Skip to content

Animal Rights = Animals Over People?

Bea sent me an article I could deconstruct all day about "agricultural speaker, radio personality and columnist Trent Loos [who] offered a pointed critique of urban America's disconnect with the people who produce the food and fiber that fuels the nation" to a rural crowd in Montana.

The most absurd, not to mention offensive part, for me, was: "We allow everyone to talk about better treatment of pigs, chickens, cows, and what about people? We need to focus on what is important, what can improve human lives, not the lives of chickens."

Let's deconstruct just those two sentences:

  • "Everyone" is not talking about better treatment of animals used for their flesh and milk and menstrual secretions. Animal rights activists, who do not believe we should be using animals, for example, do not harp on welfare. Nor does Loos.
  • "What about people?" What about us? Every reason I can think of to go vegan is related to people: our health, our planet, our moral development, our karma (if you believe in such things). Veganism is a great step toward improving the lot of humans.

  • "We need to focus on what is important." Important is a subjective term. Some people think profit or tradition are important. I think nonviolence and social justice are important.

  • Loos does define what is important to him: "what can improve human lives, not the lives of chickens." In other words, he doesn't care about the lives of chickens; they are unimportant to him. However, in this sentence is his assumption that the two are mutually exclusive: either you care about humans or chickens.

Of course, all this really is a defense of what Loos and his audience have chosen to do for a living. His speech is merely an attempt to claim that he cares about what's important and any talk about the lives of the animals he exploits is an insult to the honorable endeavor of caring about humans.

Well guess what? From the earliest animal welfare-and animal rights advocates-to now, we care about people and in fact many of us came to the issue of abolition or welfare from issues like child welfare, worker's rights and feminism. If your goal is to eradicate forms of oppression, domination and exploitation where you see them, that includes the planet and the humans and nonhumans who call it home.

I'll be rotating off two boards I currently co-chair in July (psst: no one should serve on a board for seven years). As many of you know, they help foster youth and emancipated foster youth develop the skills and knowledge they will need for a successful transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency. We who have developed (or perhaps were born with) the capacity and the interest in considering Others and realize that sentient nonhumans are as deserving of a life of freedom as humans are do not put the former above the latter. We do not sacrifice any vital need of humans for any interest of nonhumans. We simply see what is true: that to thrive and lead meaningful lives, we don't need to intentionally harm animals.

We're not pitting the needs of animals against our own needs because we don't need to. For food and clothing and research and transportation, in 2009 in the developed world, there is no need we have that we can say only animals can fill (or that they can best fill it).

It's not us against them; it's us against ourselves and our own consciences.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roger #

    What incoherent rubbish this guy speaks!

    I love this: "As an example of how pervasive publicity is for animal cruelty, he asked audience members who had seen a video of abused dairy cattle last year to raise their hands. A majority of those in the room recollected the news story and had seen the video.

    "Then he asked people to tell him how many children a day in America die from abuse and neglect. No one knew the answer (three a day) — what does that say about society, he asked."

    Since it had already been established that the 'sample' was largely rural people, it probably said little about society as a whole. It might say something about (1) what they are sensitised to and/or (2) what they are guilty about.


    January 30, 2009
  2. Dan #

    Trent Loos is a bigot. He is no different at all from the average bigoted plantation owner in the antebellum American South who thought we should worry about helping white folks before giving any concern to the ‘lesser beings’ who were tormented as slaves.

    Like so many of the things speciesist bigots say, what Trent Loos says is addressed in a recent piece I published entitled “Gentleness, Kindness, In-Groups, and Out-Groups”. Loos is a paradigm case of the prejudice inherent in in-group mentality. The following is a link to the short essay:

    Finally, I’m fed up with the false characterization of vegans, abolitionists, and animal rights advocates as “urban America”. There are at least three reasons why the characterization of vegans and animal rights advocates as “urban” are bogus.

    First, a large percentage of vegans and animal rights advocates are just as familiar – from personal experience – with animals and animal agriculture as any cow poke, rancher, farmer, CAFO laborer, CAFO manager, slaughterhouse worker, or animal agriculture corporate executive. Many vegans, in fact, are former participants in animal agriculture who saw the abuse and followed their consciences.

    Second, almost all vegans and animal rights advocates are overwhelmingly familiar from mountains of *corroborating evidence* in the form of personal testimony, agriculture industry journals, books with references to ag industry journals, films, undercover films, podcasts, and radio shows, all of which overwhelmingly support the claims of extreme cruelty and abuse and environmental degradation. Why would such people go vegan in the first place? There’s an excellent reason why animal agriculture, including the vast majority of ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ facilities, will not even permit people in these facilities, much less give free tours or allow video cameras: it is deplorable. These are sickening and literally stinking concentration camps of horrific abuse. One does not need to work in animal agriculture to obtain vast corroborating evidence of how animal agriculture works.

    Third, the most knowledgeable and neutral experts about ‘food’ animals are those who provide permanent, loving homes to these beings, such as Michele and Chris Alley-Grubb of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary. Chris and Michele live in the (very) rural prairie of eastern Colorado. Chris and Michele genuinely have the animals’ interest at heart. The desire to turn a cow into a milk machine and profitable flesh certainly amounts to a huge conflict of interest when assessing her needs and well-being. It should go without saying that it is the exploiters who are radically out of touch with the interests and needs of the beings they torture and kill for profit.

    January 30, 2009
  3. "Animals" are people — nonhuman people.

    From my perspective: Some ancillary *results* of veganism are beneficially related to humans. But it is logically nonsensical for the *reasons* behind veganism to include "our health" or "our planet". Moreover, it is problematic that any reason would begin with the word "our".

    That is, of course, only if veganism is an ethical perspective on human/nonhuman relations: respect **their** inherent value, and don't exploit them "food, clothing, **or any other purpose**". But if "veganism" is herbivory, or a set of behaviors divorced from morality, then I agree with you. Such a divorce (ethics from action) is essential to emergence of the inwardly focused (humanocentric) takes on our relationship with other animals, namely: concerns about the environment and human health. I don't think we will get anywhere until veganism becomes externally focused on nonhumans, and inextricably entwined with morality.

    For more of my thoughts about veganism, and some language recommendations…

    January 30, 2009
  4. I find it odd that on every animal welfare blog I visit, the comments are always moderated. Ninety percent of the time the only comments I see are those that support the bloggers position.

    How do you account for this?

    Albert A Rasch
    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

    January 30, 2009
  5. One of the many things that struck me about what Loos had to say was: "People say there’s no need today to eat animals for protein because all the protein one needs can come from soy or other plant products. That view, completely ignores all the other uses that animals are put to within this country". Here is the essence of the predictable, endless justification for continued animal use: Even if the once "necessary" meat from animals is no longer required – Loos suggests then, that the "other" uses now become "necessary"… What a set up when the bar that grants rights to your flesh, sets it's own arbitrary standards. It just doesn't end for the animals does it?

    And I agree with you Nathan, that vegan ethics can be made consistant and better understood through language so that: "The very utterance of vegan should mildly impinge upon one's conscience. It should evoke externally directed thoughts about nonhumans and the morality of exploiting sentient beings." That is volumes more than a "dietary choice". Thank you for say it so well.

    And getting back to language and how Loos plays to the bonding of the "in group". Dan's essay covers that nicely too. They are all just good down-home folks in a mutual pact to use animals in the customary way that their neighbors do. They are the "in group". I see the similarity to antibellum "civilities" while the slaves worked the fields. As long as criticism from out-groups was kept at bay, they could continue their "priviledges" without conscience. Another thing Loos told the down-home "in group" folks was:

    "Everything lives and everything dies,…"

    This butchery of words and their meaning is always frustrating to me. Everything dies yes. Or rather everyone dies… But not everyone is killed. This twisted colloquialism enables all to avoid taking moral responsibility for murder. Or for making judgements on his neighbor for such… It's all to the benefit of the "in group"… so anything goes –

    And finally about Loose – it's so odd that he would make himself concerned over human rights and dignities – being that the whole industry he respresents is built upon the exploitation of human rights as well. From those who work on the manure lagoons, to the guy holding the gun at the kill line… The meat industry is filled with the vilest of jobs, and we all know who works at them, and for a pittance.

    That he says we can care for chickens OR for humans to the exclusion of each other, of course is ridiculous… And the intent of that statement is to distinquish human interests as being "against" all others. Who has not heard a hundred times the accusation: "you (vegans) don't care about people"? Well, I know that I care about "people" (humanity) enough to be infuriated and shamed by our transgressed ethics. This absence of morality is a betrayal to our humanness. It's unacceptable. We can do better. We can go vegan.

    January 31, 2009
  6. mary martin #

    Welcome Al,
    Considering you're a hunter and enjoy stalking, terrorizing and killing unsuspecting sentient beings for sport, it's kind of difficult to take your comment seriously.

    Before I answer your query I must first say that I don't know why animal welfare sites moderate their comments. This is not an animal welfare site. This site is about animal rights and the right of animals to not be used by us, period. Not to be used in a certain way, but not at all. Naturally, hunting is included.

    I moderate because some people–most often hunters, coincidentally, go off on abusive rants and name call and swear and basically have nothing of value to add to the conversation.

    Now, there are also vegans who do that once in a while. And their comments aren't be accepted either.

    I'm fairly sure that no one who regularly reads this blog is interested in debating with a hunter AGAIN. It's not really a good use of our time, and usually hunters are doing with us the same thing they do with animals–stalking us for sport (except we will survive). We're probably never going to change your mind and get you to see that what you do is unethical, so it makes no sense for us to engage.

    I hope that helps.

    January 31, 2009
  7. Loos' lips are clearly just speaking in his own financial interest. But he's not wrong about most urban (not limited to vegan) people having little awareness of agriculture, or where their water comes from, or where their trash goes. Urban life by definition is removed from the ecological systems which support it.

    And I think he's completely right about the overwhelming majority of vegans and AR people being urban based, which has nothing to do with knowledge of or experience in animal abuse agriculture. I'm sure relevant mailing lists would prove that. Obviously, sanctuaries are going to be out in the country, but you won't find many vegan restaurants there.

    January 31, 2009
  8. Dan #


    Nothing you wrote necessarily conflicts with my point above, but I do want to clarify that my point was that anti-AR folks attempt to discredit the claims of so-called 'urban' vegans by misleadingly characterizing them as 'out of touch'. Indeed, many urbanites are out of touch, but urban vegans generally are very much in touch and highly aware of animal agriculture.

    January 31, 2009
  9. Dan, I agree – I think most vegans are uber aware of animal agriculture. There is a truth to the saying of "keep your friends close… and your enemies closer".

    I had an interesting conversation with a cattleman 2 weeks ago… our meeting went on for over 2 hours. There was nothing he revealed to me that I did not already know about his operation. I kept pace with the topics in a way I know he did not expect.

    Well, maybe he did tell me something I didn't know about dairy cows… that "farmers" frequently must remove the extra mammary teats from milking cows because they get in the way of the machines and milk is sometimes lost from the "extras". Barbarians.

    It always holds true for me, that the more I know about animal ag the more I find the industry absolutely contemptable.

    January 31, 2009
  10. Mike Grieco #

    Hello all–please read more logical information here:…

    "animal rights is the most likely solution to humanity's biggest problems, including heart disease and other widespread chronic diseases, influenza pandemics, poor nutrition, obesity, hundreds of millions of people lacking adequate food and fresh water, extreme wealth inequality, poverty, global climate change, water & soil contamination, fuel shortages & high prices, destructive land-use practices, human overpopulation, and more; and

    … benefits people experience from human supremacy, speciesism, and policies & practices aimed only at benefiting people mainly benefit special interests, not the vast majority of people; only provide benefits for the short term; and harm the vast majority of people for the long term as well as other animals, ecosystems and Earth's biosphere"- Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.

    Mary,again, many thanks for all you do!…Keep well.

    February 3, 2009
  11. People who insist that we shouldn't help animals when humans are suffering are at the top of my list of detestable bigots.

    Loos and his ilk would find it shocking and ironic that I never met so many people who were actively concerned with humanity as when I got involved with animal rights. Those of us who are actually involved with animal rights probably aren't surprised by this, though, because as people who are actually concerned about suffering, we don't restrict our compassion to race, religion, gender, species, or whatever.

    February 3, 2009
  12. Miss Mary Martin,

    Thank you for the gracious, if slightly inaccurate with respect to me, welcome.

    I actually understand what you mean, ie: no one likes to argue ad nauseum over themes that they are certain that they hold the higher moral ground. As you were exceptionally courteous, and I am certainly no lout, I'll refrain from attacking your positions.

    If you would be so kind though, understand that terrorizing is something I don't do to animals. Humans perhaps, but an animal never. At least not knowingly. I know my quarry, and I only take the life of an animal when I know it will be taken quickly and ethically.

    While I am at it Miss Mary, is there a distinction made between subsistence hunting and "sport" hunting in the animal welfare movement? Curious. If you have any questions please feel free to ask, or email.

    BTW, you have my word that this will not be republished in any of my blogs for any reason without your permission. As this is the most ephemeral of communities (the internet) perhaps that might not be taken at face value. But as you have viewed my blog, and perhaps read a little you may have found that my word, is good.

    Albert A Rasch

    February 20, 2009
  13. Ma'am,

    Sorry about not using your title, I didn't look all the way up to the beginning.

    My apologies Dr Martin.

    Albert A Rasch

    February 20, 2009
  14. Albert – Aside from using Mary's title, Dr., may I also suggest that, when you don't know 1) whether a woman is married AND 2) which title she prefers, you use not "Miss" (or "Mrs.") but "Ms."

    Some women, such as myself, find it highly offensive that men have but one title – Mr. – which doesn't vary depending on whether or not he's married, while women must be identified by marital status, as though we are property and our ownership must be signified (i.e., if we are "Miss" and single, our father owns us; if we are "Mrs." and married, our husband owns us).

    And please don't poo-poo me as a hysterical feminist – through much of history, marriage HAS been about ownership. One need only examine the conservative/fundamentalist Christian discourse around marriage in this country to see that some still view it as a property transaction.

    February 22, 2009
  15. Ms. Kelly,

    I am accustomed to using Miss. For instance, all the ladies I know are referred to as Miss first name. I suppose that in the internet atmosphere of anonymity, Miss is a little anachronistic. Ms. it is then. Though to be honest you're the first to call me on it.

    I never looked at it as an "ownership" issue, but I expect all children and adults to have good manners while around me. Since things have become so "loose," sociologically speaking, it seems using "Miss" is the only way to keep the kids using an appropriate title for the sake of civility.

    Back when I was a kid (Not THAT far back, 60s-70s!) everyone knew everyone's elses parents and it was Mrs this and Mr that. The destruction of the nuclear family, and the decay of what passes for good behavior, has more to do with me using "Miss" than anything else.

    Do you think that people still cling to the Judeo-Christian ownership ethic with respect to the Mrs title? (Besides the fundamentalists; but that their business not mine!)

    Your argument makes a lot of sense BTW.

    Albert A Rasch

    February 23, 2009
  16. Albert – I don't think that most mainstream Americans *consciously* view marriage as a property transaction in this day and age. However, the misogynist roots of marriage still lurk below the surface, and go well beyond the different titles accorded men and women.

    Take, for example, spousal rape:

    "As the concept of human rights has developed, the belief of a marital right to sexual intercourse has become less widely held. In December 1993, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. This establishes marital rape as a human rights violation. This is not fully recognized by all UN member states."

    "Many United States rape statutes used to preclude spousal prosecution, including estranged or even legally separated couples. In 1975, South Dakota removed this exception. By 1993, this was the case throughout the United States. However, as of 1999, 33 of 50 U.S. states regard spousal rape as a lesser crime. The perpetrator may be charged with related crimes such as assault, battery, or spousal abuse. It is also known that even if a spouse has an illness causing an inability to sexually respond, the other spouse may engage him or her in conjugal relations without criminal liability."


    Even in the US, there's an attitude that, in entering a marriage contract, women grant perpetual sexual consent such that their husbands cannot rape them – and, when they do, it's less traumatic than other forms of rape, such as "date rape" or "stranger rape." Practically speaking, this makes spousal rape even harder to prosecute than other forms of rape.

    Society's expectations that I take my husband's name upon marriage and adopt the title "Mrs.", then, are only the tip of the iceberg. In some ways, marriage is *still* a property transaction.

    And I've no doubt that many acquaintances don't mind being referred to as "Miss" – women internalize sexism, too.

    February 23, 2009
  17. Albert – not to belabor the point, but I should also point out that there's a difference between using "Miss" as a title, i.e., before a surname or full name, and using "miss" as a term of address, e.g., as a counterpart to "sir."
    It's the former use of the term I take issue with (though I do prefer "ma'am" over "miss" in the latter, precisely to avoid confusion…but that's just me).

    February 23, 2009
  18. Ms Kelly,

    I see your point. It's a hell of a world we live in.

    I know we've gone off on a tangent, but I see what you are saying as being caused by a breakdown in the moral and ethical fiber of western society.

    Call my parents neanderthal, or me a cromagnon, but conduct that you describe would be grounds for a beating from my own family! Rape is rape is rape. And a hanging the right response. If either of my boys (they're close to men now) ever so much as were accused of such behavior, what was left of them wouldn't fit in a thimble when I was done with them. Then they would answer to the authorities. To disgrace themselves in that fashion… it would be unthinkable.

    I have brought them up to be respectful, well mannered, and cognoscente of the evils that surround us. They can defend their honor and the honor of those that can't do it themselves. Why you may ask? Because that is what we do. They have been taught that with the privilege of living in this Nation comes the responsibility of defending it, and its people. We are willing to stand up for what is right, and do what needs to be done. Believe me when I say, we don't need to know who you are, it is enough that you are being victimized for us to stand and set things as right as we can.

    Now I'm all over the map! I just kind of got a little upset. I hate the weak being oppressed. Regardless of whether because they are weak, or because they think they are. I despise bullying in all forms. (Though I think a certain amount of "Bullying" among peers has to be tolerated for boys to flex their minds and muscles.) But that is another conversation.

    One last thing, I have taught self defense classes to ladies. (Most of the time they can out shoot men with a couple of lessons.) One thing I have heard many times, is the empowerment they feel by having a firearm and the skills at their disposal. I usually respond with the "Sam Colt made them equal" speech. Which is exactly what they mean… They now feel equal, or maybe up to the task. I'll have to look at it more carefully. I'm not a sociologist though, just a citizen soldier with a little gray matter between the ears.

    Well Ms Kelly, thank you for being patient and kind enough to elucidate on those subjects, I will certainly be more careful about how I throw Miss and Ms around!

    Stop by my Blog now and again, you are always welcome. And there's more to it than hunting, sometimes I even cook!


    February 25, 2009

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS