Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Learn about the true meaning of animal rights, including what is and is not rights advocacy and examples of rights advocacy compared to other advocacy: http://www.rpaforall.org/rights.html
From the introduction:
"Animal rights" is almost always used incorrectly by the news industry and most animal organizations and advocates. This hampers animal-rights advocacy by creating confusion about its goal, divergence from rights-promoting strategies, and delusion about what constitutes progress toward animal rights. People have helped animals in countless ways for thousands of years without promoting rights for them. Promoting rights means describing the rights other animals need to lead fulfilling lives, why meaningful protection is impossible without rights, and why human beings as well as other animals will benefit when all have the rights they need.
Another straw man - I'm not making it an either/or option either (though all civilizations in the past have inevitably collapsed!). And if you look at the evidence, gatherer-hunters were far less likely to starve than agriculturalists and pastoralists since they kept their numbers in check, didn't degrade the landbase, and were nomadic. Wild foraging was much more reliable than growing food and enslaving animals. The evidence is the evidence, no "romanticizing" needed!
Your pill idea is fantasy, divorced completely from reality. The reference to genocide was referring to Pearce's plan to exterminate carnivores and other non-herbivorous animals through forcible sterilization.
How can you know what's fantasy 100 million years from now? Regardless, the claim that it is fantasy would have no baring the relevance to the *moral* issue at hand, only to the feasibility of the *technical* implementation of the method. (Again, see Horta's distinction.) In fact, fantasy may be a helpful way of separating the two.
Brandon, we may disagree over the issue of consent, whether explicit or implicit. But advocates of global veganism and compassionate intervention in the living world are not ecologically illiterate. Phasing out predation could be done only in the context of cross-species fertility regulation on pain of ecological collapse. This is not science fiction. See for example:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immunocontraception
This has been a very interesting discussion and I'm sorry to say I've been following it on and off--I may have missed a few posts, and I know I have to do a lot of background reading (Horta's essay, Brandon's link) before I can form a definite opinion.
I'm not sure I fully understand David Pearce's ideas, but I remember the podcast in which Tim Gier referred to those ideas as "science fiction." If the goal is to stop all predation in nature--in the oceans, in remote ecosystems that haven't been touched by humans in any way--then I have to agree with Tim. It's hard to imagine how such a thing could EVER be accomplished. (How could you stop all spiders from eating insects without using massive amounts of fuel to travel to their homes, crushing many insects in the process?)
When it comes to specific instances where intervention in the lives of wild animals could possibly reduce suffering, I'd have to decide on a case-by-case basis. It would be very uncompassionate to walk by and leave an injured animal (such as a squirrel or bird, who could recover with the assistance of a vet) to die in pain or get eaten by a predator. If I had any way of taking that animal to a vet or rehabilitator, I would. But if the animal is a worm or an insect, as far as I know there's not much a passer-by can do. I can move a dying worm out of the hot sun, but if the weather is warming up the worm will probably die anyway.
When deciding whether to support a wild animal contraception program I'd have to ask who was making the decisions, whether the animals' interests were really the decision-makers' foremost concern or if the real goal was to protect human profits ... and I'd have to be convinced the decision-makers were genuinely qualified to foresee all the possible unintended consequences. I don't have that kind of faith in decision-makers generally, but anything is possible 100 or 200 years from now. In general, though, cases where intervention causes more good than harm seem exceptional. In the vast majority of cases, human intervention in wild ecosystems is bad news for nonhumans. As Joan Dunayer states in Speciesism, we should be thinking of ways to limit the effects of our activities on other animals. If it's necessary to build an apartment building, we should look for ways to minimize the harm we cause--possibly by relocating the displaced animals.
While these are all very interesting questions, I would hate to see them become the focus of the animal rights movement or to see them take attention away from the very direct, avoidable violence we inflict on other animals every day. The question of why it's right to save a human stranger from a lion but not an nonhuman stranger who lives in a forest I've never seen may be an interesting thought exercise on ARZone, but on other message boards it's more likely to become an opportunity to bully the person who is advocating less violence and minimal intervention in situations we can control. There has to be a way to say "some questions are difficult to answer" without conceding that "all morality is arbitrary and killing your next door neighbour is no more violent than picking a carrot." (An example of the kind of "discussion" I've been sucked into on other message boards.)
Some interesting conundrums posed here. My view is that animal rights have been extinguished and cruelty to animals deliberately supported by governments and business because it is a central requirement of our economic and social systems. Humans have overpopulated and built unsustainable population densities that to survive require factory farms to support, and so has evolved the domination of monopolistic industries into the equation. For people to actually be able to consume animal products in turn requires that animals be objectified in the way that the Nazis for example objectified the Jews and people with disabilities. As an example, in Australia the kangaroo meat industry is large enough to find support by governments who are obsessed with the economic and employment records to keep them in power. There isn't in reality much difference between right and left here, you would find it difficult to squeeze a cigarette paper between their policies. But what do governments do? They keep going with the mantra that kangaroos are in 'plague proportions' and the use of derisory adjectives gives people the notion that they are only slightly higher on the pecking order than the common rat, and consequently need to be killed in large numbers. This supports the government's incompetence in managing the environment so it is a win-win situation between government and industry. There is evidence of horrendous cruelty towards kangaroos by shooters, and I won't go into the terrible things that do happen. But these are effectively condoned by government regulation that for example allows for an in-pouch joey to be killed by decapitation or having it's head bashed in by an iron bar. This is the utilitarian approach and until we change our economic and political systems we will be forever having these discussions.
On the issue of medical progress I think there are huge question marks over what in reality we have managed to do. Yes if I suffered a broken leg I would get to the hospital. But here we have the pharmaceutical companies in the picture, who have absolutely no financial interest in finding cures for anything. I personally choose herbal and homeopathic medicine as a first choice and have my pets treated with alternative medicines as well. They have been extremely responsive to homeopathy, in a couple of instances being cured of conditions that conventional treatment would have had them on medicines for the rest of their lives. If you wish to see how effective herbal and homeopathic treatments are you only need to see how the big pharmaceutical companies are trying to destroy alternative medicines globally which would not be the case unless alternative medicine worked. So I think that the notion of a return to more 'natural' way of life is not such a bad idea. On the issue of the Inuit, I would not suggest they ought to go vegan necessarily, but with the destruction of the oceans they may well find themselves not being able to continue traditional lifestyle.
The human race is I think in a very dangerous predicament due to the misuse of pharmaceuticals. had we put money into finding cures rather than sustaining a poor lifestyle, things may have been different. Organ transplants for example may have been avoidable had we looked at the reasons why people were/are deteriorating. Today 80% of antibiotics used globally are used in factory farms to try to stop the spread of disease caused by forcing animals and birds into unnatural environments. hence the rise of superbugs. We may in fact have been the architects of our own demise, and personally I think perhaps that isn't such a bad thing.
The animal rights movement is necessary, but the fight is with the economic system that requires cruelty to animals as an intrinsic element of its own survival. In a way we see this through the maintenance of poverty in 3rd world countries by 1st world countries the the wealthy ruling class of the 3rd world. For once you start to consider the objectification of people on the basis of colour and caste, in my view it is a logical connection then to other animal species.
I see no harm in helping animals or people in danger where we may be on the spot. But manipulating genetic and dietary structures I am not so sure about. I think once we start messing with these we damage the ecosystem. Even managing overpopulations of for example cats may backfire, as there is an argument that by mass sterilisation we are only making the feral and aggressive animals stronger by breeding out the more friendly and more easily managed domestic pets. Everything has a consequence, and it is our shortsightedness that has us asking these questions today.
Brandon, the general claim that humans can consent while other animals can't is absurd. There are many humans that have lower cognitive capacities than a lion or a gazelle. But if an animal can't talk we can still determine whether it would consent or not simply by finding out what its basic needs are, which are quite evident (unless, of course, you're talking to meat-eaters, who also often claim that "we don't know" what would be best for the animals, which is a ridiculous notion - of course we know, there's no question that intense suffering is a horrible thing).
If sentient animals have a right to bodily integrity, then we have an obligation to protect that right against attackers of any sort, even if they don't know what they are doing and cannot consent, i.e. even if the attacker is a child, a mentally handicapped person or a non-human animals. You're continuing to evade this basic point (which, again, follows from a rights-based approach, so even if your utterly misplaced defamation of utilitarianism were right, there would still be a duty to try to compassionately intervene in nature in order to protect these animals's rights to bodily integrity).
Yes, but why is it bad news? Because we are speciesists and currently don't care about (wild) animals and their environments. But it would be good news, if we - as non-speciesists - decided to really try to alleviate the suffering of wild animals and do it carefully. And that's what we're advocating. Furthermore, whoever emphasizes the risks of such a project should not forget the risks (or rather the certain catastrophes!) of doing nothing: There are many more wild animals than humans and domesticated animals combined and a majority of them die gruesome deaths as children (due to starvation, disease, injury or predation).
I agree that these questions should not be the current focus of the animal rights and vegan movement. It's counterproductive to bring up the possible veganization of nature when people don't even realize yet that they should veganize themselves and our culture. But still: We should discuss these questions within the movement. It would be tragic if our movement grew large while sticking to the belief that we ought to "leave them alone in nature". This belief, to my mind, is environmentalist-speciesist and ultimately incompatible with a consistent notion of animal rights.
"It's counterproductive to bring up the possible veganization of nature when people don't even realize yet that they should veganize themselves and our culture."
That's a good point. I'm probably going to get the chance to teach an undergrad course this summer on environmental and animal protectionism, and I've been trying to decide whether to include discussions of intervening in nature. On the one hand, I think a thorough introduction to the topic, should include at least some time devoted to all major perspectives in the field. On the other, they probably at no point in the semester will reach a point where they're ready to contemplate the reasoning behind intervention.
Here's a damn lecture by Steven Pinker that you should watch:
It deals with your cherished myth of the "noble savage". Striking fact: Chances that a man will die at the hands of another man range from 15 to 60% in foraging societies. Compare this to the less than 1% chance in the US and European society during the 20th century - and this includes all the victims of the World Wars! If the death rate in tribal warfare had prevailed during the 20th century, there would have been two billion deaths rather than 100 million. But life was obviously much better back then, wasn't it, Brandon. With all the violence and with astronomically high infant mortality rates leading to a life expectancy of 30 at best. So natural, so wild. Aaah. And now all that we're left with is fascism.
In an important sense I agree with you. So long as humans are systematically exploiting, abusing and killing billions of nonhuman animals in factory farms, the issue of free-living animal suffering is a side-issue. But the decisions we take this century are going to shape the future of life on Earth over millions of years to come. Should animal advocates support the ideology and practice of "conservation biology" ?
Or an ethic of compassionate biology? In practice, both conservation biology and compassionate biology are interventionist. Both entail intensive human stewardship of "wildlife reserves" (etc). The difference is that conservation biology entails the promotion of cruelties we would find ahorrent if practised by humans on nonhumans - and abandoning billions of sentient beings to starvation, disease, parasites and the horrors of a "food chain".
OK, but if the course is on animal and environmental protection, it will be extremely hard to avoid the question. What is more, intelligent students will probably raise it anyway. And once someone really understands where the arguments are leading us, it's better to bite the bullet (and explain why there really is none that should be difficult to bite, ethically speaking) rather than beating about the bush and fogging the contradiction. The important thing is to find a way to present the issue that doesn't discourage people who think like Brandon from going vegan. I guess that should be possible in an academic setting.