Thursday, August 25, 2011

"What's in a name?"

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The quote is from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The astute Juliet is pointing out to Romeo that it isn't his name that she is infatuated with, it is him. In other words not the referring device (a name) but the being or thing referred to (him, Romeo Montague).

I ran across a study some time ago about names that has kept nagging at me ever since. The study itself is a couple of years old and was about the finding that cows kept on a dairy seemed to produce more milk if they were given a name and treated as individuals. Here is a link to a fairly well done summary of the study (conducted in the UK) and what the researchers thought about the results.

Now, keeping cows on a dairy is a not so accurate way of referring to a profit-making activity where living beings are imprisoned and exploited by being raped, impregnated and having their children taken away from them (such children are then killed immediately or sold into slavery) and their lactation fluids stolen...when these living beings are adjudged by their jailers as having decreased "efficiency" they are then murdered.  Dairy takes on a different cast when we expand and explicate what it actually means doesn't it?

Anyway, not discussing for the moment the horrors of "dairy", one of the interesting things in the study is that we find that positive attention to cows seems to make them happier (the presumption is that their making more milk means they are happier). I say positive attention because the researchers point out that assigning a name is a proxy for the cows being the recipients of "nicer treatment" by their exploiters. The results of the study would have been different if the cows had been assigned a name and then routinely beaten every day. It is not the naming of the cow, per se, that is important, it is the behavior toward the cow that results in increased happiness.

A fairly straightforward little study that focuses on greater benefit for the humans if the cows involved are treated nicer.

I found the whole thing repulsive and disgusting.

Let's substitute the animal studied, let's pretend the study is about human animals in a slave labor and death camp called a dairy. The study shows if you treat the human animals better they  produce more when working (prior to your murder of them after they are 'less efficient').

A more accurate name for the study would have been: "How to Maximize Your Profit While Committing Atrocities". But no matter the name; imprisoning, manipulating, hurting and killing sentient beings is unjust and atrocious.


Bea Elliott said...

"A fairly straightforward little study that focuses on greater benefit for the humans if the cows involved are treated nicer." But of course it's the same old "all about us" mantra!

I've found too that these dairies with a couple of thousand cows often use this "friendly productivity" on their customers... I've seen industry videos where the harmer assures his patrons that all his cows have names. We treat them just like family... Sure they do. They put holes through all their kids ears with UPC coded tags attached. Sickening. Heartbreaking. :(

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Bea. You are speaking truth. Jeez, if they treat the family the same way...then they should be in jail.