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Do Not Read if Already Annoyed

Roger directed me to "Ethics@Work: Animal Rights: Are they good for people?" (and yes, there’s a double colon), which I wasn’t going to write about because I was almost too annoyed by it. But then I read " A Locally Grown Diet with Fuss but No Muss," by Kim Severson in today’s New York Times, part of which was just as annoying so I figured I’d put them together, toss them to you, and perform some kind of exorcism to remove the memory of having read them.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • The Ethics@Work article at The Jerusalem Post, by Asher Meir, and the subsequent comments may cause multiple rollings of the eyeballs, so be prepared. This is a great opportunity to correct misconceptions and introduce an idea that the author has apparently never heard about–in whatever language you wish–the idea that animals aren’t ours to use. Meir writes:

Today’s animal-rights movement is strongly influenced by the utilitarian approach; a leading figure in the movement is the orthodox-utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer of Princeton, who asserts that great apes have the same cognitive level as human children and should therefore be granted comparable rights.

I perceive a philosophical fallacy in the activists’ position. They speak in the absolutist rhetoric of rights, yet the underpinning of their approach is utilitarianism, a philosophy of expediency that is ultimately incompatible with rights.

So he thinks he’s onto something and he’s the first one to notice that Singer might not be interested in animal rights.

  • The real issue is the "they" that follows, as if all animal rights activists=Peter Singer, who’s not even an animal rights activist.
  • "Peter Singer, the main philosophical authority behind the animal-rights movement." If you’re going to talk about animal rights, at least mention Regan or Francione, who actually address the topic. What’s funny, but not, is that Meir is a research director. You would think that one who knows how to research wouldn’t make the mistakes Meir makes.

  • Then comes a hilarious bit of speciesism that I had not heard until today:

does this mean for humans? The animal-rights movement has the potential
to elevate our ethical sensitivity toward humans, because if we set the
bar at a certain level for animals, we will be inclined to raise it
even higher for humans. But it also has the potential to degrade our
ethical sensitivity toward humans. Making the statement that humans and
animals are ethically comparable can legitimate treatment of people
that would previously have been acceptable only toward beasts, or to
promote animal welfare at the expense or neglect of human welfare.

Does Meir really think that acknowledging the sentience of
certain nonhumans ("beasts?" oh, please) and respecting them accordingly would lead to worse treatment of people? Who thinks that and why?

  • I’ve
    heard the Cain and Abel interpretation for decades. Cain is evil
    because he respects animals and only someone who respects animals can
    slaughter his brother. The logic is breathtaking.
  • Read comments at your own risk. And if you feel like you can make a difference, go for it.

Kim Severson is the author of my most-visited post "NYT Thoroughly Confused About Animal Rights," from one year ago this week, so it’s only fitting that she provides me with some fodder on this anniversary.

  • Severson introduces us to "lazy locavores– city dwellers who
    insist on eating food grown close to home but have no inclination to
    get their hands dirty." This was inevitable, as I must admit that I’d
    be growing my own food if . . . . I didn’t have to grow it. (Plus I’d
    have to use some precious real estate used by the hounds, whom I’ve
    discovered love all things vegetable and fruit.)
  • I have no problem with locavores, unless of course they kill
    animals needlessly. Like because they enjoy eating them, for instance.

grown food, even fully cooked meals, can be delivered to your door. A
share in a cow raised in a nearby field can be brought to you, ready
for the freezer — a phenomenon dubbed cow pooling. There is pork
pooling as well. At Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont, the demand for a
half or whole rare-breed pig is so great that people will not be seeing
pork until the late fall.

My husband suggested "flesh sharing."

  • At this point this article isn’t as objectionable as many, but the end doesn’t disappoint, and doesn’t even come from Severson.

author Barbara Kingsolver, whose book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” was
a best seller last year, did not have the lazy locavore in mind when
she wrote about the implications of making her family spend a year
eating local. But she celebrates the trend.

“As a person of rural origin who has lived much of my life in rural
places,” she said, “I can’t tell you how joyful it makes me to hear
that it’s trendy for people in Manhattan to own a part of a cow.”

can’t tell you how sad it makes me to hear that a bestselling author
and trendy people in Manhattan find it acceptable to own a part of a
cow, who will then be slaughtered for no reason other than they want to
eat her flesh and drink the milk that was meant for her children.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane A #

    Flesh sharing. That sounds like a good term. I like it. I like flesh and I like sharing it. Im an omnivore. It is my natural diet. We are all a part of nature and animals eat animals. Meat is good. If a cow pool helps the urbanites connect to the rural areas then that is good. Society is becoming to distanced from reality.

    July 22, 2008
  2. JaneA,
    I haven't heard anyone try to use that argument in a while. There is nothing "natural" about what we do to sentient nonhumans to get what you call "meat." And there is nothing "natural" (as in what other animals do, as that's what you say–that we are like other animals) about the way we eat what we take from other animals. We cook, we season, we use utensils and machinery, we marinate, we pasteurize. Furthermore, when you say "meat is good," I'm not sure what you mean. If you're saying that you like the taste of animal flesh and you're not about to give it up just because someone gets exploited, hurt and then killed in order for you to get it to your table, then that's honest and that's what you should say. Forget the "natural" argument; it's dishonest. Finally, I'm not sure what "Society is becoming distanced from reality means." Does that mean that people have no idea what occurs in order to "produce" the food that they eat, including the "products" we create with animal flesh, menstrual excretions, or milk meant for nonhuman babies? If that's what you mean, I'd say that my hope is that most people have no idea, as if they did, I'd like to think they'd stop eating what they're eating. And I'm not just talking about factory farming. It's time "society–" I'll say Americans as I live here, start to think about everything that goes on–that you might call "natural" on a small family farm or a large factory farm, and wake up to what they're paying for, whether in "pools" or at grocers. You might want to check out for the largely-untold story about what you might initially think is a great alternative to factory farming. After reading the stories of individuals who thought they were doing the right thing on their small farms in rural areas, however, you might have a different response to "cow pooling" as well as to my post. If not, at least be honest about why.

    July 23, 2008
  3. Mike Grieco #

    "Flesh Sharing"? That's a new one. All along i thought it was stealing/taking the lives of others. It is incredible the words/excuses we humans come up with to continue to use/abuse a murder the lives of another.
    Just when you thought you heard it all. Hah!

    Positive change can only start when we become honest with ourselves and others.

    'Bonne Petite'

    July 23, 2008
  4. Bea Elliott #

    As a "Jersey Girl" I have a nostalgic and naive memory of the "shining city full of promise"! It held all the possibilities of an enlightened future – the skyline was a source of "hope". Hope for man to achieve "good" with his ability……. and give his "best" to rational thought –

    It's a shame when such a technologically "advanced" culture has as it's intellectual spokespersons, drenched in the mire of archaic "food"-animal-sacrifices….. These "avant-garde" and "up-scale" champions are stuck in a primordial goo of meat addiction and taste-bud ritual. Volitionally they embrace the "happy meat" and "compassionate carnivore" dichotomies. So cry the ethically bankrupt: "But we CAN have our meat and our morals too!" Who by the way, with caveman modality, are are only a hop/skip/jump away from the illiterate, back-woods hillbilly "whole-hog raffles"….. YES, now I'm "annoyed"…..
    Grey Poupon on a corpse anyone?

    July 23, 2008

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