AR FAQ, 2003

Last-modified: 9/7/03
Version: ar-faq.txt 3.2
AR-FAQ Index


Welcome to the Animal Rights Frequently Asked Questions text (AR FAQ).

This FAQ is intended to satisfy two basic goals:

a) to provide a source of information and encouragement for people exploring the issues involved in the animal rights movement, and

b) to answer the common questions and justifications offered up by AR opponents.

It is unashamedly an advocacy vehicle for animal rights. Opponents of AR are invited to create a FAQ that codifies their views; we do not attempt to do so here. The FAQ restricts itself specifically to AR issues; nutrition and other vegetarian/veganism issues are intentionally avoided because they are already well covered in the existing vegetarianism and veganism FAQs maintained by Michael Traub. The FAQ was created through a collaboration of authors.
The answers have been attributed via initials, as follows:

    TA Ted Altar

    JE Jonathan Esterhazy

    DG Donald Graft

    JEH John Harrington

    DVH Dietrich Von Haugwitz

    LJ Leor Jacobi

    LK Larry Kaiser

    JK Jeremy Keens

    BL Brian Luke

    PM Peggy Madison

    BRO Brian Owen

    JSD Janine Stanley-Dunham

    JLS Jennifer Stephens

    MT Michael Traub

    AECW Allen

In addition to these attributed text fragments, the FAQ contains many quotes from prominent figures from the present and past. These quotes are attributed using "--". For example, "--Thomas Edison".

Ideas and criticisms are actively solicited and will be very gratefully received. The material included here is released to the public domain. We request that it be distributed without alteration to respect the author attributions.

Send comments to: [email protected]

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#01 What is all this Animal Rights (AR) stuff and why should it concern me?

The fundamental principle of the AR movement is that nonhuman animals deserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm, abuse, and exploitation. This goes further than just saying that we should treat animals well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them. It says animals have the RIGHT to be free from human cruelty and exploitation, just as humans possess this right. The withholding of this right from the nonhuman animals based on their species membership is referred to as "speciesism". Animal rights activists try to extend the human circle of respect and compassion beyond our species to include other animals, who are also capable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and kinship. When we try to do this, many of us come to the conclusion that we can no longer support factory farming, vivisection, and the exploitation of animals for entertainment. At the same time, there are still areas of debate among animal rights supporters, for example, whether ANY research that harms animals is ever justified, where the line should be drawn for enfranchising species with rights, on what occasions civil disobedience may be appropriate, etc. However, these areas of potential disagreement do not negate the abiding principles that join us: compassion and concern for the pain and suffering of nonhumans.

One main goal of this FAQ is to address the common justifications that arise when we become aware of how systematically our society abuses and exploits animals. Such "justifications" help remove the burden from our consciences, but this FAQ attempts to show that they do not excuse the harm we cause other animals. Beyond the scope of this FAQ, more detailed arguments can be found in three classics of the AR literature.

The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (ISBN 0-520-05460-1)
In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-06-097044-8)
Animal Liberation, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-380-71333-0, 2nd Ed.)

While appreciating the important contributions of Regan and Singer, many animal rights activists emphasize the role of empathetic caring as the actual and most appropriate fuel for the animal rights movement in contradistinction to Singer's and Regan's philosophical rationales. To the reader who says "Why should I care?", we can point out the following reasons:

One cares about minimizing suffering. One cares about promoting compassion in human affairs. One is concerned about improving the health of humanity. One is concerned about human starvation and malnutrition. One wants to prevent the radical disruption of our planet's ecosystem. One wants to preserve animal species. One wants to preserve wilderness.

The connections between these issues and the AR agenda may not be obvious. Please read on as we attempt to clarify this. DG

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)

Life is life--whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man's own advantage... Sri Aurobindo (poet and philosopher)

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. Thomas Edison (inventor)

The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men. Leonardo Da Vinci (artist and scientist)

SEE ALSO #2-#3, #26, #87-#91

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#02 Is the Animal Rights movement different from the Animal Welfare movement? The Animal Liberation movement?
Animal Rights Versus Animal Welfare

The Animal Welfare movement acknowledges the suffering of nonhumans and attempts to reduce that suffering through "humane" treatment, but it does not have as a goal elimination of the use and exploitation of animals. The Animal Rights movement goes significantly further by rejecting the exploitation of animals and according them rights in that regard. A person committed to animal welfare might be concerned that cows get enough space, proper food, etc., but would not necessarily have any qualms about killing and eating cows, so long as the rearing and slaughter are "humane". The Animal Welfare movement is represented by such organizations as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society.

Having said this, it should be realized that some hold a broader interpretation of the AR movement. They would argue that the AW groups do, in fact, support rights for animals (e.g., a dog has the right not to be kicked). Under this interpretation, AR is viewed as a broad umbrella covering the AW and strict AR groups. This interpretation has the advantage of moving AR closer to the mainstream. Nevertheless, there is a valid distinction between the AW and AR groups, as described in the first paragraph.

Animal Liberation (AL) is, for many people, a synonym for Animal Rights (but see below). Some people prefer the term "liberation" because it brings to mind images of other successful liberation movements, such as the movement for liberation of slaves and liberation of women, whereas the term "rights" often encounters resistance when an attempt is made to apply it to nonhumans. The phrase "Animal Liberation" became popular with the publication of Peter Singer's classic book of the same name. This use of the term liberation should be distinguished from the literal meaning discussed in question #88, i.e., an Animal Liberationist is not necessarily one who engages in forceful civil disobedience or unlawful actions. Finally, intellectual honesty compels us to acknowledge that the account given here is rendered in broad strokes (but is at least approximately correct), and purposely avoids describing ongoing debate about the meaning of the terms "Animal Rights", "Animal Liberation", and "Animal Welfare", debate about the history of these movements, and debate about the actual positions of the prominent thinkers. To depict the flavor of such debates, the following text describes one coherent position. Naturally, it will be attacked from all sides!

Some might suggest that a subtle distinction can be made between the Animal Liberation and Animal Rights movements. The Animal Rights movement, at least as propounded by Regan and his adherents, is said to require total abolition of such practices as experimentation on animals. The Animal Liberation movement, as propounded by Singer and his adherents, is said to reject the absolutist view and assert that in some cases, such experimentation can be morally defensible. Because such cases could also justify some experiments on humans, however, it is not clear that the distinction described reflects a difference between the liberation and rights views, so much as it does a broader difference of ethical theory, i.e., absolutism versus utilitarianism. DG

Historically, animal welfare groups have attempted to improve the lot of animals in society. They worked against the popular Western concept of animals as lacking souls and not being at all worthy of any ethical consideration. The animal rights movement set itself up as an abolitionist alternative to the reform-minded animal welfarists. As the animal rights movement has become larger and more influential, the animal exploiters have finally been forced to respond to it. Perhaps inspired by the efforts of Tom Regan to distinguish AR from AW, industry groups intent on maintaining the status quo have embraced the term "animal welfare". Pro-vivisection, hunting, trapping, agribusiness, and animal entertainment groups now refer to themselves as "animal welfare" supporters. Several umbrella groups whose goal is to defend these practices have also arisen. This classic case of public-relations doublespeak acknowledges the issue of cruelty to animals in name only, while allowing for the continued use and abuse of animals. The propaganda effect is to stigmatize animal rights supporters as being extreme while attempting to portray themselves as the reasonable moderates. Nowadays, the cause of "animal welfare" is invoked by the animal industry at least as often as it is used by animal protection groups. LJ

SEE ALSO: #1, #3, #87-#88

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#03 What exactly are rights and what rights can we give animals?

Despite arguably being the foundation of the Western liberal tradition, the concept of "rights" has been a source of controversy and confusion in the debate over AR. A common objection to the notion that animals have rights involves questioning the origin of those rights. One such argument might proceed as follows:

Where do these rights come from? Are you in special communication with God, and he has told you that animals have rights? Have the rights been granted by law? Aren't rights something that humans must grant?

It is true that the concept of "rights" needs to be carefully explicated. It is also true that the concept of "natural rights" is fraught with philosophical difficulties. Complicating things further is the confusion between legal rights and moral rights. One attempt to avoid this objection is to accept it, but argue that if it is not an obstacle for thinking of humans as having rights, then it should not be an obstacle for thinking of animals as having rights. Henry Salt wrote:

Have the lower animals "rights?" Undoubtedly--if men have. That is the point I wish to make evident in this opening chapter... The fitness of this nomenclature is disputed, but the existence of some real principle of the kind can hardly be called in question; so that the controversy concerning "rights" is little else than an academic battle over words, which leads to no practical conclusion. I shall assume, therefore, that men are possessed of "rights," in the sense of Herbert Spencer's definition; and if any of my readers object to this qualified use of the term, I can only say that I shall be perfectly willing to change the word as soon as a more appropriate one is forthcoming. The immediate question that claims our attention is this--if men have rights, have animals their rights also?

Satisfying though this argument may be, it still leaves us unable to respond to the sceptic who disavows the notion of rights even for humans. Fortunately, however, there is a straightforward interpretation of "rights" that is plausible and allows us to avoid the controversial rights rhetoric and underpinnings. It is the notion that a "right" is the flip side of a moral imperative. If, ethically, we must refrain from an act performed on a being, then that being can be said to have a "right" that the act not be performed. For example, if our ethics tells us that we must not kill another, then the other has a right not to be killed by us. This interpretation of rights is, in fact, an intuitive one that people both understand and readily endorse. (Of course, rights so interpreted can be codified as legal rights through appropriate legislation.)

It is important to realize that, although there is a basis for speaking of animals as having rights, that does not imply or require that they possess all the rights that humans possess, or even that humans possess all the rights that animals possess. Consider the human right to vote. (On the view taken here, this would derive from an ethical imperative to give humans influence over actions that influence their lives.) Since animals lack the capacity to rationally consider actions and their implications, and to understand the concept of democracy and voting, they lack the capacity to vote. There is, therefore, no ethical imperative to allow them to do so, and thus they do not possess the right to vote. Similarly, some fowls have a strong biological need to extend and flap their wings; right-thinking people feel an ethical imperative to make it possible for them to do so. Thus, it can be said that fowl have the right to flap their wings. Obviously, such a right need not be extended to humans.

The rights that animals and humans possess, then, are determined by their interests and capacities. Animals have an interest in living, avoiding pain, and even in pursuing happiness (as do humans). As a result of the ethical imperatives, they have rights to these things (as do humans). They can exercise these rights by living their lives free of exploitation and abuse at the hands of humans. DG

SEE ALSO: #1-#2

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#04 Isn't AR hypocritical, e.g., because you don't give rights to insects or plants?

The general hypocrisy argument appears in many forms. A typical form is as follows:

"It is hypocritical to assert rights for a cow but not for a plant; therefore, cows cannot have rights."

Arguments of this type are frequently used against AR. Not much analysis is required to see that they carry little weight. First, one can assert an hypothesis A that would carry as a corollary hypothesis B. If one then fails to assert B, one is hypocritical, but this does not necessarily make A false. Certainly, to assert A and not B would call into question one's credibility, but it entails nothing about the validity of A. Second, the factual assertion of hypocrisy is often unwarranted. In the above example, there are grounds for distinguishing between cows and plants (plants do not have a central nervous system), so the charge of hypocrisy is unjustified. One may disagree with the criteria, but assertion of such criteria nullifies the charge of hypocrisy. Finally, the charge of hypocrisy can be reduced in most cases to simple speciesism. For example, the quote above can be recast as:

"It is hypocritical to assert rights for a human but not for a plant; therefore, humans cannot have rights."

To escape from this reductio ad absurdum of the first quote, one must produce a crucial relevant difference between cows and humans, in other words, one must justify the speciesist assignment of rights to humans but not to cows. (In question #24, we apply a similar reduction to the charge of hypocrisy related to abortion. For questions dealing specifically with insects and plants, refer to questions #39 through #46.) Finally, we must ask ourselves who the real hypocrites are. The following quotation from Michael W. Fox describes the grossly hypocritical treatment of exploited versus companion animals. DG

Farm animals can be kept five to a cage two feet square, tied up constantly by a two-foot-long tether, castrated without anesthesia, or branded with a hot iron. A pet owner would be no less than prosecuted for treating a companion animal in such a manner; an American president was, in fact, morally censured merely for pulling the ears of his two beagles. Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)

SEE ALSO: #24, #39-#46

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#05 What right do AR people have to impose their beliefs on others?

There is a not-so-subtle distinction between imposition of one's views and advertising them. AR supporters are certainly not imposing their views in the sense that, say, the Spanish Inquisition imposed its views, or the Church imposed its views on Galileo. We do, however, feel a moral duty to present our case to the public, and often to our friends and acquaintances. There is ample precedent for this: protests against slavery, protests against the Vietnam War, condemnation of racism, etc. One might point out that the gravest imposition is that of the exploiter of animals upon his innocent and defenseless victims. DG

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. George Orwell (author)

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. Harry S. Truman (33rd U.S. President)

SEE ALSO: #11, #87-#91

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#06 Isn't AR just another facet of political correctness?

If only that were true! The term "politically correct" generally refers to a view that is in sync with the societal mainstream but which some might be inclined to disagree with. For example, some people might be inclined to dismiss equal treatment for the races as mere "political correctness". The AR agenda is, currently, far from being a mainstream idea. Also, it is ridiculous to suppose that a view's validity can be overturned simply by attaching the label "politically correct" or "politically incorrect". DG

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#07 Isn't AR just another religion?

No. The dictionary defines "religion" as the appeal to a supernatural power. (An alternate definition refers to devotion to a cause; that is a virtue that the AR movement would be happy to avow.) People who support Animal Rights come from many different religions and many different philosophies. What they share is a belief in the importance of showing compassion for other individuals, whether human or nonhuman. LK

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#08 Doesn't it demean humans to give rights to animals?

A tongue-in-cheek, though valid, answer to this question is given by David Cowles-Hamar: "Humans are animals, so animal rights are human rights!" In a more serious vein, we can observe that giving rights to women and black people does not demean white males. By analogy, then, giving rights to nonhumans does not demean humans. If anything, by being morally consistent, and widening the circle of compassion to deserving nonhumans, we ennoble humans. (Refer to question #26 for other relevant arguments.) DG

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man. Albert Schweitzer (statesman, Nobel 1952)

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love. Pythagoras (mathematician)


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#09 Weren't Hitler and Goebbels in favor of animal rights?

This argument is absurd and almost unworthy of serious consideration. The questioner implies that since Hitler and Goebbels allegedly held views supportive of animal rights (e.g., Hitler was a vegetarian for some time), the animal rights viewpoint must be wrong or dubious. The problem for this argument is simple: bad people and good people can both believe things correctly. Or put in another way, just because a person holds one bad belief (e.g., Nazism), that doesn't make all his beliefs wrong. A few examples suffice to illustrate this. The Nazis undertook smoking reduction campaigns. Is it therefore dubious to discourage smoking? Early Americans withheld respect and liberty for black people. Does that mean that they were wrong in giving respect and liberty to others? Technically, this argument is an "ignoratio elenchus fallacy", arguing from irrelevance. Finally, many scholars are doubtful that Hitler and Goebbels supported AR in any meaningful way. DG


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#10 Do you really believe that "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy"?

Taken alone and literally, this notion is absurd. However, this quote has been shamelessly removed from its original context and misrepresented by AR opponents. The original context of the quote is given below. Viewed within its context, it is clear that the quote is neither remarkable nor absurd. DG
When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Ingrid Newkirk (AR activist)


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#11 There is no correct or incorrect in morals; you have yours and I have mine, right?

This position, known as moral relativism, is quite ancient but became fashionable at the turn of the century, as reports on the customs of societies alien to those found in Europe became available. It fell out of fashion, after the Second World War, although it is occasionally revived. Ethical propositions, we are asked to believe, are no more than statements of personal opinion and, therefore, cannot carry absolute weight. The main problem with this position is that ethical relativists are unable to denounce execrable ethical practices, such as racism. On what grounds can they condemn (if at all) Hitler's ideas on racial purity? Are we to believe that he was uttering an ethical truth when advocating the Final Solution? In addition to the inability to denounce practices of other societies, the relativists are unable to counter the arguments of even those whose society they share. They cannot berate someone who proposes to raise and kill infants for industrial pet food consumption, for example, if that person sees it as morally sound. Indeed, they cannot articulate the concept of societal moral progress, since they lack a basis for judging progress. There is no point in turning to the relativists for advice on ethical issues such as euthanasia, infanticide, or the use of fetuses in research. Faced with such arguments, ethical relativists sometimes argue that ethical truth is based on the beliefs of a society; ethical truth is seen as nothing more than a reflection of societal customs and habits. Butchering animals is acceptable in the West, they would say, because the majority of people think it so. They are on no firmer ground here. Are we to accept that chattel slavery was right before the US Civil War and wrong thereafter? Can all ethical decisions be decided by conducting opinion polls?

It is true that different societies have different practices that might be seen as ethical by one and unethical by the other. However, these differences result from differing circumstances. For example, in a society where mere survival is key, the diversion of limited food to an infant could detract significantly from the well-being of the existing family members that contribute to food gathering. Given that, infanticide may be the ethically correct course. The conclusion is that there is such a thing as ethical truth (otherwise, ethics becomes vacuous and devoid of proscriptive force). The continuity of thought, then, between those who reject the evils of slavery, racial discrimination, and gender bias, and those who denounce the evils of speciesism becomes striking. AECW

Many AR advocates (including myself) believe that morality is relative. We believe that AR is much more cogently argued when it is argued from the standpoint of your opponent's morality, not some mythical, hard-to-define universal morality. In arguing against moral absolutism, there is a very simple objection: Where does this absolute morality come from? Moral absolutism is an argument from authority, a tautology. If there were such a thing as "ethical truth", then there must be a way of determining it, and obviously there isn't. In the absence of a known proof of "ethical truth", I don't know how AECW can conclude it exists. An example of the method of leveraging a person's morality is to ask the person why he has compassion for human beings. Almost always he will agree that his compassion does not stem from the fact that: 1) humans use language, 2) humans compose symphonies, 3) humans can plan in the far future, 4) humans have a written, technological culture, etc. Instead, he will agree that it stems from the fact that humans can suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. It is then quite easy to show that nonhuman animals can also suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. The person's arbitrary inconsistency in not according moral status to nonhumans then stands out starkly. JEH

There is a middle ground between the positions of AECW and JEH. One can assert that just as mathematics is necessarily built upon a set of unprovable axioms, so is a system of ethics. At the foundation of a system of ethics are moral axioms, such as "unnecessary pain is wrong". Given the set of axioms, methods of reasoning (such as deduction and induction), and empirical facts, it is possible to derive ethical hypotheses. It is in this sense that an ethical statement can be said to be true. Of course, one can disagree about the axioms, and certainly such disagreement renders ethics "relative", but the concept of ethical truth is not meaningless. Fortunately, the most fundamental ethical axioms seem to be nearly universally accepted, usually because they are necessary for societies to function. Where differences exist, they can be elucidated and discussed, in a style similar to the "leveraging" described by JEH. DG

To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. Romain Rolland (author, Nobel 1915)


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#12 The animals are raised to be eaten; so what is wrong with that?

This question has always seemed to me to be a fancy version of "But we want to do these things, so what is wrong with that?" The idea that an act, by virtue of an intention of ours, can be exonerated morally is totally illogical. But worse than that, however, is the fact that such a belief is a dangerous position to take because it can enable one to justify some practices that are universally condemned. To see how this is so, consider the following restatement of the basis of the question: "Suffering can be excused so long as we breed them for the purpose." Now, cannot an analogous argument be used to defend a group of slave holders who breed and enslave humans and justify it by saying "but they're bred to be our workers"? Could not the Nazis defend their murder of the Jews by saying "but we rounded them up to be killed"? DG

Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, and that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun! Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher)

SEE ALSO: #13, #61

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#13 But isn't it true that the animals wouldn't exist if we didn't raise them for slaughter?

There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner may be referring to "the animals" as a species, in which case the argument might be more accurately phrased as follows:

"The ecological niche of cows is to be farmed; they get continued survival in this niche in return for our using them."

Second, the questioner may be referring to "the animals" as individuals, in which case the phrasing might be:

"The individual cows that we raise to eat would not have had a life had we not done so."

We deal first with the species interpretation and then with the individuals interpretation. The questioner's argument applies presumably to all species of animals; to make things more concrete, we will take cows as an example in the following text. It is incorrect to assert that cows could continue to exist only if we farm them for human consumption. First, today in many parts of India and elsewhere, humans and cows are engaged in a reciprocal and reverential relationship. It is only in recent human history that this relationship has been corrupted into the one-sided exploitation that we see today. There IS a niche for cows between slaughter/consumption and extinction. (The interested reader may find the book Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin quite enlightening on this subject.)

Second, several organizations have programs for saving animals from extinction. There is no reason to suppose that cows would not qualify. The species argument is also flawed because, in fact, our intensive farming of cattle results in habitat destruction and the loss of other species. For example, clearing of rain forests for pasture has led to the extinction of countless species. Cattle farming is destroying habitats on six continents. Why is the questioner so concerned about the cow species while being unconcerned about these other species? Could it have anything to do with the fact that he wants to continue to eat the cows?

Finally, a strong case can be made against the species argument from ethical theory. Arguments similar to the questioner's could be developed that would ask us to accept practices that are universally condemned. For example, consider a society that breeds a special race of humans for use as slaves. They argue that the race would not exist if they did not breed them for use as slaves. Does the reader accept this justification? Now we move on to the individuals interpretation of the question. One attempt to refute the argument is to answer as follows:

"It is better not to be born than to be born into a life of misery and early death."

To many, this is sufficient. However, one could argue that the fact that the life is miserable before death is not necessary. Suppose that the cows are treated well before being killed painlessly and eaten. Is it not true that the individual cows would not have enjoyed their short life had we not raised them for consumption? Furthermore, what if we compensate the taking of the life by bringing a new life into being? Peter Singer originally believed that this argument was absurd because there are no cow souls waiting around to be born. Many people accept this view and consider it sufficient, but Singer now rejects it because he accepts that to bring a being to a pleasant life does confer a benefit on that being. (There is extensive discussion of this issue in the second edition of Animal Liberation.)

How then are we to proceed? The key is that the AR movement asserts that humans and nonhumans have a right to not be killed by humans. The ethical problem can be seen clearly by applying the argument to humans. Consider the case of a couple that gives birth to an infant and eats it at the age of nine months, just when their next infant is born. A 9-month old baby has no more rational knowledge of its situation or future plans than does a cow, so there is no reason to distinguish the two cases. Yet, certainly, we would condemn the couple. We condemn them because the infant is an individual to whom we confer the right not to be killed. Why is this right not accorded to the cow? I think the answer is that the questioner wants to eat it. DG

It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery. Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet)


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#14 Don't the animals we use have a happier life since they are fed and protected?

The questioner makes two assumptions here. First, that happiness or contentment accrues from being fed and protected, and second, that the animals are, in fact, fed and protected. Both of these premises can be questioned. Certainly the animals are fed; after all, they must be fattened for consumption. It is very difficult to see any way that, say, factory-farmed chickens are "protected". They are not protected from mutilation, because they are painfully debeaked. They are not protected from psychological distress, because they are crowded together in unnatural conditions. And finally, they are not protected from predation, because they are slaughtered and eaten by humans. We can also question the notion that happiness accrues from feeding and protection alone. The Roman galley slaves were fed and protected from the elements; nevertheless, they would presumably trade their condition for one of greater uncertainty to obtain happiness. The same can be said of the slaves of earlier America. Finally, an ethical argument is relevant here. Consider again the couple of question #13. They will feed and protect their infant up to the point at which they consume it. We would not accept this as a justification. Why should we accept it for the chicken? DG


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#15 Is the use of service animals and beasts of burden considered exploitative?

A simple approach to this question might be to suggest that we all must work for a living and it should be no different for animals. The problem is that we want to look at the animals as like children, i.e., worthy of the same protections and rights, and, like them, incapable of being morally responsible. But we don't force children into labor! One can make a distinction, however, that goes something like this: The animals are permanently in their diminished state (i.e., incapable of voluntarily assenting to work); children are not. We do not impose a choice of work for children because they need the time to develop into their full adult and moral selves. With the animals, we choose for them a role that allows them to contribute; in return, we do not abuse them by eating them, etc. If this is done with true concern that their work conditions are appropriate and not of a sweat-shop nature, that they get enough rest and leisure time, etc., this would constitute a form of stewardship that is acceptable and beneficial to both sides, and one that is not at odds with AR philosophy. DG

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#16 Doesn't the Bible give Humanity dominion over the animals?

It is true that the Bible contains a passage that confers on humanity dominion over the animals. The import of this fact derives from the assumption that the Bible is the word of God, and that God is the ultimate moral authority. Leaving aside for the moment consideration of the meaning of dominion, we can take issue with the idea of seeking moral authority from the Bible.

First, there are serious problems with the interpretation of Biblical passages, with many verses contradicting one another, and with many scholars differing dramatically over the meaning of given verses.
Second, there are many claims to God-hood among the diverse cultures of this world; some of these Gods implore us to respect all life and to not kill unnecessarily. Whose God are we to take as the ultimate moral authority?

Finally, as Tom Regan observes, many people do not believe in a God and so appeals to His moral authority are empty for such people. For such people, the validity of judgments of the supposed God must be cross-checked with other methods of determining reasonableness. What are the cross-checks for the Biblical assertions? These remarks apply equally to other assertions of Biblical approval of human practices (such as the consumption of animals).

Even if we accept that the God of the Bible is a moral authority, we can point out that "dominion" is a vague term, meaning "stewardship" or "control over". It is quite easy to argue that appropriate stewardship or control consists of respecting the life of animals and their right to live according to their own nature. The jump from dominion to approval of our brutal exploitation of animals is not contained in the cited Biblical passage, either explicitly or implicitly. DG

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#17 Morals are a purely human construction (animals don't understand morals); doesn't that mean it is not rational to apply our morality to animals?

The fallaciousness of this argument can be easily demonstrated by making a simple substitution: Infants and young children don't understand morals, doesn't that mean it is not rational to apply our morality to them? Of course not. We refrain from harming infants and children for the same reasons that we do so for adults. That they are incapable of conceptualizing a system of morals and its benefits is irrelevant. The relevant distinction is formalized in the concept of "moral agents" versus "moral patients". A moral agent is an individual possessing the sophisticated conceptual ability to bring moral principles to bear in deciding what to do, and having made such a decision, having the free will to choose to act that way. By virtue of these abilities, it is fair to hold moral agents accountable for their acts. The paradigmatic moral agent is the normal adult human being.

Moral patients, in contrast, lack the capacities of moral agents and thus cannot fairly be held accountable for their acts. They do, however, possess the capacity to suffer harm and therefore are proper objects of consideration for moral agents. Human infants, young children, the mentally deficient or deranged, and nonhuman animals are instances of moral patienthood. Given that nonhuman animals are moral patients, they fall within the purview of moral consideration, and therefore it is quite rational to accord them the same moral consideration that we accord to ourselves. DG

SEE ALSO: #19, #23, #36

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#18 If AR people are so worried about killing, why don't they become fruitarians?

Killing, per se, is not the central concern of AR philosophy, which is concerned with the avoidance of unnecessary pain and suffering. Thus, because plants neither feel pain nor suffer, AR philosophy does not mandate fruitarianism (a diet in which only fruits are eaten because they can be harvested without killing the plant from which they issue). DG

SEE ALSO: #42-#46

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#19 Animals don't care about us; why should we care about them?

The questioner's position--that, in essence, we should give rights only to those able to respect ours--is known as the reciprocity argument. It is unconvincing both as an account of the way our society works and as a prescription for the way it should work. Its descriptive power is undermined by the simple observation that we give rights to a large number of individuals who cannot respect ours. These include some elderly people, some people suffering from degenerative diseases, some people suffering from irreversible brain damage, the severely retarded, infants, and young children. An institution that, for example, routinely sacrificed such individuals to test a new fertilizer would certainly be considered to be grievously violating their rights. The original statement fares no better as an ethical prescription. Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern, for example, so there would be no ethical harm done, under such a view, in dismissing concerns for environmental damage that adversely impacts future generations. The key failing of the questioner's position lies in the failure to properly distinguish between the following capacities:

The capacity to understand and respect others' rights (moral agency). The capacity to benefit from rights (moral patienthood).

An individual can be a beneficiary of rights without being a moral agent. Under this view, one justifies a difference of treatments of two individuals (human or nonhuman) with an objective difference that is RELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, if we wished to exclude a person from an academic course of study, we could not cite the fact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact that they lack certain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant; the latter is relevant. Similarly, when considering the right to be free of pain and suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthood IS relevant. AECW

The assumption that animals don't care about us can also be questioned. Companion animals have been known to summon aid when their owners are in trouble. They have been known to offer comfort when their owners are distressed. They show grief when their human companions die. DG

SEE ALSO: #17, #23, #36

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#20 A house is on fire and a dog and a baby are inside. Which do you save first?

The one I choose to save first tells us nothing about the ethical decisions we face. I might decide to save my child before I saved yours, but this certainly does not mean that I should be able to experiment on your child, or exploit your child in some other way. We are not in an emergency situation like a fire anyway. In everyday life, we can choose to act in ways that protect the rights of both dogs and babies. LK

Like anyone else in this situation, I would probably save the one to which I am emotionally more attached. Most likely it would be the child. Someone might prefer to save his own beloved dog before saving the baby of a stranger. However, as LK states above, this tells us nothing about any ethical principles. DVH

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#21 What if I made use of an animal that was already dead?

There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner might really be making the excuse "but I didn't kill the animal", or second, he could be asking about the morality of using an animal that has died naturally (or due to a cause unassociated with the demand for animal products, such as a road kill). For the first interpretation, we must reject the excuse. The killing of animals for meat, for example, is done at the request (through market demand), and with the financial support (through payment), of the end consumers. Their complicity is inescapable. Society does not excuse the receiver of stolen goods because he "didn't do the burglary". For the second interpretation, the use of naturally killed animals, there seems to be no moral difficulty involved. Many would, for esthetic reasons, still not use animal products thus obtained. (Would you use the bodies of departed humans?) Certainly, natural kills cannot satisfy the great demand for animal products that exists today; non-animal and synthetic sources are required. Other people may avoid use of naturally killed animal products because they feel that it might encourage a demand in others for animal products, a demand that might not be so innocently satisfied. DG

This can be viewed as a question of respect for the dead. We feel innate revulsion at the idea of grave desecration for this reason. Naturally killed animals should, at the very least, be left alone rather than recycled as part of an industrial process. This was commonly practiced in the past, e.g., Egyptians used to mummify their cats. AECW

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity. Ralph Waldo Emerson (author)

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#22 Where should one draw the line: animals, insects, bacteria?

AR philosophy asserts that rights are to be accorded to creatures that have the capacity to experience pain, to suffer, and to be a "subject of a life". Such a capacity is definitely not found in bacteria. It is definitely found in mammals. There is debate about such animals as molluscs and arthropods (including insects). One should decide, based upon available evidence and one's own conscience, where the line should be drawn to adhere to the principle of AR described in the first sentence. Questions #39 and #43 discuss some of the evidence relevant to drawing the line. DG

SEE ALSO: #39, #43

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#23 If the killing is wrong, shouldn't you stop predators from killing other animals?

This is one of the more interesting arguments against animal rights. We prevent human moral patients from harming others, e.g., we prevent children from hitting each other, so why shouldn't we do the same for nonhuman moral patients (refer to question #17 for a definition of moral patienthood)? If anything, the duty to do so might be considered more serious because predation results in a serious harm--death.

A first answer entails pointing out that predators must kill to survive; to stop them from killing is, in effect, to kill them. Of course, we could argue that intervening on a massive scale to prevent predation is totally impractical or impossible, but that is not morally persuasive. Suppose we accept that we should stop a cat from killing a bird. Then we realize that the bird is the killer of many snakes. Should we now reason that, in fact, we shouldn't stop the cat? The point is that humans lack the broad vision to make all these calculations and determinations.

The real answer is that intervening to stop predation would destroy the ecosystems upon which the biosphere depends, harming all of life on earth. Over millions of years, the biosphere has evolved complex ecosystems that depend upon predation for their continued functioning and stability. Massive intervention by humans to stop predation would inflict serious and incalculable harm on these ecosystems, with devastating results for all life. Even if we accept that we should prevent predation (and we don't accept that), it does not follow that, because we do not, we are therefore justified in exploiting moral patients ourselves. When we fail to stop widespread slaughter of human beings in foreign countries, it does not follow that we, ourselves, believe it appropriate to participate in such slaughter. Similarly, our failure to prevent predation cannot be taken as justification of our exploitation of animals. DG

SEE ALSO: #17, #19, #36, #64

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#24 Is the AR movement against abortion? If not, isn't that hypocritical?

Attempts are frequently made to tie Animal Rights exponents to one side or the other of the abortion debate. Such attempts are misguided. Claims that adherence to the ethics of AR determine one's position on embryo rights are plainly counter-intuitive, unless one is also prepared to argue that being a defender of human rights compels one to a particular position on abortion. Is it the case that one cannot consistently despise torture, serfdom, and other barbaric practices without coming to a particular conclusion on abortion?

AR defenders demand that the rights currently held by humans be extended to all creatures similar in morally relevant ways. For example, since society does not accept that mature, sentient human moral patients (refer to question #17 for a brief description of the distinction between patients and agents) may be routinely annihilated in the name of science, it logically follows that comparable nonhuman animals should be given the same protection.

On the other hand, abortion is still a moot point. It is plainly illogical to expect the AR movement to reflect anything other than the full spectrum of opinion found in society at large on the abortion issue. Fundamentally, AR philosophers are content with submitting sufficient conditions for the attribution of rights to individuals, conditions that explain the noncontroversial protections afforded today to humans. They neither encourage nor discourage attempts to widen the circle of protection to fetuses. AECW

There is a range of views among AR supporters on the issue of abortion versus animal rights. Many people believe, as does AECW, that the issues of abortion and AR are unrelated, and that the question is irrelevant to the validity of AR. Others, such as myself, feel that abortion certainly is relevant to AR. After all, the granting of rights to animals (and humans) is based on their capacity to suffer and to be a subject-of-a-life. It seems clear that late-term fetuses can suffer from the abortion procedure. Certain physiological responses, such as elevated heart rates, and the existence of a functioning nervous system support this view. It also can be argued that the fetus is on a course to become a subject-of-a-life, and that by aborting the fetus we therefore harm it. Some counter this latter argument by claiming that the "potential" to become subject-of-a-life is an invalid grounds for assigning rights, but this is a fine philosophical point that is itself subject to attack. For example, suppose a person is in a coma that, given enough time, will dissipate--the person has the potential to be sentient again. Does the person lose his rights while in the coma?

While the arguments adduced may show that abortion is not irrelevant to AR, they do not show that abortion is necessarily wrong. The reason is that it is possible to argue that the rights of the fetus are in conflict with the rights of the woman, and that the rights of the woman dominate. All may not agree with this trade-off, but it is a consistent, non-hypocritical stance that is not in conflict with AR philosophy. See question #4 for an analysis of hypocrisy arguments in general. DG


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#25 Doesn't the ethical theory of contractarianism show that animals have no rights?

Contractarianism is an ethical theory that attempts to account for our morality by appealing to implicit mutually beneficial agreements, or contracts. For example, it would explain our refusal to strike each other by asserting that we have an implied contract: "You don't hit me and I won't hit you." The relevance of contractarianism to AR stems from the supposition that nonhuman animals are incapable of entering into such contracts, coupled with the assertion that rights can be attributed only to those individuals that can enter into such contracts. Roughly, animals can't have rights because they lack the rational capacity to assent to a contract requiring them to respect our rights.

Contractarianism is perhaps the most impressive attempt to refute the AR position; therefore, it is important to consider it in some detail. It is easily possible to write a large volume on the subject. We must limit ourselves to considering the basic arguments and problems with them. Those readers finding this incomplete or nonrigorous are advised to consult the primary literature.

We begin by observing that contractarianism fails to offer a compelling account of our moral behavior and motives. If the average person is asked why they think it wrong to steal from their neighbor, they do not answer that by refraining from it they ensure that their neighbor will not steal from them. Nor do they answer that they have an implicit mutual contract with their neighbor. Instead of invoking contracts, people typically assert some variant of the harm principle; e.g., they don't steal because it would harm the neighbor. Similarly, we do not teach children that the reason why they should not steal is because then people will not steal from them. Another way to point up the mismatch between the theory of contractarianism and our actual moral behavior is to ask if, upon risking your own life to save my child from drowning, you have done this as a result of a contractual obligation. Certainly, one performs such acts as a response to the distress of another being, not as a result of contractual obligations.

Contractarianism can thus be seen as a theory that fails to account for our moral behavior. At best, it is a theory that its proponents would recommend to us as preferable. (Is it seen as preferable because it denies rights to animals, and because it seems to justify continued exploitation of animals?) Arguably the most serious objection to contractarianism is that it can be used to sanction arrangements that would be almost universally condemned. Consider a group of very rich people that assemble and create a contract among themselves the effect of which is to ensure that wealth remains in their control. They agree by contract that even repressive tactics can be used to ensure that the masses remain in poverty. They argue that, by virtue of the existence of their contract, that they do no wrong. Similar contracts could be drawn up to exclude other races, sexes, etc.

John Rawls attempts to overcome this problem by supposing that the contractors must begin from an "initial position" in which they are not yet incarnated as beings and must form the contract in ignorance of their final incarnation. Thus, it is argued, since a given individual in the starting position does not know whether, for example, she will be incarnated as a rich woman or a poor woman, that individual will not form contracts that are based on such criteria. In response, one can begin to wonder at the lengths to which some will go in creating ad hoc adjustments to a deficient theory.

But more to the point, one can turn around this ad hoc defense to support the AR position. For surely, if individuals in the initial position are to be truly ignorant of their destiny, they must assume that they may be incarnated as animals. Given that, the contract that is reached is likely to include strong protections for animals!

Another problem with Rawls' device is that probabilities can be such that, even given ignorance, contracts can result that most people would see as unjust. If the chance of being incarnated as a slave holder is 90 percent, a contract allowing slavery could well result because most individuals would feel they had a better chance of being incarnated as a slave holder. Thus, Rawls' device fails even to achieve its purpose. It is hard to see how contractarianism can permit movement from the status quo. How did alleged contracts that denied liberty to slaves and excluded women from voting come to be renegotiated?

Contractarianism also is unable to adequately account for the rights we give to those unable to form contracts, i.e., infants, children, senile people, mental deficients, and even animals to some extent. Various means have been advanced to try to account for the attribution of rights to such individuals. We have no space to deal with all of them. Instead, we briefly address a few. One attempt involves appealing to the interests of true rights holders. For example, I don't eat your baby because you have an interest in it and I wouldn't want you violating such an interest of mine. But what if no-one cared about a given infant? Would that make it fair game for any use or abuse? Certainly not.

Another problem here is that many people express an interest in the protection of all animals. That would seem to require others to refrain from using or abusing animals. While this result is attractive to the AR community, it certainly weakens the argument that contractarianism justifies our use of animals. Others want to let individuals "ride" until they are capable of respecting the contract. But what of those that will never be capable of doing so, e.g., senile people? And why can we not let animals ride? Some argue a "reduced-rights" case. Children get a reduced rights set designed to protect them from themselves, etc. The problem here is that with animals the rights reduction is way out of proportion. We accept that we cannot experiment on infants or kill and eat them due to their reduced rights set. Why then are such extreme uses acceptable for nonhumans? Some argue that it is irrelevant whether a given individual can enter into a contract; what is important is their theoretical capacity to do so. But, future generations have the capacity but clearly cannot interact reciprocally with us, so the basis of contractarianism is gutted (unless we assert that we have no moral obligations to leave a habitable world for future generations). Peter Singer asks "Why limit morality to those who have the capacity to enter into agreements, if in fact there is no possibility of their ever doing so?"

There are practical problems with contractarianism as well. For example, what can be our response if an individual renounces participation in any implied moral contracts, and states that he is therefore justified in engaging in what others would call immoral acts? Is there any way for us to reproach him? And what are we to do about violations of the contract? If an individual steals from us, he has broken the contract and we should therefore be released from it. Are we then morally justified in stealing from him? Or worse?

In summary, contractarianism fails because a) it fails to accurately account for our actual, real-world moral acts and motives, b) it sanctions contractual arrangements that most people would see as unjust, c) it fails to account for the considerations we accord to individuals unable to enter into contracts, and d) it has some impractical consequences. Finally, there is a better foundation for ethics--the harm principle. It is simple, universalizable, devoid of ad hoc devices, and matches our real moral thinking. TA/DG

SEE ALSO: #11, #17, #19, #96

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#26 Surely there are more pressing practical problems than AR, such as homelessness; haven't you got better things to do?

Inherent in this question is an assumption that it is more important to help humans than to help nonhumans. Some would dismiss this as a speciesist position (see question #1). It is possible, however, to invoke the scale-of-life notion and argue that there is greater suffering and loss associated with cruelty and neglect of humans than with animals. This might appear to constitute a prima-facie case for expending one's energies for humans rather than nonhumans. However, even if we accept the scale-of-life notion, there are sound reasons for expending time and energy on the issue of rights for nonhuman animals. Many of the consequences of carrying out the AR agenda are highly beneficial to humans. For example, stopping the production and consumption of animal products would result in a significant improvement of the general health of the human population, and destruction of the environment would be greatly reduced. Fostering compassion for animals is likely to pay dividends in terms of a general increase of compassion in human affairs. Tom Regan puts it this way:

...the animal rights movement is a part of, not antagonistic to, the human rights movement. The theory that rationally grounds the rights of animals also grounds the rights of humans. Thus those involved in the animal rights movement are partners in the struggle to secure respect for human rights--the rights of women, for example, or minorities, or workers. The animal rights movement is cut from the same moral cloth as these.

Finally, the behavior asked for by the AR agenda involves little expenditure of energy. We are asking people to NOT do things: don't eat meat, don't exploit animals for entertainment, don't wear furs. These negative actions don't interfere with our ability to care for humans. In some cases, they may actually make more time available for doing so (e.g., time spent hunting or visiting zoos and circuses). DG

Living cruelty-free is not a full-time job; rather, it's a way of life. When I shop, I check ingredients and I consider if the product is tested on animals. These things only consume a few minutes of the day. There is ample time left for helping both humans and nonhumans. JLS

I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being. Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

Our task must be to free widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)

SEE ALSO: #1, #87, #95

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#27 If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets, what would happen to all the animals?

As vegetarianism grows, the number of animals bred for food gradually will decline, since the market will no longer exist for them. Similarly, a gradual decrease would accompany the lessening demand for the breeding of companion animals. In both cases, those animals that remain will be better cared for by a more compassionate society. LK


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#28 Grazing animals on land not suited for agriculture increases the food supply; how can that be considered wrong?

There are areas in the world where grazing of livestock is possible but agriculture is not. If conditions are such that people living in these areas cannot trade for crops and must raise livestock to survive, few would question the practice. However, such areas are very small in comparison to the fertile and semi-arid regions currently utilized for intensive grazing, and they do not appreciably contribute to the world food supply. (Some would argue that it is morally preferable not to live in such areas.) The real issue is the intensive grazing in the fertile and semi-arid regions. The use of such areas for livestock raising reduces the world food supply. Keith Acker writes as follows in his "A Vegetarian Sourcebook":

Land, energy, and water resources for livestock agriculture range anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than those necessary to produce an equivalent amount of plant foods. And livestock agriculture does not merely use these resources, it depletes them. This is a matter of historical record. Most of the world's soil, erosion, groundwater depletion, and deforestation--factors now threatening the very basis of our food system--are the result of this particularly destructive form of food production.

Livestock agriculture is also the single greatest cause of world-wide deforestation both historically and currently (between 1967 and 1975, two-thirds of 70 million acres of lost forest went to grazing). Between 1950 and 1975 the area of human-created pasture land in Central America more than doubled, almost all of it at the expense of rain forests. Although this trend has slowed down, it still continues at an alarming and inexorable pace. Grazing requires large tracts of land and the consequences of overgrazing and soil erosion are very serious ecological problems. By conservative estimates, 60 percent of all U.S. grasslands are overgrazed, resulting in billions of tons of soil lost each year. The amount of U.S. topsoil lost to date is about 75 percent, and 85 percent of that is directly associated with livestock grazing. Overgrazing has been the single largest cause of human-made deserts. One could argue that grazing is being replaced by the "feedlot paradigm". These systems graze the livestock prior to transport to a feedlot for final "fattening" with grains grown on crop lands. Although this does reduce grazing somewhat, it is not eliminated, and the feedlot part of the paradigm still constitutes a highly inefficient use of crops (to feed a human with livestock requires 16 times the grain that would be necessary if the grain was consumed directly). It has been estimated that in the U.S., 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats grown are fed to livestock. TA

I grew up in cattle country--that's why I became a vegetarian. Meat stinks, for the animals, the environment, and your health. k.d. lang (musician)

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#29 If we try to eliminate all animals products, we'll be moving back to the Stone Age; who wants that?

On the contrary! It is a dependency upon animal products that could be seen as returning us to the technologies and mind set of the Stone Age. For example, Stone Age people had to wear furs in Northern climates to avoid freezing. That is no longer the case, thanks to central heating and the ready availability of plenty of good plant and human-made fabrics. If we are to characterize the modern age, it could be in terms of the greater freedoms and options made possible by technological advance and social progress. The Stone Age people had few options and so were forced to rely upon animals for food, clothing, and materials for their implements. Today, we have an abundance of choices for better foods, warmer clothing, and more efficient materials, none of which need depend upon the killing of animals. TA

It seems to me that the only Stone Age we are in any danger of entering is that constituted by the continuous destruction of animals' habitats in favor of the Portland-cement concrete jungle! DG

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#30 It's virtually impossible to eliminate all animal products from one's consumption; what's the point if you still cause animal death without knowing it?

Yes, it is very difficult to eliminate all animal products from one's consumption, just as it is impossible to eliminate all accidental killing and infliction of harm that results from our activities. But this cannot justify making it "open season" for any kind of abuse of animals. The reasonable goal, given the realities, is to minimize the harms one causes. The point, then, is that a great deal of suffering is prevented. DG

SEE ALSO: #57-#58

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#31 Wouldn't many customs and traditions, as well as jobs, be lost if we stopped using animals?

Consider first the issue of customs and traditions. The plain truth is that some customs and traditions deserve to die out. Examples abound throughout history: slavery, Roman gladiatorial contests, torture, public executions, witch burning, racism. To these the AR supporter adds animal exploitation and enslavement. The human animal is an almost infinitely adaptable organism. The loss of the customs listed above has not resulted in any lasting harm to humankind. The same can be confidently predicted for the elimination of animal exploitation. In fact, humankind would likely benefit from a quantum leap of compassion in human affairs. As far as jobs are concerned, the economic aspects are discussed in question #32. It remains to point out that for a human, what is at stake is a job, which can be replaced with one less morally dubious. What is at stake for an animal is the elimination of torture and exploitation, and the possibility for a life of happiness, free from human oppression and brutality. DG

People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times. Isaac Bashevis Singer (author, Nobel 1978)

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#32 The animal product industries are big business; wouldn't the economy be crippled if they all stopped?

One cannot justify an action based on its profitability. Many crimes and practices that we view as repugnant have been or continue to be profitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drug dealing, scams of all sorts, prostitution, child pornography. A good example of this, and one that points up another key consideration, is the tobacco industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet vigorous efforts are proceeding on many fronts to put it out of business. The main problem with it lies in its side-effects, i.e., the massive health consequences and deaths that it produces, which easily outweigh the immediate profitability.

There are side effects to animal exploitation also. Among the most significant are the pollution and deforestation associated with large-scale animal farming. As we see in question #28, these current practices constitute a nonsustainable use of the planet's resources. It is more likely true that the economy will be crippled if the practices continue!

Finally, the profits associated with the animal industries stem from market demand and affluence. There is no reason to suppose that this demand cannot be gradually redirected into other industries. Instead of prime beef, we can have prime artichokes, or prime pasta, etc. Humanity's demand for gourmet food will not vanish with the meat. Similarly, the jobs associated with the animal industries can be gradually redirected into the industries that would spring up to replace the animal industries. (Vice President Gore made a similar point in reference to complaints concerning loss of jobs if logging was halted. He commented that the environmental movement would open up a huge area for jobs that had heretofore been unavailable.) DG

It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind. Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)

SEE ALSO: #28, #31

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#33 Humans are at the pinnacle of evolution; doesn't that give them the right to use animals as they wish?

This is one of many arguments that attempt to draw ethical conclusions from scientific observations. In this case, the science is shaky, and the ethical conclusion is dubious. Let us first examine the science. The questioner's view is that evolution has created a linear ranking of general fitness, a ladder if you will, with insects and other "lower" species at the bottom, and humans (of course!) at the top. This idea originated as part of a wider, now discredited evolutionary system called Lamarckism. Charles Darwin's discovery of natural selection overturned this system. Darwin's picture, instead, is of a "radiating bush" of species, with each evolving to adapt more closely to its environment, along its own radius. Under this view, the idea of a pinnacle becomes unclear: yes, humans have adapted well to their niche (though many would dispute this, asserting the nonsustainable nature of our use of the planet's resources), but so have bacteria adapted well to their niche. Can we really say that humans are better adapted to their niche than bacteria, and would it mean anything when the niches are so different? Probably, what the questioner has in mind in using the word "pinnacle" is that humans excel in some particular trait, and that a scale can be created relative to this trait. For example, on a scale of mental capability, humans stand well above bacteria. But a different choice of traits can lead to very different results. Bacteria stand "at the pinnacle" when one looks at reproductive fecundity. Birds stand "at the pinnacle" when one looks at flight.

Now let us examine the ethics. Leaving aside the dubious idea of a pinnacle of evolution, let us accept that humans are ranked at the top on a scale of intelligence. Does this give us the right to do as we please with animals, simply on account of their being less brainy? If we say yes, we open a Pandora's box of problems for ourselves. Does this mean that more intelligent humans can also exploit less intelligent humans as they wish (shall we all be slaves to the Einsteins of the world)? Considering a different trait, can the physically superior abuse the weak? Only a morally callous person would agree with this general principle. AECW

SEE ALSO: #34, #37

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#34 Humans are at the top of the food chain; aren't they therefore justified in killing and eating anything?

No; otherwise, potential cannibals in our society could claim the same defense for their practice. That we can do something does not mean that it is right to do so. We have a lot of power over other creatures, but with great powers come even greater responsibilities, as any parent will testify. Humans are at the top of the food chain because they CHOOSE to eat nonhuman animals. There is thus a suggestion of tautology in the questioner's position. If we chose not to eat animals, we would not be at the top of the food chain. The idea that superiority in a trait confers rights over the inferior is disposed of in question #33. AECW


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#35 Animals are just machines; why worry about them?

Centuries ago, the philosopher Rene Descartes developed the idea that all nonhuman animals are automatons that cannot feel pain. Followers of Descartes believed that if an animal cried out this was just a reflex, the sort of reaction one might get from a mechanical doll. Consequently, they saw no reason not to experiment on animals without anesthetics. Horrified observers were admonished to pay no attention to the screams of the animal subjects.

This idea is now refuted by modern science. Animals are no more "mere machines" than are human beings. Everything science has learned about other species points out the biological similarities between humans and nonhumans. As Charles Darwin wrote, the differences between humans and other animals are differences of degree, not differences of kind. Since both humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of years and share similar nervous systems and other organs, there is no reason to think we do not share a similar mental and emotional life with other animal species (especially mammals). LK

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#36 In Nature, animals kill and eat each other; so why should it be wrong for humans?

Predatory animals must kill to eat. Humans, in contrast, have a choice; they need not eat meat to survive. Humans differ from nonhuman animals in being capable of conceiving of, and acting in accordance with, a system of morals; therefore, we cannot seek moral guidance or precedent from nonhuman animals. The AR philosophy asserts that it is just as wrong for a human to kill and eat a sentient nonhuman as it is to kill and eat a sentient human. To demonstrate the absurdity of seeking moral precedents from nonhuman animals, consider the following variants of the question:

"In Nature, animals steal food from each other; so why should it be wrong for humans [to steal]?"

"In Nature, animals kill and eat humans; so why should it be wrong for humans [to kill and eat humans]?" DG

SEE ALSO: #23, #34, #64

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#37 Natural selection and Darwinism are at work in the world; doesn't that mean it's unrealistic to try to overcome such forces?

Assuming that Animal Rights concepts somehow clash with Darwinian forces, the questioner must stand accused of selective moral fatalism: our sense of morality is clearly not modeled on the laws of natural selection. Why, then, feel helpless before some of its effects and not before others? Male-dominance, xenophobia, and war-mongering are present in many human societies. Should we venture that some mysterious, universal forces must be at work behind them, and that all attempts at quelling such tendencies should be abandoned? Or, more directly, when people become sick, do we abandon them because "survival of the fittest" demands it? We do not abandon them; and we do not agonize about trying to overcome natural selection. There is no reason to believe that the practical implications of the Animal Rights philosophy are maladaptive for humans. On the contrary, and for reasons explained elsewhere in this FAQ, respecting the rights of animals would yield beneficial side-effects for humans, such as more-sustainable agricultural practices, and better environmental and health-care policies. AECW

The advent of Darwinism led to a substitution of the idea of individual organisms for the old idea of immutable species. The moral individualism implied by AR philosophy substitutes the idea that organisms should be treated according to their individual capacities for the (old) idea that it is the species of the animal that counts. Thus, moral individualism actually fits well with evolutionary theory. DG

SEE ALSO: #63-62

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#38 Isn't AR opposed to environmental philosophy (as described, for example, in "Deep Ecology")?

No. It should be clear from many of the answers included in this FAQ, and from perusal of many of the books referenced in question #92, that the philosophy and goals of AR are complementary to the goals of the mainstream environmental movement. Michael W. Fox sees AR and environmentalism as two aspects of a dialectic that reconciles concerns for the rights of individuals (human and nonhuman) with concerns for the integrity of the biosphere. Some argue that a morality based on individual rights is necessarily opposed to one based on holistic environmental views, e.g., the sanctity of the biosphere. However, an environmental ethic that attributes some form of rights to all individuals, including inanimate ones, can be developed. Such an ethic, by showing respect for the individuals that make up the biosphere, would also show respect for the biosphere as a whole, thus achieving the aims of holistic environmentalism. It is clear that a rights view is not necessarily in conflict with a holistic view. In reference to the concept of deep ecology and the claim that it bears negatively on AR, Fox believes such claims to be unfounded. The following text is excerpted from "Inhumane Society", by Michael W. Fox. DG

Deep ecologists support the philosophy of preserving the natural abundance and diversity of plants and animals in natural ecosystems... The deep ecologists should oppose the industrialized, nonsubsistence exploitation of wildlife is fundamentally unsound ecologically, because by favoring some species over others, population imbalances and extinctions of undesired species would be inevitable. In their book "Deep Ecology", authors Bill Devall and George Sessions... take to task animal rights philosopher Tom Regan, who with others of like mind "expressed concern that a holistic ecological ethic...results in a kind of totalitarianism or ecological fascism"...In an appendix, however, George Sessions does suggest that philosophers need to work toward nontotalitarian solutions...and that "in all likelihood, this will require some kind of holistic ecological ethic in which the integrity of all individuals (human and nonhuman) is respected". Ironically, while the authors are so critical of the animal rights movement, they quote Arne Naess (...arguably the founder of the deep ecology movement)...For instance, Naess states: "The intuition of biocentric equality is that all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own forms of unfolding and self-realization..." Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)

SEE ALSO: #28, #59

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#39 What about insects? Do they have rights too?

Before considering the issue of rights, let us first address the question "What about insects?". Strictly speaking, insects are small invertebrate animals of the class Insecta, having an adult stage characterized by three pairs of legs, a segmented body with three major divisions, and usually two pairs of wings. We'll adopt the looser definition, which includes similar invertebrate animals such as spiders, centipedes, and ticks.

Insects have a ganglionic nervous system, in contrast to the central nervous system of vertebrates. Such a system is characterized by local aggregates of neurons, called ganglia, that are associated with, and specialized for, the body segment with which they are co-located. There are interconnections between ganglia but these connections function not so much as a global integrating pathway, but rather for local segmental coordination.

For example, the waves of leg motion that propagate along the body of a centipede are mediated by the intersegmental connections. In some species the cephalic ganglia are large and complex enough to support very complex behavior (e.g., the lobster and octopus). The cuttlefish (not an insect but another invertebrate with a ganglionic nervous system) is claimed by some to be about as intelligent as a dog. Insects are capable of primitive learning and do exhibit what many would characterize as intelligence. Spiders are known for their skills and craftiness; whether this can all be dismissed as instinct is arguable. Certainly, bees can learn in a limited way. When offered a reward from a perch of a certain color, they return first to perches of that color. They also learn the location of food and transmit that information to their colleagues. The learning, however, tends to be highly specialized and applicable to only limited domains.

In addition to a primitive mental life as described above, there is some evidence that insects can experience pain and suffering. The earthworm nervous system, for example, secretes an opiate substance when the earthworm is injured. Similar responses are seen in vertebrates and are generally accepted to be a mechanism for the attenuation of pain. On the other hand, the opiates are also implicated in functions not associated with analgesia, such as thermoregulation and appetite control. Nevertheless, the association of secretion with tissue injury is highly suggestive. Earthworms also wriggle quite vigorously when impaled on a hook. In possible opposition to this are other observations. For example, the abdomen of a feeding wasp can be clipped off and the head may go on sucking (presumably in no distress?).

Singer quotes three criteria for deciding if an organism has the capacity to suffer from pain: 1) there are behavioral indications, 2) there is an appropriate nervous system, and 3) there is an evolutionary usefulness for the experience of pain.

These criteria seem to satisfied for insects, if only in a primitive way. Now we are equipped to tackle the issue of insect rights. First, one might argue that the issue is not so compelling as for other animals because industries are not built around the exploitation of insects. But this is untrue; large industries are built around honey production, silk production, and cochineal/carmine production, and, of course, mass insect death results from our use of insecticides. Even if the argument were true, it should not prevent us from attempting to be consistent in the application of our principles to all animals. Insects are a part of the Animal Kingdom and some special arguments would be required to exclude them from the general AR argument. Some would draw a line at some level of complexity of the nervous system, e.g., only animals capable of operant conditioning need be enfranchised. Others may quarrel with this line and place it elsewhere. Some may postulate a scale of life with an ascending capacity to feel pain and suffer. They might also mark a cut-off on the scale, below which rights are not actively asserted. Is the cut-off above insects and the lower invertebrates? Or should there be no cut-off? This is one of the issues still being actively debated in the AR community.

People who strive to live without cruelty will attempt to push the line back as far as possible, giving the benefit of the doubt where there is doubt. Certainly, one can avoid unnecessary cruelty to insects. The practical issues involved in enfranchising insects are dealt with in the following two questions. DG

I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth. Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

What is it that should trace the insuperable line? ...The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)

SEE ALSO: #22, #40-#41, #47

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#40 Do I have to be careful not to walk on ants?

The Jains of India would say yes! Some of their more devout members wear gauze masks to avoid inhaling and killing small insects and microbes. Regardless of how careful we are, we will cause some suffering as a side-effect of living. The goal is to avoid unnecessary suffering and to minimize the suffering we cause. This is a far cry from wanton, intentional infliction of cruelty. I refer here to the habit of some of pulling off insects' wings for fun, or of torching a congregation of ants for pleasure. This question is an issue for the individual conscience to decide. Perhaps one need not walk around looking out for ants on the ground, but should one be seen and it is easy to alter one's stride to avoid it, where is the harm in doing so? DG

SEE ALSO: #39, #41

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#41 There is some evidence of consciousness in insects; aren't you descending to absurdity to tell people not to kill insects?

Enfranchising insects does not mean it is never justifiable to kill them. As with all threats to a being, the rule of self-defense applies. If insects are threatening one's well-being in a nontrivial way, AR philosophy would not assert that it is wrong to eliminate them. Pesticides and herbicides are often used for mass destruction of insect populations. While this might be defended on the self-defense principle, one should be aware of the significant adverse impact on the environment, on other non-threatening animals, and indeed on our own health. (Refer to question #59 for more on the use of insecticides.) It is not absurd to attempt to minimize the amount of suffering that we inflict or cause. DG

We should begin to feel for the flies and other insects struggling to be free from sticky fly paper. There are humane alternatives. Michael W. Fox (Vice President of HSUS)

SEE ALSO: #39-#40, #59

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#42 Isn't it hypocritical to kill and eat plants?

It would be hypocritical IF the same criteria or morally relevant attributes that are used to justify animal rights also applied to plants. The criteria cited by the AR movement are "pain and suffering" and being "subjects-of-a-life". An assessment of how plants measure up to these criteria leads to the following conclusions. First, our best science to date shows that plants lack any semblance of a central nervous system or any other system design for such complex capacities as that of conscious suffering from felt pain. Second, plants simply have no evolutionary need to feel pain. Animals being mobile would benefit from the ability to sense pain; plants would not. Nature does not gratuitously create such complex capacities as that of feeling pain unless there is some benefit for the organism's survival. The first point is dealt with in more detail in questions #43 and #44. The general hypocrisy argument is discussed in question #4. TA

SEE ALSO: #4, #39-#44

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#43 But how can you prove that plants don't feel pain?

Lest we forget the ultimate point of what follows, let us not forget the central thesis of AR. Simply stated: to the extent other animals share with us certain morally relevant attributes, then to that extent we confer upon them due regard and concern. The two attributes that are arguably relevant are: a) our capacity for pain and suffering, and b) the capacity for being the "subject-of-a-life", i.e., being such that it matters to one whether one's life fares well or ill. Both of these qualities require the existence of mental states. Also note that in order to speak of "mental states" properly, we would denote, as common usage would dictate, that such states are marked by consciousness.

It is insufficient to mark off mental states by only the apparent presence of purposefulness or intentionality since, as we shall see below, many material objects possess purposeful-looking behaviors. So then, how do we properly attribute the existence of mental states to other animals, or even to ourselves for that matter? We cannot infer the presence of felt pain simply by the presence of a class of behaviors that are functional for an organism's amelioration or avoidance of noxious stimuli. Thermostats obviously react to thermal changes in the environment and respond in a functionally appropriate manner to restore an initial "preferred" state. We would be foolish, however, to attribute to thermostats a capability to "sense" or "feel" some kind of thermal "pain". Even placing quotes around our terms doesn't protect us from absurdity. Clearly, the behavioral criterion of even functional avoidance/defense reactions is simply not sufficient nor even necessary for the proper attribution of pain as a felt mental state.

Science, including the biological sciences, are committed to the working assumption of scientific materialism or physicalism (see "The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science", E. A. Burtt, 1924). We must then start with the generally accepted scientific assumption that matter is the only existent or real primordial constituent of the universe. Let it be said at the outset that scientific materialism as such does not preclude the existence of emergent or functional qualities like that of mind, consciousness, and feeling (or even, dare I say it, free will), but all such qualities are dependent upon the existence of organized matter. If there is no hardware, there is nothing for the software to run on. If there is no intact, living brain, there is no mind. It should also be said that even contemporary versions of dualism or mind-stuff theories will also make embodiment of mental states dependent on the presence of sufficiently organized matter.

To briefly state the case, cognitive functions like consciousness and mind are seen as emergent properties of sufficiently organized matter. Just as breathing is a function of a complex system of organs referred to as the respiratory system, so too is consciousness a function of the immensely complex information-processing capabilities of a central nervous system. It is possible, in theory, that future computers, given a sufficiently complex and orderly organization of hardware and clever software, could exhibit the requisite emergent qualities. While such computers do not exist, we DO know that certain living organisms on this planet possess the requisite complexity of specialized and highly organized structure for the emergence of mental states.

In theory, plants could possess a mental state like pain, but if, and only if, there were a requisite complexity of organized plant tissue that could serve to instantiate the higher order mental states of consciousness and felt pain. There is no morphological evidence that such a complexity of tissue exists in plants. Plants lack the specialized structures required for emergence of mental states. This is not to say that they cannot exhibit complex reactions, but we are simply over-interpreting such reactions if we designate them as "felt pain".

With respect to all mammals, birds, and reptiles, we know that they possess a sufficiently complex neural structure to enable felt pain plus an evolutionary need for such consciously felt states. They possess complex and specialized sense organs, they possess complex and specialized structures for processing information and for centrally orchestrating appropriate behaviors in accordance with mental representations, integrations, and reorganizations of that information. The proper attribution of felt pain in these animals is well justified. It is not for plants, by any stretch of the imagination. TA

The absurdity (and often disingenuity) of the plant-pain promoters can be easily exposed by asking them the following two questions:

    Do you agree that animals like dogs and cats should receive pain-killing drugs prior to surgery?

    Do you believe that plants should receive pain-killing drugs prior to pruning?


SEE ALSO: #42, #44

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#44 Aren't there studies that show that plants can scream, etc.?

How can something without vocal apparatus scream? Perhaps the questioner intends to suggest that plants somehow express feelings or emotions. This notion is popularized in the book "The Secret Life of Plants", by Tompkins and Bird, 1972. The book describes "experiments" in which plants are claimed to respond to injury and even to the thoughts and emotions of nearby humans. The responses consist of changes in the electrical conductivity of their leaves. The truth is, however, that nothing but a dismal failure has resulted from attempts to replicate these experiments. For some definitive reviews, see Science, 1975, 189:478 and The Skeptical Inquirer, 1978, 2(2):57.

But what about plant responses to insect invasion? Does this suggest that plants "feel" pain? No published book or paper in a scientific journal has been cited as indeed making this claim that "plants feel pain". There is interesting data suggesting that plants react to local tissue damage and even emit signaling molecules serving to stimulate chemical defenses of nearby plants. But how is this relevant to the claim that plants feel and suffer from pain? Where are the replicated experiments and peer-reviewed citations for this putative fact? There are none. Let us, for the sake of argument, consider the form of logic employed by the plant-pain promoters:

    Premise 1: Plants are responsive to "sense" impressions.

    Premise 2: As defined in the dictionary, anything responsive to sense impressions is sentient. conclusion 1: Plants are sentient.

    Premise 3: Sentient beings are conscious of sense impressions. conclusion 2: Plants are conscious of sense impressions.

    Premise 4: To be conscious of a noxious stimuli is unpleasant. conclusion 3: Noxious stimuli to plants are unpleasant, i.e., painful.

There is a major logical sleight-of-hand here. The meaning of the term "sentient" changes between premise 2 ("responsive to sense impressions") and premise 3 ("conscious of sense impressions"). Thus, equivocation on the usage of "sentient" is used to bootleg the false conclusion 3. There is also an equivocation on the meaning of "painful" ("unpleasant" versus the commonly understood meaning). TA

If we can bring ourselves to momentarily assume (falsely) that plants feel pain, then we can easily argue that by eliminating animal farming, we reduce the total pain inflicted on plants, leading to the ironic conclusion that plant pain supports the AR position. This is discussed in more detail in question #46. DG

SEE ALSO: #42-#43, #46

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#45 But even if plants don't feel pain, aren't you depriving them of their life? Why isn't that enough to accord moral status to plants?

The philosophy of Animal Rights is generally regarded as encompassing only sentient creatures. Plants are just one of many non-sentient, living creatures. To remain consistent, granting moral status to plants would lead one to grant it to all life. It may be thought that a philosophy encompassing all life would be best, but granting moral status to all living creatures leads to rather implausible views. For example, concern for life would lead one to oppose the distribution of spermicides, even to overpopulated Third world countries. The morality of any sexual intercourse could be questioned as well, since thousands of sperm cells die in each act. Also, the sheer variety of life forms creates difficulties; for example, arguments have been made to show that some computer programs--such as computer viruses--may well be called alive. Should one grant them moral status? There are questions even in the case of plants. The use of weed-killers in a garden would need defending. And if killing plants is wrong, why isn't merely damaging them in some other way also wrong? Is trimming hedgerows wrong? The problems raised above are not attempts to discourage efforts to develop an ethics of the environment. They simply point out that according moral status to all living creatures is fraught with difficulties. Nevertheless, some people do, indeed, argue that the taking of life should be minimized where possible; this constitutes a kind of moral status for life. Interestingly, such a view, far from undermining the AR view, actually supports it. To see why, refer to question #46. AECW

SEE ALSO: #46, #59

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#46 Isn't it better to eat animals, because that way you kill the least number of living beings?

There are at least two problems with this question. First, there is the assumption that killing is the factor sought to be minimized, but as explained in question #18, killing is not the central concern of AR; rather, it is pain and suffering, neither of which can be attributed to plants. Second, the questioner overlooks that livestock must be raised on a diet of plant foods, so consumption of animals is actually a once-removed consumption of plants. The twist, of course, is that passing plants through animals is a very inefficient process; losses of up to 80-90 percent are typical. Thus, it could be argued that, if one's concern is for killing, per se, then the vegetarian diet is preferable (at least for today's predominant feedlot paradigm). DG

SEE ALSO: #18, #28, #45

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#47 Nature is a continuum; doesn't that mean you cannot draw a line, and where you draw yours is no better than where I draw mine?

Most people will accept that the diversity of Nature is such that one is effectively faced with a continuum. Charles Darwin was right to state that differences are of degree, not of kind. One should take issue, however, with the belief that this means that a line cannot be drawn for the purpose of granting rights. For example, while there is a continuum in the use of force, from the gentle nudge of the adoring mother to the hellish treatment visited upon concentration camp prisoners, clearly, human rights are violated in one case and not the other. People accept that the ethical buck stops somewhere between the two extremes. Similarly, while it is true that the qualities relevant to the attribution of rights are found to varying extents in members of the animal kingdom, one is entitled to draw the line somewhere. After all, society does it as well; today, it draws the line just below humans. Now, such a line (below humans) cannot be logically defensible, since some creatures are excluded that possess the relevant qualities to a greater degree than current rights-holders (for example, a normal adult chimpanzee has a "higher" mental life than a human in a coma, yet we still protect only the human from medical experimentation). Therefore, any line that is drawn must allow some nonhuman animals to qualify as rights-holders. Moreover, the difficulty of drawing a line does not by itself justify drawing one at the wrong place. On the contrary, this difficulty means that from an ethical point of view, the line should be drawn a) carefully, and b) conservatively. Because the speciesist line held by AR opponents violates moral precepts held as critical for the viability of any ethical system, and because some mature nonhumans possess morally relevant characteristics comparable to some human rights-bearers, one must come to the conclusion that the status quo fails on both counts, and that the arrow of progress points toward a moral outlook that encompasses nonhuman as well as human creatures. In addition, it should be noted that when a new line is drawn that is more in step with ethical truth (something quite easy to do), in no way should one feel that the wanton destruction of non rights-holders is thereby encouraged. It is desirable that a moral climate be created that gives due consideration to the interests and welfare of all creatures, whether they are rights-holders or not. AECW

The idea that a continuum makes drawing a line impossible or that one line is therefore no better than another is easily refuted. For example, the alcohol concentration in the blood is a continuum, but society draws a line at 0.10 percent for drunk driving, and clearly that is a better line than one drawn at, say, 0.00000001 percent. DG

SEE ALSO: #22, #39-#41

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#48 The animals are killed so fast that they don't feel any pain or even know they're being killed; what's wrong with that?

This view can only be maintained by those unfamiliar with modern meat production methods. Great stress occurs during transport in which millions die miserably each year. And the conveyor-belt approach to the slaughtering process causes the animals to struggle for their lives as they experience the agony of the fear of death. Only people who have never watched the process can believe that they don't feel any pain or aren't aware that they're being killed. One point that many people are unaware of is that poultry is exempted from the requirements of the Humane Slaughter Act. Egg-laying hens are typically not stunned before slaughter. Also exempt from the act are animals killed under Kosher conditions (see question #49). But even if no suffering were involved, the killing of sensitive, intelligent animals on a vast scale (over six billion each year in the U.S. alone) cannot be regarded as morally correct, especially since today it is demonstrably clear that eating animal flesh is not only unnecessary but even harmful for people. Fellow-mammals are not like corn or carrots. To treat them as if they were is to perpetuate an impoverished morality which is based not on rationality but merely tradition. DVH

Even the climactic killing process itself is not so clean as one is led to believe. Every method carries strong doubts about its "humaneness". For example, consider electrocution. We routinely give anesthetics to people receiving electro-shock therapy due to its painful effects. Consider the pole-axe. It requires great skill to deliver a perfect, instantly fatal blow. Few possess the skill, and many animals suffer from the ineptness with which the process is administered. Consider Kosher slaughter, where an animal is hoisted and bled to death without prior stunning. Often joints are ruptured during the hoisting, and the death is a slow, conscious one. The idea of a clean, painless kill is a fantasy promulgated by those with a vested interest in the continuance of the practices. DG

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#49 What is factory farming, and what is wrong with it?

Factory farming is an industrial process that applies the philosophy and practices of mass production to animal farming. Animals are considered not as individual sentient beings, but rather as a means to an end--eggs, meat, leather, etc. The objective is to maximize output and profit. The animals are manipulated through breeding, feeding, confinement, and chemicals to lay eggs faster, fatten more quickly, or make leaner meat. Costs are minimized by recycling carcasses through feed, minimizing unit space, not providing bedding (which gets soiled and needs cleaning), and other practices. Battery-hen egg production is perhaps the most publicized form. Hens are "maintained" in cages of minimal size, allowing for little or no movement and no expression of natural behavior patterns. Hens are painfully debeaked and sometimes declawed to protect others in the cramped cage. There are no floors to the cages, so that excrement can fall through onto a tray--the hens therefore are standing on wire. Cages are stacked on top of each other in long rows, and are kept inside a climate-controlled barn. The hens are then used as a mechanism for turning feed into eggs. After a short, miserable life they are processed as boiler chickens or recycled. Other typical factory farming techniques are used in pig production, where animals are kept in concrete pens with no straw or earth, unable to move more than a few inches, to ensure the "best" pork. When sows litter, piglets are kept so the only contact between the sow and piglets is access to the teats. The production of veal calves is a similar restraining process. The calves are kept in narrow crates which prevent them from turning; they can only stand or lie down. They are kept in the dark with no contact with other animals. Factory farming distresses people because of the treatment of the animals; they are kept in unnatural conditions in terms of space, possible behaviors, and interactions with other animals. Keeping animals in these circumstances is not only cruel to the animals, but diminishes the humanity of those involved, from production to consumption. In addition, the use of chemicals and hormones to maximize yields, reduce health problems in the animals, and speed production may also be harmful to human consumers. JK

SEE ALSO: #12, #14, #32, #48, #50

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#50 But cattle can't be factory-farmed, so I can eat them, right?

At this time, cattle farming has not progressed to the extremes inflicted on some other animals--cows still have to graze. However, the proponents of factory farming are always considering the possibilities of extending their techniques, as the old-style small farm becomes a faded memory and farming becomes a larger and more complex industry, competing for finance from consumers and lenders. Cattle farming practices such as increasing cattle densities on feedlots, diet supplementation, and controlled breeding are already being implemented. Other developments will be introduced. However, as discussed in question #49, it is not only the method of farming that is of concern. Transport to the slaughterhouse, often a long journey in crowded conditions without access to food and water, and the wait at the slaughterhouse followed by the slaughtering process are themselves brutal and harmful. And the actual killing process is itself not necessarily clean or painless (see question #48). JK

We can challenge the claim that cattle cannot be factory-farmed; it just isn't true. We can also challenge the claim that if it were true, it would justify killing and eating cattle. A broad view of factory farming includes practices that force adaptations (often through breeding) that increase the "productivity" of animal farming. Such increases in productivity are invariably achieved at the expense of increased suffering of the animals concerned. This broader view definitely includes cattle, both that raised for meat and for dairy production. Veal production is paradigmatic factory farming. David Cowles-Hamar describes it as follows: "Veal calves are kept in isolation in 5'x2' crates in which they are unable even to turn around. They are kept in darkness much of the time. They are given no bedding (in case they try to eat it) and are fed only a liquid diet devoid of iron and fiber to keep their flesh anemic and pale. After 3-5 months they are slaughtered." Dairy farming also qualifies as factory-farming. Here are some salient facts:

    Calves are taken away at 1-3 days causing terrible distress to both the cows and the calves; many calves go for veal production.

    Over 170,000 calves die each year due to poor husbandry and appalling treatment at markets.

    Cows are milked for 10 months and produce 10 times the milk a calf would take naturally. Mastitis (udder inflammation) frequently results.

    Cows are fed a high-protein diet to increase yield; often even this is not enough and the cow is forced to break down body tissues, leading to acidosis and consequent lameness. About 25 percent of cows are afflicted.

    At about 5 years of age, the cow is spent and exhausted and is slaughtered. The normal life span is about 20 years.

Finally, we cannot accept that even if it were not possible to factory-farm cattle, that therefore it is morally acceptable to kill and eat them. David Cowles-Hamar puts it this way: "The suggestion that animals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense." DG

SEE ALSO: #14, #48-#49

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#51 But isn't it true that cows won't produce milk (or chickens lay eggs) if they are not content?

This is simply untrue. Lactation is a physiological response that follows giving birth. The cow cannot avoid giving milk any more than she can avoid producing urine. The same is true of chickens and egg-laying; the egg output is manipulated to a high level by selective breeding, carefully regulated conditions that simulate a continuous summer season, and a carefully controlled diet. To drive this point home further, consider that over the last five decades, the conditions for egg-laying chickens have become increasingly unnatural and confining (see question #49), yet the egg output has increased many times over. Chickens will even continue to lay when severely injured; they simply cannot help it. DG

SEE ALSO: #49, #52, #55

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#52 Don't hens lay unfertilized eggs that would otherwise be wasted?

Yes, but that is no justification for imposing barbaric and cruel regimes on them designed to artificially boost their egg production. If the questioner is wondering if it is OK to use eggs left by free-range chickens "to go cold", then the answer from the AR side is that free-range egg production is not so idyllic as one might like to think (see question #55). Also, such a source of eggs can satisfy only a tiny fraction of the demand. DG

SEE ALSO: #49, #51, #55

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#53 But isn't it true that the animals have never known anything better?

If someone bred a race of humans for slavery, would you accept their excuse that the slaves have never known anything better? The point is that there IS something better, and they are being deprived of it. DG

Not having known anything better does not alleviate the suffering of the animal. Its fundamental desires remain and it is the frustration of those desires that is a great part of its suffering. There are so many examples: the dairy cow who is never allowed to raise her young, the battery hen who can never walk or stretch her wings, the sow who can never build a nest or root for food in the forest litter, etc. Eventually we frustrate the animal's most fundamental desire of all--to live. David Cowles-Hamar

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#54 Don't farmers know better than city-dwelling people about how to treat animals?

This view is often put forward by farmers (and their family members). Typically they claim that, by virtue of proximity to their farmed animals, they possess some special knowledge. When pressed to present this knowledge, and to show how it can justify their exploitation of animals or discount the animals' pain and suffering, only the tired arguments addressed in this FAQ come forth. In short, there is no "special knowledge". One should also remember that those farmers who exploit animals have a strong vested interest in the continuance of their practices. Would one assert that a logger knows best about how the forests should be treated? Technically, this argument is an instance of the "genetic fallacy". Ideas should be evaluated on their own terms, not by reference to the originators. DG

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#55 Can't we just eat free-range products?

The term "free-range" is used to indicate a production method in which the animals are (allegedly) not factory-farmed but, instead, are provided with conditions that allow them to fully express their natural behavior. Some people feel that free-range products are thus ethically acceptable. There are two cases to be considered: first, the case where the free-range animal itself is slaughtered for use, and second, the case where the free-range animal provides a product (typically, hens providing eggs, or cows providing milk). Common to both cases is a problem with misrepresentation of conditions as "free-range". Much of what passes for free-range is hardly any better than standard factory-farming; a visit to a large "free-range egg farm" makes that obvious (and see MT's comments below). Nutritionally, free-range products are no better than their factory-farmed equivalents, which are wholly or partly responsible for a list of diseases as long as your arm. For the case of free-range animals slaughtered for use, we must ask why should a free-range animal be any more deserving of an unnecessary death than any other animal? Throughout this FAQ, we have argued that animals have a right to live free from human brutality. Our brutality cannot be excused by our provision of a short happy life. David Cowles-Hamar puts it this way: "The suggestion that animals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense." Another thing to think about is the couple described at the end of question #13. Their babies are free-range, so it's OK to eat them, right? For the case of products from free-range animals, we can identify at least four problems: 1) it remains an inefficient use of food resources, 2) it is still environmentally damaging, 3) animals are killed off as soon as they become "unproductive", and 4) the animals must be replaced; the nonproductive males are killed or go to factory farms (the worst instance of this is the fate of male calves born to dairy cows; many go for veal production). BRO

What's wrong with free-range eggs? To get laying hens you must have fertile eggs and half of the eggs will hatch into male chicks. These are killed at once (by gassing, crushing, suffocation, decompression, or drowning), or raised as "table birds" (usually in broiler houses) and slaughtered as soon as they reach an economic weight. So, for every free-range hen scratching around the garden or farm (who, if she were able to bargain, might pay rent with her daily infertile egg), a corresponding male from her batch is enduring life in a broiler house or has already been subjected to slaughter or thrown away to die. Every year in Britain alone, more than 35 million day-old male chicks are killed. They are mainly used for fertilizer or dumped in landfill sites. The hens are slaughtered as soon as their production drops (usually after two years; their natural life span is 5-7 years). Also, be aware that many sites classified as free-range aren't really free-range; they are just massive barns with access to the outside. Since the food and light are inside, the hens rarely venture outside. MT

SEE ALSO: #13, #49-#50, #52

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#56 Anything wrong with honey?

Bees are often killed in the production of honey, in the worst case the whole hive may be destroyed if the keeper doesn't wish to protect them over the winter. Not all beekeepers do this, but the general practice is one that embodies the attitude that living things are mere material and have no intrinsic value of their own other than what commercial value we can wrench from them. Artificial insemination involving death of the male is now also the norm for generation of new queen bees. The favored method of obtaining bee sperm is by pulling off the insect's head (decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system which causes sexual arousal). The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate. The resulting liquid is collected in a hypodermic syringe. MT

SEE ALSO: #22, #39-#41

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#57 Don't crop harvest techniques and transportation, etc., lead to the death of animals?

The questioner's probable follow-up is to assert that since we perform actions that result in the death of animals for producing crops, a form of food, we should therefore not condemn actions (i.e., raising and slaughter) that result in the death of animals for producing meat, another form of food. How do we confront this argument? It is clear that incidental (or accidental, unintended) deaths of animals result from crop agriculture. It is equally clear that intentional deaths of animals result from animal agriculture. Our acceptance of acts that lead to incidental deaths does not require the acceptance of acts that lead to intentional deaths. (A possible measure of intentionality is to ask if the success of the enterprise is measured by the extent of the result. In our case, the success of crop agriculture is not measured by the number of accidental deaths; in animal agriculture, conversely, the success of the enterprise is directly measured by the number of animals produced for slaughter and consumption.) Having shown that the movement from incidental to intentional is not justified, we can still ask what justifies even incidental deaths. We must realize that the question does not bear on Animal Rights specifically, but applies to morality generally. The answer, stripped to its essentials, is that the rights of innocents can be overridden in certain circumstances. If rights are genuinely in conflict, a reasonable principle is to violate the rights of the fewest. Nevertheless, when such an overriding of the rights of innocents is done, there is a responsibility to ensure that the harm is minimized. Certainly, crop agriculture is preferable to animal agriculture in this regard. In the latter case, we have the added incidental harm due to the much greater amount of crops needed to produce animals (versus feeding the crops directly to people), AND the intentional deaths of the produced animals themselves. Finally, many argue for organic and more labor-intensive methods of crop agriculture that reduce incidental deaths. As one wag puts it, we have a responsibility to survive, but we can also survive responsibly! DG

SEE ALSO: #58-#59

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#58 Modern agriculture requires us to push animals off land to convert it to crops; isn't this a violation of the animals' rights?

Pushing animals off their habitats to pursue agriculture is a less serious instance of the actions discussed in question #57, which deals with animal death as a result of agriculture. Refer to that question for relevant discussion. An abiding theme is that vegetarianism versus meat eating, and crop agriculture versus animal agriculture, tend to minimize the amount of suffering. For example, more acreage is required to support animal production than to support crop production (for the same nutritional capability). Thus, animal production encroaches more on wildlife than does crop agriculture. We cannot eliminate our adverse effects, but we can try to minimize them. DG

SEE ALSO: #57, #59

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#59 Don't farmers have to kill pests?

We could simply say that less pests are killed on a vegetarian diet and that killing is not even necessary for pest management, but because the issue is interesting, we answer more fully! This question is similar to question #57 in that the questioner's likely follow-up is to ask why it is acceptable to kill pests for food but not to kill animals for food. It differs from question #57 in that the defense that the killing is incidental is not available because pests are killed intentionally. We can respond to this argument in two ways. First, we can argue that the killing is justifiable, and second, we can argue that it is not necessary and should be avoided. Let's look at these in turn. Our moral systems typically allow for exceptions to the requirement that we not harm others. One major exception is for self-defense. If we are threatened, we have the right to use force to resist the threat. To the extent that pests are a threat to our food supplies, our habitats, or our health, we are justified in defending ourselves. We have the responsibility to use appropriate force, but sometimes this requires action fatal to the threatening creatures. Even if the killing of pests is seen as wrong despite the self-defense argument, we can argue that crop agriculture should be preferred over animal agriculture because it involves the minimization of the required killing of pests (for reasons described in question #57). Possibly overshadowing these moral arguments, however, is the argument that the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides is not only not necessary but extremely damaging to the planet, and should therefore be avoided. Let us first look at the issue of necessity, followed by the issue of environmental damage. David Cowles-Hamar writes: "For thousands of years, peoples all over the world have used farming methods based on natural ecosystems where potential pest populations are self-regulating. These ideas are now being explored in organic farming and permaculture." Michael W. Fox writes: "Integrated pest management and better conservation of wilderness areas around crop lands in order to provide natural predators for crop pests are more ecologically sensible alternatives to the continuous use of pesticides." The point is that there are effective alternatives to the agrichemical treadmill. In addition to the agricultural methods described above, many pest problems can be prevented, certainly the most effective approach. For example, some major pest threats are the result of accidental or intentional human introduction of animals into a habitat. We need to be more careful in this regard. Another example is the use of rodenticides. More effective and less harmful to the environment would be an approach that relies on maintenance of clean conditions, plugging of entry holes, and nonlethal trapping followed by release into the wild. The effects of the intensive use of agrichemicals on the environment are very serious. It results in nation-wide ground water pollution. It results in the deaths of beneficial non-target species. The development of resistant strains requires the use of stronger chemicals with resulting more serious effects on the environment. Agrichemicals are generally more highly concentrated in animal products than in vegetables. It is thus enlightened self-interest to eschew animal consumption! Organic farming and related methods eschew agrichemicals in favor of natural, sustainable methods. DG

SEE ALSO: #57-#58

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#60 What is wrong with leather and how can we do without it?

Most leather goods are made from the byproducts of the slaughterhouse, and some is purpose-made, i.e., the animal is grown and slaughtered purely for its skin. So, by buying leather products, you will be contributing to the profits of these establishments and augmenting the economic demand for slaughter. The Nov/Dec 1991 issue of the Vegetarian Journal has this to say about leather: "Environmentally turning animal hides into leather is an energy intensive and polluting practice. Production of leather basically involves soaking (beamhouse), tanning, dyeing, drying, and finishing. Over 95 percent of all leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned. The effluent that must be treated is primarily related to the beamhouse and tanning operations. The most difficult to treat is effluent from the tanning process. All wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many other pollutants involved in the processing of leather are associated with environmental and health risks. In terms of disposal, one would think that leather products would be biodegradable, but the primary function for a tanning agent is to stabilize the collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable." MT

For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives FAQ maintained by Tom Swiss ([email protected]). DG

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#61 I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur ranches?

Leaving aside the raw fact that the animals must sacrifice their lives for human vanity, we are left with many objections to fur ranching. A common misconception about fur "ranches" is that the animals do not suffer. This is entirely untrue. These animals suffer a life of misery and frustration, deprived of their most basic needs. They are kept in wire-mesh cages that are tiny, overcrowded, and filthy. Here they are malnourished, suffer contagious diseases, and endure severe stress. On these farms, the animals are forced to forfeit their natural instincts. Beavers, who live in water in the wild, must exist on cement floors. Minks in the wild, too, spend much of their time in water, which keeps their salivation, respiration, and body temperature stable. They are also, by nature, solitary animals. However, on these farms, they are forced to live in close contact with other animals. This often leads to self-destructive behavior, such as pelt and tail biting. They often resort to cannibalism. The methods used on these farms reflect not the interests and welfare of the animals but the furriers' primary interest--profit. The end of the suffering of these animals comes only with death, which, in order to preserve the quality of the fur, is inflicted with extreme cruelty and brutality. Engine exhaust is often pumped into a box of animals. This exhaust is not always lethal, and the animals sometimes writhe in pain as they are skinned alive. Another common execution practice, often used on larger animals, is anal electrocution. The farmers attach clamps to an animal's lips and insert metal rods into its anus. The animal is then electrocuted. Decompression chambers, neck snapping, and poison are also used. The raising of animals by humans to serve a specific purpose cannot discount or excuse the lifetime of pain and suffering that these animals endure. JLS

Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without. Rue McClanahan (actress)

The recklessness with which we sacrifice our sense of decency to maximize profit in the factory farming process sets a pattern for cruelty to our own kind. Jonathan Kozol (author)

SEE ALSO: #12, #14, #48-#49

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#62 Anything wrong with wool, silk, down?

What's wrong with wool? Scientists over the years have bred a Merino sheep which is exaggeratedly wrinkled. The more wrinkles, the more wool. Unfortunately, greater profits are rarely in the sheep's best interests. In Australia, more wrinkles mean more perspiration and greater susceptibility to fly-strike, a ghastly condition resulting from maggot infestation in the sweaty folds of the sheep's over-wrinkled skin. To counteract this, farmers perform an operation without anesthetic called "mulesing", in which sections of flesh around the anus are sliced away, leaving a painful, bloody wound. Without human interference, sheep would grow just enough wool to protect them from the weather, but scientific breeding techniques have ensured that these animals have become wool-producing monstrosities. Their unnatural overload of wool (often half their body weight) brings added misery during summer months when they often die from heat exhaustion. Also, one million sheep die in Australia alone each year from exposure to cold after shearing. Every year, in Australia alone, about ten million lambs die before they are more than a few days old. This is due largely to unmanageable numbers of sheep and inadequate stockpersons. Of UK wool, 27 percent is "skin wool", pulled from the skins of slaughtered sheep and lambs. What's wrong with silk? It is the practice to boil the cocoons that still contain the living moth larvae in order to obtain the silk. This produces longer silk threads than if the moth was allowed to emerge. The silkworm can certainly feel pain and will recoil and writhe when injured. What's wrong with down? The process of live-plucking is widespread. The terrified birds are lifted by their necks, with their legs tied, and then have all their body feathers ripped out. The struggling geese sustain injuries and after their ordeal are thrown back to join their fellow victims until their turn comes round again. This torture, which has been described as "extremely cruel" by veterinary surgeons, and even geese breeders, begins when the geese are only eight weeks old. It is then repeated at eight-week intervals for two or three more sessions. The birds are then slaughtered. The "lucky" birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed first and then plucked. MT


#63 Humans are natural hunter/gatherers; aren't you trying to repress natural human behavior?

Yes. Failing to repress certain "natural behaviors" would create an uncivilized society. Consider this: It would be an expression of natural behavior to hunt anything that moves (e.g., my neighbor's dogs or horses) and to gather anything I desire (e.g., my employer's money or furniture). It would even be natural behavior to indulge in unrestrained sexual appetites or to injure a person in a fit of rage or jealousy. In a civilized society, we restrain our natural impulses by two codes: the written law of the land, and the unwritten law of morality. And this also applies to hunting. It is unlawful in many places and at many times, and the majority of Americans regard sport hunting as immoral. DVH

Many would question the supposition that humans are natural hunters. In many societies, the people live quite happily without hunting. In our own society, the majority do not hunt, not because they are repressing their nature--they simply have no desire to do so. Those that do hunt often show internal conflicts about it, as evidenced by the myths and rituals that serve to legitimize hunting, cleanse the hunter, etc. This suggests that hunting is not natural, but actually goes against a deeper part of our nature, a desire not to do harm. BL

The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest. Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

SEE ALSO: #37, #64-#67

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#64 The world is made up of predators and prey; aren't we just another predator?

No. Our behavior is far worse than that of "just another predator". We kill others not just for nourishment but also for sport (recreation!), for the satisfaction of our curiosity, for fashion, for entertainment, for comfort, and for convenience. We also kill each other by the millions for territory, wealth, and power. We often torture and torment others before killing them. We conduct wholesale slaughter of vast proportions, on land and in the oceans. No other species behaves in a comparable manner, and only humans are destroying the balance of nature. At the same time, our killing of nonhuman animals is unnecessary, whereas nonhuman predators kill and consume only what is necessary for their survival. They have no choice: kill or starve. The one thing that really separates us from the other animals is our moral capacity, and that has the potential to elevate us above the status of "just another predator". Nonhumans lack this capacity, so we shouldn't look to them for moral inspiration and guidance. DVH

SEE ALSO: #37, #63, #67

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#65 Doesn't hunting control wildlife populations that would otherwise get out of hand?

Hunters often assert that their practices benefit their victims. A variation on the theme is their common assertion that their actions keep populations in check so that animals do not die of starvation ("a clean bullet in the brain is preferable to a slow death by starvation"). Following are some facts and questions about hunting and "wildlife management" that reveal what is really happening. Game animals, such as deer, are physiologically adapted to cope with seasonal food shortages. It is the young that bear the brunt of starvation. Among adults, elderly and sick animals also starve. But the hunters do not seek out and kill only these animals at risk of starvation; rather, they seek the strongest and most beautiful animals (for maximum meat or trophy potential). The hunters thus recruit the forces of natural selection against the species that they claim to be defending. The hunters restrict their activities to only those species that are attractive for their meat or trophy potential. If the hunters were truly concerned with protecting species from starvation, why do they not perform their "service" for the skunk, or the field mouse? And why is hunting not limited to times when starvation occurs, if hunting has as a goal the prevention of starvation? (The reason that deer aren't hunted in early spring or late winter--when starvation occurs--is that the carcasses would contain less fat, and hence, be far less desirable to meat consumers. Also, hunting then would be unpopular to hunters due to the snow, mud, and insects.) So-called "game management" policies are actually programs designed to eliminate predators of the game species and to artificially provide additional habitat and resources for the game species. Why are these predator species eliminated when they would provide a natural and ecologically sound mechanism for controlling the population of game species? Why are such activities as burning, clear-cutting, chemical defoliation, flooding, and bulldozing employed to increase the populations of game animals, if hunting has as its goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation? The truth is that the management agencies actually try to attain a maximum sustainable yield, or harvest, of game animals. The wildlife managers and hunters preferentially kill male animals, a policy designed to keep populations high. If overpopulation were really a concern, they would preferentially kill females. Another common practice that belies the claim that wildlife management has as a goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation is the practice of game stocking. For example, in the state of New York the Department of Environmental Conservation obtains pheasants raised in captivity and then releases them in areas frequented by hunters. For every animal killed by a hunter, two are seriously injured and left to die a slow death. Given these statistics, it is clear that hunting fails even in its proclaimed goal--the reduction of suffering. The species targeted by hunters, both the game animals and their predators, have survived in balance for millions of years, yet now wildlife managers and hunters insist they need to be "managed". The legitimate task of wildlife management should be to preserve viable, natural wildlife populations and ecosystems. In addition to the animal toll, hunters kill hundreds of human beings every year. Finally, there is an ethical argument to consider. Thousands of human beings die from starvation each and every day. Should we assume that the reader will one day be one of them, and dispatch him straight away? Definitely not. AR ethics asserts that this same consideration should be accorded to the deer. DG

Unless hunting is part of a controlled culling process, it is unlikely to be of benefit in any population maintenance. The number and distribution of animals slaughtered is unrelated to any perceived maldistribution of species, but is more closely related to the predilections of the hunters. Indeed, hunting, whether for "pleasure" or profit, has a history more closely associated with bringing animals close to, or into, extinction, rather than protecting from overpopulation. Examples include the buffalo and the passenger pigeon. With the advent of modern "wildlife management", we see a transition to systems designed to artificially increase the populations of certain species to sustain a yield or harvest for hunters. The need for population control of animals generally arises either from the introduction of species that have become pests or from indigenous animals that are competing for resources (such as the kangaroo, which competes with sheep and cattle). These imbalances usually have a human base. It is more appropriate to examine our resource uses and requirements, and to act more responsibly in our relationship with the environment, than to seek a "solution" to self-created problems through the morally dubious practice of hunting. JK

...the American public is footing the bill for predator-control programs that cause the systematic slaughter of refuge animals. Raccoons and red fox, squirrel and skunks are but a few of the many egg-eating predators trapped and destroyed in the name of "wildlife management programs". Sea gulls are shot, fox pups poisoned, and coyotes killed by aerial gunners in low-flying aircraft. This wholesale destruction is taking place on the only Federal lands set aside to protect America's wildlife! Humane Society of the United States

The creed of maximum sustainable yield unmasks the rhetoric about "humane service" to animals. It must be a perverse distortion of the ideal of humane service to accept or engage in practices the explicit goal of which is to insure that there will be a larger, rather than a smaller, number of animals to kill! With "humane friends" like that, wild animals certainly do not need any enemies. Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)

The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand that our job is to salvage Mother Nature...We are facing a formidable enemy in this field. It is the hunters...and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult. Jacques Cousteau (oceanographer)

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#66 Aren't hunting fees the major source of revenue for wildlife management and habitat restoration?

We have seen in question #65 that practices described as "wildlife management" are actually designed to increase the populations of game species desirable to hunters. Viewed in this light, the connection between hunting fees and the wildlife agencies looks more like an incestuous relationship than a constructive one designed to protect the general public's interests. Following are some more facts of interest in this regard. Only 7 percent of the population hunt, yet all pay via taxation for hunting programs and services. Licenses account for only a fraction of the cost of hunting programs at the national level. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service programs get up to 90 percent of their revenues from general tax revenues. At the state level, hunting fees make up the largest part, and a significant part is obtained from Federal funds obtained from excise taxes on guns and ammunition. These funds are distributed to the states based on the number of hunters in the state! It is easy to see, then, how the programs are designed to appease and satisfy hunters. It is important to remember that state game officials are appointed, not elected, and their salaries are paid through the purchase of hunting fees. This ensures that these officials regard the hunters as their constituents. David Favre, Professor of Wildlife Law at the Detroit College of Law, describes the situation as follows:

The primary question asked by many within these special [state] agencies would be something like, "How do we provide the best hunting experience for the hunters of our state?" The literature is replete with surveys of hunter desires and preferences in an attempt to serve these constituents. ...Three factors support the status quo within the agency. First, as with most bureaucracies, individuals are hesitant to question their own on-going programs...Second, besides the normal bureaucratics, most state game agencies have a substantial group of individuals who are strong advocates for the hunters of the state. They are not neutral but very supportive of the hunting ethic and would not be expected to raise broader questions. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, is the funding mechanism...Since a large proportion of the funds which run the department and pay the salaries are from hunters and fishermen, there is a strong tendency for the agency to consider itself not as representing and working for the general public but that they need only serve their financial sponsors, the hunters and fishermen of the state. If your financial support is dependent on the activity of hunting, obviously very few are going to question the ecological or ethical problems therewith.

Many would argue that these funding arrangements constitute a prostitution of the public lands for the benefit of the few. We can envision possible alternatives to these arrangements. Other users of parks and natural resources, such as hikers, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, eco-tourists, etc., can provide access to funds necessary for real habitat restoration and wildlife management, not the perverted brand that caters to the desires of hunters. As far as acquisition and protection of land is concerned, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy play an important role. They can do much more with even a fraction of the funding currently earmarked to subsidize hunting ($500 million per year). DG/JK


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#67 Isn't hunting OK as long as we eat what we kill?

Some vegetarians accept that where farmers or small landholders breed, maintain, and then kill their own livestock there is an argument for their eating that meat. There would need, at all stages, to be a humane life and death involved. Hunting seems not to fit within this argument because the kill is often not "clean", and the hunter has not had any involvement in the birth and growth of the animal. As the arguments in the FAQ demonstrate, however, there is a wider context in which these actions have to be considered. Animals are sentient creatures who share many of our characteristics. The question is not only whether it is acceptable to eat an animal (which we perhaps hunted and killed), but if it is an appropriate action to take--stalking and murdering another animal, or eating the product of someone else's killing. Is it a proper action for a supposedly rational and ethical man or woman? JK

This question reminds one of question #12, where it is suggested that killing and eating an animal is justified because the animal is raised for that purpose. The process leading up to the eating is used to justify the eating. In this question, the eating is used to justify the process leading up to it. Both attempts are totally illogical. Imagine telling the police not to worry that you have just stalked and killed a person because you ate the person! DG

SEE ALSO: #12, #21, #63-#64

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#68 Fish are dumb like insects; what's wrong with fishing?

Fish are not "dumb" except in the sense that they are unable to speak. They have a complex nervous system based around a brain and spinal cord similar to other vertebrates. They are not as intelligent as humans in terms of functioning in our social and physical environment, but they are very successful and effective in their own environment. Behavioral studies indicate that they exhibit complex forms of learning, such as operant conditioning, serial reversal learning, probability learning, and avoidance learning. Many authorities doubt that there is a significant qualitative difference between learning in fishes and that in rats. Many people who fish talk about the challenge of fishing, and the contest between themselves and the fish (on a one-to-one basis, not in relation to trawling or other net fishing). This implies an awareness and intelligence in the hunted of a level at least sufficient to challenge the hunter. The death inflicted by fishing--a slow asphyxiation either in a net or after an extended period fighting against a barbed hook wedged somewhere in their head--is painful and distressing to a sentient animal. Those that doubt that fish feel pain must explain why it is that their brains contain endogenous opiates and receptors for them; these are accepted as mechanisms for the attenuation of pain in other vertebrates. JK

Some people believe that it is OK to catch fish as long as they are returned to the water. But, when you think about it, it's as if one is playing with the fish. Also, handling the fish wipes off an important disease-fighting coating on their scales. The hook can be swallowed, leading to serious complications, and even if it isn't, pulling it out of their mouth leaves a lesion that is open to infection. JSD

SEE ALSO: #22, #39

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#69 Don't zoos contribute to the saving of species from extinction?

Zoos often claim that they are "arks", which can preserve species whose habitat has been destroyed, or which were wiped out in the wild for other reasons (such as hunting). They suggest that they can maintain the species in captivity until the cause of the creature's extirpation is remedied, and then successfully reintroduce the animals to the wild, resulting in a healthy, self-sustaining population. Zoos often defend their existence against challenges from the AR movement on these grounds. There are several problems with this argument, however. First, the number of animals required to maintain a viable gene pool can be quite high, and is never known for certain. If the captive gene pool is too small, then inbreeding can result in increased susceptibility to disease, birth defects, and mutations; the species can be so weakened that it would never be viable in the wild. Some species are extremely difficult to breed in captivity: marine mammals, many bird species, and so on. Pandas, which have been the sustained focus of captive breeding efforts for several decades in zoos around the world, are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. With such species, the zoos, by taking animals from the wild to supply their breeding programs, constitute a net drain on wild populations. The whole concept of habitat restoration is mired in serious difficulties. Animals threatened by poaching (elephants, rhinos, pandas, bears and more) will never be safe in the wild as long as firearms, material needs, and a willingness to consume animal parts coincide. Species threatened by chemical contamination (such as bird species vulnerable to pesticides and lead shot) will not be candidates for release until we stop using the offending substances, and enough time has passed for the toxins to be processed out of the environment. Since heavy metals and some pesticides are both persistent and bioaccumulative, this could mean decades or centuries before it is safe to reintroduce the animals. Even if these problems can be overcome, there are still difficulties with the process of reintroduction. Problems such as human imprinting, the need to teach animals to fly, hunt, build dens, and raise their young are serious obstacles, and must be solved individually for each species. There is a small limit to the number of species the global network of zoos can preserve under even the most optimistic assumptions. Profound constraints are imposed by the lack of space in zoos, their limited financial resources, and the requirement that viable gene pools of each species be preserved. Few zoos, for instance, ever keep more than two individuals of large mammal species. The need to preserve scores or hundreds of a particular species would be beyond the resources of even the largest zoos, and even the whole world zoo community would be hard-pressed to preserve even a few dozen species in this manner. Contrast this with the efficiency of large habitat preserves, which can maintain viable populations of whole complexes of species with minimal human intervention. Large preserves maintain every species in the ecosystem in a predominantly self-sufficient manner, while keeping the creatures in the natural habitat unmolested. If the financial resources (both government and charitable), and the biological expertise currently consumed by zoos, were redirected to habitat preservation and management, we would have far fewer worries about habitat restoration or preserving species whose habitat is gone. Choosing zoos as a means for species preservation, in addition to being expensive and of dubious effectiveness, has serious ethical problems. Keeping animals in zoos harms them, by denying them freedom of movement and association, which is important to social animals, and frustrates many of their natural behavioral patterns, leaving them at least bored, and at worst seriously neurotic. While humans may feel there is some justifying benefit to their captivity (that the species is being preserved, and may someday be reintroduced into the wild), this is no compensating benefit to the individual animals. Attempts to preserve species by means of captivity have been described as sacrificing the individual gorilla to the abstract Gorilla (i.e., to the abstract conception of the gorilla). JE

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#70 Don't animals live longer in zoos than they would in the wild?

In some cases, this is true. But it is irrelevant. Suppose a zoo decides to exhibit human beings. They snatch a peasant from a less-developed country and put her on display. Due to the regular feedings and health care that the zoo provides, the peasant will live longer in captivity. Is this practice acceptable? A tradeoff of quantity of life versus quality of life is not always decided in favor of quantity. DG

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#71 How will people see wild animals and learn about them without zoos?

To gain true and complete knowledge of wild animals, one must observe them in their natural habitats. The conditions under which animals are kept in zoos typically distorts their behavior significantly. There are several practical alternatives to zoos for educational purposes. There are many nature documentaries shown regularly on television as well as available on video cassettes. Specials on public television networks, as well as several cable channels, such as The Discovery Channel, provide accurate information on animals in their natural habitats. Magazines such as National Geographic provide superb illustrated articles, as well. And, of course, public libraries are a gold-mine of information. Zoos often mistreat animals, keeping them in small pens or cages. This is unfair and cruel. The natural instincts and behavior of these animals are suppressed by force. How can anyone observe wild animals under such circumstances and believe that one has been educated? JLS

All good things are wild, and free. Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

SEE ALSO: #69-#70

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#72 What is wrong with circuses and rodeos?

To treat animals as objects for our amusement is to treat them without the respect they deserve. When we degrade the most intelligent fellow mammals in this way, we act as our ancestors acted in former centuries. They knew nothing about the animals' intelligence, sensitivities, emotions, and social needs; they saw only brute beasts. To continue such ancient traditions, even if no cruelty were involved, means that we insist on remaining ignorant and insensitive. But the cruelty does exist and is inherent in these spectacles. In rodeos, there is no show unless the animal is frightened or in pain. In circuses, animals suffer most before and after the show. They endure punishment during training and are subjected to physical and emotional hardships during transportation. They are forced to travel tens of thousands of miles each year, often in extreme heat or cold, with tigers living in cramped cages and elephants chained in filthy railroad cars. To the entrepreneurs, animals are merely stock in trade, to be replaced when they are used up. DVH

David Cowles-Hamar writes about circuses as follows in his "The Manual of Animal Rights":

Not surprisingly, a considerable amount of "persuasion" is required to achieve these performances, and to this end, circuses employ various techniques. These include deprivation of food, deprivation of company, intimidation, muzzling, drugs, punishment and reward systems, shackling, whips, electronic goads, sticks, and the noise of guns...Circus animals suffer similar mental and physical problems to zoo animals, displaying stereotypical behavior...Physical symptoms include shackle sores, herpes, liver failure, kidney disease, and sometimes death...Many of the animals become both physically and mentally ill.


The American rodeo consists of roping, bucking, and steer wrestling events. While the public witnesses only the 8 seconds or so that the animals perform, there are hundreds of hours of unsupervised practice sessions. Also, the stress of constant travel, often in improperly ventilated vehicles, and poor enforcement of proper unloading, feeding, and watering of animals during travel contribute to a life of misery for these animals. As half a rider's score is based on the performance of the bucking horse or bull, riders encourage a wild ride by tugging on a bucking strap that is squeezed tightly around the animal's loins. Electric prods and raking spurs are also used to stimulate wild behavior. Injuries range from bruises and broken bones to paralysis, severed tracheas, and death. Spinal cords of calves can be severed when forced to an abrupt stop while traveling at 30 mph. The practice of slamming these animals to the ground during these events has caused the rupture of internal organs, leading to a slow, agonizing death. Dr. C. G. Haber, a veterinarian with thirty years experience as a meat inspector for the USDA, says: "The rodeo folks send their animals to the packing houses where...I have seen cattle so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached was the head, neck, legs, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two and three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." JSD

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#73 But isn't it true that animals are well cared for and wouldn't perform if they weren't happy?

Refer to questions #72 and #74 to see that entertainment animals are generally not well cared for. For centuries people have known that punishment can induce animals to perform. The criminal justice system is based on the human rationality in connecting the act of a crime or wrongdoing with a punishment. Many religions are also based, among other aspects, on a fear of punishment. Fear leads most of us to act correctly, on the whole. The same is true for other animals. Many years of unnecessary and repetitive psychology experiments with Skinner boxes (among other gadgets) have demonstrated that animals will learn to do things, or act in certain ways (that is, be conditioned) to avoid electric shocks or other punishment. Animals do need to have their basic food requirements met, otherwise they sicken and die, but they don't need to be "happy" to perform certain acts; fear or desire for a reward (such as food) will make them do it. JK

SEE ALSO: #14, #51, #72, #74

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#74 What about horse or greyhound racing?

Racing is an example of human abuse of animals merely for entertainment and pleasure, regardless of the needs or condition of the animals. The pleasure derives primarily from gambling on the outcome of the race. While some punters express an interest in the animal side of the equation, most people interested in racing are not interested in the animals but in betting; attendance at race meetings has fallen dramatically as off-course betting options became available. While some of the top dogs and horses may be kept in good conditions, for the majority of animals, this is not the case. While minimum living standards have to be met, other factors are introduced to gain the best performances (or in some cases to fix a race by ensuring a loss): drugs, electrical stimuli, whips, etc. While many of these practices are outlawed (including dog blooding), there are regular reports of various illegal techniques being used. Logic would suggest that where the volume of money being moved around is as large as it is in racing, there are huge temptations to massage the outcomes. For horses, especially, the track itself poses dangers; falls and fractures are common in both flat and jump races. Often, lame horses are doped to allow them to continue to race, with the risk of serious injury. And at the end of it all, if the animal is not a success, or does not perform as brilliantly as hoped, it is disposed of. Horses are lucky in that they occasionally go to a home where they are well treated and respected, but the knackery is a common option (a knackery is a purveyor of products derived from worn-out and old livestock). (Recently, a new practice has come to light: owners of race horses sometimes murder horses that do not reach their "potential", or which are past their "prime", and then file fraudulent insurance claims.) The likely homes for a greyhound are few and far between. JK

Race horses are prone to a disease called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). It is characterized by the presence of blood in the lungs and windpipe of the horse following intense exercise. An Australian study found 42 percent of 1,180 horses to be suffering from EIPH. A large percentage of race horses suffer from lameness. Fractures of the knee are common, as are ligament sprain, joint sprain, and shin soreness. Steeple chasing is designed to make the horses fall which sometimes results in the death of the horse either though a broken neck or an "incurable" injury for which the horse is killed by a veterinarian. David Cowles-Hamar

SEE ALSO: #72-#73

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#75 What about keeping pets?

In a perfect world, all of our efforts would go toward protecting the habitats of other species on the planet and we would be able to maintain a "hands off" approach in which we did not take other species into our family units, but allowed them to develop on their own in the wild. However, we are far from such a Utopia and as responsible humans must deal with the results of the domestication of animals. Since many animals domesticated to be pets have been bred but have no homes, most AR supporters see nothing wrong with having them as companion animals. As a matter of fact, the AR supporter may well provide homes for more unwanted companion animals than does the average person! Similarly, animals domesticated for agricultural purposes should be cared for. However, animals in the wild should be left there and not brought into homes as companions. A cage in someone's house is an unnatural environment for an exotic bird, fish, or mammal. When the novelty wears off, wild pets usually end up at shelters, zoos, or research labs. Wild animals have the right to be treated with respect, and that includes leaving them in their natural surroundings. LK

A loving relationship with a proper companion animal, a relationship that adequately provides for the animal's physical and psychological needs, is not at all inconsistent with the principles and advocacy of animal rights. Indeed, animal rights advocates have been leaders in drawing attention to some of the abuses and neglects of our "beloved" pets. Many of the taken for granted practices do need to be reexamined and changed. The questions that animal rights raises about companion animals are important questions:

    Can we maintain animals as companions and still properly address their needs? Obviously, we can't do this for all animals. For example, keeping birds in cages denies those creatures their capacity and inherent need to fly.

    Is manipulating companion animals for our needs in the the best interests of the nonhuman animal as well? Tail docking would thus be a practice to condemn in this regard.

    Might some of our taken-for-granted practices of pet keeping be really a form of exploitation? Animals in circuses or panhandlers using animals on the street to get money from passersby would arguably be cases of exploitation.

    Which attitudes of human caretakers are truly expressions of our respect and love towards these animals, and which might not be? Exotic breeding is one example of this kind of abuse, especially when the breeding results in animals that are at a greater risk for certain diseases or biological defects.

All that animal rights is really asking is that we consider more deeply and authentically the practice at hand and whether or not it truly meets the benchmark that BOTH the needs of human AND nonhuman animals be considered. TA

The following points should be considered when selecting a companion animal. Get a companion animal appropriate to your situation--don't keep a big dog in a flat or small garden. Don't get an animal that will be kept unnecessarily confined--birds, fish, etc. However, it is a good policy to try to keep cats inside as much as possible, especially at night, to protect both the cat and local wildlife. Get your dog or cat from a local pound or animal group; thousands of animals are destroyed each year by groups such as the RSPCA. The majority are animals who are lost or dumped. Vicious animals are not adopted out. By getting an animal from such a source you will be saving its life and reducing the reliance on breeders. Finally, get your companion neutered. There is no behavioral or biological benefit from being fertile or from having a litter. And every pup or kitten that is produced will need to find a home. JK


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#76 What about spaying and neutering?

Ingrid Newkirk writes:

"What's happening to our best friends should never happen even to our worst enemies. With an estimated 80 to 100 million cats and dogs in this country already, 3,000 to 5,000 more puppies and kittens are born every hour in the United States--far more than can ever find good homes. Unwanted animals are dumped at the local pound or abandoned in woods and on city streets, where they suffer from starvation, lack of shelter and veterinary care, and abuse. Most die from disease, starvation, and mistreatment, or, if they're lucky are 'put to sleep' forever at an animal shelter."

The point is that the practice of neutering and spaying prevents far more suffering and harm than it imposes on the neutered or spayed animals. The net harm is minimized. DG


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#77 What is wrong with experimentation on animals?

The claimed large gains from using animals in research makes the practice the most significant challenge to AR philosophy. While it is easy to dismiss meat production as a trivial indulgence of the taste buds, such a dismissal is not so easily accomplished for animal research. First, a definition. We refer to as "vivisection" any use of animals in science or research that exploits and harms them. This definition acknowledges that there is some research using animals that is morally acceptable under AR philosophy (see question #80). The case against vivisection is built upon three planks. They are:

PLANK A. Vivisection is immoral and should be abolished. PLANK B. Abolition of vivisection is not antiscience or antiresearch. PLANK C. The consequences of abolition are acceptable.

It is easy to misunderstand the AR philosophy regarding vivisection. Often, scientists will debate endlessly about the scientific validity of research, and sometimes AR people engage in those debates. Such issues are part of PLANK C, which asserts that much research is misleading, wrong, or misguided. However, the key to the AR position is PLANK A, which asserts an objection to vivisection on ethical grounds. We seek to reassure people about the effects abolition will have on future medical progress via PLANKS B and C. In the material that follows, each piece of text is identified with a preceding tag such as [PLANK A]. The idea is to show how the text fragments fit into the overall case. There is some overlap between PLANKs B and C, so the assignment may look arbitrary in a few cases. DG

[PLANK A] Over 100 million animals are used in experiments worldwide every year. A few of the more egregious examples of vivisection may be enlightening for the uninformed (taken from R. Ryder's "Victims of Science"):

    Psychologists gave electric shocks to the feet of 1042 mice. They then caused convulsions by giving more intense shocks through cup-shaped electrodes applied to the animals' eyes or through spring clips attached to their ears.

    In Japan, starved rats with electrodes in their necks and electrodes in their eyeballs were forced to run in treadmills for four hours at a time.

    A group of 64 monkeys was addicted to drugs by automatic injection in their jugular veins. When the supply of drugs was abruptly withdrawn, some of the monkeys were observed to die in convulsions. Before dying, some monkeys plucked out all their hair or bit off their own fingers and toes.

Basic ethical objections to this type of "science" are presented here and in questions #79 and #85. Some technical objections are found in questions #78 and #80. Question #92 contains a list of books on vivisection; refer to them for further examples of the excesses of vivisection, as well as more detailed discussion of its technical merits. VIVISECTION TREATS ANIMALS AS TOOLS. Vivisection effectively reduces sentient beings to the status of disposable tools, to be used and discarded for the benefit of others. This forgets that each animal has an inherent value, a value that does not rise and fall depending on the interests of others. Those doubting this should ponder the implications of their views for humans: would they support the breeding of human slaves for the exclusive use of experimenters? VIVISECTION IS SPECIESIST. Most animal experimenters would not use nonconsenting humans in invasive research. In making this concession, they reveal the importance they attach to species membership, a biological line that is as morally relevant as that of race or gender, that is, not relevant at all. VIVISECTION DEMEANS SCIENCE. Its barbaric practices are an insult to those who feel that science should provide humans with the opportunity to rise above the harsher laws of nature. The words of Tom Regan summarize the feelings of many AR activists: "The laudatory achievements of science, including the many genuine benefits obtained for both humans and animals, do not justify the unjust means used to secure them. As in other cases, so in the present one, the rights view does not call for the cessation of scientific research. Such research should go on--but not at the expense of laboratory animals." AECW

Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research. George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)

Vivisection is the blackest of all the black crimes that a man is at present committing against God and his fair creation. Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit for their cruelty. Leo Tolstoy (author)

I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't...The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further. Mark Twain (author)

SEE ALSO: #78-#82, #85-#86

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#78 Do AR people accept that vivisection has led to valuable medical advances?

[PLANK A] AR advocates generally believe that vivisection has played a contributing, if not necessarily essential, role in some valuable medical advances. However, AR philosophy asserts that the end does not justify the means, and that therefore the answer cannot decide the legitimacy of the stance against vivisection.

[PLANK C] That said, many people, including former vivisectors and medical historians, will readily state that there is ample scientific and historical evidence showing that most vivisection is futile, and often harmful to those it pretends to serve. On statistical grounds, vivisection does not deliver: despite the use of 144,000,000 animals in Britain since 1950, life-expectancy in Britain for the middle-aged has not changed since this date. Some 85 percent of the lab animals killed between the 1890s and the 1990s died after 1950, but the fall in death rate during these 100 years was 92 percent complete by 1950. Consider, for a specific example, these figures for cancer:

                  [FOR THOSE > 100 PER MILLION]

    Cancer type     1971-1975       1976-1980       % change

    Bladder             118             123           +  4.2
    Pancreas            118             125           +  5.9
    Prostate            177             199           + 12.4
    Stomach             298             278           -  6.7
    Colorectal          311             320           +  2.9
    Lung, Trachea,      1091            1125          +  3.1
    [data for women excised for space reasons]

Gains in the war against cancer are sadly lacking, despite the vast numbers of animals sacrificed for cancer research. When such analyses are performed across the spectrum of health issues, it becomes clear that, at best, the contribution of vivisection to our health must be considered quite modest. The dramatic declines in death rates for old killer diseases, such as, tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, whooping cough, and cholera, came from improvements in housing, in working conditions, in the quantity and quality of food and water supplies, and in hygiene. Chemotherapy and immunization cannot logically be given much credit here, since they only became available, chronologically, after most of the declines were achieved. Consider the particular example of penicillin: it was discovered accidentally by Fleming in 1928. He tested on rabbits, and when they failed to react (we now know that they excrete penicillin rapidly), he lost interest in his substance. Still, two scientists followed up on his work, successfully tried on mice and stated:

"...mice were tried in the initial toxicity tests because of their small size, but what a lucky chance it was, for in this respect man is like the mouse and not the guinea pig. If we had used guinea pigs exclusively we should have said that the penicillin was toxic, and we probably should not have proceeded to try to overcome the difficulties of producing the substance for trial in man."

Vivisection generally fails because:

    Human medicine cannot be based on veterinary medicine. This is because animals are different histologically, anatomically, genetically, immunologically, and physiologically.

    Animals and humans react differently to substances. For example, some drugs are carcinogenic in humans but not in animals, or vice-versa.

    Naturally occurring diseases (e.g., in patients) and artificially induced diseases (e.g., in lab animals) often differ substantially.

All this manifests itself in examples such as the one below:


Chemical        Teratogen (i.e., causes birth defects)

                yes                    no

aspirin         rats, mice, monkeys,    humans
                guinea pigs, cats,      

aminopterin     humans                  monkeys

azathioprine    rabbits                 rats

caffeine        rats, mice              rabbits

cortisone       mice, rabbits           rats

thalidomide     humans                  rats, mice,
triamcilanone   mice                    humans

There are countless examples, old and recent, of the misleading effects of vivisection, and there are countless statements from reputable scientists who see vivisection for what it is: bad science. Following are just a few of them. AECW

The uselessness of most of the animal models is less well-known. For example, the discovery of chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of human cancer is widely heralded as a triumph due to use of animal model systems. However, here again, these exaggerated claims are coming from or are endorsed by the same people who get the federal dollars for animal research. There is little, if any, factual evidence that would support these claims. Indeed while conflicting animal results have often delayed and hampered advances in the war on cancer, they have never produced a single substantial advance in the prevention or treatment of human cancer. For instance, practically all of the chemotherapeutic agents which are of value in the treatment of human cancer were found in a clinical context rather than in animal studies. Dr. Irwin Bross 1981 Congressional testimony

Indeed even while these [clinical] studies were starting, warning voices were suggesting that data from research on animals could not be used to develop a treatment for human tumors. British Medical Journal, 1982

Vivisection is barbaric, useless, and a hindrance to scientific progress. Dr. Werner Hartinger Chief Surgeon, West Germany, 1988

...many vivisectors still claim that what they do helps save human lives. They are lying. The truth is that animal experiments kill people, and animal researchers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of men, women and children every year. Dr. Vernon Coleman Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK

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#79 How can you justify losing medical advances that would save human lives by stopping vivisection?

[PLANK A] The same way we justify not performing forcible research on unwilling humans! A lot of even more relevant information is currently foregone owing to our strictures against human experimentation. If life-saving medical advances are to be sought at all cost, why should nonhuman animals be singled out for ill-treatment? We must accept that there is such a thing as "ill-gotten gains", and that the potential fruits of vivisection qualify as such. This question might be regarded as a veiled insult to the creativity and resourcefulness of scientists. Although humans have never set foot on Pluto, scientists have still garnered a lot of valuable scientific information concerning it. Why couldn't such feats of ingenuity be repeated in other fields? AECW

[PLANK B] Forcible experimentation on humans is not the only alternative. Many humans would be glad to participate in experiments that offer the hope of a cure for their afflictions, or for the afflictions of others. If individual choice were allowed, there might be no need for animal experimentation. The stumbling block is government regulations that forbid these choices. Similarly, government regulations are the reason many animals are sacrificed for product testing, often unnecessarily. PM

SEE ALSO: #77-#78, #80-#82, #85-#86

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#80 Aren't there instances where there are no alternatives to the use of animals?

[PLANK A] The reply to the question here is succinct: "If so, so what?". Let us recall that we are happy enough (today) to forego knowledge that would be acquired at the expense of commandeering humans into service, and that we include children, the mentally diminished and even people suffering from types of disease for which animal models are unsatisfactory (such as AIDS). That is, a prior ethical decision was made that rules them out from experimentation, and that foregoes any potential knowledge so derived. Now the Animal Rights argument is consistent: since no morally relevant difference can be produced that separates humans spared experimentation from test animals (those that are subjects-of-a-life), vivisection is exposed as immoral, and the practice must be abandoned. Just as the insights offered by the Nazis' experiments on concentration camp prisoners were morally illicit, so are any and all benefits traceable to vivisection. As Tom Regan put it:

"Since, whatever our gains, they are ill-gotten, we must bring an end to [such] research, whatever our losses."

[PLANK B] The argument above makes the search for alternatives morally imperative, and if it is objected that this "just isn't possible", one should reply that belittling the ingenuity of scientists will not do. There have been cases where alternatives to vivisection had to be sought, and--of course--they were found. For example, Sharpe writes in The Human Cost of Animal Experimentation: "Historically, a classic example is the conquest of yellow fever. In 1900, no animal was known to be susceptible, prompting studies with human volunteers which proved that mosquitoes did indeed transmit the disease. These observations led to improved sanitation and quarantine measures in Havana where yellow fever, once rife, was eradicated."

[PLANK C] We now cite a few alternatives to animal models of human diseases. Two traditional types are: a) Clinical studies: these are essential for a thorough understanding of any disease. Anesthetics, artificial respiration, the stethoscope, electrocardiographs, blood pressure measurements, etc., resulted from careful clinical studies. b) Epidemiology studies: i.e., the study of diseases of whole populations. They, and not animal tests, have identified most of the substances known to cause cancer in humans. Typical example: Why is cancer of the colon so frequent in Europe and North America, infrequent in Japan, but common in Japanese immigrants to North America? More recent technological advances now allow a host of other investigative methods to be applied, including:

    Tissue cultures: Human cells and tissues can be kept alive in cultures and used for biomedical research. Since human material is used, extrapolation problems are short-circuited. Such cultures have been used in cancer research by FDA scientists, for example, and according to them: "[they] offer the possibility of studying not only the biology of cancer cell growth and invasion into normal human tissue, but also provide a method for evaluating the effects of a variety of potentially important antitumor agents."

    Physico-chemical methods: For example, liquid chromatographs and mass spectrophotometers allow researchers to identify substances in biological substances. For example, a bioassay for vitamin D used to involve inducing rickets in rats and feeding them vitamin-D-rich substances. Now, liquid chromatography allows such bioassays to be conducted quicker and at reduced cost.

    Computer simulations: According to Dr. Walker at the University of Texas: "... computer simulations offer a wide range of advantages over live animal experiments in the physiology and pharmacology laboratory. These include: savings in animal procurement and housing costs; nearly unlimited availability to meet student schedules; the opportunity to correct errors and repeat parts of the experiment performed incorrectly or misinterpreted; speed of operation and efficient use of students' time and consistency with knowledge learned elsewhere."

    Computer-aided drug design: Such methods have been used in cancer and sickle-cell anemia drug research, for example. Here, 3D computer graphics and the theoretical field of quantum pharmacology are combined to help in designing drugs according to required specifications.

    Mechanical models: For example, an artificial neck has been developed by General Motors for use in car-crash simulations. Indeed, the well-known "crash dummies" are much more accurate and effective than the primates previously employed.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

[PLANK B] There are instances where the benefits of experimentation accrue directly to the individual concerned; for example, the trial of a new plastic heart may be proposed to someone suffering from heart disease, or a new surgical technique may be attempted to save a nonhuman animal. This may qualify, in the mind of the questioner, as an instance of use of animals. The position here is simple: The Animal Rights position does not condemn experimentation where it is conducted for the benefit of the individual patient. Clinical trials of new drugs, for example, often fall in this category, and so does some veterinary research, such as the clinical study of already sick animals. Another example of acceptable animal research is ethology, i.e. the study of animals in their natural habitat. AECW

[PLANK B] Following is a list of alternatives to much, if not all, vivisection:

    Cell, tissue, and organ cultures

    Clinical observation

    Human volunteers (sick and well)


    Material from natural deaths

    Noninvasive imaging in clinical settings

    Post-market surveillance

    Statistical inference

    Computer models

    Substitution with plants

These alternatives, and others not yet conceived, will ensure that scientific research will not come to a halt upon abolition of vivisection. DG

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#81 But what if animals also benefit, e.g., through advance of veterinary science?

[PLANK A] The Animal Rights philosophy is species-neutral, so the arguments developed elsewhere in this section apply with equal force. The immorality of rights-violative practices is not attenuated by claiming that the victims and beneficiaries are of the same species. AECW

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#82 Should people refuse medical treatments obtained through vivisection?

[PLANK A] This is a favorite question for the defenders of vivisection. The implication is that the AR position is inconsistent or irrational because AR people partake of some fruits of vivisection. As a first answer, we can point out that for existing treatments derived from vivisection, the damage has already been done. Nothing is gained by refusing the treatment. Vivisectors counter that the situation is analogous to our refusal to eat meat sold at the grocery; the damage has been done, so why not eat the meat? But there is a crucial difference. Knowledge is a permanent commodity; unlike meat, it is abstract, it doesn't rot. Consider a piece of knowledge obtained through vivisection. If vivisection were abolished, the knowledge could be used repeatedly without endorsing or further supporting vivisection. With meat consumption, the practice of slaughter must continue if the fruits are to continue to be enjoyed. Another point is that, had the vivisection not occurred, the knowledge might well have been obtained through alternative, moral methods. Are we to permanently foreclose the use of an abstract piece of knowledge due to the past folly of a vivisector? The same cannot be said of meat; it cannot be obtained without slaughter. If the reader finds this unpersuasive, she should consider that the AR movement sincerely wants to abolish vivisection, eliminating ill-gotten fruits. If this is achieved, the original question becomes moot, because there will be no such fruits. DG

[PLANK A] This is another "where should I draw the line" question, with the added twist that one's personal health may be on the line. As such, the right answer is likely to depend a good deal on personal circumstances and judgment. It is certainly beyond the call of duty to make an absolute pledge, since the principle of self-defense may ultimately apply (particularly in life-or death cases). Still, many people will be prepared to make statements against animal oppression, even at considerable cost to their well-being. For these, the following issues might be worth considering.

[PLANK C] WHAT IS THE TRUE CONTRIBUTION OF ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TREATMENT? Most treatments owe nothing to animal experimentation at all, or were developed in spite of animal experimentation rather than thanks to it. Insulin is one good example. The really important discoveries did not proceed from the celebrated experiments of Banting and Best on dogs but from clinical discoveries: According to Dr. Sharpe: "The link between diabetes and the pancreas was first demonstrated by Thomas Cawley in 1788 when he examined a patient who had died from the disease. Further autopsies confirmed that diabetes is indeed linked with degeneration of the pancreas but, partly because physiologists, including the notorious Claude Bernard, had failed to produce a diabetic state in animals...the idea was not accepted for many years." One had to wait until 1889 for the link to be accepted, the date at which two researchers, Mering and Minkowski, managed to induce a form of diabetes in dogs by removing their entire pancreas. Autopsies further revealed that some parts of the pancreas of diabetics were damaged, giving birth to the idea that administering pancreatic extracts to patients might help. Other examples of treatments owing nothing to vivisection include the heart drug digitalis, quinine (used against malaria), morphine (a pain killer), ether (an anesthetic), sulfanilimide (a diuretic), cortisone (used to relieve arthritic pains, for example), aspirin, fluoride (in toothpastes), etc. Incidentally, some of these indisputably useful drugs would find it hard to pass these so-called animal safety tests. Insulin causes birth defects in chickens, rabbits, and mice but not in man; morphine sedates man but stimulates cats; doses of aspirin used in human therapeutics poison cats (and do nothing for fever in horses); the widespread use of digitalis was slowed down by confounding results from animal studies (and legitimized by clinical studies, as ever), and so on. IS THE TREATMENT REALLY SAFE? The nefarious effects of many newly-developed, "safe" compounds often take some time to be acknowledged. For example, even serious side-effects can sometimes go under-reported. In the UK, only a dozen of the 3500 deaths eventually linked to the use of isoprenaline aerosol inhalers were reported by doctors. Similarly, it took 4 years for the side-effects of the heart drug Eraldine (which included eye damage) to be acknowledged. The use of these drugs were, evidently, approved following extensive animal testing. WILL THE TREATMENT REALLY HELP? This question is not as incongruous as it may appear. A 1967 official enquiry suggested that one third of the most prescribed drugs in the UK were "undesirable preparations". Many new drugs provide no advantage over existing compounds: in 1977, the US FDA released a study of 1,935 drugs introduced up to April 1977 which suggested that 79.4 percent of them provided "little or no [therapeutic] gain". About 80 percent of new introductions in the UK are reformulations, or duplications of existing drugs. A 1980 survey by the Medicines Division of UK Department for Health and Social Security states : "[new drugs] have largely been introduced into therapeutic areas already heavily oversubscribed and...for conditions which are common, largely chronic and occur principally in the affluent Western society. Innovation is therefore largely directed toward commercial returns rather than therapeutic needs."

[PLANK B] ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO THE TREATMENT? A better appreciation of the benefits of "alternative" practices has developed in recent years. Often, dietary or lifestyle changes can be effective treatments on their own. Adult-onset diabetes has been linked to obesity, for instance, and can often be cured simply by weight-loss and sensible dieting. Other types of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, have proven useful in stress relief, and against insomnia and back pains. AECW

[PLANK A] In modern society, I think it would be almost impossible NOT to use medical information gained through animal research at some stage--drug testing being the most obvious consideration--without opting out of health care altogether. It is important, therefore, that we emphasize the need to stop now. The past is irretrievable. JK

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#83 Farmers have to kill pests to protect our food supply. Given that, what's wrong with killing a few more rats for medical research?

[PLANK A] First, we object to the casual attitude of the questioner to the killing of rights holders. A nonspeciesist philosophy, such as that of Animal Rights, sees that as no different from suggesting:

Humans are killed legitimately every day. Given that, what's wrong with killing a few more humans for medical research?

Hopefully, the reply is now obvious: in the original question, the fate of pests is an irrelevant consideration (here), and the case for the liberation of laboratory animals must be evaluated on its own. Seeking to dilute a number of immoral killings into a greater number of arguably defensible ones is a creative but illogical attempt at ethical reasoning. AECW


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#84 What about dissection; isn't it necessary for a complete education?

[PLANK A] Dissection refers to the practice of performing exploratory surgery on animals (both killed and live) in an educational context. The average person's experience of this practice consists of dissecting a frog in a high-school biology class, but fetal chipmunks, mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, and other animals are also used. Dissection accounts for the death of about 7 million animals per year. Many of these animals are bred in factory-farm conditions. Others are taken from their natural habitats. Often, strayed companion animals end up in the hands of dissectors. These animals suffer from inhumane confinement and transport, and are finally killed by means of gassing, neck-snapping, and other "inexpensive" methods. The practice of dissection is repulsive to many students and high-schoolers have begun to speak out against it. Some have even engaged in litigation (and won!) to assert a right to not participate in such unnecessary cruelty. California has a law giving students (through high school) the right to refuse dissection. The law requires an alternative to be offered and that the student suffer no sanctions for exercising this right. Having dealt with the sub-question "What is dissection?", let's consider whether it is necessary for a complete education.

[PLANK B] There are several very effective alternatives to dissection. In some cases, these alternatives are more effective than dissection itself. Larger-than-life models, films and videos, and computer simulations are all viable methods of teaching biological principles. The latter option, computer simulation, has the advantage of offering an additional interactive facility that has shown great value in other educational contexts. These alternative methods are often cheaper than the traditional practice of dissection. A computer program can be used indefinitely for a one-time purchase cost; the practice of dissection presents an ongoing expense. In view of these effective alternatives, and the economic gains associated therewith, the practice of dissection begins to look more and more like a rite of passage into the world of animal abuse, almost a fraternity initiation for future vivisectors. This practice desensitizes students to animal suffering and teaches them that animals can be used and discarded without respect for their lives. Is this the kind of lesson we want to teach our children? JLS/DG

[PLANK C] Dissecting animals is often described as necessary for the complete education of surgeons. This is nonsense. Numerous surgeons have stated that practicing on animals does not provide adequate skills for human surgery. For example, dogs are the favorite test animal of surgery students, yet their body shape is different, the internal arrangement of their organs is different, the elasticity of their tissues under the scalpel is different, and postoperative effects are different (they are less prone to infection, for one thing). Also, many surgeons have suggested that practicing on animals may induce in the mind of the student a casual attitude to suffering. Following are the thoughts of several prestigious surgeons on this issue. AECW

...wounds of animals are so different from those of [humans] that the conclusions of vivisection are absolutely worthless. They have done far more harm than good in surgery. Lawson Tait

Any person who had to endure certain experiments carried out on animals which perish slowly in the laboratories would regard death by burning at the stake as a happy deliverance. Like every one else in my profession, I used to be of the opinion that we owe nearly all our knowledge of medical and surgical science to animal experiments. Today I know that precisely the opposite is the case. In surgery especially, they are of no help to the practitioner, indeed he is often led astray by them. Professor Bigelow

...the aim should be to train the surgeon using human patients by moving gradually from stage to stage of difficulty and explicitly rejecting the acquisition of skills by practicing on animals...which is useless and dangerous in the training of a thoracic surgeon. Professor R. J. Belcher

Practice on dogs probably makes a good veterinarian, if that is the kind of practitioner you want for your family. William Held

[End surgeon quotes]

Animal life, somber mystery. All nature protests against the barbarity of man, who misapprehends, who humiliates, who tortures his inferior brethren. Jules Michelet (historian)

Mutilating animals and calling it 'science' condemns the human species to moral and intellectual hell...this hideous Dark Age of the mindless torture of animals must be overcome. Grace Slick (musician)

SEE ALSO: #77-#81, #92

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#85 What is wrong with product testing on animals?

[PLANK A] The practice of product testing on animals treats animals as discardable and renewable resources, as replaceable clones with no individual lives, no interests, and no aspirations of their own. It callously enlists hapless creatures into the service of humans. It assumes that the risks incurred by one class of individuals can be forcibly transferred onto another. Product testing is also unbelievably cruel. One notorious method of testing is the Draize irritancy test, in which potentially harmful products are dripped into the eyes of test animals (usually rabbits). The harmfulness of the product is then (subjectively) assessed depending on the size of the area injured, the opacity of the cornea, and the degree of redness, swelling and discharge of the conjunctivae, and in more severe cases, on the blistering or gross destruction of the cornea.

[PLANK C] The use of animals in medicine is often challenged on scientific grounds, and product tests are no exception. For example, one widely used test is the so-called LD50 (Lethal Dose 50 percent) test. The toxicity level of a product is assessed by force-feeding it to a number of animals until 50 percent of them die. Death may come after a few days or weeks, and is often preceded by convulsions, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and more. Often, this test reveals nothing at all; animals die simply because of the volume of product administered, through the rupture of internal organs. How such savage practices could provide any useful data is a mystery, and not just to AR activists. It is seen as dubious by many toxicologists, and even by some Government advisers. Animal models often produce misleading results, or produce no useful results at all, and product testing is no exception. One toxicologist writes: "It is surely time, therefore, that we ceased to use as an index of the toxic action of food additives the LD50 value, which is imprecise (varying considerably with different species, with different strains of the same species, with sex, with nutritional status, environmental status, and even with the concentration at which the substance is administered) and which is valueless in the planning of further studies."

[PLANK B] The truth is that animal lives could be spared in many ways. For example, duplication of experiments could be avoided by setting up databases of results. Also, a host of humane alternatives to such tests are already available, and the considerable sums spent on breeding or keeping test animals could be usefully redirected into researching new ones. AECW

The animal rights view calls for the abolition of all animal toxicity tests. Animals are not our tasters. We are not their kings. Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)

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#86 How do I know if a product has been tested on animals?

There are two easy ways to determine whether a product uses animal products or is tested on animals. First, most companies provide a toll-free telephone number for inquiring about their products. This is the most reliable method for obtaining up-to-date information. Second, several excellent guides are available that provide listings of companies and products. The section entitled "Guides, Handbooks, and Reference" in question #92 lists several excellent guides to cruelty-free shopping. For maximum convenience, you can obtain a wallet-sized listing from PETA. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request for the "PETA Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide" to PETA, P.O. Box 42516, Washington, DC 20015. Another thing to think about is the possibility of avoiding products by making safe, ecologically sound alternative products yourself! Several of the guides described in question #92 explain how to do this. DG

SEE ALSO: #85, #92

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#87 What are the forms of animal rights activism?

Let us first adopt a broad definition of activism as the process of acting in support of a cause, as opposed to privately lamenting and bemoaning the current state of affairs. Given that, AR activism spans a broad spectrum, with relatively simple and innocuous actions at one end, and difficult and politico-legally charged actions at the other. Each individual must make a personal decision about where to reside on the spectrum. For some, forceful or unlawful action is a moral imperative; others may condemn it, or it may be impractical (for example, a lawyer may serve animals better through the legislative process than by going on raids and possibly getting disbarred). Following is a brief sampling of AR activism, beginning at the low end of the spectrum. The spectrum of action can be divided conveniently into four zones: personal actions, proselytizing, organizing, and civil disobedience. Consider first personal actions. Here are some of the personal actions you can take in support of AR:

    Learning -- Educate yourself about the issues involved. Vegetarianism and Veganism -- Become one. Cruelty-Free Shopping -- Avoid products involve testing on animals. Cruelty-Free Fashion -- Avoid leather and fur. Investing with Conscience -- Avoid companies that exploit animals. Animal-Friendly Habits -- Avoid pesticides, detergents, etc. The Golden Rule -- Apply it to all creatures and live by it.

    Proselytizing is the process of "spreading the word". Here are some of the ways that it can be done:

    Tell your family and friends about your beliefs. Write letters to lawmakers, newspapers, magazines, etc. Write books and articles. Create documentary films and videos. Perform leafletting and "tabling". Give lectures at schools and other organizations. Speak at stockholders' meetings. Join Animal Review Committees that oversee research on animals. Picket, boycott, demonstrate, and protest.

Organizing is a form of meta-proselytizing--helping others to spread the word. Here are some of the ways to do it:

    Join an AR-related organization.

    Contribute time and money to an AR-related organization.

    Found an AR organization.

    Get involved in politics or law and act directly for AR.

The last category of action, civil disobedience, is the most contentious and the remaining questions in this section deal further with it. Some draw the line here; others do not. It is a personal decision. Here are some of the methods used to more forcefully assert the rights of animals:

    Sit-ins and occupations.

    Obstruction and harassment of people in their animal-exploitation activities (e.g., foxhunt sabotage). The idea is to make it more difficult and/or embarrassing for people to continue these activities.

    Spying and infiltration of animal-exploitation industries and organizations. The information and evidence gathered can be a powerful weapon for AR activists.

    Destruction of property related to exploitation and abuse of animals (laboratory equipment, meat and clothes in stores, etc.). The idea is to make it more costly and less profitable for these animal industries.

    Sabotage of the animal-exploitation industries (e.g., destruction of vehicles and buildings). The idea is to make the activities impossible.

    Raids on premises associated with animal exploitation (to gather evidence, to sabotage, to liberate animals).

It can be seen from the foregoing material that AR activism spans a wide range of activities that includes both actions that would be conventionally regarded as law-abiding and non-threatening, and actions that are unlawful and threatening to the animal-exploitation industries. Most AR activism falls into the former category and, indeed, one can support these actions while condemning the latter category of actions. People who are thinking, with some trepidation, of going for the first time to a meeting of an AR group need have no fear of finding themselves involved with extremists, or of being coerced into extreme activism. They would find a group of exceedingly law-abiding computer programmers, teachers, artists, etc. (The extreme activists are essentially unorganized and cannot afford to meet in public groups due to the unwelcome attention of law-enforcement agencies.) DG

One person can make all the difference in the world...For the first time in recorded human history, we have the fate of the whole planet in our hands. Chrissie Hynde (musician)

This is the true joy in life; being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod. George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)

Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life. Norman Cousins (author)

SEE ALSO: #5, #88-#93, #95

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#88 Isn't liberation just a token action because there is no way to give homes to all the animals?

If one thinks of a liberation action solely in terms of liberation goals, there is some validity in viewing it as a token, or symbolic, action. It is true that liberation actions could not succeed applied en masse, because there aren't enough homes for all the animals, and even if there were, distribution channels do not exist for relocating them. Having said this, however, one needs to remember that for the few animals that are liberated, the action is far from a token one. There is a world of difference between spending one's life in a loving home or a sanctuary and spending it imprisoned in a cage waiting for a brutal end. Liberation actions need to be viewed with a less literal mind set. As Peter Singer points out, raids are effective in obtaining evidence of animal abuse that could not otherwise have come to light. For example, a raid on Thomas Gennarelli's laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania obtained videotapes that convinced the Secretary for Health and Human Services to stop his experiments. One might also bear in mind that symbolic actions have been some of the most powerful ones seen throughout history. DG

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke (statesman and author)

SEE ALSO: #89-#91

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#89 Isn't AR activism terrorism because it harasses people, destroys property, and threatens humans with injury or death?

The answer to question #87 should make it clear that most AR activism cannot be described as extreme and, furthermore, that not even all acts described as extreme could be thought of as "terrorism". For example, a peaceful sit-in is highly unlikely to put others in a state of intense fear. Thus, it is not correct to characterize AR activism generally as terrorism. One of the fundamental guidelines of the extreme activists is that great care must be taken not to inflict harm in carrying out the acts. This has been borne out in practice. On the very rare occasions when harm has occurred, the mainstream AR groups have condemned the acts. In some cases, the authors of the acts have been suspected to be those allied against the AR movement; their motives would not require deep thought to decipher. The dictionary defines "terrorism" as the systematic use of violence or acts that instill intense fear to achieve an end. Certainly, harassment of fur wearers, or shouting "meat is murder" outside a butcher shop, could not be considered to be terrorism. Even destruction of property would not qualify under the definition if it is done without harming others. Certainly, the Boston Tea Party raiders did not consider themselves terrorists. The real terrorists are the people and industries that inflict pain and suffering on millions of innocent animals for trivial purposes each and every day. DG

If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior. Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

I am in earnest--I will not equivocate--I will not excuse--I will not retreat a single inch and I will be heard. William Lloyd Garrison (author)

SEE ALSO: #87-#88, #90-#91

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#90 Isn't extreme activism involving breaking the law (e.g., destruction of property) wrong?

Great men and women have demonstrated throughout history that laws can be immoral, and that we can be justified in breaking them. Those who object to law-breaking under all circumstances would have to condemn:

    The Tiananmen Square demonstrators.

    The Boston Tea Party participants.

    Mahatma Gandhi and his followers.

    World War II resistance fighters.

    The Polish Solidarity Movement.

    Vietnam War draft card burners.

The list could be continued almost indefinitely. Conversely, laws sometimes don't reflect our moral beliefs. After World War II, the allies had to hastily write new laws to fully prosecute the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. Dave Foreman points out that there is a distinction to be made between morality and the statutes of a government in power. It could be argued that the principle we are talking about does not apply. Specifically, the law against destruction of property is not immoral, and we therefore should not break it. However, a related principle can be asserted. If a law is invoked to defend immoral practices, or to attempt to limit or interfere with our ability to fight an immoral situation, then justification might be claimed for breaking that law. In the final analysis, this is a personal decision for each person to make in consultation with their own conscience. DG

Certainly one of the highest duties of the citizen is a scrupulous obedience to the laws of the nation. But it is not the highest duty. Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President)

I say, break the law. Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

SEE ALSO: #89, #91

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#91 Doesn't extreme activism give the AR movement a bad name?

This is a significant argument that must be thoughtfully considered. In essence, the argument says that if your actions can be characterized as extremist, then you are besmirching the actions of those who are moderate, and you are creating a backlash that can negate the advances made by more moderate voices. The appeal to the "backlash" has historical precedent. Martin Luther King heard such warnings when he organized civil-disobedience protests against segregation. Had Dr. King yielded to this appeal, would the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts have been passed? Dave Foreman, writing in "Confessions of an Eco-Warrior", points out that radicals in the anti-Vietnam War movement were blamed for prolonging the war and for damaging the "respectable" opposition. Yet the fear of increasingly militant demonstrations kept President Nixon from escalating the war effort, and the stridency eventually wore down the pro-war establishment. The backlash argument is a standard one that will always be trotted out by the opponents of a movement. Backlash can be expected whenever the status quo is challenged, regardless of whether extreme actions are employed. The real question to ask is: Does the added backlash outweigh the gains achieved through extreme action? The answer here is not clear and we'll leave it to the informed reader to make a judgement. Two books that might help in assessing this are "Free the Animals" by Ingrid Newkirk, and "In Defense of Animals" by Peter Singer. The following argument is paraphrased from Dave Foreman: Extreme action is a sophisticated political tactic that dramatizes issues and places them before the public when they otherwise would be ignored in the media, applies pressure to corporations and government agencies that otherwise are able to resist "legitimate" pressure from law-abiding organizations, and broadens the spectrum of activism so that lobbying by mainstream groups is not considered "extremist". DG

My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt. Anna Sewell (author)

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass (abolitionist)

SEE ALSO: #87-#90

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#92 What are appropriate books and periodicals to read for more information on AR issues?

There are hundreds of books that could be recommended. We provide only a sampling of books and periodicals below. Please refer to question #94 for further book references and reviews. Space limitations forced us to avoid children's books. Refer to the guide books listed for full bibliographies. TA/DG/JLS/AECW

Animal Production and Factory Farming

"Animal Factories", Jim Mason and Peter Singer, AAVS, 801 Old York Rd, Suite 204, Jenkintown, PA 19046-1685, $12.95. Facts and photos on farms that mass produce animals for meat, milk, and eggs. [1980, 1990]

"Factory Farming: The Experiment That Failed", Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, DC 20007. Fact-packed indictment of factory-farming on welfare and economic grounds. [1988]

"Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching", Lynn Jacobs, P.O. Box 5784, Tucson, AZ 85703.

"Do Hens Suffer in Battery Cages?", Michael Appleby, The Athene Trust, 5a Charles St, Petersfield, Hants GU32 3EH. Scientific evidence of hen suffering. [1991]

"Alternative to Factory Farming", Paul Carnell, Earth Resources Research Publishers, London. Factory farming challenged on economic grounds. [1983]

"Chicken and Egg: Who pays the price?", Clare Druce, Green Print Publishers, London. A criticism of the poultry industry. [1989]

"Taking Stock: Animal Farming and The Environment", Alan Durning and Holly Brough, Worldwatch Paper 103, WorldWatch Institute, 1776 Mass. Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1904. The environmental cost of animal farming. [1991]

"Assault and Battery", Mark Gold, Pluton Publishers, London. Effects of farming on animals, humans and the environment. [1983]

"Animal Machines", Ruth Harrison, Vincent Stuart Publishers, London. The first book on factory farming. [1964]

"Facts about Furs", G. Nilsson, et. al., Animal Welfare Institute, (op. cit.). On fur-farming and trapping. [1980]

"Pulling the Wool", Christine Townend, Hale and Ironmonger Publishers, Sydney, Australia. The Australian wool and sheep industry. [1985]

Animal Rights History

"All Heaven in a Rage", E. S. Turner. Provides a history of the animal protection movement up to the 1960's. [1964]

"Animal Warfare", David Henshaw, Fontana Publishers, London. The rise of direct action for Animal Rights. [1984]

"History of the Humane Movement", Charles D. Niven, Johnson Publishers, London. From antiquity to today. [1967]

"Animal Revolution", Richard Ryder, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. Overview of the history of AW and AR movements. [1985]

"The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, Its Achievements and Its Future", Peter Singer, Old Hammond Press Publishers, Nottingham, [1986]

"Man and the Natural World", Keith Thomas, Penguin, London. History from 1500 AD to 1800 AD. [1991]

Animal Rights Legislation

"Animals and their Legal Rights", The Animal Welfare Institute, Washington D.C. [1990]

"Animal Rights, Human Wrongs", S. Jenkins, Lennard Publishings, Harpenden, UK. An RSPCA officer's experiences demonstrate the lack of adequate animal legislation. [1992]

"Up against the Law", J. J. Roberts, Arc Print, London. 1986 Public Order Act and its implications for Animal Rights protests. [1987]

"Animals and Cruelty and Law", Noel Sweeney, Alibi, Bristol UK. A practicing barrister argues for Animal Rights from the legal standpoint. [1990]

Animal Rights Philosophy

"The Case for Animal Rights", Tom Regan, University of California Press. [1983]

"The Struggle for Animal Rights", Tom Regan, International Society for Animal Rights, Inc., Clarks Summit, PA. [1987]

"Animal Liberation", Peter Singer, PETA Merchandise, P.O. Box 42400, Washington, D.C. 20015, $3.00 post-paid. The book that popularized Animal Rights. [1975, 1990]

"In Defense of Animals", Peter Singer.

"Animals' Rights", Henry Salt, AAVS (op. cit.), $6.95. Written a century ago, a true classic, anticipates many of today's arguments.

"No Room, Save in the Heart: Poetry and Prose on Reverence for Life--Animals, Nature and Humankind", Ann Cottrell Free, AAVS (op. cit.), $8.95.

"The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Science", Bernard Rollin. [1989]

"Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism", James Rachels. [1990]

"Morals, Reason and Animals, Steve Sapontzis. [1987]

"Political Theory and Animal Rights", Clarke and Lindzey (Eds.). This book provides interesting excepts from thinkers since Plato to Regan on the issue of our relations and duties towards animals. [1990]

"The Nature of the Beast: Are Animals Moral?", Stephen Clark.

"Animals, Men and Morals", Godlovitch et. al. [1971]

"Fettered Kingdoms", John Bryant, Fox Press Publishers, Winchester. Includes a well-known indictment of pet keeping. [1990]

"The Moral Status of Animals", Stephen Clark, Oxford University Press Publishers, Oxford. The roots of humans' treatment of animals in sentimental fantasy. [1977]

"The Savour of Salt--A Henry Salt Anthology", G. and W. Hendrick, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. [1989]

"Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around the Species Barrier", Mary Midgley, Penguin Publishers, London. [1983]

"Beast and Man", Mary Midgley, Harvester Press Publishers, Brighton. [1979]

"Animal Rights--A Symposium", David Paterson and Richard Ryder, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. [1979]

"Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals", Michael W. Fox, St. Martins Press, New York. [1990]

"The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory", Carol J. Adams. [1990]

"Rape of the Wild: Man's Violence against Animals and the Earth", Andree Collard with Joyce Contrucci. [1989]

"The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery", Marjorie Spiegel, Mirror Books, NY. [1988]

Animal Rights Theology

"Christianity and the Rights of Animals", Andrew Linzey, Crossroad, New York. [1987]

"Animal Sacrifices -- Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science", Tom Regan (Ed.), Temple University Press, PA. [1986]

Circuses, Rodeos, and Zoos

"The Rose-Tinted Menagerie", William Johnson, PETA (op. cit.), $16.50. Describes behind-the-scenes action in circuses, aquariums, and zoos.

"Animals in Circuses and Zoos--Chiron's World?", Marthe Kiley-Worthington, Little Eco Farms Publishing, Basildon, UK. Investigation into the treatment of animals by zoos and circuses. [1990]

"The Last Great Wild Beast Show", Bill Jordan and Stefan Ormrod, Constable Publishers, London. How animals are snatched from the wild to be shipped to zoos worldwide. [1978]

"Beyond the Bars", Virginia McKenna, William Travers, Jonathan Wray (eds.), Thorsons Publishers, Wellingborough, UK. The immorality of animal captivity. [1987]

Diet Ethics

"Diet for a New America", John Robbins, PETA (op. cit.), $12.50 post-paid. Examines problems with animal-based food systems with solutions, info on the link between diet and disease.

"Compassion: The Ultimate Ethic", V. Moran, American Vegan Society, NJ, USA. Exploration of veganism: its roots in eastern and western philosophy. [1991]

"Food: Need, Greed and Myopia", G. Yates, Earthright, Ryton UK. World food problem seen from a vegetarian/vegan standpoint. [1986]

"Radical Vegetarianism", Mark Braunstein, Panjandrum Books, Los Angeles. [1983]

Guides, Handbooks, and Reference

"Save the Animals! 101 Easy Things You Can Do", Ingrid Newkirk, PETA (op. cit.), $4.95.

"67 Ways to Save the Animals", Anna Sequoia, Harper Perennial, $4.95. [1990]

"The Animal Rights Handbook -- Everyday Ways to Save Animal Lives", Berkley Books, New York, $4.50. [1993]

"PETA's Shopping Guide for Caring Consumers", PETA (op. cit.), $4.95. A must have! Lists names and addresses of cruelty-free companies.

"Keyguide to Information Sources in Animal Rights", Charles R.Magel, AAVS (op. cit.), $24.95.

"A Shopper's Guide to Cruelty-Free Products", Lori Cook, Bantam Books, New York, $4.99. [1991]

"Animal Rights: A Beginner's Guide", Amy Achor, Writeware Inc., Yellow Springs, OH, $14.95. [1992]

"The PETA Guide to Action for Animals", PETA (op. cit.), $4.00.

"The Extended Circle: A Commonplace Book of Animal Rights", Wynne-Tyson (Ed.). Provides hundreds of quotes and short excepts from thinkers throughout history. [1989]

"The Animal-Free Shopper", R. Farhall, R. Lucas, and A. Rofe A. (Eds.), The Vegan Society, 7 Battle Road, St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN37 7AA, UK. [1991]

"The Animal Welfare Handbook", C. Clough and B. Kew, 4th Estate, London, UK [1993]

Laboratory Animals and Product Testing

"Vivisection and Dissection in the Classroom: A Guide to Conscientious Objection", Gary L. Francione and Anna E. Charlton, AAVS (op. cit.), $7.95. Legal citings, sample pleadings, and letters.

"Animals in Education: The Facts, Issues and Implications", Lisa Ann Hepner, Richmond Publishers, Albuquerque NM. [1994]

"Entering the Gates of Hell: Laboratory Cruelty You Were Not Meant to See", Brian Gunn, AAVS (op. cit.), $10.00.

"Animal Experimentation: The Consensus Changes", Gill Langley (Ed.), MacMillan Publishers, London. Collection of essays outlining the change in morality. [1991]

"Slaughter of the Innocent", Hans Ruesch, Civitas Publications, Swaine, NY. [1983]

"Naked Empress: The Great Medical Fraud", Hans Ruesch, CIVIS, Klosters, Switzerland. Why vivisection is a major cause of human disease. [1982]

"Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research", Richard Ryder, National Anti-Vivisection Society, Centaur Press Publishers, Fontwell. Classic denunciation of vivisection. [1983]

"The Cruel Deception: The Use of Animals in Medical Research", Robert Sharpe, Thorsons Publishers, Wellingborough, UK. Detailed study of the barbarity and uselessness of vivisection. [1989]

"Free the Animals!", Ingrid Newkirk, PETA (op. cit.), $14.00. Story of the Animal Liberation Front in America.


"Animals Magazine", 350 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130.

"The Animals' Agenda", P.O. Box 6809, Syracuse, NY 13217-9953.

"Animal People", P.O. Box 205, Shushan, NY 12873.

"The Animals' Voice", P.O. Box 341-347, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

"Between the Species", P.O. Box 254, Berkeley, CA 94701.

"Bunny Hugger's Gazette", P.O. Box 601, Temple, TX 76503-0601.


"The Politics of Extinction", L. Regenstein, Collier-Macmillan, London. Classic denunciation of the wildlife carnage. [1975]

"Wildlife and the Atom", L. Veal, London Greenpeace, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK. The use of animals by the nuclear industry. [1983]

SEE ALSO: #1, #94

#93 What organizations can I join to support AR?

There are hundreds of AR-related organizations scattered around the globe. In addition, there are many vegetarian and vegan groups. This FAQ is already too long to list all of these groups.

You can find an almost comprehensive directory of AR-related organizations in the World Animal Net Directory (WAND). The most actual version is available online at
It's also available as a hard copy ISBN 0-9670620-0-4 (USA $27.50 . CAN $40.00 . EU E25.00 UK L16.50)

For a full listing of vegetarian and vegan groups worldwide, refer to the IVU

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#94 Can you give a brief Who's Who of the AR movement?

TOM REGAN -- Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University. His book "The Case For Animal Rights" is arguably the single best recent work on animal rights. It is a demanding text but one that is well worth the effort to read and study carefully. Everybody that is seriously interested in the issues should read this rigorously argued case for AR. It starts with some core concepts of inherent value theory, the same concepts that played an important and significant role in the progress of human civil liberties since the 17th century and which began to be extended to nonhumans during the 19th century. The notion of inherent value continues to be vital and important for progress in both human and animal rights. A less demanding but still informative book by Regan is "The Struggle for Animal Rights". One might wish to first read this book before tackling Regan's more difficult text.

PETER SINGER -- Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Melbourne. Singer is best known for his book "Animal Liberation", probably the most widely read book on AR philosophy. Singer, unlike Regan, is not an abolitionist as many people incorrectly surmise. His utilitarian position allows for the possibility or necessity of killing animals under certain circumstances. What is often lost sight of is that the obvious and patent abuses of animals covers so much ground that both Regan and Singer share common views on far more issues than those on which they differ. Other important books by Singer include "In Defense of Animals" and "Animal Factories".

MARY MIDGLEY -- Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Newcastle. Midgley's book "Beast and Man" has not been given the attention that it deserves. She deals with the contemporary facts of biology and ethology head-on to provide an ethical argument for the respectful treatment of animals that takes seriously scientific discoveries and thoughts about animals. The "Humean fork" (or so-called logical divide) between facts and values is here carefully crossed by observing that we are foremost "animals" ourselves and that the similarities between ourselves and other animals is more important and relevant for our ethics and self-understanding than are the often over-inflated differences.

CAROL ADAMS -- Author. Adams' book "The Sexual Politics of Meat" has made a valuable contribution in combining cultural and ethical analysis by pointing out the political implications of the metaphors we unthinkingly employ. The primary metaphors she analyses in her book relate to meat. Such metaphors have been applied to women, but the most insidious aspect of the metaphors is the way that they hide the life that is killed to produce meat. Instead of "cow", we have "beef" on our plates. Adams argues that the system that kills animals is the same system that oppresses women; hence, there is an important and striking connection between vegetarianism and feminism.

RICHARD RYDER -- Senior Clinical Psychologist at Warneford Hospital, Oxford. Ryder is the originator of the key term "speciesism". Ryder's book "Animal Revolution" provides both an historical perspective and a critical analysis of animal welfare and attitudes towards animals.

HENRY SALT -- 1851-1939. Salt was a remarkable social reformer who championed the humane reform of schools, prisons, society, and our treatment of animals. He also exerted a critical and important influence upon Gandhi. His book "Animals' Rights" was the first to use that title and therein he gives voice to almost all of the essential arguments for AR that we see being advanced and refined today. The book provides an excellent biography of earlier European writers on animal issues during the 18th and 19th centuries.

VICTORIA MORAN -- Author. Moran's book "Compassion the Ultimate Ethic" makes a fine contribution regarding the less discursive but perhaps more fundamental intuitive basis for animal rights.

MARJORIE SPIEGEL -- Author. Spiegel's book "The Dreaded Comparison" is a slim but courageous volume comparing the treatment of African-American slaves and the treatment of nonhuman animals. In text and pictures, Spiegel discloses remarkable similarities between the two systems. A picture of slaves packed into a slave ship is matched with a photograph of battery hens. A picture of a woman in a muzzle is paired with a picture of a dog in a muzzle. The parallels are striking and revealing. Few other writers have been as open or as unequivocal as Spiegel in likening cruelty to animals to traffic in human beings.


It is hard to keep a Who's-Who list at a reasonable length. Here are a few other prominent people:

    STEPHEN R. L. CLARK -- Professor of Philosophy at Liverpool University.

    MICHAEL W. FOX -- Vice President of Humane Society of the US, nationally known veterinarian, and AR activist.

    RONNIE LEE -- Founder of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

    JIM MASON -- Attorney and journalist.

    INGRID NEWKIRK -- Co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); prominent activist.

    ALEX PACHECO -- Co-founder of PETA; exposer of the Silver Spring monkeys abuses.

    "VALERIE" -- Founder of ALF in the United States.


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#95 What can I do in my daily life to help animals?

Indeed, the buck must first stop here in our own daily lives with the elimination or reduction of actions that contribute to the abuse and exploitation of animals. Probably the single most important thing you can do to save animals, help the ecology of the planet, and even improve your own health, is to BECOME A VEGETARIAN. It is said that "we are what we eat". More accurately, "we are what we do" and what we do in order to eat has a profound consequence on our self-definition as a compassionate person. As long as we eat meat, we share complicity in the intentional slaughter of countless animals and destruction of the environment for clearly trivial purposes. Why trivial? No human has died from want of satisfying a so-called "Mac Attack", but countless cows have died in order to satisfy our palates. On a more positive note, vegetarians report that one's taste and enjoyment of food is actually enhanced by eliminating animal products. Indeed, a vegetarian diet is not a diet of deprivation; far from it. Vegetarians actually eat a GREATER variety of foods than do meat-eaters. Maybe the best kept culinary secret is that the really "boring" diet actually turns out to be the traditional meat-centered diet. Next, STOP BUYING ANIMAL PRODUCTS LIKE FUR OR LEATHER. There are plenty of good plant and synthetic materials that serve as excellent materials for fabrics and shoes. Indeed, all the major brands of high-quality running shoes are now turning to the use of human-made materials. (Why? Because they are lighter than leather and don't warp or get stiff after getting wet.) There are many less obvious animal products that are being used in many of our everyday household and personal products. After first attending to those obvious and most visible products like leather and fur, then consider what you can do to reduce or eliminate your dependency on products that may contain needless animal ingredients or were brought to market using animal testing. Two very good product guides are:

Shopping Guide for the Caring Consumer, PETA, 1994. A Shopper's Guide to Cruelty-Free Products, Lori Cook, 1991.

Then GET INFORMED AND READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ON THE ISSUE OF ANIMAL RIGHTS. Besides reading about animal rights from the major theorists, also read practical guides and periodicals. Question #92 lists many appropriate books and periodicals. Finally, you can GET INVOLVED IN A LOCAL ANIMAL RIGHTS OR ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATION. Alternatively, if you lack the time, consider giving donations to those organizations whose good work on behalf of animals is something you appreciate and wish to materially support. TA

SEE ALSO: #87, #92-#93

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#96 I have read this FAQ and I am not convinced. Humans are humans, animals are animals; is it so difficult to see that?

This FAQ cannot reflect the full variety of paths which have led people to support the concept of Animal Rights. A more complete compilation would include, for instance, religious arguments. For example, some Eastern religions stress the importance of the duties of humans toward animals. A Christian case for Animal Rights has been presented. Also, legal arguments have been put forward, by some barristers in the UK, for instance. Still, some people may remain skeptical about the viability of all of these other approaches as well. For those people, here is a short quiz:

    What is wrong with cannibalism?

    What is wrong with slavery?

    What is wrong with racial prejudice?

    What is wrong with sexual discrimination?

    What is wrong with killing children or the mentally ill?

    What is wrong with the Nazi experiments on humans?

Animal Rights proponents can reply instantly and consistently. Can you? Do your answers involve qualities that, if you are objective about it, can be seen to apply to animals? For example, were the Nazi experiments wrong because the subjects were human, or because the subjects were harmed??? AECW

It is not difficult to see that humans are humans and animals are animals. What is difficult to see is how this amounts to anything more than an empty tautology! If there are relevant differences that justify differences in treatment, then let's hear them. AR opponents have consistently failed to support the differences in treatment of humans versus animals with relevant differences in capacities. Yes, an animal is an animal, but it can still suffer terribly from our brutality and lack of compassion. DG

I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being. Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

[The day should come when] all of the forms of life...will stand before the court--the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams. William O. Douglas (late U.S. Supreme Court Justice)

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