Kristof on Animal Rights

Yesterday’s New York Times featured an Op-Ed column by Nicholas Kristof on animal rights. The piece is titled “Humanity Even For Nonhumans”. Here’s an excerpt from the column:

“In recent years, the issue [of animal rights] has entered the mainstream, but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the suffering of animals, the question remains where to draw lines. I eagerly pushed Mr. [Peter] Singer to find his boundaries. “Do you have any compunctions about swatting a cockroach?” I asked him.

“Not much,” he replied, citing reasons to doubt that insects are capable of much suffering. Mr. Singer is somewhat unsure about shellfish, although he mostly gives them the benefit of the doubt and tends to avoid eating them.

Free-range eggs don’t seem offensive to him, but there is the awkwardness that even wholesome egg-laying operations depend on the slaughtering of males, since a male chick is executed for every female allowed to survive and lay eggs.

I asked Mr. Singer how he would weigh human lives against animal lives, and he said that he wouldn’t favor executing a human to save any number of animals. But he added that he would be troubled by the idea of keeping one human alive by torturing 10,000 hogs to death.

These are vexing questions, and different people will answer them differently. For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.

Yet however we may answer these questions, there is one profound difference from past centuries: animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.”

You can read the rest of the column  here.

– Luis Chiesa

3 Responses

  1. Excellent and long overdue!

  2. Mr. Kristof excellently summarizes both the challenge and divisiveness inherent in confronting the ethical dimension of how animals are treated.

    Unlike the movement against racism and sexism where a consensus as to the basic nature of fundamental rights was and remains fairly uniform the issue of what constitutes cruelty to animals is a sharply edged controversy. Superimposed on that is the reality, understood by most and vehemently rejected by some, that going vegetarian or going vegan isn’t and never will be a mainstream choice.

    So the challenge is to unite people with diverse views but who, hopefully, can collaborate in efforts to minimize or eliminate unnecessary exploitation of and/or abuse of animals. Is that possible? Would John Brown ever have joined a coalition of moderate abolitionists?

  3. […] that in the space of a couple of weeks the Gray Lady featured Kristof’s piece (mentioned below) and this one, both of which deal with diet and animal rights.  Overall, I see articles like these […]

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