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

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

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.

Examining the Legal Protections of Animals Used in Entertainment

David Cassuto

From the email — looks like a very interesting program:

On October 17, 2012, the DePaul University Center for Animal Law in Chicago, Illinois, will host “Examining the Legal Protections of Animals Used in Entertainment.” This daylong symposium will feature panels on the legal protections accorded to animals used for entertainment purposes, such as in movies, television, zoos, circuses, and racing. These areas will be examined through a filter of ethical responsibilities involved in using animals for entertainment, legal liability for the misuse of animals, the history of the field of animal law in entertainment and what happens to animals after they “retire.”

 Our lunchtime speaker Professor Gary Francione will deliver the keynote address, “Animals as Property: The Challenges of Animal Law.” One of the most well-known figures in the modern animal rights movement, he is the author of six books, most recently The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? Other speakers will include Christine Dorchak of GREY2K USA, Karen Rosa of the American Humane Association Film and Television Unit, Sheriff Matt Lutz of the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office, and Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation.  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

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

Is a Pet-free World Morally Required?

Spencer Lo

Gary Francione argues that it is, even under the most ideal scenario. I find myself disagreeing with Francione on this one—or at least am very resistant to his conclusion. On his view, even if we could “guarantee” that animals under our care will have loving homes and lead great lives, domestication would still be morally problematic: that’s because they are entirely dependent on us, and producing creatures for companionship who are in effect like human children—and who will remain so until they die—is inherently wrong. [And note: in Francione’s hypothetical scenario, pets would no longer be property, and thus not mere things under the law.]

Further down in the article, Francione observes that his “abstract argument” would not likely resonate with people who find it acceptable to kill and eat Continue reading

Is a pet-free world possible?

Seth Victor

Gary Francione rejecting the premise that animals can be property is not new; the good professor has been expressing his view for decades that the key to animal equality must be, in part, approached through our definitions of ownership. He recently posted  that pet ownership is unnatural, even if it were possible to create and enforce laws that gave pets legal status as persons. He goes on to say that even if there were only two dogs left in the world, and good homes could be assured to all of the offspring, pet ownership would still have no place, and he would work to end the institution. Continue reading

Pondering Michael Vick & Grandma´s Turkey

David Cassuto

From the Recommended Readings Desk:  This from Sherry Colb over at Dorf on Law — a very thoughtful essay furthering a discussion begun when Gary Francione lectured at Cornell Law School.  Among other queries, the piece explores the relative morality of dog-fighting vs. cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  The name of the essay is ´Animal Rights, Violent Interventions and Affirmative Obligations´ and is well worth the peruse.

“Vegetarian” & “Vegan”: How to Define A Cause

Katie Hance

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.

For example, Peter Singer who advocates for vegetarianism describes avoiding eating meat or fish.  Tom Regan describes vegetarianism embodying the belief that it is wrong to eat meat.  Yet, Gary Francione, a vegan advocate, describes a “vegetarian” as basically one who does “not eat the flesh of cows, pigs, and birds, but who eats some other animal products, such as fish, dairy products and eggs” (see “The Abolition of the Property Status of Animals”).  Combining these definitions vegetarians believe it is wrong to eat meat or fish but still eat fish.  Not exactly a strong (or even logical) slogan for vegetarianism.   While there are other terms defining different degrees to which people do not consume animal products, such as pescatarian (those who do not eat meat but eat fish), lacto-ovo vegetarian (vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy) lacto-vegetarian (vegetarians who eat dairy but not eggs) and ovo-vegetarian (vegetarians who eat eggs but not dairy) none of these additional terms lead to a simple definition of “vegetarian.”

Continue reading

The Standing Conundrum

Gillian Lyons


One of today’s hottest debates in the field of animal law is the status of animals as property. (For more on one aspect of this property debate- take a look at Gary Francione’s Animals as Property.)  To my mind, one of the most important aspects of this debate is how this current property status can hinder individuals from taking legal action when they see private citizens abusing or neglecting their pets.

Volunteering for an animal law attorney this semester, I’ve come to realize just how complicated this issue is. If you see animal abuse or neglect- can you achieve a legal remedy? The answer is yes- sometimes. Reading Cass Sunstein’s article Can Animals Sue? (in the book Animal Rights edited by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum) he acknowledges that there are three circumstances where a human can protect animals in the federal court system: when the human seeks information about animal welfare, when the government failure to protect animals inflicts a competitive injury on the human plaintiff and when a human visits or works with an animal that is threatened with illness death or harm. My question is, if you don’t fit neatly into these three categories and you witness animal abuse, can you take legal action? As things currently stand, you can’t- unless the animal is considered your property or you can convince your local government to pursue criminal action (which quite sadly, would be quite difficult in most of the country.) This is because, as things stand, you would be hard pressed to convince a court that you have the injury-in-fact needed for constitutional standing.

Continue reading

Spay/Neuter Redux

The spay/neuter question came up in my animal law class the other night and I continue to ponder its many facets.  Perhaps some more public wrestling is in order (I previously raised the issue here) .

If forced to make a general distinction between animal and environmental advocates on questions relating to animals, I would say that environmentalists tend to concern themselves more with species and ecosystemic integrity whereas animal advocates focus more on individual animals.  If one accepts this distinction while also accepting that no animal volunteers or consents to be sterilized, then one finds oneself (or at least I do) in an ethical morass.

It seems to me that the rights perspective must acknowledge individual animals’ claims to bodily integrity.  After all, rights adhere to the individual, not the collective.  The fact that you have a right to vote does not mean I do, and vice versa.  Causes of action arise when individual rights are trampled even when the rights of the majority remain intact.

Professor Francione maintains that since the institution of pet ownership is morally wrong, it is permissible to sterilize animals because failing to do so perpetuates the wrong of pet ownership.  But I have to ask: regardless of the morality of pet ownership, do not those animals alive now have a claim to membership in the moral community?  And if so, how then can their respective rights to bodily integrity be ignored?

One might respond that sacrificing individual rights for the greater good is sometimes necessary, and that may well be true.  However, I remain unconvinced that those forfeiting their rights would agree that the greater good is being served.  This is particularly true, for example, with feral cat colonies and the policy of trap/neuter/return (TNR).  In the case of the cats, the overall goal is the eradication of the colony.  That goal seems more attuned to human needs than those of the cats.

Let me state for the record that I recognize the necessity argument here.  Companion animal overpopulation is a terrible problem and many animals suffer and die in shelters because of it.  I am also all too aware that TNR is by far the most humane option available for feral cat management and that those who manage the colonies often go to heroic lengths to save these cats from otherwise grisly fates.  Nevertheless, recognition of this reality need not preclude a full exploration of the ethics involved in the practice and I invite your thoughts as we continue this dialogue.

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Why is it a Crime to Have Sex with an Animal?

As of 2001, engaging in sex with an animal was considered a crime in 23 states. The legitimacy of criminalizing such conduct is unclear. It could be argued that bestiality is a victimless crime that is made criminal solely because a majority of the population believes that such conduct is immoral. If so, the criminalization of bestiality would run afoul of a foundational principle of liberal political theory – John Stuart Mill’s harm principle. According to the harm principle, the state may only criminalize conduct in order to prevent harm to others.

Are there additional reasons justifying the criminalization of bestiality?

Some animal advocates have suggested that having sex with animals should be prohibited for the same reasons that justify making it a crime to engage in sexual intercourse with a child. Thus, Gary Francione has stated that:

“Even if animals can desire to have sexual contact with humans, that does not mean that they are “consenting” to that contact any more than does a child who can have sexual desires (or who even initiates sexual contact) can be said to consent to sex.”

This argument can be restated as follows:

(1) It is wrong for a person to engage in sexual intercourse with a living being that is incable of consent,

(2) Animals, like children, are incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse,

(3) Therefore, it is wrong to engage in sexual intercourse with an animal.

The problem with this argument is that it’s unclear whether the analogy between animals and children holds in this context. While (some) animals and children are similar in many ways (chimps perform as well as 2 ½ year old toddlers on some learning tests), I’m not sure that their capacity for consenting to sexual intercourse is one of them.

One of the reasons why we criminalize having sex with a minor is because we know that children are frequently traumatized as a result of sexual encounters. We also know that human beings are often unable to understand the physical, emotional and economic consequences of having sex before they reach a certain age. These concerns seem inapplicable in the context of sexually mature animals. If an animal routinely engages in sexual intercourse with members of its same species, why is it necessarily wrong for a human animal to engage in (non-forcible) intercourse with a sexually mature animal of a different species?  It would seem odd to claim in such cases that the sexual act may traumatize the nonhuman animal. It would also seem strange to suggest that it’s wrong to have sex with the nonhuman animal because he is unable to appreciate the physical, emotional and economic consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse. There is no reason to believe that having sex with a human causes more physical and/or emotional pain to an animal than engaging in sexual intercourse with a nonhuman animal.

Francione has also suggested that it’s wrong to engage in sexual intercourse with an animal because “bestiality is a phenomenon that occurs largely within the unnatural relationship of domestication; a domestic animal can no more consent to sex than could a human slave.” I’m not sure that Francione’s analogy between slavery and domestication holds. Many animal advocates believe that having pets is morally acceptable. In any case, Francione’s argument cannot explain why it is a crime to have sex with a non-domesticated animal.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating for the decriminalization of bestiality. Rather, I wish to spark a debate about the reasons that justify sending a person to jail for more than ten years for having non-forcible sex with an animal.  If we are going to lock someone up for a decade, we ought to at least be able to coherently and persuasively explain why it is legitimate to do so.  

Luis Chiesa

Egg Production in a Post Proposition 2 World

Will the passage of California’s Proposition 2 lead to an increase or decrease in egg production? The answer is not obvious. Some animal advocates contend that egg consumption will increase because the public will feel better about the way that egg-laying hens are treated in the post Prop 2 world. If this turns out to be the case, Proposition 2 will not meaningfully reduce animal suffering.  On the other hand, the spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) recently stated that “[t]he impact of Prop. 2 is pretty obvious…[w]ithin a few years, it will be impossible to find California eggs in stores.” If the CFBF is right, Proposition 2 will not only improve the conditions of confinement of egg-laying hens but also significantly reduce the amount of hens raised for egg production.  For the reasons that I fleshed out in my reply to Francione, I’m inclined to believe that egg consumption will not change significantly as a result of the passage of Proposition 2.  Who’s right? Only time will tell.

Luis Chiesa

Why We Should Support California’s Proposition 2: A (Brief) Reply to Professor Francione

Several weeks ago, Professor Gary Francione urged people not to vote for California’s Proposition 2 next Tuesday (for a discussion of Proposition 2, see Suzanne McMillan’s post here). He grounded his view on the following arguments: (1) that Proposition 2 will do nothing to alleviate animal suffering in the short or long term, as it will not come into effect until 2015, and once it becomes operative it will seldom be enforced because it is riddled with exceptions, (2) that its adoption will result in increased animal exploitation because it will make the public feel better about the way that factory farmed animals are being treated, and (3) “it is important for animal advocates to send a clear message to the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and other groups to stop promoting measures like Proposition 2″.

I respectfully disagree for three reasons. First – contrary to what Francione contends – it is impossible to know ex ante whether the adoption of Proposition 2 will result in a decrease of animal suffering in the short term. While it is true that the measure will not come into effect until January 1, 2015, it is unliklely that factory farms will wait until New Year’s Eve 2014 to change their practices to conform to the new law. Some will surely begin confining their animals in a way that allows them to fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely well before the 2015 deadline. As a result, we should expect to see animal suffering in California increasingly diminish during the next several years, even if some of the suffering that the measure is designed to prevent won’t be eliminated until after 2014. Furthermore, even if it turns out that animal suffering is not reduced meaninfully until Proposition 2 comes into effect, that is no reason to vote against it. A law that requires farm owners to confine their animals in spaces that allow them to move more freely is better than what we have now, even if it will not become operative for several years. Professor Francione’s contention that the law will not significantly reduce animal suffering in the long term because it is riddled with exceptions is difficult to understand. As was pointed out in an Editorial of the San Francisco Chronicle that urged voters to reject Proposition 2 because it could destroy California’s egg producing industry, “more than 90 percent of [the State's] 20 million egg-laying hens are kept in the battery cages that would be outlawed under Proposition 2.” This seems to be an accurate estimate, as the measure provides exceptions for scientific or agricultural research, veterinary practices, transportation, state and county fair exhibitions and during the act of slaugthering the animal. While these exceptions certainly allow for the confinement of a significant number of animals in crates and cages that do not allow them to move freely, they do not reach a majority of the 20 million egg-laying hens that are kept in battery cages in California. Therefore, it is odd to claim that Proposition 2 will not substantially decrease animal suffering because of these exceptions. Even if we conservatively predict that only half of California’s egg laying hens will be confined in a larger space due to the new law, we will be able to reduce the suffering of about 10 million animals. While not a perfect outcome, this would surely be a welcome development.

Francione’s claim that the adoption of Proposition 2 will lead to increased animal exploitation because it will “make the consumption of animals more acceptable” is akin to claiming that laws banning restaurants from using trans fat will meaningfully increase the demand for french fries and fried chicken because they make their consumption more healthy. The hard truth is that a great majority of people will continue to eat factory farmed products (and french fries and fried chicken) regardless of whether measures banning battery cages (or trans fat) are enacted. Others – like me – will continue to be vegetarians and avoid french fries even if such laws are adopted. Ultimately, laws like this one don’t exert much influence over people’s eating habits. Therefore, I believe that the fear that Proposition 2 will result in increased animal exploitation is overblown.

Finally, Francione’s claim that rejecting Proposition 2 is important because it sends a message to animal advocacy groups to stop promoting such measures is not really an argument against voting against the law, unless one believes that these types of laws do not significantly reduce animal suffering. For the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraphs, I strongly believe that the enactment of Proposition 2 will meaningfully diminish the suffering of animals. Therefore, I hope that Californians support it and commend the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary for promoting its adoption.

Luis Chiesa

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