On Letting Your Emotions Rule the Day
Bea directed me to the Animal Welfare Special Report at TheHill.com, in which Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), who is the chairman of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture draws a line in the sand regarding the animals we use and how we use them.
Once you know what his title is, there is little to be surprised about regarding his rhetoric, but it's still interesting to see how he spins his topic, and particularly how authoritative he tries to sound when it's clear that his agenda either doesn't allow for him to educate himself or doesn't allow for him to admit that his agenda trumps the facts.
- Paragraph #1: Americans don't know where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it. True.
- Paragraph #2: Ditto.
- Paragraph #3: Food safety scares have caused us to look more closely at our food supply. True. But the end of the paragraph is where it gets interesting. "However, many of our concerns about modern food production stem from purely emotional concerns, in which we try to overlay our social mores onto sectors where they traditionally haven’t been applied. A prime example of this is our concern for the welfare of animals in agriculture."
- Let the games begin . . . Paragraph #4 starts with: "Undeniably, neither I nor anyone I know advocates or even tolerates the inhumane treatment of farm animals." The veracity of this statement hinges on Scott's definition of "inhumane," and that definition must be very, very restricted, and clearly unrelated to the realities of our modern factory farm system. But his real agenda comes out later in the graph:
The "problem with this view" that arises is that it is entirely logical to broaden one's circle of compassion beyond "pets" and to other sentient nonhumans, and Scott doesn't like that logic because it conflicts with his profit motive and his palate.
- Paragraph #5 begins: "Unfortunately when combined with our love for companion animals our lack of knowledge about agriculture leads us to view farm animals the same as we do our pets. We think about what type of living conditions we want for our pets (often the same as those we want for ourselves), and try to apply that to every animal when in reality this may not be the best course of action."
It is not "our lack of knowledge about agriculture" that "leads us to view farm animals the same as we do our pets," it's the reality that in every way that is important, farm animals are in fact exactly the same as our pets. We have simply decided that certain animals are pets (and we have domesticated them) and certain animals are food. "Lack of knowledge about agriculture" might be irrelevant, but it's also untrue, as most vegans I know know far more than non-vegans about animal agriculture, and it's that knowledge that makes them want to be vegans.
Scott then attempts the often-read, nature-is-cruel argument, which is supposed to lead to the conclusion that animals on "farms" are better off than those in the wild. The only problem with that is that's not what's going on. It isn't true that animals on farms would be in the wild otherwise. They are created to be on the farms; they wouldn't exist otherwise.
- In paragraph #6 Scott separates himself from farmers, who are businessmen and care about profit margin and "view animals in a utilitarian light and define their wellness based on productivity." At this point of course I'm waiting to hear how he views "farm" animals differently.
- We don't really get an answer for that one, but we do get to the real question, which Scott alludes to in graph #3: "So how do we bridge the gap between maximizing profit at the expense of an animal’s expression of its natural tendencies and treating livestock as we would the family cat?" The problem, then, is the question Scott is asking and the assumptions he is making. I don't think anyone is campaigning for "farm" animals to become pets, as many of us don't even think the family cat should be the family cat. Scott's assumption is that we profit from certain animals. But he need not make that assumption; it's a choice.
- Finally, Scott writes that "we have the responsibility to set aside emotion as much as possible and make rational, science-based decisions on policy in an effort to balance the concerns of all involved."
Methinks it is Scott who is letting his emotions get the best of him. He is letting his attachment to eating animals and his attachment to his constituents profiting from their slaughter cloud his decision making. If he were truly making decisions based on science, he would know that the cow whose parts he eats is just as sentient as family cat, and that arbitrarily drawing a line in the sand for who is free from torture isn't "rational" or "science-based."