Someone else’s trash: Rez dogs saved; rez dogs lost

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

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Dumpster pups reunite; M. Greener photo, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

From tragic to jubilant in eight short words: “Puppies left to die in garbage bin reunited.” The headline pulls you into the story–you already know it ends well–but still, you have to confront the fact that someone callously trashed a box of 10 newborns during a frigid Montana winter. Instead of freezing to death, the babies–some had not yet opened their eyes–were rescued by RezQ Dogs (websiteFacebook), a volunteer rescue operation “committed to helping the unwanted and abandoned dogs from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Indian reservations” in north-central Montana. Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue (websiteFacebook) stepped in to help, and the rest is happy history.  Continue reading

The ‘Blackfish Effect’ at Work: Freedom for Orcas from SeaWorld San Diego?

Spencer Lo

Blackfish, an eye-opening documentary about the devastating consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, premiered a little more than a year ago, and since then, the remarkable outrage and debate it inspired has created waves of black lash against SeaWorld, from visible protests of the institution to successful pressures that resulted in embarrassing cancellations of scheduled musical performances. The ‘Blackfish Effect,’ with its growing momentum, will only continue. But how far will it go, and is real, tangible change for captive orcas achievable in the near future? Maybe yes—there is certainly good reason to hope. Continue reading

Can California regulate egg production under the Commerce Clause?

New standard for chickens

New standard for chickens

Seth Victor

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California, asking the federal court to overturn a 2010 California law requiring the same standards for in-state chickens be applied to out-of-state chickens. In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot measure that increased the standards for egg-layers, providing that such chickens must have enough space to spread their wings without touching another chicken, and be able to stand up and lay down. Animal producers in California, however, complained that because they couldn’t stuff as many birds into the same space, they are at an economic disadvantage when competing with out-of-state producers selling in California. In response the state legislature passed a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be held to the same standards required under Proposition 2. The law will take effect in 2015. While California maintains that the additional law was enacted for health safety given the atrocious conditions of battery cages, Missouri counters that the law is an unlawful attempt to regulate conduct outside of California’s boarders, and an impermissible protection against out-of-state competition, both of which are in violation of the Commerce Clause. Continue reading

What the 2014 Farm Bill means for animals

Seth VictorFarm Bill

Although the Farm Bill is a comprehensive and nuanced piece of legislature that keeps food on our tables, perhaps the most notable part about this year’s version is something that is not in it: the “King Amendment”, a criticized hypocritical measure,  did not make the final cut, due in part to a large outcry against stripping states of their ability to regulate their own agriculture. As The Huffington Post reports, industrial agriculture was checked on several other fronts as well, including measures that would have loosened corporations’ requirements for labeling animal products. It is also now a federal crime to attend or take a child under the age of sixteen to an animal fighting event. There are other very important aspects of the law, such as the reduction of Food Stamps and a drastic curtailing of farm subsidies. Still, when looking at what was at risk directly affecting animals, this one counts as a win.

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

How Puppies Can Help the Incarcerated

Seth Victor

When we talk about animals and the law, we often focus on how those laws affect and (fail to) protect animals, how penalties for harming animals are developing, and also how animals are used to enforce the law. What about animals who are used to help rehabilitate people on the other side of the law? Dogs, our faithful best friends from PuppiesBehindBarsAtWarwickApril2010the animal world, are the poster animals for rehab. Some of the most recognized examples are seeing-eye dogs, and with hundreds of soldiers returning with a plethora of physical and mental damage, service dogs for veterans continue to be in demand. But while America gladly clads itself in the garb of war heroes and the auspices of social care (insert partisan comment here), it is also houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated humans. What about those forgotten 2,266,800?

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Vegan thank you notes: “Just thought you’d want to know”

Vegan Peace e-cards: click image

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

One last hurrah is on the holiday season horizon–the New Year’s celebration. The holidays (regardless of which ones you celebrate) are a time fraught with pitfalls for ethical vegans in a speciesist world. Gifts…food…gifts of food…argh.

Food. You can always detect the vegan at the omnivore holiday party, surreptitiously rifling through the pasta salad with a serving spoon, attempting to determine if it’s “safe.” Likewise, the vegan (or veg*n) is the one whose face brightens at the sight of a huge salad bowl then darkens upon realizing that the lovely greens are covered with crumbled bacon. And bacon vinaigrette. Tsk.

Then there’s the gift-giving, and by that I really mean the gift-receiving. Because you can bet your Moo Shoes that ethical vegans give vegan gifts but don’t always receive them.   Continue reading

Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

New Jersey Animals Get More Protection, But Are Still Property

Seth Victor

Last month New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed laws creating two new felonies for animal abuse. The first, “Patrick’s Law,” increases neglect of a dog from a disorderly persons offense, a misdemeanor, to a fourth degree felony, or in some cases, a third degree felony. The fines associated with these crimes were also increased. Additionally, overworking an animal is now a misdemeanor offense. The law was inspired by Patrick, a malnourished pit bull who was thrown down a garbage patrickchute in a trash bag by his owner. Patrick survived and was rescued, but owner Kisha Curtis is not expected to face harsh penalties for her actions. Under the new law, even failing to provide a dog like Patrick with adequate food and water could land a similar offender in custody. The bill was passed by the NJ Assembly last spring.

Christie also signed “Dano’s Law,” aka “Dano’s and Vader’s Law.” Under this addition, it is now a fourth degree felony to threaten the life of a law enforcement animal. This measure primarily includes K-9 units, but also horses for mounted police. NJ Sen. Christopher Bateman commented, “Cowardly criminals who threaten the life of a law enforcement animal will now receive the punishment they deserve.”

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Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

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Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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New Jersey Takes Steps Towards Stronger Animal Laws

Seth Victor

In a move to join Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill 60-5 last Thursday to ban gestation crates for pigs. A similar bill already having passed in the state senate 35-1, the measure now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Though a progressive step forward for animal protection, the bill, while giving a thorough definition of the kinds of confinement banned, still allows for the common exceptions. Gestating pigs can still be confined for “(1) medical research, (2) veterinary examination, testing, individual treatment, or an operation, (3) transportation of the animal, (4) an exhibition or educational program, (5) animal husbandry purposes, provided the confinement is temporary and for no more than six hours in any 24-hour period, (6) humanely slaughtering of the animal in accordance with the laws, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, concerning the slaughter of animals, and (7) proper care during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the gestating sow giving birth.” While there is a rational basis for all of these exceptions, broad ones such as “veterinary examination” seem ripe for abuse (or at least a defense), and animal testing gets its typical pass with the “medical research” caveat. Still, there is a disorderly persons misdemeanor where once there was none, and groundwork to phase out a particularly thorny issue in CAFOs. Continue reading

Animal Blawg Links 3.15.13

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Spencer Lo

One (unfortunate) reality of blogging, especially for a slow writer like myself, is that it’s impossible to write about everything one reads, and yet there is so much important information and valuable perspectives to share. So from time to time (perhaps weekly), in lieu of my regular manner of blogging, I’ll simply offer quick links of articles, podcasts, videos, etc., that I’ve found worth examining—and hope others will too. Enjoy! Read More

Creating Killers: Human Tolls of Slaughter

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Spencer Lo

Behind the sanitized world of fast-food, everyday grocery shopping and culinary delights—all meant to satiate to our basic pleasures and needs—is an extraordinarily vast realm of brutality as normal and routine as our mealtime habits. I am referring, of course, to the often ignored truth of slaughterhouses: that billions of animals raised and slaughtered every year for food are forced to endure unimaginable suffering. What society does to produce food is obviously bad for other animals. What is less obvious, however, is the lesser-known fact that slaughterhouses are also bad for the hundreds of thousands of employees who work in them—for very low wages, with little job security (most are “at-will” employees) and in highly dangerous conditions. Read More

In Praise (and Defense) of Meatless Mondays

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Spencer Lo

Today, the start of the new weekday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will serve students in its K-12 cafeteria meatless meals, thereby participating in the growing international campaign known as “Meatless Mondays” (MM). The mandatory vegetarian program began last month, and follows a unanimous city council’s resolution passed last November endorsing the campaign, which asked residents to make a personal pledge to go meat-free for one day a week. As reported on HLN, the new initiative amounts to 650,000 vegetarian meals every Monday—that’s (by my calculation) more than 31 million vegetarian meals per year served in United States’ second largest school district. This is very welcome news. Read More

Can Farming Rhinos Save the Species?

Seth Victor

Rhino-horn-tradeKevin Charles Redmon poses an interesting thought: can farming the horns of African rhinoceroses save the species? The horns of the rhinos are used throughout the world, from dagger handles to medicine. Though the animals are endangered, and protected under CITES, there is a lucrative black market business in poaching, especially when the horns fetch $65,000 a kilo; “demand for horn is inelastic and growing, so a trade ban (which restricts supply) only drives up prices, making the illicit good more valuable—and giving poachers greater incentive to slaughter the animal.” Poachers aren’t overly concerned with the long-term extinction risks of their prey. The focus is on the immediate value. Because the activity is illegal, timing is of the essence, and it’s apparently easier to kill and harvest the rhinos versus tranquilizing and waiting for them to go down. What if, Redmon wonders, we were to harvest the horns (they re-grow over time) by placing rhinos in captivity, guarding them well, and introducing a sustainable horn supply that doesn’t kill the rhinos? Continue reading

New European Study Confirms English Cooking Is Still Bad

Seth Victor

Though the title of this post is a bit hyperbolic in invoking the classic stereotype about English foodEnglish Breakfast, a new study posted in BMC Medicine confirms that processed meat, such as that found in the classic English Breakfast pictured to the right,  increases the risk of premature death. The study evaluated “448,568 men and women without prevalent cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction, and with complete information on diet, smoking, physical activity and body mass index, who were between 35 and 69 years old.”  You can read the abstract here. One of the takeaways is that “if everyone in the study consumed no more than 20g of processed meat a day then 3% of the premature deaths could have been prevented.”

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Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.’”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.’”

Why horse meat tacos are the least of our worries

Seth Victor

Taco Bell moved to pull beef off its UK menus this past Friday because of traces of horse meat found in the product. A spokesperson for the company commented: “We apologize to our customers and take this matter very seriously as food quality is our highest priority.” The problem with this statement is that it calls into question just what Taco Bell considers to be “food quality.” Obviously phenylbutazone isn’t something Taco Bell wants in its products. This is a company that is trying to brand itself as something more than fast food, from the “Think Outside the Box” campaign, to the recent artesian kitchen look with chef Lorena Garcia and her supposed quest for the “highest quality ingredients.” Not convinced? You can go to the Taco Bell website and learn more (or in keeping with the company slogan, Learn Más!). Here, at last, you can rest easy knowing that Taco Bell uses 88% premium ground beef, and 12% signature recipe. What? 12% of its product is. . . a recipe? The assurance I should get by hearing this supposed break down of ingredients is undermined when I haven’t a clue what that means. The ad tells me to go to the website learn what the recipe is, but it’s buried. Hunt it down though, and it comes out to water and a bunch of seasoning. So no worries there, I guess. How about this premium beef? Continue reading

An animal rights Super Bowl fantasy

Just say no to pigskin (unless it’s on a pig) – click image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

It’s Superbowl Sunday, and even as I type, the six-hour pre-game show has commenced. We’ll tune in later, for the actual game. Yes, we’re football fans, a somewhat shocking revelation to friends who know us only for our more conscience-driven pursuits. We’ll be cheering for, well, who cares. I default to the NFC when I don’t have a dog in that fight, to use a football-related (OK, Michael Vick-related, close enough) term. Go 49ers, ho-hum. Then again, ravens are birds–and birds are good, and the Edgar Allen Poe/Baltimore connection is most compelling to a former English teacher…so…Go team! Continue reading

Abolitionism and Welfare Reform: A Debate

GFBF

Spencer Lo

Professor Gary Francione and Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary recently had a short, substantive exchange on abolitionism and welfare reform, consisting of two opening statements and a response to each. Below is my summary of the exchange. Obviously, nothing can be settled in a short debate, but I hope to highlight and sharpen the areas of disagreements between the two.  read more

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Sheep (and ranchers) Find No Home on the Range

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Seth Victor

From the tone of the NY Times article, John Bartmann doesn’t sound like a bad man. Though some readers might demonize him because he is involved in animal farming, this isn’t the CEO of a major industrial producer, and it would be inaccurate to lump him in under the same heading. I expect Mr. Bartmann knows a thing or two about sheep husbandry, and likely has his own grievances with the CAFO industry. Still, his plight is indicative of the complicated issues surrounding modern farming, and is not free from critique. The decline of the modern rancher, especially in the drought of 2012, highlights many of the problems with food in the United States, through both animal and environmental perspectives. Continue reading

Michigan dog fighting penalty increases

Seth Victor

As reported by the Detroit News, the Michigan legislature recently voted to increase the penalty for dog fighting. By finding dog fighting to be an organized criminal enterprise, the legislature has made it possible for dog fighting violators to be charged with racketeering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the property (real and personal) in question could also be confiscated as a nuisance if the House approves the bill. The racketeering classification amendment to the law is expected to be signed by Gov. Snyder soon. As the bill analysis reads:

Under the code, racketeering is defined as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or aiding or abetting, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating a person to commit an offense for financial gain that includes any of the listed criminal acts. The bill would amend this list to include a violation of Section 49, concerning animal fighting.

 The bill proposal puts it bluntly; “Simply put, animal fighting is animal abuse on steroids.” By moving this crime into the same category as other criminal enterprises, Michigan is recognizing the vast infrastructure behind animal fighting rings. The amendment to the law will also allow prosecutors to go after repeat offenders in a more meaningful manner, rather than having to separately prosecute individual cases that carry less significant penalties. There is a concern that property seizure based simply on an allegation of such abuse might be extreme, and that is an aspect that certainlyshould  be  carefully considered in each case. Overall, this bill marks a considerable step towards greater penalties for animal abuse, and one that isn’t as particularly tailored as last year’s Schultz’s Law.

Why International Trade is not Dolphin Safe

Seth Victor

You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.Dolphins in Net

Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though “harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.”  This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.

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North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Bill and Lou: Two Oxen at a College

Spencer Lo

There is an extraordinary story developing about a global effort to save two 11 year-old oxen from slaughter, whose bodies will serve the appetites of students at Green Mountain College (GMC), a small institution in Poultney, Vermont. Bill and Lou, affectionately named, have labored at GMC as part of the college’s Food & Farm Project for over a decade—their tasks included plowing fields and even generating electricity. According to the official college statement, Bill and Lou are “draft animals,” rescued from neglect and malnutrition to “do important work which would otherwise be performed by equipment that consumes diesel fuel.” Now their ability to do that “important work” has ended: this past July, after stepping into a woodchuck hole, Lou reinjured his left rear leg which rendered him incapable of working, and his friend Bill, while uninjured, will not likely accept a new teammate. So what to do with a pair of unworkable, elderly oxen, GMC residents who have become de facto mascots? Eat them, of course—which was the decision reached in “an open community forum” participated by both students and faculty. Continue reading

Gary L. Francione on Philosophy Bites

Spencer Lo

Professor Gary L. Francione recently appeared in a Philosophy Bites podcast interview and discussed his abolitionist approach to animal rights. Despite the short length of the interview (around 15 minutes), many topics were covered, including:

  • The ideology of animal welfare: Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer
  • Veganism as a moral requirement
  • Moral status of animals: sentience and cognitive characteristics
  • Achieving abolitionism via welfare reforms
  • Alleged differences between factory farming and humane farming (e.g., free range, “happy meat,” “compassionate consumption”).
  • Domestication, pets and non-vegan cats
  • Unintended harms of a vegan diet
  • Eating road kill
  • Veganism and its relation to the modern animal rights movement

(For interested readers, I left some comments about some of the above).

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More Philosophy Bites podcasts pertaining to animal ethics: Peter Singer on using animals, Jeff McMahan  on moral vegetarianism, Tim Crane on animal minds, and Paul Snowdon on persons and animals.

Life’s a beach–or an entangled beak (no more balloon releases!)

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Ocean Conservancy – click image

Michigan City, Indiana is a great hometown–a Great Lakes hometown. Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, we Michigan Cityzens were lucky to grow up basking on warm, “singing sand,” diving into big breakers (with dire warnings of the undertow looming large in childhood), and exploring the wild dunes that would eventually become the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On a recent trip home, I crammed in as many visits as possible to “my” great lake. Even Montana’s Big Sky country can’t quell the frequent longing for that spectacular lakefront, its reeling shorebirds, towering dunes, and waving marram grass. Continue reading

Bullfighting: Justifying Cruelty with Tradition

Spencer Lo

The judges on France’s Constitutional Council, a 9 member body, ruled yesterday that bullfighting does not contravene the constitution, rejecting a challenge by the animal-rights group CRAC who seeks to ban the practice nationwide. Although bullfighting is prohibited in certain parts of France, the tradition has remained popular in the south – particularly in the Nimes and Arles areas – for the past 150 years. Professor Diane Marie Amann offered a brief analysis of the Council’s ruling here. CRAC contended that an exception contained in the country’s criminal code which explicitly protected bullfighting—if it occurs in regions “where an uninterrupted local tradition can be invoked”—violates equal protection principles (“The law…must be the same for everyone, with respect to protection as well as to punishment”). In other words, because bullfighting is prohibited in some areas on animal cruelty grounds, the same practice should be prohibited everywhere, otherwise unequal treatment would result. Rejecting this argument, the judges affirmed the tradition exception as constitutionally permissible. But the decision raises the obvious question, what’s so special about tradition? Why should entrenched cultural traditions, however humanly significant, take precedent over the welfare-interests of animals?   Read more

The Art of Killing–for Kids

Spencer Lo

In our culture, the moral divide between humans and animals is sharp in numerous areas, but perhaps most consciously so in one: the sport of hunting. Since the activity involves consciously deciding to kill another sentient, sensitive being, the issue of inflicting suffering and death cannot be avoided, at least for the hunter. At some point every hunter will inevitably confront unsettling questions: Is my having a good time an adequate moral reason to deliberately end an animal’s life? Should I be concerned about my prey’s suffering, as well as the resulting loss for his or her family? These reflective questions, and many others, will now be asked by New York youths (ages 14-15) this Columbus Day weekend during a special deer hunt planned just for them. Armed with either a firearm or crossbow, junior hunters will be permitted to “take 1 deer…during the youth deer hunt”—no doubt in the hope that the experience will enrich their lives. A hunting enthusiast once observed after a youth hunt, “I’ve never seen a [9-year old] kid happier…We were all the better for it.”   Read more

The Lack of Ethics in Animal Ethics Committees

Spencer Lo

Like factory farming, animal experimentation is an entrenched practice, one which causes extensive suffering to millions of animals per year despite the poor justification in terms of human benefits. Bioethicist Dr. Andrew Knight, author of the book “The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments,” discussed the ethical problems of animal experimentation and related issues over at ARZone (see also here). Because of the problems with justification, a welcome development is the continuing search for alternatives to animal testing, and animal ethics committees (AECs) set up to scrutinize research proposals are required to consider such alternatives before granting approval, as part of their mandate to ensure compliance with the 3Rs—the principles of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement. In Australia, for instance, a guiding principle in the Australian Code of Practice is to “promote the development and use of techniques that replace the use of animals in scientific and teaching activities.” The Replacement Principle gained further strength in 2008 with the following guideline: “if a viable alternative method exists that would partly or wholly replace the use of animals in a project, the Code requires investigators to use that alternative.” Thus, at face value, it appears that animal experimentation can be carefully scrutinized and suffering minimized, with animal use permitted only for the most important reasons.   Read more

The Big Lick: Horse Abuse for Fame and Fortune

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

The Big Lick. For most of us, it’s a good thing. It’s what we get when we come home to our wildly-ecstatic canine companion: the full-body wag and the slobbery, big lick.

Unfortunately, there’s a sinister “big lick” lurking in the horse industry. (Does it ever turn out well for animals when their name is coupled with the word industry?) While I hate to be the one to reveal a whole new realm of animal abuse, you’ll find its motivation to be the same old same old: humans exploiting animals for ego, entertainment, and greed. Prize money here, blue ribbons there, and horses whose forefeet are injured or destroyed for coerced performances while spectators roar their approval of the pain-induced, artificial gait called the Big Lick. ABC’s “Nightline Investigates” aired the topic  (a must-watch 6-minute video) last May, featuring undercover video from the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS). Continue reading

Further Thoughts on Happy Meat


Spencer Lo

My last post explored the ethics of consuming “happy meat,” which was prompted by Nicholas Kristof’s recent NYT article on the matter—with great enthusiasm, he endorsed it as an ethical alternative to the consumption of factory-farmed animals. I attempted to show why this view is deeply mistaken by briefly sketching an argument from philosopher Jeff McMahan’s paper. Here, I want to raise the question of whether, from an animal advocates perspective, there is anything positive to be said about shifting the public consciousness away from consumption of factory-farmed meat to “happy meat”—encouraged by Kristof—notwithstanding the fact that both are problematic. In other words, although influential people like Kristof are ultimately advocating an unethical practice, is that nevertheless a welcome change in some respects? Should the change be encouraged to some extent? Read more

Kansas State Fair’s Restrictions on PETA are Upheld

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Adonia David

It is state and county fair season.  Speaking as a born and bred Midwesterner, I can say that for many of us, there is a bit of magic associated with them. Fairs are hot summer days and evenings, cotton candy, roasted corn, and the sound of cicadas floating high above the tumult.  Fairs are ferris wheels and other scary looking rides set up by carnies overnight that look as though they may tumble to the ground any moment.  And fairs are animals.  Animals – the glory of a state fair: cows and calves and bunnies; goats and pigs; chickens of all shapes and sizes and plumage.   The animals are beautiful.  Many are gentle, hand-raised by children in 4H, and many of them are destined for slaughter.   Just what this death involves seems to be generally ignored by fair-goers.  It disturbs the magic. Continue reading

What’s Wrong with Happy Meat?

Spencer Lo

Suppose animals could be raised humanely, live considerably long lives, and then painlessly killed for food. Would eating such happy creatures be wrong? That question is suggested in a recent article by New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, who answered it in the negative. According to Kristof, as an alternative to consuming tortured animals raised in factory farms, which is problematic, it is possible to consume happy ones raised on efficient farms with “soul.” Some will even have names: like “Jill,” Sophie,” and “Hosta.” In the article, Kristof introduces us to his high school friend Bob Bansen, a farmer raising Jersey cows on “lovely green pastures” in Oregon. Bob’s 400+ cows are not only grass-fed and antibiotic-free, they are loved “like children” – every one of them named. “I want to work hard for them because they’ve taken good care of me… They’re living things, and you have to treat them right.” With great enthusiasm, Kristof concludes: “The next time you drink an Organic Valley glass of milk, it may have come from one of Bob’s cows. If so, you can bet it was a happy cow. And it has a name.”   read more

Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

Do you love your meat? Well, love it or hate it, it may well cause the collapse of our global society. In the latest report confirming the strain factory farming and overconsumption of animal products causes our environment, The Guardian reports that mass food shortages are predicted within the next 40 years if we as a species do not scale back meat consumption. It’s a simple matter of not having enough water to produce the crops necessary to support the animals needed to satisfy current consumption, to say nothing of what another 2 billion human mouths will bring to the table. If we do not scale back, food shortages and water shortages could be a worldwide reality, as well as food price spikes. Continue reading

The Seagull or the Whale?

Seth Victor

Seagulls around Argentina have become too crafty for their own good. Exhibiting behavior straight out of a Hitchcock movie, the gulls have figured out that if they peck at the skin of breaching right whales, they can open wounds on the whales, and then feast every time the cetaceans surface. Apparently this started with a few gulls, but they have spread the word, and now the birds pose a serious threat to the whales’ livelihood, especially the calves. Citing the danger to the whales, the Argentine government is now permitting people to shoot the gulls, and recover their bodies before they are ingested, before the whales migrate to safer seas. Environmentalist are upset with the decision, claiming that is it not the fault of the birds, so much as it is the fault of the open landfills in the area that have attracted them in the first place. Clean up the trash, and the birds will naturally disperse. The issue is also an economic one, as whale watching makes up a significant part of tourism revenue. Continue reading

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical. Continue reading

Animals Can Be Victims, Too

Seth Victor

Rather than regurgitate Scott Heiser’s words, I encourage you to read ALDF’s post about State v. Nix, in which the Oregon appellate court held that individual horses count as separate victims, reversing a trial court holding that multiple abused horses merged into a single count of animal abuse. As the post mentions, this is a very exciting case, and will be very useful persuasive law for cases across the country.

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