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On the Economy and Animal “Rights”

If Proposition 2 doesn't pass in California and Question 3 doesn't pass in Massachusetts, here's why: Some people care about the welfare of animals, and that care can be expressed quite eloquently and can be very convincing. However, once you factor in fear over the economy, all bets are off.

In today's New York Times, Jesse McKinley's "A California Ballot Measure Offers Rights for Farm Animals," McKinley of course refers to Proposition 2 as an animal rights ballot measure. Meanwhile he quotes Wayne Pacelle as saying, "the least we can do is treat them with decency and give them a semblance of a life." I could make the perpetual confusion regarding welfare and rights the topic here, but I think I've reached my threshold with that for this month (much of my personal vegan outreach has focused on that recently–I suppose because of the election).

McKinley interviewed Dr. William Grant, the president of the California Veterinary Medical Association, who was surprised at how many people had expressed concern about "the fiscal impact on the state, rather than how we care about the animals. Had this been up last year, I think this would have overwhelmingly passed without any discussion."

I'd safely say that if this were 2006, Proposition 2 and Question 3 (which would ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts), would be met by voters who have a different mindset than they do today. In 2006 my property value was at its peak and the jobless rate was much lower. We didn't have day after day of record losses in the financial markets and there was an entirely different mentality about the future of this country.

Suddenly, though many people do care about animals, the prospect of someone losing a job or incurring more costs to do business will affect how they vote. It's us versus them, they think. Either we prosper or the animals get treated a bit better, but we can't have both. Meanwhile, the thought of not using animals, which is actually less expensive, isn't taken seriously as an option.

Humans are delicate, self-centered, fearful creatures with values that are subject to change based on market conditions, and there's something wrong with that.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bea Elliott #

    Whenever I hear that some will compromise their ethics because of financial concerns I'm reminded of the joke told about the man who propositions a woman for the sum of $10. She is horribly insulted -"What kind of woman do you think I am anyway?" He then asks would you do such and such for a million dollars? To which she replies -"hell yes". The moral of the story is of course, we've already established what "kind" of woman she is… it's just the price we're negotiating on.

    And so it's the same with people who use animals according to whatever cost or convenience is advantageous for them to do so. The world is filled with them… Pragmatic, opportunistic, hypocrites. Oh, but you can't call them on it. That would be too judgemental – it would be anti-social… it would be "bad manners".

    Bunch of compromising, two faced, murdering animal users!… (Ooops).

    October 24, 2008
  2. Ahh, good timing. I've been engaged in a debate on this topic over at BlogHer. The woman with whom I am disagreeing thinks it shows "poor priorities" to spend money on animal welfare when California's educational system needs money, even though she supposedly cares about animals (and raises and kills her own goats and chickens–that's a whole other story). She has a lot of other choice opinions on the topic of raising and killing animals for food as well, not surprisingly.

    October 24, 2008
  3. This kind of relates to how I viewed politics even before I was old enough to vote. It seemed like the economy was always the No. 1 issue for voters, never mind that the environment was going to hell. (This was before it became a more mainstream issue.) I kept thinking, What good is an economy if we have no more planet?

    People are really short-sighted.

    October 24, 2008
  4. Bea Elliott #

    I can't understand how people could possibly question the un-"humaneness" of factory farm conditions. Isn't this a no-brainer for any person with a wee-bit of common-sense? Itsy cages for animals is horribly wrong! I have never introduced anyone to conditions on factory farms who were not shocked when presented the information.

    Some, like my former friend and neighbor thought immediately to contact someone… the law! She thought, (as I did) that this was "animal cruelty" -plain and simple! She thought (as most do), that there must be a law against keeping pigs and chickens this way. In disbelief they say… "it cannot be true – it cannot be right"! Of course brief research on the net and all can discover "it" and worse is very common and "legal".

    Now… here's what seperates me from my neighbor… I had no long debates, or deliberations. I had no math or economics to figure… no creation of lists of "acceptable" terms to make up – no calculations of what size cages would be appropriate to put animals that I wanted to eat in. I didn't ponder any fancy moves or side-steps to continue my actions – I simply there and then knew that eating animals (under any conditions) was wrong. Those images of those animals was enough for me to see the obvious unfairness of it all… and I wanted no part of it (under any terms) any more.

    My neighbor however was able to come up with every excuse in order to continue eating her meat. As horrified as she was, she found a way to accept the reality as "necessary".

    She chose to compromise her values and principles. People do it all the time (especially when money or conveinience is at risk)… But the odd thing is – they (the ones who compromise) don't want to be called what they are: hypocrites.

    The consensus is that an overwhelming majority of Californians (like all people) find factory farms awful and "unacceptable".

    And if this is the case – are Californians going to publically announce to the world (through thier vote) that economics supercede their ethics? They know the cruelty is bad and that the cages are wrong, but they aren't willing to "pay the cost" of doing the right thing? I'm very confused – I thought they wanted their animals to be "happy"?

    Oh… they only want their animals to be "happy" if it doesn't cost too much… and if the law will only take effect in 8 years… and if it doesn't cause them too much discomfort… And only if it's easy… and only if everyone else does it too… and only if –

    Now, there's a good look at "humanity" for you – only willing to do a compassionate thing if it's cheap and easy.

    What are they not getting about going vegan which is also "cheap and easy"? You just don't eat them -it's the simplist thing in the world! It really is…

    October 24, 2008
  5. Patty #

    These same people who are concerned about the workers losing their jobs at the greyhound tracks are buying Toyotas while Chrysler cutting 5000 American jobs.

    October 25, 2008

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