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

Fresh Faced Student at Animal Law Conference in Brazil

Gloribelle Perez

Wednesday night (8.25.10), I had the honor of attending the opening reception of the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights, which was held in the first capital of Brazil—Salvador, Bahia.  From a live band to Bahia’s movers and shakers of the political arena, the opening reception was superb.  Professor Cassuto, a Pace Law School professor, spoke at the opening reception, along with numerous scholars, all of which got the conference started on a wonderful note!

Hosted by the Federal University of Bahia, yesterday (8.26.10) was the first full day of the conference.  I had a jam-packed day of speaker after brilliant speaker.  As a rising law school 3L, I have not yet found an opportunity to take an Animal Law course.  However, after just one full day at this conference, I feel like I’ve gone to the academic edge and back.  By no means am I now an animal law expert, but I’m happy to have learned a little bit about a lot of different animal law issues.  I have always been concerned about the protection of animals (and other beings that can’t speak for themselves), and I am excited to hear from the world-renowned speakers that each seem to approach the same concern from different angles.        Continue reading

Live From the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights in Brazil

Elizabeth Bennett

DAY 1 Ola from the Second World Conference on Bioethics and Animal Rights.  First, I would like to say that I am very thankful that Pace Law School and the Center for Environmental Legal Studies provided me with the opportunity to attend this prestigious and world-renowned conference and for all of the conference organizers’ hard work and hospitality.  As the presentations I have attended thus far have been informative and thought-provoking for me, I will do my best to share my experience with you.

Upon arrival, a symphony was playing.  After introductions and honorariums, Professor David Cassuto of Pace Law School and Director of the Brazil-American Institute for Law and Environment (BAILE) spoke about current trends in environmental law and the animal world.  He discussed the intersection of animal and environmental law and how they often clash, despite the many common grounds upon which they merge.  He went on to discuss the legal framework for protecting animals, distinguishing between animal welfarists and animal rights activists, stating that animal welfarists wish for stronger laws, while animal rights activists believe that humans should not use animals at all.  He also pointed out that in the United States legal system, animals are property and the laws concerning animals regulate relationships between humans about animals.  He made an interesting comparison between the appropriateness of humans making laws on behalf of nonhuman animals and politicians enacting laws on our behalf without truly knowing us, what we desire, or how we would like to be protected.  This comparison comes as an interesting response to doubts about human ability and right to make laws about non-human animals when they do not completely understand what animals want or need.

Professor Cassuto also discussed whether animals can be considered “persons” under the law and how this would change the way we protect them.  This served as a great opening to the Conference, as many of the presentations that followed addressed these questions and dealt with similar issues. Continue reading

Lust

Seth Victor

In college I learned a song. The lyrics of that song are largely unpublishable, but I will share the refrain, which goes, “Bestiality’s best boys, Bestiality’s best (something unmentionable about a wallaby)!” It was sung in jest, by both guys and gals, and the point was (I hope) to horrify and not to instruct. I admit I laughed and sang along. A sense of humor goes a long way in keeping ones sanity, and I know the song was only part of a long and raunchy college tradition. Now that I recall those days of endless road trips, listening to my colleagues tone deaf voices proclaim what wonderful sexual acts would befall a myriad of animals, I wonder what sketchy part of my university’s tradition required immortalization in such verse.

Sex is still taboo in our society, and more risqué sexual proclivities are still in the closet, so to speak, though they are not as much of a sub-culture as some people think. Animal sex, with other animals, is not taboo. From dogs in the park to the Discovery Channel, you can watch animal porn to your heart’s content. But is it porn? That depends on the viewer. Porn is sexually stimulating, erotic, and is viewed for some sexual goal. If you tune in to the mating habits of the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (I couldn’t make that up) to further your understanding of genetic diversity, you’re a scientist. If your heart starts racing, be careful. I’m being a bit ridiculous, but when you consider that U.S. v. Stevens refuses to apply the same exemptions to the First Amendment that were extended to depictions of child pornography in U.S. v. Williams, while in the same stroke giving the go-ahead for crush videos, it isn’t absurd to wonder where we drawn the line when it comes to human with animal sex acts.                 Continue reading

“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.”

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“Pain-Free” Meat?

Jennifer Church

Adam Shriver, a philosopher at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, published an article earlier this month in Neuroethics, contending that cows should be genetically engineered to be unable to feel pain.  Several news articles and blogs have discussed his idea, including Telegraph and Animal Law Online. Playing off of Peter Singer’s classic argument that animals can suffer and therefore humans have a duty to alleviate that suffering, Shriver asserts that humans have an ethical duty to produce these pain-free cows.   He seems to suggest that pain-free cows are guilt-free meat for humans.  Apparently, recent progress in neuroscience and genetic studies could make pain-free cows a real possibility in the near future.  Shriver points to the fact that factory farming and meat consumption has only continued to grow, with no decline foreseeable anytime soon.  If the continuation of factory farming is inevitable, the least we could do is make the cows more comfortable – seems to be his argument.

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On Blogs, Blogging, and Animals

As a newbie to the blogosphere, I have spent a good deal of time recently, wondering what value this blawg brings to the ether and, more importantly, to the urgent and ongoing struggle to resituate animals within society.  This led me to ruminate on blogs as literary expression and as a forum for information exchange.

I have taught writing for many years, first to undergraduates and more recently to law students.  To all of them I preach that they should never show anything they write to anyone – not even their mothers – until they have rewritten it at least five times.  Then, they should rewrite it another half-dozen times before deciding whether it merits sharing with anyone else.  Good writing, I maintain, requires great care.  One of the best compliments a reader can offer is to say that an author writes like she speaks – that her prose seems conversational, approachable and easy to digest.  However, the key to an easy-flowing style lies in multiple drafts, careful parsing, and unstinting attention to detail.  This methodology bears no resemblance to common discourse and thus the paradox (and concomitant student resentment).

Furthermore, as an academic, my stock and trade involves laboriously composed scholarly treatises.  Some run long and some short, but all are heavily sourced and often refereed.  Because this form of writing consumes so much time and labor and because there is so seldom money involved (and so little money when there is), I must believe that my work in some way adds value to society or my motivation evaporates.  In this sense, I adapt Johnson’s timeless adage that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” to the reality of academia and the marketplace of ideas.

All of this made me resistant to blogging, an endeavor requiring real or near real-time publishing of one’s virtually unedited thoughts (also for no money).  In short, blogging demands jettisoning many of my most cherished ideals about the nature of the written word.  Also, because I care so passionately about animal issues and because I believe them so philosophically and legally complex, I felt and still feel hesitant to throw thoughts out there unsourced and ungrounded.

Then I read this thoughtful piece in the Atlantic on blogging by Andrew Sullivan, a writer I admire very much, even when I don’t agree with him (he blogs here).  Sullivan quotes Matt Drudge (who I admire much less but whose cultural influence both in and out of the blogosphere lies beyond cavil) that a blog is a broadcast not a publication.  Its immediacy propels ideas straight into the discursive realm rather than leaving them to germinate for months or years in obscurity.  This got me to thinking about my unhealthy addiction to footnotes and to revisit the wisdom of Noel Coward, who once compared reading footnotes to “having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.” He’s so right; notes are a buzz-killer and should be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

The value of my scribblings -assuming they have any – lies in the discussion they generate.  It is far less important that I be authoritative than that I be interesting and that animal issues be taken up and discussed by as wide an audience as possible.  Public intellectuals like Peter Singer, Cass Sunstein, Gary Francione, as well as many lesser known but no less thoughtful folks (some of whom populate our growing blogroll while a small sampling of the myriad others can be found here, here, and here), realized this long before I.  Sullivan notes that the medium’s true blogfathers are writers like Pascal and Montaigne, whose meandering styles, willingness to share fragmentary thoughts, and (in Montaigne’s case) to publicly revise and republish, pointed readers’ attention away from the authors and toward their ideas.  (Fine essay about Montaigne here, although you may have to pay for access)

Upshot: The goal – smelting a new set of norms and laws that unhook human society from its exploitive relationship to nonhumans – is collaborative and the individual role within it minuscule.  Hubris is addictive and as dangerous to good writing as careless prose.  One must embrace both the medium and the message.  The cause is urgent and the consequences dire.  Nothing but full-throated blogging will do.  With apologies to the Bard, I say: Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of prose.

David Cassuto