The End of Animal Suffering – Part 3 – The Expanding Technological Circle

In the former part of this series of posts reviewing the book The End of Animal Farming we have addressed the factor of the supposed expanding moral circle. In the following post, which is the last part of the series, we’ll address the factor of technological developments in the animal-free food systems, as well as some additional moral concerns that Reese brings up other than animal farming.

The Expanding Technological Circle

The last but not least factor in Reese’s predication of the end of animal farming is the technological developments in the animal-free food systems, or in his words ‘The Rise of Vegan Tech’.
Reese elaborates about the abundance of companies and investments in the field of plant-based technology aiming at developing products similar, and even identical to animal based products.

However, the success and abundance of these companies is also worrying.
That is, first of all, because some of these companies have already developed and are marketing, for several years now, plant based products so similar to animal based products that humans are left with no culinary excuses anymore, and yet they don’t stop consuming animal based products. Many humans are not even willing to try plant based products that numerous people say taste exactly the same as the ones they refuse to replace.

The fact that the list of excuses to consume animal products is getting shorter and shorter, and that the list of reasons to go vegan is getting longer and longer, yet veganism is still a very marginal phenomenon, is very worrying. If some could have said in the past that the problem with veganism is that people feel that they have nothing to eat (wrongfully obviously), and that they don’t want to eat leaves, tofu and nuts all day, every day (if we ignore for the sake of the argument that that’s not what vegans used to eat, and of how cruel and speciesist it is to support animal abuse just because humans don’t want to eat leaves, tofu and nuts every day), nowadays these claims can’t be made anymore. In many places around the world, especially western countries, vegan culinary is so developed that it’s sometimes literally impossible to tell apart the plant based foods from the ones made of the carcasses or bodily fluids of animals, yet veganism is still a marginal phenomenon.

Never before did humans need “to give up” so little, so not to actively support industrial animal abuse, but still, the utterly vast majority maintain their violent and oppressive habits, perhaps except for switching one meal on Mondays.

Not the enormous food waste, not the enormous water waste, not the enormous pollution, not climate change, not obesity, not diabetes, and not the risk of a heart attack or cancer, and now not even when it is the same product with the same look, texture and taste, have made veganism mainstream.

Reese asks a supposedly rhetorical question: “isn’t it harder to take down the multibillion-dollar meat, dairy, and egg industries than to inspire them to switch their production to animal-free versions?” And the answer is seemingly yes, but that depends on humans’ consumption habits. And so we can raise a similar question about humans: isn’t it harder to convince all humans to stop supporting animal abuse for the sake of nonhuman animals, than to inspire them to switch their consumption to animal-free versions for the health benefits they would personally gain and because otherwise they are harming, polluting and depleting the only planet they can currently live in, all the more so now that they can have all their beloved products without all these harmful consequences? Well, evidently it is not that simple.

Despite that the cruel products humans like so much, are available nowadays in a non-cruel version, the vast majority still choose cruelty. More and more don’t, but their share is still marginal, certainly compared with the expectation, since if it was truly a matter of taste, now that humans can have their favorite food made with no animal flesh, there shouldn’t be any dilemma. And for most indeed there isn’t. They want animal flesh.

Obviously the more similar plant based products would be to animal based ones, the more humans would consume them, but the problem was never merely the taste. Evidently, many humans who have smugly stated in the past that veggie burgers are disgusting, have never tasted, smelled or even saw one. Blindfold taste tests have proven long ago that most humans can’t even tell the difference between animal based and plant based products, not to mention find the later disgusting. And that proves that in many senses, humans are eating symbols, not food.

Every new plant based product that successfully imitates an animal derived one, doesn’t prove that there is no culinary need for any animal based product, but the opposite. It is not by chance that the most popular plant based burgers are also the ones who “bleed”. And it is not by chance that many humans want their food to bleed, or that they find plant based “meat” products disgusting before they have tasted, smelled or seen them. It is the symbol attached to these products that disgust them, and it is the symbol attached to animals’ flesh that attracts many of them.

As previously argued, food is not a mere energy source. And meat particularly, is very unique among foods. All along history and to this very day meat has been very highly valued by humans, by almost every single culture. Meat’s value is uncomparable to any other food, and is in no proportion to its nutritional significance, therefore, in his book Meat: A Natural Symbol the anthropologist Nick Fiddes suggests that this special status of meat results from the fact that it embodies humans’ dominance over nature and the other animals. Animals symbolize power and nature, and so eating other animals is the ultimate symbol of humans’ power, of their superiority over other animals, and their triumph over nature.
Meat is a dominance and power symbol and humans take pleasure in the power and the predominance, as well as in the taste. Obviously nowadays they can get the same taste from equivalent plant based products, and they can most definitely get the required nutrients from other sources, but the social aspects of meat eating are much stronger and much more significant than its nutritional values, and even its taste.
Meat’s symbolism is far from being the only reason humans eat meat, but it is definitely a significant one, and so it is highly important to acknowledge it.

Food is deeply imprinted in human society and culture, so just asking humans to switch the animal derived raw materials of their food to a plant based one, even if it has the same look, texture and of course taste, for many it is not enough.
If eating animal based products was only a preferable energy source, then it would have been much easier to convince humans to simply change it, especially once there are culinary equivalent options. But no matter how many times vegans are telling humans that converting their diets into a vegan one is only a raw-material swap, clearly it is not at all just that. It is a much more profound step, for most a self-determination one. Veganism is not a raw-material swap since food is not fuel.

Plant based “alternatives” are on the market for years now. The most selfish, cruelest and despicable excuse non-vegans are using – nothing tastes like the “real thing” – should have already been defeated, since some plant based products do look, feel, cook and taste like meat. But it is not happening.

It is very good that there are plant based products in regular supermarkets, and it is encouraging in the sense that they have not been there up until recently and now there are plenty. Notwithstanding, despite that all these vegan options are available in many places, they are still surrounded by non-vegan ones. So activists can be encouraged and draw optimism from the fact that there are plant based burgers along with flesh burgers in the meat aisles, but in the same breath they must ask why the hell are there still flesh burgers when there are equivalently tasty plant based burgers right next to them? How careless to other sentient beings’ suffering must someone be to still choose the flesh burgers? There is nothing encouraging about the fact that humans choose again and again the cruel options over the amazing variety of the vegan ones.
How apathetic must humans be to enter Burger King or McDonalds, see the veggie burger option, and order the one who was made with fear, pain, agony, boredom and despair?

The fact that humans have never had to “give up” less than they do now thanks to the abundant plant based products, which are amazingly similar to animal based products, but they still choose the violent versions, is a reason for worry not a cause for optimism.

When humans run out of excuses as to why they don’t stop consuming animal based products but they still don’t, activists run out of excuses as to why they still insist on trying to convince them to stop instead of making them stop.

The second worry we find important to mention in that relation might sound too theoretical if not purist, but we think it is concrete, and it is relevant to mention it here, especially considering that, as we’ll elaborate later, Reese himself mentions sources of enormous suffering, current and potential, other than animal farming.

Accepting that the only way to bring about the end of animal farming is by giving humans what they desire, because as Reese argues – “As humanity gains unprecedented technological power such as a deep understanding of cell and tissue biology, we will be able to create meat, dairy, eggs, leather, and other products without the metabolic waste of biological processes like movement and brainpower.” and that: “The system’s fundamental inefficiency will end animal farming one day, regardless of our concern for animals, the environment, or human health” – is obviously not really challenging the confines of humans’ moral circle, not to mention breaking them as we should, and it is perpetuating speciesism.
And don’t get this point wrong, again, this is not coming from moral purity. Had it truly been the only option, and had it truly been a certain option, an inclusive option that could have solved all of humans’ caused suffering, and forever, then we would agree this should be the way to go. But considering that it is not the only option, that it is not certain, that it is not inclusive, that it is not forever, and far from being able to solve all the suffering humans are causing, this is not a desirable solution, but a cruel and speciesist compromise. And this cruel and speciesist compromise has and would have dire consequences, on the animals exploited as part of animal farming, and as we’ll mention later, on various other dimensions.

Starting with animals exploited as part of animal farming.
Reese predicts that animal farming would end at about 2100. That is according to many, a very optimistic prediction considering the human race. But even if it happens to be so, in the 80 years until then, based on the number of victims of animal farming nowadays (not including fishing), and considering that some of it would gradually decline along the years on the one hand, while the human population would increase, and that animal consumption would increase in many developing countries in the following decades on the other hand, and it is probable that about12 trillion, that is 12,000 billion nonhuman animals would be tortured by humans, in farms alone, not including fishing, and not including every other way that humans are hurting nonhumans. And that immense number is according to the rather optimistic prediction…

Reese argues that he doesn’t want to treat animals any different than humans, but would he accept similar activistic methods as the ones he suggested along the book in case tomorrow morning about 8 billion creatures from another planet would land here, imprison all humans, rapidly and intensively breed them in farms to the point that there are over one hundred billion farmed humans more than ten times the number of the creatures from the other planet, at every moment? I doubt that in such a case he would suggest waiting for all the aliens to realize that there are better, more efficient ways to achieve what they desire rather than exploiting humans.

It is speciesist to focus on trying to give humans what they desire so that hopefully, maybe, someday in the future, it would reduce only some of the suffering they are causing, and it is speciesist to suggest waiting so that hopefully, maybe, someday in the future, humanity will be willing to settle for these options.

The human race is a cruel and dangerous species and it has proven this time and again throughout its history.
As earlier mentioned, claims about a decline in violence have been refuted in the series of reviews of Steven Pinker’s famous book. Violence in the world has increased along history not the other way around. Contemplating about the last century being the most violent ever to humans, is sufficient to realize that, not to mention that each century has shown an increase in violence towards nonhumans, especially the last ones.

We don’t really expand humans’ moral circle by providing them with what they desire only by non-cruel means. It is like giving the bully exactly what he wants only by somehow providing technical protection for most of its victims. This is great for most of its victims, and had it been the only option, clearly we would have supported that. But the bully has many other victims, and many other ways to bully others. And there is no way to prevent all the suffering that it causes. And given its problematic character, we can never know what he would cause in the future.

However, there are already some possible frightening options and current alarming dimensions in that regard. And Reese mentions some of them in a sub-topic he calls Looking Forward.

Not Looking Forward

The first dimension Reese mentions is time:
“Researchers have estimated that in the long run there could be 1038 humans (and even more animals) if humanity colonizes the Virgo Supercluster, the massive concentration of galaxies that includes our own Milky Way galaxy and forty-seven thousand of its neighbors. Interstellar expansion presents a tremendous opportunity for a progressive society to expand and flourish, but it’s also a terrifying risk for the expansion of inequity, persecution, slavery, war, torture, genocide, and every other tragedy that’s happened on Earth.”

The second one is potential danger associated with artificial intelligence:
“One technology that could have a critical impact on the well-being of humans and animals in the far future is artificial intelligence (AI), so one way we could have an impact on the far future is through AI safety, working to ensure that AI has positive rather than negative effects on the world. One troubling scenario is if AI progresses slowly toward human-level intelligence, but then due to its ability to quickly improve upon itself, suddenly overtakes even the smartest human minds. Evolutionary processes took billions of years to shape modern biological intelligences, but a sufficiently advanced technology could modify itself, test those modifications, and learn to improve itself as dramatically in mere moments. It might be tempting to assume that humans would have total control over the AI’s goals or to dismiss negative outcomes as science fiction, but experts in the field see value alignment—whether or not AI will have the same values as humans—as a very tricky problem, especially given factors like the competition between companies and countries to be the first ones to develop such a superintelligence.”

The third one is not futuristic but is as ancient as sentience and that is of course the suffering of wild animals:
“They endure injury, illness, and starvation with astonishing frequency. Yet there has so far been very little research into or advocacy for large-scale interventions to improve their welfare, despite extremely large-scale impacts of humanity on their welfare through transportation, agriculture, and building construction. It’s not a question of whether we should intervene in the wild, but whether we should continue with our current haphazard approach.
To be clear, what we’re considering here is more than just conservation of natural habitat. Instead, it’s the idea of actually intervening in nature to improve the welfare and protect the autonomy of individual wild animals who suffer intensely and in vast numbers.”

And we couldn’t agree more about how enormous, urgent and neglected suffering in nature is.

The fourth dimension he mentions is also not futuristic but is as ancient as sentience, and that is human relation to bugs:
“bugs—a term I’m using to refer to all the small invertebrates like insects, spiders, and earthworms—are frequent subjects of academic inquiry, including from neuroscientists and biologists who have studied their nervous systems and behavior. I won’t dive all the way back into a discussion of sentience, but it’s safe to say that bugs show many of the behaviors we associate with sentience in our own lives, such as fleeing from danger and moving toward food. The best explanation for these actions is that they are driven by emotions like those you experience when you perform the same actions, such as fear in the case of fleeing danger, and excitement in the case of approaching a tasty meal. Many bugs even show reinforcement learning, the ability to seek out or avoid an outcome based on previous experiences.”

Having said that, he argues: “bugs could still face significant human-caused suffering, if, for instance, insect-based foods increase in popularity. When I go to conferences and events on the future of food, insect protein is a frequent discussion topic, and there are certainly plenty of foodies who see a big role for it in the future of food. While I appreciate that this food system could reduce some of the harms of conventional animal farming, such as greenhouse gas pollution, the number of insects that would need to suffer and die for a pound of protein is many times the number of cows and pigs, and even fish and chickens. This should make us cautious about a switch to insect consumption because of the greater number of animals involved.”

The last concerning dimension he mentions is artificial sentience, that is sentient beings who are nonnatural, meaning that instead of evolving the way humans and other animals have, they are adapted or created by humans or other intelligent beings: “If we do create sentient machines, which many scientists see as a legitimate possibility, we could see these beings being subjected to an immense amount of suffering. Less powerful digital minds could be treated as lower classes, similar to how humans today treat animals as tools and property. In fact, if digital sentience emerges, we could see brand-new social movements emerge with these machines to fight against their oppression, just as we’ve seen for biological victims.”

All these concerns, some of which already exist, and some are speculative but astronomical in their suffering potential, only further strengthen the argument that we need not focus on convincing humanity to end animal farming, but on ending sentient beings’ suffering, all the suffering, of all the sentient beings, the ones who already exist and are suffering, and the ones who might one day exist and will suffer, regardless of humans’ position about it.

Convincing humanity to seriously address all these issues, when it is so far from solving so many historical problems among its own species, is absolutely ridiculous.
We believe that the way humans treat members of their own species is the strongest indication of how hopeless the chance to create a moral change in human society based on humans’ morality is. Please take the time and read our articles and posts about how humans systematically exploit the poorest of their own kind, how they treat half of their own species and their own posterity. Of course it shouldn’t matter to which species someone belongs, but it does matter to them, and still, this is how they treat each other.

It is impossible to educate most humans not to use one another, not to objectify each other, not to turn to violence in conflicts and crises so easily, not to discriminate each other on the basis of race, gender, ethnical orientation, class, weight, height, looks and etc.
The homo-consumericus knowingly and systematically oppresses members of its own species for the most trivial material goods. The dynamics of psychologically repressing and soothing any uncomfortable thought about the numerous faceless human victims half way around the world that pay a huge price so that consumers wouldn’t have to make the slightest compromise on their lifestyle, is very characteristic of the human race. The ease in which humans conduct horrendous acts towards one another is proven again and again by social-science (particularly psychology studies), by history, and by daily affairs.

It is even hard to imagine a world without wars, hunger, poverty, racism, chauvinism, and a slavery free world, so one in which humans are taking seriously moral issues that don’t regard them, or don’t regard them yet, is delusional.

In fact, Reese himself feels the need to convince his readers that even the plight of animals in farms is so compelling an issue, and therefore suggests to consider the following three facts:
“First, there are over one hundred billion farmed animals alive at this moment—more than ten times the number of humans. Second, over 90 percent (over 99 percent in the US) of these animals live on industrial, large-scale “factory farms” enduring atrocious cruelty such as intense confinement in tiny cages, brutal mutilation and slaughter methods, and rampant disease and suffering from artificial breeding for excessive production of meat, dairy, and eggs. Third, today we have scientific consensus that these are sentient beings with the capacity to feel great joy and suffering”.

We think these three facts alone, not to mention many others, are sufficient to convince activists that the problem is not in the way they are approaching humans but that approaching humans is the only way they can think of confronting the suffering in the world.
Activists’ natural tendency and the first and last plan of action, is to explain to humans that their daily torturing of the weaker for their own minor benefits, habits and pleasures is wrong, and that in itself is wrong, violent and speciesist. It indicates how human oriented the moral scope is, and how limited the discussion is.

All activists are aware of the fact that much more violence is inflicted in factory farms than the violence that would be required to overthrow the human tyrants. So why letting way more than a trillion victims per year (including marine animals from all kinds of commercial fishing) to suffer until less than 8 billion humans are willing to consume the same products without the cruelty?

We doubt that if animals could, they would choose to wait until all humans decide to end their daily torture. This issue reveals how the animal liberation movement, the only group representing the animals, is filled with anthropocentric perspectives, talking and thinking in humans’ terms.

Our goal is that the human annihilation option becomes an acknowledged activism option. Our hope is that it would become activists’ first option. In fact, it must. When faced with the historical, systematical and inherent human dominion over nonhumans, stopping all humans from causing all their harms for good, is what should be our goal, and thinking how we can do that is where we must start. Advocacy, today’s go-to option, must be realized for what it is – an extreme compromise at animals’ expense. Advocacy shouldn’t be the obvious starting point. You start by aiming for the best, most radical option – the one that can end all the suffering in the world, and only if it turns out to be irrelevant should you turn to other options such as acting so that maybe someday there would no longer be animal farms in the world as this book suggests, or trying to convince as many people as possible not to consume animal based products as many other activists suggest. Even a totally vegan world (which is totally unrealistic) is a horrible world as we thoroughly explain in the article Vegan Suffering and in the article occupied territory.
A non-speciesist approach should lead you to first consider the best option for the nonhuman animals, which is stopping this inherently violent and speciesist world by any means necessary.

The End of Animal Suffering – Part 2 – The Expanding Moral Circle

In the former part of this series of posts reviewing the book The End of Animal Farming we have addressed the factor of the inefficiency of animal farming. In the following we’ll address the factor of the expanding moral circle.

The Expanding Excuses

Some of Reese’s optimism is based on his agreement with the notion that the world is getting better and that humans are becoming less violent. He mentions Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature, and agrees with him that “our increasing concern for animals is a particularly strong reason for optimism that the general trend in violence will continue downwards in the future.”
This is a very important issue, however, since we have thoroughly addressed Steven Pinker’s theory in our review of The Better Angels of Our Nature we will not repeat our arguments here but suggest you to read them all, especially the two about nonhuman animals.
Instead, we wish to focus on what seems to be the main source of Reese’s optimism regarding humans’ concern for animals. He often cites the following results of a US survey: “A 2014 US survey found that 93 percent of respondents felt it was “very important” to buy their food from humane sources. Eighty-seven percent believe “farmed animals have roughly the same ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans.” And an astounding 47 percent of US adults say in a survey that they support the seemingly radical policy change of “a ban on slaughterhouses.””

Reese is aware of the huge gap between supposedly half of US adults supporting a ban on slaughterhouses, and only about 5% of them being vegetarians (we’ll ignore for the sake of the argument that vegetarians actively support slaughterhouses given that chickens in the egg industry, and cows in the milk industry, let alone their claves, are murdered in slaughterhouses as well). His explanation for this gap is that humans want to be vegetarian but just don’t know how.
Apparently Reese is unaware of the huge gap between what humans are willing to state they support in a non-binding survey, and what they are willing to support practically in their everyday lives.
The reason many humans are making these statements is that humans like to feel good about themselves, especially when all they need to do to achieve that feeling is making empty statements. And making themselves feel good is also the reason why they are not practically stopping their active support in the very same slaughterhouses they state should be banned, as unfortunately consuming animal based food is making humans feel very good.

Reese sarcastically writes that: “Every grassroots farmed animal advocate I’ve asked about this topic has spoken with many people who insist that the meat they buy doesn’t come from factory farms. “I only eat humane meat,” they say, defending themselves from the activists’ critiques of factory farming. This is one of the most common justifications heard by grassroots advocates.” And points out how obviously very unlikely these common justifications are: “a survey my colleagues and I conducted in 2017 suggested that 75 percent of US adults say they usually consume humane animal products, which seems impossible given that the best estimates suggest less than 1 percent of US farmed animals live on nonfactory farms.” And these people, like the ones in the formerly mentioned survey, are simply interested in seeming good, they are not interested in bothering themselves with actually being good (or in this case avoid being bad). And the reason is very simple, merely sounding good doesn’t cost them a thing while actively supporting their statement comes with what they view as a price. They don’t mind making a statement as long as they don’t need to actually do something about it.

Reese argues that “When people call upon the idea of ethical animal farming—even if that constitutes little or none of their actual consumption—we can think of it as a “psychological refuge” they’re using to justify their consumption of factory farmed products. This refuge shelters them from the cognitive dissonance they would feel if they both fully considered their ethical views and the realities of their consumption choices. It’s one of the biggest roadblocks to fixing our food system, perhaps even more harmful than the four N’s.”
And we agree, only that the same goes for the other surveys he mentions. Humans’ completely empty statements regarding nonhumans’ ability to feel pain and discomfort as humans, and a ban on slaughterhouses, also function as a “psychological refuge”. Making these statements places them on the right side in their view, despite that they are actively enforcing the wrong one, several times a day, every day. All are “psychological refuge” and none truly represent their true position about nonhuman animals, which practically, is mostly cruel indifference.

Reese argues that a large part of the explanation for this gap, and for the problem in general, is that people are far more willing to support institutional change than they are to change their individual consumption. And again he tries to back this argument with surveys: “US adults consistently show over 70 percent poll support for various changes in farmed animal welfare, such as cage-free, slower-growth chicken genetics, higher-welfare slaughter methods, and an end to extreme crowding. There have also been consistent majority votes in favor of farmed animal welfare ballot initiatives. This widespread support contrasts with the tiny number of consumers who actually opt for these higher-welfare products in their individual consumption: organic meat made up just 1.5 percent of conventional fresh red meat sales in the US and grass-fed 0.9 percent in 2016.
Our 2017 poll also found that a whopping 97 percent of respondents agree with the statement “Whether to eat animals or be vegetarian is a personal choice, and nobody has the right to tell me which one they think I should do.” I cannot stress enough how resistant people are to individual consumer change, especially when it’s as closely tied to personal identity as vegetarianism and veganism are in the US public consciousness.”

As mentioned earlier, there are more ways to explain these surveys results, but even if we’ll ignore them for the sake of the argument, the claims in the first paragraph don’t exactly settle with the claim in the second, because if humans unequivocal statement is that eating animals or being a vegetarian is a personal choice, and “nobody has the right to tell me which one they think I should do”, then how can it be that the best way to change their habits is not that activists – people like them and who have no air of authority – would convince them, but rather that authoritative institutions, would change their habits for them?

In fact he himself gives an example that contradicts this assertion: “Chinese consumers eat around 173 grams of meat per day, but the government recommends only 40 to 75 grams—less than an average American hamburger patty. China has a highly centralized governance system, which makes policy change more difficult, but also makes changes easier to promulgate across the country. Meat has been regarded as a luxury, but it also hasn’t been as associated with Chinese cultural identity the same way bacon, cheese, and bratwurst have in many American and European cultures.”
If even one of the most centralized governance system in the world fails to change people’s consumption habits, let alone in a nation that meat is not associated with its cultural identity, how would that work in other nations? Why would other nations succeed where an incidentally and indirectly test case such as China is failing?

Finally for that matter, let’s get back to Reese’s explanation that the gap between the number of humans making these statements and the number of vegetarians is due to that humans want to be vegetarian but just don’t know how.
He writes that: “When advocates hand someone a leaflet on the street, show their friend a video of undercover investigations, or speak with a journalist about animal-free eating, the hesitation and counterarguments we hear are mostly about how they can change their behavior, not why they should. Common concerns include:

■ “I’m an athlete. Where would I get my protein?”

■ “It’s just so hard to find vegetarian options when eating out.”

■ “I would love to be vegan, but I could never give up cheese.”

It’s become increasingly less common over the past few years to hear arguments against changing to a non-meat diet such as:

■ “They’re just animals. They don’t matter.”

■ “Most farms aren’t like the ones in that investigation.”

■ “I only buy meat from humane farms.””

But these are not genuine concerns, they are poor excuses. There are many plant based options for any food imaginable nowadays, and the excusers know that. No one really believes in these “concerns”. It’s just that people need to say something when confronted with a moral truth, and they feel uncomfortable admitting their immoral truth, which is that they care more about their own marginal interests than they do about others’ most major interests.
Humans spit out such excuses since they find it easier to tackle the How than the Why.

And in any case, what is really behind all these excuses and many others of this kind, is anyway, eventually, practically, arguing that “They’re just animals. They don’t matter.” As who better than us, veteran vegans, knows that these are all nonsense. We have become vegans long before the current abundance and diversity of plant based food, before the abundance of information about what happens to animals in the food industry, before the abundance of information about human health, before the relative social acceptance and normality of veganism and etc., and still, we didn’t have a doubt for a single moment regarding the Why. So we figured out the How by ourselves. And that’s because for us nonhuman animals were never “just” animals, and they always mattered. If we easily figured out the How decades ago, surly humans can easily do so nowadays.
Obviously everybody knows how to stop their support in the cruelest system ever. And everybody knows why they should do so. The problem is not that people don’t know what’s going on. And it’s also not that they don’t know how to stop supporting it. Everybody knows how animal based products are made, or at least that they were made of animals, and that those animals didn’t volunteer to become their bacon and eggs. And everybody knows how to get plant based food nowadays. Neither is the main problem. The main problem is that humans don’t care enough to simply stop supporting animal abuse.

The End of Animal Suffering – Part 1 – The Inefficiency Argument

For the World Farm Animals Day held today, a critical review of the book The End of Animal Farming by Jacy Reese.
Reese’s argument, basically, is that considering the incredible inefficiency of animal farming, along with what he views as an expansion of humans’ moral circle, and the technological developments in the animal-free food systems, animal farming will end.
In the following three posts we’ll address each of these three main factors correspondingly.

The Dangers of the Inefficiency Argument

Reese repeatedly argues that one of the main reasons, if not the main one, that animal farming will end is that it doesn’t make rational sense:
“The ace in the hole for the inevitability of the end of animal farming is the incredible inefficiency of making meat, dairy, and eggs from animals. Farmed animals consume calories and nutrients from plants, and they use that energy to do a lot more than produce meat, dairy, and eggs. They have all the normal bodily functions like breathing, movement, and growing by-products like hoofs, organs, and hair. These processes mean farmed animals have a caloric conversion ratio of 10:1 or more. For every ten calories of food we feed them, we get only about one calorie of meat in return. And for every ten grams of plant-based protein, we get at most two grams of animal-based protein.”

However, in order for the claim that animal farming will end because in efficiency terms it is unreasonable, to be reasonable, humans need to consume food on reasonable basis, only that they don’t. Humans don’t choose their food on the basis of energy-efficiency, but according to many other factors. Humans eat for great many reasons, for reasons of community, rituals, family, expressing their identity by eating this and not that, and of course for pleasure. For billions of humans food is comfort, a gesture, entertainment, an enemy, a profession, a hobby, a weapon, it can break barriers, it defines cultures, and connects families. It involves so many taboos and determinations of who belongs to the group and who does not, it unifies and distinguishes between ethnic groups and cultures. Unfortunately food is much more than taste and nutrition. Looking for reason based on efficiency in humans’ eating habits is unreasonable.

For someone who is very familiar with humans’ various psychological biases, it is a bit strange that he ignores it in relation to food consumption. Humans don’t consume food on the basis of a rational caloric conversion ratio, or on a rational basis whatsoever, so this rational reason is far from being sufficient. Humans are not even consuming food on the basis of its nutritional value, health benefits, or environmental considerations, not to mention moral ones. They have a rather different list of priorities. They rather eat what they like, what they are used to, what is traditional, common, cheap, normal, what they have always eaten, what others around them are eating, food that defines them the way they wish to be defined, food that doesn’t distinguish them from the group they want to be part of, and etc. That’s why they are willing to invest what seems, on the face of it, as irrational efforts in the food they are eating.

Animal farming is still highly romanticized all around the world. Obviously for no good reason, yet that myth must be destroyed. Animal farming is not going to end merely because rationally speaking it is inefficient. For many humans around the world, following tradition is more rational than energy-efficiency. Food is not fuel for the body.

Exactly because food is not fuel but among many other things, a cultural and social indicator, there is a growing concern, that in many societies, and definitely in the US, animal based food would be associated with class and political stands. Meaning, that sadly, there is a high probability that many humans would choose whether or not to eat animal based products merely according to their political agenda. In other words, it is probable that consuming animals would be partisan based. It already is in many senses, but it might get worse. Veganism is already highly associated with the leftwing, this may happen to cultured meat as well. This is not a prediction but more of apprehension. And in any case not the point here. The point here is that food is far from being merely the way people energize themselves. Insisting that it is, in such an irrational world, makes his rational claim totally irrational.

Beyond the fact that humans’ preferred foods don’t reflect the energy-efficiency of their food system and so it is not very likely that the inefficiency claim would radically change the food system, there is a great danger in making the inefficiency claim.
That is since the arguer may raise a factual claim and control the practical conclusions s/he is extracting from it, however s/he has no control over the operative conclusions that others would make. In the energy-efficiency sense, since humans excel at resisting any substantial changes in their beloved habits, and tend to choose the least demanding option, the one that requires them to change their habits the least, it is more probable that if anything, they would choose the more “efficient” animal based options than the plant based one. In other words, and practically speaking, this means that some people would consider instead of devouring the corpses of cows and sheeps, to devour the ones of animals who are considered as more “efficient” such as chickens and fishes. Considering that fishes and chickens are much smaller than sheeps and cows, that means that more individual animals would be exploited and tortured by humans. So opposite to the original intention of this claim, it may be the case that it would bring about an unfortunate increase in the number of tortured animals in the food industry.

Eventually humans would do what they find convenient and pleasing. If we’ll tell them that animal farming is incredibly inefficient, as soon as they discover that the various industries are not equally inefficient, they are more likely to choose the less inefficient ones, and unfortunately choosing these ones means consuming more individual animals. And that is among the humans who would even consider changing their habits, most humans are practically totally indifferent to any consideration which is not selfish.

And Reese is aware of this implication. He even writes that “consuming smaller animals leads to far more suffering per calorie because it takes far more animals.”  So the inefficiency argument is not only a speciesist argument in the sense of suggesting an opposition to an extremely cruel industry based on its inefficiency rather than its cruelty to other animals, it is also a cruel argument in the sense of the high probability of increasing the number of individual victims. Humans have been consuming more cows, sheeps and pigs in the past than they do nowadays (percentage wise), and nowadays they consume much more chickens and fishes. Along with human health motives, efficiency, also played a role in that awful course.
Reese is enough of an optimist to think that this argument is bound to bring about the end of animal farming, however, so far, along with other human oriented arguments, it has been increasing the number of exploited nonhuman animals.

The efficiency issue doesn’t only increase the number of victims but also each victim’s suffering.
Overall, the main mean in making animal farming more “efficient” is making the exploited animals more “efficient” at converting feed to flesh, and bodily secretion. More product for less investment. That practically means more control over the animals by manipulating them and their surroundings. These methods include increased lighting, unnatural calorie-dense feed, antibiotic use, growth hormones, and of course – a manipulation which invades deep into the animals’ body by changing their genetic characteristics. Craving efficiency led to engineering animals who are deformed and crippled, with some organs extremely enlarged and others shriveled.

Chickens are the most extreme representatives of the industry’s ability to manipulate animals’ bodies in a way which fits the exploiters needs – convert feed more “efficiently”, and grow larger.
Recent campaigns calling for exploitation of chickens from less deformed breeds, wishing to somewhat reverse this extremely violent trend, face the industry’s cynical green-washed excuses about the supposed unsustainability of this call. The National Chicken Council emphases that such a move would result in the use of more environmental resources due to the increase in feed and water (resources which would ‘grow unprofitable body parts’), and due to the overall number of days it would take to raise the birds.
Some animal exploitation experts also admit that less crippled chickens, who suffer less pain with each step, tend to move around more and therefore waste more energy, which is less “efficient”.

So chickens, who are already the most numerous land victims on earth, which are bound to the severest genetic manipulation and to the harshest living conditions, will be even worse off.

Much like chickens, fishes also suffer from their reputation for being more “efficient”.
Similarly to land animals, today, more and more fishes are bred in factory farms, euphemistically called aquaculture. Of course, the controlled environment of a farm means more control over the fishes – and much more manipulation to make them grow faster, thus also be more “efficient”. From the moment they hatch, farmed fishes endure a lighting regime that tricks them to eat more of a commercial diet designed for weight-gain. They live in crowded tanks or sea cages where they often face aggression from other fishes they cannot escape, and have to fight for food. The density leads to disease outbreaks and parasites which lead to immense suffering.

These intensive conditions which produce more flesh from each fish are known to cripple them. About 50-60% of farmed salmon and trout were found to have damaged ear bones, which leads to drastic hearing impairments. Studies have identified this deformity to be the result of accelerated growth rates that were traced to high-nutrient feed and exposure to longer light periods. This illness has also been found in other farmed fish species such as carp, eel and red drum.

The pressure for rapid weight gain doesn’t end with external environmental intervention. In another horrid resemblance to land animals, fishes too are the subject of genetic manipulation to increase “efficiency”.
In 2015 the level of invasion into the fishes’ bodies took another turn for the worse, as for the first time the FDA approved the marketing of GM animal – Atlantic salmon who has a gene from a Chinook salmon and a promoter sequence from an ocean pout.
This salmon can grow twice as fast as conventionally farmed Atlantic salmons, reaching adult size in some 18 months compared to 30 months, and requiring 25% less feed.

So far, animal farming’s inefficiency, didn’t cause the industry to reconsider its practices, but to constantly push further and further the biological limits of its poor victims. So talking about the industry’s inefficiency may increase the number of its victims as well as the suffering of each victim.

Thin Slices of Torture

For International Bacon Day held today, a brief glance at the lives of the animals behind this so beloved torturous flesh.

 Meet The So Beloved Torturous Flesh

The pig industry consists of two different herds, each with its own function.
The breeding sows function is to produce as many piglets as possible. The role of the piglets is to produce meat. They are reared to the age of 4-6 months then they are slaughtered.

18 to 20 piglets per sow per year is common in the industry. By selective breeding, pig breeders attempt to increase the number of piglets per sow and some have already reached more than 30. The more baby pigs born, the greater the fight between them over their mother’s teats. The industry’s solution is more genetic manipulations of course. They have simply “created” a sow with two more teats. There is no limit to the industry’s effort to squeeze more money at the expense of the poor animals.

The Sows

The sows are kept in metal-barred stalls or tether stalls which are so narrow that the sow cannot even turn around, she can only take a step forwards or backwards. The sows are confined in these stalls throughout their 16½ weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy after pregnancy after pregnancy.
A sow is fed at one end of the crate, and her feces collects at the other. Some crates are so narrow that simply standing up and lying down require immense effort. In some factory farms, the sow is tied to the floor by a short chain or a strap around her neck.
All the sows are deprived of all exercise and of any opportunity to fulfill their social and psychological needs.

In January 2013 new welfare regulations regarding the sow stalls came into force in the EU. As usual, 12 years adjustment was given to the farmers at the animals’ expense, and as usual it barely even addressed one aspect of a life full of suffering.
As opposed to what is sometimes professed, sow stalls weren’t banned but their time use was restricted. The sows are legally imprisoned in them for the first month of their pregnancy, and illegally for as long as their captors desire, since as long as these torture devices are there and as long as nobody is going to enforce the new regulations, sows will keep being crumpled in these stalls.
To this day not all of the EU members have implemented the required welfare regulations despite that they were given 12 years to do so. In response EU officials have sent rebuke letters to these countries, another evidence of the irrelevancy of legislation.

And that only goes for the EU, several US states, Canada and New-Zealand. All represent a relatively small portion of the pigs industry. Most of the pigs are tortured in the rest of the US states and in China which is by far the biggest pig producer in the world. And maybe the saddest thing about the EU reform is that as lame as it is, activists can only dream of such reforms implemented in China where the industry has only started to shift from small backyard farms to massive intensive factory farms, and is growing in frightening scale.

With population growth, rapid economic development, continuous urbanization and an expanding middle class, China’s total pig consumption has increased fivefold since 1980. In the mid-1970s, in the midst of the country’s Green Revolution, an average Chinese citizen ate an average of 8 kilograms of pig flesh per year. Today, each person in China eats about 39 kilograms – even more than Americans.

Until the 1980s 95% of Chinese pigs came from smallholdings with fewer than five animals. Today just 20% come from these backyard farms. Some industrial facilities, often owned by the state or by multinationals, produce as many as 100,000 pigs a year each.

Farrowing Crates

About a week before the sows give birth, they are moved to another type of cage, one that the EU 2013 reform didn’t include – the farrowing crate.
Sows are devoted mothers and would normally spend days building a nest of leaves or straw. On the concrete or metal floor of the farrowing crate, they cannot do this and so lapse into a stereotype behavior. They simply go mad.

The bars on the crates totally restrict the pregnant sows’ ability to move. This causes their whole body to ache and many have back and leg problems. The bars prevent them from reaching their babies, though the babies can reach their mothers’ teats to suck. Sometimes short chains or rubber straps are used to immobilize the mother to give the piglets easy access to her. Five days after her piglets are taken away, the sow is being raped again and the whole misery-cycle starts all over again.

Animals produced for meat are ‘crop’.
It starts with the sows which are treated as reproduction machines, production units of baby pigs.
The worth of a sow is measured by the number of piglets she successfully weans per year.

Life In The Pens

Normally, piglets would stay with their mother for about 15 weeks. However, on factory farms, they are taken away at 2 to 3 weeks, weighing only about 15 pounds. They are crowded into small filthy “nursery” pens surrounded by metal bars and concrete.

The air in these factories is laden with dust and noxious gases which are produced by the animals’ urine and feces. Studies of workers in pig confinement buildings have found that 60% have breathing problems, despite the fact that they spend only a few hours a day inside the confinement buildings. Imagine how the pigs who have an acute sense of smell must feel like. Ammonia fumes damage their lungs and unsurprisingly many die of respiratory diseases.

Lameness, sores and other leg, back and hip problems are all very common in the pig industry. Urinary tract infections are also very common, especially among sows, as result of low levels of activity and since pigs have to lie and sit in their feces.

The pigs are deprived of fresh air, quietness, natural diet and exercise, freedom to forage, walk, roam, explore, dig and interact, wallow in mud and develop natural social relationships. This confinement in semi-darkness would torture any sentient being.

The lack of environmental stimulation in the pens and in the sow stalls prevents any normal behaviors and leads to psychological disorders including: chronic stress, aggression, depression and frustration.
The result is that the pigs and the sows develop abnormal and neurotic coping behaviors, like waving their heads from side to side, biting bars over and over again, or biting each other’s tails. Some sows become apathetic and unresponsive. They are in a severe state of depression.

Tail Docking

Bored and frustrated, many chew and bite the other pigs’ tails. Tail-biting can lead to infections and abscesses, so to prevent tail-biting, most farmers cut the piglets’ tails with pliers or a hot docking iron.

Teeth Clipping

Many piglets’ pointed side-teeth are clipped down to the gum with pliers, in the first few days of life. This is done to prevent them from injuring either the sow’s udder or the faces of their litter mates, leaving them shocked and bleeding.

Identification

Ear notching is the most popular method of identification in commercial farms.
Pigs are ear notched using specially designed pliers, which leave v-shaped notches in the ear.

Castration

Most male piglets are castrated. Castration is done because consumers find the meat of intact males objectionable. The piglets are castrated without anesthesia.

Although many drugs are given to pigs throughout their lives, pain relievers are not among them, not in any of the mentioned procedures.

Selective Breeding

Selective breeding is being used to develop pigs with faster growth rates and quicker, heavier muscle development. Pigs’ legs are simply unable to keep pace with the growth rate of the rest of their body. As a result pigs suffer from painful joint and leg problems.

Selective breeding also forces the pigs’ muscles to grow out of proportion to their blood-vessels, lungs and heart. They can be physiologically affected by not being able to get enough oxygen into their muscles, and so even a young pig can have a heart attack.

Loading, Unloading and Transportation

After 4 to 6 months of hell, when the pigs reach the industry’s desirable weight, they are violently loaded on the transport trucks off to the slaughterhouse.

The pigs who are denied normal movement for most of their lives, are suddenly expected to get as fast as possible from the transport trucks into the slaughterhouse.
And as always time is money so all the “necessary” means are being used to load and unload the pigs on and off the truck, as fast as possible.

Pigs cannot sweat. If the weather in the truck is too hot, pigs’ temperatures soar. They pile up over one another to get to the air vents. In cold weather, they huddle together for warmth. Consequently some die from suffocation.

When the trucks reach the slaughterhouse, if the pigs refuse to “co-operate” with their tormentors, they are bludgeoned, kicked and brutally assaulted until they are totally subdued. In many cases it happens while the pigs are so terrified and traumatized that they silently dream-walk.

The Murder

Once inside the slaughterhouse, the first thing that probably strikes the pigs is the noise. In some locations it is like a roaring mechanical tide, elsewhere it is the sound of metallic slamming and clanking of chains and hooks, coupling and uncoupling, the hiss of power hoses, the bang of the “captive bolt” as it penetrates the skulls of cattle, mixed with the shrieks of terror from doomed animals.

Prior to being hung upside down by their back legs and bled to death, pigs are supposed to be ‘stunned’ and rendered unconscious. However, ‘stunning’ is terribly imprecise, and this results in conscious animals hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker tries to ‘stick’ them in the neck with a knife.
If the worker misses, the pig is carried to the next station on the slaughterhouse assembly line, the scalding tank, where he is boiled alive.

Simply mumble ‘MMM…Bacon!…’ became the icon of the idiotic responses humans make when they encounter a serious, well based, rational arguments against consuming nonhuman animals. But that notorious “response” is not the most common one. The most common is conveniently looking away while continuing with the same cruel habits. Whether humans are defying and trolling or aphetic and dogmatic, the victims keep losing.

Massacring Species

Last week it was reported that the largest massacre of bottlenose dolphins in Faroe Islands’ history took place. After being driven 45km for over five hours by speed boats and jet-skis, 100 dolphins were brutally slaughtered as part of the Islands’ traditional whale hunt called “Grindadráp“.

This violent massacre that is executed several times a year and can reach about 1,000 whales and dolphins annually, is practiced since the 10th century, passing from generation to generation from the medieval whalers, and is considered an important tradition, a rite of passage that turns boys into men.

It starts when a pod of whales (mostly pilot whale) is spotted near the islands or near channels between them. The message is passed to the elected whaling officials and to the district sheriff, and the word is spread as widely and as quickly as possible to the community, so the men can drop whatever they are doing and ardently rush to their boats.

The islanders surround the pod with their boats in a wide semicircle, separating the whales from the open sea, and slowly drive them towards the bay. On the foreman’s signal, stones attached to nets are thrown behind the whales along with a lot of noise making to frighten the whales, driving them towards the beach where they become stranded in the shallow water. Here they are totally helpless against the human brutal attack coming from the shore.

The whales are stoned, speared, stabbed, slashed, and clubbed. The killing is done using traditional knives with blades of 16 to 19 centimeter long, making a cut across the back and down to the spinal cord. The severing of the spinal cord causes a very powerful muscular spasm throughout the body of the whales, after which they are paralyzed, dying of blood lose. It takes several minutes of indescribable pain until the whales die.

Whales who are not stranded far enough up on shore are hauled by striking a steel pointed hook, or a gaff into their back. Since whales have smooth skin and since they panicky try to escape, it often takes several times to get it deep enough. Then they are dragged to shore with a rope attached to the hook to be slaughtered.

The pilot whales form some of the most cohesive social groups in nature and won’t abandon each other even in situations of mortal danger. This of course enhances the terror as they are swimming in the blood of their family members watching them severely beaten and slaughtered.

After the killing is over the carcasses are divided between the people of the community.

This slaughter is done in a festive atmosphere in which everybody participates. People tend to drink a lot, and children even get a day off of school so they can join the fun, watch the terrified whales being murdered and climb over whale carcasses.

Obviously there is something outrageous about the hypocrite outrage of so many people at this particular brutal slaughter of this particular beloved nonhuman animal while actively supporting the immensely greater brutal slaughter of other kinds of nonhuman animals.
But much more outrageous is the fact that even the outrage of so many people at this brutal slaughter doesn’t manage to stop even a ritual slaughter of one of humans’ most beloved animal. So when will the common systematical brutal slaughter of nonhuman animals that humans consider merely as a course on their plate, would ever end?

Humans’ Best Temporary Friend

More and more reports from more and more animal shelters reveal that humans are forsaking their animal companions, mostly dogs, after many have adopted ones in the beginning of covid-19 breakout.
This course has started earlier this year when lockdowns all over the world were canceled and dogs where less needed to serve as humans’ companions or even as their formal excuses to go outside during lockdowns.
In the past year, many humans have decided that adopting animals is not really a lifelong commitment but a temporary setup, and so at some point, they decided to put them in a shelter in the best case, and in the worse one they simply throw them to the streets.

Lately things have gotten even worse due to the increase in the cost of living all over the world. Many humans cut their expenses by forsaking the dogs they have adopted, many of which when they were lonely and frustrated during lockdowns. Once lockdowns are down and cost of living is up, many humans ungratefully forsake their dogs. They used dogs for emotional support during the pandemic and now many of them are abandoning them.

After an adoption boom in the beginning of the pandemic about two years ago, nowadays more than 3.4 million human households have forsaken their companion animals in the UK alone. Similar worrying reports are coming from the U.S. and other places as well. Continue reading

Astroethics

Our decision to initiate this blog about 7 years ago was, in many senses, driven by the great fuss among many animal liberation activists around the headlines published in the end of March 2015 of an asteroid about to wipe out the earth. Many activists shared their hopes for it to happen, but didn’t change their actions so it would. And our hope was and still is, that among other things, this blog would help to change that.

So for International Asteroid Day held today, we repost our “Asteroid argument” published about 7 years ago, which is unfortunately still as relevant today as it was then.

The Asteroid Argument

Our first post was dedicated to activists passively wishing an asteroid would wipe out the earth, while doing nothing active so that their wishes might come true.
Of course we don’t mean it in a literal sense, as in actively directing asteroids towards earth, but metaphorically, as in actively looking for viable ways to stop the suffering. Ideas like these for example. But there is an active aspect even in the case of asteroids. Continue reading

Not to Bee

Today is UN’s World Bee Day. The aim of World Bee Day is to “raise awareness among the international public about the importance of bees and other pollinators for humanity in the light of food security, the global elimination of hunger and care for the environment and biodiversity”, ironically and tragically, while ignoring the need to raise awareness among the international public about the massive exploitation of bees by humanity.

The honey industry sees bees merely as production units. Honey consumers see bees as symbiotic beings who willingly choose to share their labor and resources with humans. And even not all vegans consider bees in their moral circle.
But actually like the other commercially exploited animals, bees are sentient beings who are used as bio-machines to make a product for human pleasure.
Probably because they are insects and because they are seen flying around, bees are considered free of the usual cruelties of the animal farming industry. However bees undergo treatments similar in their essence to those endured by other commercially exploited animals. They go through routine examination and handling, artificial feeding regimes, drug and pesticide treatment, genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, transportation (by air, rail and road) and murder.

Sentience

Despite the non-incidental, convenient, common assumption – bees can feel. All the evidence available indicates that they, as many other invertebrates who have a centralized nervous systems (which includes a brain), do have the capacity to feel suffering and pleasure.
Invertebrates, it seems, exhibit nociceptive responses analogous to those shown by vertebrates. They can detect and respond to noxious stimuli, and in some cases, these responses can be modified by opioid substances.
Enkephalin-like substances and their receptors have also been found in insects, and opiate agonists and antagonists have been shown to modulate nociceptive-type responses in several species of arthropod, including mantis shrimps, honeybees, and praying mantes.

Bees are highly adaptive and sophisticated beings with a bit less than one million neurons, which are interconnected in ways that are beyond our current understanding, jammed into less than one cubic millimeter of brain tissue. The neural density in the bee’s brain is about 10 times higher than that in a mammalian cerebral cortex, which most of us consider to be the pinnacle of evolution on this planet.

Bees display complex behaviors such as communication with other bees using different types of body movements (the famous bee dances) informing them about the position of flowers and where to pick pollen. They also have a great memory which allows them to remember where the flowers and the hive are.

Honey Production

Bees suck nectar from surrounding flowers, hold it in their primary stomach and fly back to the hive. There, the nectar is chewed and regurgitated by other bees until its complex sugar breaks down to 2 simple ones – glucose and fructose. Then the bees deposit the nectar into cells in the honeycombs they build. They fan it with their wings until most of the water content evaporates in the warm temperature of the beehive, and what’s left is thick and gooey honey. The bees then cap each cell with bees’ wax, storing it for future use. The honey is very essential to feed the bees and their young in the winter when pollen is less widespread. Therefore bees work continually throughout the other months to hoard supply.

Bees can only gather a tiny amount of pollen from the flowers in each trip, 55,000 miles of travel and pollen from 2 million flowers are needed to gather just one pound of honey. They do all of this work to create food for their own consumption, not for human beings.

Honey Stealing

For humans to consume honey, first it must be robbed.
To make the theft easier, humans usually remove the bees from their hive by shaking, heating, smoking, gassing or using forced air to blast them out the hives.
Many bees are injured, squashed or otherwise killed during the conquest of their home.

When the honey is taken from the bees and they are not killed, the bees are left without their food. As a substitute for this, bees whose honey have been taken away are fed water with sugar, a deficient substitute which significantly harms the bees’ health since it lacks the essential nutrients, fats and vitamins of honey.
Honey bees are adapted to warmer climate, and therefore ‘beekeeping’ during winter, especially in cold countries, puts them in much strain. The bees’ technic of keeping the hive warm is simply vibrating to generate heat, like shivering. This requires a lot of energy, but their food –honey – was stolen, leaving them even more vulnerable.
The “winter loss” the industry deems “acceptable” is about 15% of hives, and some years it’s twice as high.

Artificial Insemination

The industry creates new generations of queen bees by artificial insemination.
The favored method of obtaining bee sperm is to pull off the males’ heads: decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system, causing sexual arousal. The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate, and the resulting liquid is collected in a hypodermic syringe to be inserted into the female.
Small metal instruments are used to open the queen’s “sting chamber” and insert the syringe, which makes this experience very stressful for her. The queen is actually being raped.

Swarming

Bees cannot escape from captivity by just flying away because single bees cannot make it on their own, and a whole group cannot escape since the “beekeepers” are preventing what is called swarming – which is when the queen leaves the colony with many worker bees – by clipping the wings of the queen. Clipping is often done using a “baldock cage”, this is a ring with sharp spikes on its perimeter and a mesh covering the opening of the ring. This is used to trap the queen in one place, her wings are then cut with scissors. Other methods for wing clipping include using a plunger and a tube with a mesh end which the queen is held against as her wings are clipped.
“Beekeepers” often kill the old queen and replace her with a new one (older queens are much more likely to swarm than younger ones).
Preventing swarming is particularly important for bee exploiters since not only would they lose about half of “their” bees, but also since bees do not produce honey during the intense preparation of swarming.

Queens

The queens are bought from commercial ‘queen suppliers’. Hundreds of queens are kept in cages waiting to be shipped around the country. After arrival at the post office or shipping depot, they suffer from overheating, cold, getting banged around and exposed to insecticides.
Queens can live for five years but most “beekeepers” kill and replace them after one year. The reasons are to gain control over the colony and to keep honey production at maximum. Artificial pheromones are also used to keep the colonies under human control.

Other Products

As is the “norm” with animal exploitation industries, humans try to squeeze any possible profit from the beings they exploit. Bees are exploited for much more than honey:

  • Bee Pollen is collected from flowers and brought back to the hive as a load on the hind legs. It is an important food source for the bees, which is needed for survival. The collection of pollen involves fitting special traps in the hive, in order to scrape the pollen from the bees’ backs.
  • Bee Venom is the sting of the bee. Its collection involves the stretching of an electrically-charged membrane in front of the hive. When the bees fly into it they receive an electric shock and sting the membrane, thus depositing the venom. Venom is mostly used in medical substances and some beauty and “anti-aging” products.
  • Royal Jelly is a creamy-white sticky fluid, which is made from a blend of two secretions from the glands of the worker bees. It is the sole source of nourishment for the queen bee throughout her life. Since royal jelly enables the bee to become a queen, some people believe they can recapture their youth by eating it.
  • Beeswax is secreted by bees to build their hives. The grayish-brown wax is secreted by the bee to construct honeycombs. Beeswax is used in some candles and many “natural” cosmetics (which are marked as “no animal products”) as well as some food products and pharmaceuticals.
    This compels the bees to keep working to produce more and more wax to make up for the wax stolen from them.
  • Propolis is a resinous substance gathered by bees from trees. It is used to fill holes, and varnish and strengthen the hive. Bees also use it as a natural antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal agent. It is gathered by humans either by scraping it off the hive or by collecting it on specially made frames. It is used by humans for medical uses as well as the production of cosmetics and special varnishes. Again, their extraction compels the bees to go and pick more for the hive to be kept safe.
  • Bee Brood is made of the bodies of bees in the different early stages in their development including eggs, larvae and pupae. The bodies of these bees are simply eaten.
  • Pollination is the most lucrative part of bees’ exploitation. It takes 6 million honeybee hives to pollinate just the almond trees, in the U.S alone, each spring. About a million of which must be trucked in from out of state. 60% of the annual income of 1,500 “beekeepers” comes from pollination. “Without the almond industry, the bee industry wouldn’t exist”, said one large-scale “beekeeper”

Honey is a classic example of the human character.
Humans commercially steal bees’ winter food source, merely to sweeten their own food.
Sweeter life for humans; genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, pesticides, poisoning, artificial food, rough handling, smoke, chemical repellents or air blast, transportation by air, rail, road and even by mail, and murder – for the Bees.

It is so natural for humans to steal from bees who have sweeter “sugar”.
It is so natural for humans to steal from the weak something so basic in order to provide something so marginal to the strong.

Humans don’t even understand how can it even be possible to steal from a bee.
For them the bees are giving humans the honey. Like chickens and eggs, cows and milk, sheep and wool, geese and down and so on. No questions. No criticism.

With all this violence being so natural and obvious for humans, isn’t it time for some questions and criticism over conventional activism?

 

The Actual Lives of Cultural Symbols

Being a significant symbol of the holiday, last year in Easter, we have focused on Eggs and the various Eggs Games. This year we’ll focus on another significant symbol of Easter – Rabbits.

The Easter Bunny origin is in pre-Christian fertility lore. Rabbits symbolize fertility and new life during the spring season in human culture.

But these are the actual lives of rabbits in human culture:

Rabbits in the flesh industry are doomed to spend their entire lives in huge corrugated iron sheds, known in the industry as “rabbitries” – where barren, wire battery cages are raised about a meter above the ground, often stacked two or three layers high.
Sometimes the sheds are open-sided, so the caged rabbits are exposed to extreme changes of temperature, light and noise. And in the rest, the rabbits never see day light.
This is the fate of more than one billion sentient individuals per year.
The formal numbers of the industry are one billion rabbits per year, but since many humans confine rabbits in their backyards, the informal numbers are probably much higher.

The bunnies are packed 6-8 in a cage measuring 2 ft x 3 ft x 18 ft high.
In the wild, female rabbits live in a three acres territory and males occupy a territory of eight acres. The small sized cages restrict the young rabbits’ movement and thus result in poor development of the thigh bone. Caged rabbits lose the ability to hop normally.
Abnormalities in the shape of the back and the ensuing pressure on the vertebral column may cause further injuries.
The Rabbits exploiters confine them in such small cages to severely restrict their movement. The industry’s math is very simple- less space = less movement = less energy spent = more weight = more  money.

Torments and Diseases

Rabbits in the meat industry suffer from space deprivation, poor ventilation, manipulated lighting, and etc. Consequently they exhibit a range of neurotic behaviors such as fur-plucking, ear-biting and self-mutilation. They become obese, get inflamed feet, have poor bone density, develop gastrointestinal and urinary dysfunction.

Caged rabbits can suffer from ulcerative pododermatitis (also called “sore hocks”) consisting of scab-covered ulcers on the hind legs. This is caused by the pressure of heavy body weight on a wire floor, or by excessive stamping of the feet by nervous rabbits.

Prolonged exposure to fumes (particularly ammonia) from urine and faeces, irritate the rabbits’ eyes and respiratory tracts and predisposes them to disease.

In nature, rabbits’ way of dealing with dangers is by running and hiding in holes. The fact that they can’t do it in the cages causes panic with every change in the surrounding. When they are taken out of the cage or someone else is getting in or even to the slightest noise, rabbits often respond with digestive problems, in some cases hurting themselves or their babies, sometimes killing them.

An indication of how hard the conditions in the rabbits farms are – one in 4 rabbits will die due to the intensive conditions before the age of 12 weeks (rabbit’s slaughter age) even though they can reach up to 15 years of age.

The Lives of the Breeding Does

The industry’s way of “producing” more “meat bunnies” is by caging some does and bucks (female and male rabbits) in a solitary cage, and use them as a breeding stock.

In the wild, rabbits form social colonies that usually consist of one to three males and one to five females. Domestic rabbits retain the full range of behaviors of their wild ancestors, so housing rabbits singly in barren cages causes physiological and behavioral problems.

The nails of adult rabbits are trimmed to prevent them from holding on to the wire mesh of the cage when they are taken out to mate.

Young does are mated for the first time at the age of 16 weeks. Then they start their endless cycle of impregnation, gestation, birth, and nursing.
A typical litter consists of 8-10 bunnies which are taken away from their mother at 4 weeks of age. The does are fertile 24 hours after giving birth and are re-mated before each litter is weaned.

Does have an average ‘use-life’ of about 18 months. During this period, they will “produce” 8-15 litters. The gestation lasts for 32 days. An average litter reproduces 6-8 successfully fattened rabbits (out of 8-10 born bunnies). Production targets are of at least 45-50 rabbits per doe per year. Bucks are usually kept until they are 3 to 4 years old.

Killing

At the age of 12 weeks, weighting about 2kg, the rabbits are murdered.

Many Rabbits are forced to endure a journey of hundreds of miles since there are very few licensed rabbit slaughterhouses. The rabbits are crammed into crates that are stacked on each other in open vehicles and then transported for long distances.

The other option is not much better. In many cases the rabbits are slaughtered by the much less skilled farmers.

Rabbits that are slaughtered in commercial facilities undergo electrical stunning, which is supposed to render them unconscious, and then they are decapitated.
In smaller processing facilities or on-site slaughter, manual stunning methods are used. Two are recommended by the industry: twisting the rabbits’ necks to the point of cervical dislocation, or hitting the rabbits on the head with a piece of iron pipe.

After the stunning, the rabbits are hung by one of the hind legs above the hock joint. Then their throats are slit.

According to the USDA’s meat inspectors, some rabbits are fully conscious as they have hook jabbed through their leg muscles and possibly through the bone.

The rabbit meat industry is another example of the absurd duality of the human race.
Rabbits are considered to be one of the most adorable animals in the world.
You can find rabbit dolls in every toy store, one of the most popular characters among children is bugs bunny and rabbits are, unfortunately, very popular in the ‘petting zoo’ at kindergartens and elementary schools.

At the same stores humans are buying rabbit puppet dolls for their children, rabbit designed slippers for themselves or, especially now in Easter, rabbit shaped chocolate, they are also buying rabbit corpses.

Rabbits are means to humans’ ends in every possible way.
“Pets”, “Lab Animals”, clothes materials, stuffed dolls, or skinless rabbit hind legs.
Cute or not, rabbits have one role in this world, to pleasure humans.

Justice for Animals in a Nonideal World of Animal Rights Theories

Zoopolis, which was the topic of the last five posts, is the most familiar, and probably so far the most extensive and original attempt to suggest a theory of animal protection in the realm of political science. But it didn’t start the course, which some call ‘the political turn in animal ethics’. That is usually attributed to Robert Garner who wrote about the issue in mid-90’s.
In the following text we’ll address his book A Theory of Justice for Animals – Animal Rights in a Nonideal World from 2013, where he presents his theory for animal justice.

Garner starts formulating his theory of justice for animals by rejecting the two major objections to the claim that it is even relevant to apply principles of justice to animals:
The first – that justice is inappropriate for animals because it is a distributive concept involving, typically, material goods – is quickly dispensed with on the grounds that the distributional paradigm can be extended to include primary goods which clearly apply to animals. The second objection is that animals, not being moral agents, are incapable of agreeing and upholding principles of justice. For this reason, animals are excluded as recipients of justice in most contractarian theories of justice, and, most notably, the theory of justice provided by Rawls.”
This objection is dispensed by the argument from marginal cases: “One difficulty for Rawls here (and for contractarianism in general) is that insisting upon moral agency as an entry qualification for justice also has the effect of excluding some humans, such as the very young and the severely mentally disabled, so called “marginal” humans.”
In other words, if principles of justice don’t apply to beings who are not moral agents, then they shouldn’t apply to many humans as well, a conclusion humans find unacceptable. But to remain consistent, they must either accept the exclusion of some humans from principles of justice, or the inclusion of nonhuman animals. Obviously Garner is in the later camp.

The reason Garner insists on a theory of justice rather than sticking to the moral realm is that according to him, morality independent of justice is equivalent, in theory, to the voluntary character of charity. “The requirement to be just to animals means, in practice, that it is regarded as a pressing matter, one that should be considered compulsory and not left to individuals to decide if they want to abide by obligations. Moreover, it is incumbent on the state, above all, to ensure that animals are treated justly. Insofar as there are direct duties owed to animals within a moral realm independent of justice, they cannot be based on the principles of charity or compassion, since the decision to act so as to benefit animals according to these principles is entirely voluntary. No duties, in other words, are invoked.”

We agree that moral issues must be regarded as a pressing matter, one that should be considered compulsory and not left to individuals to decide if they want to abide by obligations, but taking this matter to the state level would practically mean that individual humans would feel that it is not their responsibility. On the face of it, had people been moral, compassionate and caring, then first of all, moral obligations to animals would indeed be regarded as a pressing matter (as opposed to the current indifference), and second, if the state they live in doesn’t see it that way, humans should replace their representatives to ones who do.
Obviously this claim is extremely naïve, but mostly because it replies to an even more naïve claim that “it is incumbent on the state, above all, to ensure that animals are treated justly” in a world where there has not even been one single state ever in history that ensured that humans, their own citizens, are treated justly.

Garner argues that we need to frame the obligations humans have to nonhuman animals in the language of justice, because justice entails legal compulsion. But humans have framed their obligations to other humans in the language of justice long ago, yet it didn’t entail legal compulsion in any state. We live in an extremely unjust world, a world where injustice to humans occurs every single minute, in every single state, so we fail to see why and how would the change of language of the obligations to animals succeed where it colossally failed when it comes to humans, despite that humans, generally speaking, do care about other humans.

Besides the issue of unprecedentedness (or failed precedent of justice, anywhere at any time along human history and for humans only), the very idea of reliance and emphasis on the state and on the legal system to bring justice is in itself unjust. That is because states, laws and rights are power based, discriminatory in their nature, and virtually are “the law of the strongest” in a civilized clothing, and as long as the political and legal system is human, it is bound to be unjust and speciesist.
Clearly, the very situation of humans representing animals’ interests, according to rules that humans and humans alone have shaped, is in itself utterly unjust. There can never be equality when one group decides everything for all the other groups. Inequality is inherent to an interspecies system where only one species makes all the rules.

Garner’s Sentience Position

After explaining why a theory of justice and not a moral one is what’s needed, Garner tries to strengthen his case by mentioning some disadvantages of specific moral theories commonly used to protect animals.
Regarding care ethics he claims that when separated from principles of justice, it is likely to lead to an illegitimate prioritization of humans’ particular relationships with other animals.
Regarding virtues ethics he claims that some prior ethical theory is needed to identify virtues and vices in the first place. In his words: “Without any prior moral standards, we could neither identify moral virtues nor determine their content.” He also mentions that virtue ethics, like care ethics, does not always provide a clear guide to action or moral judgment. And also that it is vulnerable to conflicts between virtues.
Regarding relational ethics he claims that it would have the implication that we owe no obligations – positive or negative – to those with whom we do not have a relationship. He quotes DeGrazia’s remarks on the matter: “giving extensive weight to social bonds might destabilize the moral status of many humans; unloved loners, people from very different cultures or highly isolated countries.” And of course, when it comes to nonhuman animals, it follows that animals with whom humans don’t have a relationship, have no moral worth at all.
Regarding utilitarianism he makes the famous claim that it neglects the individual. “Its aggregative character results in allowing “some people to be treated as less than equals, as a means to other people’s ends” (Rowlands, 2009: 42). In other words, the way that humans and animals are treated in utilitarianism is not a product of the characteristics they possess as individuals, “but of the effects of their treatment on others”.”
Regarding what he calls the species-egalitarian version of animal rights, he claims that it is “failing to take into account the importance of nonpersonhood interests, it fails to take into account the moral significance of those interests associated with persons. In other words, the species-egalitarian strand of animal rights is flawed because it is difficult to argue against the claim that the differences between “normal” adult humans and adult animals are substantial and are morally significant. In short, the level of complexity of an individual affects what can be a harm for it.
In particular, the fact that most animals lack the characteristics of personhood challenges the claim that they have equivalent levels of interest in life and liberty to “normal” humans. In other words, it is not possible to justify moral egalitarianism between humans and animals because it is not the case that humans and animals have equally important interests in life and liberty
.”
Another reason Garner rejects the rights-based species egalitarianism as a possible candidate for a theory of justice for animals is that it does not qualify as a realistic utopia (as it is unrealistic).

Hence, Garner suggests his own theory – The Sentience Position.
As its name suggests, it is based on the assumption that at least some nonhuman animals have an interest in not suffering. As a result, they have a prima facie interest in avoiding suffering that might be inflicted on them by humans. If we are prepared to say that humans have a right not to suffer at the hands of others, then, given that animals have a similar, although by no means identical, capacity to suffer, consistency demands that we also accord a right not to suffer to animals. If this is granted, and we do not try to identify additional interests animals possess to which we might attach a right, then this is a position claiming that what is wrong with our treatment of animals is not their use per se but is a product of what we do to them whilst they are being used.”

Garner’s theory of justice for animals is rights-based but as aforementioned non-egalitarian. That means that according to him: “… the opportunities account of the wrongness of killing suggests that humans have more to lose by death. As a result, it would be justified morally to choose the life of a human over an animal on the grounds that this would cause less harm“.
However, obviously that is not true. Given that humans are causing much more harm than any other animal, it would be utterly unjustified morally to choose the life of a human over another animal on the grounds that this would cause less harm.

Garner, like most others, considers only one part of the equation, the tiniest, and in our view the least important, ethically speaking, which is the effect on the agent, while totally ignoring the effects of the agent. This consideration is particularly partial and superficial when the case is of humans vs. nonhumans. Every being has a price tag, but humans’ is nonproportional to any other being.

Garner’s perspective stems from the ethical line of thought that the question in the center of morality is how to live a good life and not how to live while being good to others. When the question in the center of morality is of how one must live and not how one must treat others, then the focus in cases of conflict of interests is who can potentially live a better life, and not who can potentially cause less harm to others. When affecting others is in the center of ethical questions then the conclusion is totally different. Human life is not at all more important under this approach.

Life has no point or meaning whatsoever in cosmic terms, and nothing has any external justification in terms of purpose. No one and nothing is more important than anything or anyone else in cosmic or purposefulness terms. Everything and everyone exist for no reason or purpose, so there is no reason to prioritize humans for allegedly having superior capabilities since these, even if for the sake of the argument we’ll accept that exist, have no meaning or purpose in cosmic terms. It is not important that they would exist. Only experiences are morally relevant.
If there is no purpose to existence and everyone exists for no reason, then what we must focus on is how to make everyone’s existence as tolerable as possible by minimizing negative experiences. Since humans are nonproportionally causing most of the negative experiences in the world, actually they are supposed to be at the bottom of the hierarchy of moral consideration, not indisputably placed at the top. When causing suffering to others, and not the ability to experience other mental capacities by the self, is in the center, human life is not more important but less.
Humans increase suffering in the world, they increase the number of suffering beings in the world, they increase the individual suffering of individual beings in the world. However you frame it, clearly, human life is the worst.
We think it is at least a very substantial justification against human protection, most certainly against an equal protection.

Garner’s Speciesist Position

According to Garner the species egalitarian version of animal rights fails as an ethical theory not only because humans and animals differ in ways that are morally relevant such as that normal adult humans possess a greater interest in life and liberty than most animals and that this ought to be reflected in the calculation of the respective moral importance of humans and animals, but also because it does not pass the realistic utopia test. “That is, the species-egalitarian version of animal rights, irrespective of whether it is a valid ethical position, requires too much of human beings, necessitating a transformation of what would seem to be our natural tendency to put our species, at least in some instances, first morally. That is, it fails to take into account the shared heritage of humanity that, from time immemorial, has used animals. In the language of communitarianism, it fails to take into account the history of narrative life stories.”
And he quotes Alasdair MacIntyre to strengthen his point: “I inherit from the past of my family, my city, my tribe, my nation, a variety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations. These constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point.” And adds himself: “Animals have certainly played a part in these narrative life stories, but they have never been the moral equal of humans.”
But we think it doesn’t strengthen his point. The fact that humans are biased to be speciesist doesn’t justify a speciesist theory. All along history, white straight men prioritized their own group first, but no one thinks white supremacy is therefore morally justified. We fail to understand how this argument is not, in the least bad case, a naturalistic fallacy and in the worst case utterly speciesist.

However, as rationally and morally indefensible as this claim may be, it is also practically inevitable. Humans indeed inherit from their past, their family, their tribe, their nation, a variety of inheritances that constitute the given of their life, and their moral starting point.
For that, among other reasons, it is hard to disagree that indeed the species-egalitarian version of animal rights requires too much of human beings. Not in the sense that there is something wrong with demanding humans species-egalitarianism, but in a sense of humans being way too inherently speciesist for such a demand to ever be implemented.

Having said that, that doesn’t mean that we should focus on a nonideal theory for animal justice, as Garner urges us to do, assisted by another political philosopher called Jonathan Wolff whom he quotes: “the task for the political philosopher is not to design the best possible world, but to design the best possible world starting from here.”
Designing the best possible world starting from here, is hardly likely to serve any justice for billions of animals for whom ‘here’ is the aggregated history of exploitation and suffering. It is hardly unlikely that the victims would suffice with such a task, which is more likely to serve the victimizers. It is more likely that victims would seek for an ideal theory and wouldn’t understand why must they compromise, at their own expense, on what the victimizers, and the victimizers alone, view as the best possible world, all the more so when the victimization is as old as the victimizers are, and is unproportionate to any other case of victimization ever in history.

From here, can only be different levels of nonideal lives for the victims. From here, can only be compromises at the expense of the victims, without hearing their say. From here, can only be discussions between humans over how many nonhumans humans are willing to sacrifice.

Garner’s conceptualization is speciesist, since he turns the whole issue to be about some humans advocating for an ideal theory of justice for animals, and others advocating for a nonideal one. In his terms it is about what humans are willing to do instead of about what nonhumans need and are likely to be willing to accept. And we find it hard to believe that they would be willing to compromise on his nonideal theory. In fact, we find it hard to believe that they would be willing to even consider it as nonideal, a term only humans can use, since for the victims, no theory is ideal, certainly not one that permits using them for humans’ purposes, or that doesn’t even pretend to provide an egalitarian state of affairs, and starts looking at things ‘from here’ – an extremely speciesist world in which they are systematically exploited by humans.

No theory is ideal, even the ones who advocate for a vegan world, and that is because it is always humans who are setting the standards, it is always humans who are determining which suffering is necessary despite that it is highly doubtful that anyone but humans would accept any of it as necessary, not to mention as just. Clearly this is always the case, under all theories. It is inherent to the world, but it is still fucked up and that’s why this world is so inherently fucked up.
This claim is not a theoretical stubborn insistency on an ideal theory, there are real victims, numerous of them, behind these cruel compromises. Behind each harm that humans determine as necessary, there are billions of victims, and to none of which was it necessary. Arguing that there is nothing to do about the suffering of billions of nonhuman animals in the plant based agriculture due to humans’ need to eat, is kind of might is right. Clearly, for the victims of human civilization, in the plant based food industry, in the clothing industry, due to human construction, transportation, leisure, entertainment and etc., nothing is necessary.
Was it up to them, the standard was much much higher than a vegan world with no experiments and no use of animals in the clothing and entertainment industries. Most probably, they would at least demand that humans would live just as any other species in terms of population size, living space, resources use, and effect on other species and their environment.
In other words, only if and when humans live like any other species, would it be relevant to discuss egalitarianism and necessary suffering.

There is nothing necessary about anything that humans are doing. It is necessary that a human would feed oneself as long as s/he lives, but humans can feed themselves with what other apes are feeding themselves, meaning whatever is growing in their restricted living area. It is not necessary that they would feed themselves by driving to a supermarket, and consume products consisted of double digits ingredients with each being transported from a different part of the world, each being grown in a different farm, each being sprayed with several chemicals, being processed several times, wrapped with several packages, some of which made out of nonbiodegradable materials that would affect sentient beings for hundreds of years ahead. None of this is necessary by a non-speciesist measure.

The inequality is inherent because it is impossible to live without hurting other sentient beings. That is the case even when living in small numbers, in a small territory, with a small footprint. And it is certainly the case when it comes to humans who each of them, including vegans, has a tremendous footprint, nonproportional to any other being from any other species.

Injustice to animals is everywhere and in everything. Every aspect of humans’ lives is bound with injustice to nonhumans. Not just factory farming but any type of farming is unjust. The levels of discrimination obviously largely differ, but excluding nonhumans from a particular area, tearing out the native vegetation and planting ones that suit humans’ desires and not necessarily the needs of the native residents of the region, fencing the area, constantly poisoning nonhumans in it, changing the composition of the soil, dividing the nearby lands with roads to the farms, plundering water from other habitats, making noises with heavy machinery, crushing nonhumans with heavy machinery, polluting the area with humans’ waste of many kinds and etc. are all unquestionably forms of an unjust discrimination.

Therefore even what Garner considers as an ideal theory of justice is super anthropocentric. And such an anthropocentric approach can be considered ideal, so ideal that according to Garner it is utopic, only because the world is so speciesist.

The idea that since humans are not gods on the face of the earth but just another species, they must live as such, and anything beyond that can’t be justified morally and actually is a violation of distributive justice, doesn’t even get any mentioning, not even among the utopian unrealistic ideal theories. And that is while in fact, such a theory should be considered as a nonideal one, which some activists may argue that we need to compromise on, because an ideal theory is one which suggests no suffering at all. So the disputation is supposed to be between the ideal theory which is of a world where no human ever causes any suffering to anyone, and a nonideal theory which is of a world where humans keep causing suffering to some animals but only as part of them being just another animal in an inherently violent world of limited resources, not because they are still controlling each and every inch of it.
Practically, both theories are not even mentioned. Not only in Garner’s book, or in others’ books, but almost never, by anyone.

The issue is supposed to be about the victims, not about some of the opinions of some of the victimizers. If we can’t provide a theory that suggests a state of affairs that suffice the victims then the theory is not morally justified. And indeed we can’t. That’s one of the main reasons we exist as a movement. There is no and there could be no ideal theory of justice since the inequity is inherent, and not only to the political and social sphere of the matter, but to the very essence of life. It is impossible to exist not at the expense of other sentient beings, and so it is impossible for a truly ideal theory of justice to ever come up, not to mention to ever be implemented.

There is no valid ethical theory in this world. Morally, humans mustn’t violate the rights of others, but practically they can’t avoid it. For humans to exist, others must suffer. But humans are not morally entitled to compromise on others’ lives. They just do.
A world in which humans are inherently bound to do what they morally mustn’t, is a world that they shouldn’t exist in.

Citizens of Hell – A Critical Review of Zoopolis – Part 5

The following post is the fifth and last part in a series of posts dedicated to the book Zoopolis. If you haven’t read the previous ones, it is recommended that you do so before reading the following text, especially if you haven’t read the book Zoopolis itself.
In this part we’ll focus on the third Zoopolis’ citizenship category ­– Denizenship for what they refer to as “liminal” animals.

But first, who are they referring to when they talk about “liminal” animals?
This domestic/wild dichotomy ignores the vast numbers of wild animals who live amongst us, even in the heart of the city: squirrels, raccoons, rats, starlings, sparrows, gulls, peregrine falcons, and mice, just to name a few. If we add in suburban animals, such as deer, coyotes, foxes, skunks, and countless others, it becomes clear that we are not dealing with a few anomalous species here, but rather a large variety of non-domesticated species who have adapted to life amongst humans. Wild animals live, and always have lived, amongst us. We will call this group liminal animals, to indicate their in-between status, neither wilderness animals nor domesticated animals. Sometimes they live amongst us because humans have encroached on or encircled their traditional habitat, leaving them no choice but to adapt as best they can to human settlement. But in other cases, wild animals actively seek out areas of human settlement, which may offer greater food sources, shelter, and protection from predators as compared with traditional wilderness habitat.”
Or In other words: “Liminal animals are those who have adapted to life amongst humans, without being under the direct care of humans.

And they add that:
“liminal animals come into view only when their numbers or behavior turn them into ‘pests’. In other words, they are visible when they become a problem, but invisible as ubiquitous members of the community. We have paid remarkably little attention to the diversity of these animals, the kinds of spaces they inhabit, and the ways we interact with them-from the mice who inhabit our houses, to the sparrows and feral pigeons who scavenge in city cores, to the deer and coyotes who thrive in the suburbs, to the countless species who have evolved in symbiosis with traditional agricultural practices (e.g., the birds, rodents, and small mammals who feed on agricultural crops, and the larger mammals and raptors who prey on them in turn).”

We find it a little bit surprising that a political model for the relations of humans and nonhumans focused much more on domesticated and “wild” animal than on liminal animals, as at least our intuition was that it would be the other way around, given that many activists think that there shouldn’t be domesticated animals and that “wild” animals should be left alone, and so, if anything, the ones which truly need a special political attention are animals who are neither of which, animals that allegedly aren’t directly exploited by humans, or allegedly live independently and with no direct contact with humans.
Obviously this is not really the case but that is how it is generally viewed by the animal rights theory, so we thought liminal animals would get most of the attention in the book. However, it seems that liminal animals get less attention, not only in the book but also in its reviews and critiques. Having said that, it is to their credit that they have at least addressed this neglected issue. They deeply comprehend that there always have been, and always will be, animals who adapt to live near humans, and/or would be drawn to the opportunities offered by humans’ waste disposal, agricultural, and resource management practices, and that humans can’t keep ignoring that. What they don’t deeply comprehend is that denizenship, or any other political option can never solve that problem.

From Pests to Denizens?

According to Donaldson and Kymlicka, the just political model for this group of animals can’t be sovereignty like in the case of “wild” animals since their habitat is human cities, backyards and houses. And it can’t be citizenship like in the case of domesticated animals since that presupposes a level of sociability and interaction with humans that most liminal animals are unable of, or is undesirable for them.
Therefore what they do suggest is:
We argue that the best way to conceptualize this relationship is in terms of denizenship. Liminal animals are co-residents of human communities but not co-citizens. They belong here amongst us, but are not one of us. Denizenship captures this distinctive status, which is fundamentally different from either co-citizenship or external sovereignty. Like citizenship, denizenship is a relationship that should be governed by norms of justice, but it is a looser sort of relationship, less intimate or cooperative, and therefore characterized by a reduced set of rights and responsibilities

They are aware of the problematics regarding this group of animals:
One problem, already noted, is that these animals are invisible in our everyday worldview. Given the way we draw a dichotomy between nature and human civilization, urban space is defined precisely in opposition to what is wild and natural. We therefore do not see liminal animals, at least when thinking and talking about how to design and govern our societies. For example, urban design rarely, if ever, gives any consideration to the impact of human decisions on liminal animals, and urban planners are rarely trained to consider these issues. As a result, liminal animals are often the victims of inadvertent harms from our buildings, roads, wires, fences, pollution, rogue pets, and so on. Qua species, liminal animals may have adapted to these dangers of life with humans, but many individuals die gruesome and unnecessary deaths.

They are also aware of the problematics regarding their suggested solution, yet still propose it:
Denizenship can quickly become a source of exploitation and oppression if the rights and responsibilities are defined in such a way as to consign denizens to the status of a permanently subordinated caste group. But where the rights and responsibilities are reduced in a more reciprocal way, and done in order better to accommodate the distinctive interests of denizens themselves, then denizenship can serve as a vehicle for just relationships.”

The chances for animals who are currently mostly considered by humans as “pests” – a status which has nothing to do with the animals’ qualities but is mostly depended upon their quantities, as the more there are of them the more likely it is they are regarded as pests – to be considered as denizens are extremely small.
And regarding urban design, the chances that humans would start to plan their cities with any consideration to the impact on liminal animals, are also extremely small, that is especially so when more and more urban areas show less and less consideration for the common human. When even humans are barely considered when cities are planned, growing, and being renovated, when more and more cities are becoming spaces for rich people, private cars, corporations and shopping malls instead of for pedestrians, bicycles, public transportation, small enterprises and etc. (there are some improvements in some cities in recent years but that is an improvement after a serious deterioration that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place, and it is very marginal), it is extremely unlikely that nonhumans would be taken under serious consideration.

The implications of these considerations are very far-reaching as animals live everywhere and are hurt by everything humans are doing.

Many animals who live in cities do not see its roadways as off-limits.
Millions upon millions of animals are run over on roadways in cities every year including squirrels, opossums, porcupines, boars, mice, and pigeons.
And the harm that roadways inflict on animals is not limited to direct hits. The loud noise, strong lights at night, pollution and fear are also very harmful.
The transportation system is enough of an inherent feature of human society to condemn it as irrevocably harmful to “liminal” animals. But there are others.

Tree trimming is another urban example of harm to “liminal” animals. Humans trim or cut down trees every once in a while with no consideration to the trees’ inhabitants which are mostly birds but also mice, worms, beetles, ants, squirrels and etc. Trimming often results in exposing bird nests to predators or in the worst case in cutting off the branches that hold the nest.

It is not very likely that humans would be willing to forsake clean pavements, clean cars and of course clear view from their windows, for the sake of nonhumans.
And it is even much less likely in cases of animals living, or even temporarily lodging, inside their houses.

During spring, female raccoons look for a safe place to give birth and nurture their babies. They find the warmth and comfort of humans’ houses to be a perfect substitute for a natural den.
Humans are very unwelcoming. Raccoons are considered as pests by humans because they fear they might destroy their house insulation, damage the roof while gaining access to the house, chew holes into soffits, rip apart ducts, because they leave their feces in large communal piles on roofs, decks, attics, woodpiles, and etc., because some humans falsely believe that raccoons are common carriers of rabies, and that they might attack their dog or cat.

And since Donaldson and Kymlicka are in favor of humans owning chickens, another concern relevant in a zoopolis world is that raccoons would manage to reach them and kill them.

Raccoons are smart, extremely adaptable, fast-growing in population, and are opportunistic eaters meaning their diet is determined by the environment they live in. Raccoons will eat almost anything they can find, their main target in cites is garbage, bird feeders, and unattended pet food. All that makes them very common in urban environments, and not very likely to leave gently.

Suggestions such as installing a motion-activated bright light or a loud alarm, taking advantage of raccoons’ sensitive eyes and hearing, are harmful. And other, less harmful measures are practically irrelevant. There is no reason to believe that humans, who despite that most of them view raccoons as pests, don’t make sure that their trash cans are locked, their attic is keyed, the vents are sealed, that there are no loose shingles and that if there are ones they immediately repair them, that there is no way to get in through the chimney, or dwell in wall voids or under the decks, or whatever, that don’t regularly clean the yard of any piles of debris or leaves since it can serve as perfect hiding spots and dwellings for raccoons, and don’t keep all food indoors all the time, will decide to take responsibility since if raccoons would get into to their house they would have to be forcefully removed.

And of course raccoons are just an example of a “liminal” animal. Other species such as Coyotes, Sparrows, Bobcats, Boars, Ref Foxes, Baboons (very common in Cape Town for example), Rhesus (very common in India for example), Martens (very common in central Europe), Squirrels, and of course Mice and Rats, are also very common in cities. Humans may have different issues with each species but the principle is the same. And humans will not compromise their comfort, let alone in their own houses, for the sake of nonhumans.

And it is not very likely that humans would compromise their comfort outside their houses either, for example in public spaces.
According to the World Health Organization after air pollution, noise is the largest environmental cause of health problems. Besides obvious impacts such hearing impairment and sleep disorder, excessive noise can also cause mood swings, insomnia, depression, and stress related illnesses. In 2018, the American College of Cardiology linked noise pollution to a range of cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke and coronary heart disease. Animals living in cities are harmed by noise just as much.
Studies have long ago linked excessive noise to poor health among human city dwellers. But only very recently a comprehensive study regarding the impact of noise on animals has been published. The meta-study, which was conducted by scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, and published in the scientific journal Biology Letters, covered 108 studies of 109 species, which were divided into seven groups: amphibians, arthropods, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and molluscs. The researchers looked at studies that measured changes in species’ behavior, or other traits such as hormone levels before and after exposure to noise. Then, they took all the calculations and put them together. It appears that all seven groups were impacted by anthropogenic noise.
Birds, frogs and insects that rely on sound for communication are particularly harmed by noise pollution. If birds can’t hear because of the noise of the traffic, they fail to hear their chicks crying for food, or other birds’ warning of a predator.
The researchers suggest that noise pollution affecting animals is the norm, not the exception.

Noise pollution, along with light pollution, which is another major harm for animals living in cites, disrupt many animals normal sleep–wake cycle, which causes many of them various behavioral and health issues. In addition, both pollutions, decrease animals’ sleeping duration and as a consequence decrease their immune system strength.

A different study (The association between telomere length and cancer risk in population studies from 2016) found that nestlings of House Sparrow who were reared under traffic noise had reduced telomere length when compared with their unexposed neighbors, an effect that could be mediated by oxidative stress. Shorter telomeres have been linked to increased vulnerability of several types of cancer. In addition, noise exposure increased stress hormone levels and suppressed cellular immunity in tree frogs according to a study called Effects of traffic noise on tree frog stress levels, immunity and color signaling from 2017, and both of these effects are generally considered to be cancer risk factors.

Noise pollution is not the only reason Cancer is found in more and more animals who live in cities.
Urban environment, which is one of the leading causes of Cancer among humans, also effects cancer rates among nonhumans. Animals that are in contact with humans live in a disturbed, resource-rich environment, with an increased exposure to chemical pollution, artificial light at night, novel food sources including processed foods and sugar-rich foods, and changes in infection patterns, all are environmental factors that favor carcinogenesis.

“Liminal” animals live near humans because of the high food quantities, however the food quality is low.
Inappropriate nutrition (high levels of processed fat, low levels of protein, vitamins, antioxidants and other essential nutrients) can lead to depletion of fat reserves, poor body condition and decrease in innate and acquired immune responses in animals. According to the studies: Nutritional physiology and ecology of wildlife in a changing world from 2017, and Linking anthropogenic resources to wildlife-pathogen dynamics from 2015,  at the global level, animals in regions with the highest human densities and per capita food losses are most affected by those anthropogenic factors.

Pollutants are known to cause cancer in humans, and evidences that similar pathways are also affecting the health of animals have been accumulating. Familiar examples include the effects of water pollution with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated byphenyl and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethanes on cancer cases among fishes (according to the study Dermal melanoma with schwannoma-like differentiation in a brown bullhead catfish), as well as mammals (according to the studies: The role of organochlorines in cancer-associated mortality in California sea lions from 2005 and Sentinel California sea lions provide insight into legacy organochlorine exposure trends and their association with cancer and infectious disease from 2015). However, most of the numerous pollutants found in urban environments are unexplored in relation to nonhumans, so the prevalence of Cancer is probably much higher. For example, the mixture of pollutants found in the air of cities, which predominantly come from local vehicular traffic in urban areas, and includes emission of gases, particles, volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, many of which are considered as carcinogens, were not examined in relation to nonhumans. An increased risk of lung cancer associated with exposure to outdoor air pollutants has been consistently found in several studies on humans, and it would have probably found the same result if examined among nonhumans.
The few studies that have been done on other agents present in air pollution such as benzene, kerosene, toluene and xylenes, have found them to be associated with mammary carcinomas in rodents.
And another study has found an association of traffic-related air pollution with an increase in the incidence of lung adenoma and tumour multiplicity of urethane-induced adenomas among mice.

In humans, the link between artificial light at night (ALAN) and cancer was first established in female employees working rotating night shifts (Missing the dark: health effects of light pollution from 2009) and was recently also confirmed in the context of urbanization (Light and the city: breast cancer risk factors differ between urban and rural women, from 2017). The increased breast cancer risk in female night shift workers has been postulated to result from the suppression of pineal melatonin production. Melatonin, a hormone present in all vertebrates and also in bacteria, protozoa, plants, fungi and invertebrates, is involved in the regulation of circadian rhythms; it peaks at night and is suppressed by light. Direct links between artificial light at night, melatonin and cancer prevalence have not been established for animals so far, however, there are several studies showing changes in the levels of hormones that have been related to cancer in humans.

Another example of a major urban harm is skyscrapers.
Up to one billion birds die in glass collisions every year in the US alone. Many of which are “wild” birds but many others are what they refer to as “liminal” animals.
Some birds collide with buildings since they are attracted to or distracted by the buildings’ bright lights at night. Even if the dazed birds don’t die from the violent collisions, some circle the illuminated buildings and eventually die of exhaustion.
Other birds collide with buildings during daytime as they get confused by the buildings’ clear, reflective glass.

In a way, skyscrapers are to birds, what cars are for numerous land animals – ­assassin tools.

Humanity must turn off the lights at night, and change all the clear windows into dimmer ones. Both are extremely unlikely to ever happen. The corporate world wants the glass to look shiny and mirrored because that is a symbol of productivity and prosperity. And as usual with humans, nonhumans pay the price for their careless and violent desires and preferences. Nonhumans pay the price for humans’ taste, in food, in cloths, entertainment, and even architecture.

The main reason so many animals are living near humans is food availability.
Donaldson and Kymlicka suggest that humans would try to minimize food availability in order to prevent conflicts , however, food management can’t solve the problem because many animals are not coming to cities just for the food but in many cases for the weather.
Cities are known for their urban heat island effect, a phenomenon that in some cases can turn city centers as much as 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than areas surrounding them. Concrete and asphalt surfaces absorb rather than reflect sunlight during the day, storing it as heat, and release that heat at night. In addition, industries, vehicles and air conditioners are pumping out more heat, while buildings block out cooling winds. The heat island effect makes cites attractive for many animals in cold areas.
Humans are not likely to ever take that under consideration and currently even when it comes to food management the trend is the exact opposite. Piles of agricultural waste are left behind right after the harvest since only a small part of the harvested plant is used.
And of the food that actually leaves the farms’ gates about 30% is lost either by spoilage or wasteful processing. Studies regarding high-income countries estimate that the amount of loss can reach 50%.
And on the consumer level, the amounts of household waste consecutively grow every year. Each person in the US is responsible for 2Kg of garbage a day – twice the amount that was made four decades ago. The western European produces about 1.3kg per day.
About two thirds of the household waste is food waste.

This world is humans’ world in every possible aspect. Human footprint is all over this planet. Everyone is hurt by them somehow. The problem with humans is everything.

Donaldson and Kymlicka suggest some measures to avoid some of the conflicts:
human communities may erect barriers and create disincentives in order to limit the population of incoming liminal animals. For example, we can dramatically increase monitoring of international travel and shipping to prevent stowaways. We can use physical barriers to discourage in-migration from wild areas that brush up against highly populated human centres. We can reduce incentives that attract migrating animals to human communities. (For example, we can stop creating expansive lawns of Kentucky blue grass next to ponds-a microenvironment which is irresistible to the Canada goose.) Or we can use active disincentives (e.g., noise blasters, off-leash dog parks) to discourage liminal migrants from landing or settling.”

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, none of their options is to drastically decrease the human population so there would be as little clashes as possible. A dramatic decrease in human population can also assist with other crucial measures such as a much better waste management, a much better sewage management, locked trash cans, sealed roofs, covered porches and etc.
There are already many good reasons to do all of the above, and much more, for humans own sake, yet they choose not to, so they are definitely not going to do it for nonhumans sake.

What they are willing to do is use active disincentives such as noise blaster to discourage “liminal” migrants from landing or settling – a terrible option which shouldn’t have been suggested by Donaldson and Kymlicka in the first place. Most of the “liminal” animals didn’t invade territories in which humans have lived, but the other way around, or that they were pushed into them by human habitat destruction and so had no other options. Their “choice” of being “liminal” is largely a result of human occupation of the planet. So suggesting such an option is not only legitimizing human occupation, but also blasting nonhumans with noise when they are coming to claim their share.

There is no such thing as “no man’s land” (in itself an outstandingly speciesist term), animals live and lived everywhere. Humans’ “sovereignties” are simply occupied territories.

Even if humanity would decide to seriously consider the harms to “liminal” animals, something which is extremely unlikely as currently most of them are considered by most of humanity as “pests”, many problems are unavoidable. And that is especially the case if we don’t focus on nonhumans who live inside human communities only, but also on nonhumans who live near and off human communities. Most of the “liminal” animals are harmed by human activists which are not necessarily within their communities but as a result of them. Or put more simply, most “liminal” animals are harmed by agriculture, an activity which humans can’t do without, and so it is an unsolvable harm.

Agriculture – The Greatest Harm to “Liminal” Animals

We should not recklessly put ourselves in situations where we are likely to face lethal conflicts with animals, and we should make reasonable efforts to identify practices that would allow us to reduce existing conflicts, in order that, to the extent possible, we can respect the inviolable rights of animals.”
That means no industrial development and more importantly no more agriculture as both are undoubtedly situations where humans are not likely to face lethal conflicts, but are utterly lethal conflicts.

As hard as it is for us, as vegans ourselves, to say and for some activists to accept, plant based agriculture is far from being a cruelty free option. In fact veganism is actively encouraging one of the largest systems of human domination worldwide, which systematically hurts billions of sentient beings. Eating a vegan meal is participating in a long and complex web of intensive food production.

Animals who live in or near agriculture lands (exactly because they are there), are considered as “liminal” animals, and numerous of them are harmed by various agriculture practices.
The first stages of agricultural cultivation are tillage and plowing, which means in simple words, intentionally breaking the soil and turning it over. Tillage practices can carve up as deep as a meter and a half (5 feet) into the ground in order to bring deeper soil layers to the surface. This invasive procedure is accomplished with massive machinery as moldboard, disks or chisel plow (also called rippers) which destroy everything and everyone who is “in the way”. In fact one of the formal functions of tillage is to destroy nests, dens and burrows, home to countless sentient beings.

The purpose of the plowing process which is done repeatedly before planting or seeding, is to change the soil formation, to warm it, and to provide a seedbed. After the seeding, the soil will be plowed again a few more times, to prevent “weeds” from growing.

After the heavy machines tilled and plowed, other heavy machines go across the land planting seeds. The same seeds, over and over. Each time these heavy machines go over the land they might run animals over, or destroy their nests, dens and burrows.

The water waste of animal “agriculture” is notorious, but plant based agriculture also places a huge strain on water resources. Humans’ water plundering deprives nonhumans of food and cover as vegetation is also severely affected by the water scarcity.

Irrigation also worsens the pollution damage made by the agriculture chemicals (mostly fertilizers), by increasing the wash off to the surrounding area, where many nonhumans live.
Many chemicals are used during several agriculture stages, and all of them are harmful in one way or another. But the most familiar harmful chemicals are obviously pesticides.

Humans have been poisoning the world while feeding themselves, for about 4,500 years now.
Overall pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950 and now more than 2.5 million tons are used each year. Several cycles of pesticide sprays during one crop cycle is not uncommon, and sometimes the seeds are even sprayed before planting.

Today it is estimated that the agricultural chemical industry is producing about 50,000 different commercial products based on approximately 900 active ingredients. All of which do what they are designed for and kill any plant that competes over resources, and any animal that attempts to make use of the land and plants that humans systematically rob from the other species.

And pesticides do much more than that. They have devastative effects on plants and animals all over the world, as some of them are easily carried by wind, rain and animals that consumed them and managed to get out of the poisoned area and unintentionally disperse them.
Rains wash some pesticides into ground and surface waters. A potent insecticide (poison which targets insects) named neonicotinoids was found in 17 out of 23 rivers in the UK, and in 74% of samples of water from the Great Lakes.
Some pesticides decompose slowly and remain in the environment for years, where they tend to bio-accumulate in the tissues of animals.

Another type of pesticides is herbicides, substances which are designed to kill species of plants not animals, however while killing plants that compete with the desired crop for light, water, nutrients, and space (and therefore are considered as pests), they are harming any animal which makes use of these plants. Herbicides dramatically change plants spread, some are critical for the local animals, and destroy the resources they depend upon, mostly habitat, food and cover from predators.

Organic agriculture, which is viewed by many as a magical solution, doesn’t avoid using potent chemicals as pesticides and herbicides which are still harmful to the ones they are intended to target, as well as many others. The difference is that, these compounds are “natural” and are considered unharmful to humans, as if it matters to the poisoned animals.

To avoid the use of chemical pesticides some farmers use “alternative” methods of “pest control” including “biocontrol” which is mostly predation and parasitism, and a huge range of traps from the common leg trap that snaps as someone treads upon it, to creative mechanisms that shoot sharp spears once triggered, scissor-like knifes that shuts firmly or a noose-like loop that tightens and chokes. Those inquisition devices are spread by the dozens on each hectare when “necessary”. In many cases the traps are covered and sometimes they contain baits. Usually they are placed right on top of burrows entrances or inside them, leaving no chance for the rodents who live there.

Burrows, which are the farmers’ main target, are also attacked by varied toxic gases, liquids called fumigants and also with foaming agents which are pumped into the burrow system, quickly filling it entirely. Smoke bombs are also used. All the burrow’s entrances are sealed shut making sure there is no way to escape suffocation and that the highly dangerous substances won’t be inhaled by humans. Even flammable gases such as propane are sometimes injected with a hose into the burrows and then ignited.
Flooding or burning fields have several “benefits”, among them is the fact that they serve as “pest control” methods.

Even if many of these methods are outlawed in a zoopolis world, does it make sense that it would be possible to produce sufficient amounts of food without any conflict of interests?
Obviously the population of nonhumans is a function of the available resources. Without any use of pesticides of any kind, if humans would allow all nonhumans to share all the crops they are raising, there would be none left for them. Agriculture can’t avoid conflict of interests.

Donaldson and Kymlicka write:
What precisely this will require of us will vary considerably. For those of us who live in wealthy urban environments, the vast bulk of our daily interactions with animals clearly falls within the circumstances of justice. For those living in more remote areas alongside potentially aggressive wildlife, or in poorer societies without adequate infrastructure (e.g., waste disposal, impermeable housing barriers), the necessities of daily life may create more regular risks of lethal conflict, and greater measures would be needed to extend the circumstances of justice. In each case, there is a duty to sustain and extend the circumstances of justice, so as to respect as far as possible the inviolable rights of animals, but obviously more can be expected and demanded of those of us living in more propitious circumstances.”

None of us is really living in more “propitious circumstances” as all of us have to eat, and all food necessitates lethal conflicts. So everyone, including of course humans who live in urban environments, is depended upon less “propitious circumstances”.
In a world in which everyone lives at the expense of others it is impossible to respect the inviolable rights of animals. The idea of inviolable rights is basically oxymoronic. It can’t exist in a world based on violence, where beings constantly compete with each other over resources, not to mention that for many, other beings are the resources. Violence is a derivative of life’s most basic element – consuming energy. It is impossible for any being to live on this planet without hurting someone else and this ambition is particularly absurd when it comes to humans, whose massive and violent footprint is with no comparison to any other being, even those of vegans with a very high environmental awareness.

“Liminal” animals, like “wild” animals and most definitely domesticated animals, don’t need humans to frame them in a political model, they need humans to disappear.

Citizens of Hell – A Critical Review of Zoopolis – Part 4 – Sovereign Communities

The following post is the fourth part in a series of posts dedicated to Zoopolis. If you haven’t read the previous ones, it is recommended that you do so before reading the following text, especially if you haven’t read the book Zoopolis itself.
In this part we’ll focus on the second Zoopolis’ citizenship category ­– sovereign communities for “wild” animals.

A Better Protection From Humans

Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that as opposed to domesticated animals who should be considered as full citizens of human communities due to their dependency, “wild” animals should be seen as citizens of their own sovereign communities, whose relations to sovereign human communities would be regulated by norms of international justice. That according to them, would insure “wild” animals protection from various harms humans impose on them, harms which they divide into 3 broad categories: Continue reading

Citizens of Hell – A Critical Review of Zoopolis – Part 3 – Domesticated Animals

The following post is the third part in a series of posts dedicated to Zoopolis. If you haven’t read the previous ones yet, it is recommended that you do so before the following text, especially if you haven’t read the book Zoopolis itself.

In this part we’ll focus on the first Zoopolis’ citizenship category ­– full citizenship for domesticated animals.

When it comes to domesticated animals Donaldson and Kymlicka approach rests on two main ideas:

(1) domesticated animals must be seen as members of our community. Having brought such animals into our society, and deprived them of other possible forms of existence (at least for the foreseeable future), we have a duty to include them in our social and political arrangements on fair terms. As such, they have rights of membership-rights that go beyond the universal rights owed to all animals, and which are hence relational and differentiated;
(2) the appropriate conceptual framework for thinking about these relational membership rights is that of citizenship. Citizenship, in turn, has at least three core elements: residency (this is their home, they belong here), inclusion in the sovereign people (their interests count in determining the public good), and agency (they should be able to shape the rules of cooperation).

But what would this model look like in practice? What would it mean to view domesticated animals through the lens of membership and citizenship? What forms of use of, or interaction with domesticated animal citizens would be permitted, and under what conditions?

Donaldson and Kymlicka detail what the idea of citizenship entails in nine areas:
1) Basic socialization
2) Mobility and the sharing of public space
3) Duties of protection
4) Use of animal products
5) Use of animal labor
6) Medical care
7) Sex and reproduction
8) Predation/Diet
9) Political representation

1) Basic Socialization

“…socialization is different from training for particular forms of labour (such as training dogs to be guide dogs for the blind). Socialization involves the basic and general skills/knowledge that individuals need to learn (insofar as possible) in order to be accepted into social community-like establishing control over bodily processes and impulses, learning basic communication, rules of social interaction, and respect for others. Training, on the other hand, is about developing a particular individual’s capacities and interests. Socialization is a basic threshold precondition for social membership.”

The idea that animals must go through social learning, and that socialization is a basic threshold precondition for social membership, is accepting and perpetuating the notion that this world is a human world. Obviously it would be humans who would conduct the social training, according to rules they would determine, and a threshold they would set.
Why should domesticated animals go through socialization which would further deepen their dependency on humans, instead of humans going a wildization? After all, all animals were wild before humans have domesticated so many of them, and so were humans. Doesn’t it make much more sense that if they are looking for just relations, historic justice, and to fix an historic crime of such unprecedented scale, that all animals, including humans, would go back to be wild? It is humans who forced this situation on everyone else so wouldn’t it be much more reasonable and fair of them to call to put things back to where they were before humans have conquered the entire planet and domesticated so many animals, than to perpetuate these animals’ dependency?
Why should animals who have been domesticated by humans go through another social and probably biological process conducted by humans to fix the original crime which is their domestication? If anything it is humans who must go back to be just another animal.

And what exactly is the fate of any individual who would “fail” to meet humans’ threshold? Would that individual be victimized the third time?! The first victimization is being forced to live with innate impairments and to be dependent on another species, all the more so the cruelest one ever to walk the face of the earth, the second victimization is being forced to go through a socialization process which doesn’t fit the nature of that individual and wasn’t chosen by that individual, and the third victimization is that if that individual “fails” to fit the humane conditions, s/he doesn’t receive social membership.

Nevertheless, while the content of socialization is adaptable to individual and contextual factors, there are some general principles that should guide the process. The first, as noted, is that socialization should be conceived, not as the right of parents or states to mould individuals, but as the responsibility of parents or states to recognize individuals as members of the community, and to give them the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in that community, insofar as possible.
Second, socialization is not a lifelong process of control and intervention, but a temporary developmental process for bringing individuals into full membership of the community. It is justified, not as an end in itself, but because it facilitates the emergence of agency and the capacity to participate. By a certain point individuals have either internalized the basic norms, or they have not. Either way, the duty of others to mould them ends with childhood.
At a certain point respect requires that we accept that people are who they are-full citizens, warts and all. After that, individuals who violate basic norms may be humorously tolerated, shunned, or, if they become a danger to others, locked up. But it would be disrespectful to continue to treat them like children.”

Regarding the first point, it is pretty obvious that what would happen is a gradual neglect. To generally state that it is the “responsibility of parents or states to recognize individuals as members of the community, and to give them the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in that community, insofar as possible” is to state that it is no one’s responsibility. The responsibility must be much more specific, for example anyone who was involved in animal exploitation must be responsible in ensuring that the socialization process is implemented along with vets who worked in factory farms. That is just an example for a delegation of power which is specific instead of an empty statement. We are not at all in favor of such a move since obviously we are against the very idea of socialization, and even if it made sense, the last humans we would want to come near nonhumans are the ones who have exploited them in the most severe ways imaginable. Again, it is just an example for an option which is at least specific. Their general statement on the other hand is totally ambiguous. Who are the parents in this analogy?
It is quite clear that the people who would take responsibility for the matter would be volunteers who care enough about animals to do it in the most compassionate and sensitive way possible, therefore it would probably mean that there would always be a shortage of relevant people, or that it would be a governmental process, meaning it wouldn’t be conducted in the most compassionate and sensitive way possible, and that the process would probability simply be forsaken.

Regarding the second point, are they suggesting that animals’ behaviors must be subordinated to fit humans’ rules and criterions otherwise they would be punished or casted out? It is so ironic, especially since the pretense is to get justice for animals, but the more “animalistic” the animal, the less likely s/he is to fit the criterion. Punishing animals for being too true to their own nature is absurd!

Clearly this socialization process would end up being another kind of domestication because the ones who are found the most socialized would gain social membership and therefore would probably reach adulthood and be able to breed, and the less socialized wouldn’t, therefore this process would further domesticate already domesticated  animals. So the solution for domesticated animals is to domesticate them even more?

Donaldson and Kymlicka are aware of the potential harmfulness of this suggestion and argue that: “The fact that socialization of domesticated animals by humans is so often harsh and coercive is a comment, not on the capacities of animals, but on the ignorance, impatience, and disrespect of humans.”
The fact that this is how humans have behaved all along history is a very good reason, probably the main one for most activists, for why a total separation between humans and nonhumans is so desired. They want to keep humans away from nonhumans as far as possible and as soon as possible. It is not that they don’t want animals’ company or that they think that animals can’t be part of human society, as Donaldson and Kymlicka wrongly claim (and was addressed in the first post), it’s that they don’t wish animals with humans’ company, and that it is humans who can’t be part of animals’ society.

2) Mobility and the Sharing of Public Space

To accept domesticated animals as members of our community means accepting that they belong here in the community, and have the prima facie right to share its public spaces. Acknowledging membership is inconsistent with confining individuals to private seclusion or to designated segregation zones.”
But what sorts of regulations on freedom of movement and access are permissible within a citizenship model? How do we distinguish acceptable from unacceptable restrictions?

Even the question itself is anthropocentrically framed and that is no surprise. What is surprising is the egalitarian pretense. Of course humans would determine the freedom of movement regulations and of course they and they alone would be the ones to distinguish acceptable from unacceptable restrictions of other animals’ movement.

Donaldson and Kymlicka draw much inspiration from the disability theory, but our world is still so highly inaccessible for humans with disabilities, so for nonhumans? all the more so ones that humans have so far extremely tortured before they ate them?!
And even if our world was much more accessible for humans with disabilities, the level of alteration required to make this world accessible for nonhumans is much more demanding. Will all highways be destroyed? Is humanity going to drastically diminish the high pollution level it produces? The high noise pollution it produces? The artificial light pollution it produces? Totally ban fireworks? Remove any hung down chain from any cow’s road? Any shiny object from any horse’s path? Would dogs be allowed to walk around freely? Would humanity adjust itself for early rising at the crack of dawn because of the millions of cock-a doodle-doos by the millions of chickens? And that is just a very partial list.

However, according to them recognizing domesticated animals as co-citizens doesn’t mean that restrictions cannot be justified:
As in the case of humans, animals need sufficient mobility, not unlimited mobility. This need may be adequately met with large fenced ranges and pastures, and parks. And mobility restrictions are also justifiable on the grounds of protecting domesticated animals from predators, from highways, or from other dangers, and on the basis of protecting people from animals.”

And how is that not to confine animals or at least to severely restrict their movement? How is that not to restrict their population as obviously restrictions on their living areas are restrictions on their reproduction? How is it not to discriminate them when no such restrictions would be set upon humans? Would other resources be equally distributed between humans and nonhumans?
The human analogy is ridiculous. Their restrictions are meaningless compared with the ones suggested to be applied upon nonhumans even after they would gain citizenship.

3) Duties of Protection

Recognizing domesticated animals as co-citizens has implications for our duties to protect them from harm, including harm from human beings, harm from other animals, and more generally harm from accidents or natural disasters.”
Citizens are entitled to the full benefit and protection of the law, and this means that the duty of humans not to harm animals is not simply a moral or ethical responsibility, but ought to be a legal one. Harms to animals, like harms to humans, should be criminalized. This would include both the criminalization of deliberate harm, and also of negligence leading to harm or death.”

The question of course is what is harm? Does removing an animal from one’s backyard by screams and loud noises considered harm? Does using a non-kill trap to catch and release an animal considered harm? Does using repulsive smells to repel animals from one’s garden considered harm? How about directing a strong spotlight? All are considered harms in our book and if it is also the case in the book of Zoopolis then how exactly would humans deal with situations in which animals do things that humans rather they wouldn’t such as rabbits eating the plants in their garden, pigs digging in the garbage cans, goats using their house as a shelter during harsh weather, a cow standing in the middle of the road, a pack of dogs playing in the neighborhood playground, a cat who have decided that someone’s home is now his home too. What are they to do? How would humans protect nonhumans from humans?

domesticated animal citizens need protection not only from humans, but also from other animals. We need to take steps to protect them from predators, disease, accidents, floods, or fires. In these cases, it is their status as members of our society, and not just their intrinsic moral status as sentient beings, that calls forth our duties of protection and rescue.”

How is that possible without harming “wild” animals? We’ll thoroughly deal with the issue of harms to “wild” animals in the next part, so here we will only shortly argue that the duty to protect domesticated animals from wild ones would probably involve violent measures and surly would frustrate “wild” animals and leave them hungry. Donaldson and Kymlicka criticize the common position among animal rights activists to let domesticated animal go extinct so the suffering from their innate problems and dependency would end, and to leave “wild” animals alone so they would not be harmed by humans, but they offer to perpetuate both problems. They suggest letting domesticated animals live despite all their innate problems and inevitable suffering, and that when “wild” animals would come to hunt them, humans are obligated to harm these animals in order to protect the animals that shouldn’t exist. “Wild” animals would keep getting hurt by humans and domesticated animals would keep existing despite their inevitable suffering, and despite the exploitation, which even if would end in the citizenship scenario, the potential for history to repeat itself would never cease.

4) Use of Animal Products

That point is probably the one that most activists would find to be the most outrageous.

Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that:
Using others is legitimate if the terms of the relationship reflect and uphold the membership status of both parties, rather than permanently subordinating one to the other, and this, in turn, requires (as far as possible) respecting their agency and choices.”

One example they suggest is wool:
Commercial wool operations harm sheep in many ways, subjecting animals to painful and frightening procedures in order to make wool gathering a profitable business (quite apart from the fact that the sheep eventually go to slaughter). But one can imagine ethical conditions under which humans can benefit from the use of sheep wool. Whereas wild sheep naturally shed their coats, domesticated sheep have been selectively bred to increase wool production, and many breeds have lost the ability to shed their coats. They need their wool to be shorn by humans once a year to protect them from disease and overheating.”

Using the wool of sheeps who have been selectively bred to increase their wool production and have lost the ability to shed their own coats by themselves sends a very speciesist message to humans. Instead of solving the problem of excessive wool and total dependency, they suggest that humans should keep using the deformity they have forced on millions upon millions of sheeps to their own benefit. Besides the perpetuation of speciesism, it is a foot in the door for the industrial wool industry’s comeback. If even in allegedly egalitarian societies in which animals are citizens of the community their genetic manipulation is perpetuated and keeps being used for humans’ gains, then this world is still a very human and exploitive world. These sheeps need help only as a result of the genetic manipulation humans have forced on them. Had humans not invaded their bodies they wouldn’t have grown more wool than they need, and would shed it when they need to, and by themselves. Using this wool is washing up the crime of the appalling selective breeding which is what enabled this use in the first place. Using this wool is not even a slippery slope, it is already exploiting the pendency situation derived from exploitation and manipulation which must be uprooted not perpetuated.

But according to them:
Use is not necessarily exploitative, and indeed a refusal to use others effectively to prevent them from contributing to the general social good-can itself be a form of denying them full citizenship.”
“…refusing to consider that group as potential contributors to a common good is also a way of denying citizenship.”

Only that none of the sheeps have ever chosen the dire situation forced upon them and which is the grounds for their alleged ability to “contribute” to the common good.

Donaldson and Kymlicka are, oddly, trying to reverse the order of things arguing that not using wool is a form of discrimination similar to the one imposed on humans from certain ethnic origins who were banned from certain professions. Only that wool is not a profession and it wasn’t chosen by sheeps. Wool is part of sheeps’ bodies and it is available as a “common good” only due to genetic distortion. And sheeps are supposed to gain full citizenship not on the basis of their contribution to the common good, but since they need  protection from humans exploitation.
If Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that the ticket to full citizenship is contribution to the common good and sheeps’ contribution to the common good is the product of horrific selective breeding and exploitation, then this is an utter perpetuation of exploitation, as the logic is that since we have bred you to be totally depended and to grow too much wool, and since we have exploited you from time immemorial, then in order to fix this we’ll change the exploitation terms and call it work or contribution to the common good. Humans have been exploiting sheeps for thousands of years to the point that these animals have become depended and distorted beings. Now that this is the dire reality of sheeps the suggestion is to keep using them that way but to regulate it differently? That is shockingly anthropocentric and speciesist.

The mode of contribution will vary greatly. Some may contribute simply by participating in loving and trusting relationships, others might contribute in more material ways. What is important is that all be enabled to contribute in a way suited to them.”
Surly living with excessive wool isn’t the suited way sheeps want to live. It probably suits them to live with the exact amount of wool they need and without being depended on humans to shed it. This claim is anthropocentric since this contribution is suited for humans only, and it is not chosen by the sheeps, maybe they too would like to contribute simply by participating in loving and trusting relationships.

Furthermore, there is no way to shear sheeps in a pleasant way. It can surly be much less violent and aggressive than the way it is currently being done by the industry, but it would always be submissively and never willingly and with consent. Humans are not likely to wait for sheeps to come to be sheared only when they wish to and on their own time. Even under the citizenship model they would be grabbed by humans who would move a cold sharp instrument all over their body. In the best case it would be very uncomfortable. And can we really trust all humans to always do it in the most gentle and sensitive way?

They suggest that the use of wool wouldn’t be for commercial incentive but for the common good but what if the common people change their minds? What would happen in the first economic crisis? What would happen if humans in cold areas would want wool but couldn’t live with sheeps? Would they barter it? Would the barter be soon replaced with commerce? And isn’t that gradually coming back to commercial exploitation of sheeps?

In every given moment, with every economic crisis, any climatic crisis, or even local and temporarily extremely bad weather events such as a hurricane or draught, or a natural disaster, the first to be hurt are the weakest ones in every society. So why preserve the weakest social class ever in history, which is not only at rock bottom but is far from any other social class, including human salves, which many activists wrongly compare their horror with animals’ horror.

Donaldson and Kymlicka also have no problem with consuming eggs:
Humans could have chicken companions on the farm or in large backyards-chickens with flourishing lives, allowed plenty of scope to do what chickens like to do, chickens who explore and play and form social bonds and raise young under the watchful eyes of humans who protect them, shelter them, and care for their food and medical needs. And meanwhile, humans could consume some of the chickens’ eggs. It’s true that this relationship would in part be based on use-that is, many humans who would choose to have chicken companions would do so at least in part because they want some eggs. But this fact of use need not compromise the full protection of chickens’ rights and community membership. As in the sheep case, the primary concerns would be to ensure that mechanisms are in place to fully monitor and enforce these rights, and to regulate commercial pressures that might erode these rights.”

Such a suggestion perpetuates the concept of some animals functioning as food sources, which is very wrong conceptually and practically. Seriously arguing that this model could always be maintained or that every human would respect chickens’ rights is beyond naivety.
This whole theory of citizenship is of humans still running the world only in a much more considerate, fair and kind way, but of course even that is according to their measures.
If there is something dangerous about this theory it is not that it would turn humans away from much less demanding ideas such as veganism (a claim which is addressed in the first part), it is that it is a foot in the door for other ideas much less demanding and egalitarian such as ‘humanity really went too far with factory farming which is the real problem with consuming animals, the solution is small local family farms in which animals wonder around giving milk and eggs in exchange for food and protection’. Others would argue that since animals eat each other it is ok for humans to do so as well and offer “humane killing” and “happy meat”. In the best case, this realistic course of events will “only” end with traditional farms and not factory farms all over again.

When it comes to milk they have some reservations:
Using milk from cows is more problematic. Dairy cows have been bred to produce abundant milk, and this breeding has undermined their health and longevity. (For example, excess milk production reduces calcium stores, leading to weaker bones.) In addition, to make dairy production a commercially viable process, male calves are killed to produce veal, cows are continuously impregnated to keep them producing milk (which wears them out, and  contributes to many diseases), and calves are separated from cows in order to maximize the percentage of milk that goes to humans.”
This does not mean that there will be no cows, just not very many. There will always be people who want to have cow companions (or pig companions), but the reality is that since these animals are less ‘useful’ (under non-exploitative conditions), fewer of them would be brought into the human-animal community. On the other hand, cautious commercialization of the use of cow’s milk could lead to it becoming a luxury good, resulting in a limited but stable cow community.”

Their focus on humans’ self-interest motives goes to show the main focus of the book which is the humane perspective. As we wrote in the former part of this series, we think that these animals mustn’t exist, but they beg to differ and are even highly critical of the abolition/extinction position. However, it seems that according to them populations of domesticated animals should be determined by the usefulness of these animals to humans. The number of cows in the world is in accordance with the number of humans who would find them useful enough to rear them. And that is obviously an extremely speciesist and exploitative position.
The factor of usefulness is the last that should play any role in the decision regarding the existence of cows. The fact that “cows have been bred to produce abundant milk, and this breeding has undermined their health and longevityis more than sufficient. Regardless of any human consideration, since these cows are suffering by their very existence, they mustn’t exist. Even if humans could find a sustainable model for living with them, cows with innate severe deformities mustn’t exist.
And it is not just cows. Other domesticated animals were also bred to produce abundance: chickens from the egg industry were breed to produce abundant number of eggs which has undermined their health and longevity, chickens from the flesh industry were bred to produce abundant flesh which has undermined their health and longevity, and same goes for pigs, ducks, rabbits and turkeys. All of them are victims of the most tyrant species ever, and all of them must never exist because of their unavoidable impairments, and because of humans’ unavoidable urge to exploit.

Donaldson and Kymlicka are aware of the potential danger however formulate it in a very peculiar if not circular argument.
Given that humans have a great stake in using animals, there is an omnipresent danger that they will adopt a self-serving picture of animals’ needs and preferences. This is why we have emphasized the need to recognize and enable animal agency. We have a responsibility to try to understand what animals are able to communicate to us about their needs and preferences, and to facilitate their realization of their own life projects.”
This argument is flawed because it is not that humans have a great stake in using animals but that they are using animals, and there is no omnipresent danger that they will adopt a self-serving picture of animals’ needs and preferences but that they have been doing it since the beginning of their history. The great danger Donaldson and Kymlicka are referring to is relevant only after humans have recognized and enabled animal agency, before that, it is not a case of potential danger but everyday reality. And given that this danger will always be relevant, even after humans have recognized and enabled animal agency, obviously there should be no use under any circumstances of animals ever again.

Even if the imaginary citizenship theory would someday be globally implemented, how can we ever be sure that all humans would respect that at all times? And why should we entrust animals’ fates in the unreliable hands of the ones who have been torturing them since forever?!

Ideas of using animals out of dignity and not out of greed are already very popular. Many humans who exploit animals in small farms are often making such claims. Of course it would be very wrong to compare these kind of people with Donaldson and Kymlicka who we are sure genuinely seek the best option for animals. However it is easy to see how easily humans would go from their version of using animals, to “happy meat”. It is not that we could never totally trust humans to always be aware of the line and never to cross it, it is that we can totally trust them to always cross the line.

5. Use of Animal Labor

So far, we have focused on cases in which humans benefit from using animals engaged in doing what they do naturally-eating grass, growing wool, producing manure, eggs, and milk. A different form of use involves training animals to perform various kinds of work for humans, such as assistance and therapy training for dogs, or police training for horses. There are some jobs that dogs and other animals can perform without significant training. For example, if we return to Sheepville, we can imagine that the community also includes some dogs or donkeys who help to protect the sheep.”

No, sheeps don’t naturally produce excessive wool, chickens don’t produce so many eggs, and cows don’t produce excessive milk. Nothing about this behavior is natural. They are called domesticated animals for a reason. And there is nothing natural about dogs protecting sheeps, in fact it is extremely ironic since dogs have evolved from wolves, and wolves definitely don’t naturally protect sheeps, but more like sheeps need protection from wolves. And also, despite that their function would be to protect the sheeps, the dogs would be another source of stress for the sheeps who see them as potential predators.

And the example of horses used for policing missions, besides the obvious exploitation and speciesism, as the horses never perform tasks for their own good or for their own kind but always for humans, this use of them is utterly horrendous for them.
Even when these horses are not violently attacked by humans who punch them, throw things at them, scare them with flares, spray them with tear gas, as often happens during riots of all kinds, they are always ridden by a grown human and they are always stressed as they are naturally shy animals. Under natural conditions, horses have evolved to avoid conflicts as much as they can, their natural tendency is to flee under a threat, not to fight. And that is exactly the opposite of the missions forced on horses exploited for police work, therefore they are always stressed and nervous.

And as they do in all of the points, they write a disclaimer which is no more than a fig leaf:
We emphasize, however, that the possibilities for exploitation are very high, and the use of animals for these purposes would need to be carefully regulated. For such use to be nonexploitative, the animal must be in a position to give a clear indication that they enjoy the activity, that they thrive on the stimulation and contact, and that the work is not a price they need to pay to receive the love, approval, treats, and care that are their due (and need). Work must be balanced with lots of down time in which dogs engage in other activities and socialize with their human and dog friends. In other words, dogs (and other working animals) should have the same opportunity human citizens have to control the conditions under which they contribute to society, and to follow their own inclinations in terms of how they live their lives, and with whom they spend time.”

Since they rely on the human rights theory, it is worth noting that in many cases worker exploitation and human slavery is not a result of lack of laws and regulations. Slavery is now illegal in every nation on earth, yet it can be found in every corner of the globe. Even on the narrowest definition of slavery it’s likely that there are far more slaves now than there were victims of the Atlantic slave trade.
There have been several attempts in the history of the modern world to abolish slavery. They have all failed. Slavery has always re-emerged in one form or another.

In a way the fact that slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere makes it worse because it means that slavery exists not because of political disputes between groups or anything of this sort, it exists and is so prevalent because humans don’t care enough to stop it and are benefiting from it.

6) Medical Care

Health care is a right of membership in contemporary societies, and domesticated animals have the right to be treated as members. This indeed explains why we have duties to provide health care to domestic dogs and cats, and not (or not always) to wolves or leopards in the wild (we discuss our obligations to animals in the wild in Chapter 6). These duties would likely be fulfilled through some scheme of animal health insurance.”

If the point regarding the use of animal products is considered the most controversial, this one is probably considered the most delusional.
In a world where each and every activity of each and every individual animal is directed towards the fastest and cheapest way to gain the maximum benefit for humans, including for example preventing food and water from animals before they are murdered since it no longer effects the weight of the flesh torn from their bodies (even in cases of very long-distance transport by road, railway or sea), it is absolutely delusional to suggest such a dramatic reversal of priorities as health care for every domesticated animal.

It is totally implausible to suggest turning from a situation where every animal exploiter makes tremendous efforts to save every penny at the expense of each exploited animal, to a situation where many pennies would be invested in the same animals’ wellbeing. In a world abounded with wars, diseases, hunger, and poverty among the human population, it is impossible to imagine humanity investing much of its budget in animals it now views as the phase between grass and meat.

Not that humans are by any means more important than nonhumans, but they are in the eyes of most humans and yet a universal medical care is not a right that even all humans are currently entitled to. So universal medical care for all chickens seems beyond utopian.

Donaldson and Kymlicka use dogs to make many if not most of their points along the book, including this one. So it is crucial to say a few things about humans’ relations with dogs.

The history of humans’ relation to dogs, their most beloved animal, is violent and oppressive. Thousands of dogs are experimented on every year. Who knows how many are tied to one place, which is also where they eat, shit and sleep, because humans force them to protect their property. Millions are still forced to serve humans in the military, the police, various rescue units, guiding for blind humans and so on. Thousands of dogs are forced to fight each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling, and tens of thousands per year are forced to race each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling. And of course, in south East Asia dogs are also eaten.

Dogs are also paying very high costs for living with humans even in cases when they are not being used to fill more explicit functions for humans but to keep them company and greet them when they come home. Hundreds of millions are left alone in humans’ houses for long hours which seem like an eternity for such social animals. This issue is very common and practically unavoidable. Other issues are even more inherent. Humans’ affection for the cute and infants like, has produced dog breeds in which full-grown dogs resemble perpetual puppies. On the psychological level, by breeding dogs for Neoteny (retention of juvenile features), humans have created emotionally immature dogs who are prone to neuroses. And on the physical level, the practice of selective breeding so dogs would come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments, has terrible consequences expressed in hereditary defects, deformities, and infirmities within any given breed. Here is a very partial list:
About 60% of Golden Retrievers will get cancer during their lifetime. Additionally, Golden Retrievers are prone to a variety of health problems such as canine hip dysplasia (CHD), seasonal allergies, and diseases of the skin.
Boxers also develop cancer pretty frequently. They’re particularly prone to lymphoma and mast cell tumors. They are also prone to heart-related and thyroid problems, as well as skin allergies.
German Shepherds are prone to hereditary hip dysplasia, a deformation of the hip socket that may lead to arthritis or lameness. Degenerative myelopathy is also a common condition among German Shepherds. This is an untreatable disease that results in progressive paralysis.
Due to their out of proportion bodies, Dachshunds are prone to getting back injuries that can lead to paralysis and in the worst cases, death.
Pugs’ flat snouts restrict airflow, making it hard for them to breathe. Their eyes can bulge painfully and they can easily contract infections.
Siberian Husky often falls victim to autoimmune diseases of the skin that cause sores, blisters, and itchiness that can be so bad that they chew their own skin. Their eminent blue eyes are prone to juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy.
Cocker Spaniels are prone to suffer from Syringomyelia, which essentially involves cavities forming in the spinal cord that become filled with fluid. It can occur in any type of animal but has become prevalent in this breed of dog due to the fact that they have been bred to have very small heads. This disparity in size between the brain and the skull puts the spinal cord under pressure and causes malformations. Syringomyelia can cause severe neck and head pain, putting the dog at risk of lifelong agony if not successfully treated.
Being very large dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs are susceptible to both hip and elbow dysplasia, yet their greatest tragedy is an extremely high rate of Histiocytic Cancer that typically develop between 5 and 8 years old.
Weimaraners can be born with a rare condition called Von Willebrand Disease, which inhibits the blood’s ability to clot properly.
Poodles can develop gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly known as bloat, which is frequently fatal without surgery. Poodles are also prone to epilepsy and a degenerative bone disease that could cause immobilization.
And finally (in this very partial list) bulldogs, the dogs who are considered the most extreme example of genetic manipulation in the dog-breeding world, struggle with the same flat-face issues as Pugs do. These dogs are also prone to weight gain, as well as allergies. Some kinds are also prone to skin infections due to their skin folds. The large size of a Bulldog’s head, which has been selectively bred for its pleasing appearance, has led to a problem that is unique to the breed. Mothers have tremendous difficulty giving birth, as the puppies are simply too large to pass through the birth canal. This means that a natural birth is often not possible with Bulldogs. Instead, vets have to perform cesarean sections in order to ensure the safety of both the puppies and the mother, otherwise both could be killed during birth.

Human began domesticating dogs about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. The American kennel club registers 135 dog breeds, most of which suffer from at least one of more than 300 genetically transmitted abnormalities.

Dogs – Donaldson and Kymlicka’s fixed and repeated example – are animals who suffer from many emotional, mental and physical problems, and other animals are suffering from humans’ desire to live with dogs as most are not vegans. The share of dogs who are vegans, who don’t suffer from any physical condition due to selective breeding, and who live with humans who are with them most of the time and they get to play and walk as much as they wish, is probably less than one percent of all dogs.

7) Sex and Reproduction

Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that limiting animals’ reproduction is not speciesist since there are limitations on humans’ sexual and reproductive lives as well. Only that in the case of humans these limitations are mostly on their sexual lives, and mostly to prevent sexual exploitation and STD’s, and when it comes to reproduction, limitations are mostly in cases of birth defects, not because there are too many individuals to care for.

But they insist that limitations on human reproduction also involve population control:
Societies engage in extensive use of incentives (and sometimes more coercive measures) to encourage or discourage people from reproducing. Our sex and reproductive lives are in fact highly regulated, although the form that this regulation takes is largely internalized self-regulation and response to social pressures and incentives.”
Only that except for China it is always incentives to reproduce, and only in cases of severe diseases not to reproduce. When did any state except for China (which gave up its one-child policy about 5 years ago), ever restricted human reproduction? On the other hand there are many states who encourage reproduction.
Obviously there is an extreme problem of sustainability, within states as well as globally, and it still hasn’t made humans discourage people from reproducing.
And speaking of human reproduction, as mentioned earlier, Zoopolis should have stated that it must be dramatically reduced in order to reduce humans’ ecological foot print and pressure on other animals who would be common citizens of their community. How is it fair that some citizens have a tremendous foot print yet they can reproduce as much as they want and others have miniature foot print compared to them yet their reproduction is limited?

Where animals do not or cannot selfregulate their reproduction, the costs to others of having to care for and maintain their offspring could become prohibitive. In these circumstances, imposing some limits on their reproduction is, we believe, a reasonable element in a larger scheme of cooperation. As in the case of mobility restrictions, reproduction restrictions would need to be carefully justified, and involve the least restrictive available methods. This justification is importantly different from the abolitionist call for universal birth control/sterilization leading to extinction. Abolitionists would restrict the liberties of individual animals without reference to the interests of those animals. With the citizenship model, restrictions can only be justified by reference to the interests of the individual, while recognizing that these interests include being part of a cooperative social project which involves both rights and duties.”

In the best case this argument is embarrassing and in the worst case it is fascist. It is embarrassing since clearly they realize that it is impossible to avoid regulating animals’ reproduction since humanity would never accept granting them with full citizenship, all the more so when there are so many of them. So they suggest limiting animals’ reproduction but since they wish to distinguish themselves from the animal rights theory who suggests total control over domesticated animals’ reproduction (which is according to Donaldson and Kymlicka to restrict the liberties of individual animals without reference to the interests of those animals), under their citizenship model on the other hand, “restrictions can only be justified by reference to the interests of the individual, while recognizing that these interests include being part of a cooperative social project which involves both rights and duties“. Can you spot the differences? Neither can we. In both cases it is a restriction on the liberties of individual animals. There is no way around it. They are saying that they are justifying the restriction with reference to the interests of the individual but they are actually justifying it by placing the interest of the cooperative social project (as if it is even an ethical entity) before individuals. That is false and speciesist as clearly they don’t suggest that in the case of humans. The human race is the most unsustainable species ever. Why not restricting human reproduction for one person per couple in order to tackle environmental problems? Or to reduce harm to other animals? Clearly the more humans the more suffering animals, so why not restrict human reproduction in any case?
The road to Zoopolis must go through a dramatic reduction in human population and that obligates restricting human reproduction to at the most one child policy if not halting reproduction entirely for at least one generation. That could be a significant step towards Zoopolis, especially for sovereignty for “wild” animals, the topic of the next part. But that is not on the table. Instead they are making a very flawed argument. While they are not ready to state that humans must drastically restrict their population size despite how self-evident this is, they are ready to intervene in animals’ reproduction. And while they are criticizing the animal rights theory for restricting the liberties of individual animals despite that the aim is obviously to prevent further and future restrictions of liberties of individual animals, they justify their own suggestion of restrictions of liberties of individual animals by appealing to non-entity notions such as cooperative social project. And that part of their argument is fascist, since it gives the moral high ground to the system which obviously is not a morally relevant entity, at the expense of its members which are the only morally relevant entities.
Animal rights activists suggest restricting or preventing domesticated animals’ reproduction in order to prevent harms to domesticated animals. Donaldson and Kymlicka know that but they are making all the wrong moves to avoid the inevitable conclusion which is domesticated animals’ extinction.

8) Predation/Diet

Dog and cat companions have been long removed from a wild context in which they could adequately feed themselves through hunting and scavenging. Feral dogs and cats can often survive on their own, but they rarely thrive unless their diets are supplemented by humans. Indeed, dogs and cats are long adapted to living with human families, and sharing their food. In recent decades we have gotten used to the idea of specially prepared cat and dog foods. (In part this reflects growing understanding that dogs and cats have different nutritional needs from humans. In part it reflects a desire to find markets for the by-products of an industrialized meat system.) But for most of human-pet history, dogs and cats have just eaten family leftovers and their own scroungings. Dogs especially have evolved to be highly flexible omnivores. There is ample evidence that dogs can thrive on a (suitably planned) vegan diet.”

Even if all the dogs that live with humans would become totally vegan, the estimations are that out of the 900 million dogs in the world, more than 80% don’t live in humans’ houses but on the streets. About 200 million are stray dogs meaning dogs that used to live with humans but were abandoned by them and found themselves straying in the streets, and most of the rest are feral dogs. So it would be very hard if not impossible to regulate the diet of most dogs, which would most probably eat other animals. And currently, even most of the dogs who live with vegan humans, are not vegans.

Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that it is wrong to let cats hunt other animals. However, since they are the only truly carnivores among domesticated animals, they might not make do with a vegan diet supplemented with taurine. Since as mentioned earlier they are permitting using animal products, as far as they go cats can be fed with chickens’ eggs.
a commercial industry in egg (or milk) products is probably not viable (and would invite abuse), and so there can be no mass production to solve the problem of animal protein for cats. However, it could be that for people who want to live with cat companions, part of the deal, as it were, is that they might need to find an ethical source of eggs, perhaps by keeping their own chicken companions as well.”

Humanity had brought the situation that there are so many carnivores as cats and fed them with other animals’ flesh for decades, and now instead of solving that problem from the root, they suggest that if humans want to live with a domesticated animal, that they have created, they must keep another domesticated animal that they have created. A chicken selectively bred to produce as many eggs as possible at the expense of crucial body functions would be forced to live so humans can fulfil their desire to live with another domesticated animal, with a limited freedom and human regulated life so that they won’t go out and hunt. That is to add insult to injury.

Cats are the only true carnivores amongst domesticated animals, and thus pose a unique challenge in human-animal society. There may be no way for humans to have cat companions without dealing with a certain level of moral complexity regarding their diet and other restrictions necessary for them to be part of human-animal society. (Such restrictions are not just diet-related, but involve careful monitoring of cats outdoors to protect other animals from their predatory activities.) Does this level of restriction undermine the possibility of cats being flourishing members of mixed society? Does it mean that we would be justified in bringing about their extinction? At the very least, it means that any individual human contemplating having a companion cat is signing on for a great deal of responsibility in terms of doing the work to ensure their cat flourishes under the necessary restrictions.”

Even if all cats would be supplied with a protein rich vegan diet supplemented with taurine, some of them would try to hunt. Humans can restrict them from getting out of the house but that would be a restriction of their rights. Of course the question is what is the difference between a cat hunting another animal or a “wild” animal hunting another animal, we’ll broadly deal with the issue of “wild” animals in the next part, so we’ll shortly argue that indeed for the victim the identity of the victimizer is meaningless. But it does matter in the case of predators that humans have created and can control. Street cats not only can harm other animals but be severely hurt themselves by cars, heat, cold, disease, other animals, hunger or dehydration. So cats must be neutered for their own and for others’ sake, and so if a spay and neuter project is successfully conduced there would be no domesticated cats anymore. Humans can easily prevent the existence of at least one predator, all the more so one which, according to a research conducted a few years ago by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, is estimated to be responsible for the killing of between 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals per year, and which is also very vulnerable by itself, but they are not even doing that.

9) Political Representation

We have also emphasized that domesticated animals have the capacity to participate in this process, if assisted by those ‘collaborators’ who have learned how to interpret their expressions of preferences. But this sort of dependent agency is only going to be effective, politically, if there are institutional mechanisms that link domesticated animals and their collaborators to political decision-makers. We need, in short, some way to ensure the effective political representation of domesticated animals.
“…Effective representation within this scheme will require institutional reforms at any number of levels. It will involve representation in the legislative process, but it will also require representing animals in, for example, municipal land planning decisions, or on the governance boards of various professions and public services (police, emergency services, medicine, law, urban planning, social services, etc.). In all of these institutions, domesticated animals have been rendered invisible, and their interests ignored.”

Donaldson and Kymlicka aspiration for making animals active in the political sphere is truly admirable. However the citizenship model doesn’t really turn animals from passive to active because it is still humans who will make all the calls. It is unavoidable. At any given moment it would be humans who would make the decision whether to make a decision based on animals’ interests or to distort if not ignore their interests, and it will always be according to human interoperation of other animals’ needs and desires.
Even if it was possible for humans to read nonhumans very well, eventually everything is depended on humans’ willingness to implement their interpretations of animals’ needs and desires. It is always humans’ decision. They can choose to respect animals’ needs and desires or not. Humans can choose to force their own interests on others or to try and be considerate of others’ interests as well, and even then it will always be based on their subjective interpretation of what others prefer.

Given that that conflict of interests will always exist, humans’ interpretation will always be biased.
If we’ll take for example humans most favorite animal – dogs, they prefer never to be alone, walk and play as much as possible, and get their most favorite food all the time. No dog lives like that. And many live horrible lives. And if it doesn’t happen with humans’ most favorite animal why would it ever happen with fishes and chickens?

Even if humans weren’t so biased when it comes to others’ needs, let alone when these needs must be fulfilled by humans themselves, their ability to interpret animals’ needs is anyway highly questionable. Donaldson and Kymlicka are giving examples of humans’ ability to interpret dogs (as usual) which are probably the animals that humans can best understand, but when it comes to other animals it is highly unlikely that humans would be able to really understand them and act accordingly even if they really wanted to.

How is it possible to ensure that animals’ trustees would always act according to animals’ best interests and not according to humans’ self-interest, which among it is the desire to preserve animals’ exploitation?

Even if humans had truly acted in good faith, it is wrong to entrust animals’ fates in humans’ hands, and it is wrong to experiment with interpretations of their needs at their expense.
But way before that, at no moment in history had humans proven that they had good faith, so far, at every moment in history they have proven to have an extremely bad one. Therefore, what we must do is make humanity history.

 

 

 

Citizens of Hell – A Critical Review of Zoopolis – Part 2 – The Abolitionist/Extinctionist Position

The following post is the second part in a series of posts dedicated to Zoopolis. If you haven’t read the first part yet it is recommended that you do so before reading the following text, especially if you haven’t read the book Zoopolis itself.
In this part we’ll focus on the first Zoopolis’ citizenship category ­– full citizenship for domesticated animals.

As argued in the former post Donaldson and Kymlicka think that the reason animals haven’t gained rights yet is because of the animal rights theory which they find unattainable and unjust. One of the injustices they point at is the abolitionist/extinctionist position which is a common resolution among activists regarding “farm animals”. In this text we’ll present and object to their arguments against the abolitionist/extinctionist position. In the next post we’ll present and object to their alternative model for domesticated animals. Continue reading

Citizens of Hell – A Critical Review of Zoopolis – Part 1

It’s not new that the animal rights movement mostly focuses on what humans mustn’t do to animals but doesn’t really offer serious suggestions regarding what humans should do with animals, and that it basically ignores entire issues regarding animals. In recent years some political philosophers are trying to fill this vacuum. Traditionally, animals were totally disregarded in political philosophy but it is starting to change, especially in the last 15 years. Probably the most famous political thesis is the one presented in the book Zoopolis, which was published exactly a decade ago. Therefore Zoopolis will be in the center of the following discussion regarding political thesis about humans relations with animals.

Zoopolis offers a new model for human-animal relations, one which is based on a political theory rather than on an ethical one. Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, the book’s authors, argue that humans have different obligations to different animals according to the relations they have with them. Based on that premise they suggest employing concepts from the Citizenship Theory. Therefore, the framework is that domesticated animals should be recognized as full citizens of humans’ communities, wild animals who live outside of humans’ communities should be recognized as members of their own sovereign communities, and non-domesticated animals who live within humans’ communities (whom they call “liminal” animals) as denizens which means they are recognized as residents of humans’ communities, but not as full citizens.

Before elaborating on the theory and on each category, it is important to address the origin and motive behind it. Intuitively it may seem as if it is aimed for a post-institutionalized exploitation world, and/or is a result of frustration that so far political philosophy had contributed very little to the status of nonhuman animals. Although both things are true in the sense that the authors are coming from the realm of political philosophy, and that they are also motivated by the need for a sustainable and just model for human-animal relations the day after factory farms are gone, these are not the main motives. The central claim of the book is that the animal rights movement is failing, and that it fails because the animal rights theory is lacking and has some structural problems:
“The animal advocacy movement is at an impasse. The familiar strategies and arguments for articulating issues and mobilizing public opinion around animal welfare, developed over the past 180 years, have had some success, on some issues. But the built-in limits of these strategies have increasingly become clear, leaving us unable to address, or even to identify, some of the most serious ethical challenges in our relations with animals. Our aim in this book is to offer a new framework, one that takes ‘the animal question’ as a central issue for how we theorize the nature of our political community, and its ideas of citizenship, justice, and human rights. This new framework, we believe, opens up new possibilities, conceptually and politically, for overcoming current roadblocks to progressive change.”

The following post, which is the first in a series of posts dedicated to a critical review of Zoopolis, would focus on the claim that the animal rights movement’s problem is the animal rights theory, as well as the general idea of humans’ different obligations to different animals according to the relations humans have with them. The next four parts would focus on each citizenship category according to the books’ order, so the next part, as well as the one following it would be dedicated to domesticated animals, the fourth part to wild animals, and the fifth and last part to “liminal” animals. Continue reading

Climate Change Humans Don’t

About six years ago we have written a critical review about the Paris agreement that contained specific matters in the climate agreement which world leaders were vainly proud to celebrate.
We argued that the Paris convention is far less exceptional, and more of another failure in the same line of failures in the way humanity confronts its greatest challenge ever. The convention’s greatest achievement, perhaps its only achievement, was that after 25 years of failures, the world’s so called leaders had finally managed to finalize a climate convention with a signed agreement.
But practically, the Paris Agreement was actually no more than a statement of intent, as any aspect of actual significance was set as non-legally binding. Instead, each country got to set its own reduction targets called “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDCs), and on a voluntary basis. None of the countries, no matter their level of emissions at the time or their historical contribution to climate change, were legally bound even to their own proclamations.
And what made the agreement even more ridiculous was that according to an evaluation published by the UNFCCC (The UN body that deals with climate change) even if all pledges were fully implemented, global warming was still expected to increase by between 2.7 °C and 3 °C.

There were many other significant problems with the Paris agreement besides that it isn’t legally binding, and that the evaluation of the sum contribution of all the INDCs, fell short of the formal goal of the summit (staying well below 2 °C increase in the average global temperature since pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and even aiming for 1.5 °C), such as the formal reliance on the assumed but not yet existing option of “negative CO2 emissions” by using future technologies that can take carbon out of the atmosphere; the refusal of developed nations to make at least their INDCs legally binding considering that they were and still are the greatest contributors to the climate crisis while mitigation contributions by developing countries would be voluntary and conditional on the provision of financial support by the industrialized countries; the fact that although the agreement calls for rich countries to help in providing poorer countries with the finance needed both to adapt to climate change and mitigate emission, all financing is voluntary; and of course the fact that as usual, the ones who are always absent from humans’ discussions over the planet are the rest of the species living on it, despite that even according to the minimal estimations, greenhouse gases produced by industrially exploited animals represent 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gasses emissions, with other estimations claiming for around 50%, the agreement didn’t mention any of it nor did it recommend even a gradual global shift towards a plant-based diet. Animals were totally absent from the table of discussion and appeared only on the dinner table as courses. And of course, the same absurd, cruel, ignorant, and outrageous decision was made in Glasgow, where again the only presence of nonhuman animals was as corpses in the form of courses on the table of the delegates.

For a more elaborated criticism over the Paris agreement please read our post.
Anyway, even we, with all our criticism over the allegedly historical agreement, didn’t anticipate such a lame implementation of the promises written on it.
As super pessimistic people regarding the human race we have expected very little, but what has happened since the Paris Agreement was even lower than our very low expectations. Continue reading

Tip of the Whip

It was reported in the last couple of days that PETA Australia filed criminal charges in Tasmania alleging that the practice of whipping horses during horseraces violates the state’s animal welfare laws.

According to Tasmania’s animal welfare laws, it is a crime to beat an animal, and to cause an unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering to an animal. Considering that whipping horses during horse races is beating an animal, and it is an unreasonable and unjustifiable infliction of pain and suffering to an animal, the organization is hoping to outlaw whipping horses on racetracks.

Obviously, all animal exploitation industries necessarily, unexceptionally and constantly involve beating animals and causing an unreasonable and unjustifiable pain or suffering, but if this initiative succeeds, hopefully it can function as a legal precedent and so expectantly initiate an international ban, at least on whipping horses during races.
However, whipping, as severe and as common in horse racing all over the world as it is, is of course extremely far from being the only or even the main issue horses are suffering from in the racing industry. Continue reading

A Dangerous Place

Today is Labor Day in the U.S., an annual federal holiday in which residents are supposed to celebrate the economic and social contributions of laborers of the United States. But humans being humans, are using this holiday as another excuse to fire up the grill, or to go to a flesh restaurant and devour some extra animal corpses.

This year, a new campaign called Meatless Labor Day was launched, encouraging humans to reduce their meat consumption during the holiday, to “alleviate the pressure for meatpacking labor workers on one of the busiest days of the year. When demand for meat is high, meatpacking workers must process more meat faster and work longer hours, significantly increasing their risk of injury.”

The combining of mistreatment of workers in the meat industry with other claims against the meat industry, and referring to the workers as another group of victims of the meat industry, is not new, and in fact is a very old cynical, sickening, and speciesist tactic used by many animal activists. But in this case the workers are not referred to as another group of victims, but as the victims of the meat industry. Continue reading

One Dimensional Dualism

Today is International Dog Day, a day humans celebrate their supposed love for supposedly their best friend.
Today is also the National Burger Day in the UK, a day humans celebrate their undoubted love for surly one of their most favorite foods.
Seemingly, this co-occurrence is a classic example of humanity’s schizoid relationship with animals – celebrating their love for some kinds of animals while celebrating their love of devouring other kinds in a bun. However, things are more complicated than that.

The utilization and emphasis of this supposed inconsistency in humanity’s relation to different species, by many animal rights activists, is understandable and rather intuitive, but nevertheless it misses something very fundamental about humans and about humans’ relationships with other animals, a relationship which is first and foremost functional.

Different animals are classified differently, mostly according to the function they serve for humans. That includes dogs who along history and among different cultures were and still are considered as food, labor force, experimental subjects, hunting animals, guarding animals, and even as pests. In fact dogs were on the ‘exploited list’ in the whole world for a much longer time than they are on the ‘loved list’. And in most of the world they are not objects of love but of labor, guarding, filth, or flesh.

Simply loving is far from being an accurate and comprehensive description of the way humans relate to dogs. There are plenty of other aspects of this relationship. Thousands of dogs are experimented on every year. Who knows how many are tied to one place, which is also where they eat, shit and sleep, because humans force them to protect their property. Millions are still forced to serve humans in the military, the police, various emergency services, guiding for blind humans and so on. Thousands of dogs are forced to fight each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling, and hundreds of thousands are forced to race each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling. And of course, in south East Asia dogs are also eaten, just like cows. Continue reading

Scratching Boundaries

Our last post addressed Netflix’s documentary film Seaspiracy, a film that made a lot of fuss. The following post also addresses a recent Netflix environmental documentary film, but in its case, there was no fuss, and exactly for the same reasons that Seaspiracy did make many people angry. As opposed to Seaspiracy who “dared” to demanded people to take seriously the issue at the center of the film and simply stop eating fishes, Breaking Boundaries didn’t make people angry, because it doesn’t make any equivalent demands such as asking people to stop consuming animals, despite that such a film most certainly should have.

Basically, the film follows the scientist Johan Rockstrom who developed and studies the concept of Planetary Boundaries. These are earth systems and features which are essential for the planet’s functioning. There are nine planetary boundaries according Rockstrom and they are: Climate change, Biodiversity, Ocean Acidification, The Ozone Layer, Air Pollution, The Nitrogen and Phosphorus cycles, Freshwater, Land-system changes, and Novel Entities (human-made pollutants).
Except for the ozone layer depletion, which only indirectly relates to animal based food, all the rest are directly and heavily affected by animal industrial exploitation. And yet, animal based food plays an extremely marginal part in the film. So tiny, it can barely be noticed, partly because the word veganism (or even vegetarianism) isn’t even mentioned. Instead the viewers are advised to choose ‘healthy food’. Hopefully, the filmmakers at least had veganism in mind when they recommended healthy food. But unfortunately it wasn’t explicitly recommended.

What is suggested as a very effective way to draw down the carbon that is already overheating the planet is that people would plant trees.
Every person on earth, in every single meal, devastatingly affects the planet, and yet they are all offered to plant trees. Continue reading