Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

The steer who escaped into our conscience?

July 22, 2007 By Ralph R. Acampora, New York Newsday
Ralph R. Acampora is an associate professor of philosophy at Hofstra University.

The story many Long Islanders have followed during the past few weeks of an escaped steer on the North Fork whose notoriety landed him a refuge away from the abattoir gets more perplexing the more you think about it. From a strictly agribusiness point of view, of course, the fugitive livestock presented only the problem of recapturing an ornery investment before its due harvest. Bad cow - get back into the pen.

But from the perspective of animal rights, the tale takes on a different tone altogether. "Moo," as he came to be nicknamed, represented the fiery spirit of independence even domesticated animals still harbor. He broke free in a bid for liberation, impressed the public and was rewarded with sanctuary in the end. Good cow - move on to greener pastures.

Listen to animal advocates' viewpoint, and you'll be forced to confront what we normally prefer to leave hidden and forgotten: the ultimate destiny of farm animals, namely (dis)assembly-line slaughter. If you have the stomach, you can visit a slaughterhouse or else watch the recent documentary "Earthlings" (at isawearthlings.com) to reacquaint yourself rather graphically with the gruesome details.

Interestingly, once we remember or first learn of this reality, it's not so much that Moo gained some unfair advantage over his tamer brothers (as some have been tempted to think), but rather that none of these unfortunates deserve the treatment their demise typically entails. Indeed, the bottom line of supermarket meat-eating is that the consumer buys and ingests something for the sake of taste that cost its original owners their very lives!

Put this way, and realizing that vegetarianism is a healthier option for dietary nutrition, it's a wonder that we don't close the slaughterhouses and wind down the livestock industry in a massive display of collective shame or gustatory grief.?

And yet we don't. Instead, we usually suppress the knowledge and keep a tight lid on our conscience.

This willful ignorance manifests in all sorts of ways, from the careful tucking away of killing and corpse-processing plants to the renaming of animals' body parts once they are offered for consumption: steak and beef - never steer or cow; sausage, pork, bacon - not pig.

Still, quite inconsistently, we are capable of empathetic identification when a story such as Moo's develops. Is this just a temporary lapse of civilized reason, a childlike indulgence in anthropomorphism? I think not. There is something more profound at stake, and at steak if you will.

"Those who become guilt-ridden about the productive beasts we cannot humanize feel a corresponding yearning to reconnect" with wild animal energies, historian Richard Bulliet has suggested.?

I think Moo tapped into this desire of ours to rediscover some indomitable force that survives even our best efforts at control, that can't be expunged even by the machine of exploitation to which farmed animals are routinely subjected.

Bulliet calls this paradoxical mind-set "post-domestic," because it shows that we no longer accept the project of domestication wholeheartedly - we have now attached a touch of irony to it and thus become somewhat confused in our feelings and thoughts regarding the entire enterprise.

I would argue that such confusion is part of a larger conundrum that haunts late-modern civilization, namely that we live in the kind of society made possible economically through the subjugation of nature and other life forms, and yet we are troubled ethically by that very conquest of nonhuman being(s).

The predicament to which I refer is not new to humanity - it's an old story, really: Domination breeds alienation in the master, which in turn makes him anxious and ambivalent about his underlings and himself.

Through technology and quite a bit of bravado if not outright hubris, humankind has cast itself in the role of biological lordship. It should not be surprising, then, if we suffer the psychological maladies endemic to that position.

So what are we post-domestic people to do? There are two main options available: full-speed ahead with our program of biotechnical mastery and the mental pathologies that go with it - or else ease up, tread lightly on or with our fellow earthlings, and maybe the species-schizophrenia will evaporate. Our reaction to Moo is a hint that the second alternative is probably worth a try.

Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change 

August 29, 2007 Claudia H. Deutsch, New York Times

EVER since "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore has been the darling of environmentalists, but that movie hardly endeared him to the animal rights folks. According to them, the most inconvenient truth of all is
that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than all the sport utility vehicles combined.

The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.

Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report
stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

When that report came out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups expected their environmental counterparts to immediately hop on the "Go Veggie!" bandwagon, but that did not happen.
"Environmentalists are still pointing their fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.'s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate," said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA.


So the animal rights groups are mobilizing on their own. PETA is outfitting a Hummer with a driver in a chicken suit and a vinyl banner proclaiming meat as the top cause of global warming. It will send the
vehicle to the start of the climate forum the White House is sponsoring in Washington on Sept. 27, "and to headquarters of environmental groups, if they don't start shaping up," Mr. Prescott warned.

He said that PETA had written to more than 700 environmental groups, asking them to promote vegetarianism, and that it would soon distribute leaflets that highlight the impact of eating meat on global warming.

"You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist," said Mr. Prescott, whose group also plans to send billboard-toting trucks to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver when Mr. Gore lectures there on Oct. 2. The billboards will feature a cartoon image of Mr. Gore eating a drumstick next to the tagline: "Too Chicken to Go Vegetarian? Meat Is the No. 1 Cause of Global Warming."

The Humane Society of the United States has taken up the issue as well, running ads in environmental magazines that show a car key and a fork. "Which one of these contributes more to global warming?" the ads ask. They answer the question with "It's not the one that starts a car," and go on to cite the United Nations report as proof.


On its Web page and in its literature, the Humane Society has also been highlighting other scientific studies - notably, one that recently came out of the University of Chicago - that, in essence, show that "switching to a plant-based diet does more to curb global warming than switching from an S.U.V. to a Camry," said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society.

The society, Mr. Shapiro said, is not only concerned with what happens to domesticated animals, but also with preventing the carnage that global warming could cause to polar bears, seals and other wildlife.
"Our mission is to protect animals, and global warming has become an animal welfare issue," he said.

Even tiny pro-veggie operations are starting to squeeze dollars out of their shoestring budgets to advertise the eating meat/global warming connection. Vegan Outreach, a 14-year-old group in Tucson with just
three full-time workers and a $5 million annual budget, is spending about $800 this month to run ads and links to its Web page on about 10 blogs. And, it will give more prominence to the global warming aspect of
vegetarianism in the next batch of leaflets it orders.

"We know that vegetarian organizations have sometimes made exaggerated health and environmental claims, but that U.N. report is an impartial, unimpeachable source of statements we can quote," said Matt Ball, executive director of Vegan Outreach.

Like Mr. Prescott, Mr. Ball is incensed that high-profile people like Al Gore - or environmental groups with deeper pockets than his - have not stepped up to the plate.


"Al Gore calls global warming an existential risk to humanity, yet it hasn't prompted him to change his diet or even mention vegetarianism," he complained. "And I guess the environmentalists recognize that it's a
lot easier to ask people to put in a fluorescent light bulb than to learn to cook with tofu."

Advertising specialists warn that this new attention to global warming may attract enemies as well as converts. "Using global warming as a tactic for advancing the cause of vegetarianism feels a bit opportunistic," said Hank Stewart, senior copywriter at Green Team Advertising, which specializes in environmentally themed ads.

He also questions the logistics. "You want to get the message as close to the meat-purchasing moment as possible," he said, "but can you imagine a supermarket allowing 'Attention, Planet-Destroying Carnivores'
on the in-store radio?"

Environmental groups, meanwhile, readily concede that mobilizing against meat eaters is not their highest priority.

"We try to be strategic about doing the things where each unit of effort has the most impact," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. Mr. Pope notes that his group has stopped short of castigating
people for driving S.U.V.'s or building overly large homes, too.

"We'll encourage companies to make more efficient S.U.V.'s, and we'll encourage consumers to buy them," he said, "but we do not find lecturing people about personal consumption choices to be effective."


Environmental Defense is also "in agreement on the value of eating less meat," said Melanie Janin, director of marketing communications. But, she added, her group would rather spend its time and money influencing
public policy - specifically, getting Congress to regulate greenhouse gases.

Mr. Gore declined to make himself available for comment. Chris Song, his deputy press secretary, simply noted that a suggestion to "modify your diet to include less meat" appears on Page 317 of Mr. Gore's book version of "An Inconvenient Truth."  He did not address Mr. Gore's personal food choices.

A dog's life can be ugly

Thu Aug 23 2007  Peter Vincent, Winnipeg Free Press

Last week I drove past a dog lying by the side of the road, motionless. I drove past, not wanting to think the worst, not wanting to get embroiled in the drama of having to deal with a wounded or dead dog. I turned up the music and adjusted my sunglasses.

Halfway to town, I U-turned, ashamed of myself. What if the dog was hurt or worse yet, dying, lying on the side of the road, its last moments on Earth in agony, with no comfort, no one to bear witness?

I often turn up the music, adjust my sunglasses, avoiding the responsibility of being a witness to catastrophe or inhumanity. Miners die in Utah, a black death 1,600 below the surface. Minneapolis commuters plummet into the Mississippi River as a bridge collapses beneath their vehicles. Dogs die every day.

Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback has pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Why would Vick get involved with such a gutter sport? It's not like he needs the money. It must be the thrill of watching two dogs tear each other to pieces.

This debacle could ruin Vick's lucrative football career -- and will likely mean 12 to 18 months in prison.

To many, that's just not good enough. Of the 7,200 respondents to a recent poll on DogCatRadio.com, 72 per cent felt that, if convicted, Vick should get the death penalty. Tit for tat.

Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states, illegal in Canada, illegal in the civilized world. That doesn't mean it doesn't go on, day in, day out. In a recent edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, I saw unspeakable horrors to the point where I had to turn away. A dog with its jaw duct-taped shut is thrown into a pit with another dog, to train the other dog how to kill. Defenceless. There was footage of dogs with 50 pound chains around their necks to strengthen them standing in six inches of mud and feces. How can humans act so alien? How can the rest of us simply switch channels to The Simpsons when our viewing pleasure is not so pleasurable? How can we simply turn up the music and adjust our sunglasses?

Incidents like the Vick story happen regularly in North America. A dog is dragged behind a pickup. A puppy farm is discovered in despicable condition. In Toronto, a Humane Society worker smashed a window in an SUV to rescue a Rotweiller allegedly suffocating from the heat. He then handcuffed the owner to his vehicle while he got the dog medical attention. An angry mob conducted some serious vigilante justice on the offender.

The humane society worker has been suspended, precipitating an avalanche of protests demanding his reinstatement. We take our dogs seriously in North America.

Individual tales like a dog left in a hot car are disturbing, but pale in comparison to what is going on in China. This month, the Chinese government slaughtered 50,000 dogs -- pets -- because of three rabies deaths. Teams would enter villages at night, make a lot of noise, causing the dogs to bark behind closed doors, a simple but effective locating device. They would drag the dogs out into the street and club them to death, often with the tearful owners looking on.

In pre-capitalist China, pet ownership was considered bourgeois, an evil western affectation. Still, today, there are strict limits on the size of a pet. Licences are very expensive.

The Chinese government hasn't quite come up to speed with public opinion. The outcry for this 50,000 dog atrocity, both internationally and internally, has created a major bureaucratic tsunami. There have been cries to boycott the upcoming Beijing Olympics and all Chinese products. PETA, the international organization for animal rights and welfare is spearheading the boycott, canceling a $300,000 order for Chinese merchandise.

But again, this pales to other made-in-China inhumanities. Dog meat is still on the menus of most restaurants off the tourist grid. Chinese men eat it to increase their virility. What century are we living in?

Oh, and then there is the small matter of the estimated two million dogs slaughtered every year in China for their fur. It is still perfectly legal to import and sell dog and cat fur in Canada. Next time you buy a nice pair of fur lined gloves or a parka with a fur trim, take a moment to remember the dog hanging on a hook, still alive, being bled out through a severed artery in its hind leg.
The U.S. has banned the importation of dog and cat fur. Australia has banned it. Italy, France, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland -- they have all banned pet fur. Canada still welcomes the trade.

You need to put that parka with the fur trim back on the rack. It may cost you a little more for a "Not-made-in-China" coat. It may cost you a little more to buy toothpaste that isn't tainted with antifreeze, or toys that aren't coated in lead paint, or dog food that won't cause kidney failure. These are all individual choices that will define what kind of a society we want to live in. Integrity has a price.

That dog lying beside the road? I stopped beside it and rolled down my window. The old black lab, all frosted grey around the face, lifted his head and gave me a wag -- soaking up the sun. I tossed him a biscuit and got on with my day.

Peter Vincent is a writer who lives on Salt Spring Island

Was driver who ran over raccoon too busy to care?

Friday, October 12, 2007 Coquitlam Now

Perhaps you were rushing home to watch a new sitcom, your cellphone conversation was too important to be interrupted or maybe you just didn't care, but to the person who drove over a baby raccoon and left it to die on Lansdowne Drive, you disgust me.

The decent thing to do would be to pull over and help the suffering creature, or at least call for help.

Thankfully, a small group of caring people stopped and cared for the young animal in its dying moments.

We all watched tearfully as the mother and an injured sibling wailed and pulled at its bloodied fur after it died. And, we cleaned up your mess.

And, the most important thing, and I suspect the only thought that even entered your mind as you felt the poor animal crash against your car is no, no one saw your license plate number.

You got away with it. And, you disgust me.

Mike Rogozinski, Coquitlam

Cruelty to Animals Leads to Cruelty; Kindness to Animals Doesn't Lead to Kindness

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 By Dennis Prager

With the recent charges that a major National Football League player had allowed cruel dog fights on his home property, the issue of cruelty to animals has been brought to national attention.

Nearly everyone acknowledges the obvious -- that a person who is cruel to animals, who enjoys sees seeing an animal suffer, is likely to inflict suffering on human beings. Cruelty to animals is one of the very few predictors among children of later criminal behavior.

So, aside from altruistic concern for animals, we human beings also have a selfish concern about people who enjoy making animals suffer. People who enjoy hurting animals will very likely hurt us, too.

The problem arises when we assume that the converse is equally true -- that just as cruelty to animals leads to cruelty to human beings, kindness to animals leads to kindness to people.

It doesn't. Kindness to animals is entirely unrelated to kindness to human beings -- except perhaps in the reverse order: People who treat people kindly are less likely to treat animals with cruelty.

But there is no connection whatsoever between treating animals kindly and treating people kindly. You know nothing about a person's treatment of people by knowing that he or she is kind to animals or is an "animal lover." Indeed, if there is any connection, it is more likely to be in the opposite direction. It seems that at a certain point of preoccupation with animals, there is a real chance that such a person may well treat people worse.

In his book "The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton University Press, 1999)," Stanford Professor Robert N. Proctor writes a great deal about the Nazis' antipathy to animal experimentation. For example, the book features a Nazi cartoon depicting "the lab animals of Germany saluting Hermann Goring" for his protection of them.

This Nazi protection of animals is described by the leftist writer Alexander Cockburn:

"In April 1933, soon after they had come to power, the Nazis passed laws regulating the slaughter of animals. Later that year Herman Goering [sic] announced an end to the 'unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments' and -- in an extremely unusual admission of the existence of such institutions, threatened to 'commit to concentration camps those who still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.' Bans on vivisection were issued -- though later partly rescinded -- in Bavaria and Prussia. Horses, cats and apes were singled out for special protection. In 1936, a special law was passed regarding the correct way of dispatching lobsters and crabs and thus mitigating their terminal agonies. Crustaceans were to be thrown into rapidly boiling water. Bureaucrats at the Nazi Ministry of the Interior had produced learned research papers on the kindest method of killing."

In the case of the Nazis, the moral inversion is particularly dramatic, since the Nazis' opposition to experimentation on animals was accompanied by their support for the grotesque and sadistic medical experiments on innocent Jews and others in Nazi concentration camps.

The ancient Hebrew Prophet Hosea saw this inverted morality in his day as well: "Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves" (Hosea 13.2).

For those tempted to caricature the argument presented here, I should make it clear that no one is making the absurd argument that animal rights activists are likely to be Nazis. Pointing out that the Nazis were major animal rights activists -- and that Hitler was a vegetarian -- is done only to offer a vivid illustration of how easily kindness to animals and cruelty to humans can coexist.

Human beings are not moderates, but extremists, by nature. Attitudes toward animals provide an excellent example. On the one hand are the innumerable human beings throughout history who have regarded animals as things to be treated as mercilessly as one would an inanimate object. This accounts for the widespread practice of cock fighting and other 'sports' that feature animals painfully killing one another for humans' entertainment.

And on the other hand are those, especially today, who equate animal worth with human worth -- such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which inaugurated a campaign a few years ago called "Holocaust on your plate." The program equates the barbecuing of chickens with the Nazi burning of Jews.

So, in our appropriate condemnation of those who organize dog fights, let's not fool ourselves about the impact of animal kindness on human beings' character. It simply doesn't exist. 

Comment: Dennis Prager is a conservative radio show host, a contributing columnist for Townhall.com, and author. This piece elicited a wide range of comments.

Read more: Finally! Pope Francis Believes Compassion for Animals Can Help the Environment