All posts filed under: Animal Rights

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 …

Beaked Up Birds: A Review of Big Chicken

A Review of Big Chicken by Maryn McKenna. National Geographic (September 12, 2017) 400 pages.   People began cultivating plants and animals on a large scale about 10,000 years ago. Farming created a steady supply of nutrients, and acted as an insurance policy so that our ancestors weren’t constantly beholden to the whims of weather and the migration of animals. Of course, weather also affected crops, and farm animals sometimes escaped their pens or were killed by parasites. But settled agriculture allowed us to spread risk over longer periods of time and across more people. Agriculture brought with it enormous benefits, including a larger trading network, a greater division of labor, and even some genetic changes that we’re better off with than without. But it also exposed us to new risks, including a less diverse source of nutrients, and new pathogens (some of the genetic consequences of agriculture are a product of our new diet and new pathogens: those who didn’t adapt were culled by the invisible hand of natural selection). When we began to domesticate animals, …

The Case Against Factory Farming

Imagine a world in which every time you tied your shoes, you contributed to a process that resulted in the unintended death of thousands of people around the world. In this world, like ours, shoelaces are useful: they save time, are a little cheaper than using Velcro ties, and more convenient than wearing slip-on shoes. But when everyone ties their shoes, lots of people die, and many more suffer. This is a strange world to imagine, but it is a lot like the world we live in. The culprit isn’t tying shoelaces, of course, but consuming factory farmed meat. Factory farms are wicked places – one of the last bastions of legally sanctioned cruelty toward animals. But more than this, they are bad for human health. Like many practices, there are benefits as well as costs: meat from factory farms is cheaper than meat from free-range animals, often about half the price. This is partly because factory farms allow animals to occupy less space, which makes their production cheaper, and this savings is passed on …

Struggling to Ditch Meat? Here Are Five Ways to Resist the Temptation

Are you a conflicted carnivore – loving meat but also hating that you love it? Perhaps you are worried about the carcinogenic, heart-clogging properties of cooked meat or the industry’s use of antibiotics creating threatening superbugs. Maybe you’re ashamed of all the wasted water and food that goes into meat production and the deforestation and damaging emissions caused by animal agriculture. Many of us also simply struggle to accept the justifications used to defend the killing of intelligent, emotionally sensitive animals. But despite all the great reasons to opt for vegetarian alternatives, you might find that when you sit there in a restaurant with a menu in your hand, you simply cannot resist the smoky, umami-infused aroma of grilled hamburgers or sizzling, mouth-watering bacon. You wouldn’t be alone – initial findings recently presented at a conference suggests that more than 30% of meat eaters in the US, Germany and France are conflicted about eating animals. Here are five ways in which psychology may be able to help. Be prepared Most of our eating is mindless, …