The Belgian Blues

Marjorie Levine

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.

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Deer Hunting, the First Amendment and Connecticut

Jessica Kordas

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 .

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“If Nothing Matters, There’s Nothing to Save”

Gillian Lyons

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.

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Cooped Up for another Decade

Angela Garrone

Photo from Monroe County Humane Association

Photo from Monroe County Humane Association

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.

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Animal Blawg Poll Redux

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?

Luis Chiesa

Ohio Humane Societies Come Out Against Issue 2

David Cassuto

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.

The Cleveland Animal Protective League, Geauga Humane and Capital Area Humane serving Greater Columbus say Issue 2 would not be good for farm animals, as the 13-member appointed board would include just one humane officer.

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Forthcoming Film: The Tiger Next Door

From the email — what looks to be a very interesting film:

the-tiger-next-door_3-photo-by-john-roca-daily-news-300x196THE 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.

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