Planet of the Hominids

WETA/20th Century Fox: The ape rebellion in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth

6:35 p.m. | Updated 

Last weekend, I took my two sons, 13 and 21, to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which we thoroughly enjoyed on several levels. It’s a rousing slave revolt, an entertaining techno-thriller, a drama about a dysfunctional household (chimp included) dealing with disability and job-related stresses (in the conflicted genetic engineer played by James Franco). (Manohla Dargis liked it, too, as did my sons’ favorite critics, the team at Spill.com.

It’s also a film about the troubled relationship of Homo sapiens to its closest kin, the other species in our taxonomic family, the Hominidae. Abuses have occurred from the forests of the Congo basin and Borneo to the research centers of drug companies and universities.

In the realm of drugs and medicine, there’s certain research that can only be done on apes or other primates. Where does one draw the line, in terms of which research goals are lofty enough to justify killing or causing pain to animals. Are some animals too sentient for such uses?

Meat Without Slaughter

burger                                                                               photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth)
Can you have a hamburger without a slaughterhouse?  Michael Specter provides a fresh look at the prospect of growing meat in labs instead offeed lots and pastures in The New Yorker this week.

In a podcast accompanying the article, Specter acknowledges there is “ghoulish” aspect to “lab meat,” but notes that industrial-scale livestock husbandry is ghoulish, as well. He then ticks down the benefits, beyond the ethical one of having meat without slaughterhouses, if this technology can prove profitable. These include less demand for land and pesticides, fewer emissions of methane and more options for developing foods without harmful health impacts. Continue reading

Do You Know What It Means for a Vegan to Miss New Orleans?

Douglas Doneson

No matter how many cups of Yerba Mate I drink or how many lamps I turn on (or off) to get the right lighting, I can’t focus on my law school work. After living in New Orleans for close to six years my body knows Mardi Gras is approaching. It knows I should be there. Anyone who has been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras knows that once the thought of Mardi Gras comes to mind, so many good memories are recalled and flow throughout the brain.

One memory that always comes to mind is the amazing food New Orleans has to offer.  This is a funny thought for me because I am vegan. I actually stopped eating meat, while working at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 2007. But for some reason when I think about New Orleans, food is always the first thought that come to mind. Not surprisingly, New Orleans has a pretty small selection of vegan restaurants.  One of my favorite qualities of New Orleans, its stagnancy, is also its worst enemy.  Continue reading

“Petrie-Pork”: The Future for Meatatarians?

Rosana Escobar Brown

Test tube tacos, in-vitro veal parm, and beaker burgers—sounds like something more from a Jetson’s episode than from a leading science journal, but could it be for real?

Scientists have been developing lab-created meat for over a decade and now it seems as though this man-made meat might just become reality…someday.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) seems to think so also.  In 2008, PETA announced a “contest” on their website offering 1 million dollars in grant funds to the scientist who can create chicken meat that would be competitively cost effective on a grand scale and ready to market by 2012.  The funds have yet to be claimed and reader opinions regarding the PETA “contest” range from accepting, to skeptical, to belligerent.  Certain blogs on the topic fear the worst including unsafe food, and the source where cells are derived from.  One blog post even cries out that stem cells come from humans making the consumption of in-vitro meat akin to cannibalism.

Don’t fret just yet; the cells used to develop this man-made meat actually come from animals, not humans.  According to a recent article from Nature.com, a small biopsy is taken from the animal which is left unharmed; alternatively, embryonic stem cells would provide limitless supplies of meat but attempts at development have not been successful.

A research laboratory in Holland has shown the most successful progress in the field of meat-making and that is also where it is said that the only petrie-pork has been tasted on record.     Continue reading

Mmmm, Meat Paste

David Cassuto

Whoa!  So this is what becomes Slim Jims, McNuggets, hot dogs, etc.  Get the full 411 here.

Mechanically Separated Chicken, from Fooducate, via Early Onset of Night

Powerful Final Day at the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights

Elizabeth Bennett

The last day of the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights began with a heartfelt lecture by conference organizer Heron Santana on climate change and animal rights. Professor Santana spoke about the fact that citizens of Brazil are beginning to eat more meat and the country exports an increasing amount of live animals, as they used to do with slaves.

He also discussed the health risks associated with eating meat and our ability to decrease meat production by decreasing consumption.  He explained that there is a wall of prejudice against other species that we must break down in order to abolish animal slavery.  Professor Santana concluded by stressing the importance of speaking out for animals and making changes in our daily lives to work toward an end to these violations against nonhuman animals.    Continue reading

Thinking About Pigs

Bruce Wagman

Pigs have been on my mind a lot lately.  Years ago I met several of them at the Farm Sanctuary home in Orland, California, and while I already had appreciated their complex personalities and emotional lives, getting to spend time with them changed the knowledge to revelation.  We sat on a riverbank with Gene and scratched pig bellies in the sun and watched them playing, eating, lounging.  The grunts of joy and doglike behavior was notable from the guy I was petting.  He was halfway onto his 1000-plus pound back, grunting and snuffling while I rubbed and cooed to him.  That day, probably fifteen years ago, has never left me, and my love of his species was further informed by my visits and introductions to the great pig friends I have made at Animal Place.  They impressed me as a thoughtful, prescient, and extremely playful bunch; eminently curious, very thoughtful, and wise. 

That’s a great image but mainly, for the past ten years or so, when I think of pigs, I think of mother-torture.  From dealing with the issues and cases, I now have, seared in my mind, images of “gestation crates” or “sow stalls,” those confinement technique weapons of cruelty that the modern pig meat industry utilizes for commercial efficiency, while simultaneously robbing their pigs of every sense of being an individual, a pig, a mother.    A select group of female pigs are chosen, presumably for their genetic superiority, to be turned into living machines who are repeatedly impregnated until they are worn out and wasted by the industry and then thrown out like so many pounds of trash.  During their lives they go from gestation crate (while pregnant) to farrowing crate where, after giving birth, they are placed so that their young can suckle but cannot otherwise interact with their mom, who is again kept on a concrete slab inside bars, in an area that is usually slightly smaller than the mother, so that she not only has to lie in her waste, but she is also pushed into metal bars 24-7.  Pigs in these confinement situations suffer in pain from the lack of exercise and movement, and experience psychological damage from the lifetime of deprivation and denial. Continue reading

Burying Factory Farms with Faint Praise?

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about Beppe Bigazzi, the Italian tv host who advocated for stewing cats.  My working theory was that Bigazzi could not possibly have been stupid enough not to know his remarks would create a backlash.  If so, then he was being wonderfully subversive  in a manner only available to those who are full participants in the culture they critique.

I had the same thought recently when reading this  NYT piece by Adam Shriver last week (admittedly, this thought did not occur to me when reading Jennifer Church’s earlier post on Shriver’s writings).  Mr. Shriver opined that since factory farms are inevitable (because they produce the meat we eat), we should turn our attention to genetically removing the pain centers in the animals we torture.  The responses to Shriver’s piece took him to task for the bald stupidity of his argument (starting with his failure to interrogate the assumption that factory farms are necessary).  Continue reading

Where Have All The Rational People Gone?

[The following post is written by one my Animal Law students who prefers to remain anonymous –dnc]

I read an article recently that really offended me. The article was written on November 21, 2009 by Gary Steiner and was published in the New York Times Op-Ed section (Steiner’s piece has already been discussed  on this blog here).

The first line in this article that bothered me actually did not originate from him. He quotes Issac Bashevis Singer in his story “The Letter Writer” as saying that the killing of animals for food is the “eternal Treblinka.” For those of you who are not aware, Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp. In one year there were 850,000 people killed there. The problem I have with Singer’s comparison is that there was no benefit whatsoever to the Nazis by killing these people. Of course many Animal Rights activists do not think it is right to kill animals for human benefit, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies that the humans who do kill animals gain a benefit from them. In fact, I think the whole issue is whether it is right for humans to kill animals for their benefit. You may not feel the benefit is justified, but we are not talking about wanton slaughter like there was in Treblinka.

Please just read this short article about Treblinka at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treblinka_extermination_camp, and then I feel that you will agree that to even repeat this ridiculous comparison destroys any validity that could possibly have come out of this article. That is my problem with Steiner. What would possess him to read this ridiculous comparison and then quote it? Obviously he read it and said something to the effect of “hey, wait a second, that’s right. Slaughtering animals for a benefit to human’s is exactly the same as a mass extermination of humans for absolutely no reason.” And then he decided to quote it. All I can say to him is, well I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, sometimes it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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Buggery and Factory Farming

Rodell Green was just sentenced to three years imprisonment for having sex with a horse. Over at the Atlantic Blog, correspondent Wendy Kaminer asks the following “quick question“:

Can someone explain to me why it is a criminal offense to have sex with animals but entirely legal to kill and eat them?  Surely laws against bestiality don’t reflect concern about the rights of animals, (who would probably opt for sex over death.) I don’t mean to denigrate meat eating (I’m a carnivore;) I do mean to point out the absurdities of imprisoning people for “buggery.”

In a sense, Ms. Kaminer is right. It is simply inconsistent for the law to send someone to jail for three years for having sex with a horse while simultaneously allowing billions of animals to unnecessarily suffer as a result of factory farming.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is a way to explain this inconsistency. As I pointed out in a previous post, it’s unclear whether the purpose of bestiality statutes is to protect animals from cruelty. As a matter of fact, I think that bestiality statutes have little to do with preventing animal suffering. Instead, it’s more likely that the purpose of bestiality statutes is to enforce a moral principle, namely: that it’s against natural law and morality for human beings to have sex with an animal.  This reading of bestiality statutes is supported by the history of laws criminalizing such conduct.

The first statute criminalizing bestiality in common law jurisdictions was England’s Buggery Act of 1533. The statute made engaging in anal sexual intercourse or having sex with an animal a crime punishable by hanging. These acts were criminalized because they were unnatural and against God’s will. After all, as Blackstone (in)famously asserted in his famous Commentaries, someone who engaged in these acts committed the “abominable and detestable crime against nature”. As a result, it seems fairly obvious that what inspired bestiality laws was the state’s desire to enforce a particular moral view.

Continue reading