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Ethics (Part 2)

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42. I can’t believe that you say rats and mice should live. They’re vermin.

We mightn’t value the life of a mouse, but the mouse does.

The dictionary definition of ‘vermin’ is ‘mammals and birds injurious to game, crops, etc’. In other words, creatures whose interests conflict with the interests of others. Rats and mice certainly conflict with ours. The problem is how to stop rats and mice from ruining our lives without our ruining theirs.

Through no fault of their own they enter our houses for food, so we should ensure that food is inaccessible for them. If that doesn’t deter them, mousetraps which do that and no more, i.e. trap them without injuring them, are available from some Animal Liberation offices. They can then be released half a kilometre away to prevent them from backtracking. A warning regarding these traps, though: they need to be checked regularly so that mice don’t suffer a lingering death.

 

43. What do you do about cockroaches?

I make my home of no interest to them so that they have to go elsewhere to dine.

The first step is to remove access to food. This means having all food in sealed containers, not packets, and sealing all waste food.

The second step is a linguist’s delight: leave bay leaves to leave them at bay.

The third is a recipe. Take equal amounts of tea tree oil, rosemary oil and citronella oil; combine with water using one part oil mixture to six parts water. Spray mist wherever cockroaches enter, especially around plumbing, under sinks, behind stoves and refrigerators and along baseboards.

If your cockroaches treat all that with contempt, you can try Epsom salts or eucalyptus oil.

Should all attempts to discourage cockroaches fail, common-sense requires that we defend ourselves, our families and our homes just as we would if attacked by humans. This may mean force, the minimum force necessary to control the situation.

 

44. But you kill ants.

I do, but not intentionally. A vegan doesn’t intentionally or unnecessarily cause suffering or death to any living creature. Vegans wish it were otherwise, but humans can’t survive without killing some insects. Every step taken runs that risk.

I can discourage ants, flies, cockroaches, mice and other creatures whose competing interests with mine make them a pest to me and me a pest to them. Care with food, i.e. proper disposal of waste and sealed containers for unused food, limits their interest in my environment.

Ants may stay well clear of tea tree and eucalyptus oils, red chili pepper, dry peppermint, lemon juice and coffee grounds. Claims for electronic pest-repellers seem baseless, though. Consumer magazine Choice found ‘no scientific evidence to support claims that they can affect pests in ways like driving them away or deterring them from entering the treated area’, and concluded that ‘you shouldn’t waste your money.

With flying insects, I find no difficulty in trapping them in drinking glasses and releasing them outside so that they can continue with their plans for the day.

Besides stepping on ants, there’s other unavoidable cruelty. My purchases help pay workers’ salaries. They then purchase animal products and add to animal suffering. Almost any action could be construed likewise.

Expecting vegans to be perfect is ‘an unrealistic view of the world. No-one is morally perfect, nor should perfection be the standard by which we judge people’s character or behaviour.’ We don’t expect that a doctor will never misdiagnose a patient or that a Wimbledon champion will never serve a double fault.

Early animal rights activist, Henry Salt, said: ‘We would much rather be inconsistently humane than consistently cruel.’ The fact that some suffering is unavoidable is no excuse for causing suffering that is avoidable.

 

FOOD FOR ANIMALS Back to top

 

45. I have to feed my dog meat. That means I have to buy meat.

The oldest dog in England, possibly the world, in 2002 was 27 and vegan. Dogs can survive and survive well on vegan food.

Substitute ‘cat’ for ‘dog’ to be nearer the truth. Cats are less able to survive without meat, but specially formulated foods such as Vegecat, Vegekit and Veganpet help.

Even the biggest of cats can be herbivorous. A lion cub, rescued from a zoo, refused meat and lived healthily for four years on a vegetarian diet. ‘Little Tyke’ became a TV star.

Whilst herbivorous diets aren’t natural for dogs or cats, neither is the food they’re routinely served at home. Most domesticated dogs and cats live on ‘pet food’ from the super-market. This, in turn, comes from the leftovers from slaughterhouses. It can lead to malnutrition for animals just as deficient diets do for humans.

It’s no more unnatural for a dog or cat to eat vegan food than modern food from a tin for these reasons:

• Companion cats and dogs are unlike their counterparts in the wild; we have an unnatural situation already.
• Tinned food hardly compares with finding their own.
• The processed food eaten by cats and dogs is nothing like the ‘natural’ food that they would eat if not domesticated.

Vegan cat and dog foods are approved by Murdoch University and animal nutrition associations. Some cats and dogs enjoy meat analogues for humans from health food stores and supermarkets. Or make your own ‘pet food’.

 

46. Animals eat each other. So it’s fair enough for us to eat animals. Anyhow, the carnivores have to, in order to survive.

The carnivores might have to, but we don’t. Irrespective of whether particular animals have to kill and eat others to survive, we should be able to do better than take our lessons in morality from their behaviour.

The carnivores might have to, but we don’t. Irrespective of whether particular animals have to kill and eat others to survive, we should be able to do better than take our lessons in morality from their behaviour.

Some animals (carnivores) eat other animals (mainly herbivores). Remember that most of the animals humans eat, namely cattle, pigs and sheep, are herbivores. The logic – that some animals are carnivores, therefore it’s fine for us to eat herbivores – leaves a little to be desired.

 

EXPERIMENTS Back to top

 

47. You oppose experiments on animals. Don’t you care about kids with cancer?

Ethical vegetarians care about anyone with cancer. Indeed, they care about all human and animal suffering.

Despite millions of dollars spent on animal experiments to find a cure for cancer, we’ve not been successful.

There’s merit in arguing that more time and money should be directed to preventing, rather than finding cures for, cancer. Professor John Dwyer, chairman of the Australian Health Reform Alliance, says ‘every dollar spent on prevention saves $7 down the track in treatment.’ Causes of cancer are poor diet, tobacco, alcohol, radiation, medication and pollution. The best, cheapest and easiest way to reduce cancer is to reduce the primary causes. Because we care about kids with cancer we promote a vegan diet. Harvard Medical School’s Nutrition Department chairman, Dr William Castelli, director of the longest-ever clinical trial, said ‘a low-fat, plant-based diet would ... lower the cancer rate 60 per cent.’

Pain management specialist Dr Ray Greek, Americans for Medical Advancement president, says that ‘the public has long been sold the idea that the cures for disease will be found in animals … This is an expensive and dangerous fallacy.’ A Research Defence Society chairman admitted that ‘the real motives [for animal research] are a mixture in varying proportions of scientific curiosity, desire to explore new fields, desire for recognition and fame and career ambitions.’

Why don’t we see experimental laboratories? Vision of appalling conditions and treatment surfaces because of those who worked undercover to obtain it, often at significant cost.

 

48. A lot of human suffering would have come about if tests of new products hadn’t been carried out on animals first.

That’s true. A lot of suffering has also come about because products were tested on animals first without adverse effect before being declared safe and released for human use.

Early heart transplant patients died because complications hadn’t been seen in hundreds of dog transplants. Yet a valve used on humans was nearly abandoned because it killed test dogs. Dr Ralph Heywood, Huntingdon Research Centre’s director, said that ‘the best guess for the correlation of adverse reactions in man and animal toxicity is somewhere between 5 and 25 per cent.’

Much testing is to save companies from being sued. Torture and death of millions of animals precedes cosmetics, paint and sleeping tablets. As Peter Singer writes, ‘while sleeping tablets may be more important than cosmetics, the animal suffering involved in testing a substance is in any case a high price to pay for the avoidance of sleeplessness. So doing without animal testing would not mean releasing substances ... untested; it would mean doing without it, and trying to become less dependent on drugs ... [What we learn] is not that animal testing is necessary, but that it is unreliable; not that we need to poison animals, but that we need to find alternative[s].’

You can reduce animal suffering by purchasing from suppliers whose items haven’t been animal-tested. As a bonus, you’ll also be reducing human suffering, as studies have found that experimenters themselves suffer greatly.

Previous lack of alternatives (computer models, cell cultures) doesn’t justify continuing testing when alternatives do exist.

 

49. Look at all the benefits from animal experiments in [treatment of] diseases. It’s better that they suffer a bit for humanity.

They’ve suffered enormously, not just a bit. At Princeton University, researchers ‘terminally deprived 256 young rats of food and water. They then watched the rats die from thirst and starvation. They concluded that under conditions of fatal thirst and starvation young rats are much more active.’ To grasp the ‘bit’ of suffering multiply by millions the 256 tortured animals in that seemingly pointless experiment. ‘In the US alone, 70 million animals are burned, blinded, crushed, driven insane, electrocuted, irradiated, poisoned, suffocated and dismem-bered in laboratories each year.’ Much suffering has been pointless because of prior experiments, or has added to human problems following incorrect assumptions that the effects (or lack of) on animals could be transposed to us. Experimenting is sometimes unreliable, often unnecessary and always cruel.

That some tests were beneficial doesn’t mean cruelty was justified or results could not have been otherwise obtained. Polio is nominated as a prime example of the benefits of experiments and how tests on monkeys contributed to finding a cure. But that wasn’t the whole story. ‘Two separate bodies of work were done on polio—the in vitro work, which was awarded the Nobel Prize and did not involve animals, and the subsequent animal tests, in which close to 1 million animals were killed and which the Nobel committee refused to recognise as anything more than wasteful. Also, polio died out just as quickly in countries that did not use the vaccine.’

Animal experiments will continue, but refining them to limit suffering, reduce the number of animals used and find alternatives should be the goal.4 We wouldn’t be happy for our pets to have their brains cut open in experiments, would we?

 

50. Medical and veterinary students have to dis-sect animals.

Acknowledgement that animal experimentation isn’t essential for research and safety has come in universities’ granting exemption for conscientious objectors. This has spread to non-objectors, with courses and research using computer models. Almost every study shows that students using these models performed at least as well as those whose training involved suffering and death of animals. As computer programs expand with more realism, enabling students to dissect most creatures’ bodies on screen, the trend will continue.

Dr Andrew Knight, at Perth’s Murdoch University, did his veterinary science degree as a conscientious objector to animal experimentation. If he can achieve that, so can others. His book on learning without killing is published under that title.

Australian Catholic University lecturer Vaughan Monamy details alternatives to animal experimentation in his books which present both sides of the debate. He recommends we use

• less- (or non-) sentient organisms
• in-vitro techniques
• non-biological replacement alternatives
• human studies

Add to those cell and tissue cultures, population studies and ethical clinical research with volunteer patients and healthy subjects.

Progress in such alternatives is marvellous news for animal supporters who are considering a veterinary career, but are dissuaded by the thought of causing suffering as a student prior to relieving suffering as a professional.

Progress in such alternatives is marvellous news for animal supporters who are considering a veterinary career, but are dissuaded by the thought of causing suffering as a student prior to relieving suffering as a professional.

 

ENTERTAINMENT Back to top

 

51. It’s a pity that animal rights people try to stop circuses. Animal acts in circuses make everyone happy.

They don’t make the animals happy.

The claim suggests that:

(1) If an activity makes people happy, it’s morally justified.
(2) Animal circuses make people happy.
(3) Therefore animal circuses are morally justified.

(Do we wish to continue with this reasoning?)

Theft makes burglars happy. Drug addicts make suppliers happy. Do we suggest that misery of robbery victims and drug addicts is justified because of happiness for burglars and drug suppliers? No, and nor is suffering of circus animals justified because spectators go home happy.

Circus animals suffer in their training and in their transport. In training they’re forced to do unnatural acts and if they fail are punished by such means as whips, electric shocks and withholding of food. Conditions for animals in transport between circus locations prevent any hint of natural movement for those whose instinct is to cover kilometres in the wild.

If you get the opportunity to approach a confined horse at a circus, perform your own experiment. Offer your outstretched hand and see whether the horse reacts inquisitively and natu-rally or jerks her head and tries to recoil. The result of your experiment suggests whether she’s had loving or abusive treatment. Horses also suffer enormously in racing: boredom during 22 hours a day in a stall, injuries from training and death if they don’t perform to the wishes of ‘connections’.

There’s abundant entertainment for us without resorting to attractions that use performing animals.

 

52. Zoos aren’t just for entertainment. How would children learn about wild animals without them?

They would learn in the same ways as they learn about other subjects. They can choose from books, internet, TV (especially the National Geographic and Discovery channels) and videos. Children can learn about the moon and Mars without going there; they can learn about animals without meeting them.

But unlike the moon and Mars, they can learn first hand about wild animals, and learn about them much better than by visiting zoos and staring into a concrete enclosure for 60 seconds. The ideal place is their natural habitat – in the wild. One of the greatest educational and life experiences you can give your children is to take them to East Africa. Let them visit wildlife reserves, such as South Africa’s Kruger or Botswana’s Chobe National Parks, where herds of elephants and a host of other species roam over hundreds of kilometres. They will describe this as the trip of a lifetime and never want to visit a zoo again. If you travel on the cheap – hiring your own vehicle and using backpacker accommodation rather than going on an organised tour – you’ll be surprised at how economically you can provide this for them. As a bonus from living and eating cheaply and as close to the locals’ conditions as possible, you won’t hear a whinge when they return home.*

 

INFLUENCE Back to top

 

53. It’s appalling that you impose your vegan beliefs on your children. You don’t even let them eat what they want to.

Sydney Domain speaker, ‘Charlie’ King, delighted in telling his audience that ‘you were born naked and an atheist. Your parents clothed you and gave you their religion.’

Parents raise children according to religion, politics, sporting and food interests. Each set of parents will differ from you in one or more of those. You may think that their children would do better under your practices, but I assume that you don’t deny those parents the right to train their children their way.

Why, then, would you deny vegan parents the right to do likewise? If you say a vegan diet is unhealthy, I suggest that you compare vegan children with non-vegans. A third of Aust-ralian children are overweight, yet overweight vegans are few. How many parents wish that their children were as healthy?

Most vegans give their children one of life’s great blessings: good health, not only for now but as a permanent legacy.

Setting boundaries isn’t abuse or neglect. We limit what they do and say, as well as what they eat. Don’t you also watch your children’s fast food, chocolate, vandalism, bad language and (later) alcohol, drugs, friends and whereabouts?

Because vegan parents know the advantages of a vegan diet they don’t serve or purchase food that harms children’s health and hurts or kills animals, birds or fish. Most of these children don’t want such food anyway, some rejecting even the meat analogues (vegetarian foods resembling meat), so not ‘letting’ them is a non sequitur. Vegans don’t only provide a health advantage for their children. They instil respect for animals and abhorrence of cruelty. As studies show, animal cruelty is often in the childhood background of violent adults. ‘There has now been established a clear link that people who abuse animals often ... go on to child abuse or domestic violence.’*

 

54. What are you going to do when your children grow up if they reject what you forced on them?

Your question is appropriately hypothetical. It’s more likely that my children will value the health and ethical principles that they’ve been given.1 Nevertheless, there are plenty of vegan children who choose other paths as they become teenagers and adults and thus the question is very fair.

What are you going to do if your children reject your religion or join an opposing political party? What if they drop football in spite of the hundreds of hours you devoted to their sporting success? Won’t you continue to love them? And I’ll continue to love mine if they start eating hamburgers and pouring milk on their cereal. I’d be disappointed, as no doubt you’d be.

We wouldn’t be alone, of course. Many children eventually reject their parents’ religion or non-religion, their politics and their other interests.

Whatever my faults in raising my children, lying to them about the origins of meat2, dairy3 and eggs4 isn’t one of them. I don’t pretend to them that steaks come from contented cows that lived a full, happy and long life before choosing to be eaten by us; I don’t tell them that eggs come from happy hens scratching and exploring to their hearts’ content in the back-yard. Rather, they know something about factory animal and chicken production. Which images have you and most other parents ‘forced’ on your children? Do they know the background of their meat, or has the truth been withheld from them? Aren’t they entitled to know if the food they’re given is injurious to their health and to the health and lives of the creatures that the food came from?

 

55. You try to convert others. If you live oddly, that’s your business, but don’t try to impose it on everyone else.

Yes, we try to convert other people to our practice. We have found what we know to be very important for their health, our health and that of other species. If we keep that discovery to ourselves, public health will miss an opportunity to improve and the exploitation of animals will continue. To succeed in all these areas, we must educate and encourage others. If our contacts choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, we are delighted for their sake; if they ignore the risks entailed by meat and dairy consumption then at least we’ve done our best to inform them of the possible consequences.

Some vegans believe it’s appropriate to ‘impose’ their views in circumstances where the lives of animals and birds are devastated by humans. Use of force is available, to a very limited extent, through the passing of laws. Two prominent animal rights supporters in the Australian political arena have been Lee Rhiannon (Greens senator) and Andrew Bartlett (Australian Democrats leader). By force of the law, a small percentage of animal cruelty is prevented; the banning of battery hen cages by some countries and states shows progress.

We believe we have an obligation to disseminate our views. We certainly have the right, as do those who don’t share our philosophy. They speak for their beliefs and causes. We speak for those who can’t speak.

 

56. Saying meat shouldn’t be eaten is just your opinion. Others are entitled to their opinions.

An opinion is a ‘judgement or view based on grounds short of proof.’ If I told my friend that she’d look better in a dark-blue rather than light-blue dress, that would be an opinion, as I would not be able to supply proof. If I were to tell her that her chances of getting lung cancer if she continues to smoke are higher than if she ceases, I would have proof and therefore it wouldn’t be ‘just [my] opinion’.

So where does eating meat come in opinion versus proof? The two major reasons for not eating meat are avoiding cruelty to animals and improving human health.

We have proof that animals feel pain and are intelligent. My stating that if you care about suffering you shouldn’t eat meat is based on proof of animal suffering, not on ‘opinion’.

The evidence for better health through not eating meat is as impressive as for not smoking. Thousands of studies confirm that. Again, advice that you shouldn’t eat meat for your health isn’t ‘just [my] opinion’.

‘Others are entitled to their opinions’ about dress colours, music and employment opportunities. But do you also hold that others are entitled to their opinions that smoking is healthy, drink-driving is harmless and murder is acceptable if you’re so inclined? Do you claim that Hitler was entitled to his opinion that Jews should be exterminated or slave holders that slavery is legitimate? Then please don’t suggest that it’s ‘just [an] opinion’ that eating meat is cruel and unhealthy. As Ari Solomon said, ‘This is not about your opinion versus my opinion, this is about animal suffering’.

The evidence for better health through not eating meat4 is as impressive as for not smoking. Thousands of studies confirm that. Again, advice that you shouldn’t eat meat for your health isn’t ‘just [my] opinion’.

 

57. The vegetarians I’ve met tend to be very self-righteous. Some seem more interested in their own moral purity than in befriending those who fall short of their absolute standards.

Yes, some of us tend to be self-righteous. That’s just one of our failings. Other vegetarians are criminals, prostitutes, back-stabbers, alcoholics and ladder-climbers. We can be negative, divisive, foul-mouthed, bombastic and so on, just as in any other group of humans. Conversely, you can also find caring, dedicated, pleasant and unassuming people.

Your valid criticism can be taken a step further. Some vegans seem more interested in their perceived moral purity above vegetarians who continue the use of dairy products, eggs and leather, instead of recognising the contribution they make.

In spite of what we’ve achieved, we’ve convinced only a small percentage of the population to go vegetarian. We have a long way to go before we can crow about our success.

Nevertheless, is it appropriate that we condemn those who eat meat? No, says a vegetarian Baptist seminary professor: ‘Consumers do not purchase their neatly wrapped cellophane packages of meat at the grocery with a cold, calloused heart against animals. Nor do they sit down to a meal of steak or chicken with a murderous attitude. Most people are very affectionate toward animals and grieve over their death. However, relatively few are aware of the cruelty and suffering that factory-farmed animals and birds have to endure. If consumers personally had to raise animals with the torturous methods of intensive animal farming and then personally slaughter the animals they ate, very few would continue to eat meat. They would recognise that abusive treatment of animals is morally wrong and would have no part in it.’

 

58. Vegans haven’t achieved much.

A note attached to the June 2002 Newsletter of the Vegan Society (NSW) reported their annual meeting attendance. How many was this? 500? 50? ‘No-one bothered to turn up at the AGM but myself,’ it read. Can figures be more discouraging?

The answer is yes, they can. The cover story for an animal welfare magazine was headed ‘Tasmania Battery Hens Rescued.’ Their ‘rescue team successfully saved the lives of eight very debilitated battery hens.’ Eight saved; millions lost.

Attracting one person to an annual meeting and saving eight hens aren’t significant achievements. They’re indications of how few vegans there are and how inactive are many of the ‘few’. Exceptions to the inactivity include the rescuers, who over years have achieved much despite appearances and whether we approve of their methods.

What did the rescuers gain? Saving eight hens is better than none, but extensive media coverage of battery hen conditions led many to think twice before eating another of their eggs.

Such educational ventures can have far-reaching results, as a list from Professor Peter Singer shows:

• Battery cages became illegal in Switzerland in 1991.
• From 2012 European egg producers have to provide perches and nesting boxes or use much larger cages.
• Keeping anaemic veal calves or pregnant sows in narrow, individual crates is illegal in Europe.
• Cosmetic companies no longer routinely blind rabbits.
Improvement for those millions of creatures is achievement.
A couple of decades ago, supermarket shelf space for soy and other milk substitutes was nil. Times have changed. Most restaurants are now well-prepared to offer cruelty-free meals. And the Vegan Society (NSW) figures a decade later? Annual meeting 50, membership 150, Facebook page members 1571, annual events 36. Expect the trends to continue.

 

MINORITIES Back to top

 

59. Most people aren’t cruel. If eating and drinking foods from animals is cruel like you reckon, how come there are hardly any vegans? You’re the only vegan I’ve ever met.

There are few vegans for the same reasons that you’re not one. Have you read about meat production? Seen inside an abattoir? Pondered a cow having its calf taken? Been reared on children’s books of contented pigs thrilled to be off to market?

Albert Schweitzer observed that ‘very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit.’

Vested interests’ power limits information or maximises dis-information. The Australian Egg Corporation won Choice magazine’s 2008 Shonky Award for defining hens packed 14 to the square metre as ‘free range’. Finding that animal factories aren’t nursery-book farms supports Mark Twain’s view that ‘education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.’

Most of us never had the opportunity or desire to investigate the animal industry. Why would we? We already have plenty to occupy our time: family, work, study, sport, TV, Facebook, music, restaurants and sleep. But find a few minutes to read a brochure on cruelty or an hour to read a book or watch a movie6. It will ensure that you’re no longer unknowingly cruel, and change your health as well.

It’s still ‘hardly any vegans’, but polls now suggest that 2 per cent of Britons and 1.4 per cent of Americans are vegan.

 

60. Nobody even knows what a vegan is.

Most people want clarification of ‘vegan’. That’s understandable as worldwide only one in hundreds is vegan. Many also want clarification of ‘vegetarian’.

The original meaning of vegetarian was ‘one who lives solely from the vegetable kingdom’. Gradually those who consumed milk and eggs called themselves vegetarian. So the definition was broadened to ‘one who abstains from animal food, especially that obtained by killing animals, and whose diet includes roots, green vegetables, cereals, seeds, fruit and nuts, with or without eggs and dairy products.’ To distinguish between the basic types of vegetarians, ‘vegan’ was coined in the 1940s. A vegan ‘eats no animals or animal products; strict(ly) vegetarian.’ Nor does a vegan wear animal products.

There are other sub-groups of vegetarians:

• Lacto-vegetarians eat vegetables (including fruit, nuts, cereals and legumes) plus dairy products.
• Ovo-vegetarians eat vegetables plus eggs.
• The most common vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, eat vegetables, eggs and dairy products.
• Total vegetarians don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy products but, unlike vegans, may wear wool or leather.

An attempt at a further extension has been the recent addition of ‘pesco-vegetarian’, a ‘vegetarian’ who eats fish.

There is yet another category, that of pretend vegetarians. In a survey of 11,000 Americans, a third of those who said they were vegetarian admitted to having eaten meat in the previous 24 hours; nearly two-thirds had eaten meat, fish or poultry. Some claimed this was because they were ‘semi-vegetarian’. It is, of course, impossible to be semi-vegetarian, just as it’s impossible to be semi-pregnant. You’re either pregnant or not pregnant. You’re either vegetarian or not vegetarian. If you’re not vegetarian, remember that every time you forgo meat you have reduced animal suffering, and we admire you for that.

 

61. Everyone else eats meat, so it must be right.

By ‘everyone’, you mean a large majority. If we accept this definition, we can apply it to other situations.

• Everyone once knew that the world was flat.
• Everyone (99 per cent) in Somalia knows Islam is truth.
• Everyone (98 per cent) in Venezuela accepts Catholicism.
• Everyone (98 per cent) in Laos says that Buddhism is true.

The ‘everyone…so it must be right’ hypothesis is running into a touch of difficulty. And might the simple explanation be that ‘everyone’ hasn’t the means, time or inclination to investigate and ponder long-held beliefs?

Everyone believes that it would be wrong to imprison a dog all day in a tiny crate where even two steps are impossible. But that’s how pigs are confined permanently, not just for a day even though they have similar intellect and pain receptors to dogs. They undergo mental and physical torture for years to provide food that we don’t need, because we can live and be healthier by eating plant foods.

To put that logically:

• It’s not right to cause unnecessary suffering.
• Eating meat is unnecessary.
• Animals suffer in meat production.
• Therefore it’s not right to eat meat.

That applies even though ‘everyone else eats meat.’

So why do so many act illogically? Usually from ignorance of meat production. This can be wilful to salve conscience, or because meat promotion in the fiction of contented animals grazing or rolling on green hills persists and visits to animal factories are prevented. Others remain convinced that the best, or even only, source of protein is meat. Aristotle’s observation comes down to this: we tend to believe what we like and what those we like believe, irrespective of evidence.

Once we are aware of the above we have a choice, and we should make the right choice before our next meal.

 

VIOLENCE Back to top

 

62. Those animal rights advocates are extremists.

Thank you for the compliment.

An extremist is ‘a user of opinions and actions far beyond the norm’ or an advocate of ‘something as different as possible.’ The definition doesn’t imply violence, although its most frequent use is in that connotation. For us it means that we don’t just want to ease unnecessary animal suffering, but go to the extreme and eliminate it.

By labelling us extremists, you place us in the company of Abraham Lincoln, that extremist president who wanted to abolish all slavery; Albert Schweitzer, the extremist jungle doctor who revered all life, not merely that of humans; and Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian extremist who eschewed all violence rather than killing or injuring a few of his British opponents.

Would you have preferred that Lincoln just stood for reducing the number of slaves, or simply reducing their hours of slavery or type of hard labour? Would you prefer that we only agitate about the one cat who was tortured and ignore the plight of the millions of animals and birds who spend their years in confinement where they can hardly move?

It’s far better to go all the way with a worthwhile cause than just dabble at edges. We long for the day when no animal, fish or bird is tortured and killed to please our taste. If this means that we are extremists, so be it. But who are really the extremists? Vegans declining meat and milk, or those who believe that their taste preference justifies torture and death of animals?

American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that ‘the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be ... The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.’

 

63. Animal rights activists are terrorists.

Many animal rights activists reject all violence, using personal contact, print, radio, TV, Facebook, etc., to publicise animal suffering. Others raid animal or chicken factories to rescue pathetic creatures. The resulting publicity informs those who’ve never been confronted with the consequences of their food choice and precipitates legislative change. Raids may cause some property damage, even just to defeat alarms. Some go further and destroy laboratories.

What about the ‘terrorist’ category then? A terrorist ‘favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or of coercing government or community.’ Terror is ‘extreme fear’.

Since animal rights activists, almost without exception, only attack property (if that) rather than people, they’re not terrorists. They don’t cause extreme fear although they might cause inconvenience, expense and even facility closure.

Your belief that animal rights activists are terrorists may stem from the Animal Liberation Front. Its guidelines are:

• Liberate animals from abusive places such as factory production units and laboratories and find good homes.
• Cause economic damage to profiteers from animal misery.
• Reveal horrors and atrocities against animals behind locked doors, by non-violent actions and liberations.
• Take care against harming humans and non-humans.

If those are followed, they don’t fit the ‘terrorist’ definition.
Activist Dr Steven Best asks: ‘Why are anti-Nazi resistance fighters heroes, and ALF members terrorists? Why is violence acceptable in defence of human beings but not animals?’

Whether we agree with some activists’ methods, their aim is to prevent violence and terror. The violence and terror that we cause to the species that we eat is incalculable.

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