The Evolution of Animal Welfare

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For centuries, religion played no small part in the needless suffering of animals. In the work of religious scholars and philosophers – most memorably, that of Descartes – human kind was taught to believe that animals were nothing more than soulless automaton; renewable resources with which we can do what we wish. Indeed we refer to this kind of opinion today as ‘Cartesian’, and thus we embed it with an air of intellectual vigour which science tells us it does not deserve. In truth the view is nothing more than religious nonsense which, like the creation story, science has now disproved. It was simply Descartes who was best known for arguing it, hence ‘Cartesian’.


This suffering which was subsequently caused to animals for many centuries falls under the umbrella term of ‘speciesism’: a concept invented by the British psychologist Richard Ryder, in order to identify prejudice which references the physical or mental attributes of other species when it is arbitrary to do so. In their defence, the theologians and philosophers who believed animals to be soulless machines did not believe themselves to be acting out of prejudice. Instead they believed forces had placed animals into the relevant attribute of being ‘unfeeling’, and thus non-sentient, so they believed it to be fair to attribute no interests to animals. But they were still arbitrarily ignoring evidence in favour of continuing with belief, which is the definition of prejudice.

 

Historically speaking, even the more rationally fond of philosophers, namely Immanuel Kant, have found ways to try and alleviate what we would now claim to be speciesism. He believed animals to be unable participants in morality due to their lacking rationality. He argued that we should treat animals well only because of the consequences for how we treat other humans. Such a view can implicitly accept the modern scientific consensus that animals suffer, and show signs of suffering, yet posit these facts as being useful only as a tool toward helping other members of our own species. Again, modern reasoning allows us to see the hole in his reasoning caused by arbitrary/evolutionarily learned boundary drawing around those that are similar to us.

 

The opposition to Kant at this time (the 18th Century) seemed to lack real rational integrity. Witty philosophers like Voltaire certainly had something to say on behalf of animals, but it wasn’t backed up by academic substance. Modern day thinkers have since plugged this gap. The likes of Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Gary Francione have not only popularised the term speciesism since the 1970’s (in Singer and Regan’s case), but also provided and spread a great deal of the foundational reasoning which the likes of Voltaire seemed unable or unwilling to do. Each champions this concept of ‘speciesism’ despite coming from very different philosophical backgrounds (Singer is a rationalist and utilitarian, Regan a Kantian rights-theorist and Francione a legal scholar).

 

Individually, these modern day ‘anti-speciesist’ philosophers each hold a theory with rational holes; for the purposes of this article it is enough to note these holes as being related to utilitarian dogma as far as Singer is concerned and unfounded philosophical ‘assuming’ as far as Regan and Francione are concerned (I wrote a slightly more elongated description of this here). But each has provided further theory to support the idea of speciesism being a valid concept, in doing so defeating the three main opposition theories: Kantian, Cartesian or otherwise religious.

 

Out with the philosophical battle taking place in various ivory towers, the concept of speciesism has begun to trickle down into public consciousness over the last 100 years or so. We have gradually freed ourselves from a strictly Cartesian or religious view of animals, in which we feel almost obliged to use other animals solely as renewable resources, and migrated to a more progressive version of Kantian philosophy. We now do attach some significance to animal interests; we believe they are primarily still our property to use, but we believe it reflects badly on us to mindlessly damage this moving-and-breathing-property, and thus we act accordingly with this belief by providing them a little legal and social protection in their role as our items of property.

 

Just as our social migration from a Cartesian view of animals to a Kantian one happened sometime after the academic migration had taken place, we are now also beginning to see the transition from Kantian to anti-speciesist – long since the likes of Singer and co. had backed the move with logic. Producers of animal products no longer necessarily focus marketing on taste, but now add in the caveat of welfare standards in order to appease concerned consumers, whilst animal charities like the RSPCA and the Humane Society have stepped right into the mainstream alongside human focused charities like Oxfam or Cancer Research. Perhaps even more relevantly for this site, academics in the limelight such as Richard Dawkins often write about the problems with ‘discontinuous’ views such as speciesism; it can be seen from Dawkins as early as in the introduction to the Selfish Gene. We are still very much in the twilight of this era and animal interests remain lip service rather than animal focused, but changes in opinion are afoot and the academic community is leading that charge for reason.

 

For those of us interested in where things will go next, the focus should be back on those ivory towers: the interesting academic debate on animal ethics rarely now seems to focus on ‘are animals unfeeling or entirely unimportant?’ and instead has begun planning the next logical migration prior to our completing the current one. Peter Singer seems to back that which we should believe to be the coming status quo; namely, that we can potentially farm animals humanely on some level. Francione disagrees on both economic and legal grounds, providing rationale and evidence to back the case against Singer’s seemingly ‘common sense’ position.

 

The debate will continue and intensify in order to plot our next move as a society, but the observant among you will note that speciesism is already a serious and cemented term in secular ethics. Currently anti-speciesist concern has been limited to just that, as companies create clever marketing in order to provide the façade of care for nothing more than cheap industrial changes; one could easily mistake the relatively small number of ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ farms with the factories they were meant to improve upon. At least we could if we were to compare them on a scale of genuine animal suffering, rather than how much cleaner or better lit they look to our human eyes. On the other hand, rather unfortunately, those who abstain from buying animal products altogether are marketed as over sensitive freaks and non-rationally capable. The fate of anti-speciesism lies in the hands of its natural allies: those of us who promote reason. It may not be an easy task, but we are intellectual ancestors of Darwin. Anti-speciesism is our evolution.

 

Robert Johnson is a practical ethicist and philosopher of science. He specialises in the intersection of rationality and ethics, and is the author of 'Rational Morality: A Science of Right and Wrong'. http://www.robertjohnson.org.uk/

Written By: Robert Johnson
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38 COMMENTS

  1. I think a good thought experiment is to imagine whether our reactions would be any different if the brain of an animal we exploit were in the body of a human being. If one’s philosophy is consistent, then it shouldn’t matter whether the brain is human or non-human; if you’d be happy to kill and eat it in one scenario, you should have no ethical compunction against doing the same in the other. Yet, my own suspicion is that people would exercise a double standard, recoiling from harming the human but being completely OK with exploiting the non-human. If anything, they’d probably go to the other extreme and take extra care of the human, who would appear to be an extremely out-of-it mental patient needing someone to look after them.

    It’s comparisons like this, as well as a bit of knowledge in neuroscience and evolutionary relationships, that lead me to conceive of animal minds as – for practical purposes – being human ones with mental handicaps, especially when you consider that human brains differ from non-human ones largely by degree rather than kind. For instance, mammals all have the same basic neuroanatomical structures, but human olfactory bulbs are much smaller than that of other mammals. It’s for this reason that moralistic uses of the word “human” strike me as unhelpful, even ethically parochial, and I identify as a secular personist rather than as a secular humanist, since “person” can at least be neutral when it comes to species distinctions.

  2. Without being willing to kill animals for food and clothing, it seems highly unlikely that we would even be here to have this discussion. There’s no reason to be needlessly cruel to animals but I am not ashamed to put the welfare of a child above that of a pig. Nor is there anything about speciesism that is in conflict with evolution. In fact, it makes good sense as an evolutionary strategy to use another species to the benefit of one’s own. Tying speciesism and evolution together is a metaphorical “hijacking” of science and gives others who would discount science yet another reason to do so.

  3. Great article. Glad to see animal rights is starting to be talked about in these sort of discussion boards. David Graf, no one is asking any of us to save a drowning dog before saving a drowning child. I can guarantee you, you will probably never be put in that situation. And if you are, save the child, please. Helping people and helping animals are never mutually exclusive. In fact, true consistency in one’s values and character would dictate that one must help both as much as possible. And animal ethics has everything to do with science. The two are inseparable. Here are two examples. New anthropological evidence suggests our oldest evolutionary ancestors predominately ate plant material (including fruit, leaves, bark, and grains) and insects, sometimes scavenging dead/dying animals. Animal eating came along later in our evolution, when we invented tools to hunt. This sort of evidence confirms the notion that a plant-based diet (backed by decades of research going back to the early 1900s) is best for humans. If our bodies were designed to eat meat, we wouldn’t get clogged arteries from it. True carnivores never have clogged arteries. Feed a rabbit meat everyday, and the rabbit (an herbivore), will get atherosclerosis. True carnivores have sharp teeth and claws to catch prey; human primates do not. True carnivores have short digestive tracts to get putrefying flesh out of their guts as soon as possible; human guts are much longer to digest plant foods. Second example: Science tells us that animals are sentient; they feel pain and other emotions and form complex social relationships. They should not be used for vivisection. It is immoral. It is also junk science and often leads to bad outcomes. There are much more reliable forms of non-animal experimentation.

    • In reply to #3 by Laur5000:

      If our bodies were designed to eat meat, we wouldn’t get clogged arteries from it.

      Some of us, probably most of us, eat far more meat than our hunter gatherer ancestors ever could. And we spend a lot more time sitting on our butts than our anccestors did and we live a lot longer. Those are the reasons we get clogged arteries, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should never eat meat.

      You could make the same invalid argument about lots of things. “If sugar was good for us people wouldn’t get diabetes” Which is obviously false, people need some sugar in their diet, it’s the over consumption of sugar that causes problems.

      True carnivores never have clogged arteries. Feed a rabbit meat everyday, and the rabbit (an herbivore), will get atherosclerosis. True carnivores have sharp teeth and claws to catch prey; human primates do not.

      Which is all irrelevant to humans because we aren’t carnivores we are omnivores.

      I used to be a vegetarian but I realized I wasn’t getting enough protein. I’m still mostly a vegetarian, I never eat beef or pork and seldom eat Chicken (both because of the abysmal ways those animals are treated in factory farms and for health reasons — most of the meat in the US is loaded with antibiotics and other chemicals). But I eat fish several days a week and — although I realize self reporting and anecdotal evidence are not very reliable — I definitely think there is a difference in my overall health now that I get more protein.

      • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #3 by Laur5000:

        I used to be a vegetarian but I realized I wasn’t getting enough protein. I’m still mostly a vegetarian, I never eat beef or pork and seldom eat Chicken (both because of the abysmal ways those animals are treated in factory farms and for health reasons — most of the meat in the US is loaded with antibiotics and other chemicals). But I eat fish several days a week and — although I realize self reporting and anecdotal evidence are not very reliable — I definitely think there is a difference in my overall health now that I get more protein.

        It’s my understanding that most cooking vegans get enough protein in their diets. For lazy people like me though, I can definitely see myself missing out on enough protein. However this in no way justifies turning to animal products for said protein. Buy some Clif Builder Bars on Amazon, or some animal-free protein drinks to supplement. (I’d also recommend Ovega 3, Deva Glucosamine, and a B12 supplement. But anyway…)

        My point is that just because you can use animal products to improve your health via a certain nutritional deficiency, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when there are animal-free alternatives. Virtually all factory farm/mass produced animal product has a negative impact on the world, and is immoral. Fish production and fishing itself is no exception, especially considering the amount of overfishing currently going on around the world. Not to mention the suffering inccured by these practices…

    • In reply to #2 by david.graf.589:

      Without being willing to kill animals for food and clothing, it seems highly unlikely that we would even be here to have this discussion.

      This isn’t morally relevant. Our ancestors might have done some outrageously immoral things, which led to our being born today, but this does not change the fact that they are immoral things. To think this is to engage in a naturalistic fallacy.

      There’s no reason to be needlessly cruel to animals but I am not ashamed to put the welfare of a child above that of a pig.

      Depends on the child in question (and pig, of course). If the child were a psychopath who made everyone’s lives a misery, I’d probably go for the pig.

      Nor is there anything about speciesism that is in conflict with evolution.

      Evolution is an observed biological fact. Speciesism is a prejudicial attitude towards other species. Mingling scientific observation with ethical issues is not a productive method for resolving either.

      In fact, it makes good sense as an evolutionary strategy to use another species to the benefit of one’s own.

      As with my reply to the first sentence from your post, this is morally irrelevant and a case of the naturalistic fallacy. In any case, it doesn’t make sense because organisms don’t act for the benefit of their species. They act mostly for their own individual benefit, and occasionally for the benefit of others, which itself comes from the fact that organisms are grown to act in the “interests” of their genes. In fact, it doesn’t even mean they act for their own benefit all of the time, since genes have differing priorities and can indirectly manipulate their vehicles to serve those priorities, most obviously reproduction.

      Tying speciesism and evolution together is a metaphorical “hijacking” of science and gives others who would discount science yet another reason to do so.

      I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying here, given that you yourself have tied speciesism and evolution together in your own post, yet seem to denigrate such an action.

      In reply to #3 by Laur5000:

      David Graf, no one is asking any of us to save a drowning dog before saving a drowning child. I can guarantee you, you will probably never be put in that situation. And if you are, save the child, please. Helping people and helping animals are never mutually exclusive. In fact, true consistency in one’s values and character would dictate that one must help both as much as possible.

      While I agree that it would be preferable to help both parties out, I don’t agree with the statement that humans and other animals are never in conflict. They conflict with each other several times, especially since non-human animals cannot be dissuaded from misbehaving by laws and moral discussions. Most obviously, pests and predators cannot reconcile with their hosts and victims because they eat and kill them, with no way to appreciate any immorality in their behaviour. Also, it is a pressing question how to trade off non-human welfare with human welfare, which is rooted in the much larger question of what makes or doesn’t make something qualify for moral status and moral priority. To take an extremely unlikely but clearly-illustrating-my-point example, if earthworms are deemed to have a moral status on par with humans, activities that were previously innocuous – such as digging up the garden and fishing with live bait – would become fraught with serious moral repercussions.

      And animal ethics has everything to do with science. The two are inseparable. Here are two examples. New anthropological evidence suggests our oldest evolutionary ancestors predominately ate plant material (including fruit, leaves, bark, and grains) and insects, sometimes scavenging dead/dying animals. Animal eating came along later in our evolution, when we invented tools to hunt. This sort of evidence confirms the notion that a plant-based diet (backed by decades of research going back to the early 1900s) is best for humans.

      Sadly, this falls into the same trap that the “humans are omnivores” argument does, which is the naturalistic fallacy: that just because something comes naturally, it therefore makes it morally right. Even if humans were constituted so that they couldn’t eat animals, and became ill if they tried, that doesn’t by itself justify treating animals morally because the fact is irrelevant to the question being asked about animal welfare. Humans cannot digest raw dirt and would be unhealthy if they tried, but this doesn’t prove that dirt has moral status because there’s no link between health and morality. It also forces you to admit, as a corollary, that if humans could eat and digest meat (as they can, though not perfectly), then killing and eating animals is OK.

      On the flip-side, rejecting the naturalistic fallacy also means that being a meat-eater doesn’t give us an excuse to ignore animal welfare. While it’s true that science will illuminate how animals experience their world, and therefore highlight things about their lives that inform our ethics, this is not the same as science being ethics, and pointing at anything that naturally occurs to humans or animals and saying that it’s good won’t pass muster.

      Second example: Science tells us that animals are sentient; they feel pain and other emotions and form complex social
      relationships. They should not be used for vivisection. It is immoral.

      This is a better example of using science to illuminate ethics, because it points to factors that are directly relevant to the question of ethical treatment: for instance, if there is a welfare to take into account, and potential (as much as I dislike the word) “humanity”, or rather personhood. It also goes some way to getting at the heart of what it means for an action to be moral or immoral. So long as you don’t confuse scientific observation with ethical principle, this kind of evidence is fine, though it also crosses over a bit into the philosophy of the mind.

  4. I suppose there are two ways to determine the extent of sentient experience in the brain; the top-down approach, and the bottom-up approach. The top-down approach is to take what we reasonably think of as the bases of human experience – say, the amygdala that is responsible for emotions (please note: I’m simplifying a bit here, but bear with me) – and look for corresponding structures in other animal brains. By this approach, mammals all share highly developed amygdalas, but vertebrates as a whole have several shared features, such as basal ganglia:

    The basal ganglia are a group of interconnected structures in the forebrain. The primary function of the basal ganglia appears to be action selection: they send inhibitory signals to all parts of the brain that can generate motor behaviors, and in the right circumstances can release the inhibition, so that the action-generating systems are able to execute their actions. Reward and punishment exert their most important neural effects by altering connections within the basal ganglia.[42]

    This basically involves trying to estimate, based on what we know about gross anatomy, what is likely to be going on in another animal’s mind. It’s very inexact and can’t pick out specific substructures below a certain size, but on the other hand, it’s a relatively quick and easy way to gauge the range of experience likely to be present.

    The alternative, bottom-up approach would determine what structures would be needed, as you progress from neurons up, to make the experiences beyond “mere” cause-and-effect mechanics. It would look for emergent properties at different levels in the neural hierarchy from neuron to brain; for instance, at what level mechanical cause and effect give rise to computation, and from there which level produces simulations of the world outside and affective states. This would be more accurate and comprehensive, but it would take longer, and is handicapped by the limitations in technology and appropriate analytical methods. At present, it’s probably not going to be possible for several decades at least.

    You can also get proxy evidence by observing behaviour, most obviously in the field of animal pain, which surprisingly suggests that even decapod crustaceans like lobsters feel pain based on how they react to given stimuli, though this is necessarily indirect evidence without studying the brain itself in detail.

    A big issue, though, is how to prioritize certain experiences ethically, such that one can resolve moral dilemmas involving both non-humans and humans whenever their interests are incompatible. I can’t say this has been resolved at all, though myself, I’d probably err on the side of caution and loss aversion, and prioritize human welfare only to the degree that it’s a question of non-human suffering versus human suffering. But then, I’d also argue that some humans would take priority over others in such a scenario, depending on their sentient faculties and on their impact on other people’s welfare.

    • In reply to #4 by Zeuglodon:

      I suppose there are two ways to determine the extent of sentient experience in the brain; the top-down approach, and the bottom-up approach. The top-down approach is to take what we reasonably think of as the bases of human experience – say, the amygdala that is responsible for emotions (please note…

      I may just be misunderstanding you but I don’t think I agree about the two different approaches. The way I see it two different approaches are a functional approach and a physiological approach. In a physiological approach we study things like neurons, we do CAT scans, we see which brain centers light up when the organism does various tasks etc.

      In the functional approach we consider cognition as a system and we abstract away from even caring about the neurons. Note, it’s not that we say neurons are irrelevant in the functional approach, ultimately we have to map the functions onto neurons and other physical parts of the organism but I think it’s legitimate to just say that this mapping is a separate question we don’t have to address. It’s analogous to the study of chemistry and physics. A model of chemistry that was totally inconsistent with physics is obviously flawed. But at the same time chemists often didn’t even worry about the reconciliation of the two until they had worked out an awful lot of chemistry and at times trying to reconcile the two got in the way.

      As an example of what I mean I won’t even talk about human cognition per se but the visual system. There is a principle called the Rigidity Principle that explains a lot of optical illusions. The basic idea is that there are multiple ways to interpret two dimensional sense data that represent a three dimensional world. Our visual system has certain preconceptions hard wired into it based on the kinds of experience our hunter gatherer ancestors were most likely to experience.

      Now another question is “where in physiological terms is the rigidity principle?” Is it part of the visual cortex, are there special neurons that just make up a rigidity principle sub system. Or and this is probably the answer, is it an emergent property of the entire system? For example, parts of visual processing don’t even happen in the brain, there are edge detectors that process information before it even gets to the brain.

      I’m sort of rambling here, my point is that there can be a lot we can study about cognition in humans and even other animals without knowing or even caring about neurons.

      • In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

        I may just be misunderstanding you but I don’t think I agree about the two different approaches.

        In hindsight, the misunderstanding is most likely due to my failing to be more specific about what the approaches were meant to do. What I should have said (and I apologise for not making it clearer) is that, given that we can trace sentience to brain structure, and given what we know about human brains, the question is how to determine whether animals have those experiences too. If I might use your scheme for a moment, both of the approaches I described were about physiology, but with a trade-off between accuracy and practicality.

        For instance, the top-down approach basically emphasizes practicality, in that all you need to look for are analogous structures like the cerebral cortex and hippocampus in the brains of other animals and assume that they are broadly the same in internal design. This is something we can do with our current technology, so it’s practical. To put it crudely, the presence of a dopamine or reward system in, say, a shark brain can be taken as a basis for thinking that they experience pleasure too, even though we won’t necessarily have learned how specifically a shark’s dopamine circuitry is wired up.

        By contrast, the bottom-up approach emphasizes accuracy, requiring you to get as much detail about the internal wiring so that you can make specific comparisons between the two systems. To put this one crudely too, it might turn out that shark dopamine systems run on a different network scheme than human ones do, but which is similar to that of a prefrontal cortex, such that the experience reconstructed merely inhibits a shark’s mild pain system rather than provides them with an experience of euphoria. Thus, this approach could force us to reconsider the idea that sharks like things, though since we don’t have the technology to be this detailed, it’s not practical.

        My point assumes, though, that the function of certain regions is already well-known, leaving us only with the task of detailing the minutae of the physiology. Crudely put, approach 1 is the lazy but quick way to do it, and approach 2 is the demanding and slow way to do it.

        Broadly speaking, it assumes we’ve already discovered that Microsoft Word’s macros rely on certain computing principles, and is merely asking how best to reverse engineer the exact code that makes it work; whether to take a macros, chop it up, and get enough chunks to know roughly what you need to make one (and assuming the source code doesn’t matter so long as the end result works the same), or go straight to the source code and try to build it up from scratch.

        That said, I’m no computer wizard or programmer, much less someone qualified for reverse engineering software, so I’m probably talking through my hat here. Hopefully, though, I’ve better conveyed what I meant now.

        I’m sort of rambling here, my point is that there can be a lot we can study about cognition in humans and even other animals without knowing or even caring about neurons.

        No, you’re not rambling. Actually, I like your two approaches better. They at least helped me clarify my own, and I certainly appreciate the point that we can discuss features of the mind in the abstract, especially as it has the advantage of considering broader questions about function and sentience in general.

  5. Dershowitz had an interesting take on all of this:

    ‘he writes that, in order to avoid human beings treating each other the way we treat animals, we have made what he calls the “somewhat arbitrary decision” to single out our own species for different and better treatment. “Does this subject us to the charge of speciesism? Of course it does, and we cannot justify it, except by the fact that in the world in which we live, humans make the rules. That reality imposes on us a special responsibility to be fair and compassionate to those on whom we impose our rules. Hence the argument for animal rights.”‘

    source: wiki

  6. I think many many people are very surprised at how hard it is to actually eat animal free. Please do not jump on me or misunderstand. It is the way to go. It is healthy for both the individual and the planet. There is zero debate from me there.

    However, the sheer number of bug parts that we ingest is staggering. There are tolerances for number of bug parts per volume of foodstuffs. Each vegetable product has a limit. Ketchup and flour are quite “dirty” foods. Put a bit of flour under a dissection microscope and see for yourself.

    I understand that the mission statement of folks who decide to go vegan ia aimed more at health and elimination of suffering of the typical large animals that are mistreated and that suffer. I agree with these folks wholeheartedly, even thought i still do not have the discipline to embrace the lifestyle. i applaud them for doing it and aspire to it myself.

    However, to actually eat “animal free” is exceedingly hard and expensive. So, do not forget the bugs when you are making your vegan claims!!!! Sorry about the formatting of the info, the chart did NOT want to copy and paste….. I did what i could.

    Product — Type of insect contamination — Action Level

    Canned sweet corn — Insect larvae (corn ear worms or corn borers) — 2 or more 3 mm or longer larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments, the aggregate length of insects or insect parts exceeds 12 mm in 24 pounds

    Canned citrus fruit juices — Insects and insect eggs — 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml

    Canned apricots — Insect filth — Average of 2% or more by count has been damaged or infected by insects

    Chocolate and chocolate liquor — Insect filth — Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams (when 6 100 g subsamples are examined)

    Peanut butter — Insect filth — Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams

    Wheat flour — Insect filth — Average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams

    Frozen broccoli — Insects and mites — Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams

    Hops Insects — Average of more than 2,500 aphids per 10 grams

    Ground thyme — Insect filth — Average of 925 or more insect fragments per 10 grams

    Ground nutmeg — Insect filth — Average of 100 or more insect fragments per 10 grams

    Ground cinnamon — Insect filth — Average of 400 or more insect fragments per 50 grams[3]

    • In reply to #11 by crookedshoes:

      I think many many people are very surprised at how hard it is to actually eat animal free. Please do not jump on me or misunderstand. It is the way to go. It is healthy for both the individual and the planet. There is zero debate from me there.

      However, the sheer number of bug parts that we ing…

      I don’t know if you’re being serious, but assuming you are… Scientific studies indicate that invertebre’s do not experience pain, or at least not in the way animals like us do. I agree that we should definitely do our best to avoid undue suffering of bugs/insects, but it seems reasonable to value animal wellbeing over that of bugs that are unfortunate and unintended victims of plant farming.

      I’d add that I find it unlikely that the same sort of numbers are not found in animal products, especially since carcasses are prime attractions for many bugs/insects. I don’t have anything to back that up(And I don’t want to put the time into looking it up, since it seems irrelevent to me as per the previous paragraph), it just seems intuitive.

      Also, some people go Vegan for more than just animal well-being. Large animal farming is a large contributer to greenhouse gas, watertable usage and polution, etc… Which can all be looked at from a standpoint of ethics, because of the impact they’ll have on future sentient beings.

      • I am being serious. If you read my post closely, you’ll see that I take great care to highlight that vegan is, overall, good for the planet. We are in agreement as far as your third paragraph goes. I also do not want to fight with anyone over what is best heath wise for the individual — vegan wins hands down…. And, I am not looking to pick any fight at all. I have no beef (pun intended) with vegans whatsoever.

        I am not calling for the “end of insect suffering”, my post was more geared towards raising the awareness of vegan folks to let them know that there’s a heck of a lot of animals in their animal free diet.

        In reply to #12 by TwilitWave:

        In reply to #11 by crookedshoes:

        I think many many people are very surprised at how hard it is to actually eat animal free. Please do not jump on me or misunderstand. It is the way to go. It is healthy for both the individual and the planet. There is zero debate from me there.

        However, the she…

        • In reply to #18 by crookedshoes:
          >

          I am not calling for the “end of insect suffering”, my post was more geared towards raising the awareness of vegan folks to let them know that there’s a heck of a lot of animals in their animal free diet.

          Many people are very unaware of what goes into food. – A bit like the “traditional ales” where they fished the drowned rats out of the vats!

          • Alan4,
            Some years ago I was picking up a friend who worked at a soda bottling plant in a nearby town. I went in, after hours to wait for him to finish his shift, when I saw a rat in the soda vat. He was nonchalant about it; I was a bit horrified. He said, if you don’t fish them out……they dissolve.

            In reply to #20 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #18 by crookedshoes:

            I am not calling for the “end of insect suffering”, my post was more geared towards raising the awareness of vegan folks to let them know that there’s a heck of a lot of animals in their animal free diet.

            Many people are very unaware of what goes into food. – A bi…

        • In reply to #18 by crookedshoes:

          I am being serious. If you read my post closely, you’ll see that I take great care to highlight that vegan is, overall, good for the planet. We are in agreement as far as your third paragraph goes. I also do not want to fight with anyone over what is best heath wise for the individual — vegan wi…

          Well alrighty then. I definitely appreciate and promote educating people on what’s in their food. But I just don’t think your post has any need to address vegans specifically, I think everyone would prefer less unintentional bugs in their food equally… Fruitarians on the other hand would probably be more alarmed by it.

          • I like the way you think!!! Yes, fruititarians, indeed. I would be glad to broadcast stuff like this to everyone, but, the OP and the direction of the comments on the thread caused me to tailor my comment towards our vegan friends. But, as you have clearly stated, it is useful info for just about everyone.

            In reply to #21 by TwilitWave:

            In reply to #18 by crookedshoes:

            I am being serious. If you read my post closely, you’ll see that I take great care to highlight that vegan is, overall, good for the planet. We are in agreement as far as your third paragraph goes. I also do not want to fight with anyone over what is best heath w…

    • In reply to #11 by crookedshoes:

      I think many many people are very surprised at how hard it is to actually eat animal free. Please do not jump on me or misunderstand. It is the way to go. It is healthy for both the individual and the planet. There is zero debate from me there.

      However, the sheer number of bug parts that we ingest is staggering.

      And apart from all the contaminanants IN the vegetable products, there are all the animals which are exterminated by sprays of guns to protect the crops. Then there is the original wildlife whose habitats were destroyed to create the agricultural land.

      Palm oil in the tropics comes to mind but there are many others. – Wheat belts and soya for example.

      The United Nations Environment Programme has announced that palm oil plantations are now the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. An area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.

      The burning of forests to clear land for palm oil plantations is a major cause of air pollution in Southeast Asia. It releases CO2 into the atmosphere which contributes to global warming. Research shows that 20% of all global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels come from rainforest destruction.

      During the past decade the orangutan population has decreased by approximately 50 percent in the wild. This is primarily due to human activities including rainforest destruction for palm oil plantations. At present, 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been altered or lost. http://www.orangutan.org.au/palm-oil

      ..
      http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/last-of-amazon/

      In the time it takes to read this article, an area of Brazil’s rain forest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed. The market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon, hastening the demise of the forest and thwarting its most committed stewards. In the past three decades, hundreds of people have died in land wars; countless others endure fear and uncertainty, their lives threatened by those who profit from the theft of timber and land.

      In this Wild West frontier of guns, chain saws, and bulldozers, government agents are often corrupt and ineffective—or ill-equipped and outmatched. Now, industrial-scale soybean producers are joining loggers and cattle ranchers in the land grab, speeding up destruction and further fragmenting the great Brazilian wilderness.

      During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down—more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began. The percentage could well be far higher; the figure fails to account for selective logging, which causes significant damage but is less easily observable than clear-cuts.

    • In reply to #11 by crookedshoes:

      Eu acho que muitas e muitas pessoas são muito surpreso com o quão difícil é realmente comer animais livre. Por favor, não saltar sobre mim ou não compreendem. É o caminho a percorrer. É saudável, tanto para o indivíduo e para o planeta. Há um debate de zero de mim lá.

      No entanto, o grande número de…

      I didn´t have any idea of the numbers of animal vestiges on food and I am glad you´ve mentioned it.

  7. We’re omnivorous by nature. We still have canine teeth, which are naturally selected (I am not an evolutionary biologist so if I’ve erred here in this simple interpretation I’m sure someone will correct me).

    Though eating animals does present some troubling ethical concerns it can be quite an endeavor to have optimal nutrition courtesy of a vegan diet. Please note, I did not say it’s impossible, obviously that is not so, just that it’s an endeavor. To give one quick example off the top of my head, humans require essential amino acids that by definition cannot be synthesized by our bodies. Generally the only way to satisfy this outside of eating soy every day (which has its own potential issues) is by protein combining, which sounds easy enough (black beans and rice would fulfill this requirement) and certainly could be if you made the appropriate lifestyle changes, but for many if not most of us this is a commitment that we’re not willing to take on. Then there is also the issue of vegetable protein bio availability. No vegetable proteins (aside from soy) rate higher than the 70%’s on the PDCAAS scale (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score). For someone like me this is a concern purely from a nutritional standpoint. And then there is practicality. I have to imagine that if everyone went vegan tomorrow not only would there be shortages in several major agricultural areas, there would be the opposite issue of overcrowding with food sourced animals. The latest reliable poll that I could find (from 2008) found that 0.5% of Americans identified as vegan. It seems obvious that if the remaining 99.5% gave it a go there would be major logistical issues. I guess my point is I think the emphasis in the short term should be on a more ethical treatment of the animals we (non vegans) consume and will continue to consume. I think we can all agree on that.

    • In reply to #14 by Steven007:

      I guess my point is I think the emphasis in the short term should be on a more ethical treatment of the animals we (non vegans) consume and will continue to consume. I think we can all agree on that.

      One of the problems with this, is that multinational corporations seeking profit, will out-source supplies of animal products globally in the countries with the cheapest prices and the lowest standards.

      In Europe we keep hearing that if we have welfare standards, production will move elsewhere.
      The same argument is trotted out about human working conditions, and anti pollution measures.

    • In reply to #14 by Steven007:

      We’re omnivorous by nature. We still have canine teeth, which are naturally selected (I am not an evolutionary biologist so if I’ve erred here in this simple interpretation I’m sure someone will correct me).

      Though eating animals does present some troubling ethical concerns it can be quite an endea…

      These are the sort of issues projects like Soylent.me are trying to solve.

      I’m a lazy vegan myself, so I supplement with a multivitamin, flaxseed and algae oils, glucosamine+MSM/CMO, and protein bars and drinks which are delicious. When Soylent releases in a few months, I’ll get to be even more lazy… But I digress.

      It bothers me that people focus on human nutrition and convenience on this issue. It’s selfish, and is not a good excuse for our immoral use of animals. But it’s also not that inconvenient, people claim that it is constantly, but I’ve never had a problem. And the only grocery store I really have access to is a Walmart. Most restaurants can make their products without meat/dairy if you ask.

      And yes, if everyone suddenly decided to become vegan on the spot, the economy would crash and there wouldn’t be enough vegan-friendly food to feed the masses. But that’s an impossible expectation at any rate, if we do become a vegan race it’ll be a gradual process, in which supply keeps up with demand until the only supply and demand are vegan in nature. But that’s way, waaay into the future.

      But the rational and ethical minded intellectuals of our time need to lead the charge to accelerate the rate at which such change occurs. For the sake of the animals, our planet, and the increasing human population for which animal products will not likely be able to sustain given the space required to produce them.

      • We’re still omnivorous by nature and that’s never going to change, though your points are well taken. However you’ll note that I implied that this would take time by stating “in the short term”. Our society will never be all vegan, certainly not in our lifetimes and likely never in general. This is an important topic but we may have bigger fish to fry, if you’ll pardon the pun. Again, I think the best first step is to treat those animals we do consume with respect and the most ethical treatment possible.

        In reply to #16 by TwilitWave:

        In reply to #14 by Steven007:

        We’re omnivorous by nature. We still have canine teeth, which are naturally selected (I am not an evolutionary biologist so if I’ve erred here in this simple interpretation I’m sure someone will correct me).

        Though eating animals does present some troubling ethical co…

        • In reply to #26 by Steven007:

          We’re still omnivorous by nature and that’s never going to change, though your points are well taken. However you’ll note that I implied that this would take time by stating “in the short term”. Our society will never be all vegan, certainly not in our lifetimes and likely never in general. This is…

          Ahhh, I must have missed the “in the short term” notation, my apologies.

          But yes, the immediate goal should be to reduce the amount of suffering incurred in the lives of animals as possible, even if they’re going to die for human or human pet consumption. But I disagree with your declaration that humans will never all be vegan.

          As rapidly as we are advancing in intelligence, ethics and technology, I can’t immagine we’ll still be eating animal products by 2100 at the latest. Especially not with the ongoing advancement of in-vitro meats.

  8. On last December 10th-International Day of Animals rights- Animal presented a conference with Dra. Melanie Joy, and she reminded the audience how farm industrial complexes are isolated from public, how legislation punishes those who make propaganda against dairy products, how the work in a slaughterhouse can damage humans simultaneously psychologically and from their physical health, as it is considered one of the worst working conditions Known, how do we neutralize what we really feel about animals suffering, are we just going to pretend it doesn´t affect us ? The necessary consume of meat illudes our history as fruit eaters ?
    And against all this, there´s only one way out: to raise awareness.
    Well I came home decided to become fully vegan. (almost as if I want to quit smoking, but it will be much easier, it will be no sacrifice at all actually).
    Whenever someone asks me if I´d like to make voluntary work just say a human being is more complicated to help, I rather prefer to be volunteer in some animal shelter sense animals are more in need as most people prefer to help humans actually.

  9. My own belief is that many animals have emotions very similar to our own. How could they not? Emotions have evolved to shape our behavior towards life and reproduction (eg. fear of death, love and protection of viable mates, guilt at the prospect of being caught and socially outcast, etc, etc). Emotions are as basic to survival as consuming food and nothing particular to homo sapiens. Have seen emotions in other animals (eg. a mouse with heart busting out of its chest as a cat played with it in a corner) with my own eyes on many occasions and this is something to contemplate in regard to animal welfare. For me it is enough to believe that animals probably have the same feelings as me that leads me to treat them with respect but that is not true for everyone. I probably just lack the killer instinct as they say. In regard to diet I eat a moderate amount of meat because I think it is better for my health and cheaper. If meat was cheaper and more healthy then I would probably eat a lot more. So I am, obviously not a fan of the idea of vegetarian on moral grounds and would point out that harvesting a field of wheat with modern harvesters is an absolute blood bath for the millions of mice( and other small mammals) that love to live in such wheat fields. Many of them probably take many days to die of the horrific wounds inflicted by the passing mechanical harvesters. True mice are smaller than cows but I do not see how this makes them morally less important. And I personally loathe house pets like cats and dogs sitting around all day waiting for next meal. Not sure why, just find it so anti-life to see any animal failing to play the game.

    • In reply to #22 by Catfish:

      My own belief is that many animals have emotions very similar to our own. How could they not? Emotions have evolved to shape our behavior towards life and reproduction (eg. fear of death, love and protection of viable mates, guilt at the prospect of being caught and socially outcast, etc, etc).

      You are generally right, but we must be careful not to attribute human views or needs to animals without studying them. Vertebrates can suffer pain or psychological symptoms, but are not identical to humans in their requirements.

      Some people have made fools of themselves because some animals have quite different behaviour patterns to humans.
      An example of this is some who protested that poultry were being “abused” by being kept in artificial lighting 23 hours a day.
      They were quite oblivious to the fact that geese and ducks nest and are active in the Arctic, where there is daylight 24 hours a day.
      Humans need several hours of sleep in a 24 hour day. Some birds don’t.

      • In reply to #23 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #22 by Catfish:

        My own belief is that many animals have emotions very similar to our own. How could they not? Emotions have evolved to shape our behavior towards life and reproduction (eg. fear of death, love and protection of viable mates, guilt at the prospect of being caught and so..

        I guess Descartes didn´t atributte a mind to animals, but perhaps the children on Prof. Dawkins replicating machine experiment atributted their toys a “mind” ?(or in fact did they realise that they were being deceived and that the body experience couldn´t be replicated ?) Why then do those men bomb themselves only preserving their “worse part” ?
        Just silly questions, I guess no one would answer anyway.

    • Thanks, A4D. I would counter with a couple of trusty pubmed links which are always my go to, peer reviewed sources and seem to be a bit more even handed:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672287

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12494313

      In reply to #29 by Alan4discussion:

      There is an interesting chart here comparing the digestive systems of carnivores, omnivores, herbivores and humans.

      “The Comparative Anatomy of Eating”, by Milton R. Mills, M.D.

      • In reply to #31 by Steven007:

        Thanks, A4D. I would counter with a couple of trusty pubmed links which are always my go to, peer reviewed sources and seem to be a bit more even handed:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672287

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12494313

        Thanks for those Steven. I think they redress a bias rather than countering my link.

        I think both our links illustrate that humans have, on geological /evolutionary time scales, made a fairly recent transition from vegetarian to omnivorous diet, with the health implications of not being well adapted to a meat diet, – despite the nutritional benefits of more concentrated food-stuffs in boosting growth and avoiding starvation.

        @ link – The marked increase in human heights between 2.0 and 1.7 mya may be linked to more efficient means of acquiring meat, namely through hunting. The final pattern of meat (and other ASF) use before the modern era is associated with the shift from hunting and gathering beginning approximately 10,000 y ago. This fundamental dietary change resulted in a narrowing of diet, reduced consumption of meat and increased focus on domesticated grains. The study of archaeological human remains from around the world reveals that this period in human dietary history saw a decline in health, including increased evidence of morbidity (poorer dental health, increased occlusal abnormalities, increased iron deficiency anemia, increased infection and bone loss).

        With the onset of farming, it seems some aspects of deficiencies from dependence on nutrition derived from the meat in the earlier diet, led to other medical problems (Some proteins and vitamin deficiencies?), but there could also be implications from eating a more limited range of plants.

        Re. Fruit/seed diet with meat supplements, Modern wild Chimps provide an interesting model.

        Some modern third world populations also have a low proportion of meat in their diets.

        There could also be implications of meat and fat providing for higher calorie demands in a more northern colder climate or during ice ages. (Think Inuit diet)

        I think a shortcoming on my earlier link @29 in comparing humans and carnivore jaws, was failing to take the use of tools or fire for cooking into account.

        One of the other interesting questions is: “To what extent in our ancestral coastal migrations out of Africa, did we have a seafood diet?”

        • Thanks for the repartee A4D; I respect your well reasoned and researched posts. And you were reading my mind to an extent (see below). I’m with you on 50% of this. I’ll explain.

          First and foremost, humans are clearly readily adapted (I’m not saying it’s preferential, just denoting adaptation) to low carb high protein diets by virtue of the fact that we can utilize ketones for energy in the complete absence of carbs and in the interim can still utilize glucose by the process of gluconeogensis. This adaptation allows humans to get the glucose they need (initially) in the absence of eating sugars or starches and then afterwards utilize ketones via beta oxidation. Clearly if we were intended to eat only plants there would be no need to evolve and support such a process. And as we know these adaptations take quite some time.

          I do like your second point and find that to be of more general interest. My guess to your final question would be pretty early. Again, we can use the Inuits you mention as a touchstone even today as they have historically had the most exquisitely carnivorous diets. Vilhjalmur Stefansson did important early work in this area and did well known studies on these people and their diet in the late 1920’s:: http://www.jbc.org/content/87/3/651.full.pdf.

          In reply to #32 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #31 by Steven007:

          Thanks, A4D. I would counter with a couple of trusty pubmed links which are always my go to, peer reviewed sources and seem to be a bit more even handed:

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672287

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12494313

          Thanks for those Steven….

          • In reply to #34 by Steven007:

            First and foremost, humans are clearly readily adapted (I’m not saying it’s preferential, just denoting adaptation) to low carb high protein diets by virtue of the fact that we can utilize ketones for energy in the complete absence of carbs and in the interim can still utilize glucose by the process of gluconeogensis. This adaptation allows humans to get the glucose they need (initially) in the absence of eating sugars or starches and then afterwards utilize ketones via beta oxidation. Clearly if we were intended to eat only plants there would be no need to evolve and support such a process. And as we know these adaptations take quite some time.

            I think there has probably been some flipping back and forth over deep time – bearing in mind that some mammalian and primate ancestors were small insectivores. If we look at the spectrum of modern primates there is a range across herbivores and carnivores in the species. Gorillas are herbivores, Chimps hunt meat when they can get it, Some baboons are definitely omnivorous.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baboon – Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in open savannah, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diets are omnivorous, but mostly herbivorous, yet they eat insects and occasionally prey on fish, shellfish, hares, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes.[6] They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings, and in South Africa, they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.

            I think the beneficial oils and fats in an Inuit diet, suggest better human adaptation to sea-foods than to the lean meat and fat of land animals. In terms of ancestry, insects are evolved from marine invertebrates so there could be a link there.

            Apparently the Inuit eat reindeer moss from the belly of hunted reindeer/caribou as a vegetable source of minerals and vitamins to go with the meat. – in land where vegetables are scarce. Balance is the key.

  10. “Animals – whom we have made our slaves we do not like to consider our equals.”-Charles Darwin

    “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.” ~ Charles Darwin

    Charles Darwin´s theory of natural selection proved that humans evolve according to the same evolutionary dynamics as non-human animals. Darwin showed that the difference between non-human and human animals is one of degree, not of kind. Charles Darwin´s theory of natural selection proved that human beings evolve according to the same evolutionary dynamics as non-human animals.

    Through evolutionary theory, genetics, and neurophysiology, scientists are providing evidence that non-human animals feel and think in ways similar to ours, and that they are capable of experiencing not only simple emotions such as fear, but far more subtle and complex emotions such as love, grief, joy, pride, shame and loneliness.

    Any line placed between humans and all other animals is an arbitrary line, which only symbolizes human prejudice and allows exploitation of the other animals. Discrimination based on species is no different than discrimination based on gender, physical or mental disability, race, sexual orientation, or any such inborn and irrelevant characteristics.

    All sentient and autonomous individuals should be entitled to a basic right not to be used as a means to an end. All sentient and autonomous individuals should be treated as persons not as property.

    It boggles my mind that most anti-theists are anti-animal rights.

  11. david.graf.589 wrote, “Without being willing to kill animals for food and clothing, it seems highly unlikely that we would even be here to have this discussion.”

    You could probably say the same thing about oppression of women and slavery.

    david.graf.589 wrote, “
    “… I am not ashamed to put the welfare of a child above that of a pig.”

    In what situation? Is the pig attacking the child and you killed the pig? If so, that is justified. But it is not justified to kill a pig just to feed the meat to the child when the child can as easily thrive on plant based foods.

    david.graf.589 wrote, “Nor is there anything about speciesism that is in conflict with evolution.”

    See my other comment. It is very much in conflict with evolution.

    david.graf.589 wrote, “In fact, it makes good sense as an evolutionary strategy to use another species to the benefit of one’s own.”

    If so, why not use other people, other nations, other races, etc? We have done it in the past.

    david.graf.589 wrote, “Tying speciesism and evolution together is a metaphorical “hijacking” of science and gives others who would discount science yet another reason to do so.”

    I answered this in my other comment.

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