Animal Rights Zone

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Transcript of Prof. Priscilla Cohn's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Prof. Priscilla Cohn’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

17 December 2011

5pm US Eastern Time

10pm UK Time

18 December 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time


 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Professor Priscilla Cohn as today’s Live Chat Guest.

 

Professor Cohn is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, Associate Director of the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and co-editor of the Journal of Animal Ethics, jointly edited by the Reverand Professor Andrew Linzey.

 

Priscilla has taught philosophy for more than 35 years, and has written on other animals, environmental issues, and ethical problems, as well as other issues, publishing in both Spanish and English.

 

She has also pioneered courses in animal ethics and lectured on five continents.

 

For three years (1990-93) Priscilla was Director of the Summer School Course in animal rights at Complutense University (Madrid), which were the first courses of their kind in Spain. She also taught at the Graduate School Course on Applied Ethics at the University of Santiago de Compostela in 1991.

 

One of Priscilla’s books, Etica aplicada (Applied Ethics, 1981), written with Jose Ferrater Mora, contained the first essay on animal rights published in Spain.

 

Priscilla has published 7 books, including Contraception in Wildlife, Book 1., in 1996 and Ethics and Wildlife in 1999.

 

Her interest in wildlife is reflected in her own work as the founder and director of Pity not cruelty/ Piedad no crueldad (PNC Inc) – a nonprofit animal advocacy foundation that organized the first international conference on contraception in wildlife in the USA, and initiated and funded the first PZP fertility control study on white tailed deer.

 

She has been a board member of the Fund for Animals and Humane USA.

 

Priscilla welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today on these topics and more. Would you please join with me in welcoming her to ARZone today?

Welcome, Priscilla!

 

Sky:

Hello

 

Tim Gier:

Hello Priscilla!

 

Jason Ward:

Hello and welcome!!!

 

Ward Chanley:

Welcome Professor Cohn :-)

 

Nicola:

Welcome! Glad to be here to hear from you!

 

Will:

hiya

 

Billy Lovci:

Hi Prof. Cohn

 

Roger Yates:

Hello and welcome to ARZone!

 

Lynne Yates:

Hi!

 

Sharni Buckley:

Hello Professor Cohn :-)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Hello everyone, I'm honored to be here. Thank you all for attending!

 

Jesse Newman:

Hi Prof. Cohn!

 

Tara:

welcome!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Cheers!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

hi there professor

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Priscilla will be responding to her pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage her. Please refrain from interrupting Priscilla during the first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address her at any time. This can be done by clicking on their names and selecting “Private Chat”.

 

I’d now like to ask Priscilla’s first question: Hi, again, Priscilla, and thank you again for being here! 

You are the co-editor of the Journal of Animal Ethics, with the Reverand Professor Andrew Linzey, could you please explain a little more about this project and how well it’s been received both by the academic community and the animal advocacy community?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Perhaps I should start by telling you how the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics came about.

 

Andrew Linzey had long had a dream of advancing ethical thinking about animals. When we discussed it, we considered how to make this dream a reality. Peter Singer, Tom Reagan—and Andrew himself in an early book entitled Animal Rights: A Christian Assesment--seemed to be what might be called the first wave of writing on the ethical treatment and “ontological status” of  animals.

 

There was a second wave consisting of thinkers such as Gary Francione and others. Both Andrew and I wanted to push such thinking further and aid progressive thought since there were so many developments and so much written since those early, heady, years. In particular, I thought recent developments in science would help our efforts to enable people to see animals as sentient beings, often with needs and longings that could be understood by human animals. This was the motivation for the Centre.

 

To achieve these goals, we thought the Centre should have a book series, a journal, perhaps an archive and should teach a course “at a distance” or over the web for college or graduate school credit. We have the book series, the journal and hope with a little bit of luck and some donations that we are on the verge of establishing such a course.

 

To sum up, we see the journal as a place where already established scholars can express their thoughts, but also, and above all, where young thinkers can formulate their ideas. The struggle for animals will not succeed if young people do not join the struggle. Andrew and I want to encourage progressive thought.

 

You ask how well the journal had been received by the academic community and by the animal advocacy community. I am not sure of the criterion by which to judge, but as far as I can tell the academic community thinks we are intellectually serious and are interested in seeing what we can produce. The Centre’s distinguished list of Fellows and Advisors is, of course, impressive and helps in this regard. The response of the animal advocacy community has been gratifying if we consider the number of submissions for the journal; they have come from the US and Canada, South America, the UK, Europe and Australia  as well as from South Africa, etc. Of course we would like even more as there can never be too many original and thoughtful essays submitted.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Priscilla! Maynard S. Clarke has the next question, which Roger Yates will ask on his behalf. Thanks, Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

What's the moral argument for prioritizing the concerns of wildlife over the concerns of domesticated animals?  I think it's LIKELY that there are MORE wildlife than domesticated animals.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I don't know if there is any general moral argument for prioritizing the concerns of wildlife over the concerns of domesticated animals. If there is more wildlife than domesticated animals, then that might be an argument or at least part of an argument—for the priority of wildlife concerns, but I don't know if the wildlife numbers are greater than the number of domesticated animals.

 

I am not claiming that there is any moral priority of wildlife. It just happens that that is a particular interest of mine. I will explain how that interest came about.

 

When I started teaching animal ethics--before Peter Singer's Animal Liberation burst upon the scene--I had trouble finding a book to recommend to my students. When Singer’s book appeared, it seemed perfect for my course. Shortly thereafter, a number of new antivivisection organizations were established as well as a number of organizations opposing intensive farming. About the same time the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is the state agency that controls all the wildlife in Pennsylvania where I live, declared that there would be a deer hunt in a local state park. The Pennsylvania Game Commission repeated the complaints of a nearby arboretum that the deer were eating their azalea bushes in such a way that the bushes were no longer perfectly symmetrical. Thus the bushes were no longer an ideal model showing how azaleas grow. I kid you not.

 

At a meeting where local people were invited to discuss the newly planned hunt, I stood up and tried to inform the others that hunting would not really solve the problem of the bushes, that shooting the deer would simply encourage compensatory reproduction so that in the following years there would be even more deer and finally I asserted that the bushes provided an ideal way to show the inter-relationship between plants and deer, to show that the deer were, so to speak, “pruning” the bushes rather than killing them. I naïvely thought that everybody would be convinced that the hunt was not necessary. Was I ever wrong!

 

That was one of the very 1st of my efforts to help wildlife. Another effort of mine involved me and a friend going to the Canadian Embassy and complaining about the seal kill. To make our point we gifted the Canadian officials with a huge funeral arrangement of flowers. The officials would only speak to one of us so met with the powers that be. When she came out, she told me they were so angry that they did nothing but curse and swear at her. A large fire that day “pushed” our lovely funeral arrangements off the news.

 

When I stopped to think about the fate of the seals and the fate of the deer, I realized that although the seals had gotten a lot of publicity at that time not much was being done locally at least to save them and there was hardly any organization that was interested in helping the deer with the exception I must add of Cleveland Amery's the Fund for Animals.

 

Upon reflection it seemed to me that there was a lot of attention paid to animals in research laboratories and farm animals, but little attention paid to wildlife that was killed for fun, for recreation. I did not really understand why, but I thought perhaps it was because to most people wildlife is invisible: they just don't see the wild creatures.

 

For example I live in a very suburban area, but at night there are raccoons and foxes that are wandering around looking for food. There are rabbits and also possums around. I don't believe, however, that any of my neighbors see these animals. If they did, they would probably be afraid of them and think that they were rabid, and call the police to get rid of them. When Peter Singer was the guest lecturer at the Ferrater Mora Chair at the University of Girona in Spain, I remember asking him to do something or to write something about deer--or perhaps I merely asked him if he didn't think that it was important that deer hunting got more publicity. He responded as a good utilitarian, saying that the number of deer killed was miniscule in comparison with the number of animals killed for food and that was why he had concentrated on those animals in his book,  Animal Liberation.

 

As far as I'm concerned, however, numbers don't tell the whole story. I believe that most people think they must eat meat to get sufficient protein. At least that is the question that I, as a vegan, am always asked: namely where do you get your protein? On the other hand, no one thinks that it's necessary to kill deer, although some people use the excuse that they eat the deer that they kill--that's really not true in most cases in Pennsylvania. Before the hunting season starts many of the hunters try to give away the venison they have frozen from the previous year. Now it is popular for hunters to claim that they give the venison to food banks for poor people, unconcerned that they have killed the animals with lead bullets so that the meat is contaminated and not safe to eat. This meat would not pass food inspection in Pennsylvania, but because the hunters are a powerful lobby they have somehow arranged things so that the food given away to food banks does not have to be inspected.

 

What I am trying to say in this admittedly long-winded way is that it is easier to understand why people eat meat thinking they need protein than it is to understand why killing deer is viewed as recreation. I think wildlife needs more attention.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Jesse Newman.... Jesse...

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you! How significant, in terms of its impact on the broader movement for animal rights, do you think the ban in Catalonia on bullfighting is? -and- In your experience, are the people of Spain more receptive to the principles involved in an animal rights ethic?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I think the Catalonian ban on bullfighting was very, very significant. Remember that in Spain bullfighting is considered part of the culture and was once vividly displayed on every tourist brochure. In fact I believe it is still something that tourists think they must see to appreciate the Spanish culture. The fact that animal advocates were able to gather the thousands of signatures needed to bring the matter before the Spanish Parliament was significant in itself. Added to that was a carefully planned, well run campaign.

 

I think the impact on the broader movement for animal rights was significant--or is significant--because it showed what could be done. It was an amazing accomplishment that encouraged people not only in Spain, but throughout the world. It may have been slightly easier in Catalonia than in other areas of Spain, but many people are hopeful that the end of bullfighting is in sight.

 

This victory was particularly gratifying to me. In 1971 when I was in Spain I could not find anyone who opposed bull fighting.  Even in the late 80s and 90’s when I directed a course on animal rights at the University of Madrid summer school the concept of animal-rights appeared absurd to many people. The Queen, who is not Spanish, attended the course to show her support. There was so much publicity over the attendance of the Queen that the course was canceled for the following year.

 

In the years since there has been a growing animal rights movement in Spain that as far as I could see has progressed faster than the animal rights movement in the United States. Organizations have sprung up, books have been published and perhaps even more significant from my point of view is the existence of an “animal political party.” This party does not expect to win elections at this point, but running for office enables them to spread the word about animals.

 

In conclusion, I don't really know if the people of Spain are more receptive to the notion of animal rights than the people in other countries, but they have certainly made a lot of progress, particularly in view of the fact that they have not had the advantage of having the tradition of kindness to animals that many English-speaking countries have.

 

Jesse Newman:

Can I ask a follow-up please?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Please do.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you. Would you say then, that regardless of whatever else the ban on bullfighting accomplishes, it might let people know that a cultural shift is taking place, sort of making animal rights more normal?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, it shows that a cultural change has taken place, to a certain extent. There are little festivities in villages where other animals are horribly mistreated, and that will be the next thing on the agenda to try to stop. They actually were stopped under Franco and when he died they came back, so to speak, under the socialist paradigm. One of the things they used to do was to drag a goat to the highest part of a bell tower and push him off, and he would land on the pavers below, still alive, and that was classed as fun.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thanks!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Prof. Cohn. Next up is our own Professor Yates. Go ahead please Roger!

 

Roger Yates:

On the whole, how receptive have you found the academic community to be to philosophers such as yourself who have spent considerable time on issues related to nonhuman animals and the environment? Is your work and are your views taken as seriously as they deserve to be?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I retired in 2001 so I hope things have changed in the academic community. While it is true that several years ago I was invited to give a talk on hunting by the American Philosophical Association, it was only because they first invited Tom Regan; he refused and suggested that they invite me. Furthermore the presentation was not a major part of the meeting.

 

I taught at Penn State for 35 years. Many of the administrators disliked my teaching of animal rights or were fearful of it.

 

In 1985 I organized a conference on wildlife at Penn State, inviting speakers such as Tom Regan, Gary Francione, Andrew Linzey and so forth. My aim in organizing that conference was to inform the general public that I hoped would attend. One had to register and pay to attend the conference. In registering one person wrote on the envelope containing his fee something like “shoot people, not deer.” As you can imagine, this caused a great deal of consternation. As a result, the publicity for this conference, which was too far advanced to be canceled, was so bland that it was not at all clear that the conference concerned animals in any way.

 

When I complained that no one could tell that this was a conference on wildlife, the publicity people asserted that they didn't want any disturbances taking place on the campus. They were very fearful. What I didn't tell them was that I recognized the handwriting on the envelope and that it belonged to a bus driver that I had met who was rather childlike and didn't realize the impact that his statement would make. The conference was a success in the sense that a number of people attended, so that the university made money, but it was not a success in that it was not the general public that attended but rather friends and animal rights people who were already convinced of everything that was said.

 

During my 35 years as a professor of philosophy, I had a number of bosses some of whom either didn't care or didn’t know what I was teaching. There were others, however, who plainly resented what I was doing. I was once scolded very strongly for asking my students why they thought it was proper to kill a turkey at Thanksgiving, why on a holiday in which we give thanks for all the good things that have happened to us, we celebrate our good fortune by creating a misfortune for a poor turkey who had done nothing to us. I was reprimanded and told that my passion for animals had gotten the best of me—warped my judgment. I denied this, asserting that my question was quite suitable for a philosophy professor.

 

On another occasion I was informed by a student that my boss had commented that he didn't care what I said, he was going to eat his hamburger. I don't know if this was true. In all honesty, however, it could have been my ideas in general rather than my ideas about animals that irritated some of the administrators.

 

Roger Yates:

No follow-up, thank you. Next up is Professor Timothy Gier

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Your Eminence! Prof. Cohn, Reading your commentary “Killing and Hunting” (http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/what-we-do/commentary/killing-and-hunting/), it struck me that I’d guess that most people in the US think of deer as lovely and serene creatures deserving of human protection. Do you think my guess is correct and if so, do you think that if most people were made aware of the things you bring to light in your commentary that the political will would exist to change how Wildlife Services operates?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I think deer are lovely creatures, but lovely or ugly wild creatures still have a right to live as far as I'm concerned.

 

I can't speak for most people in the US because Pennsylvania is one of the biggest hunting states, but I don't think many people are very sympathetic about deer or at least not sympathetic enough to protest their killing. The propaganda in the papers about deer is overwhelming. Deer are presented as rats with antlers, as creatures that are destroying the forests, as those creatures that are spreading Lyme disease, that threaten the very existence of ground nesting birds, that threaten not only human health, but our very existence by causing car accidents. Stories abound about deer being hit in the streets, about thousands of dollars of damage to a car, etc. There is very little publicity about the fact that the vast majority of the deer/car collisions occur during hunting season when the hunters are chasing the deer and the deer run-in panic onto streets. Insurance companies have statistics that corroborate this fact but the fact is rarely publicized.

 

I remember once giving a talk before a group of school children. The local police chief who was pushing for a slaughter of the deer was also invited. One of the children asked how many people the deer had eaten as if the deer were a kind of carnivorous animal, a fierce predator.  This was after the police chief had described a deer car collision in which a car hit a deer, who was propelled through the windshield and kicked the driver with his sharp hooves. No wonder the child thought the deer was some sort of ferocious animal.

 

So I'm sorry to say that I think that most people do not think of deer as lovely and serene animals except perhaps for those who read Bambi.

 

Most people, as far as I know, are unaware of the huge number of animals killed by wildlife services or some of the gruesome means by which animals are killed. But once again wildlife services attempts to justify these deaths by the claim that they are protecting the livelihood of the US farmer as if they are carrying out a patriotic duty. When you read the literature it is not immediately clear that so many animals are being killed. The economic well-being of American farmers is being protected, as they say, by wildlife services which is simply killing wildlife by the thousands. When it looks like animals are harming someone's profit, you can rest assured that in the United States animals will suffer.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Professor Cohn - Next up with a question is Brooke Cameron - please proceed when you are ready Brooke.

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you! Priscilla, in an article in the Melbourne HeraldSun of April 29 2001 [http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/pet-an-insult-to-animals-academics...], which spoke about the call for a new type of animal language being made in the first issue of the Journal of Animal Ethics, the author seems dismissive of the suggestion that the use of terms such as “pet” and “vermin” were unacceptable and oppressive. Adding that “Plain English Campaign spokeswoman Marie Clair, said: "It is not plain English. I don't know of any pet that has complained about being called a three-letter word."

 

Would you please explain why the words we use to describe, refer to, and talk about other animals are so important, and why others may be so determined to maintain their right to continue using such oppressive language.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

If you will forgive me I will reproduce two of my (published) responses to questions from reporters, some of whom had a difficult time understanding what we were talking about when we said that certain words such as "beast," "wild animal," etc. were not to be used in articles that were submitted to the Journal because they referred to animals in a now outdated stereotypical manner.

 

The response that this little notice in a scholarly Journal generated was absolutely astounding to Andrew and me. In a word, it went viral. Some people, of course, knew exactly what we were talking about and were very sympathetic. Others were not sympathetic and wrote incredibly nasty e-mails. Some of the nasty emails were written by people who claimed to love their dog or cat very much and apparently resented the fact that the Journal did not approve of the word "pet." It was encouraging that so many people said they loved their "pet," but discouraging that they were so aggressively insulting while absurdly assuming that we claimed the dog or cat him or her self would be insulted by this language. 

 

Below are the published excerpts.

 

Some pundits in the U.S. (and perhaps the U.K.?) might argue that you are taking “political correctness” too far with your preferred terms for animals and their caregivers. What would be your response?

 

This is not "political correctness." Many of the terms used to refer to animals in the past such as 'brute,' 'beast,' 'wild animal' carry connotations that are outdated to say the least. We are merely trying to get people to think about animals as they are. For instance, we now know from scientists who have spent hours observing them, that elephants have a complex social system and that they have a communication system that was unknown only a few years ago. Similarly, we now know much more about the social structure of wolves, how they establish a peaceful, social hierarchy without fighting and that in general they are not the blood-thirsty wild beasts that many people imagine. We know now that a number of animal species make and use tools; we are learning about the language abilities of chimpanzees, grey parrots, etc.

 

In other words, there has been an explosion of knowledge about animals that should make us consider them in a new light and perhaps change the manner in which we treat them. The language we use shapes our concepts at least to some extent. Think of the different conceptions that arise if a man refers to a (human) female as a "hot chick," a "lady," a "woman" a "cougar," a "fox," etc. 

 

- Why is this debate important? -

 

Many of us think that our treatment of sentient animals is cruel, particularly animals raised for food, but also free roaming animals like the horses in the west, the prairie dogs whose population has been reduced by 90% by poisoning despite the fact that their behavior encourages the growth of new grass, that scientists consider them to be a keystone species, etc. They are actually a benefit to the environment and to a number of other species, but they continue to be poisoned by the millions.

 

Even if one does not care about cruelty, the overcrowding of food animals necessitates the over-use of antibiotics and allows bacteria to become drug resistant and thus a threat to human health. So called factory farms have huge environmental impacts such as the pollution of streams and rivers, etc. Social scientists as well as police are now aware of the link between animal abuse and anti-social behavior, particularly spousal abuse and abuse of children. I have mentioned only a few reasons why we  should care and why a discussion of our treatment of animals is important for us as well as for them.

 

**************************************

 

We do indeed think that many of the words used to describe animals are derogatory, biased, and stereotypical or give only a partial picture. Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition, defines "pest" as "something resembling a pest in destructiveness; esp.; a plant or animal detrimental to humans or human concerns (as agriculture or livestock production)" or  "one that pesters or annoys." People commonly refer to animals such as raccoons that get into garbage, deer that nibble on flowers or birds that eat the seeds planted by farmers as pests. Any animal that interferes in any way with any human undertaking can be called a pest including a neighbor's dog. It is a completely arbitrary classification. This derogatory word is used as if it were an innate quality of the animal, rather than a word describing the animal's behavior in relation to certain human practices. The implication is that if an animal is a pest, he can be destroyed without any further thought, yet not all humans view raccoons, deer, birds or dogs as pests. Similarly, the word "vermin" carries the same connotation if not worse since vermin are usually said to carry disease. Surely these are not complimentary or even neutral terms.

 

Yes, although legally true we object to the word "owner" because the only thing that can be owned is property. For the most part, property, even intellectual property, refers to what is inanimate. We can do almost anything we like with property.  Sentient beings such as animals are unlike any other kind of property. If animals are viewed as human property, it means that in a conflict the owner almost always has the upper hand. If we think of animals as our property, we tend to forget that they are individuals with feelings, needs and desires. How many people consider the feelings of a cow separated from her newborn calf or shipped to slaughter when her milk production decreases?

 

We also object to the expression "wild animal" because it carries the connotation of ferocity.  The common understanding of a wild animal is a bloodthirsty animal that wants to eat us. If, however, "wild animals" simply refer to animals that are not domesticated, then mice are wild animals as are rabbits and birds. Most people would laugh at the characterization of a mouse or of a "bunny rabbit" as a wild animal because this term seems fittingly to describe only predators like lions, tigers and wolves. We now know, for example, that wolves are not the frenzied killers that are sometimes portrayed in the movies. We have learned that wolves establish the pack hierarchy with very little violence.

 

In sum, "wild animal" does not fit the animals previously understood by this expression. Incidentally Roget's Original Thesaurus corroborates our view: it includes the words "brute," "beast" and "wild beast" under the category of "violent creatures."

 

You write as if the words we use have little or no bearing on the subject being discussed. If, for example, one is talking about women in general and refers to them as bimbos, I think it is clear that such a person has at the very least a distorted or biased view. Such a view of women would certainly color that person's behavior toward women.

 

Examples revealing the power of words are numerous. Think of the slogan "Black is beautiful." Reflect on the various names hurled at African-Americans and the angry and hurt response such names engender. Consider the "fighting bulls" in Spain. These are the bulls that are stabbed and killed in the bullring. For many people, this expression justifies bull fighting: if bulls are "fighting bulls," then what is wrong with fighting them since this is their very nature, this is what they are. If you have ever seen a bull fight, you would see that the bulls rarely come into the ring "fighting" and that they do so only after being repeatedly stabbed. If you could see--as I have--the "fighting bulls" in a field before a bullfight, you would see a bunch of placid male cows. Once again, the terms do not fit. They are only used by those who want to continue a cruel practice that some people enjoy.

 

I believe that your use of the word "master' in dog training is insensitive. Of course there is an inequality between a dog and the person who is trying to train him, but if the trainer is the "master," what word characterizes the dog but "slave." In fact, I am sure you know better than I that dogs--and other creatures--are often mistreated and abused by their "masters" who are trying to train them precisely because they think of themselves as masters and use training methods that are cruel. In some situations the animal is viewed not as a sensitive creature, but as a robot-like object that must obey our human whims. Such "masters" may consider themselves superior in every way to the dog they are training. War dogs, of course, show us that in some cases like sniffing out bombs, the dogs are our masters.

 

In sum, Andrew Linzey and I reconfirm our position: we need to reconceptualize our ideas about animals and we need new or different words to do so.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you! May I ask a follow-up, please? 

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Sure, Brooke!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks. Do we have to strike a balance between using new & different words & keeping the conversation going? If a person stops listening to me because I insist on correcting them whenever they say “pets” will I ever be able to persuade them?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

What went viral in this was that these were instructions for academics who wanted to submit an essay. It wasn't instructions for the general public. My idea is that academic writing is intended for a certain public that is interested in making fine distinctions etc and not for the general public.

 

Brooke Cameron:

So you mean that it's not so important then when I'm talking to my friends?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, it isn't important when speaking informally with friends.

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you! :-)

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Carolyn "the secretary" Bailey.....

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hi Priscilla, you are the founder and director of Pity Not Cruelty, an animal advocacy foundation that organised the first international conference on contraception for free living animals in the US, along with initiating and funding the first PZP fertility control study on white tailed deer.

 

Lee Hall, referring to free-living animals in the book “On Their Own Terms” says: “Contraception *might* involve less physical pain than another form of animal control, but does involvement in the manipulation and control of animals mean unintentionally accepting the human agreement that animals simply must be kept in check if not used as food, clothing, entertainment, or objects of curiosity?” (pg. 199)

 

Other advocates suggest that all contraceptive methods, including those used on domesticates, are inappropriate rights violations. Obviously, this is an issue that advocates on all sides are likely to be passionate about. Would you please explain your thoughts on all this?

 

Priscilla Cohn:
Some activists claim that contraception, or at least wildlife contraception, is just one more form of human domination. I cannot argue with that assertion. I believe that we should leave wildlife alone. The ideal is to “let them be” as Lee Hall says quoting Regan; we have no business interfering with them.

 

The problem is that the ideal is not available at this time. In the case of deer, it is not a matter of contracepting them or not contracepting them, but rather it is a matter of killing them or contracepting them. In this situation, I think contraception is better than killing. I think deer or whatever animal that we are talking about would agree. People who hold that the contraception of wildlife is some kind of evil or something to be avoided have not as far as I can see prevented the deer from being killed.

 

I've been told that I can't call myself an animal rights person because I support contraception. Perhaps I do not conform with someone else's definition of animal rights, but I believe that in some cases we have to compromise in order to save lives. A dead deer does not do much to further the concept of animal rights.

 

Studies show that contracepted horses live longer and are healthier probably because they have not experienced annual pregnancy and nursing of their young. At least for some months, contracepted deer are also heavier, a sign of health, than deer that have given birth. Thus, one cannot assert contraception is destructive of quality of life.

 

In fact I think insisting that contraception is harmful is unrealistic and often naïve. I do not believe in killing deer either by hunting or culling, nor do I believe that there is a so-called “overpopulation, but trying to convince the general public or the Game Commission, which has a vested interest in killing, is difficult to say the least.

 

The question is even if one believes that “the animal rights vision of the world” will come about sometime, what do we do in the meantime before such a utopia exists? Do we just let the deer die? Is the purity of the animal rights notion—as conceived by some as if it is the only possible conception of animal rights—more important than the animals themselves? I think not.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Priscilla, may I ask a follow-up, please?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, please do!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks! Could you please explain what applying these substances actually entails - the stress of capture, tagging, tracking animals for boosters etc, if there have been studies performed, particularly post mortem, on deer who have been injected, and also if there have been reported ovarian abnormalities in the other animals who are vivisected in zona pellucida studies, including dogs, cats, rabbits and marmosets.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

The advantage of PZP is that it can be darted in, so the animal doesn't have to be captured, which reduces stress. The developer of PZP is Jay Kirkpatrick, and he promised that he would not do any post mortems. I support him on the condition that he not harm any other animal whatsoever.

 

I have promoted PZP because I see it as an alternative to killing. Which is not to say that it's perfect, there are things that people can complain about such as the fact that it's made from a slaughterhouse product. That's a legitimate criticism as far as I'm concerned. What happens is that, where the dart enters the animals there is sometimes a small irritation, but with PZP it is not serious.

 

Which brings me to the second very important point, you can't talk about wildlife contraception in general because there are other contraceptives which cause serious infections. There are some contraceptives which change behavior, PZP does not. So, for instance, it's written in ON THEIR OWN TERMS "These pharmaceuticals wreak havoc on the deer's biology and significantly change their social interactions", that's simply not true of PZP.

 

Jay Kirkpatrick has done extensive research with PZP on horses, and it is very important that the contraceptive not change behavior, or they won't behave as horses. The only behavior that has changed with deer, is that when the female deer doesn't get pregnant, she will cycle more often, but this is not excessive.

 

So, there are no debilitating side effects. It does not pass through the food chain, it is safe for pregnant animals, etc. It is reversible. So, in my opinion it is an ideal contraceptive. Which doesn't mean it's perfect, as it could be misused and the results would be terrible.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Priscilla! If I may ask one more question on the same topic, please

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Sure, please do.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) is derived from pigs, could you please explain what is involved in extracting this from pigs?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

It's a slaughterhouse product. So that the ovaries are bought and they go through a process whereby Zona Pellucida is extracted, and purified. The Zona Pellucida is the coating around the egg of a mammal. There have been attempts to produce PZP as a synthetic substance, but it has not been as successful as a contraceptive.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Priscilla. Next up with a question is Tim Gier. Thanks, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks! In your article “The Thirsty Cow and an Important Distinction” (Animal Law, 1997) you defend Gary Francione’s “micro/macro” distinction as it concerns the obligations we have as individuals to nonhuman animals compared to those we have as part of a movement for social change. Would you please explain your understanding of that distinction and do you still hold the same view as you did in 1997?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

This is the most difficult question I've been asked, first because I didn't remember exactly what I had written in that article and second, because when I reread it, I did not much care for it, perhaps because I have changed some of my views.

 

Originally I had thought there was a real problem for how could a vegan activist either offer water to a thirsty slaughterhouse cow or wish that there was a law that would guarantee that thirsty cows had access to water in a slaughterhouse, for such a gesture or such a law would seem to support  the very practice that the activist wanted to abolish, namely eating cows. On the other hand, how could the activist be so heartless as to ignore the suffering of the cow?

 

I thought at the time that Francione's "micro/macro" distinction cleverly solved the problem and in fact, if what I will call the premises were true, his distinction would provide a solution. I no longer think that there is a contradiction or an incompatibility between an animal activist's stand against meat eating and offering a cow in a slaughter house a drink. An activist may believe that veganism is the ideal, but that doesn't mean that anything even remotely related to meat-eating implies approval of it.

 

Would it be contradictory for a vegan to read a magazine that happened to contain a meat recipe?  Can a vegan eat with non-vegan friends or even be friends with non-vegans? Can a vegan eat in a non-vegan restaurant? Would any of these activities, distasteful as they may be, show that the vegan supported eating meat?

 

Consider an analogous example: a driver carelessly activates his left hand turn signal while making a right turn and collides with another car in a serious accident. If I come to his aid, does that mean I support careless driving? I think not. The apparent dilemma of the thirsty cow is part of the bigger problem of the meaning of abolition and whether abolition is "all or nothing" or can be understood as being partial or taking place over time.

 

I believe that the reason a problem, a dilemma, an incompatibility or an inconsistency seems to arise is because the abolition of meat-eating—or the ideal of an animal rights perspective – is viewed in such an absolutist manner that anything that is not identical with the absolute is viewed as opposing the absolute. Just as coming to the aid of a careless driver does not mean one condones careless driving, so supporting contraception, even if it is a form of human domination, does not mean that one supports all—or even any other—human domination of animals.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you, may I ask a brief follow-up please?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Please do, Tim

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks! Would you say then, that not only can we work for laws that give water to cows (for instance), but that the general public won't necessarily see this as being inconsistent with animal rights objectives?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I think you're correct. I think it's a mistake to think that, if you give water to a cow it means you approve of slaughter. It's a mistake to suggest that improving the lot of food animals will soothe peoples' consciences and they will eat more other animals. I don’t think many people are thinking in that manner.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Priscilla. Sky is up with the next question. Please go ahead when you're ready Sky

 

Sky:

What do you think the biggest hurdles facing the animal rights/animal liberation movement are and how easy/difficult do you think it will be to overcome them?

Thanks Prof.Tim!!!! :-)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

The only way I can attempt to answer this question is on the basis of the attitudes of my students. When discussing the various ways in which animals are treated cruelly or as mere objects, many of my students were sympathetic to animals and opposed to their suffering. After watching “Unnecessary Fuss” or reading about various experiments, many of my students stated that they opposed vivisection. This opposition was rather startling since much of the propaganda about research animals is that they ensure that our drugs are safe and that research animals play a vital role in human health, etc. Food animals, however, did not seem to elicit any sympathy on the part of my students. While many of my students opposed cruelty in general, they did not seem to find slaughtering animals cruel when they were slaughtered for their meat.

 

My conclusion is that the biggest hurdle facing animal advocates is getting people to give up eating meat. “You don't really expect me to give up my hamburger do you?” students would ask me. If they smiled at me in the lunchroom, it was not a very guilty smile. This attitude puzzles me since the arguments against eating meat are so many and so compelling. Eating meat means animals have a horrible death as well as what is usually a horrible life before they are slaughtered. The intensive farming of animals leads to water pollution, air pollution, waste of natural resources, huge use of antibiotics that encourages bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Furthermore, nutritionists warn that animal protein is not good for humans, that it can encourage or lead to certain cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. All of you are very familiar with these and numerous other facts, but for the most part they were ignored or not believed by most of my students.

 

Maybe there is an addiction to eating meat similar to the addiction to smoking. Many students would smoke during exams, inhaling deeply on their cigarettes revealing that smoking was not an exceptional activity. Every student who was questioned said the same thing, “ I know it is bad for me and I plan to give it up when I am less stressed, when exams are over or when I graduate from college." 

 

I conclude that getting the average person to adopt a life-long vegetarian or vegan life style is the biggest hurdle. I hope I am mistaken.

 

Sky:

Can I follow-up please? :-)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Sure, Sky. Go ahead.

 

Sky:

Thanks for that Prof. Priscilla! I wonder as well if meat is addictive. I have heard that people say cheese made with what Dr. Roger calls ‘calf food’ is. Also, what is ‘Unnecessary Fuss’. Thanks for this 'chat'!!!! :-)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I don't really know if meat or cheese is really addictive. I once talked to a psychiatrist and he told me that eating was a kind of love and it was therefore very difficult for people to change their food habits. I don’t know if that's true or not, but that was the answer I was given.  Unnecessary Fuss was a video put together from 60 hours of tape which was stolen by the ALF, from Dr. Genarelli's lab, on baboon research.

 

Roger Yates:

Alex Pacheco discussed the film "Unnecessary Fuss" in his chat, so interested parties can look up his transcript. One of the most devastating vivisection films ever! [http://arzone.ning.com/profiles/blogs/transcript-of-alex-pachecos]

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Done, thanks, Roger.

 

Sky:

thanks!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks for a very interesting discussion thus far. Roger is up next, please go ahead Dr. Yates!

 

Roger Yates:

In an address you gave (http://www.istas.ccoo.es/descargas/aaaa%20Inaugural%20%20for%20Spain.pdf) you talk about the role of political action concluding “This emphasis on political activity, I believe, is a sign of the maturity of the animal rights movement in the US.” Would you please explain your views on this?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I think all of us believe that animals are not mere physical objects, not things, not commodities, not mere sources of food or fur, not a source of entertainment or recreation. We all believe, I think, that animals are a independent, sentient beings. The problem is how do we get other people to see animals in this manner?

 

This is perhaps where opinions vary. Some of us believe education is the key, others that becoming a vegan is the answer, while still others try to spread the word by demonstrations, etc. I think that all these various methods are helpful, but I cannot say what is the most effective means of achieving our goals. Perhaps the first step is to get people to see animals as they really are.

 

Andrew Linzey explained what I mean very well in a poignant piece he wrote: he talked about the rabbits that he saw from the window of his office. When he called attention to these rabbits he realized that his visitors paid no more attention to them than they would to dust on his bookshelves. They did not “see” them as he did: as unique and marvelous creatures. Seeing animals as they are is no small task, but it is only the preliminary step.

 

The next step as I understand it is to guarantee somehow that we relate to animals in the way in which they deserve, namely as fellow inhabitants of this planet. How do we do this? One way might be to encapsulate some of the ways in which we should interact with animals in the law. It is too much to expect that everyone in the world will respect animal life, but perhaps it is not too much to hope for.

 

To encourage this respect for animals, it would be helpful in my opinion if their rights were legally protected in much the same way as human rights are protected. Obviously not all humans are treated fairly, justly or even kindly, but the law helps I believe by discouraging certain kinds of behavior that are harmful. Animals deserve the same kinds of law as far as I'm concerned. I don't believe that animals are property, but I would go further and say that I believe that they have a right to their own life.

 

If there is a conflict that arises between what a human wants to do and the welfare or well-being of an animal, in my opinion it should be decided in much the same way as human conflicts are decided. Obviously the law is not perfect, but at least it is an attempt to avoid violence and death.

 

Roger Yates:

A follow-up please?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

That would be great, thanks!

 

Roger Yates:

I think we accept that the law must play an important role at some point - the issue is whether now is that point. At present, it seems to me that we are asking deeply speciesist legislators to make meaningful changes. Surely we need more cultural change first since politicians are followers of trends rather than trend setters?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I don't know which comes first, the cultural or legal change. For instance, I think what happened in Spain is great, that they outlawed the bullfights. I think any laws we can get passed are fine, if they help other animals. We can always make them stronger later. I'm not in favor, however, of doing what some organisations in the US are doing and phasing out gestation crates in 20 years. I don't think that does much good.

 

Roger Yates:

Understood - thanks.

Next up is Jason Ward with a question - Jay

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks dude.

 

Roger Yates:

:-D

 

Sky:

8-)

 

Jason Ward:

Hi again Professor - What are your views on the value and effectiveness of undercover video recordings by animal advocates at dairy farms, slaughterhouses and the like?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I don't know whether undercover video recordings are always legal or not, but regardless of their legality I believe that they are very important and very effective. While I am a strong believer in obeying the law, almost all systems of law allow one to follow his or her higher conscience.

 

There are too many instances where someone has reported animal cruelty and the accused person or institution denies that such cruelty ever took place. Often it becomes a “he said, she said" situation, if the accuser is believed at all. A video simply provides proof that the accusation is real while several or even many videos of the same situation reveal that the cruelty is not simply an exceptional event but is habitual practice.

 

This latter point is quite important because it is much easier to overlook a cruel act if it is unintentional or happens only once. If a cruel act is shown to be repeated and to take place repeatedly, then most people agree that something must be done to prevent such an act. It has been said that if the slaughterhouses had glass walls, there would not be any. That may or may not be true; probably there would always be a few slaughterhouses, for some people simply do not have the ability to care about anything other than themselves, but a slaughterhouse with glass walls would, I think, make many people hesitant about what is taking place inside that slaughterhouse.

 

I have seen some videos of cattle going to slaughter and of horses, their eyes bulging with fear, as they approach their slaughter, but I have seen very few videos of deer being shot with guns or bows and arrows. People are encouraged to believe that when a hunter shoots a deer, the animal drops dead instantly and does not suffer. I think that if the public saw how deer stagger around wounded and bleeding after being shot that hunting would become less acceptable. Sometimes one sees a picture of a deer with an arrow through his face, unable to eat, slowly starving to death and probably in great pain. Such images generate public sympathy. If I am correct then it would be good to have more videos of what hunting actually consists of; more people might question the notion that hunting is a sport.

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Prof Cohn - Tim Gier is up next

giv'er Tim

 

Tim Gier:

Given your interest and extensive background in wildlife issues, what are your views on the mass release of minks, for example, by animal advocates from captivity into the surrounding environment?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

As I have said, I do not believe in breaking the law. I think it is almost always counterproductive and I certainly would not encourage someone to do so, at least not in a democracy in which there are ways of changing unjust laws. If there were no such means, then perhaps breaking the law would be necessary to achieve just ends. Consider for a moment the “sit-ins” that took place in the United States during the struggle for justice for people of color. These sit-ins were non-violent attempts to achieve racial equality. So while for the most part I condemn the illegal release of minks, at the same time I understand the frustration which might lead to such an act.

 

Part of my judgment about releasing minks would also depend on whether or not such a release would result in their death or whether they can survive on their own. When I have read about such releases, the US reports always state that the released minks cannot live on their own and that they simply die by being run over by cars on the roads or from starvation.

 

I have been told, however, that this is not true and that the minks can survive. I don't know the truth of this matter, but it would seem pointless to release minks only to have them freeze or starve to death. If one thought that it was necessary to release the minks, I would think that it would be more effective to somehow find homes for them, although I realize this would be extremely difficult.

 

I have had friends who legally rescued chicks that had been hatched in a school-hatching program and then returned to the original farmer who had sold the eggs to the school. A friend who had 100 or so chicks in her possession prevailed upon me and other friends to take 5 or 10 chicks or as many as we could and raise them until she could find a suitable home for them. I also had a friend who rescued a small number of chinchillas. I don't know whether she bought them or whether she simply persuaded the owner to give them up, but supposedly they were about to become part of a fur coat. I took two chinchillas to live with me and it was one of the most delightful experiences of my life. Do I have to confess that I did not keep them in a cage?  They are very destructive little animals even if one gives them “chew sticks” to chew on: they chew books—if they can get to them—in a graceful and artistic looking manner. Despite their book-eating habits, they are simply marvellous animals.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you. May I ask a follow-up?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, please do, thanks.

 

Tim Gier:

Legalities aside (I don’t advocate for people to break the law either), and considering that every mink in captivity is certainly going to be killed anyway, would you think that the release of minks has value as an act of political resistance?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I think it depends on the public reaction, as to whether it has value or not. I don’t think anyone in the US (the general public) think releasing minks is a good idea, as we're all told they all die in gruesome ways.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you.

 

Jason Ward:

Maynard S. Clark will now ask the last of our pre-registered questions for today. We encourage our members to ask questions of Prof. Cohn. If you have a question, please message Carolyn Bailey, Tim Gier, Jason Ward, or Roger Yates and one of us will introduce you so that you are able to ask it in the open session which will follow. Please go ahead Maynard.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you, Jason - and Tim for two excellent questions.  :-)   Professor Cohn:  Your presentation this evening has been magnificent, particularly with regard to these excellent questions so far.  Indeed, I have a very hard act to follow. I'm often challenged to demonstrate a genuine belief in "animal rights" as grounded in - or based in - nature itself (rather than in human imagination: construction or invention).  In this challenge, I'm asked to aggressively protect or defend wildlife from predation by carnivorous wildlife.  Otherwise, what possible meaning - or intellectual content - can a concept of "animal rights" have?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

In my opinion, to say one believes in animal-rights does not mean that one must protect prey animals from predators. If that's what animal rights meant, then it would be an impossibility.

 

I believe that we should respect the natural world and the animals in it. Is a predator such as a lion less moral or less valuable than a horse, who does not need to kill to survive? A lion is what he is, as a predator. To express this idea in slightly different terms, one might say that being a predator is part of the lion’s very essence or essential nature: if he were not a predator, he would not be a lion. While I do not take pleasure in thinking about the killing of a prey animal by a predator, this is the way the world is. There is a kind of economy in nature where the predator eats the very weak, the sick, the very young and the very old. In this manner the predator keeps the herd animals, which he feeds upon, healthy.

 

If we could do away with all predation, that is if all animals were vegetarian, there would be less biodiversity, far fewer species. The world would be less rich, for the enormous biodiversity of animal life is dependent upon the fact that some animals eat grasses, while other animals eat these animals, which in turn are eaten by other animals and so forth.

 

Perhaps preferring the bare desert or the forest teeming with life is not only an ethical preference, but also an aesthetic choice. If one judges that variety and biodiversity is desirable, then predation is a given. None of what I have said means that I favor culling or killing some animals either to protect a particular species or to achieve greater biodiversity, for I do not, but that is another argument. 

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you

 

Priscilla Cohn:

My pleasure

 

Roger Yates:

Billy has the first open question - but had to go to bed! So, here it is.... Hi Prof. Cohn, I was wondering what your thoughts, insights, or suggestions for 600 Million (the group developing a sterilization pill for stray dogs) might be?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I don't know enough about this group to comment. There is a different group looking for ways of sterilizing dogs and cats, other than surgically. They're working with a number of scientists, and medical people. Years ago I looked for a contraceptive for cats. I thought it was effective but the records show differently. I think it was the mistake of the vet. But cats don't react well to PZP anyhow, as far as I know.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Kelly Carson... Kelly...

 

Kelly Carson:

Ta much!

Many municipalities in my province are moving with lightening speed to cull deer this winter, for all the reasons you listed above, and without public input. Cranbrook, BC completed a test cull of 25 deer  this week using the clover trap/captive bolt method.  An accommodating jerk from Helena Montana came up to sell the traps and bolt guns and train people to use them. I'm working with several good souls in my region to produce an alternative to the cull (contraception, wildlife corriders, barriers, Streiter-Lites – whatever would work best in various communities) and find someone from each municipality to present. We've contacted several American and Canadian animal orgs, as well as Jay Kirkpatrick.  Do you have any advice for us on how to make a forceful argument for the compassionate methods?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I believe that the best thing to try to convince people is to get a huge amount of public support, if that's possible. If you get enough, local politicians may feel threatened and tend to be more co-operative.

 

Kelly Carson:

Thank you, we will work hard on that!

 

Priscilla Cohn:

You're very welcome, good luck!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Priscilla! The next question is from Brandon Becker and will be asked in his absence by Tim Gier. Thanks, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Hi Priscilla. You are an advocate for reproductive control for wild animals (as an alternative to hunting), in order to keep these animal populations to a level where humans accept their existence. Doesn't this position just reinforce human supremacy, that humans have the right to control other animals? If animal rights became accepted in custom and law, it would be unacceptable and illegal to violate the bodily integrity of wild animals by sterilization in an attempt to control their populations. Wouldn’t a better approach be to advocate modification of human land-use practices, such as what Responsible Polices for Animals' does: http://www.rpaforall.org/wildlife.html

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I'm not advocating contraception to keep animals at a level that the public desire, I'm only advocating for contraception to avoid other animals being killed. Any other approach modification of land which is suggested by David Cantor, if it works, I'm in favor of it. Lee Hall and FoA suggested introducing coyotes into Valley Forge National Historical Park, none of these suggestions have been effective in stopping a kill. If they were, I would be delighted!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Priscilla, the next question will be from Mark Jordan, please go ahead Mark and thanks for being here!

 

Mark Jordan:

Thanks, Tim. Well, Brandon kind of covered my question but I think I have something still. Hi Priscilla, as you have mentioned, in the case of why shooting deer won’t work to “control” (their numbers will rebound stronger after shooting, perhaps creating greater numbers), animal populations naturally “control” themselves, based primarily on amount of suitable habitat/conditions. Therefore, isn’t there a third option, let nature take care of animal populations?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, of course the deer numbers are controlled by their food supply, and they can't reproduce/grow indefinitely. But humans are saying there are already too many, so that solution doesn't work.

 

Mark Jordan:

A quick follow up?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Sure

 

Mark Jordan:

It seems to me, then, that there is an inherent flaw in the question - it is based on human-centric priorities, namely human profit and/or human convenience (i.e. road safety and rose bushes). Have you tried to advocate for leaving the deer, or other animals, alone, based on a foundational error in the question? (and focusing on human overpopulation and destructive human practices that create these conflicts in the first place (one of which for deer is the hunting/extermination of their natural predators, not to mention shopping malls, urban sprawl, and land to exploit animals for food))? and if so, what was the response? thanks

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Yes, I don't stand up and say let's contracept the deer, there are not really too many, they can control their own populations, the notion of carrying capacity is flawed. I say all of these things and it goes over like a lead balloon. Then I suggest contraception and sometimes offer to fund it.

 

Mark Jordan:

Thank you for fielding the question.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

You're very welcome.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Ward Chanley - Ward....

 

Ward Chanley:

Thanks... Professor, a persistent claim to justify sport hunting centers around the carrying capacity of a given ecosystem - leaving aside the question of the truthfulness of this claim in general, if we assume the premise for a second in at least some specific cases, and in light of your prior comments about PZP as a preferred contraceptive, how do we best address the claim that contraception may be okay in theory, but doesn't address claims that existing deer (or other "game" animal populations) will starve to death, so hunters are ultimately doing a service to kill them? (I'm aware that I'm rigging the question a bit, but I tend to think sport hunters are rigging the question themselves, using  carrying capacity as a justification. I take it from your 'lead balloon' reply to Mark Jordan that you may agree that carrying capacity is a flawed premise, but we still have to address it in the real world.)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

There are no deers starving in the area where I live and they still want to hunt them. I should say also that hunters chasing deers will cause the other deers to run, and in so doing will use up their fat supply as they run.

 

Ward Chanley:

So it's best to simply reject the premise? I have a hard time seeing how that won't simply go over like another lead balloon.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

As they use up their fat supply, they may subsequently starve, and therefore the hunters would be causing the starvation.

 

Ward Chanley:

Thank you :-)

 

Priscilla Cohn:

None of these facts have so far prevented wholesale hunting in PA. School children are given a day off for the start of hunting season! Hunting is decreasing in PA.

 

Ward Chanley:

I'm not arguing that carrying capacity is based in any sense in fact, if that matters.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Good! :-)

 

Roger Yates:

Here's the final question for this "chat"... Last but not least, Lynne Yates. Lynne

 

Lynne Yates:

I am presently struggling with a a question of deer culls in the UK . The deer have no natural predators as these (bears and wolves) were killed off in centuries past. There is a drive to reintroduction of wolves to allow the balance of nature to be re-established, What are your views on reintroductions? Thanks

 

Priscilla Cohn:

It is difficult to see how the public will favor the re-introduction of wolves. Furthermore, predators will not keep the numbers as low as humans would like. Predators only, at most, keep the numbers below a maximum, but they don't keep the numbers very low, because that would be suicide for themselves. The number of prey animals control the number of predators. Prey animals are the food supply, if you limit the food supply, the predators will starve.

 

Lynne Yates:

A follow-up please?

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Sure, go ahead

 

Lynne Yates:

I would be interested in your views on the ethics of reintroductions? thanks

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I'm in favor of re-establishing the natural order, if that's what you mean, by re-introduction.

But it can't be in suburbia. The re-introduction in Yellowstone National Park has been a huge success. Despite the fact that everybody still wants to kill them.

 

Lynne Yates:

Thank you for that

 

Priscilla Cohn:

You're very welcome

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'd like to sincerely thank you, Priscilla for giving us your time today. Your insight is very valuable, and we appreciate it very much!

 

Ward Chanley:

Thank you very much, Professor J

 

Roger Yates:

Thank you professor.

 

Priscilla Cohn:

I've enjoyed it very much and I must thank all of you!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks very much

 

Sky:

Thanks, Prof. Priscilla!! :-)

 

Will:

thanx

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Prof. Cohn, this has been interesting and informative!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Yes, thank you very much!

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you, Professor Cohn. This was highly informative.  Best wishes in your work.

 

Roger Yates:

:-D

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you!

 

Lynne Yates:

Thank you I love your pragmatic approach to problems!

 

Mangus O’Shales:

thanks!

 

Peri:

Informative , thank you.

 

Tara:

Thank you, very interesting.

 

Alicia Sangineti:

:-D

 

Priscilla Cohn:

Thank you all, bye for now! :-)

 

Kate:

Thank you, goodbye.  :-)

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.



 

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Tags: Andrew-Linzey, Catalonia, Ferrater-Mora-Oxford-Centre-for-Animal-Ethics, PZP, Penn-State, Professor-Priscilla-Cohn, Spain, animal, bullfighting, contraception, More…deer, ethics, hunting, language, philosophy, rights, welfare, wildlife

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Comment by Katarzyna Biernacka on February 7, 2012 at 5:58

It seems impossible to me to disconnect the practice of contraception for free-living animals and the belief that humans' control over other animals should be taken for granted. I understand that the contraception is meant here to save lives of those who would otherwise be killed (or their children who would otherwise be killed) but shouldn't we take a more balanced look at the way we live on the planet with its shrinking space and resources and admit that if it becomes necessary to give contraceptives to free-living non-humans (and we may discuss how necessary is "necessary") then all the more humans should take responsibility for the way they live and the space they take.

Comment by Lynne Yates on December 21, 2011 at 8:38

I liked thischat. It was blast of fresh air. Priscilla is living in the real world.  Of course some of what she advocated would not be ideal in a truly vegan world but there is a long way to go before that becomes a reality and animals are dying today!  Sometimes you have to be practical and deal with the situations as they exist now.

Comment by red dog on December 19, 2011 at 10:36

I have to agree with Brandon's point above ... plus where does Prof. Cohn's terminology leave animals who are wild by nature but living in captivity? I see wildness as a positive characteristic, and I think so do the majority.

 

Anyway, it was a good chat that covered a lot of ground ... hard to know where to start picking it apart.

Comment by Brandon Becker on December 19, 2011 at 9:12

I disagree with Priscilla Cohn's idea that "wild animal" is (or should be) a pejorative term. It's only when one accepts the idea that domestication is right or good that "wild" is then deemed as wrong or bad. In addition, it doesn't make sense to use "free-living" as a synonym for "wild" unless you are going to refer to domesticated animals as "captive-living" rather than "domesticated." I used to use these alternatives but because I hate domestication and love wildness and want to make this point crystal clear in my discussions of animal ethics, I've gone back to using "domesticated"/"wild."

Comment by Tim Gier on December 19, 2011 at 8:04

This was a great chat. I know that many people will probably differ with some of Prof. Cohn's views (especially perhaps about contraception for deer) but I thought she presented her views very clearly and in easy to understand language. I learned a lot in through this exchange, and that's always a good thing!!

Comment by Carolyn Bailey on December 19, 2011 at 7:41

I agree with you, Sky! 

I enjoyed this chat a lot as well. I found Priscilla to be a wonderful person and a great educator. I disagreed with her on a few topics, but I think it's really important to be able to disagree on things in a respectful and civil way, which creates an environment to learn from each other. 

I don't really have "favourite" chats, but if I did, this one would be right up there! 

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