Victims in the shadows; …And they’re off!

Image by http://traslosmuros.com/?

Image by Aitor Garmendia of Tras los Muros

Today I’d like to offer some points to ponder, as outrage rocks social media about the slaughtering of Australian racehorses whose lives have been used, broken and discarded by the horse racing industry.

Like all other institutions grounded in our abuse of our fellow earthlings, horse racing is a supply industry that works from the bottom up. Bear in mind that it’s not just the wealthy and glamorous wanting to be seen and to socialise with the ‘right people’ in their designer gear, who drive this vile industry.  Every bet or ‘flutter’ (‘Just a pound each way’), every ‘office sweepstake’ (‘Go on – there’s just a couple of numbers left!’) on the latest race, no matter how harmless they seem, are ways that ordinary people everywhere endorse and approve the bloodbath and ensure that it will continue. There was a time that I was complicit. Be honest with yourself and search your own conscience.

And horse use is a global issue although to listen to the howls of outrage one would be forgiven for thinking only one country is involved. The horrors we inflict on this species are not confined to the ‘entertainment’ industry; they are ‘only’ a contributor to an overall obscenity. Did you know that globally, in a single year (2017), 4,772,355  horses were slaughtered to be eaten?

That’s 13,075 individuals every single day, who are trucked to our slaughterhouses, their broken beauty and neglected grace electric-prodded and manhandled into line to meet terrifying and gory deaths with blades and saws wielded by members of our species whose wages we pay.

The countries contributing to these statistics are listed below* and include every part of the world. Just because a country does not appear on the list, nothing can be assumed. Many countries export horses to facilities in neighbouring countries. As an example the majority of those trucked to one European slaughterhouse in a single year were found to have travelled long distances by road from other European countries.

As with other species, slaughter occurs by the cutting of both carotid (neck) arteries which results in their bleeding to death. In some cases horses are hanged by the neck from chains until they suffocate; just one method of subduing the power of a large creature whose utter terror  – even in a wounded and depleted state – makes their desperate fight for life dangerous to their killers and a financial risk to their plant and equipment. It is violent, gory and agonising. Like all our victims, their fear is simply off the scale.

And the reason this atrocity happens? Once again this is the manifestation of the ugly prejudice called speciesism, apparent in our use of these creatures for their dead flesh, as unpaid labourers, as commodities in entertainment industries. And it doesn’t end there, they are used as laboratory test subjects and as imprisoned producers of hormone replacement drugs (using pregnant mares – Google premarin).

In the words of the late Tom Regan,

‘The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us – to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money. Once we accept this view of animals – as our resources – the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable.’

It’s not the legislation that needs to change; we don’t need more of it, or better enforcement. Every single use that we make of others stems from the mistaken idea that their lives are ours to use and ours to take. And we need to stop that. Completely. No exceptions. This is what needs to change – this arrogance, this ignorance, the sheer brutality of thinking we have the right to ‘own’ other individuals and use them for our interests.

I beg you to look at the individuals behind the brutality of our species. All it takes is a moment to decide that no more innocents will be so afraid that their legs can hardly bear their weight; no more innocents will stand defeated in a slaughterhouse queue in sickened horror on our account.

Make that decision today. Say, ‘Not in my name’ and decide to be vegan. It’s simply the right thing do do.

 

*Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Réunion, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, China

All statistics via FAOSTAT

Advertisements
Posted in Speciesism, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking at language: Cull

Cull.  We see the word applied increasingly to the mass killing of numerous species; to deer and to foxes and to seals, to pigeons, crows and even swans. The word is in the news at the moment, being applied to the mass slaughter of an anticipated 63,000 badgers, an indigenous wild species in England, one of the countries that make up the UK. The stated reason is an effort to curb the spread of tuberculosis in herds of bovine victims being cultivated to meet the demands of nonvegan consumers. In other words, this particular atrocity links back directly to nonveganism.  As nonvegans, the majority of the very people who are so outraged and so vocal about this admittedly outrageous decimating of the population of wild creatures, are the very ones on whose behalf it is ostensibly being perpetrated.

The science about whether this wholesale bloodbath has the desired effect remains controversial. Nevertheless as with everything else in a society that elevates animal agriculture (the practice of needlessly creating victims out of unconsenting and defenceless individuals while destroying the planet and exacerbating the risk of disease in humans) the precautionary principle that would rein in the excesses of hunger for profit in any other sphere, is overruled thanks to the political and financial clout tied into the huge subsidies that the animal use industries reap from the public purse.

‘Cull’ is a word that’s somehow typical of our dishonest species. It’s a word that seeks to convey tones of benevolent husbandry, implying care and bucolic concern towards a natural world that somehow just can’t seem to balance itself without kindly intervention from our species.

Really such euphemistic posturing is just a feeble attempt to dignify the unforgivable, to cloak the brutality, the egotism, the delusions of superiority and the lust for blood and money of a species that has lost all semblance of decency. What’s happening in almost every case is an eradication of one (usually wild) species from their natural habitat, in order to clear the way to make money from cultivating the victims of nonveganism.  It is carried out to perpetuate the profit-making potential of the regime of forced reproduction, of using to death and finally slaughtering in cold blood, of the innocent individuals of nonhuman animal species who have been selectively bred to make money for a brutal industry at a catastrophic cost to their own wellbeing and their birthright to live free from our absolutely needless violence.

If this flagrant destruction of the few wild species that remain disgusts us – and it should – we must begin by stopping our personal participation in the system that drives these atrocities. We do that by becoming vegan. What we do next is up to each of us. Be vegan.

Cull
Verb: reduce the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.
Noun: a selective slaughter of animals.

Posted in Speciesism, Terminology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on the price of folly

Image from 2015 is of a pig tied down in a flooded shed, alive amongst the dead. By Tras los Muros

Planet Earth is experiencing an escalation of extreme weather events. This escalation will continue for as long as we fail so utterly to grasp that one of the main causes – if not the main cause –  is our own brutality; our needless use and slaughter of trillions of sentient individuals every single year to indulge dietary preferences that are entirely unnecessary. Unless we embrace this truth and act, both as individuals becoming vegan, and collectively as societies demanding the end of the institution we know as ‘animal agriculture’, our species will suffer greatly, probably to the point of extinction.

We are no longer vaguely contemplating some distant eventuality that need not concern us as the short-lived organisms that we humans are; the consequences of our failure to act are sweeping down upon us with the velocity and force of an avalanche. You and I may well suffer devastating impacts upon food availability, our homes and our lifestyles, and with the passage of time, our children will suffer even more  than we do. When we are dead and gone, will they ask why we didn’t do anything while we could still have made a difference? They’ll have every right to do that, and I can’t think of anything that could excuse our negligence.

Everybody hurts, everybody loses

As tempests rage across the globe, we have witnessed, and will continue to see, nightmarish images of our captive victims in the hellholes where they have drowned, or have been incinerated by climate-wrought floods and fires. We will be shown the pits where their often still-living selves are being covered with lime and buried in efforts to contain the rampant diseases unleashed by our greed for greater profit in a world already terminally overburdened by the weight of the trillions of lives brought into being by our interference in their reproduction; their numbers raised to impossible levels by human hands as they ‘breed’ and artificially inseminate the innocent for use as the resources of our single, brutal, predatory, species.

Images such as I describe are hard to look at. The blackened ashes no longer indentifiable as ever having lived or breathed, the bloated corpses bobbing alone or in groups on the surface of putrid floodwater, images that echo with the screams of fear and panic that we can imagine only too well. Suddenly, in these pathetic corpses, we can’t avoid awareness of their ordeal and the veil of our own delusion of superiority slips, however briefly. We suddenly recognise just how much we have in common with the tragic, bobbing dead, with their mottled, gas-filled bellies, mouths gaping in grimaces of their dying agony. We would need to be fools indeed not to see ourselves in their plight, not to empathise with their horror and despair as death approached and there was no escape. What would we have done? How could we have endured to see our loved ones share our death throes, each powerless to do a single thing to help the other?

And here, in this brief glimpse that acknowledges our kinship with the dead, our shared sentience, we must try to find and grasp the key that unlocks the myths of our presumed but mistaken need to inflict the inevitable consequences of our violence and brutality upon all other species on the planet.

With the horror, comes anger and disgust

So often the images I’ve mentioned provoke strong reactions in those who see them. Outraged viewers insist furiously that such barbarity should not be permitted; should be legislated against; that it should not go unpunished. The vitriol pours on a tide of righteous indignation. However to free ourselves of our delusions, we must first face a few harsh truths and we must do so unflinchingly.

All of the individuals whom we see portrayed in the nightmarish images were on death row. They were born and they were hatched on death row. They were there because we, as consumers, continue to demand their young and broken bodies for our use and consumption. We do this despite the fact that it is completely unnecessary. By being individuals who use our cash to buy substances and services derived from the unconsenting bodies of others, we make it absolutely clear that we consider them to be nothing other than commodities for our use, at the expense of their own lives and interests. Regardless of the myths of entitlement and justification with which we seek to justify our atrocities, this is the stripped-down truth of the matter.

We cannot logically profess to care about them as living, breathing, sentient individuals with feelings exactly like our own, (or indeed expect anyone else to care in that way) when the only reason they have been caused to exist, is to deprive them of the lives that they so desperately want to live after keeping them alive as economically as possible until the most financially profitable time for them to be slaughtered in cold blood.

Abandonment to disease, to fire, flood and tempest is horrific. No sensible person can deny this.

Who are the real monsters?

However the ordeal that they endure in the legally sanctioned regime of oppression that is nonveganism, in order to be used for their breast milk, their eggs, their flayed skin, their body parts, dead flesh, forced labour or as test subjects tortured in the name of ‘science’ is not in any sense a better option. Yet that is the legally-sanctioned and inevitable reality. From violent conception to slaughter via an existence that minimises costs to maximise profit, our standard practice is a gory and brutal process.  They plead and they whimper in terror and agony but are ignored in the name of industry profit and consumer convenience.

So when we see those horrific images of fire, flood and disease, we need to be outraged; we need to be disgusted. But we also need to be honest about exactly where the responsibility lies. That means that we must stop being the reason that they were in those hell-holes to begin with.

Make no mistake. We are now in the midst of the fight of our lives; the fight for THEIR lives, and the fight for the very existence of our living world. The planet we are destroying is theirs as much as ours.  As we saw off the branch our species is sitting on, we must remember that our victims are sitting alongside us, helpless passengers on our journey to ruin.

We need to become vegan and there’s not a moment to lose.

Posted in Global disasters, Sentience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts about diluting the animal rights message

http://traslosmuros.com/?

Image by Aitor Garmendia / Tras los Muros

For a moment, please imagine if you will, that this page were to highlight something horrific being done to humans, something such as torture, sexual violation, or forced labour. Imagine an article describing men, women and children, families and friends torn apart, desperate, degraded, and broken, as they beg and plead for the torment to stop, to be left in peace. What do you think the take-home message would be?

‘This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.’

I’m sure that’s simply what any decent person would expect. Here’s another question to consider. Do you think that a day will ever dawn when all humans will have stopped inflicting sickening brutalities on those whom they decide to oppress? For myself, I doubt it. So since brutality may never stop completely, does that have any effect on the message that it needs to stop and stop now? No, of course it doesn’t. Well so far, so good; I trust there’s nothing controversial up to this point?

Spreading messages via social media

So picture this; a social media post that summarises these points and attracts ‘likes’, ‘loves’, ‘sad faces’ and ‘angry faces’. Again, what you’d expect. It is also shared a number of times which is excellent – that’s how messages spread and how we provoke thought in our friends and contemporaries. We often add a message of our own when we do this, don’t we? So what do you think we should say in this case?  How about:

  • ‘This shouldn’t happen to so many people.’
  • ‘Increase the age limit for separating infants from their mothers!’
  • ‘Support shorter hours for forced labourers!’
  • ‘Please be kinder and cut down on this.’
  • ‘Support more pleasant environments for sexual violation!’

You may be thinking by now that this is some kind of sick humour, and I truly wouldn’t blame you. Such comments are so offensive that they make me queasy. Please hold that thought while we shift back to our victims.

Animal rights and human rights

The main focus of this page has always been and will always be, Animal Rights. This means that instead of horrors inflicted on humans, it highlights the disgraceful practices that are inflicted on our victims, the myriad activities that constitute our unnecessary exploitation of their lives, their reproduction, their forced labour, and the parts of their violently slaughtered and dismembered corpses. The take-home message on every single post and blog, is always the same; always absolutely uncompromising,

‘This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.’

It’s encouraging that these articles are liked and shared, and I often see the sharer add a message of their own – which as I said before, can be brilliant to emphasise the point.

Why is it then, that on the back of a completely uncompromising explanation of why we have no right whatsoever to create victims, do I so often see things like:

  • ‘Try cutting down on meat.’
  • ‘Make kinder choices.’
  • ‘Boycott factory farms!’
  • ‘Try going meatless for a couple of meals a week!’
  • And then the gem that sparked this blog, ‘Try buying free-range’?

When challenged, the response is frequently that the writer of such a message considers that animal use is too entrenched to ever stop, hence their remark.

If it’s good enough for humans, it’s good enough for everyone

However. If the wildly offensive messages about human exploitation were not justified by the fact that our species is always likely to cause harm to each other, why on earth would the equivalent in offensive messages be justified when applied to our defenceless victims? The short answer? It’s not. Wrong is wrong, whichever way we slice it. To post an offensive message about other animals when we would be deeply offended by the equivalent if it were applied to humans, is a perfect illustration of our speciesism talking.

Our victims have no one but us to tell the truth about the grave injustice of the ordeal to which we routinely subject them. We owe that truth to them as they queue in the milking parlours and hatcheries and slaughterhouses; and we owe that truth to every single member of our own species. Those who are unable or unwilling to face that truth must live with their own conscience, but we cannot afford to dilute it.

Trillions of lives are depending on this, and the desperate urgency of their plight is being added to each day by the collapsing ecosystems for which our predation is directly responsible. We are running out of time. Tell the truth!

Posted in Advocacy, Speciesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Defining veganism in light and shadow

I have always stood by an assertion that veganism was perfectly adequately defined by Donald Watson and his contemporaries when they first developed the philosophy and the words to describe it:

The vegan believes that if we are to be true emancipators of animals we must renounce absolutely our traditional and conceited attitude that we have the right to use them to serve our needs. We must supply these needs by other means. If the vegan ideal of non-exploitation were generally adopted, it would be the greatest peaceful revolution ever known, abolishing vast industries and establishing new ones in the better interests of men and animals alike.

~ Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005)

That definition works for me. And yet, after several years of being vegan and of reading and blogging about animal rights, and despite having a fairly good idea about the specifics of the obscenities we inflict as a species, I still come across new atrocities that make me feel sick to the pit of my stomach. In this world where our relentless use of all other species, our destruction of their habitats and our devastation of even the very planet that we all inhabit is so ubiquitous, it seems that the majority of humans have absolutely no idea how widespread, and how serious our crimes actually are. And the industries that perpetrate the atrocities have no scruples whatsoever when it comes to disguising the truth about what consumers are paying them to inflict.

Against this unenlightened backdrop I find it increasingly difficult to describe what veganism actually is, because veganism is not an action. Veganism is the light that has a shape only because it is shining through the darkness of our atrocities as individuals and as a species, the patch of clear blue sky that is framed by storm clouds. Veganism is the peaceful calm that is left behind when the activities that comprise nonveganism are stopped.

To be vegan is to stop being nonvegan

Recently I posted about a gentle and timid pheasant family in my garden whose innocent lives are likely to end in terror and the gore of a shotgun blast in less than a month’s time. I  found myself reflecting that while sensationalist and profit-driven media prattle on about ‘vegan options’ and ‘vegan diets’, giving coverage to mendacious industry-funded scaremongering about health issues alongside the array of propaganda of unscrupulous industries that simply want to continue to profit from the violence that they inflict on defenceless creatures on behalf of consumers, few are being assisted to join the dots that we all need to join before we can finally live in line with our values.

Because veganism is a non-action, and nonveganism is the action, we all need to focus sometimes on nonveganism, because it is only by seeing it, understanding it, opposing it and utterly rejecting it, that we can finally appreciate the inactivity that is left. This is the way I understand veganism, through seeing and being repulsed by the many activities that comprise nonveganism.

Nonveganism is loud and proud and highly visible. It’s the dark cloud, the profit-hungry shadow that sweeps us along. And as supporters of nonveganism we are only too willing to be carried along, cocooned in a desperate need to think well of ourselves, despite demanding activities so vile that we would vomit if we actually thought about them, despite paying with our consumer cash for places where defenceless lives are farmed, where innocent creatures are used, tormented and broken, and hell holes where the sobs of the dying echo amidst the stench of blood and entrails.

So today as an example I’m considering the nonveganism around my remote cottage, the nonveganism never mentioned in the media, the nonveganism that I never appreciated until I reached that patch of clear blue sky that I mentioned earlier and looked around me at the shadows. This isn’t about ‘vegan options’ or ‘diets’, it’s not about me or ‘my health’, it’s not about what I’m wearing or driving or the labels on the things that I buy. This is about pure and simple veganism, seen only in relief by looking at its opposite.

Country life? Country death.

My friends, the pheasants, exist as a result of intensive and lucrative reproductive exploitation by my species, are set free in the wilds for a season and then used to make profit as nothing more than interactive targets by selling shooting ‘privileges’ to those who find pleasure in killing. That’s nonveganism in action.

They share the wild areas near my home with shy and private deer whose lives are bought and sold in the same way as if they belonged to my species rather than to themselves. Interactive targets sold for profit; nonveganism in action.

Along with pheasants and deer, grouse, partridge and woodpigeons live in the few wild hedgerows and thickets. These shy and timid little birds are seldom spotted, going to enormous lengths to avoid humans and with very good reason. Interactive targets with a price on each tiny head; nonveganism in action.

There are hatcheries nearby where salmon and trout are ‘bred’, the reproduction of both male and female individuals violated by human hands that lift them from the water and ‘milk’ the eggs and sperm from their bodies, cultivating vast numbers of offspring in tanks that are then emptied into local rivers and reservoirs in an activity known as ‘stocking’. Thus they become interactive targets where ‘fishing rights’ are sold for profit: nonveganism in action.

I could go on but on this occasion I won’t. It is not for me to list every violation, every atrocity, every affront to decency that surrounds us all. We all need to think for ourselves – we all need to face our own eyes when we look in a mirror. All I can hope is that today everyone who reads this will focus in on the nonveganism that we are all taught to ignore or endorse. See it for what it is and don’t balk at the truth. Then reject it. Refuse to be part of it even for one more day.

Once we stop being nonvegan, all that’s left is veganism.

Be vegan today.

 

 

 

Posted in Victims in the shadows, What is ...? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Victims in the shadows: emus

This series of short blogs hopes to shine a spotlight onto ways that humans exploit other creatures for financial gain, ways about which the majority of consumers are unaware. This is not intended to shock; it’s intended to illustrate and provoke thought.  All the atrocities we commit, are what inevitably happens once a regime of oppression has been universally accepted to the point where it is not even not even perceived as oppression, and passes unchallenged by the majority.

Speciesism

This is what has occurred with speciesism, and that deeply entrenched prejudice lurks in the terrible shadows at the heart of every single one of the uses of our fellow creatures that we make, demand and pay for.

Just as a reminder, speciesism results in the practice of according or withholding the rights that belong to others by virtue of their birth, based solely upon their species. It is a prejudice with which we are indoctrinated from childhood, that leads to our unfounded assumption that we may harm and kill members of all other species for whatever trivial reasons we devise, without conscience and without any moral justification whatsoever.  Most of us reach adulthood completely unaware that the prejudice even exists, despite the fact that it dictates almost every choice we make in our nonvegan lives as we needlessly butcher, flay and pluck, mutilate and torment our way through our lives. Against all logic and all common sense, while committing atrocities so vile that we choose not to know the details, we cling firmly to the illusion that we actually care about those whose planet we share.

Emus

So today the spotlight will shine on emus. Did you know that the farming of emus is once again increasing in popularity due to consumer demand for ’emu oil’. I decided to look into this new horror that I was previously unaware of and here’s a brief summary.

A soft-feathered, brown, flightless bird that can reach up to 1.9 metres in height, the emu is native to, and farmed in, Australia but also in North America, Peru, China, India and elsewhere.

Emus are primarily farmed for their dead flesh, their skin, feathers, and in particular, an oil made from the fat of slaughtered individuals. Native to a frequently challenging environment, emus have fat stores on their back for survival. If food is scarce, they can tap into this and can go weeks without eating if they have enough in their reserves.

Following a lull in demand in the early 2000s, demand is currently increasing for emu oil which is sold as an anti-inflammatory although claims about the efficacy of this appear to be highly suspect and unproven.

Emu feathers are used for fishing lures, hair extensions, flower arrangements, hats and numerous decorative arts and crafts. As is also inflicted upon geese, ducks and some other species, feathers are sometimes plucked from living birds, where the excruciating process can be repeated when they grow back. This causes agony for the bird who is often blindfolded while this occurs to prevent them their attempts to defend themselves. Because each feather is held firmly in a follicle where there are nerves receptive to pain, the victims are covered in blood by the end of the plucking process.

With a natural lifespan of about 60, they’re slaughtered before reaching the age of 2. Like the majority of our needless victims, emus are gentle individuals who resist every step of the way to the slaughterhouse as they are captured, terrorised, shoved onto trucks, deprived of food and water then taken to their deaths.

Upon arrival, they are herded off the trucks to the kill floor. They are then shot with a captive bolt or electrically stunned then hung upside-down before their throats are cut, still alive as their blood begins to drain which is the norm for the slaughter process as applied to all our land-based victims. Like the vast majority of the victims of nonvegan consumer demand, the terrified individuals die a lingering and painful death.

Leather’ made from the flayed skin of deceased birds has a distinctive patterned surface, due to a raised area around the feather follicles in the skin and is used in such items as wallets, handbags, shoes and clothes

So there we have it. Yet another example of the needless brutality of a species that claims to ‘love animals’. Living in line with the values we ALL claim to hold means living vegan. There’s no other way. Be vegan.

 

Find out more about emus and ostriches from United Poultry Concerns . 

Posted in Speciesism, Victims in the shadows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chicken executions at night

Image by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Today I did a taxi run in the early hours of the morning, passing the slaughterhouse at about 03.45 as the pre-dawn glinted on wet black roads, and again at 07.00 in the rain-drenched grey light of day.

Approaching the squat collection of unremarkable buildings, the first thing that always hits me is the stench; a stinking, gut-churning miasma that over the years I have learned to associate with slaughter; a unique foulness that seeps sickeningly from depravities that no decent human should even have to contemplate; a smell made all the more painful by knowing it’s demanded and paid for by consumers too fastidious to consider who is meeting the cost of their frivolous convenience; paying in blood and in agony with all they will ever have.

I have written before about the curtain-sided trucks (open at this time of year) parked side by side in the yards at the front, and the refrigerated transports in orderly ranks at the back.  Driving by, they are visible only as the open road widens the perspective; yields a view of what can only be thought of as hell.

Both times that I passed in this morning’s small hours, there were laden trucks out front; blue and yellow plastic crates stacked stem to stern on articulated trailers. Each crate was crammed with a cargo of defenceless and motherless infants, their pale 42-day-old bodies grotesquely swollen, crouched on quaking legs, huddled together and frozen into the immobility of fear.

Never ending, all day and all night, the blood flowing daily from over 182 million innocent throats, mechanised killing driven inexorably by the smiling and casual shoppers of a species whose gaze never deigns to sweep over this wasteland of despair, so intent are they upon on mutual reassurance about how much they ‘love animals’.

Incongruously, this morning, the thing that really broke my heart was the thought that, being trucked to their execution in the silence of night meant that even in this, we had conspired to deny these innocent creatures the only glimpse of sunshine that most will ever see.

Be vegan.

Posted in Advocacy, consumer demand | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Transparency in advertising’ – bring it on

Dairy reality vs advertising

A bereft mother cow alongside an example of the advertising transparency championed by the breastmilk industry. Seen on the back of a dairy van.

As expected the animal use industries are mounting an increasingly bizarre pushback against the labelling of substances for which they long ago co-opted names. There are frequent media outcries about who has the right to use words like ‘milk’, ‘sausage’, ‘burger’ etc. Claims are made that because the animal use industries that sell flesh, breastmilk and eggs are such stalwart champions of transparency in advertising, there’s concern that consumers can be turning to plant nutrition only for the simple reason that they’re being misled.  Yes, clearly consumers are buying plant milk and plant-based sausage, burgers etc. when what they really meant to buy are body parts and breastmilk, had they not been fooled and taken in by a devious plant-based agenda.

I have to concede that the animal industries’ media machines are the most skilful and unscrupulous I’ve ever witnessed, using petulant and childish charades as a tool to manipulate consumers on the pretext of concern for ‘transparency’. Of course depending on how one views this pantomime, it constitutes the most outrageous insult to consumers. Seemingly refusing to accept that they’re just becoming increasingly knowledgable about what’s really happening behind closed slaughterhouse doors, I see it as a declaration that consumers are perceived as too ignorant to actually recognise and make informed choices about what they’re spending their hard-earned cash on. It’s so offensive it would be laughable if it were not that trillions of innocent lives of every species are hanging in the balance.

Of course because the animal use industries are so heavily invested financially, pushback against the rising plant-based tide is only to be expected, and there’s a limit to the number of fronts on which they can feign concern.

Health

All the latest science (other than what is produced by those with confliced interests) makes it absolutely clear that any claims about animal-derived products promoting human health are likely to be shot down sooner or later. It’s no longer a secret that national dietary guidelines have for many years had little to do with health and a great deal to do with the wealthy and powerful lobbying of the industry. We have recently witnessed the radically different dietary guidelines issued by Canada as a result of their refusal to allow this lobbying to influence recommendations, and as I write a review is underway in the US where eminent plant-based physicians are eloquently pleading for human health to become the evidence based priority there as well. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed. Whether they do or don’t, every major health authority is in agreement that plant nutrition is healthy for our species at all stages of life.

Environment

Another potential front might have concerned the environment but that avenue has closed completely and the door is bolted and locked. Our species’ regime of exploitation and oppression that is currently breeding, feeding and slaughtering 75 billion land based individuals to provide only a small proportion of the dietary preferences (preferences – not needs) of 7.7 billion people – who then need to complement their intake of flesh, eggs and breastmilk with plants which are what we actually need for nutrients and health – is one of the main drivers of the environmental collapse that we are witnessing all around us. New reports are appearing with increasing frequency, each one more alarming than the previous one, each speaking more plainly but evidently still not plainly enough to inspire the action that must be taken if our species is to survive.

Despite several countries having declared a ‘climate emergency’, their superficial concern will remain only lip service until the animal use that is causing said ’emergency’ is brought to an end, governments stop propping it up from the public purse, and provide financial and practical support to farmers and others to facilitate sustainable diversification.

Storm and tempest

Meanwhile I look out my window at the weather and each day my heart sinks further. With the Arctic ablaze and the ice all but gone, the statistics and news bear witness that mine are not simply halcyon memories of the misty past, as I sit here in early August, a time that was high summer in the days of my Scottish childhood and youth. Today, yet again, it is raining torrentially and the winds are storm force. The track and the garden are flooding; bedraggled birds huddle in the wet greenery, having relied on my feeding to support them through an almost insectless summer; no longer a season of plenty; no longer able to provide for them and the hatchling mouths they struggle to feed.

This extreme weather is no longer unusual, as, despite the stereotypical UK obsession about weather, shopkeepers, receptionists, and others I chat to, shrug and smile about ‘the rain’, acting like there’s nothing to worry about. What remains standing of the barley crop in the field behind my storm-swept cottage is unlikely to be able to resist the deluge much longer. When this and the other nearby expanses of grain translate into food shortages, into even more empty shelves, and the continued spiralling of prices in the shops, will the penny drop then, I wonder?

So much for why health and environment are not the chosen battle fronts for individuals and corporations reluctant to see income from animal use dry up, as the death and misery they have inflicted on the defenceless for so long, falls steadily and inexorably out of favour with consumers who are turning to plants in their droves.

Who’s going to patent the dictionary?

Milk(1) an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young.
(2) the white juice of certain plants.
(3) a creamy-textured liquid with a particular ingredient or use.

Sausage(1) an item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced meat encased in a skin.
(2) an object shaped like a sausage.

Burger: (1) meat or other food pressed into a round, flat shape and fried.

And so on. Unless someone has patented the dictionary, almost all the uses of the disputed words were legitimate before someone decided their vested interests meant they needed to re-write the definitions. So is ‘transparency’ really the reason?

Transparency – bring it on!

In all truthfulness, I have no problem at all with transparency in advertising. I’d love to see more of it  – everywhere. But then, that’s not what advertising is actually for, is it? Advertising, along with marketing, is an art form that has developed along with the media that proliferates it; risen to prominence with billboards and bus shelters, tabloids and magazines, TV and supermarkets.

In a competitive capitalist world of commodities, advertising is the means of jockeying with competitors, enticing consumers to spend money on things they don’t need.  As such it would probably (definitely!) be counterproductive to be honest. Just imagine a world of truthful adverts – I’m smiling at the very thought of how refreshing it would be. However let’s also spare a thought for how different everything would be if – say – some manufacturer had patented the use of the word ‘car’ and was taking steps to ensure that no other manufacturer would use it; or if ‘perfume’ applied simply to a product being sold by one company. Wouldn’t that seem like rather a blatant strategy to move the goalposts?

However let’s return then to the topic of this blog; the substances derived from trillions of annual aquatic and land-based lives. Imagine if the real truth were to be told. Just think about it. The torment and the mutilation, the misery and the terror, the destroyed lives and the broken bodies; the grief and desperation of distraught mothers and abandoned infants; the cages and the confinement, the trawling and the nets and the slaughter trucks, the bolt guns, electric prods and scalding tanks; the sheer, unending screaming, sobbing gore and bloodbath of it all.

What would happen if that truth were told, and is it likely that those who make money from this to meet the demands of consumers actually want it to become common knowledge? I leave the reader to their own conclusions about whether ‘transparency in advertising’ is really the motivation for the current media tantrums and the sudden need to redefine the dictionary, or whether the reason is something else entirely.

For my part, I’ll just carry on being vegan and reading labels. If real honesty matters to you, and if a habitable planet is something you would like to see continuing for your children to enjoy, you’ll probably want to be vegan too.

 

 

Posted in Addressing resistance to change, Global disasters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Straight talking about ‘welfare regulations’

Image by Aitor Garmendia / Tras los Muros

It’s common to read on social media that because the writer of a comment claims to support ‘better welfare regulations’, they assert that whether or not they are vegan, they are doing something to help our victims that those of us who promote unequivocal animal rights education are failing to do. It’s even said that if we must promote rights and veganism – frequently mocked as an idealistic and hopeless aim –  we should be promoting ‘better welfare regulations’ at the same time.  It’s presented as a ‘belt and braces’ approach and at face value that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? However, over time, I’ve acquired a different perspective.

First of all, it’s vital to understand the concept of ‘welfare regulations’ in the context of our non-human victims. Welfare is a seductive word that has increasingly mimicked the language of care and respect for a long time and remained unchallenged.  It certainly trotted glibly off my own tongue for decades while I wasn’t vegan and frankly I now realise that although it sounded good, I hadn’t even a clue what it meant. After years of vegan living and advocacy I have now come to realise this; ‘Welfare’ doesn’t mean what we think it means. I’ll repeat that because I really want readers to think about it. ‘Welfare’ doesn’t mean what we think it means.

Welfare – surely it’s about making life better for other animals, isn’t it?

I used to think so. In fact it’s common to think that regulations and guidelines referred to under the general heading of ‘welfare’ are designed to protect the well-being, the experiences or the individual autonomy of those who are designated as resources to meet our demands as consumers. We’re encouraged to think that regulations are all about making sure that our victims have some sort of a better life than they might otherwise have had.  I spent decades being a nonvegan ‘animal lover’, completely taken in by this notion. I wasn’t alone. It’s comfortable to soothe any niggles of conscience by latching onto the industry hype and telling ourselves that ‘at least our victims had a good life’; their ads and PR are designed to make us do exactly that.

However regulations and guidelines are not designed for any such purpose, a fact that seems so often to escape us, considering the shock, outrage and vitriol of online responses to extracts from said guidelines according to major agricultural advisors (aka ‘welfare’ organisations) like the ‘XYZ’SPCA when they appear on social media; for example extracts describing how to carry out ‘PACing’ or ‘thumping’  piglets, ‘gassing’ and ‘maceration’ of hatchlings (use Google), stunning, live transport and a myriad other standard and legal practices. It’s clear that shocked commenters don’t expect ‘welfare’ organisations to be advising on stocking densities, slaughter methods and the like. But once we stop imagining that ‘welfare’ has anything to do with our victims’ wellbeing or rights as individuals, it all makes complete sense. That’s what these organisations are actually employed to do, to advise regarding the minimum and/or most profitable standards by which victims may be commodified. It’s just that we’re encouraged to think they have a different purpose altogether.

‘High welfare standards’ – we hear it all the time

There’s a clue to this hiding in plain sight every time an industry representative gets an opportunity to comment on an issue relating to their business.  They always talk about ‘welfare standards’. Because they want us to consider the term significant, it’s used every single time there’s a chance for publicity, regardless of the question. It’s the answer to everything.

Remember these are the industries and individuals that exploit reproduction for breast milk or eggs, use others for ‘entertainment’ or forced labour, ‘farm’ the living to sell their corpses for profit, and everything in between. Do we really think for a moment that all the boasts about codes of practice that depend on designating innocent creatures as inanimate resources and using them to death, are really about how wonderful everything is from a victim’s perspective? Do we really think that they care about the torment of sentient individuals scientifically proven to share our capacity to value their lives and relationships, when the entire concept of nonhuman use is completely dependent on ignoring that such considerations exist? If so, I’ve a few bridges for sale.

Considering first principles

To use any individual as a commercial resource automatically denies any and all rights that each has as an autonomous, feeling individual, despite the promotion of insidious deceptions such as ‘humane exploitation’ which encourage us to imagine otherwise.

In order to meet consumer demand for animal-derived substances and services it must first be taken as read, enshrined in law, that victims are our property to be used as resources. Everything that is done to them, all regulating of the activities that stem from it is built on that founding principle.

The purpose of welfare regulations’ is to safeguard the commercial value of those designated as resources and assets and used to generate profit. This commercial value, which translates to financial profit for our species, is safeguarded through consistent practices that seek to protect equipment and operatives, and through maintaining the consumer confidence that keeps shoppers spending money. Through implementation of regulations, any lessening of the oppressive regime of relentless misery to which our defenceless victims are subjected, is purely coincidental because as previously mentioned, the fact that they are even in this situation means that they are not deemed to matter as individuals.

And so guidelines and standards are developed by the exploitation industries and those who partner and advise them, to standardise and legitimise their procedures; developed by those that profit from creating victims to sell to consumers; referring to concepts like ‘five freedoms’ without even a trace of irony or shame. In this way consumers feel reassured about paying for the ruthless exploitation of those whose right to live unharmed is a complete irrelevance in a profit driven system where treasured lives are simply a means of generating profit.

Those who profit from them defend their use of them by referring to the ‘animal welfare standards’ which guide their work. Let’s be absolutely clear about what animal welfare means. It is an industry term that refers to the legal breeding of sentient animals into a life where they are deliberately killed.

It refers to the minimum standards by which other animals can be owned, commodified, and exploited. It refers to standard legal practices such as hyperconfinement, mutilation, electrocution, gassing, live mincing, scalding, separating mothers from their babies, and breaking the bonds between animals who know each other. It includes taking their milk and eggs, and it includes killing them. In contrast to animal rights, animal welfare is not only irrelevant but a facade that hides the root injustice and is thus entirely complicit in their exploitation. What matters is that they are unjustly owned and that their only value is to their owner when, in reality, the value of a life matters most to the one living that life. ~ Go Vegan World

So what do we think we’re trying to protect?

Let’s counter that with a few questions.

How can the industry’s regulations ever protect the feelings, experiences, the well-being or the individual autonomy of our sentient victims, when the thing every creature desires more than anything – to live unharmed – is the one thing specifically excluded from every use that our species makes of them?

How can the industry’s regulations ever protect our victims from harm, when they are not in a position to give their consent for any of the things that are done to them? Even when they are understandably terrified or in agony or frantic to escape from the processes and procedures our species inflicts, their absence of consent is ignored.

How can the industry’s regulations safeguard the bonds and relationships shared by our victims when the entire industry is based on exploiting reproduction and the subsequent destruction of families to create vast numbers of victims to use and to kill.

Industry necessarily must refuse to acknowledge that such considerations even exist, because their every single action is such a profound violation of every one of them that their trade simply could not acknowledge them and continue unchallenged. The reality is that there are simply no laws that protect what we think we’re trying to protect.

Mutually exclusive

And so, when we promote ‘better welfare regulations’, we may think that we’re demanding better treatment for our victims, making their lives ‘better’ while they await their inevitable slaughter, but we’re not. First and foremost, we’re supporting the principle of creating victims to use as resources while mistakenly viewing the industry’s own regulations as something that relates to victim wellbeing. We’re putting our approval and support behind the principles that lead to ‘hyperconfinement, mutilation, electrocution, gassing, live mincing, scalding, separating mothers from their babies, and breaking the bonds between animals who know each other.’ and in doing so, achieving exactly what those industries require. We’re making their job easier by perpetuating misunderstandings about ‘welfare’, helping lull an unchallenging consumer base into thinking it means something to do with victims rather than profit. We’re putting our stamp of approval on the very principles that define using others as resources, which is one of the reasons that so many think it’s possible to support this concept without being vegan.

It seems to me that we can approve the principle of using others as our resources and act as unwitting champions for the industries that do this by promoting their code of practice, the one that they themselves shamelessly plug at every chance, their ‘welfare regulations’.

Or we can utterly reject the whole idea of using other individuals as our resources because they value their lives, because they deserve to live unharmed and because we have no need or right to use them. This means that we are duty bound to promote their rights, to advocate veganism and nothing less.

Far from being a ‘belt and braces’ approach, I suggest that promoting animal rights and supporting ‘welfare regulations’ are mutually exclusive courses of action. One rejects the principle of using other individuals by promoting veganism as the only way to acknowledge their rights.  The other first accepts, then supports and encourages the status quo by championing industry guidelines and bolstering nonvegan consumer confidence.

Please just give it some thought.

‘Let us not forget, there is a reason why human rights groups do not develop or endorse ‘humane’ methods of torturing and executing political prisoners, and why children’s rights advocates do not collaborate with the international pornography industry to develop standards and special labeling for films that make ‘compassionate’ use of runaway teens. To do such things is to introduce moral ambiguity into situations where the boundaries between right and wrong must never be allowed to blur. To be the agent of such blurring is to become complicit oneself in the violence and abuse.’

Posted in consumer demand, Terminology, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

‘It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with animals’ by Lesli Bisgould

This is the first time I’ve shared a transcript as a blog, but this very special talk deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible. In this lecture, Ms Bisgould explains in compelling and rivetting detail, why legislation does not and can not protect our victims until their legal status ceases to be that of ‘property’.

Lesli Bisgould is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office. She was Canada’s first-ever animal rights lawyer, and author of the textbook “Introduction to Animals and the Law.”

Listen to her lecture if you can. I have rarely heard 14 minutes so packed with information. For those who – as I do – find this talk to be eminently quotable, the transcript of her lecture follows the video link.

Transcript

‘I want to begin by making two statements, one at a time. I’m going to ask you all, if you don’t mind, to raise your hand if you agree. So here’s the first one. Ready?

Animals should be treated humanely.

I can barely see it, but it looks like lots of hands going up. OK, thanks. You can put your hands down. Here is the second one.

Animals should not be made to suffer unnecessarily.

Thank you. It seems like most people agree. And I would bet that if I ventured outside and put those statements to passersby, I’d likely find that most people out there agree, too.

It’s not really surprising, is it? More than half of the households in North America have companion animals, and most of us are very upset when we hear the occasional story in the news about some horrible act that’s been done to a dog, or a cat, or other animal. And the law codifies this perspective, which is to say that virtually every jurisdiction in North America has laws that say animals should be treated humanely, animals should not be made to suffer unnecessarily.

And those laws are useless. They do nothing, and they in no way protect animals from human-caused suffering, in any meaningful way, I should say. So, I thought what I would talk about is why that’s the case and why it’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with other animals and the emerging field of animal rights law, that is doing just that.

So, let’s say that I wasn’t really here because I cared about doing this talk, but because my child has a heart problem and is in need of a transplant to save her life, and I wanted access to a large group of people whom I could discreetly look over, while I was doing this talk, to see who among you looks nice, and healthy, and strong, and when this event ends, I were to kidnap one of you, whisk you away to a secret surgery, where I could remove your heart to be donated to my child. It’s nothing personal, you all seem very nice, but I don’t love you as much as I love my child, and your heart is necessary for her survival.

Would that be morally or legally justifiable? Certainly not. Well, you’re using your heart. No other person can claim any moral or legal right to it, no matter how compelling the reason. Among legal equals, it’s absurd to use the word “necessary” in this context, and we just don’t do it.

But it’s different when it comes to animals. When we see that laws protect animals from unnecessary suffering, they seem superficially impressive, but it doesn’t take long and you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out that, if the law prohibits causing unnecessary suffering, it creates a corollary, meaning it permits us to cause necessary suffering.

What is necessary suffering? Well, we write the laws, we enforce the laws, we interpret them. It turns out it’s necessary for an animal to suffer whenever we say so.

So our laws prohibit gratuitous suffering, the kind that’s caused sheerly by what we might call wicked intent. But as soon as there’s a human purpose, and really almost any purpose will do, that suffering is necessary and protected. And it’s been that way for a really long time.

Remember philosopher John Locke? Can you think back to the 17th century? So, he conceived of the notions of property that are now central to our legal system, in part because he was trying to find a way to allocate competing human interests in animals and other “natural resources” in a principled way, and of course, back then, nobody thought of animal interests as one of those principles to consider. So, in a system of laws that grew to esteem property rights, animals became property, and humans became property owners. And so it remains.

And a central rule of property is that an owner can use her thing however she sees fit and do whatever she wants with her things, so long as she doesn’t use that thing to hurt somebody else. But the thing itself has no rights. So, this idea that animals are things that serve our purposes, that they are our property, has been really powerful, it has entrenched, and it now facilitates the systematic suffering of billions – with a B – of animals every year in North America, in a variety of industries. So, I’m going to give you just one example.

In the Canadian agriculture industry alone, every year, 700 million animals are intensively confined, are mutilated in a variety of very painful procedures without anesthetic. They’re living in their own waste. Many of them are sick and diseased, with broken bones and open wounds. They’re beaten, electrocuted. You know, when you see them traveling in those trucks on the highway, on the way to slaughter, for many of them, that’s the first time they’ve ever been outside in their lives. And they’re so depleted that several million of them arrive every year at the slaughterhouse already dead.

Then there’s research, and fashion, and entertainment, and sports. So, for every story that we hear in the news about some terrible act of violence having been done to an individual animal, there is an industrial counterpart where that violence is normalized and multiplied by hundreds, or thousands or millions of times. So, it’s the institutional imperative that is such a big problem for animals today.

And Chomsky has discussed this in other contexts, how even really good people can do really bad things, when institutions demand it. So, in the animal context, industry has embedded practices that would be considered monstrous if they were done to our own pet dog, even if sometimes those practices are carried out by people who love their own dogs and are otherwise kind and admirable people. That’s why another part of the problem is the laws focused on cruelty to animals. That’s always how you hear a wrong described, right? When you want to object to something done to an animal, you say it’s cruel.

But cruelty is the wrong word, because it connotes a malevolent intent, doesn’t it? Causing harm for harm’s sake. And that’s rarely the case. The people who engage in this institutional violence may be desensitized, or profit-driven or desperate, as in the case of some agricultural workers, but they’re rarely motivated sheerly by wicked intent. In fact, in some cases, the intent can be quite noble.

Imagine two people coming home from work at the end of the day. One of them had a horrible day, he’s in a terrible mood, and his dog will not stop barking. He has a blowtorch in the garage. So he restrains his dog on her leash, goes out and gets the blowtorch, comes back and burns the dog.

Second person is a researcher, and she’s presently engaged in a study about the efficacy of various treatments on burns. And she’s returning home from a day at the laboratory where she has restrained several dogs and blowtorched them in pursuit of her study.

The first person had no real purpose for burning his dog that way, and might be charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the dog, but the second person not only won’t be charged, she will be protected by her institution, supported with public tax dollars, rewarded with professional recognition if her results get published. And the rest of us, if we ever hear about such things at all, will be assured that the experiment was humane, just as we are assured by agriculture industry spokespeople that all the things I described a moment ago are humane too.

So when industry gives us these assurances, we’d do well to ask ourselves: “What is their interest in having us believe that?” And we’d do well to consider the industry itself writes the voluntary codes of practice that govern most animals in industrial use, that there’s hardly any government oversight.

You know, I became involved in animal rights when I came across an image that disturbed me. And you know how it is: once you see things, there’s no unseeing them. So I felt compelled to learn more, and I learned how a cow becomes a steak, and how an elephant becomes a circus performer, and how a coyote becomes the trim on the hood of a coat. Those images are not offered to us, and those responsible for them go to great lengths to keep them from us, but they are there for the finding.

And unless “humane” means “horrible” and “profitable,” there is nothing humane in those images. And nor are those images the result of a few rotten apples, which is the next assurance industry gives us on the occasions when their practices are exposed. It’s the normal routine practices of exploitation that are rotten. So this has all been very bleak, but hang in, because this brings us to a “new dimensions” part of this talk.

You see, we don’t treat animals badly because they’re property. We classify animals as property so that we can treat them badly. We don’t have to, we can do better, we can classify them differently. And the moral imperative to do so has been pressing for 150 years, since Darwin revolutionized our understanding about our place in the animal world with his theory of evolution.

Darwin explained that you are all a bunch of animals, right? We’re all animals, more or less closely related to one another by virtue of our descent from different ancestors, or from common ancestors, and that animals differ from one another in degree, but not in kind. And this was revolutionary, because we’ve traditionally justified the differential treatment that we give to animals on the basis of some assumed categorical differences between us and them. “They don’t think, they don’t feel, they don’t communicate.” But Darwin discredited those assumptions, and they’ve been discredited much further still by various branches of natural science and applied science in the 15 decades since.

And our laws have lost their factual premise. So the moral implications of this evolution revolution have taken a long time to sink in, but no serious thinker disputes anymore that animals think, and feel, and communicate, that they are the subjects of a life. We’re starting to appreciate that animal life is much more like a web than the pyramid we’ve been used to drawing, that they are literally our kin.

Now, there are differences between humans and other animals, of course, just as there are differences between humans, right? We have this notion of human equality, but that’s not because we’re actually equal in our capacities or abilities.

Think about it: some people are taller than others. Some people are more intelligent. Some people have nicer dispositions. We have different genders, and disabilities, and religions. Some people can compose operas. Some can’t sing a note. Some can win Olympic medals in hockey. Some can’t skate. So, we have many differences, but we have decided that none of those differences is morally relevant when it comes to protecting our fundamental interests, like our interests in living our own lives and not being hurt for somebody else’s purpose.

In another talk, we might explore whether human rights operate more in theory than in practice, but at least we are working on it, and that’s where animal rights theory comes along. It asks us to confront this question: what are the morally relevant differences between humans and other animals that make it acceptable for us to hurt them in ways that would never be acceptable to hurt one another?

So as we wrestle with this question, the lack of a comfortable answer’s propelling the development of animal rights law, where we try to generate legal rights for animals by eroding their property status.

You can think of a right as a barrier that exists between you and everybody who stands to benefit by hurting you or exploiting you. It’s what stands between me and you and stops me from taking your heart for someone I love more. So, in animal rights law, we’re not trying to extend human rights to animals, as you sometimes hear. Nobody thinks animals should have the right to vote, or get married, or have a good education. It’s really about establishing the right to have their fundamental interests respected when we consider taking actions that will affect them.

And that could mean changing their status from property to legal person. And if it seems strange to think of an animal as a legal person, consider that a whole array of inanimate constructs – corporations, churches, trusts, municipalities – are all legal persons; in that they have legally protected interests and they can go to court and advance them. And animals are the only sentient beings who aren’t.

So, it’s a long road to peaceful coexistence between humans and other animals, and that is partly because, even though all of us say we don’t want animals to suffer unnecessarily, most of us, wittingly or unwittingly, to some degree are users of animals or consumers of their various bits and pieces. And we’ve proved as a whole pretty reluctant to give up all the privileges that come with our superior legal status, but we’re starting to see things differently.

The animal rights movement is gaining credibility and momentum, and laws are not fixed forever. Law is a social institution that is meant to evolve over time, as hearts and minds change. So, the law will begin to reflect our biological kinship with other animals, as soon as we decide we really want it to.

Thank you.’

Posted in property status, welfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments