Animal Rights Zone

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Animal Welfare Labeling: A Trojan Horse

In reality, the meat industry is interested NOT in animal welfare, but in maintaining its “market share” or bottom line—and that means substituting euphemistic labeling for true ethical reform and getting anti-cruelty laws compromised. Read this essay by James McWilliams: http://freefromharm.org/farm-animal-welfare/animal-welfare-labeling...

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Comment by Paul Hansen on September 6, 2012 at 16:41

Pranav, as you say, “awareness [of one’s own tendencies] is not of much value” if it doesn’t lead to a change in lifestyle. But blaming ‘human nature’ (like blaming Satan) can be a cop-out. Once we admit a need to change (or an ought to change), we are then operating on a meta-level of awareness (thought & action), which defies law-like predictability (even in principle) of the sort that is commensurate with biological or neurological determinism. Some philosophers have suggested that this notion of ‘free will’ leads to an infinite regress—from “second-order” deliberation to “third-order” deliberation and so forth. The discussion gets complicated, so I won’t pursue it here. But Timothy O’Connor argues that sooner or later the regress must end, or it leads to asking the absurd question, “Who controls the Controller?”

This query into the foundations of personal responsibility is fascinating, but is taking us away from the main topic of James McWilliams’s article, which was to expose the industry’s misleading (and euphemistic) nature of ‘animal welfare’ labeling to ensure the continued patronage of meat eaters.

Comment by Pranav Merchant on September 6, 2012 at 3:53

Paul, your last sentence is very important.  Whether human nature is changeable or not touches upon the realm of spirituality/meditation, as well as neuroplasticity.  However, one things thoughtful humans CAN do is become aware of their "human nature."  For example, I can become aware of the fact that if I see a Ferrari I feel jealously (I actually don't), and though at that moment I may not be able to remove that jealousy, by becoming aware of it I will have taken the step in the right direction (to continue to remove that jealousy I would need to have the desire to do so, for without that awareness is not of much value).  The same thinking applies to at least some people's continued consumption of dairy, eggs, and meat (and honey) even after hearing why they shouldn't.  I'm sure you've heard of people who will agree that they shouldn't or who deep down know they shouldn't but continue to do so anyway.  I think it is because of their human nature that they--or their minds (assuming those two things are different)--make rationalizations for themselves and don't want to admit that they need to change.  If people could realize that their "human nature" makes them do this, that would be big step in the direction of human consciousness, not to mention for animal rights.  (If I have come across as a biological determinist, let me clarify that that is an accurate way to characterize my thinking.)

Comment by Paul Hansen on September 6, 2012 at 3:13

Good points, Tim. Standardized welfare labeling—if desirable at all—will require some “political will.” Eliminating market demand (i.e., going vegan) would, in theory, eliminate the supply, but that is unlikely to happen on a grand scale. Still, culture can gradually move in that direction. For instances, the habit of smoking was once very commonplace, but through education and example, has dwindled. Native Americans (even before Africans) were once enslaved and sold like cattle by early Colonists, but that practice has ceased. So there’s at least hope. And so my reaction to your last assertion—“industrialization of the food supply isn’t the cause of animal suffering; human nature is”—is mixed. Yes, it’s true that “the industrialized beast is a natural response to the demands of the market” and “human beings have always slaughtered other animals for food (as well as for other uses)”, but those two propensities don’t JUSTIFY their perpetuation. Again, we find ourselves in the IS-OUGHT or FACT-VALUE dichotomy. If we get continually appeal to what IS the case, we will never be motivated to pursue what OUGHT to be the case, or (to put it minimally) to IMPROVE society, and the status quo will persist. Surely, the “industrial beast”—the result of “economies of scale”—exacts greater harm than the subsistence hunter. But that scale of harm is avoidable.

Perhaps this leads to a discussion of whether ‘human culture’ is changeable and ‘human nature’ is not. Thanks for the comments.

Comment by Pranav Merchant on September 6, 2012 at 2:31

Nice to see someone finally realize what the true source of the world's problems is: human nature.  If you think about it closely, especially if you look at things within a biological framework, you'll realize human nature is cause of so many other maladies.

Comment by Tim Gier on September 6, 2012 at 0:19

The article concludes "However, given the reality of the western diet–that is, given the endless depth of our dedication to eating meat–we have an obligation to think seriously about establishing a legitimate welfare label. Should we continue to brook the unregulated welfare designations that are growing in popularity, we’ll only fuel the industrial beast that caused all this suffering in the first place." I agree with the first sentence, if welfare standards are to mean anything then they must, in the first instance, be standardized according to a controlling legal authority. Given the opposition to any sort of legal reforms by the most vocal of the so-called abolitionists, I have to wonder where the political will to formulate such standards will come from. However, the second sentence of the quote is false. The "industrialized beast" is not the cause in the first place of all this suffering. The industrialized beast is a natural response to the demands of the market. Granted, it is true that suppliers will create or stimulate demand in any ways that they can, but human beings have always slaughtered other animals for food (as well as for other uses) and I suspect that, to some degree, we always will. This is not to say that the answer to the problem is a simplistic prescription of "go vegan" in order to eliminate demand (as if a majority of people would ever do such a thing), but rather it is to say that the industrialization of the food supply isn't the cause of animal suffering; human nature is.

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