Friday, April 27, 2012

Letter to the editor...

I was poking around on the United Poultry Concerns website and came across some information about a letter to the editor of the New York Times Magazine concerning a challenge they were having that encouraged people to write an essay about why it is ethical to eat meat. The 'contest' has resulted in six selected entries and a "winner" will be announced soon.

Now the letter itself is rather good but to me the most remarkable part of the letter is the number of and the credentials of those signing the letter. Philosophy professor John Sanbonmatsu of Worcester Polytechnic Institute wrote the letter and I am going to insert a copy of it. Read it and then take a look at those who signed on to it.

April 1, 2012
Editor, The New York Times Magazine
Dear Editor,

We are a diverse group of scholars, researchers, and artists from such disciplines as philosophy, women's studies, sociology, law, political theory, psychology, and literary studies, writing to take sharp issue with the Magazine's decision to run a "Defending Your Dinner" contest.

Do ethical vegetarians, a growing but still quite small percentage of the population, pose such a "threat" to the meat and dairy industries that the Times Magazine must now invite its millions of readers to shout them down? Is the point of this contest really to open up honest debate about the meat industry, or is the point, rather, to close it down?

We find it disturbing that the Magazine would organize such a one-sided contest, and moreover that Ariel Kaminer should introduce it with such frivolity. "Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory," Kaminer writes, caricaturing vegans as members of a "hard-core inner circle" who have "dominated the discussion." With her very breeziness ("Bon appetit!"), Kaminer seems intent on trivializing the warrant for ethical veganism. A more serious-minded critic would have given at least cursory attention to the empirical basis of the position, namely, the known facts about animal cognition and the unspeakable suffering that farmed animals endure so that they can end up as meat on our plates.

First, there has been an explosion of scientific research in recent decades showing beyond any doubt that many other species besides our own are emotionally and cognitively complex. Farmed animals are capable of a wide range of feelings and experiences, including empathy and the ability to intuit the interior states of others. The evidence suggests that they experience violence and trauma to their bodies as agonizingly as we do.

Second, most people are now aware of the horrific cruelty and violence that goes on behind the locked doors of the meat industry. Billions of cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, geese, ducks, and aquaculture fish suffer each year in abominable conditions, then are brutally slaughtered, many of them while they are still fully or partially conscious. Such so-called factory farming accounts for 99% of the meat consumed in our society. The mass slaughter of oceanic fish, meanwhile, is so catastrophic to marine life that even the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia (the academic arm of the Canadian fishing industry) has frankly compared today's commercial fishing campaigns to "wars of extermination."

These and other facts have led a majority of contemporary moral philosophers who have studied the question to conclude that killing animals in order to eat them is not a morally defensible human interest, certainly not in a society such as ours, where vegan alternatives are widely available.

Even on purely prudential grounds, i.e. human self-interest, meat finds no rational justification. Numerous studies have shown meat-based diets to be associated with myriad negative health outcomes, including higher risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer (to name but two). Meanwhile, animal agriculture has proven to be an ecological and public health catastrophe, poisoning human water supplies, destroying vast tracts of the rainforests of Latin America, causing soil erosion, and creating dangerous new pathogens like Avian Flu and Mad Cow Disease. Animal agriculture is also one of the leading sources of global warming gas emissions.
Given these and many other facts demonstrating the nightmarish consequences of the meat industry for humans and nonhumans alike, why has the Magazine invited its readers to defend that industry, their essays to be judged chiefly by proponents of "humane" meat eating?

Kaminer implies that she has assembled the most judicious and meat-averse line-up of judges, a "murderer's row" that will be hard to persuade of the case for eating meat. But is that true? Michael Pollan promotes Joel Salatin and other organic meat producers. Mark Bittman publishes meat recipes. Peter Singer has consistently defended, in principle, the killing of nonhuman beings for human purposes (provided that it be done "painlessly"). Jonathan Safran Foer, in his otherwise admirable book "Eating Animals," defends small animal farms and backs away from open advocacy of vegetarianism. Only Andrew Light seems to hold a position that finds no ethical justification for meat eating.

So the contest's overt bias ("Tell Us Why It's Ethical to Eat Meat") is compounded by its pretense with respect to the judging. Kaminer might instead have tapped any of dozens if not hundreds of prominent scholars, writers, critics, and well-informed activists who unequivocally oppose meat production for ethical reasons. The fact that she did not tells us everything we need to know about how seriously Kaminer takes the "ethical" issues at stake in this debate.

Kaminer's lack of balance reveals itself further in her having stocked her bench solely with men, when there are so many prominent feminist theorists and writers available to provide a critique of our society's masculine penchant for organized violence against vulnerable populations, whether against women and girls, foreign peoples, or other species.

There is an important debate to be had about the ethics of killing and eating animals. But this is not the way to have it. Honest ethical inquiry begins with the question, "How should we live?" or "What should I or we do about 'X'?" It does not begin with a predetermined conclusion, then work backwards for justification. To throw down a rhetorical gauntlet--"Defend X as a practice"-- is not to open up an ethical conversation; it is to build closure into the inquiry, and to stack the deck from the outset.

Signed*,
Karla Armbruster, Ph.D., Professor of English, Webster University
Anurima Banerji, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of World Arts and Cultures, UCLA
George Bates, DVM, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medical Technology at Wilson College
Kimberly Benston, Ph.D., Francis B. Gummere Professor of English, Haverford College
Susan Benston, M.D., Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing, Haverford College
Chris Bobel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Women's Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Carl Boggs, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, National University
G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Director of the Kerulos Center & President of the Trans-Species Institute
Thomas Brody, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Matthew Calarco, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Fullerton
Jodey Castricano, Ph.D., Associate Professor Critical Studies, University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus)
Elizabeth Cherry, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Manhattanville College
Sue Coe, Artist (represented by Galerie St. Etienne, New York City)
Susana Cook, Playwright (New York City)
Ellen F. Crain, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
William Crain, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, The City College of New York
Karen Davis, Ph.D., President of United Poultry Concerns
Maneesha Deckha, LL.M., Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria (Canada)
Margo De Mello, Ph.D., Lecturer, Central New Mexico Community College
Josephine Donovan, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of English, University of Maine
George Eastman, Ed.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Berklee College of Music
Stephen F. Eisenman, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, Northwestern University
Barbara Epstein, Ph.D., Professor, History of Consciousness Department, University of California at Santa Cruz
Amy Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, University of Windsor (UK)
Gary L. Francione, J.D., Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers University Law School-Newark
Carol Gigliotti, Ph.D., Faculty, Emily Carr University, Vancouver, BC (Canada)
Elizabeth A. Gordon, M.F.A., Instructor of English, Fitchburg State University
Roger Gottlieb, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Michelle Graham, M.A., Lecturer, Department of Writing, Literature & Publishing, Emerson College
Kathy Hessler, J.D., LL.M., Clinical Professor & Director, Animal Law Clinic, Center for Animal Law Studies, Lewis & Clark Law School
Laura Janara, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia (Canada)
Victoria Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Missouri
Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Joseph J. Lynch, Ph.D., Professor, Philosophy Department, California Polytechnic State University
John T. Maher, Adjunct Professor of Animal Law, Touro Law Center
Bill Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University
Atsuko Matsuoka, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Social Work, York University (Canada)
Timothy M. McDonald, M.F.A., Assistant Professor of Art, Framingham State University
Jennifer McWeeny, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, John Carroll University
James McWilliams, Ph.D., Associate Professor, History, Texas State University
Helena Pedersen, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Faculty of Education and Society, Malmö University (Sweden)
Steven Rayshick, Ph.D., Professor of English and Humanities, Quinsigamond Community College
Carrie Rohman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English, Lafayette College
John Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Kira Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, College of Staten Island
Michael Selig, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Emerson College
Jonathan Singer, Doctoral Student, DePaul University
John Sorenson, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Brock University (Canada)
H. Peter Steeves, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University
Gary Steiner, Ph.D., John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell University
Marcus Stern, M.F.A., Lecturer in Dramatic Arts, Harvard University
Deborah Tanzer, Ph.D., Psychologist and Author
Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Gender and Women's Studies, and Political Science, Hollins University
Gray Tuttle, Ph.D., Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, Columbia University
Richard Twine, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Lancaster University (UK)
Zipporah Weisberg, Doctoral Candidate, Programme in Social and Political Thought, York University (Canada)
Tony Weis, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Geography, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
Richard York, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Director of Graduate Studies for Sociology, University of Oregon
I was very pleasantly surprised at the support for the content of the letter. Wow. Pretty good.

There is no defense for harming other living beings who aren't trying to harm you...period. You don't even need an essay to understand that....and the only way to not harm others is to live your life as an ethical vegan.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meet the beaver...

Exquisite...
Wildcare is gearing up for one of the two times during the year that the public is invited to tour the facilites. In the spring they host their annual Babyshower and allow folks to become familiar with their operations, focusing on their springtime busyness of saving baby animals that are injured or orphaned (or kidnapped...lots of babies thought abandoned really aren't...but well meaning humans try to 'rescue' them anyway...unless there's imminent danger to the baby don't move them until talking to a wildlife care operation).

Yesterday I was there helping with sprucing up the place in preparation for the Baby Shower scheduled from 2 to 5pm on April 28th of this year. Rondi (the director) came strolling out holding the little one pictured above. She (or he...I didn't pay attention to which sex the baby is afflicted by) is melt you into a puddle gorgeous. There are really no words to describe the impact she has...you might be able to see her on a video here. I say 'might' because I'm unsure of how well linking to facebook videos works out. If you can't get there with the link you can go to WildcareOklahoma on facebook and see the video which was posted on April 16th, 2012.

If you are in the vicinity of Norman Oklahoma I would urge you to go out and attend the Wildcare Baby Shower, the human animals do a great job and the other animals are even niftier.

When I was looking at the baby beaver I was thinking...how...how can we harm such beautiful beings...how? I can't wrap my mind around it. It is mind boggling how absolutely exquisite and beautiful babies are...and we murder them by the billions.

We recently released some baby cottontails out at Heartland...you can see one of them in the pic below (thanks to Christina at Rabid Tidbits for the photo...more pics of them over at her blog).
Baby Cottontail (maybe 'Dirty Harry').
We gave them some play time outside prior to release, to get them familiar with running around and such....and when playtime was over....herding 4 baby cotties into a crate is an interesting bit of work. One of them in particular ended up being called "Dirty Harry" in honor of the fact that if you placed your hand in his/her path in an attempt to guide her/him s(he) simply would give you a good smack with her/his hands (front paws). Each of the little ones were (and are) a wonderful delight and so amazingly beautiful...beyond description. And yet...

And yet...every year we murder 9 or 10 billion babies and youngsters (and some adult) animals either for unhealthy food or for fun?...every year some 12 or 13 million human animals in the U.S. go out with guns and bows and traps and probably bazookas (if they could get their hands on one) and kill and kill and kill and call it "sport" and call it "recreation" and call it "fun" and call it "conservation". And every year the rest of us (except those living as ethical vegans) pay somebody to inflict suffering and misery and death...out of the range of our sight, smell or hearing preferably.

We need a keeper. Somebody needs to grab us by the back of our necks, give us a shake and tell us to straighten up....and then kick us in the caboose if we don't do it. If you don't want to live like you need a keeper, live as an ethical vegan...please.

Also...do come on out to Wildcare's Baby Shower...I'll be there somewhere helping park cars or guarding the baby deer or whatever they need me to do. :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Apologies...


Dear Animals,

We’re sorry we hurt you.
We’re sorry we torture you.
We’re sorry we burn you for fun.
We’re sorry we poke you.
We’re sorry we prod you.
We’re sorry we subject you to a lifetime of pain so we can eat you.
We’re sorry we kick you just to feel better about ourselves.
We’re sorry we rip the skin off your bones while you’re still alive.
We’re sorry we sell you in pet shops and then abandon you when we’ve had enough.
We’re sorry we leave you in garbage cans.
We’re sorry we shove hormones down your throat.
We’re sorry we steal your babies from you.
We’re sorry we throw you off of bridges.
We’re sorry we chain you up all day and all night.
We’re sorry we drown you.
We’re sorry we force you to do unnatural tricks for our entertainment.
We’re sorry we forget to feed you or give you water.
We’re sorry our disgruntled slaughterhouse workers take out all their aggressions on you.
We’re sorry we force you to fight each other.
We’re sorry we force you to fight us.
We’re sorry we use you for transportation.
We’re sorry we sacrifice your life so we can have another leather couch, car seat, belt or pair of shoes.
We’re sorry we make you scream in pain and then put a picture of a smiling chicken on the box.
We’re sorry we make you feel like you are part of the family and then forget about you when the baby comes.
We’re sorry we drag you behind our cars.
We’re sorry we keep you in dark, crowded, horrid living conditions.
We’re sorry we force feed you to make you fatter.
We’re sorry we burn your front paws in order to make you stand on two feet so our children can laugh.
We’re sorry we sexually abuse you for our fetishes.
We’re sorry we trap you.
We’re sorry we hunt you.
We’re sorry our shelters still use inhumane methods of killing you.
We’re sorry we subject you to a lifetime of terrorizing experiments so we can have yet another shampoo.
We’re sorry we don’t report our neighbors who are mistreating you to the authorities.
We’re sorry we poison you in the middle of the night.
We’re sorry we humiliate you.
We’re sorry we keep you alone indoors all day long and then get too lazy to take you for walks.
We’re sorry we choke you and suffocate you.
We’re sorry we yell at you.
We’re sorry we leave you out in the cold rain and in the hot sun.
We’re sorry we forget you in boiling hot cars with no open windows.
We’re sorry we intimidate you so we can feel powerful.
We’re sorry we dump you when you’re old and sick.
We’re sorry we sacrifice you for our beliefs and religions.
We’re sorry we starve you as a form of “art”.
We’re sorry we expose you to explosions and gunshots so we can film another movie.
We’re sorry we trap you in zoos so we can watch you suffer.
We’re sorry we treat you like objects that can be exploited for our own selfish purposes.
And most of all: We’re sorry we don’t recognize you for the amazing, intelligent, glorious, magnificent creatures that you are.

Sincerely,

We human animals (source: Melissa Vegan MacDonald)

Obviously, not enough of us are regretful...or we would stop making the planet we share with our fellow animals into a grotesque horror show. The only way to stop this is for we human animals to quit lending support to the despicable notion that living beings are property and to live as ethical vegans.