All posts filed under: Animal Rights

The Myth of Harmonious Indigenous Conservationism

It seems like a long time ago. But only six months ago, pundits had convinced themselves that the great morality tale of our time was playing out in an obscure part of British Columbia. Following on an internal political fight within the Wet’suwet’en First Nation over a local pipeline project, one columnist wrote that “the Indigenous people of Earth have become the conscience of humanity. In this dire season, it is time to listen to them.” In fact, the elected leadership of the Wet’suwet’en had chosen to participate in the controverted pipeline project. The nationwide protests against the pipeline that followed were, in fact, sparked by unelected “hereditary” chiefs who long have received government signing bonuses. It’s unclear how this qualifies them for the exalted status of humanity’s conscience. Yet the whole weeks-long saga, which featured urban protestors appearing alongside their Indigenous counterparts at road and rail barricades throughout Canada, tapped into a strongly held noble-savage belief system within progressive circles. Various formulations of this mythology have become encoded in public land acknowledgments, college courses, …

Moving Away from Meat Means Welcoming the New ‘Flexitarians’

Author and animal-rights activist Jonathan Safran Foer recently argued in a New York Times essay that the COVID-19 pandemic represents a turning point in society’s attitude to eating meat. “Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming,” writes Foer. “A quarter of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are vegetarians or vegans, which is perhaps one reason sales of plant-based ‘meats’ have skyrocketed… Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. Covid-19 has kicked open the door.” I agree the pandemic presents the best opportunity in a generation for animal-rights advocates to win over skeptics. But if and when vegetarian and vegan diets become truly mainstream, it will not be for the reasons Foer emphasizes. Foer provides three main rationales for rejecting meat: (1) “We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly,” (2) we can live “longer, healthier lives” without animal protein, and (3) many forms of animal farming are both cruel and unhygienic. These are valid arguments that …

Remembering My Friend Peter Beard

Peter Beard, internationally renowned photographer, author, railroad-fortune heir, and socialite, died last month. Or possibly in March. Beard (b. 1938) had been ill, and suffering from dementia. He wandered off into the forest near his home on Long Island. He was 82. His body was found in a nearby national park, which is grimly fitting, for wildlife and parks were some of his abiding passions. The unconventional manner of his death also matched the way he lived. And if he were going to pick a way to go out, this might have been it. Having gotten to know him reasonably well when we both lived in Kenya, I suspect he would have preferred not to have been found, however, as he was a consummate trickster. He might well have preferred an obit that said, “Mr. Beard disappeared from his home in Montauk sometime in the spring of 2020. His whereabouts are unknown.” Peter was a gifted photographer, an engaging diarist, a gracious and generous host, a non-stop raconteur, universally described (truthfully) with that cliché, “one …

Poultry Farming, COVID-19, and the Next Pandemic

I Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906 to expose the horrific conditions in American factories at the turn of the century. While he intended to highlight the misery and abuse of the workers, his graphic descriptions of disgusting and unsanitary conditions at slaughterhouses were what most outraged the public. President Theodore Roosevelt was among the indignant readers, and he used the outcry over The Jungle to push for passage of the 1906 Food and Drugs Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. “I aimed for the public’s heart,” Sinclair later wrote, “and by accident hit it in the stomach.” Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (published in 2009)—and the chapter “Influence/Speechlessness,” in particular, about the US poultry industry and the risks it poses to our health—ambitiously aims for the reader’s heart and stomach at the same time. Foer gives us a glimpse into the hellish life of the more than nine billion factory farmed chickens “produced”—all 56.8 billion pounds of them, as the National Chicken Council (NCC) proudly announces—by the industry every year. “It’s hard …

Headline Rhymes

With creative endeavours these days, we need to be quite militant In portraying others’ lived experience, we can’t be too vigilant If you want to write about someone who isn’t identical to you You must get the official go-ahead from representatives of that crew The film A Dog’s Journey, for example, I must demand its removal ‘Cause I know for a fact no one secured canine species approval The incredible chutzpah on display—like so much dog poop, it stinks To think we think we could possibly know what our canine brethren think Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by: Policing the Creative Imagination For more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

What PETA Has Cost the Animal Rights Movement

Animal advocates constantly complain about the reputation of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They frequently see their cause dismissed because of the strong associations with this rambunctious organization. Earlier this month was no exception, as PETA made major headlines by asking the internet to stop using idioms like “bring home the bacon”: In fact, the word “PETA” has become a pejorative for stunts, gimmicks, and putting feelings over facts when it comes to animal issues. I argue in my new book, The End of Animal Farming, that animal rights will succeed in building a food system where we eat meat, dairy, and eggs without the use of animals, but it’s a tragic irony that one of the biggest obstacles for activists might be the bad reputation of its best-known advocates. I should clarify. This isn’t to say PETA hasn’t done a lot of good. The first modern undercover investigation of farmed animal abuse was conducted by the pioneering organization in 1983 at a Texas horse exporter, shortly after PETA’s famous lab animal investigation …

A World Without Animal Farming

A Review of The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System, by Jacy Reese (Beacon Press, November 6 2018, 240 pages).  In a world distressingly full of evil, we can discern moral progress by looking at the benighted past. Only two lifetimes ago educated people endorsed chattel slavery. The raises the sobering question: how might present arrangements appear to inhabitants of a more enlightened future civilization? Supposing that moral progress continues, there’s good reason to expect that our descendants will wince when they reflect upon our treatment of animals. Every year, tens of billions of land animals, and more sea creatures, are killed in so-called “factory farms,” having lived lives of unrelieved mental and physical anguish, because humans enjoy eating their flesh. A chilling line in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars comes to mind. The Greek historian reports a dialogue between a group of Athenian emissaries and the representatives of Melos, a city-state that wanted to remain neutral in the war between Athens and Sparta. The emissaries bluntly assert that …

Why It’s Time to End Factory Farming

Ezra Klein and Sam Harris are usually intellectual adversaries. They butted heads earlier this year on the topic of the science of IQ, which was just one battle in the larger war waged by the “intellectual dark web” against mainstream leftism and identity politics. Yet Klein and Harris are united on one seemingly radical view: Many years from now, our descendants will look back on the use of animals for food—particularly the intense animal suffering in factory farms—as a moral atrocity. In fact, a wide range of public figures have now echoed similar predictions, including science educator Bill Nye, business magnate Richard Branson, Indian politician Maneka Gandhi, author Steven Pinker, and the late conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. It might seem surprising that the plight of these neglected creatures—by numbers, around 93 percent of farmed animals are chickens and fish—is so compelling an issue given the fact that humans are still plagued by disease, oppression, war, inequality, and other pressing social issues. Many people would assert that human issues are categorically more important than animal issues, …

The Case for Sustainable Meat

I. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Meat, we are told, is bad for the planet. It causes global warming, destroys forests, diverts substantial proportions of the world’s grain for feed, all to produce meat which only wealthy Westerners can afford. The iniquity of the situation led George Monbiot to declare in 2002 that “Veganism is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.” Monbiot later recanted but, since then, we are told with increasing regularity that to save the planet we must radically reduce our consumption of meat. In the face of what seems to be universal agreement on the sins of meat eating, is there really a green argument for meat? I think there is, and I think we should be talking about it. Not only is the public discourse heavily one-sided, but the anti-meat message risks destroying the very environment is claims to be protecting. Let’s start with one of the most repeated statistics used to argue for reduced meat consumption: the claim that 100,000 litres of water …

The Convergent Case for Veganism

Advocates of a plant-based diet tout a wide variety of benefits: they say it’s more nutritious; that it reduces the chances of food-borne illnesses like E. coli; that it is better across all sorts of environmental metrics like land use, energy use, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and local pollution; that it is better for animal welfare; that it is better for agricultural workers; and that it  is more economically efficient, which means it need fewer government subsidies and fewer natural resources spent on the same amount of nutrients and calories. The latest example is Matthew Prescott’s Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World. Prescott works at The Humane Society of the United States, America’s largest animal charity. Within the first few pages, a brief foreword by Hollywood director James Cameron argues for the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, then Prescott’s introduction claims that plant-based food can “prevent and reverse” heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. But given the many possible human diets from paleo to DASH, isn’t …