labelled “speciesism” [which is incoherent, because plants are species too — almost certainly insentient, as it happens, but even if they were sentient we would have no choice but to eat them or perish], is the double standard between (1) sentient species that we are forbidden to hurt or kill except in case of vital (life-or-death) necessity (our own species) and (2) sentient species that we are allowed to hurt or kill in the absence of vital (life-or-death) necessity (all other sentient species).
Politicians and businessmen compromise. Deities decree. (And from an omnipotent deity even a no-kill decree would be a cynical and psychopathic joke -- if the very notion [so very humanoid] of an omnipotent Culprit behind it all were not already as absurd as it is morally repugnant.)
(Yes, there are a lot of vegetarians in Israel. More important, Israel (reportedly) has the world’s highest proportion of vegans in the world (5%). But 5% is still extremely tiny.)
Saturday, February 25. 2017
From: Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado 80302 USA
To: M. Denis Coderre, Mayor, City of Montreal
Dear Mayor Coderre:
I am writing to you concerning the proposal to bring a rodeo to Montreal to celebrate your 375th anniversary. As an evolutionary biologist and an authority on animal behavior, animal emotions, and animal mistreatment worldwide, I would like to urge you not to do this.
Consciousness of animal abuse is growing worldwide, and with it an increasing opposition to “entertainment” in the form of badger-baiting, dog-fights, cock-fights, bull-fights, trophy- hunting, rodeos, and even worse. In 2013 I reported on a particularly horrific happening at a rodeo in which a horse, to make him more agitated, was electro-shocked before being released into the arena: the terrified victim was so frightened he ran straight into a wall and died within a few moments. This sort of flagrant abuse and suffering does not happen at every rodeo, but in every single event there is always great stress and fear, and usually injury too. And, as in most if not all sport, there is cheating. In rodeos, behind the scenes and also with concealed spurs, all sorts of sadistic things are done to the animals to agitate them more, or simply because blood sports bring out people’s brutality, participant and spectator alike. To put it simply, rodeo animals do not like being treated like this and they suffer deep and enduring pain that doesn’t end when the event is over.
This is not the way to celebrate a city’s proud history — especially a city that is not even historically associated with such extreme cruelty, as is Calgary. Personally, I was shocked to learn of your plans to celebrate your anniversary with a rodeo.
Let me also say there will always be individual veterinarians who are ready to certify that rodeos are harmless fun, just as there are still doctors ready to certify that smoking or working in a coal mine are harmless. But professional veterinary associations (including Canada’s) are clear in their definitions of activities that harm animals, and all rodeo arena events fall clearly and unambiguously under those definitions. It is inarguable that rodeos are inhumane.
We all also know this in our hearts. We would never allow such things to be done to our beloved family dogs or cats. Animals who are used for unnecessary entertainment are not made of other stuff. They do not suffer less than the companion animals with whom we share our homes. They too have nervous systems that feel fear and pain. They are conscious and sentient beings.
While the crowd at a rodeo is roaring with enthusiasm at the “contest” between the human and the nonhuman animal, anyone with a heart and familiarity with the behavior of mammals can see that the unwilling animal is in a state of terror, and often injured and in pain during these “contests.” The only willing participant is the human.
I understand that international animal welfare organizations are approaching the city as well as the sponsors of this event to urge them to call it off and to replace it with something that is humane, and positive, an event that reflects well on Montreal’s heritage.
I hope you will heed them. The very fact of publicly calling off this rodeo would not only be good for Montreal’s international image, but it would also help in the efforts to put an end to such archaic barbarity elsewhere in the world. I urge you to lead the way to call off this rodeo. This really is the correct and compassionate move that would reflect well on your wonderful city. And, I would be more than happy to spread the good word globally. Thank you.
Marc Bekoff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of Colorado, Boulder
Tuesday, February 21. 2017
Voici la version tronquée (90 sec) de mes questions concernant le rodéo urbain proposé. C'est adressé au Maire de Montréal, M. Coderre, 20 février 2017, et suivie d'un résumé de sa réplique (et d'un indice de ma prochaine intervention):
M. le maire, en tant que directeur d’une revue scientifique sur la sensibilité animale et directeur d’une école d’été sur la sensibilité animale à l’UQÀM: j'ai 10 points à vous adresser:1. Saint-Tite a retiré la prise au lasso à Montréal, admettant ainsi le risque de blessures;M. le maire, pourquoi insistez-vous à abimer l’image internationale de Montréal et du Québec en intégrant une telle abomination dans les célébrations de notre anniversaire?
La réplique assez mécanique de M. Coderre à toutes les questions (y compris celles posées par les deux autres intervenants contre le rodéo, Chantal Cuggia et Carl Saucier-Bouffard) était que:
(i) Les experts (vétérinaires ainsi que l'association des rodéos) nous assurent que les rodéos sont corrects et que le bien-être des animaux n'est pas en risqueProchaine intervention:
(a) Les experts. M. le Maire, nous savons tous qu'on peut toujours trouver des « experts » individuels qui témoigneront pour ou contre tout: les médecins qui témoigneront solennellement que le tabagisme ou l'amiante ne posent pas de risque aux poumons, les météorologues qui témoigneront que le changement climatique ne pose pas de risque à la terre, les politologues qui nous assureront que que les réfugiés ne sont pas vraiment des réfugiés, qu'ils ne fuient pas de véritables risques (ou que c’est plutôt les réfugiés qui posent le risque aux Montréalais). Vous êtes demeuré admirablement peu persuadé par les arguments creux de tels « experts »: Pourquoi n'êtes vous pas pareillement sceptique vis-â-vis des « experts » individuels qui nient solennellement que les victimes du rodéo sont exposées aux risques? Ils sont en minorité, ces experts individuels (ayant souvent des intérêts particuliers), tandis que l'Association canadienne des médecins vétérinaires déclare officielement que les rodéos « présentent une probabilité élevée de blessures, de détresse et de maladies » (et la SPCA de Montréal, ainsi que de plus en plus de spécialistes en bien-être animal partout au monde, font écho de la même conclusion)?
(b) Les victimes. Et est-ce que vous ne tenez pas compte, M. le Maire, du fait que -- contrairement aux fumeurs qui décident de faire face aux risques du tabagisme, ou aux cowboys qui décident de faire face aux risques du « concours » au rodéo -- les animaux n'ont pas de choix. Ils n'ont pas voulu le « concours ». Ils ne comprennent pas, et il sont dans un état de terreur tout au long du « diverstissement ».
(c) Les spectateurs. Et ce n'est en effet qu'un divertissement. Pour les victimes, c'est de la souffrance, inutile, qui leur est infligée pour plaire aux goûts des spectateurs et des cowboys. C'est un « sport » sanguinaire, exactement comme jadis lors des combats entre les gladiateurs (qui étaient souvent eux-aussi des esclaves) ou contre les animaux, ainsi que contre les criminels humains qui avait été condamnés à mort. À l'époque il y avait aussi sans doute des « experts » qui témoignaient alors que tout était correct. Et il y avait les spectateurs qui avaient et qui n'avaient pas le goût pour ça. Et les autorités qui déclaraient alors aussi, que ceux qui n'ont pas lle goût de ce spectacle, ne sont pas obligés dy'assister.
(c) Mais les victimes n'avaient pas ce choix.
Pourquoi, M. Coderre, étant le Maire de cette ville dernièrement déclarée « ville de refuge », pourquoi est-ce que vous ne la déclarez aussi une ville de refus: le refus de promouvoir les sports sanguinaires, avec leurs victimes involontaires et impuissantes? (Vous pourriez même réaliser ça d’une façon propice et digne d’admiration globale, en créant un refuge urbain pour les victimes à Montréal. Voilà la façon clémente et compatissante de célébrer le patrimoine equin du Québec.)
Intervention de Chantal Cuggia:
Intervention de Étienne Harnad:
Intervention de Carl Saucier-Bouffard:
Saturday, February 18. 2017
Q1. M. le maire, je m’adresse à vous en tant que rédacteur en chef d’une revue scientifique internationale portant sur la sensibilité animale, que professeur en sciences cognitives à l’UQÀM, et que directeur d’un institut d’été international sur la sensibilité animale qui aura lieu à Montréal, peu après les célébrations [du trois cent soixante-quinzième] anniversaire de Montréal.Q2: Vous m'avez dit l’autre fois que vous aviez assisté à un rodéo de Saint-Tite et que vous l'aviez trouvé acceptable. Lorsque je vous ai demandé si vous supporteriez un tel traitement pour vos animaux de famille, vous m’avez répondu qu'il existait tout de même une différence entre les animaux domestiques et les animaux de ferme. Vous sembliez même surpris que votre réplique n'ait pas suscité d’applaudissements.
Quelle est cette différence, M. le maire, et en quoi est-ce qu’elle justifie un tel traitement des animaux de ferme?
Il n’existe aucune horreur infligée aux animaux
que nous n'avons pas infligé aussi aux humains
—la subjugation, l’esclavage, la torture, le meurtre, le viol, le génocide--
There is no horror we inflict on animals
Mais envers les humains,
et la plupart de l’humanité s’y oppose
et ne le ferait jamais
But doing it to humans,
Tandis qu’envers les animaux
Et la plupart de l’humanité le demande
et le soutient
Whereas doing it to animals
Jusqu'à ce que ce ne soit plus vrai
comment peut-on attendre à plus de miséricorde que ce qu’on en accorde?
Until this is no longer true
Tuesday, January 31. 2017
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