Halloween is my birthday. That fact alone likely would not merit the holiday’s mention here. I note it because only this year – some forty-odd years into my marking of the day– did I stop to consider what makes this holiday unusual. First, my son, Jesse, whose tastes seem to be rather typical for his age group, debated for weeks whether to dress up as Genghis Khan or as John Dillinger. Other candidates on the slate include the Grim Reaper and an assassin. This approach seems atypical of our cultural observances.
A second unique characteristic of Halloween lies with the fact that it does not revolve around the consumption of animals. Easter and Christmas require hams, Thanksgiving involves turkeys, Passover needs a sheep shank and chicken soup, and July 4th is about barbecue. The list goes on. American festivals are meal-based and animals pay a mortal price for our food-related revelry. Except, that is, during Halloween.
It’s difficult to believe, but Animal Blawg just turned 1!! These last 12 months have been wonderful. Animal Blawg received only 5 or 6 hits per day during the first month or so. Slowly, but surely, the number of hits started increasing. I’m pleased to report that during the last month or so the Animal Blawg has received over 1,000 hits per day on several occasions. Our goal is to reach an even broader audience, but I believe this is a good start.
Thanks to all of you for reading the blawg and for your frequent and insightful comments. Thanks are also due to our numerous guest bloggers.
On a more personal note, I want to thank my dear friend and colleague, David, for encouraging me to think about these issues, for allowing me to co-host this wonderful blog with him, and for keeping the blawg going come rain or shine.
Just like it has done since October 2008, Animal Blawg will continue transcending speciesism through 2010 and beyond.
Saving the wild salmon in the Columbia River Basin is an issue that does not get much press outside of the Pacific Northwest. However, the possible extinction of the Columbia River Salmon has far reaching effects. One of the more interesting issues (and representative of the greater environmental and animal advocate’s conflict) is that a main reason for the massive die off of salmon is the dams which supply “clean” energy to much of the northwest. According to William Dietrich, a noted Pacific Northwest naturalist and writer, the natural salmon population has been reduced by 98 percent. Much of this die off can be directly attributed to the normal operation of dams.
The procedure has spread like wildfire across the country since its establishment in the United States by John Ho at the Yvonne Hair and Nail Salon in the D.C. area. However, as popularity grew, concerns for the health of salon patrons increased. Many states have imposed bans on the procedure stating that it can cause fungal and bacterial infections because there is no way to sterilize the fish. If New York follows suit, it would become the 15th state to ban the procedure.
In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported that livestock accounted for 18% of greenhouse gases, making livestock emissions “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” However recently, Worldwatch Institute, a Washington D.C. environmental think-tank, reported that livestock emissions actually account for 51% of greenhouse gases.
In case anyone was thinking that animal law is always depressing, here‘s a story about a leech that cracked a cold case in Tasmania. 8 years ago, a 71 year-old woman had her home invaded and was beaten and robbed. An engorged leech was found at the scene. Samples of the DNA from the blood in the leech were added to the police database. When Peter Alec Cannon was picked up for another offense and his DNA cross-checked — voila! He pleaded guilty to robbery last Monday.
A feel-good story about a leech. Truly, a banner week.
Pictured above and here is the Belgian Blue Bull It came about naturally in the 1800s, but modern technology has been able to determine that a gene mutation preventing a control of muscle growth results in a “double-muscled” cow. Additionally, their lean meat has been ranked amongst the best Angus being produced in terms of quality. This mutation is a farmer’s fantasy because the Blue yields higher beef quality at a comparable price without a drop in quality. Some of the statistics that farmers find desirable can be found here.
Although it looks like a superhero-like cow, the Blue lives a miserable life from the minute it is brought into this earth. The only way for a Belgian Blue to bear her calves is by Cesarean, her birth canal simply cannot freely deliver a calf on its own, and lack of intervention causes the potential for mortal danger to both cow and offspring. In addition, the extra size of a Belgian Blue fetus causes an underdevelopment of its vital organs, and respiratory and cardiac issues as calves result. As adults, these cows are not any stronger than an average cow; much of their extra muscle is non-functional. Instead, they suffer from crippling joint and bone problems also brought on by a lack of sufficient space in utero. Blues have trouble walking, and in terms of mating, the bulls must have semen harvested and the females have artificial insemination. Some supporters of banning the farming of the Blues believe that it is unethical to breed animals that put the animal and the offspring in danger at every birth. The calves have a number of birth defects including tongue swelling so that they cannot feed from the mother, hardening of the arteries causing problems to stand upright and cardio-respiratory problems which may lead to premature death. These problems lead to calves and the mother cows to have constant operations, causing discomfort and pain. Ban supporters believe that it is not ethical to breed an animal that we keep in continual pain and suffering.
The first amendment issues in the news sparked my interest, I headed for the internet to see how U.S. v. Stevens was impacting Connecticut. Big Game Hunting, a website with a Connecticut news page, has posted an article about US v. Stevens. The article shows particular concern that educational hunting videos will be banded:
“The National Shooting Sports Foundation and its over 4,500 member companies oppose animal cruelty, which is illegal in every state, and stress that hunting scenes are not representative of criminal behavior. Hunting is a legitimate, licensed activity, and responsible hunters respect the animals they pursue and utilize,” said Steve Sanetti, president of NSSF. “Such images assist novices with basic hunting and field dressing techniques and provide education about wildlife conservation and safe and ethical hunting.” Article available in it’s entirety here .
This past weekend New York Times Magazine published an excerpt of novelist (writer of Everything Is Illuminated) Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals. In the article, and by extension, in the book, the author talks about his lifetime of wavering vegetarianism, and why he has decided to raise his children vegetarian.
Reading the article, I was particularly struck by Foer’s realization that by excluding meat from his life, and from his children’s lives, he’d somehow managed to disconnect himself from his grandmother. I understood this, personally, because in a culture where so many of our memories are laced with food (think of all those 4th of July barbecues!) it’s easy to see that the vegetarian is somewhat excluded.
An important bill concerning animal rights issues was signed into law this week in Michigan. As most of those who follow animal rights issues, specifically the treatment of animals that are processed and used in the food industry, California was the first state to ban the use of battery cages (or laying cages) in 2008. California has also banned the use of veal crates and gestation crates. This week Michigan has followed suit. On October 12, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed HB 5127, which mandates pen sizes for veal calves, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows. The law was created in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, which has a nationwide campaign to stop the use of battery cages, as well as gestation crates. (See Michigan’s Humane Society webpage for a complete list of other proposed Michigan legislation to protect animals, as well as feedback from the Humane Society.) Michigan is now the second state to ban battery cages, the fifth to ban veal crates, and the seventh to ban gestation crates.
After reading the comments to the Animal Blawg poll that I posted on “Why is Veganism Morally Appealing” and thinking about what Brian Leiter and Michael Dorf had to say about the meaning of the poll’s results (here and here), I think it is worth conducting the poll again. This time, however, I will include an option that asserts that veganism is morally appealing because participating in meat consumption is harmful to the environment. I will also clarify the implications of voting for the “killing animals is always wrong” and “killing animals is wrong absent exigent circumstances alternatives”. Let me explain why.
Professor Leiter believes that those who voted for the “killing animals is always wrong” option hold morally repugnant views because it would lead them to claim that killing an animal in self-defense is wrong. This, Leiter believes, is abhorrent. If killing a human being in self-defense is not wrongful, why should killing an animal in self-defense be considered wrongful? For what it’s worth, I agree with Leiter that killing an animal in self-defense is not wrong and that’s why I did not vote for this option. I think that anyone who believes that killing a human being in self-defense is not morally wrongful has compelling reasons to also believe that killing non-human animals in self-defense is not morally wrongful. However, for the reasons that I pointed out in a previous post, I don’t believe that those who vote for this option hold “morally abhorrent views”.
Professor Dorf made an important point with regard to why some people might have voted for this option. According to Dorf, “it’s not entirely surprising that 30% of this self-selected group would choose the “always wrong” option. Some fraction of these respondents probably just didn’t think the question through”. In other words, Dorf believes that some of those who voted for the “always wrong” option would vote differently had they considered that voting for that option meant that killing an animal in self-defense is morally wrongful. I think Professor Dorf might be right. Therefore, I believe it’s worth clarifying that voting for this option entails accepting the proposition that it is wrong to kill an animal when it’s attacking you in a way that will surely lead to your death (or the death of another). For what it’s worth, Professor Dorf would not vote for the “always wrong” option because he has “no moral qualms about killing a human or non-human in self-defense (although I’d likely find the experience traumatic)”.
Before conducting the poll again, it is also worth mentioning that Professor Leiter believes that voting for the “killing animals is wrong absent exigent circumstances” exception is morally indefensible, although not morally abhorrent. His position stems from the fact that many, if not most, animal advocates believe that animals are worthy of legal protection because they are sentient beings (i.e. they have the capacity to feel pain). If this is the reason that justifies affording moral status to animals, it would seem that painlessly killing them does not violate their interests, as, by definition, killing them in such a manner does not entail inflicting pain on them. Furthermore, since Professor Leiter believes that animals do not have the capacity for self-consciousness and for planning for the future, he thinks that there are no sound moral reasons to hold that painlessly killing an animal is morally wrong. I agree with Professor Leiter for the reasons I point out here and here. That’s why I did not vote for this option.
Finally, Leiter acknowledges that there is a defense of veganism that he does not find morally “abhorrent” or “indefensible”. This defense of veganism is represented by the option stating that being a vegan is morally appealing “because although killing animals painlessly is not necessarily wrong, animals that are killed or used for food, clothing, cosmetics, etc., are usually treated in an unjustifiably cruel manner”.
Personally, I find this option not only morally defensible, but morally compelling as well. If sentience is morally relevant, as I believe it surely is, we should not inflict pain on sentient creatures unless we have powerful reasons to do so. It seems obvious to me that “I love the taste of steak” or “I love the look of leather shoes” do not count as morally compelling reasons to contribute to industries that inflict gratuitous amounts of pain on non-human animals. That’s why I find veganism morally appealing. How about you?
This just in: Ohio’s largest Humane Societies have come out against Issue 2. You can (and should) read the full skinny at Cleveland.com but here are some choice excerpts:
As Nov. 3 approaches and the debate over Issue 2 escalates, Ohio’s two largest humane societies and smaller ones, including Geauga Humane in rural Geauga County, today announced their opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment.
They join the state farmers’ union, organic food proponents and environmental groups opposing the plan to create a livestock board that would determine how billions of cows, chickens, pigs, sheep and goats are treated here.
From the email — what looks to be a very interesting film:
THE TIGER NEXT DOOR tells the story of a man named Dennis Hill who has been breeding and selling tigers from his backyard for over 15years. He has recently lost his federal license to keep the animals and is in a battle w the state to keep 24 tigers, 3 bears, 6 leopards and a cougar. As Hill’s small town story unfolds As Hill’s small town drama unfolds, a litany of news stories of tiger situations gone bad around the country suggest an animal welfare problem of much larger scope.
The city of Euless, Texas outlaws killing four-legged animals. Santeria priest Jose Merced was personally informed about this rule back in 2006 when police knocked on his door and prohibited him from ritually sacrificing a goat.
Speaking as an animal lover and as a vegan, I think this story sounds pretty good. But there’s more.
How would you define a “vegetarian”? A “vegan”? Animal rights scholars have not collectively provided clear definitions for these terms. I believe that it hurts the vegetarian and vegan advocacy efforts that these causes are not clearly defined.
Meat that comes from animals who spent their entire lives in conditions like this can be labeled as “natural.”
When you see the word “natural” on a meat or poultry product, what does that mean to you? If you’re like approximately half of the likely voters surveyed by Zogby on behalf of Farm Sanctuary, you believe that meat labeled as “natural” comes from animals who were raised with free access to outdoor areas where they were able exercise and move about. And if you’re like nearly three-quarters of those surveyed, you believe that it is inappropriate for meat from animals who are kept indoors, crowded into cages and forced to stand on metal or concrete floors to be labeled as “natural.”
Based on their beliefs about what “natural” signifies, many consumers are forking over lots of money for products with this label. According to market researchers, “natural” is the leading labeling claim on new products, and according to this Chicago Tribune article, between 2007 and 2008, the natural foods market grew by 10 percent, reaching 12.9 billion dollars.
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated” (Mahatma Gandhi)
Posing in Front of Message that Reads "Animals are My Friends and That's Why I Don't Eat Them"
I just got back from a criminal procedure conference held in Bogotá, Colombia. It was hosted by the Sergio Arboleda University and proved to be a huge success. Before the conference, a couple of students of the Arboleda university showed us around town. One of the obvious stops was Bogotá’s historical district, especially the “plaza”, which is surrounded by an impressive cathedral and the buildings that host Colombia’s legislature and Supreme and Constitutional Courts.
It turns out that we arrived at the plaza a couple of hours after a big pro animal welfare demonstration had taken place. The demonstrators wrote messages on the “plaza” floor. I’m including a couple of pictures. If you want to learn more about the demonstration, you can read about it here (in Spanish).
On September 23, Defenders of Wildlife and Audubon Kansas filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the EPA for its decision to register pesticides that kill prairie dogs. The pesticides at issue are chlorophacinone and diphacinone, found in the products Rozol and Kaput-D. The lawsuit alleges that by registering the use of these pesticides, the EPA is violating several federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act. The full complaint can be found here. The suit also alleges that the EPA failed to heed warnings from the Fish and Wildlife Service, which recommended that registrations of the chemicals be disapproved or rescinded due to their known and potential impacts to wildlife.
Walking along a crowded Boston street, you can see people stopping abruptly in front of you – if you did not run into them first – glaring at the spectacle across the street in front of a McDonalds. There are five people with signs and bullhorns surrounding a person in a beakless chicken suit and another in a bloody cow suit. PETA was staging a demonstration in front of a McDonalds protesting their animal farming practices. Although this scene draw attention for a brief moment while people we passing buy, I never heard anything about it the next day, or any day following. There was no staying power in their message, in fact, I went into a McDonalds just days later…
The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in U.S. v. Stevens, wherein the the federal law banning trafficking in illegal depictions of animal cruelty has been ruled unconstitutional by the Third Circuit. The issues underlying this First Amendment case are complex and multi-layered (see posts here ) and there is much more to say. Among the issues the Court faces are whether the law unconstitutionally constrains protected speech solely on a content-based basis and also whether animal cruelty rises to the level of a compelling state interest that justifies overriding the presumption in favor of free speech.
Please join us this fall at Animal Law: The Links, The Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark, hosted by the Center for Animal Law Studies and the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Lewis & Clark Law School!
This year’s conference will explore animal law and its link to other areas of the law and professional disciplines, philosophies, and social movements. Panel sessions will include topics such as the link between animal law and: domestic violence; climate change; international trade; religion; the media; and social justice movements. In addition to panels on animal law and the link, the conference will also highlight hot topics in animal law, cutting-edge legislation, criminal law, a Holocaust survivor’s moving perspective on animal issues. . . and much more!
We are thrilled to welcome Nicholas D. Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times columnist, as our Saturday evening Keynote Speaker. Mr. Kristof will be joining us for a special book signing of his latest book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (copies of the book will be available for purchase through registration and at the conference). We are also excited to announce that Jonathan Lovvorn, Vice President & Chief Counsel for Animal Protection Litigation & Research at the Humane Society of the United States, will be delivering the Keynote Address at our Friday evening opening reception at the Oregon Historical Society located in downtown Portland.
At the encouragement of Professor Cassuto, I am back with a second blog posting. Last night, I had the good fortune to see Wickedon Broadway to celebrate my daughter’s 10th birthday. Known as a “Wizard of Oz” prequel, the show in fact has a tremendously empowering story line involving animals and animal rights. Let me explain…
The story essentially begins when socially popular and proudly superficial Glinda meets socially conscious and social outcast (due to her being born green skinned) Elpheba at University in Oz. The last remaining talking animal on the University faculty is a distinguished goat, a professor of history, Dr. Dilomond. During class, Dr. Dilomond finds a shocking message on his chalkboard – “Animals Should be Seen and Not Heard.” He confesses to Elpheba that something terrible is happening to the talking animals of Oz – they are losing the ability to speak. Even Dr. Dilamond is beginning to “baaah” during his lectures, a frightening change for such an articulate animal.
On the 180th Anniversary of the Passage of New York State’s First Anti-Cruelty Law in 1829
Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
There is no charge for this program. Register
A discussion of a number of bills that were left hanging when the New York State legislature went out of session, such as felony cruelty to wildlife, dog fighting, puppy mills, canned shoots, and farm animal confinement. New York State was once a humane leader, but have we fallen behind on some issues?
Moderator: JANE HOFFMAN, President, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals
Speakers: DEBORA M. BRESCH, Government Relations, ASPCA; PATRICK KWAN, NYS Director, The Humane Society of the United States; MICHELLE VILLAGOMEZ, Senior Manager, Advocacy and Campaigns, Government Relations, ASPCA; SAMANTHA MULLEN, board member & Legislation Committee chair, NYS Humane Association
The first Animal Blawg poll that I posted some time ago caught Professor Brian Leiter’s eye several days ago. According to Professor Leiter, the results of the poll suggest that many, if not most, vegans (or at least the readers of AnimalBlawg) ascribe to either “morally abhorrent” or “morally baseless views”. For Leiter, holding that killing animals is always wrong is morally abhorrent because, among other things, it would lead to claiming that killing an animal in order to save a human being from imminent harm is morally wrong. This, Leiter believes, is clearly incorrect.
On the other hand, Leiter believes that those who think that killing an animal is morally wrong absent exigent circumstances do not display morally “abhorrent” views. However, he believes that adopting such a position is morally indefensible, given that if animal interests stem from sentience, there is nothing wrong with painlessly killing an animal. Therefore, Leiter claims that the only morally sound reason for being a vegan is that, although killing animals is not necessarily wrong, the processes that lead to the killing of animals for human consumption typically cause an unjustifiable infliction of pain on the creatures. I have three comments about Leiter’s post.
Temple University Press has published a new book by Leslie Irvine (Sociology, U. Colorado at Boulder), Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters. Here is the publisher’s description:
When disasters strike, people are not the only victims. Hurricane Katrina raised public attention about how disasters affect dogs, cats, and other animals considered members of the human family. In this short but powerful book, noted sociologist Leslie Irvine goes beyond Katrina to examine how disasters like oil spills, fires, and other calamities affect various animal populations—on factory farms, in research facilities, and in the wild.
Hundreds of hunters travel to Africa every year for something they refer to as a sport, trophy hunting. They essentially look to shoot animals to hang on their walls as trophies. This sport not only is unethical and another form of animal cruelty, but it also creates problems that affect the ecosystem. Although hunting was a crucial part of humans’ survival 100,000 years ago, in this writer’s opinion, more recent hunting is rarely done for the need of subsistence. Moreover, where people once hunted to feed their family, it would seem that currently, hunting is now performed as a violent form of recreation where hunters seek out the best heads of animals they can find for their walls at home. According to Change.org, hunting has now contributed to the extinction of many animal species all around the world including the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk. Although there are other factors that may lead to an animal’s extinction such as climate change, habitat loss and national and international wildlife trade, hunting is the biggest threat for the extinction of mammals according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and devolvement challenges.