Animal Rights

“The strong will do what they can and the weak will yield what they must.”

Just taking some notes on a Quillette article about animal rights. “Only two lifetimes ago educated people endorsed chattel slavery. The raises the sobering question: how might present arrangements appear to inhabitants of a more enlightened future civilization?”

First, here’s a reminder on my methodology, in case a stranger were to happen by… most of the content in this article is not original to me, and that includes some of the opinions being stated as well. What I do is copy/paste articles and read through them carefully. I’ll often rearrange the content of the article to include sections like: problem, solution, vocabulary, questions, further reading, favorite quotes, etc. At the very end, I’ll leave behind some of my personal takeaways.

Introduction

Every year, tens of billions of land animals, and more sea creatures, are killed because humans enjoy eating their flesh. Trillions of animals will live lives of torture before animal farming is finally abolished.

“the strong will do what they can and the weak will yield what they must.” characterizes our relationship with animals

Solutions.

Scientific consensus on animal sentience. | Frans de Waal, “animal cognition is a term considered an oxymoron until well into the 1980s.” Evidence shows that many animals possess sophisticated emotional lives. Cows grieve for their calves when they are separated from them. Elephants pause at places where their relatives have died, sometimes laying down branches as if to memorialize the location. Despite the growing body of evidence, it’s still hard to get people on board with taking animal rights more seriously. You can try to elicit an emotional response, but you’re more likely to just disgust people (footage of inhuman farming practices)

Good-tasting and humane alternatives.

  • Just, Inc., Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The meaty quality of food comes from a compound called “heme” that is apparently responsible for 90 percent of beef’s taste. Heme is highly concentrated in blood, but plants contain small amounts of it which yeast can multiply for commercial purposes.
  • Competition: Tyson Foods invested in Beyond Meat. (a ruse to control and kill a rival product?) Defensive strategy: deny newcomers access to familiar labels. (e.g. almond milk isn’t actually milk, so they can’t call it that) 
  • Meat grown from living animal cells. Development seems incredibly costly.

All animal farming must be abolished. (According to Reese)

  1. animal exploitation is intrinsically wrong.
  2. small specialty farms are far less humane and worse environmentally
  3. the existence of a few genuinely ethical farms will lend an air of justification to animal farming as a whole. consumers will take refuge in the thought that they only eat ethical animal products. they aren’t diligent about making sure these products come from ethical sources.

Questions

  • Thought experiment : Is it wrong for Neanderthals to “humanely” farm human beings for food?
  • How long it will take the public to get used to the idea of lab-grown meat?
  • “Consumption decreases when people abandon animal products for aesthetic reasons, and aesthetic converts might become moral converts later.” What does he mean by “aesthetic reasons”?

Vocabulary

  • consequentialism : the moral status of actions depends upon the goodness of their actual or expected consequences. | E.g. “Imagine that chickens were genetically engineered to feel no pain or, better yet, to enjoy their captivity. When it’s slaughter time, they willingly walk to the farmer’s tree stump like serene martyrs, necks outstretched, waiting for the ecstatic moment when the axe releases them from the mortal coil. If consequentialism is true, then we might ask why adding a huge numbers of such blissful creatures wouldn’t outweigh the badness of exploitation, making the world better overall. In fairness, this objection is purely theoretical”

Reese would have better luck if he focused on an argument that doesn’t require the rejection of speciesism.

It’s unrealistic to expect vegan startups not to compete over the small consumer base of committed vegans. Some amount of commercial friction seems inevitable.

Conclusion : ethically-guided entrepreneurship and reflective activism have put a better, more compassionate future within reach.


Personal Takeaways & Thoughts

  • Raising and killing animals for their meat is ethically questionable. We should do all we can to respect animal life.
  • Factory farming is not great for the environment.
  • Small-scale farming is not better for the environment.
  • Even though animal farming is both ethically questionable, and not so great for the environment, we still should not force people to stop eating meat. We need to come up with viable alternatives first.
  • Humans need meat in order to have a balanced diet.
  • I would be open to trying and switching to an ethical meat source providing it tastes and costs the same.

Further Reading

  • The End of Animal Farming by Jacy Reese
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

6 thoughts on “Animal Rights

  1. Yawn. Eat what you want. But, bother me about my choices or try to limit them, and it’s more likely that you and any family you might have (I do love veal) will end up on my table.

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    1. I don’t necessarily have a strong opinion on this topic, other than to agree with you. I’d REALLY hate it if someone were to guilt trip me or try to make me choose a vegan lifestyle.

      Keep in mind, the “article” you just read is a bad one. I don’t write very well, and in this case, I was just trying to distill an article down in order to try to retain something for future use. A lot of my blog is total bullshit 😉

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      1. Meh. The article isn’t THAT bad. At least you don’t seem to be one of those rabidly moralistic vegans…and yes, I’ve physically ran afoul of a few of those. They lost hard.

        One thing though: it looks like commercially viable vat-grown meat (for sausage, burger, and other ground up applications only) may be only 7-10 years away. Yay.

        Another thought experiment : Is it wrong for human beings to “humanely” farm human beings for food? We do, after all, have an excess human population, often in starvation conditions similar or worse than that of many prey species we cull in those cases.

        LOL I’m an omnivore. I love meat of all kinds. That doesn’t mean that I don’t also have some issues with how farming animals is done or with the mental separation people keep between their meat and the killing it takes to bring it to table. Then, I grew up as a hunter – one who was taught to pray in thanks for the animals I took.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think you bring up a really good point about hunting and the mental separation people have between the meat on their table and the actual animal. I tend to think that if all of us had to kill and butcher our own meat, we’d probably be a lot more respectful about the source, and possibly even consume less of it.

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      1. That’s what I think and, omnivore or not, I’m more than OK with that result.

        Of course, in a way, that’s true of all food. If people had a better understanding of what it takes to get their fridge filled, they be more respectful of both the food and the farmers.

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