Adventures in Ethics and Science

This, in turn, means that members of the public who strongly disagree with your stand may decide to track you down and let you know they disagree with you.

Apparently, this may become an issue for those who signed the Pro-Test petition in support of ethical and human scientific research with animals. From an email sent to signatories:

[A] few websites hosted by animal rights activists have encouraged their readerships to visit the list of Pro-Test signatories in order to find names and to contact those persons to express their opposition to animal research. While your email addresses on the RaisingVoices.net website are secure and not publicly listed, the animal rights groups encourage people to use the wide array of Internet tools to find contact information and to use it.

While we regret that any person may receive negative communications as a result of this heinous effort by animal rights groups, we want to express – more than ever – our resolve that circumstances such as this are exactly why we all signed the Pro-Test Petition to begin with. Harassment of scientists and supporters of research is intolerable and only resoluteness and mutual support can overcome it.

Remember — no one on this list stands alone. We all share the support and assistance of more than 10,000 other signatories, as well as the resources of Americans for Medical Progress, Speaking of Research and Pro-Test for Science. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we find our collective voices and refuse to shy away when extremists use their predictable, tired tricks.

In case you were wondering, here’s the language from one of the ARA sites:

The public nature of this petition means that vivisectors and their supporters are now publishing their own names online; a tactic scoffed at when done by animal rights activists.  Activists should not hesitate to take advantage of this petition and to use it as a directory.  The petition is essentially a list of people who are without shame, who are willing to take a public stance in favor of the continued suffering and death of animals in laboratories.  The signatories are people who not just support but who are actively advocating the continuation of violence toward animals.

The petition is both a directory of people whose minds need to be changed (and in many cases whose behavior needs to be changed) and is an open call to violence by vivisectors against nonhuman animals. While vivisectors present themselves as victims (perhaps because someone chalks their name on a sidewalk or calls them a “killer” after they do in fact kill); in truth they are the aggressors.

Please select as many names from the petition as you see fit and contact these individuals as soon as possible. Some common names may be difficult to trace to the particular individual but many names will not be difficult (particularly if they have listed educational credentials or academic titles with their name).

It is only just the someone who opts to take a public position in favor of violence toward animals receive some negative feedback from more compassionate individuals such as the many dedicated activists who read this blog.  Anyone who openly advocated racism, sexism, or pedophilia would be thoroughly criticized…this is an appropriate response to those who advocate vivisection.

Do not hesitate to call the bluff of Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella when he claims to seek “productive dialogue” and begin contacting the names on this list.

Now, I signed the Pro-Test petition, and I was shocked to hear that by doing so, I had issued “an open call to violence against nonhuman animals,” so I went to reread what I had signed. Here it is in its entirety:

We the undersigned believe:

  1. That animal research has contributed and continues to contribute to major advances in the length and quality of our lives.  It remains vital to understanding basic biological processes and for the development of new treatments and therapies such as antibiotics, vaccines, organ transplants, and cancer medicines.
  2. That animal research is morally justifiable provided animal welfare remains a high priority and no valid non-animal alternatives are available.
  3. That violence, intimidation and harassment of scientists and others involved in animal research is neither a legitimate means of protest, nor morally justified.

As you’ll notice, none of these items calls for open violence, torture, or abuse. The petition does not advocate the position at the extreme right of DrugMonkey’s animal welfare bell curve where scientists (and others) should get a free hand to do anything they want with animals. Rather, there is an explicit affirmation that animal welfare should be prioritized and that non-animal alternatives should be used in research where they are available.

Obviously, the folks on the animal rights side of the table disagree with the position endorsed by the Pro-Test petition signers. Given this disagreement, they view the signatories as “people whose minds need to be changed (and in many cases whose behavior needs to be changed).”

One would hope, then, that the supporters of the animal rights cause will be reaching out to the folks who signed the petition to try to change their minds (and behavior) through productive dialogue of some sort. Right?

Maybe it’s just me, but I get a little pessimistic about the prospects for dialogue when I read some of the comments posted by the animal rights activists urging their fellows to use the Pro-Test petition as a directory. At one animal rights activist site, for example:

My name is not on a petition actively calling for the mutilation and systematic abuse of innocent animals. That is the domain of obscene and violent cowards who exist because of society’s ignorance and apathy. …

I threaten no one. I am not violent. I firmly believe that vivisectors should be on the receiving end of their sociopathic torture regimens… or dead… whichever…

But this is not a threat. It is my vision of utopia.

Or, in a comment at Lousy Canuck, somewhat more bluntly:

I despise terrorists who harm sentient beings with impunity.

I completely support & defend our freedom fighters (the ALF, ARM and assorted Revolutionary Cells) who understand that oppressors will not willingly relinquish their power — they must be stopped by any means necessary. And I’m thankful we have compassionate & altruistic individuals willing to address the terrorist vivisectors on their own terms.

I’m shocked!!! Your rallies have more people than ours??? Understand this, you can gather together all of the indoctrinated, sycophantic drones you can recruit — enjoy the spectacle as they march together in step to the beat of their capitalist overlords. Do you think we’re impressed by the pathetic display of common mainstream conformity? Actually, having you all in one place might prove beneficial from my perspective.

You fail to grasp an essential element in this equation. Animal liberationists are not driven by money. We get no promotions, job offers or raises. We simply want to end the suffering of the innocent animals. We are energized, gaining momentum, and are unphased by your impotent whining.

But I am not a violent person. I simply want the violent people dead.

Or, in a comment at DuWayne Brayton’s blog, this:

while i am against animal experimentation and animal rights extremism , you have to commend what the latter do , it seems to me that doing nothing solves nothing , the vivisectors just carry on abusing animals , but if you blow them to bits they can’t abuse animals , problem solved.

I reckon there are people who hold the animal rights view who would like to change hearts and minds by way of dialogue. I’m just having a hard time understand how this kind of exhortation, to see supporters of sound science and humane treatment of animals as violent sociopaths who delight in inflicting suffering, lays the groundwork for such a dialogue.

For the record, I am always up for a dialogue on the issue of our moral relation to animals and on the ethical use of animals in scientific research. If folks inclined towards the animal rights stance want to engage in a dialogue right here, in the comments on this post, I am happy to host it.

(I will not, however, be hosting a debate. A dialogue is different from a debate, and a dialogue is what I’m prepared to host.)

Comments

  1. #1 Katharine
    October 16, 2009

    The wacky person who blogged at the ‘negotiationisover’ website has her own Encyclopedia Dramatica article, if you want to look for it.

  2. #2 babble
    October 17, 2009

    While you may disagree with the tone and the style of Negotiation is Over, none of what we’re saying would be all that disagreeable or controversial if we were talking about protecting humans.

    I’m aware that most of you see no particular moral equivalence between humans and nonhumans, and are willing to consider nonhumans an exploitable resource.

    The point you’re either missing or intentionally ignoring is:

    a) We DO see such an equivalence

    and b) We DO NOT see nonhumans as such a “resource.”

    Whether or not you agree is somewhat irrelevant. Most of you are never going to agree; but a few folks will open their eyes and see.

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    October 17, 2009

    Thank you, Janet, for the reminder.

  4. #4 Pete
    October 17, 2009

    To babble @ #2:

    Would you be willing to say something about why you take humans and other, non-human animals to be of equivalent moral status? What is it that makes something an object of moral concern, or grants moral status? To me, this seems like the central question: I agree that if humans and non-human animals ARE morally equivalent, or have the same moral status, then it would be inappropriate to conduct research and experimentation on non-human animals that we would not do on humans. To be sure, I believe that there is a morally relevant difference, but I’d like to hear your reasons.

  5. #5 cass_m
    October 17, 2009

    @ babble, I would sign the Pro-test petition as written if “humans” were substituted for “animals” so, I see an equivalence between animals and humans as well. If we can resolve or prevent a medical condition, I’m all for that. And I like the benefit of having improved treatment for my companion animals.

    Perhaps video streams of animal research labs (with a video of how these animals live in the wild and an explanation of the aims of the research) could people understand how animals are treated and how demands for ethical treatment of animals have made a positive difference.

  6. #6 D. C. Sessions
    October 17, 2009

    If animals are morally equivalent to humans, how do we arrange for informed consent?

  7. #7 Jason Thibeault
    October 17, 2009

    Thanks for the linkback, Doc. Exposing exactly which side is violent is extremely helpful. Hopefully it’ll aid in peeling away the more reasonable people back to reason.

    I agree with cass_m — it’d be nice to have streaming video of the experiments that these folks are protesting, especially if paired with video of equivalent “wild” lives where they’re subject to predation. I wonder which ones lead lives with less stress? Which ones have less pain overall?

  8. #8 babble
    October 17, 2009

    @Pete:

    “Would you be willing to say something about why you take humans and other, non-human animals to be of equivalent moral status? What is it that makes something an object of moral concern, or grants moral status?”

    What grants other HUMANS moral status? We’ve decided to do it.

    Herein lies the rub.

    WHY do we do it? What standards do we use when gauging who gets it and who doesn’t?

    If you boil everything else away, we grant other humans moral status based solely on sentience and species membership. Zillions of dead trees have been sacrificed to write reams and reams of nice-sounding gobbledygook about reciprocal consideration, the Hobbesian “social contract” and all sorts of other hopeless sorts of mental gymnastics to attempt to rationalize something that when you boil everything else away is largely axiomatic: humans deserve moral consideration because we say humans deserve moral consideration.

    We do not require reciprocal consideration or the capacity to enter into social contracts to forbid experimentation on the mentally disabled or infants, for example. Why? Do these beings object intelligibly? Do these beings have a capacity to reciprocate ethical concern? Despite what we may tell ourselves, we don’t actually use these considerations when judging a given action – when performed against an unwilling human – to be ethical.

    We simply grant humans moral status based on the fact that they’re alive, they’re presumably sentient, based on easily available observation, and they’re a member of our species.

    The animal rights proposition is that limiting this concern to humans – and ONLY humans – makes no sense.

    Do nonhumans suffer less? Of course not; certainly not any of the animals we choose to exploit for testing.

    Do nonhumans desire their own lives any less? Of course not; there may be species differences in the capacity for abstract, sophisticated thought (although this is far from absolutely demonstrated), but the fundamental point is that these animals are unquestionably sentient, and unquestionably do not consent to what we’re doing to them.

    We don’t arrange for “informed consent” from any nonhumans; we simply make a moral case that these animals are not ours to use, *regardless* of any claimed benefit to humans.

    How do we arrange for informed consent from human infants? Does the fact that such infants cannot reasonably consent make them acceptable subjects for experimentation?

    Of course it doesn’t.

    As I said, I’m more than aware that most of you will continue to see animals as an exploitable resource; the point you’re likely going to ignore is that the animal rights movement doesn’t share your view, and won’t EVER tell you that what you’re doing is acceptable given certain “humane” provisions; what you’re doing is ITSELF inhumane, and needs to end. Period.

  9. #9 Babble
    October 17, 2009

    @Jason: what other animals may or may not do doesn’t have any bearing on what you or I *choose* to do. One doesn’t justify the other. If you act poorly, am I justified in behaving unethically, just because you’ve done so?

  10. #10 Babble
    October 17, 2009

    I’m aware that by asking pointed questions, I may be edging close to violating the “this is a dialog, not a debate” rule, but here’s the thing: Jason isn’t really listening to the point I’m trying to make; he’s merely pointing out what seem to be its logical flaws, in his own view.

    If this really is going to be a dialog, and not a debate, that’s the sort of thing that should be setting off some warning bells.

    IMO.

  11. #11 becca
    October 17, 2009

    “Exposing exactly which side is violent is extremely helpful. “ Yes, because all disagreements involve exactly one side being violent. Just ask the Israelis and Palestinians.
    On the other hand, that particular person is at least as violent as Stewie Griffin (“It’s not that I want to “kill” Lois. It’s just, I want her not to be alive, anymore”)

    “If animals are morally equivalent to humans, how do we arrange for informed consent?”
    Sane possible answer: Similarly to how do so for infants (i.e. someone is responsible for acting on their behalf; and we’re generally very conservative about what research we do on them)
    Less practical possible answer: We can’t, so we shouldn’t do any research on them.

    @Dr. Freeride- oh but it does call for violence (seriously, what does “open” mean in “open violence”? Would violence be A-OK as long as it’s behind closed doors?). To ARAs, scientific research involves violence toward animals.

    Personally, I they’re right; a particular definition for “violent”. To me, “violence” isn’t always outstandingly sinister.
    Stephanie Z recently described a painful medical procedure as “helpful violence” (which really resonates with my feelings about some medical procedures I’ve gone through).
    One of the descriptions of research I have heard from an ARA was along the lines of “causing suffering by cutting into live animals”. That sounds rather disturbing, until I realized it’s also a perfect description of a surgeon’s work. As medical professionals, surgeons have to wrestle with the ideal to “first, do no harm”. What would animal research look like if scientific researchers tried to uphold the same lofty standard?

  12. #12 Babble
    October 17, 2009

    “To ARAs, scientific research involves violence toward animals.”

    Exactly. What always gets lost in these non-debate debates is that the only thing humans are generally concerned with is violence being done to other humans.

    So long as humans can claim benefit, we can rationalize just about anything.

    Given that this petition carries no force of law, and will effect no change whatsoever, it’s really just a marketing tool.

    See? We “pro-test” folks aren’t the problem. We signed a petition. We’re “humane.”

    It’s meaningless.

  13. #13 Jason Thibeault
    October 17, 2009

    I honestly am listening, in fact, Babble. You’re talking a hell of a lot more sense than the nutbar that came screeching onto my blog to start this whole thing off, suggesting I’m a coward deserving of vivisection and experimentation for signing a petition. My only problem so far is the fact that you, nor anyone else, has actually ASKED my position — you give yours and mischaracterize me, then when I give mine and explain where you’re wrong about me, I either get told I’m a monster or my arguments ignored outright.

    I’m aware that we are assigning different moral concerns to the questions at hand, and that is why I find it abhorrent for people to hurt animals unnecessarily, why I have a rescue dog that I love to bits, and care for two cats, one of whom has had to have some very VERY expensive surgeries to go on living this life.

    Thing is, I also understand the cat would not have consented to the surgery that saved his life. To that cat, this surgery or experimentation would be exactly the kind of violence Becca describes — helpful violence absent of malice but violence nonetheless; violence that would help the cat in the long run but hurt him in the short.

    I extend this to laboratory animals, and consider their lives, while sad and sheltered, relatively comfortable — akin to owning an indoor cat as both of mine are. They meet an end they wouldn’t consent to, but when the science that comes out of it is also used (and I make this point for the dozenth time in this dialog) to aid other animals, and not JUST humans, I’m sure if they had the ability to give informed consent that most of them, at least those with any sense of altruism, would do so. Since we can’t communicate with them, since they possess only rudimentary communication skills, and since they don’t have the capacity to understand death itself despite being hard-wired to avoid it, we have to make the same kinds of “rationalizations” that you suggest, as we do when we perform life-saving surgeries on pets, babies, or mentally handicapped folks.

    Basically, as the only animals capable of wielding science, we have a responsibility to employ it judiciously and only when necessary. We also have a responsibility to find and remove from their positions anyone that takes any pleasure from unnecessary sadism in performing these experiments.

    Becca: the reason I say it’s important to make that distinction is that some members of one side of this debate has outright stated that violence against the opposing side in the dialog is not only acceptable, it’s laudable and justified as “extensional self defense”. In the meantime, they do their utmost to paint the others as the REALLY violent ones, as sadists willing to do whatever they’d like to animals whenever they’d like, when in reality the pro-testing crowd have MUCH more nuanced positions than that — taking great pains to avoid pain in their subjects, setting down stringent ethical guidelines, and ensuring that they only perform research that’s promising and potentially life-saving in the future. Not just for humans’ benefit, but for animals as well.

    Yes, we have to make decisions on behalf of other sentient creatures that are unable to make those decisions themselves. That’s why we not only need ethical scientists to make the decisions, but we need to avoid the temptation to simply shut it all down and put us back in the dark ages.

    Am I really so monstrous for thinking this way?

  14. #14 D. C. Sessions
    October 17, 2009

    What would animal research look like if scientific researchers tried to uphold the same lofty standard?

    I alluded above to the question of informed consent where animals are concerned. If you want to try drafting the equivalent of the Helsinki Declaration for animals, give it a go — it looks like a pretty serious strain to me.

  15. #15 cass_m
    October 17, 2009

    @ jason. I totally agree with your stance. This is where the video feeds would come in. The average person would be able to see how animals are treated by researchers and make their own (albeit emotional) choices on where they stand on animal research. As babble points out, ARA have made their decision and are not going to change their minds because their starting premise is different than most people. D.C.S. is right, informed consent is going to be impossible as far as we know.

    @becca. Eventually animal research may get to the “first do no harm” stage. I believe things will head more in that direction because of cognitive research. It’s much easier to devalue animals when they are regarded as meat puppets driven solely by instinct. Look at the care taken now in assessing research projects and treatment of animals compared to a few decades ago.

  16. #16 DuWayne
    October 17, 2009

    Oh my goodness Doc Freeride, it gets worse. I have been perusing the you tube, after finding video of a Dr. Steve Best on an extremist facebook page that liked my original post. I am not sure that Best isn’t more insane than Jerry Vlasak. I am going to be delving into this in a great more detail over the next several weeks, attacking the source – the priesthood of the AR extremists.

    “But I am not a violent person. I simply want the violent people dead.”

    I think that responds to itself…

  17. #17 Babble
    October 17, 2009

    “My only problem so far is the fact that you, nor anyone else, has actually ASKED my position…”

    As a signatory to the petition at hand, you do understand that despite any claims of “humane” treatment we find the underlying use of animals to be ethically objectionable, right?

    You do get that it’s not that you folks are claiming that your use of animals is more “humane” than somebody else’s; it’s that you’re using animals at all.

    Would you find it ethically permissible to experiment on unwilling humans, and to kill and dissect large numbers of those non-consenting humans provided that your use was ‘humane’ – in your view?

    “…we have to make the same kinds of “rationalizations” that you suggest, as we do when we perform life-saving surgeries on pets, babies, or mentally handicapped folks.”

    The difference is that you’re not performing animal experiments in a therapeutic setting *for those animals.* Some knowledge may be gleaned that’s of some use to some OTHER animals, but that’s a tangential consideration, at best.

    You’re using animals and claiming – as the pro-test petition explicitly states – that this is morally justified because *humans* benefit. As ARA’s, we reject that.

  18. #18 Janet D. Stemwedel
    October 17, 2009

    I want to thank you folks for actually engaging with each other. (I’ve been grading midterms and dealing with a puking sprog, which has limited my participation.)

    At this point, let me flag some of the issues that have come up:

    Babble @2:

    I’m aware that most of you see no particular moral equivalence between humans and nonhumans, and are willing to consider nonhumans an exploitable resource.
    The point you’re either missing or intentionally ignoring is:
    a) We DO see such an equivalence
    and b) We DO NOT see nonhumans as such a “resource.”
    Whether or not you agree is somewhat irrelevant. Most of you are never going to agree; but a few folks will open their eyes and see.

    I think this is an important disagreement to recognize.

    I’m less certain, though, that pointing it out is sufficient to get anyone from either side of the divide to move to the other. Maybe this means it’s worth exploring what might ground our commitments (either that human and non-human animals are morally equivalent, or that they or not). Or maybe, acknowledging that this is a big disagreement that’s not likely to go away, it’s worth exploring whether there’s any common ground we can find on human interactions with animals.

    (I take it this is pretty much what Pete @4 was asking.)

    A bunch of people (including cass_m @5 and D.C. Sessions @6) are asking some questions about what would necessarily follow from accepting a moral equivalence between humans and nonhuman animals. We do, after all, use humans in scientific experimentation, too — including humans who cannot themselves give informed consent (although as becca rightly points out, the burden on experimenters to avoid harm is much higher in these latter cases). Is the presumption that all research with nonhuman animals is off the table because they can’t give informed consent? Is the presumption that all research with nonhuman animals causes them harm? Do these presumptions carry over to humans in analogous situations (and if not, why not)?

    I think part of taking the equivalence stance seriously is thinking through details like these. I also think it’s reasonable to ask about how the equivalence stance should inform our understanding of nonhuman animals in domestic settings (companion cats or dogs, backyard chickens, etc.) and in the wild. It’s possible to approach questions like these as if they are “gotcha!” points in a debate, but I don’t think it’s necessary that raising these questions plays out that way.

    becca @11:

    To ARAs, scientific research involves violence toward animals.
    Personally, I they’re right; a particular definition for “violent”. To me, “violence” isn’t always outstandingly sinister.
Stephanie Z recently described a painful medical procedure as “helpful violence” (which really resonates with my feelings about some medical procedures I’ve gone through). 
One of the descriptions of research I have heard from an ARA was along the lines of “causing suffering by cutting into live animals”. That sounds rather disturbing, until I realized it’s also a perfect description of a surgeon’s work. As medical professionals, surgeons have to wrestle with the ideal to “first, do no harm”. What would animal research look like if scientific researchers tried to uphold the same lofty standard?

    An excellent point that “violence” needn’t always be unethical. I think unpacking what exactly we’re counting as violent and what kinds of conditions, if any, we would be willing to count as justifying what we label as violent would be a good thing to do if we want to understand each other, rather than talking past each other.

    I take it that a surgery that was intended to help the nonhuman animal undergoing it would be acceptable under the equivalence view (even if the nonhuman animal who needs the surgery can’t give consent for the procedure). I’m guessing the difference is that the benefits are expected to come to the same creature who’s risking the harms. But we could be in problematic territory if we’re talking about the first nonhuman animal to undergo a new procedure, since that creature is exposed to a much bigger risk relative to the expectation of benefit; but the subsequent nonhuman animals getting that surgery presumably have less risk and higher likelihood of a good outcome. Is that OK? And, if spreading risk and benefit among members of a species this way is acceptable, what makes the relevant difference when we talk about spreading risk and benefit across species?

    Anyway, I’m thrilled that there’s serious conversation happening here. I encourage you to keep it going, and I’ll try to rejoin the discussion. (First, I have to refill a cup with flat ginger ale and get through another stack of exams.)

  19. #19 babble
    October 17, 2009

    I’m less certain, though, that pointing it out is sufficient to get anyone from either side of the divide to move to the other.

    As I said when I came into this, I’m more than aware that most folks are going to continue doing whatever they were doing before today.

    That’s somewhat beside the point. I’m not pointing out this fundamental disagreement under the assumption that any of you will magically agree with me; I’m pointing it out because in so many of these cases, what ends up getting argued is the axiomatic claim that human benefit is a trump card that magically ought to shut down any other disagreement.

    …because humans are benefitting from this, after all, and we all want human benefit, don’t we?

    The point I’m trying to make is that as ARA’s we approach this from a completely different moral standpoint that explicitly rejects the notion that benefit-for-humans should always be that trump card.

    Or maybe, acknowledging that this is a big disagreement that’s not likely to go away, it’s worth exploring whether there’s any common ground we can find on human interactions with animals.

    I’ve been doing this long enough to say that I don’t think there is any such common ground. It’s not about reaching anyone HERE, as I said when I came into this. It’s about reaching the non-posting eyeballs reading this, who will rethink their assumptions.

    We do, after all, use humans in scientific experimentation, too — including humans who cannot themselves give informed consent…

    But this is a fairly distracting claim; we do obtain consent from the legal guardians of those nonconsenting humans, do we not?

    There is no equivalent for nonhuman, non-consenting test subjects because we merely choose to see them as a means to a human end.

  20. #20 babble
    October 17, 2009

    “Is the presumption that all research with nonhuman animals is off the table because they can’t give informed consent?

    My case would be largely this, yes. We’ll likely never be able to get consent from any individual animal, and any human appointed to be the “guardian” of such an animal would very likely weight human benefit OVER the interests of the animal in question. This is exactly the opposite of a human parent giving consent to an experimental procedure on their dependent child, where the interest of the child matters more – in most cases much MUCH more – to that guardian than abstract claims of benefit to the human species as a whole.

    Is the presumption that all research with nonhuman animals causes them harm? Do these presumptions carry over to humans in analogous situations (and if not, why not)?”

    Harm is a fuzzy concept in this case; what I’m arguing for is ethical consistency. If experimenting on clearly nonconsenting humans is off the table, it should be off the table for nonconsenting *non*-humans as well. If there’s a question of capacity to give consent, we nearly ALWAYS default to NOT using an experimental procedure on such an edge-case human; we certainly wouldn’t experiment on such a human outside of a therapeutic setting, for the specific benefit of that specific individual – we wouldn’t do to that human what we routinely do to laboratory animals.

    THAT’S the fundamental objection. We choose to see humans as individuals, deserving of moral consideration.

    We *choose* to see nonhumans as an exploitable resource, perhaps deserving of some “humane” consideration, when and where that consideration doesn’t get in the way of doing whatever experimentation we’ve deemed “necessary” – because future humans may benefit from it.

  21. #21 babble
    October 18, 2009

    I also think it’s reasonable to ask about how the equivalence stance should inform our understanding of nonhuman animals in domestic settings (companion cats or dogs, backyard chickens, etc.) and in the wild…”

    While I tend to see this as a claim made to play “gotcha” in a debate, as an ARA, my default position is that humans should not have domesticated ANY animals as an ethical question, but we did. We have to deal with the situation as it exists now.

    This is largely tangential to the question of justifying experimentation, and tends to only ever get raised to try and poke holes in the ethical case made by ARA’s, so you’ll hopefully forgive me if I view raising this point with some suspicion. Is this a debate or isn’t it? You see my concern, hopefully.

    As a fundamental moral question, we should not keep pets; we should not breed pets, we should not sell pets, we should not use animals for human purposes where and when those uses are clearly avoidable. That pet-keeping is a relatively benign use compared to eating or experimenting on animals is neither here nor there.

    That being said, again, I can’t wave a wand and change the fact that millions of domesticated animals presently exist, and would not survive if dumped in the wild to fend for themselves. (I’ve worked in animals shelters and have seen the results of this behavior firsthand.)

    Just as we can – and should – provide care and assistance to human refugees without condoning the conditions that created the refugees in the first place, we have a moral obligation to care for those domesticated animals which we have caused to exist – but this doesn’t justify breeding them for human uses in perpetuity.

  22. #22 Babble
    October 18, 2009

    “…if spreading risk and benefit among members of a species this way is acceptable, what makes the relevant difference when we talk about spreading risk and benefit across species?”

    The fact that we wouldn’t do it to humans; we wouldn’t experiment on unwilling humans in the hope that that might give us information that would eventually help our pets, for example. We’re placing human interest on a pedestal that should automatically trump any other consideration.

    It’s easy to claim that experimentation has led to benefit for some nonhumans, but that’s really a very tangential concern, in this. We’re not experimenting on lab mice for the benefit of mice in the wild.

  23. #23 Babble
    October 18, 2009

    “This is where the video feeds would come in. The average person would be able to see how animals are treated by researchers and make their own (albeit emotional) choices on where they stand on animal research.”

    The problem with this is that it doesn’t really address the underlying ethical question at all. All we’re saying here is that we’re treating animals “nicer” than they’d be treated by predators who hunted them in the wild.

    This is precisely the same sort of claim made to justify eating animal flesh.

    What gets lost in this claim is that in neither case are these behaviors that humans engage in because we’re driven by instinct to do them. We’re making a *choice* to do those things, and in very many cases, we have alternatives. We simply choose not to use them, because we don’t consider our use of animals to be ethically problematic, completely irrespective of the “humane” treatment of some of those animals.

    Where we have alternatives to the use of animals for a given experimental procedure, use them. If that makes the eventual science to come out of those experiments more expensive than it would have been otherwise, the drugs or treatments or procedures that come out of that will simply be more expensive.

    Where we do not YET have alternatives to using animals for a given experiment, develop them. I’m under no illusions that vivisection is going away today or tomorrow; but it *does* need to end. All cass’ claim argues for here is a perpetuation of the status quo, which is unacceptable.

  24. #24 Babble
    October 18, 2009

    “That’s why we not only need ethical scientists to make the decisions, but we need to avoid the temptation to simply shut it all down and put us back in the dark ages.”

    I hardly think I’m claiming a return to the dark ages; I’m fine with human epidemiological studies, computer modeling, drug trials using consenting humans, developing cancer chemotherapy on excised tumors, etc. etc. etc.

    I’m not arguing against all scientific experimentation, full stop.

    I’m saying that just as we have certain absolute ethical proscriptions in science – NO experimentation on clearly unwilling humans is defensible, is it? – we need to apply those proscriptions in a morally consistent manner that recognizes that animals are not here for us to use as resources for our own ends.

  25. #25 MS2
    October 18, 2009

    Again, thank you for being engaging Babble while I am not changed by your arguments I am certainly moved. There is clearly a conflict here over who gets rights and who by position of force can assert those rights over others. It actually is amazingly similar to the “pro-choice” vs “pro-life” conflict.

    As a quick background I am a vegetarian I have been for over six years now. I also mean that seriously, chicken or fish isn’t an exception though I do occasionally drink beer. Is that wrong? Those poor yeasts… Sidetracked, anyway I also have been a researcher and have personally euthanized and dissected almost four dozen mice over a two year long experiment studying T-cell homing. I also worked very closely with my colleagues so that not only would my research benefit, but from a single death the experiments of over a dozen projects were all advanced.

    Where I see the disconnect is that ARA argues for flat out violence against animal researchers saying there is no other way, but the meat for consumption industry is somehow given a free pass. I signed this petition though now I am a target of the aforementioned threats, but my impact on animals is greatly less then the average American. You keep arguing for a position of universality for animal rights though is that really the case?

  26. #26 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Those poor yeasts…

    Insentient, so far as we know. Obviously, I’m vegan; I’m not proposing that any of this is *perfect*; just better than what we’re doing now.

    but the meat for consumption industry is somehow given a free pass.

    You haven’t spoken to many ARA’s, in that case. I neither advocate nor excuse violence (if I did, I wouldn’t bother to be here in the first place), but the claim that pro-violence ARAs are giving the meat industry a pass is, well. Not supportable.

    …but my impact on animals is greatly less then the average American. You keep arguing for a position of universality for animal rights though is that really the case?

    You don’t know me at all, really. Trust me, I’ve limited my comments HERE to animal testing to try and keep this as on-topic as possible, but I’m vehemently opposed to the consumption of animal flesh, eggs, dairy, honey, leather, wool…

    That I’ve not brought it up HERE is merely an attempt to keep this from going off the rails.

    If you want an explicit claim, fine: veganism is a moral imperative.

  27. #27 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Once again, it’s clear that despite a fluffy claim that this is going to be a dialog, and not a debate, how is MS2’s post anything BUT an obvious attempt to debate perceived logical flaws?

    You’re obviously looking for debate, not really attempting to listen to what I’m saying.

    You folks are going to do what you’re going to do. Why bother with the “dialog not debate” pretense, though?

  28. #28 babble
    October 18, 2009

    As for claims about the ARA position being equivalent to the “pro-life” argument, that would only hold if we were making religious claims about likely insentient life. We aren’t. What we ARE saying is that where we’ve created an ethical standard for the treatment of SOME sentient life (humans), different ethical standards for OTHER sentient life are not justifiable based on species difference.

    When you boil everything else away, as I’ve already said, we view humans as deserving of special moral consideration simply because they are human; we view nonhumans as deserving of *different* consideration simply because they are *non*-human.

    Calling for ethically consistent standards does not really imply anything other than a call for ethically consistent standards.

    If you wouldn’t do it to your dependent child or your pet, why do claims of human benefit justify doing it to a laboratory animal to which you have no particular affection or affinity?

  29. #29 Dr. Rosset
    October 18, 2009

    Biologically speaking as omnivores certain animals are here for our resource as food. It silly to conclude that they are not simply because some people can exist on a vegan diet. Not all human beings can get protein from plants. As with infants and the disable or incompetent we do what is best for them and we do not require their consent we require the consent of the care giver. Some pain is necessary for saving a life and all doctors know that and all good parents know that, but evidently some people expect a pain free existence.
    No child wants a shot, I have yet to see a child come in and ask for a shot or surgery or any other procedure that AR’s label as violent. I have been through the technological experiments and cell experiements and they do not always give one better answers or even correct answers to the efficacy of a drug or procedure. They can help establish a pattern, but as always the data inserted depends upon many variables. The outcome can be entirely wrong and that is why human and animal trials are necessary. The assumption that as human beings we have a duty to not use animals because they are sentient beings is as ridiculous as telling a lion don’t eat the lamb. HIs body is driven to eat that protein, but as human beings we can make sure the lamb is comfortable while alive and killed with as little pain as possible. This is sensible and within the realm of biology and moral dictates. Just saying an animal is not a resource because it is sentient denies nature and biology. Frankly,we do not know everything the human body needs to survive and we are in various stages of finding out, but what we do know says we can live a short while without food, and a long while without meat, and some can live without meat all together, but not everyone especially children, infants and a pregnant women. Those that have, supply some of the nutrients provided by meat by eating commercialized supplements that come from animals, but what we don’t know is what damage a strict vegan diet does in the long term. We are just now seeing some of that damage. This is a belief system that is flawed and for animal rights activists to force other human beings to go along with their belief system against using animals for any purpose is in reality violence against the human species. Biology drives both animals and humans and this collaborations between humans and domestic animals ensures the survival of all of the species involved in this collaboration as a whole. That is biology and it is not a religion or a belief it is a fact of nature. Just an example, we have for years tried to protect the Tiger and have failed as their numbers go down year after year. But the American bison was brought back from extinction because it serves as a food source so more land and resources were given over to keeping this animal alive.

  30. #30 Janet D. Stemwedel
    October 18, 2009

    Babble @27:

    Once again, it’s clear that despite a fluffy claim that this is going to be a dialog, and not a debate, how is MS2’s post anything BUT an obvious attempt to debate perceived logical flaws?

    You’re obviously looking for debate, not really attempting to listen to what I’m saying.

    I took MS2 to be laying out MS2’s position. The “poor yeast” throw-away may have come across to you as debate-y, but I read it as alluding to a question that people might legitimately have about why lines are drawn where there are drawn by folks with another position. Animalia membership is taken by you as the morally relevant line; why just members of this kingdom and no members of the other four? *All* members of animalia (including termites and lice and flatworms)? If there are relevant distinctions to be drawn within the kingdom, how ought they to be drawn?

    I don’t doubt that in your experience, the high-school-debate-squad may have raised similar questions with the intention of scoring points. That doesn’t mean that the people here might not be asking these questions in an honest attempt to understand the position.

    Also, I appreciate your focus here on scientific research versus other human uses of and interactions with animals. But I can also see why MS2 asks about the meat industry. To the science-oriented folks wandering through here, it seems like scientific researchers have been the targets of violence for their work with animals in a way that meat producers big or small have not (and that scientists have been characterized as driven by profit motive to continue animal research while the slaughterhouses supplying Wal-Mart and the fast food restaurants aren’t even mentioned). It can seem, on the science side of campus, like the scientists get the more high-profile attacks because, given U.S. anti-intellectualism, scientists are low-hanging fruit.

    None of this is to say that you, Babble, are responsible for (or even endorsing) this kind of engagement between some ARAs and scientists. But the science-oriented folks may be trying to work out whether there’s a principled reason that some ARAs seem to go after the scientists first (or hardest). If you can shed light on that, I’m sure people would appreciate your insight. If you can’t, there’s no problem with saying as much.

  31. #31 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Animalia membership is taken by you as the morally relevant line; why just members of this kingdom and no members of the other four?

    My concern is sentience, not taxonomy. Where a given form of life is evidently aware, and has a desire to continue existing, we need to make every effort to respect that desire to continue existing.

    *All* members of animalia (including termites and lice and flatworms)? If there are relevant distinctions to be drawn within the kingdom, how ought they to be drawn?

    What I’m saying is that human convenience doesn’t give us a free pass. We have to eat; we don’t HAVE TO eat animals. We choose to. We don’t HAVE TO experiment on animals; that effective cancer chemotherapy (for example) can be developed using excised tumors is clear evidence that we *CAN* develop alternatives. We largely lack the will to do so, because we choose to see human convenience (experimenting on animals is simply easier than developing alternatives) is its own justification.

    That doesn’t mean that the people here might not be asking these questions in an honest attempt to understand the position.

    I don’t think what I’m saying is especially difficult to understand, without resorting to pushing emotional buttons (I love my cat, too; I wouldn’t experiment on her, or any other animal), or raising largely irrelevant side claims (if I REALLY believed in animal rights, I should be firebombing dairy farms? Trust me, I don’t like dairy farms any more than I like animal experimentation, but I’m not firebombing either of them).

    To the science-oriented folks wandering through here, it seems like scientific researchers have been the targets of violence for their work with animals in a way that meat producers big or small have not…

    I can only say here that I’m every bit as opposed to the consumption of animals as food as I am the use of animals as test subjects. I’m not advocating violent action against EITHER groups of folks (scientists or commercial animal agriculture); if I *did*, again, I wouldn’t be bothering with any of this. I’d just be doing THAT, instead.

    I am a lone ARA, trying to be a voice for the AR position, in this. As is usual in these debates-masquerading-as-discussions, I’m vasty outnumbered by the opposition, and I’m expected to answer for everything you folks dislike ABOUT the AR movement.

    That’s to some degree unavoidable, I suppose, but please bear in mind, *I’M* not doing the things you dislike. I’m just trying to advocate a moral position that is very, very important to me, not for MY sake, but for the sake of beings who CANNOT advocate on their own behalf.

    …if you can shed light on that, I’m sure people would appreciate your insight. If you can’t, there’s no problem with saying as much.

    I can’t really speak very much to the motivations of the pro-violence wing of the movement. Quite unsurprisingly, they don’t talk in public fora. My slightly-informed guess is that it’s a strategic issue; a small group of folks CAN vandalize a lab, steal/liberate the animals there (pick your nomenclature) and – this is their claim, not mine – set back a research agenda.

    This is inordinately more difficult to do if the target is a 10,000 head cattle ranching operation. There are perhaps one or two million vegans in the United States in total. Some tiny fraction of those vegans are ARA’s. Some tinier fraction of THOSE ARA’s are pro-violence. It’s a matter of resources and picking targets where one can (in their own view) make an impact.

    This is not MY view. Separate and apart from my own moral position on violence (I’m a pacifist), it’s simply strategically useless, in my view. We (ARA’s in general, nonviolent or otherwise) can not expect to do anything more than cost large commercial labs (HLS, etc.) more than a piddling few dollars in the grand scheme of things, and violent action leads to things like AETA which is being used to target both violent AR direct action and nonviolent protest alike.

  32. #32 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Biologically speaking as omnivores certain animals are here for our resource as food.

    That would only make sense if vegan diets were physically impossible for humans. They’re not. Again, I’m REALLY trying to keep this as on-topic as possible.

    Can you see why I can view bringing up the food issue as nothing more than a debate tactic, to intentionally distract from what I’m trying to say, here?

  33. #33 babble
    October 18, 2009

    “As with infants and the disable or incompetent we do what is best for them and we do not require their consent we require the consent of the care giver. Some pain is necessary for saving a life and all doctors know that and all good parents know that, but evidently some people expect a pain free existence.”

    Dr. Rossett, you’re really NOT listening to what I’m saying. You’re merely objecting to what you presume my position is.

    As I’ve already said, yes, we DO perform medical procedures on infants, but as I said…

    But this is a fairly distracting claim; we do obtain consent from the legal guardians of those nonconsenting humans, do we not?

    There is no equivalent for nonhuman, non-consenting test subjects because we merely choose to see them as a means to a human end.

  34. #34 babble
    October 18, 2009

    The assumption that as human beings we have a duty to not use animals because they are sentient beings is as ridiculous as telling a lion don’t eat the lamb. HIs body is driven to eat that protein, but as human beings we can make sure the lamb is comfortable while alive and killed with as little pain as possible.

    I’ve already addressed much of this far earlier in the thread, but once again:

    What other animals MAY do doesn’t have any bearing on what humans SHOULD do. Other animals may or may not make any ethical or moral considerations, but humans unquestionably can.

    We could farm humans, raise them reasonably comfortably, and kill them as painlessly as possible; we would derive nutrition from THAT flesh, too. That we *can* do something doesn’t divorce the ACT of doing it from other moral concerns.

  35. #35 babble
    October 18, 2009

    There is no “collaboration” between humans and the animals we choose to exploit, any more than slave owners and slaves were collaborative partners. There is one side which chooses to impose its will on the other, because the other can’t really do anything to prevent it.

    That’s not a “collaboration.”

  36. #36 babble
    October 18, 2009

    …but what we don’t know is what damage a strict vegan diet does in the long term. We are just now seeing some of that damage.

    Either you know, or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.

    Vegan nutrition isn’t difficult in this day and age. I won’t deny that there are anecdotal reports of folks who “went vegan” by eating nothing but soda and chips, but of course, the actual literature doesn’t make any such claim about THIS “vegan” diet.

    This is a belief system that is flawed and for animal rights activists to force other human beings to go along with their belief system against using animals for any purpose is in reality violence against the human species.

    Sigh.

    No one, reading posts on a blog entry, is “forced” to do anything. These claims of “violence against the human species” in this case are clearly intentional distractions.

  37. #37 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Since Dr. Rosset and others have brought up several versions of this claim, I’m saying that despite this notion of inter-/intra-species risk/benefit, it’s not remotely a level playing field. Dr Freeride asks a question that seems to imply that if risk/benefit intra-species is allowable (because we seem to be okay with performing risky or experimental procedures on some humans in some very specific and unusual instances), that risk/benefit *inter*-species should be viewed in the same light, where the experimentation on animals is not the exceptional case it is in humans, but is, rather, a matter-of-course.

    The problem is that the situation as it exists weights human preference over EVERYTHING else, overwhelmingly so.

    Yes, some biomedical research has led to advances that benefit, say, veterinary medicine. That’s really just a side issue, though, isn’t it? We’re not actually claiming that doing drug research on lab mice will lead to a better understanding of how mice work, in the hopes of benefitting other MICE, are we?

    We’re not claiming that neurological studies of primates are for the actual benefit of primates, are we?

    What this is REALLY about, what it’s only EVER really about is prioritizing human interest above the nonhuman animal’s particular desires, whatever those may be. We may implement some standards of so-called “humane” treatment before we kill millions of animals in labs, this year, next year and every year after that.

    But that doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue, does it? This is why it’s specious to claim that keeping and experimenting on animals in a lab is akin to caring for an indoor cat. You’re not doing to your pet what is routinely done to lab animals, and your cat will (hopefully) live a long and happy life, and die a little old cat lady, not be killed, dissected and discarded when we’re done using her.

    It’s really just a nice looking fondant covering over the moldy cake underneath.

    If we were saying, “Animal experimentation is a regrettable part of current biomedical research, and as such, we wish to take steps to a) eliminate it, and b) practice it under the most rigorous standards we possibly can” this would be an entirely different discussion.

    But we aren’t saying that, are we? If the first priority was the elimination of testing, and the second was an explicitly rigorous standard of testing that placed at LEAST as much emphasis on ethical consideration of nonhumans as we presently do for humans, reaction from the animal rights movement would be different; we’d still make the same ethical case about the underlying use, but if elimination of use was even *on the table* for discussion, this would be different. What Pro-Test is explicitly saying is that testing is morally neutral, or indeed, *good*, because humans derive benefit from it; what this is REALLY about is marketing the perpetuation of testing, for the foreseeable future, to the non-scientist.

    All this really falls back on is this: humans get to do what we want, because we say humans get to do what we want. Because the general public seems to enjoy dogs, cats and other pets, and because the animal rights movement has shined a spotlight on some fairly ugly instances of some particularly horrific abuse, we have an image problem that needs massaging in the minds of that general public, so we’re making a big, public declaration that we’re “humane.”

    How convenient, for us. It’s still just a marketing effort, though. It’s still not really about the interests of the animals themselves, at all. It’s just about human interests. It’s ONLY ever about human interests, it seems.

  38. #38 Jason Thibeault
    October 18, 2009

    I am a lone ARA, trying to be a voice for the AR position, in this. As is usual in these debates-masquerading-as-discussions, I’m vasty outnumbered by the opposition, and I’m expected to answer for everything you folks dislike ABOUT the AR movement.

    That’s what dialogue is, Babble. Someone explains their position, and if that happens to entail why they logically came to different conclusions than other people given the same evidence, that comes with the territory. Then others explain THEIR positions, and answer questions asked of them. The fact that we’re offering our positions is not an assault on you or your position, or an attempt at sparking a debate, despite the several times you’ve cried foul thus far. We expect you to ask questions of us that are pointed, and we answer them where and when we can.

    And where you appear to be content with monologue, trying to accuse us of attempting to debate when we attempt to answer your questions, we are in actuality attempting to turn what is in essence your monologue (which I appreciate — it gives me a great deal of insight into what it is you’re advocating, more than I had before when fundamentalists prefer telling me I deserve death), into a dialogue, wherein both sides actually speak to and ask questions of and answer one another.

    I understand this is rather pointed, and probably comes off as condescending, but every barrier to dialogue that I’m seeing is coming from your side — it’s either your way or no way at all. That’s why it’s so difficult to actually HAVE a dialogue here.

    That’s to some degree unavoidable, I suppose, but please bear in mind, *I’M* not doing the things you dislike. I’m just trying to advocate a moral position that is very, very important to me, not for MY sake, but for the sake of beings who CANNOT advocate on their own behalf.

    Well, the next time one of your friends advocates harassment of people who sign a petition in support of testing, please keep in mind that *we* are not doing the things you dislike (the testing), we’re just trying to advocate a moral position that is very, very important to us, being the fundamental need for animal testing in science, given the state of computer modelling being vastly insufficient for the state of our medical science, and that we find this to be important to us not for our own sake, but for the sake of those that cannot wield science themselves.

    I know that just sounds like I’m trying to turn your words on you, but you’ll find it is entirely consistent with the position I’ve advocated earlier.

    This is a fundamental disagreement, and it’s probably not something that’s resolvable. You believe all animals are morally equivalent to all humans and we must do absolutely nothing to or with animals at all where they cannot consent, and we believe that as the only species able to use science we have a moral imperative to advance science for all our benefit, the non-human animals included.

    Additionally, Dr. Freeride has a very good point in that the majority of terrorist acts seem to be against “vivisectors” and not “corpse-munchers” / “murderers”. It dovetails with the same anti-intellectualism found in the right-wing and creationists, both of which are more my usual beat.

  39. #39 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Jason, my objection thus far has more to do with a clear and obvious desire on the part of you and a few others to simply object to what I’m saying out of hand, instead of really consider it (in my view).

    You’re not really ANSWERING any of the questions I’ve posed, in any of this, despite my best efforts to address your specific claims.

    Again, you brought up the issue of pets: if you wouldn’t do it to your cat, WHY does doing it to a lab mouse get a pass? Because humans claim benefit?

    WHY does that get to be the be-all and end-all trump card?

    Once again, ALL I’m really calling for here is basic ethical consistency. If we wouldn’t do it to animals we say we love, WHY do we get to do it to animals we say we get to use?

    It’s all terribly convenient, for US. That’s the whole point.

  40. #40 babble
    October 18, 2009

    This is a fundamental disagreement, and it’s probably not something that’s resolvable.

    I made a version of that claim at the outset.

    You believe all animals are morally equivalent to all humans and we must do absolutely nothing to or with animals at all where they cannot consent,

    I haven’t actually said THAT. I believe you brought up the issue of pets to try and poke a logical hole in what I was saying (to “score points in a debate” to refer back to Dr. Freeride’s ending claim), rather than really address what I was actually saying.

    I said in specific response to that that a) humans should not have domesticated animals, but unfortunately, we did and b) I’ve seen with my own eyes what happens to house pets dumped and left to fend for themselves “in the wild.” I’m not advocating THAT.

    What I did actually say in response to your raising the pet issue was that one could object to the practice of pet breeding as an absolute moral question while still providing care for animals which we have caused to exist, just as one can provide care for human refugees without condoning the conditions that made them refugees in the first place, and *working against those conditions*.

    These are separate issues: care for the animals that are here now. Work against creating more of them to be treated like property in the future.

    …and we believe that as the only species able to use science we have a moral imperative to advance science for all our benefit, the non-human animals included.

    Here, I’ll say again: it’s very, very convenient to make this claim, but it’s fairly specious, isn’t it?

    The vast overwhelming majority of research isn’t being done for the benefit of nonhumans; it’s being done for the benefit of humans. IF any of it is applicable to others, that’s by happenstance, not design.

  41. #41 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Here’s the thing: the issue of consent is getting dragged into a million different side claims, it would seem.

    I’m not asking humans to devise a system of obtaining informed consent from nonhumans, any more than I’m asking humans to devise a system of obtaining consent from infants.

    But the legal guardians of any given infant weight the interest OF THAT INFANT (or perhaps themselves, as parents/guardians) over abstract claims of benefit to the human species as a whole, almost exclusively.

    Any human appointed “guardian” of the interests of nonhumans in this is inevitably – here I’l use the word that will make you all cringe, but there’s no way around it – given the speciesism of the present human culture, going to weight human interest and human preference OVER the apparent desires or needs of any given animal, again, almost exclusively.

    We’re not really talking about doing nice things for animals, here. That it may happen in some cases is handy for folks to use in these discussions, when folks like me show up, but it’s really beside the point, here.

    Given that there’s really no workable solution to obtaining consent from a human guardian for nonhumans, the ONLY real way forward is to put ENDING animal experimentation on the table, and to develop alternatives wherever we can. Where we have them now, USE THEM. Where we don’t, DEVELOP them.

    Is this really, REALLY such an extreme position?

  42. #42 babble
    October 18, 2009

    “Additionally, Dr. Freeride has a very good point in that the majority of terrorist acts seem to be against “vivisectors” and not “corpse-munchers”…

    …and, again, I’m not saying the actions of the pro-violence wing are all ethically perfect, but I even tried to address THAT. See my response to Dr. Freeride at #31.

  43. #43 MS2
    October 18, 2009

    I very sincerely apologize for giving off the impression that I was making logical inconsistencies. I also thoroughly believe that if this were in a slightly different context you and I would be on the same side of things, and I thank you for coming to a place where you are outnumbered and writing extensively your positions for us. I agree that eating animals for their flesh and nutrients is an animal rights issue and I encourage everyone to cut down on their meat consumption. This should be done in the exact same way that we would minimize the number of animals used for any experiment.

    I also feel that our consumer society is an animal rights issue. If you will go to the science blogs homepage right now the topic is about plastic disposal and its impact on the environments that we share we other animals. Myself and most likely everyone else on this blog feel that global warming is an animal rights issue. We are causing entire species to cease to exist. Something we can collectively agree as being morally heinous. It is a pretty big deal. I just like to map out the common ground before proceeding on. You may not be as alone as you think you are.

    To straighten up my logic and clean things up I make the following arguments, observations (which are subject to criticism) and subsequent conclusion.

    Argument A: I do animal research. I kill animals. Killing animals is an animal rights violation. A minority of animal rights activists claim that those who kill animals are murderers and should be murdered.

    Argument B: Other people eat meat. This meat is acquired by killing animals. Killing animals is an animal rights violation. A minority of animal rights activists claim that those who kill animals are murderers and should be murdered.

    Observation 1. Activists for argument A outnumber those activists for argument B.

    Observation 2. Violators “meat eaters” of argument B outnumber violators of argument A “animal researchers”

    Conclusion. Something else is going on to make researchers particular, or somehow more deserving then the rest of the public to be labeled as murderers and terrorists.

    I would boil this down to two concepts. First, pick your battles. Right now we can’t support all of the animal rights that our comprehensive morality would like us to. I don’t mean to give researchers a free pass here, however efforts could be much better spent fighting other much more serious animal rights violations.

    Second, take care of your own house. We and I mean researchers would do terrible things if a researcher made public statements about carelessly killing animals and causing them suffering just for kicks. The wraith of their peers would fall upon them and there would be any number of professional consequences. On the other hand I don’t see the animal rights movement having anything like that kind of self-moderation. These violent and aggressive posts are allowed to thrive. And even our government doesn’t apply the same kind of legal consequences to animal rights terrorists as it does to religious terrorists. Why do you think that is?

    You and I do agree that animal research is an infringement on animal rights. I also feel that sleeping in a heated apartment during the winter time is an animal rights infringement. What am I supposed to do apart from cease to exist? I think the answer to this question is the elevation and enlightenment of our society that occurs through many steps. Medical progress is one of those, (others would include equality of the races and sexes, both of which still need a lot more work). You try convincing someone who is painfully ill that the rainforest is more important. It just won’t happen. If we heal that person and supply other basic needs they become much more interested in a full and rich morality which is concerned with the well being of other sentient creatures. You are right that a mouse dying isn’t for the best interests of medical treatments for future mice. However, I do think that the mouse dying is for the best interests of the planet as a whole and the future of the complicated relationship that humanity will have with all animals.

  44. #44 babble
    October 18, 2009

    K, I reread the entire thread, and I goofed: JASON didn’t bring up the issue of pets in the way I’ve characterized it in the above; he said that the lives of lab animals were akin to caring for indoor cats; I’ve tried to address that.

    Dr. Freeride brought up the specific issue of pet care as regards my claim of moral equivalence in a subsequent post a couple of posts later; I do try to get my facts in order. I still think the claim was a gotcha.

  45. #45 Katherine
    October 18, 2009

    “the vivisectors just carry on abusing animals , but if you blow them to bits they can’t abuse animals , problem solved.” and all the other quotes you had from animal rights promoters.

    There are places in this world where many humans do not have rights (women, “other” races, homosexuals, transsexuals etc.). I do not support the killing or torture of their oppressors. Also I am pro animal welfare but not pro animal rights. Maybe when we live in a perfect utopia of human rights etc. then I will become pro animal rights.

    I’m glad there is a reasonable dialogue going on here :)

  46. #46 Jason Thibeault
    October 18, 2009

    You’re not really ANSWERING any of the questions I’ve posed, in any of this, despite my best efforts to address your specific claims.

    Could you point me to something that was not adequately answered by either my pointing out my own position, or by one of the other more science-knowledgeable participants in this thread, please? I’m sorry that I don’t have the stamina to address your average of five comments per one from the pro-test camp. I just hope that someone has adequately answered each of your questions in turn, and if I miss something it’s certainly not malice.

    I’ll point out, however, no matter how much I love my cats or dog, if it would produce research that I know would save many other animals’ lives, I would give them up. Likewise would I give up my own life if I knew it would save many others’.

    (Violent wing: please don’t interpret this as meaning “blow me up so I won’t kill non-human animals”, as I’ll again point out I’ve killed nothing but a few insects in my time on this Earth.)

  47. #47 babble
    October 18, 2009

    “I very sincerely apologize for giving off the impression that I was making logical inconsistencies.

    I’m certainly not asking for anyone to apologize for anything; I’m just saying that loads of non-debates are really just *debates*; just call it what it is. I’m also aware that I may be reading some of this into what some of you are saying; hopefully given the numbers here, that’s at least somewhat understandable. If the situation were reversed, and one of you were posting on NIO, or something, surrounded by dozens of US, you’d likely be feeling some of the same things, here.

    My aim isn’t to try and shut down the discussion; even in cases where I’m calling “gotcha!” I’ve tried to address the actual claims.

    This should be done in the exact same way that we would minimize the number of animals used for any experiment.

    I think the salient difference is that there’s at least SOME necessity case to be made for SOME testing; I don’t think there’s ANY necessity case to be made for eating animals, in the vast number of cases.

    In any event, I still say it ALL needs to end, present necessity notwithstanding.

    Conclusion. Something else is going on to make researchers particular, or somehow more deserving then the rest of the public to be labeled as murderers and terrorists.

    Again, I’m REALY REALLY not advocating violent action against ANYBODY, so it’s perhaps inappropriate for me to comment on the actions of the ALF or related groups. If anyone SAYS they’re ALF, they’re idiots. Anyone who talks about being in ALF isn’t in ALF, or they surely won’t be for long.

    This is to say I do not knowingly have any contact with ANYONE doing the things you’re objecting to here. I can only speculate on tactics and motives, which I think I did in my reply to Dr. Freeride. Again, see that at #31.

    First, pick your battles. Right now we can’t support all of the animal rights that our comprehensive morality would like us to.

    I’ve tried to be explicit that the alternatives I’m claiming aren’t the magical box that cures all ills; I’ve said, more than a few times where we DON’T yet have alternatives, develop them. I don’t think this makes a case that I’m calling for an end to research TODAY, damn the consequences. I’m calling for it to end, eventually. Right now, ENDING it isn’t even on the table. That’s the problem.

    Appearances aside, I really really do spend a much larger share of my time doing vegan advocacy rather than anti-testing polemics. Again, I’ve really just tried to limit my comments here to keep them on-topic.

    …I don’t mean to give researchers a free pass here, however efforts could be much better spent fighting other much more serious animal rights violations.

    Two thoughts: a) they’re all serious. b) Have you tried to do vegan advocacy? If you think I’m banging my head against a brick wall *here*, trying to talk to reasonably calm, rational, science oriented folks, honey. Come do a table with me sometime.

    It’s all damned quixotic. I like windmills, but at times it gets to be overwhelming.

    I’ve stuck in with this to TRY and make a case that we’re not all the raving lunatics you seem to think we are.

    Second, take care of your own house.

    There’s very little chance of that happening, unfortunately. I’ve caught oodles of grief for even *talking* to folks on NIO from the nonviolent wing of the movement, when I’ve made it abundantly clear here, there and everywhere that I don’t support violent action.

    But me making that claim doesn’t amount to much. It would be useful if it did, but it doesn’t.

    I’m aware that I’ll be seen by some as “excusing” violent action for not throwing up my hands and running around and shrieking every time someone says something untoward on a blog post, but again, THAT’S something folks will survive. If I’m in a position to prevent a given violent action from happening, I will (I *am* a pacifist, politically and morally), but that also means I’m really UNLIKELY to ever be in that position.

    ALF isn’t sitting around waiting for me to bless them with my special fairy dust, here.

    The most I can really do is what I’ve BEEN doing: try and talk to people. What folks do from there is out of my hands.

    hese violent and aggressive posts are allowed to thrive. And even our government doesn’t apply the same kind of legal consequences to animal rights terrorists as it does to religious terrorists. Why do you think that is?

    I see exactly the opposite happening; I’ve got an FBI file from my days in ACT UP, ages ago. I’ve seen bits of it, after an FOIA request. I’m loath to think what’s in there NOW, after years of animal rights activism. The AETA specifically classes as “domestic terrorism” any activity which hinders the commercial enterprise of animal experimentation. If I do a nonviolent demo at a pharma, and they can show a claim of reduced profit as a result, *I’M* chargeable under the Animal Enterprise Act. That does seem to get lost in these discussions.

    You and I do agree that animal research is an infringement on animal rights. I also feel that sleeping in a heated apartment during the winter time is an animal rights infringement. What am I supposed to do apart from cease to exist?

    Just as I’m not saying subsistence hunters (legitimate subsistence hunters, not sport hunters) should starve to death, I’m also aware that testing isn’t going away any time soon. I’m saying that for right NOW, and for the foreseeable future, having any discussion of ending it seems to be completely off the table. Again, IF Pro-Test was saying “testing is regrettable; first and foremost, we’d like to take steps to end it. Secondly, we’re going to rigorously regulate it in these specific ways…” this would all be a very DIFFERENT discussion.

    But we aren’t HAVING that discussion. We’re going the rounds on this exactly as I said at the beginning: claims of human benefit trump all other concerns.

    However, I do think that the mouse dying is for the best interests of the planet as a whole and the future of the complicated relationship that humanity will have with all animals.

    I really, really question that. I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but developing another analog to an existing drug so that a different pharma can patent a new version of an existing drug that’s different by a molecule or two is a) in the interest of that company’s profit, not the planet and b) much much more a matter of human convenience than anything else.

  48. #48 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Could you point me to something that was not adequately answered by either my pointing out my own position, or by one of the other more science-knowledgeable participants in this thread, please?

    Again: if you wouldn’t do it to your cat, WHY does doing it to a lab mouse get a pass? Because humans claim benefit?

    WHY does that get to be the be-all and end-all trump card?

    Once again, ALL I’m really calling for here is basic ethical consistency. If we wouldn’t do it to animals we say we love, WHY do we get to do it to animals we say we get to use?

    It’s all terribly convenient, for US. That’s the whole point.

    I get that you’re now claiming you’d give up your pets for the greater good. That’s 30-40 odd posts in. But that doesn’t really address what I’m saying; we’re STILL saying that humans deserve special treatment, and animals “deserve” to be used as a resource. Saying you’d give up your pets is a decision YOU are making that only furthers that, don’t you see?

  49. #49 Jason Thibeault
    October 18, 2009

    By and large, you and I are in agreement, as evidenced in that last comment (47). As with when live pigs were replaced with crash test dummies in the 1940s, I’d prefer computer models and scientific constructs and alternative testing methods for chemical testing. And in fact, by my understanding, new drugs are discovered first with the computer models, then verified on animals then on humans as doing what the computer models seem to do.

    But computers can only do what they’re programmed to do, and a computer model of a person is most certainly not a person or it would have the same sentience, intelligence and capacity for rational thought that we have, and then we’d get into the ethics of performing tests on IT against our will.

    I would love to see a day when tests on animals are entirely eliminated. And in fact, I’m right there with you on cosmetic testing, right now — this world doesn’t need another type of blush badly enough to test it by smearing it in a rat’s eyes. I’m not big on makeup, and especially not where it’s tested on animals. As for scientific testing, it may not always be by design that testing ameliorates our ability to cure animals, but it does. Maybe the scientists are humanists and consider humans unique. In a way we are, in that we can contemplate death and empathize with other creatures. We’ve seen some evidence of empathy with dolphins and chimpanzees, or with dogs (being they’re pack animals), but they’re the exception rather than the rule. The fact that you CAN advocate for animals’ rights proves we’re unique. Does this uniqueness mean we’re superior? Only insofar as we can perform science.

    Otherwise, we’re all biomass. Every blade of grass, to every mushroom, to every bacterium, to every reptile, to every mammal, we’re all related, and we’re all just biomass. Life isn’t especially sacred. Our own lives are sacred to ourselves, and we’re social animals so we’re mostly hard-wired to empathize with other humans and confer onto them the same properties we believe ourselves to have (e.g. the sacredness of our own lives).

    Some of us can confer these properties onto non-human animals. Some of us feel that non-human animals are nothing but meat-puppets operating on pure instinct. Some days I doubt free will in humans, and that every one of us acts exactly as we are predisposed to do as a function of cause and effect and the experiences we’ve already had, and that any illusion of free will is just that, an illusion.

    Likewise, some people confer these same human properties of worth and moral imperative on embryos or pre-fetuses. Even embryos that are due for the incinerator, that could otherwise be used for stem cell research. They ban stem cell research but do nothing against the practice of fertility clinics cultivating dozens of potential embryos. Never mind that stem cell research could be another avenue of medical research that would obviate the use of animal testing. I’m very much pro-stem-cell research, not only because it advances science, but because the embryos are not viable humans with the same moral imperative (nor are necessarily viable at all — since they were the rejects for implantation because they seemed somehow less likely to implant).

    And on to more agreement — the Animal Enterprise Act is a good example of law that shouldn’t have been. You’re right that profit motive should not trump free speech. Though, running around slandering someone’s product saying it’ll give you cancer or that it’s all tainted without any evidence, could bankrupt a company, that’s already punishable under slander law. Why a special law for that? And for your example of drug companies and patents, I’m a big advocate against patents altogether. I’d settle for heavy patent reform, but I’d just as soon see patents disappear, especially ones related to computer programs and medicine / chemistry. Physical inventions are a grey area, and they’re what patents were originally intended for, but the original intent also only gave patent rights over the invention for a very limited time. Now it’s grown to be unwieldy and all profit-motivated.

    In fact, if you were to host a polemic against capitalism itself, I’d probably be pretty receptive to that as well.

    So, just because we disagree about eating meat*, and we disagree about animal testing, doesn’t mean we have necessarily irreconcilable differences. I’m sure there are vast swathes of (traditionally liberal) stuff we probably agree on.

    * Since I view biomass as biomass regardless of its sentience, and only the hard-wired mores against harming humans tells me that eating other humans as biomass would be wrong. This notwithstanding the fact that I’m an atheist, and therefore ostensibly eat babies now and then.

  50. #50 Babble
    October 18, 2009

    And in fact, by my understanding, new drugs are discovered first with the computer models, then verified on animals then on humans as doing what the computer models seem to do.

    Here’s the thing: the specific estimates vary, of course, but I think there’s general agreement that a majority of the drugs declared safe or efficacious in animal testing will FAIL on either or both grounds in human testing.

    Given that (I’ll source the claim if I really have to, but do I have to? Is it really in debate?), doesn’t it make more sense to more aggressively develop non-animal models, as NCI has done (excised tumors again, but it’s a good example), rather than continuing to default to, “using animals is the best we’ve got?”

    Perhaps it IS in some cases; that doesn’t really address the ethics of doing it, though, and it doesn’t address the glaring practical flaw.

    If most of the drugs we think are safe because they don’t cause rats to turn green, puke pop-rocks and die in three days’ time turn out to be absolutely useless in humans, can we REALLY say that what we’re doing to these animals is serving some “higher” purpose?

    The fact that you CAN advocate for animals’ rights proves we’re unique. Does this uniqueness mean we’re superior? Only insofar as we can perform science.

    I really don’t think I’m anthropomorphizing animals (or, hopefully not overly so). Yes, I’ve used a claim that animals desire their own lives, but I’m not making that claim to say that all animals think as abstractly as humans might; I’m using the term “desire” here colloquially. Whatever bee-sentience is to a bee, she doesn’t simply sit still and allow me to smush her flat. She flies away, if she can.

    Again, I’m saying that where clear evidence of sentience exists, I see a basic moral equivalence between sentient *humans* and sentient *nonhumans*. Please, please, no silly debates about granting fish the vote; Hopefully you understand that I’m talking about very basic moral rights – not to be eaten, not to be used as a means to an end, etc. And before this jumps right off the rails again, that other animals MAY do so doesn’t say a thing about US. We can choose. Other animals may or may not. We unquestionably can.

    What I’m saying here is that all choices aren’t morally neutral, and where a given choice to treat a given sentient (human or otherwise) as property is in play, there really does need to be an awfully good reason to do it, in the short term, and we really REALLY need to not be doing it at all – come up with a way to make a better choice, in the long term.

    I’m loath to jump back into a discussion of fetal moral issues, except to say this: first trimester fetuses are likely insentient. Lab mice, dogs, cats, primates or any of the animals we choose to use for experimental purposes are ALL at *least* as sentient as a human infant. There’s a clear difference, at least to me.

  51. #51 babble
    October 18, 2009

    As for scientific testing, it may not always be by design that testing ameliorates our ability to cure animals, but it does.

    I’m not really debating that; the point I was trying to make was that the WAY you and cass made the claim made it seem like some grand altruistic gesture for petkind. That’s not really what’s happening. I’m just saying be honest: we aren’t doing to lab mice what we do to our pets. The situations aren’t equivalent, despite your earlier claim that testing on animals is akin to keeping an indoor cat.

    Yes, you’re violating your cat’s free will and overriding her interest – just as I do to mine – but that’s in the interest of keeping her from getting smushed by a car. The difference, of course, is that your cat will (hopefully) live to a ripe old-lady cat age and die peacefully in her sleep, not get used in a course of experimentation and then killed.

    I’d even be okay with more aggressive efforts to find homes for lab animals that *could* be fostered, rather than simply euthanizing them because that’s the most convenient thing for US to do.

    (Please, please, no silly claims about infectious disease. I’m not talking about animals that really are going to die whether or not they’re euthanized, or animals that are euthanized and dissected. I’m talking about animals that are euthanized for reasons of *storage and cost*, who really are just as disposable as the toaster your bank gave you.)

  52. #52 DuWayne
    October 18, 2009

    Jason, my objection thus far has more to do with a clear and obvious desire on the part of you and a few others to simply object to what I’m saying out of hand, instead of really consider it (in my view).

    You are making a hell of a lot of assumptions about people you know virtually nothing about here Babble. You seem to assume that because we don’t come to the same conclusions that you have, we must not have considered the same questions you have. Trust me when I say, I have gone to some very dark and ugly places in my explorations of morality and ethics. I have sought hypotheticals that make my skin crawl and likely would yours.

    I have considered the questions you ask and find them wanting – absurd even. You ask why we can advocate for testing on animals we do not know, tests we would not allow on our own pets and children. The answer is really quite simple – it is an entirely different emotional paradigm. My children are my offspring. I have more than just an emotional bond with them, they are a significant part of my life’s meaning. And pets? Different paradigm from the kids, but also a different paradigm from offspring – at least for me.

    Bottom line – I have an emotional connection to my children and the non-human animals who are a part of my life (I have no pets of my own, nevertheless, there are NH animals I love), that I simply do not have with most other animals. Food animals are different still – another emotional paradigm, several really.

    As a hunter, I have taken the lives of NH animals with the intention of eating them. While some folks can manage that with complete nonchalance, I am not so cavalier. I have a profound respect for the natural world and my place in it. I find that taking direct action as a part of a food chain is a wholly remarkable experience and causes some very intense emotional reactions – not the least being an obsession for causing absolutely no more suffering than absolutely necessary.

    And I have eaten NH animals that were a part of my daily life, when I have lived on farms. I have eaten a rooster that was about as vile a creature as I have ever come across. I killed the damned beast and will admit that I was pleased the damned creature was dead. I have also eaten a cow who I had developed feelings for that transcended mere affection and which were the rival of the love I have felt for any other NH animal. It was alone, without bovine companionship (the person who raised her had decided to stop raising beef and didn’t replace the cow that had been her companion) and I was one of the people who chose to fill that gap so she wouldn’t be lonely.

    This is not a simple, black and white sort of discussion, yet you seem to want to treat it as such. You think that asking difficult questions and not getting simple answers means you have made points. I assure you you have not. At best, you have turned a few dewy eyed children to consider the ethics of eating meat and animal products. The problem is that you are the one trying to make this black and white, not us. I doubt there are many scientists who engage in animal testing who think of this the way that you do – it simply is not that simple.

    This is why your limits are being questioned and the questions are legitimate. You are ultimately being asked about the tenets of your Faith, the edges of your dogma. And it is uncomfortable for you, because it is unlikely you really know them. Is it ok to ingest yeast? There are a hell of a lot of vegans who would throw out a resounding “hell no!” As they would the question of rennet being used in the production of fake cheese. Is algae off limits? This is a truly gray area for nearly ever vegan I have ever known – excepting the ones who really liked their beer and shat on purity for vice.

    If you want dialog, then bloody well engage in dialog and quit pretending that anyone who disagrees with you is a violent psychopath. Try considering this from their perspective of vast swaths of gray and the moral collisions that make up the whole of the human experience. Accept that we all draw lines somewhere. And all of us do – even you. Every time you breath, you massacre billions of tiny flora and fauna. Your body survives on the lives and deaths of trillions of bacteria, some harmful, the vast majority essential components healthy function. You step on insects, eat them (scary but true) and possibly even purposely kill some that decide to snack on you.

    When you speak dogmatically, expect people to question your dogma and accept that yes, they are trying to catch you up in your inconsistencies. As they bloody well should.

  53. #53 babble
    October 18, 2009

    DuWayne: why let facts get in the way of a good story? Did you actually bother to read anything I’ve actually posted, or is this just to amuse yourself?

  54. #54 babble
    October 18, 2009

    If you folks want to piss and moan about me personally, you’ve got your own blogs to go do that on; once again, even in places where I’ve called “gotcha!” I’ve tried to address the claims at face value.

    What I won’t do is entertain whining trolls from Camille’s blog who are just here to gripe and complain about me. You’ve got plenty of other places to go do that.

  55. #55 babble
    October 18, 2009

    Oh, bother. At the risk of entertaining trolls…

    You seem to assume that because we don’t come to the same conclusions that you have, we must not have considered the same questions you have.

    No, actually. I called gotcha on Jason’s earliest claim about animals killing other animals in nature, and then answered his point.

    I called gotcha on Dr. Freeride’s question about pets and then answered HER point.

    I’ve made several attempts, before you showed up to piss and moan, to make a case that animal testing will persist for the foreseeable future, but as an ethical question should end. If this counts as making a black & white claim in your view, there’s nothing I can do about that, but I don’t especially care about your criticism of it in that case.

    I have considered the questions you ask and find them wanting – absurd even.

    Which means you’re just going to dodge them, or default to humans get to do what we want because we say we get to do what we want.

    You ask why we can advocate for testing on animals we do not know, tests we would not allow on our own pets and children. The answer is really quite simple – it is an entirely different emotional paradigm.

    Right. You get to do what you want, because you say so. How convenient.

    Bottom line – I have an emotional connection to my children and the non-human animals who are a part of my life …

    You get to do what you want, because you say so.

    As a hunter, …

    You get to do what you want, because you say so. Yeah, I get it. It makes you feel good. So what?

    This is not a simple, black and white sort of discussion, yet you seem to want to treat it as such.

    Once again, I’ve made several claims that testing is going to persist, regardless of anything said in this discussion. I’ve made several claims that you and everybody else here will go right on doing what you want to do. Does that mean I have to pat you on the head and tell you I think that what you’re choosing to do is just fine, just to avoid being called dogmatic by you?

    Why should I be concerned with that?

    …there are many scientists who engage in animal testing who think of this the way that you do – it simply is not that simple.

    If you’ll read what I’ve actually posted, I’ve even allowed for THAT. What I have said and I stand by, is that a discussion of ending testing is not on the table as a result of this petition, nor any like it. Pro-Test is justifying testing on the grounds that humans get to claim benefit.

    That’s not much of a reason, really. Humans can justify just about anything claiming that they benefit from it.

    This is why your limits are being questioned and the questions are legitimate.

    …and I’ve answered those questions; I’m even entertaining your silly ranting, aren’t I?

    Is it ok to ingest yeast? There are a hell of a lot of vegans who would throw out a resounding “hell no!” As they would the question of rennet being used in the production of fake cheese. Is algae off limits? This is a truly gray area for nearly ever vegan I have ever known – excepting the ones who really liked their beer and shat on purity for vice.

    Given that I don’t drink beer, you’re really just making this claim to attempt to make a claim that I’m ill-informed about veganism.

    I’ll return the favor and make a claim here that you’re either lying or you don’t know as many vegans as you’re implying.

    If you want dialog, then bloody well engage in dialog and quit pretending that anyone who disagrees with you is a violent psychopath.

    This because I called one of your fellow hunters a sociopath, over on NIO, after he claimed he wanted most of the human population to die of starvation, so he could return to a “subsistence” life. Sorry, kiddo. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. That still has nothing to do with anything I’ve said here, and you know it.

    Every time you breath, you massacre billions of tiny flora and fauna.

    See several of my posts far, far earlier in the thread, along with the dozens of others you didn’t read: I’m not saying veganism is perfect. I’m not saying animal rights is perfect. I’m saying it’s better than what we’re doing now.

    …they are trying to catch you up in your inconsistencies. As they bloody well should.

    Which is why, as I said, even where I’ve called “gotcha,” I entertained the claims at face value, irrespective of my questions about the motive behind making the point.

    I’ve even entertained your pedantic little rant, here, kiddo.

  56. #56 MS2
    October 19, 2009

    Thank you again for your time babble. In the course of our discussion it turns out we pretty much only disagree on whether the ethics of eating meat can be independently separated from the ethics of animal research. I don’t think it can since our relationship with animals is at the heart of it, you might not even think it can’t, but are giving it a sincere try. That was mostly where I was confused.

    In retrospect I would like to retract one of my former arguments. I have seen videos of animals being cruelly treated in laboratory settings so my claim about keeping a clean house was a bit hypocritical. You have my assurances that most laboratories are not run that way just as not all ARA are violent and overly aggressive. For every experiment we are asked why this is necessary, if there are any other options, and if the work is duplicative. I looked up AETA and am appalled by the legal issues that arise. Though I think you might want to look into what goes into a typical IRB application. I assure you we don’t take this lightly (my yeast comment aside). You also might want to look up Ed Brayton he is also on this blog service under “Dispatches From the Culture Wars” and writes a lot about constitutional infractions, freedom of speech, and civil disobedience. I would imagine that he would be particularly interested in any stories that you may have about AETA. It is embarrassing that for those of us not at the tables we don’t know about it, but we also just don’t hear about it.

    One small point that was thrown out and is minor, just for clarification. A large amount of the research involving animals is still basic science. My own was not in pharmaceuticals it was looking at a specific receptor that immune cells used to find where they were going. It would have been impossible to model since we didn’t know what it did. It is frustrating that a drug company may one day take advantage of my work on this receptor and make millions off it with out directly paying the lab back but that is a different ethical question. Likewise, the ‘alternative’ option of just making the drugs more expensive doesn’t really work since basic science is by definition not for any kind of profit. One thing that we are usually asked is if we could use a model would we really be sure and with certainty state that we won’t need to use the animals after-all.

    Modern science might be projected as having all the answers now but we maybe understand a single cell, or even a creature up to the size of a nematode. To tie into my own research. Ten years ago brilliant immunologists didn’t even think that specific white blood cells could find where they were going. Now we are looking at the pathways that they use, ignorant of-course about some other important feature. There are decades of work to be done before we could even guess whether a computer model of an animal would be plausible or not.

    I would like to hope that in the past twenty years we have made tremendous progress on how we treat animals and in another twenty years we all hope it will be just as much better. For the record ending animal research is on the table. What else? While we are not there yet what we presently do is done as best as we can.

    The argument that animal research will eventually make the world a better place isn’t used so we get up cheerful in the morning and all perky about a long day in the lab killing. It is instead used when we get home, feeling like monsters, to tease and comfort a battered conscience that occasionally has nightmares about squeaking mice.

  57. #57 babble
    October 19, 2009

    A few other non-points to clear up:

    a) I don’t eat rennet, because I do understand where it comes from. I’ve posed about a gazillion fake cheese recipes on the interwebs; not a single one of them call for the stomach enzymes of cows. Sorry, kiddo. You’re really going to have to try harder.

    b) The issue of process veganism is a complicated one, which I, nor any other vegan, do not dismiss out of hand, but at the same time, I have enough work to do just to get people to consider giving up easily avoidable things like eggs, milk, cheese and meat. If I can get them THAT far, we can have a discussion about process vegan issues.

    That being said, despite DuWayne’s clear and useless gotcha, here, I’m STILL really trying to keep my comments limited to testing.

    You folks can complain to the high heavens because you think reading a blog post somehow forces you not to hunt, or somehow forces you to go vegan, if you wish.

    This claim is patently idiotic, of course.

    I have no enforcement power over your choices. You’re just confused because I won’t pat you on the head and tell you that your choices are permissible just because they’re yours.

    Sorry, kids. You’re just not that special.

  58. #58 babble
    October 19, 2009

    …and because you think I’m ill-informed, really, really: try again.

    a) Stearic acid in some dried yeast may be plant-sourced and may be animal sourced. Commercially produced yeast nearly always uses synthetic stearic acid, but to be on the safe side, when brewing at home, buy vegan-labelled brewer’s yeast to be sure.

    Commercially baked bread (and baker’s yeast) is nearly always synthetic, due to cost.

    b) If you’re confusing fruititarians, or raw vegans with all other vegans, you’re simply confused.

    c) Classing algae as animals because they’re protists is factually in error. Again, that vegans choose to avoid harming animals but will consume plants is not the dogmatic claim folks try to make it seem to be.

    We do understand that ancillary animal death occurs to harvest plants; that cannot be reasonably avoided at this point. Killing animals for MEAT *can*. Given that vastly more ancillary death will occur to produce crops which we then feed to livestock which we then kill, eating plant-based diets is still less harm overall.

    No one posting here is killing each and every morsel of flesh they choose to eat in the wild; you’re trekking to your local grocer for eggs and milk and cheese, even if you DO claim to have personally hunted every last morsel of animal FLESH you’ve ever eaten.

  59. #59 babble
    October 19, 2009

    …and, with this, I think the pretense that any of this was about “dialog” is well and truly exposed for the useless, useless argument this is only ever really about.

    As I said at the outset, you folks are going to do whatever you’re going to do.

    Let’s just drop the pretense that you actually *want* “dialog” in this. I’ve been completely honest, throughout. If I wanted to distance myself from a few of my more firebreathing moments over on NIO, I’d have posted under a different nickname, and wouldn’t have made it clear that I was coming FROM NIO, which Dr. Stemwedel specifically linked to in her post; if I was attempting to mislead anyone, I’d have simply done it.

    Let’s just stop pretending that there’s some magical common ground in ANY of this, as I said at the outset. You folks can go back to patting yourselves on the back for being so “non-dogmatic” or whatever it is you’ve convinced yourselves of in this, and we’ll go back to reaching the folks who are actually reachable.

  60. #60 Flaky
    October 19, 2009

    Babble said, “No, actually. I called gotcha on Jason’s earliest claim about animals killing other animals in nature, and then answered his point.”
    I don’t believe that this point was adequately addressed. Babble merely dismissed the point by saying that other animals killing doesn’t make it right for humans to kill, and that many animals kill instinctively, so they really don’t have a choice. Since Babble is demanding ethical consistency, it’s worth pointing that it consistently follows from her precepts that it’s equally wrong for a lion to kill a gazelle than it’s for a human to kill such an animal, because the measure of ‘evil’ is not the ability to choose to inflict harm (do we really even know that a lion cannot choose not to kill?) but the suffering of the prey. Any arguments about lions being carnivores or perhaps the need to keep populations of prey animals down to reduce overall suffering is evasion of the point.

    ARAs are not calling for research to turn lions into herbivores or policing chimps to prevent them from brutally attacking neighbouring tribes. Indeed it seems that the ARAs’ position derives from the maxim that any exploitation of animals by humans is wrong. Whatever arguments are used to support that view seem merely convenient rationalizations, not actual reasons for holding that position.

    PS. What’s this vegan yeast thing? I googled as hard as I could, and I could only find sites saying that vegans are allowed to eat yeast.

  61. #61 IS
    October 19, 2009

    I’d like to give my answer to Babble’s question about why Humans get what appears to him/her to be a free pass.

    The answer is Language.

    I have a rule that I use to help guide my initial thoughts on moral issues. If there is a claim that some identifiable is oppressed, I’m not generally impressed unless someone from that identifiable group is prepared to stand-up and make a public plea on their own behalf. For example the lack of a public profile to the “wives” of the polygamous Fundamentalist LDS, leads me to consider as special pleading, the pronouncements of the male adults of that sect.

    This ability to understand your predicament and articulate your own concerns on the matter, is for me an important dividing line. I don’t find the use of the “sentience” to be particularly valuable because it doesn’t provide much of dividing line. Yeasts can sense sugar gradients, but are clearly unaware that continued reproduction in closed environment will lead to their dead by alcohol poisoning.

    In the same way laboratory mice have no appreciation of their ultimate disposition, and whilst they could be left highly stressed by poor husbandry or experimental technique they will not be able to express the reasons for their fear.

    I support the general reluctance to use chimps and other apes for scientific research, whilst believing that for the right experiment under the right conditions, it may be unavoidable. I would however, be opposed to any non-language non-psychological or unconsented research on chimps that have been taught to sign.

    Now language for me isn’t an absolute rule, but I find it almost impossible to consider mice or fruit flies, or nematodes, and morally equivalent to humans.

  62. #62 Jason Thibeault
    October 19, 2009

    Sorry for jumping around in this one. It’s hard to answer every point you’ve raised, and if you want any specifically answered that I end up missing, point them out (preferably in a concise single post).

    I’m loath to jump back into a discussion of fetal moral issues, except to say this: first trimester fetuses are likely insentient. Lab mice, dogs, cats, primates or any of the animals we choose to use for experimental purposes are ALL at *least* as sentient as a human infant. There’s a clear difference, at least to me.

    I raise this not to divert, and not as a “gotcha”. I raise this because it would eliminate a lot of animal testing. Are you doing anything to promote stem cell research? I advocate it as often as I can, though I am, again, a mere lay-person. Likewise with the eternal-life cancer samples that are in use, that some call unnatural and ask to be killed and eliminated from use.

    Research on living flesh is necessary for the development of advanced medical treatment. Doing this research only on those that are already infected by disease doesn’t usually work out, and it would probably multiply the dead from the disease unnecessarily what with the time constraints of the disease itself and the lack of proper testing equipment available where the diseased might happen to be. Do I think animal testing is the best we have at the moment? In the cases where it’s being used, yes. I do feel we should be humane about any testing we do, and that’s why I’d strongly campaign for any reforms to the existing protections laws as opposed to “let’s shut it all down until we can use something other than animals”, though you appear to have softened on that point considerably since your initial attempt at dialogue.

    Please, please, no silly debates about granting fish the vote; Hopefully you understand that I’m talking about very basic moral rights – not to be eaten, not to be used as a means to an end, etc. And before this jumps right off the rails again, that other animals MAY do so doesn’t say a thing about US. We can choose. Other animals may or may not. We unquestionably can.

    We assign “rights” to other humans because we have that ability and a hard-wired drive to improve the lot of our own species. However, we DON’T have any “basic moral right” not to be eaten. We just don’t do it to each other because we’ve evolved not to do so. Likewise, animals don’t have any basic moral right not to be eaten, in this kill or be killed, natural selection oriented, bleak and unforgiving universe. Morals are our way of attempting to support one another and with this support structure prevent unnecessary death amongst our species. You extend that support to other non-human animals. I extend it only to the animals directly in my charge, human or otherwise, and only to other humans as they’re my support structure.

    People like DuWayne have killed animals for food directly; I have not. If I had to do it, I would have difficulty doing so. Others do not have any difficulty with slaughtering animals humanely. Sometimes people get desensitized to the slaughter and “go rogue”, taking pleasure in it. Look at the Iraqi soldiers throwing kittens off cliffs, or guards performing human rights abuses on Gitmo detainees because they’re dehumanized to the point where the guards don’t feel like they’re hurting another member of their own race. These acts are deplorable. They are the acts of the desensitized and these people should be removed from their positions. I’d prefer someone who weeps with each cow’s neck he cuts, and that tries to make the cleanest blow possible to knock them unconscious, followed by cleanest and deadliest cut possible to avoid pain. That the cow is going to be slaughtered is never in question. That it would prefer to grow old and die naturally is not in question either. But in the wild, brahmin (pre-domestication) would prefer to not be eaten either and that never stopped their predators. Yes, we have the choice, and I personally choose to eat whatever biomass I choose regardless of its origins so long as I don’t find out that any unnecessary cruelty has been carried out in the name of putting that meal on my plate.

    even in places where I’ve called “gotcha!” I’ve tried to address the claims at face value.

    Some free advice: stop screaming “gotcha” and start assuming everyone is speaking with the intent of being taken at face value. Don’t try to set yourself up as some kind of martyr for answering; just do it. You ask a lot of the same kinds of leading questions, so what’s different about your style of dialogue and ours?

    Given that I don’t drink beer, you’re really just making this claim to attempt to make a claim that I’m ill-informed about veganism.

    No, he’s trying to illustrate that everyone draws their lines differently, and this doesn’t make us necessarily bad people. Just like the NiO folks try to drum you out in an effort to maintain “purity” of their cause, don’t try to drum us out of the debate because we’re too far toward the pro-test side.

    This because I called one of your fellow hunters a sociopath, over on NIO, after he claimed he wanted most of the human population to die of starvation, so he could return to a “subsistence” life. Sorry, kiddo. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. That still has nothing to do with anything I’ve said here, and you know it.

    Anyone that wants to kill off most of the human population is a sociopath. I extend this to wanting to destroy science for its own sake, despite it being our only unique characteristic, as some of your bretheren (though notably not you) suggest.

    I’m not saying veganism is perfect. I’m not saying animal rights is perfect. I’m saying it’s better than what we’re doing now.

    You’re taking an extreme position that we must maintain the domesticated animals that we’ve already created and take care of them because we’ve made this mess and we’re responsible for cleaning it up. Does that mean the milking-cow, and chicken, and cats and dogs, should be spayed / neutered to prevent them from reproducing, so that we no longer have that burden after a time? Once those species go extinct, and we all go entirely agrarian, is your job done? How far does the slippery slope go? Do you eventually extend rights to the bacteria and viruses that try to kill us, or animals that try to prey on us at the frontiers of our civilization, or as DuWayne mentions, the yeast, or algae (which walks the line between flora and fauna)? At what point do people start saying “all life is sacred and even eating a carrot is murder”, as the Arrogant Worms famously suggested? (I’d suggest this last is flippant and self-limiting as these people would die rather quickly of starvation, but there you have it.)

    But we aren’t HAVING that discussion. We’re going the rounds on this exactly as I said at the beginning: claims of human benefit trump all other concerns.

    That’s never been my own argument. You’re putting words in our mouths. And frankly, just because we’ve examined all the same evidence as you and come to different conclusions doesn’t mean we’re “simply not getting it”, and that you have to restate your position again so that eventually we DO “get it” and come around to your position.

    This is dialogue, Babble. That means you have to listen to us too. I read all your comments (yeah, all of them, despite you’ve out-produced all of the rest of us combined by an exponential factor). Do read ours, and understand that we’re not trying to get you into “gotcha” situations, just showing you why we came to different conclusions ourselves — those “gotcha” questions you keep complaining about, are in essence, “what got us”.

  63. #63 babble
    October 19, 2009

    do we really even know that a lion cannot choose not to kill?)

    We don’t, but that’s beside the point. What I actually said, which none of you are actually listening to is this: whether or not other animals may make moral considerations doesn’t have any bearing on the fact that humans unquestionably can.

    We simply choose not to.

    We then attempt to justify it by saying other animals (apparently) also do not do so.

    As I’ve already said, which you folks ignored, this is akin to saying that if *you* behave unethically, it’s perfectly acceptable for *me* to behave unethically.

    No, it isn’t.

  64. #64 babble
    October 19, 2009

    I’m not generally impressed unless someone from that identifiable group is prepared to stand-up and make a public plea on their own behalf.

    That that’s YOUR standard doesn’t make that a GOOD standard.

    Should we farm and eat (or perform research) on the severely mentally handicapped, who ALSO can’t advocate on their own behalf?

  65. #65 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Some free advice: stop screaming “gotcha”

    Some more free advice: stop PLAYING gotcha, or stop patting yourself on the back for having a “dialog.”

  66. #66 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “That’s never been my own argument. You’re putting words in our mouths. And frankly, just because we’ve examined all the same evidence as you and come to different conclusions doesn’t mean we’re “simply not getting it”, and that you have to restate your position again so that eventually we DO “get it” and come around to your position.”

    Only because you assume I’m speaking solely to you. I’m not, Jason. I’m honestly not even speaking TANGENTIALLY to you.

    Once again, as I said at the outset, not a single solitary one of you is going to change what you’re doing as a result of anything that happens in this discussion.

    What you folks seem unwilling to really accept is that holds equally for me.

    Just because some infinitesimal shred of this has some impact on veterinary medicine once in a while doesn’t mean that the vast overwhelming majority of what we’re talking about here is about claimed human benefit. Which, in very many cases, is more about the marketing of claimed human benefit than “scientific advancement.” But I think you know that, which means that this is back to flinging a gotcha, so that you can then tell yourself it’s “all about the dialog” when I point out the obviousness of what you’re actually doing.

  67. #67 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Right, I should pretend we’re having a “dialog” here, because *this*..

    “they are trying to catch you up in your inconsistencies. As they bloody well should.”

    or this…

    You think that asking difficult questions and not getting simple answers means you have made points. I assure you you have not.

    or this…

    Maybe when we live in a perfect utopia of human rights etc. then I will become pro animal rights.

    The assumption that as human beings we have a duty to not use animals because they are sentient beings is as ridiculous as telling a lion don’t eat the lamb.

    …is really about “dialog?”

    No, it isn’t. It’s blatantly obvious that it isn’t.

    You folks want to pretend you don’t understand why folks say things about you that offend your precious sensibilities on a blog? You don’t listen. You pat yourselves on the back for scoring points in a debate – while simultaneously patting yourselves on the back for “hosting dialog” that isn’t about dialog.

    No one listens. Or, at the most, very very few people do. Most humans do exactly what you’re doing here, “science” and “rationality” notwithstanding: justify your use of animals because it makes YOU feel good. You enjoy eating animals, so you pretend we’re the problem when we tell you that eating them isn’t ethically justifiable. You pretend we’re being “violent” and “forcing” you to go vegan — through the entirely optional behavior of reading blog posts. Despite all the strum and drang about human violence in this, the violence of hunting, animal farming and blatantly useless animal testing continues unabated. You know it. I know it. But I really really ought to be concerned because someone said something nasty about you in a blog post, or got in your face at a conference.

    Yes, David Jentch’s car was firebombed. If I had a magic wand, I’d go back in time and prevent that from happening. But he was unharmed. The animals he ate for dinner, that night, THEY were harmed. The animals he’ll kill this year and next year and every year after that – for what? For legitimate research? For the sake of landing a cush job after he’s done his time at UCLA? Sure, we could pretend that it’s all saving lives, but it’s not, and you KNOW it’s not. “Violence” against humans is not what’s happening in the vast majority of these cases, *and you know it.* It’s just easier for you to dismiss us if you claim we’re ALL violent. So, just as Dr. Rosset tried to do, that’s precisely what you do.

    When I try to make an entirely factual claim that testing isn’t going away any time soon, but I hold an ethical view that you dislike, I’m being “dogmatic” and making a “black and white” argument.

    How convenient, for you. That just means you’re giving yourselves an excuse not to listen. You’ll still pat yourselves on the back for all the “dialog” you’re fostering, but it’s fiction. You know it. I know it.

    Do you wonder why ARA’s don’t flock to these discussions? It’s not because we “can’t” debate you folks, or whatever it is you tell yourselves; it’s because you folks are disingenuous. You want to have your cake and eat it; you want to sit in your echo chamber, congratulating yourselves for “reaching out” to the AR community and pretending you care about “dialog” while at the same time patting yourselves on the back for scoring rhetorical points in your meaningless “debates” – which you’re not really having, because you spell it D-I-A-L-O-G, which magically makes it all different. But none of this – not a single, solitary shred of it – really matters.

    What does matter is this:

    The millions of animals you folks will kill for the sole purpose of drug company profits (not the “lifesaving research” you’ll spin it as to the public) will still be dead. The generally healthy animals you’ll kill because you don’t want to bother with fostering them when you’re done using them for research (most of which isn’t even going to lead to your claimed human benefit beyond protecting your jobs and giving you data points to cite in your next research grant application, and the cycle starts all over again), they’ll be dead. The billions and billions of animals you’ll kill to eat will still be dead – not because you’d die of malnutrition eating a vegan diet, but simply because you don’t WANT to do anything else – they’ll still be dead.

    But some microscopically tiny shred of this might impact veterinary medicine once in a while, so you silly ARA’s can’t really say it’s JUST human selfishness, really…I mean. Really. Viagra and Cialis patents did so much good for “the science.” The drugs you’ll recall this year, next year, and every year after that, which were all deemed safe by your utterly “necessary” animal tests, which will persist not because you can’t come up with a better solution, but because using alternatives impacts your employer’s profit margins this quarter, that’s all about “the science,” isn’t it?

    I should sit down and shut up because you folks are all about “dialog,” in this.

    How convenient for you.

  68. #68 babble
    October 19, 2009

    You’re taking an extreme position that we must maintain the domesticated animals that we’ve already created and take care of them because we’ve made this mess and we’re responsible for cleaning it up.

    We are, but the rest of this point is largely a strawman, which would be ironic, since this isn’t a debate and you’re not playing games.

    Once again, and for the umpteenth time: you’re going to do whatever you’re going to do. I can’t change that. I would if I could, but I can’t. That out of the way (not that you’ll actually bother to listen THIS time any more than you did before)…

    The notion that animal agriculture will disappear overnight is – of course – not what I’m claiming, nor what I have claimed. Given enough vegans in the culture at large, we’ll eventually reach a tipping point at which time animal agriculture will no longer be profitable. We’ll switch to doing something else.

    But this process doesn’t require mass sterilizations or forced extinctions or other ridiculously silly exaggerated claims. It simply means that over time, we’ll breed fewer and fewer domesticated animals for these uses as the demand for these animals to be produced changes.

    As for pets: as I’ve already said, oh, several times now (still not listening, while patting yourself on the back for claiming I’m not): we shouldn’t have domesticated pets, but we did. I wish we hadn’t, but I can’t change that.

    That doesn’t mean breeding more of these animals in perpetuity is okay.

    This ALSO doesn’t make any silly claim of forced euthanasia or forced extinction of pets, or other slippery slope exaggerations (but again, it’s ironic that this even needs to go there – this not being a “debate” and all).

    There’s a clear and obvious difference between the ethical case I’m making, which is ideal (and I’ve never claimed otherwise) and the facts on the ground, which aren’t (which I’ve also never pretended otherwise about).

  69. #69 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “I’d prefer someone who weeps with each cow’s neck he cuts…”

    Which is meaningless, since that’s not really what’s happening. Sport hunters do not do this when THEY kill animals; it’s merely about whatever it does *for them*, as DuWayne’s rant so ably illustrates. Commercial animal agriculture does not do this when THEY kill animals. These animals are merely a means to an end (profit) for them.

  70. #70 Jason Thibeault
    October 19, 2009

    How convenient for YOU that you can hand-wave away every argument with “big business” no matter how anti-profiteering the other side is, and with “cruelty” no matter how humane the other side is (or strives to be). And I WAS under the impression you were talking with me, as you were directly replying to stuff I said (especially when you were calling it “gotcha” crap).

    Well, folks, I tried. I honestly did. I never intended to try to “convert” Babble, just to talk with him/her. I’m bowing out of this because any attempt at continuing this conversation is being viewed as proselytization, and that’s honestly all I’m hearing in return.

  71. #71 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “Well, folks, I tried. I honestly did. I never intended to try to “convert” Babble, “

    Despite gratuitously claiming agreement, so you could get back to scoring rhetorical points a bit later.

    just to talk with him/her. I’m bowing out of this because any attempt at continuing this conversation is being viewed as proselytization,

    The difference here is that I’m not pretending otherwise. You are.

  72. #72 DuWayne
    October 19, 2009

    I’ve made several attempts, before you showed up to piss and moan, to make a case that animal testing will persist for the foreseeable future, but as an ethical question should end. If this counts as making a black & white claim in your view, there’s nothing I can do about that, but I don’t especially care about your criticism of it in that case.

    That’s nothing but a copout Babble. You advocate for ending it now, but accept that you cannot stop it now. That doesn’t make your view any less black and white, all it does is show your cynicism. Nothing wrong with that either – I feel much the same way about the body politic in the U.S. But don’t try to pretend that you have a nuanced view – you don’t.

    Right. You get to do what you want, because you say so. How convenient.

    And if you could get what you want, you would happily take it up in a heartbeat – because you say so.

    Which means you’re just going to dodge them, or default to humans get to do what we want because we say we get to do what we want.

    Not dodging a damned thing. I am saying that it isn’t as simple as you make it out to be. It isn’t just a matter of humans getting to do as we wish by default. It is about humans weighing our options and making the best decisions we can think of.

    Accepting testing medicines on NH animals – not because we like to torture animals, but because it is the best way we currently have for engaging in that type of testing. Eating meat because our bodies evolved to eat meat, even while many of us reject the methods employed by factory farming because we believe that such methods are inhumane.

    Why should I be concerned with that?

    And yet here you are, being concerned with that.

    Given that I don’t drink beer, you’re really just making this claim to attempt to make a claim that I’m ill-informed about veganism.

    Not at all – I am making this claim because it is true. That was not a critical comment about you – it was a statement about vegans in general and debates that I have witnessed and even taken part in. The bottom line is that even in the non-species centric worldview, there is a lot of gray and the question of where you draw the line is legitimate and as yet still unanswered.

    This because I called one of your fellow hunters a sociopath, over on NIO, after he claimed he wanted most of the human population to die of starvation, so he could return to a “subsistence” life. Sorry, kiddo. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. That still has nothing to do with anything I’ve said here, and you know it.

    No. This because you call anyone who does animal testing a violent sociopath and most anyone who disagrees with you about testing – including myself.

    Which is why, as I said, even where I’ve called “gotcha,” I entertained the claims at face value, irrespective of my questions about the motive behind making the point.

    Entertained them maybe, but not really addressed them. You mostly ignore the issue of where the lines are drawn, by claiming we can’t know the sentience of certain creatures. Yet you assume that simply because a creature has an instinctual drive to survive and procreate, they are sentient. Given that definition, then yes, yeast and other microorganisms are sentient. They do what they must to survive and procreate.

    As for the “gothcha” issue – we are trying to understand exactly what your position is and if there are cracks, where those are too. And it is just as valid when we do it, as it is when you do the same thing. Or are you honestly going to pretend that isn’t what you’re doing when you ask about our pets and children? The difference between you and I, is that I recognize this is an entirely valid rhetorical tool and rather than whining about your using it, I answered the question fully cognizant of what you are doing.

    I think the problem you have with this, is that because your position is virtually entirely black and white, you have very little room to maneuver. Whereas my own position is pretty much the polar opposite – I exist with very little black and white, the vast majority of my decisions being made in vast swaths of gray. I don’t have simple answers for any of the questions you raise, because in this gray existence my life is series of moral quandaries. While individual decisions I make are relatively simple, the foundations of those decisions are not.

    The bottom line, you have a ready made frame for deciding what you think of issues pertaining to non-human animals. It becomes very difficult for you to operate at the fringes of that frame. I don’t have such a simple frame, so every decision is fraught with moral calculus. And you think you really have me, because underlying all my decisions is this idea of a default; “we’re humans so we get to decide what to do.” Guess what Babble? That underlies your decisions as well. That is underneath every damned decision any of us makes.

    Yes, unlike other omnivores or carnivores, we do get to decide what we will eat and how we will treat other animals. We can decide that we just can’t countenance eating flesh at all or exploiting other animals in any way, or we can decide that NH animals are worthy of absolutely no consideration whatever. The fact is, that most of us believe that your extreme, is just as patently insane and ultimately inhumane, as the other.

    For better or worse, we are inexorably wedded to the environment we have altered so dramatically. We are an essential component of our current ecosystem and we are the only animals on this planet that are capable of the abstractions necessary to begin to understand it and attempt to manage it. I’m not saying we haven’t fucked it up and won’t continue to. I am just saying that without our intervention, the natural world will see even more suffering.

    You and I both want to see a reduction of suffering for all animals, human and otherwise – as I imagine most of the commenters here do. Where we differ, is in what we perceive as our right – our place to intervene. Make no mistake – your vision for the natural world, includes just as much suffering as mine and over time less biodiversity.

  73. #73 DuWayne
    October 19, 2009

    Which is meaningless, since that’s not really what’s happening. Sport hunters do not do this when THEY kill animals; it’s merely about whatever it does *for them*, as DuWayne’s rant so ably illustrates. Commercial animal agriculture does not do this when THEY kill animals. These animals are merely a means to an end (profit) for them.

    This is a perfect example of the problem you have. You are assuming this black/white dichotomy that just doesn’t exist. It isn’t US against YOU. There are other ethical vegans who do things, espouse beliefs and think things that you do not agree with. There are vegans who advocate and/or outright commit acts of violence and terrorism. There are also ethical vegans who could care less about animals and just see meat farming as a massive waste of limited resources. I would assume that there are a lot of these folks whom you would rather not be lumped with.

    Guess what? There is also a great deal of diversity on the OTHER side of the token. You are the one presuming to lump everyone who agrees with biomedical testing on animals and eating meat, into one big group. You seem to think that I could care less about the animals I have killed and was all in it for ME. The former is patently absurd and the latter is only true insofar as my experience taking the lives of NH animals completely transformed my view of the natural world and my place in it – especially in regards to my moral position on the humane treatment of animals – human and non-human alike.

  74. #74 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Thank you again for your time babble. In the course of our discussion it turns out we pretty much only disagree on whether the ethics of eating meat can be independently separated from the ethics of animal research.

    Let me be absolutely clear: I really do see them as points on the same spectrum. It’s all the commodification of sentient beings, not different enough from us (or our children, or our pets) to meaningfully warrant such commodification.

    Folks here are trying to trip me up on a strict scientific claim of “sentience.” I’m not claiming that rudimentary awareness – of a sort – at some cellular level is absolutely not happening. I’m willing to go with emerging models that posit a range of sentience, from rocks (absolutely insentient) to primates and marine mammals (sentient, and very probably capable of sophisticated abstract thought), and a range of “states of awareness” in-between.

    The point I’m making is that the animals we choose to use – for our entertainment (which is what sport hunting is despite any other claim), or food, or research – are not meaningfully different ENOUGH to warrant the species distinctions we’re placing on these animals. Or, heck, in some cases it’s not even a species distinction, given that we gleefully experiment on dogs and cats and animals people consider pets.

    That I’m drawing an “arbitrary” ethical line in the view of some of you is neither here, nor there. Even if I am, that line I’m drawing is in the interest of letting animals exist free of human interference whenever possible. Those other “arbitrary” lines are in the interest of humans telling themselves they get to do what they want.

    In retrospect I would like to retract one of my former arguments. I have seen videos of animals being cruelly treated in laboratory settings so my claim about keeping a clean house was a bit hypocritical.

    Thanks for at least being honest about that; it’s easy to fling a claim of policing one’s own. It’s not always easy to do it.

    You have my assurances that most laboratories are not run that way just as not all ARA are violent and overly aggressive.

    I don’t think I’m claiming that all labs ARE run this way; what I’m saying here is that even if animals are well-treated, that doesn’t justify using them in these ways. Similarly, if happy meat is well-kept, before we kill and eat those animals, that doesn’t make the act of killing those animals any less ethically problematic.

    It is embarrassing that for those of us not at the tables we don’t know about it, but we also just don’t hear about it.

    …generally because what folks focus on are claims that we’re all doing violence to you. See various points in this thread.

    One small point that was thrown out and is minor, just for clarification. A large amount of the research involving animals is still basic science.

    I’m not saying all testing is unnecessary, or purely profit-driven. I’m saying some of it is, and there’s no particular emphasis on separating the truly justifiable *research* from the unjustifiable *profit-seeking.* Signing this petition (meaninglessly promising to be “humane”) doesn’t address that.

    There are decades of work to be done before we could even guess whether a computer model of an animal would be plausible or not.

    So *do* decades of work. The point is that I understand that none of this is changing any time soon. But arguing for the status quo – which is all most of this is really about – is a sure guarantee that it won’t change AT ALL.

    For the record ending animal research is on the table. What else? While we are not there yet what we presently do is done as best as we can.

    Where? In the context of this petition, how? What we’ve seen in the course of this discussion are lots and lots of justifications for research as a basic question – which I do not challenge, and have not challenged, fundamentally – but no real recognition until very very LATE in this, after several folks have gotten their noses bent out of shape at me personally, that ending testing is even remotely a good idea.

    Why does it need to take this much drama to get to that point?

    The argument that animal research will eventually make the world a better place isn’t used so we get up cheerful in the morning and all perky about a long day in the lab killing. It is instead used when we get home, feeling like monsters, to tease and comfort a battered conscience that occasionally has nightmares about squeaking mice.

    Well. At the risk of being re-tarred and feathered as the AR extremist, here, that’s regrettable, but the lives of the animals being killed matter more. It’s unfortunate that you feel badly (but encouraging, oddly), but that’s a very secondary concern to putting an end to this.

  75. #75 Paul Browne
    October 19, 2009

    You know babble somebody could read your posts and think you’re making a few halfway decent points but thenwe come across statements such as

    “The millions of animals you folks will kill for the sole purpose of drug company profits (not the “lifesaving research” you’ll spin it as to the public) will still be dead. The generally healthy animals you’ll kill because you don’t want to bother with fostering them when you’re done using them for research (most of which isn’t even going to lead to your claimed human benefit beyond protecting your jobs and giving you data points to cite in your next research grant application, and the cycle starts all over again), they’ll be dead. The billions and billions of animals you’ll kill to eat will still be dead – not because you’d die of malnutrition eating a vegan diet, but simply because you don’t WANT to do anything else – they’ll still be dead.”

    Nobody but a complete conspiracy crank would claim that animal research is solely done for drug company profits, even if many of us (me at any rate) think the current system is skewed to much in their favour. As to fostering animals in most cases it is just not practical, rodents, fish and invertebrates account for the vast bulk of laboratory animals, and in any case most sudeies require that the animals are killed at the end for tissue samples etc. For cats, dogs and primates scientists often wish to foster animals (where the procedure allows it) but in the UK (and probably the USA, I’ll have to check the rules) this is not allowed since welfare rules demand that the animals are humanely killed at the end of a study to prevent re-use (with rare exceptions). I’ve known scientists who have broken these rules and taken animals home because they didn’t want to put down a perfectly healthy animal that would make a good pet. Even well intentioned rules can be frustrating. As to the benefits of animal research in terms of medical and scientific advances well I and others have discussed them often enough on the Speaking of Research site so I won’t bore everyone here.

    Like it or not we humans are different, through our relationships in society, sentience, self-awareness, potential etc. to other animals and IMHO these differences are sufficient to be able to say that what we think of as human rights should be reserved for humans. I’ll admit that some animals come pretty close to deserving similar protection to that afforded (in as much as it is afforded) to humans, the other great apes, some whales and elephants for example, and these species should get special protection, but to pretend that they deserve the same consideration as humans is as untenable as saying that a mouse should be considered equally with a monkey or a fruitfly with a rat. There is no one line that seperates us from other species, or other species from each other, but a whole series of gradations, which is exactly what the rules on animal research recognize (though like any rules they could use a few improvements). That’s why you’ll find that Pro-Testers are pretty keen on animal welfare.

    And finally you say “The billions and billions of animals you’ll kill to eat will still be dead – not because you’d die of malnutrition eating a vegan diet, but simply because you don’t WANT to do anything else – they’ll still be dead.”

    And if we don’t eat them they, or whatever their place in the ecosystem will still be dead, it will just be something else that kills them.

  76. #76 JohnV
    October 19, 2009

    @Babble

    “My concern is sentience, not taxonomy. Where a given form of life is evidently aware, and has a desire to continue existing, we need to make every effort to respect that desire to continue existing.”

    I have a question with respect to this statement. I hope it doesn’t come across as a gotcha so much as me applying my professional experience because it deals with things that most people aren’t aware of (not intentionally a sentience pun :P). It also seems that there might be some anthropomorphizing, except perhaps even a discussion of the relevance of that term is required (ie do we scientists dehumanize things by throwing that term at them to make more acceptable our actions). Anyhow, I’ve already digressed so back on topic… I’m also omitting links to pertinent reviews on these topics because I’ll hit the spam filter, and I’m lazy. If desired I can post some up (otherwise go to pubmed).

    Bacteria are capable of forming complex multicellular structures. They can respond to positive and negative stimuli. Some bacteria respond to negative stimuli by undergoing development into additional cell types. This allows for their continued existence in the face of some otherwise fatal environmental conditions.

    Additionally bacteria can engage in a form of communication. Not just among their species particular species, but between (sometimes un-)related bacteria and, in at least some cases, with their eukaryotic hosts.

    In the course of these above actions, the “human” behaviors of cheating, deception, kin-selection, altruism and fratricide can show up. Sometimes all the same organism: Bacillus subtilis, for example, can engage in all of the above simultaneously.

    Do you have an opinion on how these related behaviors are to the behaviors you outline in the quoted statement?

  77. #77 babble
    October 19, 2009

    And yet here you are, being concerned with that.

    Not especially, no. That I chose to entertain your whining was for my own purposes, not yours, DuWayne, just as it is when you fling irrelevant claims of species preservation on NIO – ahem – “biodiversity” here – to weakly attempt to justify your choice to hunt.

  78. #78 Lab Rat
    October 19, 2009

    So…everyone agrees that animal experimentation is Not A Good Thing

    Some people think animal experimentation is justified. This is why we keep doing it.

    Babble wants to know why. As babble thinks that there should be no difference between the way we treat animals and the way we treat humans (correct me if I got that wrong).

    My answer to that is: ummmmm… Because I think of all the crappy things that McCleod and co. did to that dog to get hold of insulin, and I know that was a terrible thing to do to a dog, and I would never sanction it done to a person. But if I has a kid with diabetes, I’d be down to the pharmacy to grab as much discovered-by-hurting-dog insulin as I could get my greedy selfish little hands on.

    This is why I work on bacteria. So I don’t *have* to face these kind of issues.

  79. #79 Babble
    October 19, 2009

    I’m aware that some of my claims may come off as overly anthropomorphizing. I’ve tried to address that more than a few times.

    Bacteria are capable of forming complex multicellular structures. They can respond to positive and negative stimuli. Some bacteria respond to negative stimuli by undergoing development into additional cell types. This allows for their continued existence in the face of some otherwise fatal environmental conditions.

    Perhaps, but I can’t (yet, perhaps) meaningfully avoid killing bacteria going about my daily living. But that doesn’t say anything at all about what I choose to eat, wear, etc. It doesn’t say anything about the use of complex vertebrates who are much more like us than the bacteria (or yeast, or algae) that are being used in these sorts of examples.

    Additionally bacteria can engage in a form of communication. Not just among their species particular species, but between (sometimes un-)related bacteria and, in at least some cases, with their eukaryotic hosts.

    See above. I’m not saying humans need to wrap themselves in a bubble lest they destroy microbes wantonly.

    The point here is that while there may indeed be variations in sentience – a position I’m willing to go with – none of the animals we’re talking about for THESE uses are so radically different from us that the difference in species makes an ethically relevant difference.

    Folks are trying to use self-advocacy or complex rational thought as a different baseline, but the problem is that it’s only been until very very recently that these same arguments were used to deny moral consideration to the few nonhumans that we NOW use as examples IN FAVOR of these arguments (dolphins, great apes, etc.)

    The whole proposition is weighted in favor of human preference by these standards. That’s a hopelessly rigged game.

  80. #80 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Babble wants to know why. As babble thinks that there should be no difference between the way we treat animals and the way we treat humans (correct me if I got that wrong).

    In some ways; not in ways that are clearly irrelevant to that animal’s interest, in just the same way that we don’t propose that infant humans are meaningfully able to argue on their own behalf, or vote, or organize political parties, etc. Because ALL POSSIBLE rights are not applicable to SOME humans in SOME cases does not say that NO POSSIBLE rights are applicable. The same holds for every other animal we choose to exploit. Where we have a choice NOT to kill (for food, clothing or entertainment, we absolutely do), it’s better NOT to kill, where we can, than to blithely assume that we get to just because we say we can.

    Where we don’t YET have a good option (zillions of unwanted pets in shelters aren’t a good situation; neither is the present circumstance of animal testing) we need to work to correct it, even if overnight solutions to those issues aren’t really available.

    But if I has a kid with diabetes, I’d be down to the pharmacy to grab as much discovered-by-hurting-dog insulin as I could get my greedy selfish little hands on.

    …perhaps, but that doesn’t really address the fundamental underlying ethical issue.

    Absent Nazi experimentation on Jews, homosexuals and others in the concentration camps, the US wouldn’t have had a leg up on the Soviets in the space race. Does the fact that some scientific benefit (manned spaceflight) was gleaned from unethical methods (unwilling human experimentation) really justify the unethical methods?

    If it’s EASY to see that experimenting on unwilling HUMANS is unacceptable, it’s really not at all difficult to see that the same holds for experimenting on unwilling NON-humans.

    Again, I’m not saying this will change today or tomorrow.

    But the problem is that so much of this simply argues for a perpetuation of the existing status quo. That means NOTHING will change.

  81. #81 becca
    October 19, 2009

    Oh folks, for heaven’s sake. This is bugging me. Both sides need to be honest about something:
    Some animal research is more equal than other animal research.
    There. I said it.

    Some animal research will result solely in redundant drugs (or cosmetics) and enable somebody to get rich- it is not the ‘best we can do’. And some of it is conducted by extremely intelligent, compassionate and ethical people who will still fail to actually advance the state of the science in any significant way, while their dissertations languish, covered in metaphorical dust, lost to the sands of time (ok, can you guess what keeps me up at night?).
    On the other hand, some of it will be vital to preventing death from a seemingly safe drug from killing dozens in a trial. Some of it will reveal properties of drugs that we never would have suspected, that will prove to be extremely valuable for curing diseases we had no idea how to approach. And some of it will save hundreds or thousands of nonhuman animals.

    And if you have anyway of telling the difference between studies before they are conducted, get thee to an IACUC, stat (and hey, does that crystal ball work for lotto numbers, too?).

  82. #82 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Nobody but a complete conspiracy crank would claim that animal research is solely done for drug company profits, even if many of us (me at any rate) think the current system is skewed to much in their favour.

    Right, which is why it’s easy to see that my complete claim isn’t that. See, most recently, my reply at #73:

    I’m not saying all testing is unnecessary, or purely profit-driven. I’m saying some of it is, and there’s no particular emphasis on separating the truly justifiable *research* from the unjustifiable *profit-seeking.* Signing this petition (meaninglessly promising to be “humane”) doesn’t address that.

    I’ve repeatedly made allowances that in *some* cases, *some* testing may be unavoidably the only option we’ve got right now. But that doesn’t address what I’m saying. What we’ve got RIGHT NOW isn’t the issue.

    …in any case most sudeies require that the animals are killed at the end for tissue samples etc.

    I allowed for that when I made the initial claim. Are we claiming here that NO animals are euthanized for reasons of cost? Or just that MOST of them aren’t?

    The ones that are being killed for no reason other than the absolutely trivial purpose of not wanting to incur the cost of dealing with them any other way – whatever claims of practicality aside – how is this acceptable?

    I’ve known scientists who have broken these rules and taken animals home because they didn’t want to put down a perfectly healthy animal that would make a good pet.

    So make different rules; look, it’s YOUR industry. Expecting the animal rights movement – as small as it is – to provide you folks with magically delicious solutions to each and every one of your structural or procedural problems is unrealistic. All we’re saying here is that you folks *can* make changes, but in many cases *aren’t* because it’s inconvenient. I didn’t make the rule you’re saying here is a bad one, and you’re in a much better position to work to change it than I am. I’m just saying that at present, there’s no will to do even THAT.

    Expansion of moral rights is always inconvenient to the status quo. That doesn’t make the expansion of rights any less imperative.

    That’s why you’ll find that Pro-Testers are pretty keen on animal welfare.

    Two things: I’m not advocating for animal welfare. The welfare argument is that use itself is not morally problematic. HOW we use them is a problem, but so is the fact THAT we use them. They’re not ours to use.

    Secondly: if your aim is better animal welfare, nothing in this petition as stated is going to have any impact on that, whatsoever. It’s just a marketing tool, to massage the image of the industry.

    And if we don’t eat them they, or whatever their place in the ecosystem will still be dead, it will just be something else that kills them.

    Here again, another version of the “if other animals do it, humans get to do it” claim.

    If you act unethically, HOW does that make any claim that I also get to act unethically?

  83. #83 Catharine
    October 19, 2009

    Thanks to Dr. Freeride for hosting this important discussion. Babble, one question: What makes it morally permissible, in your view, to eat plants? Should we all live happily together with roaches, mice, rats, fleas and other vermin that infest our living spaces? Should we never remove a tick (never mind that ticks are vectors for disease) out of respect for the tick’s right to life? Are efforts to control mosquitoes morally wrong? Where, according to your view, do we draw the line?

    Is it true that human life is *always* valued and respected above all other forms of life? Plenty of people treat other humans more carelessly than they treat their pets. We have state sanctioned police brutality and even torture. TORTURE. And it goes without saying that AR people who use violence are violating their own claim to respect all life. Within our species, we also have problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, etc.

    If we accept placing a higher value on a human life than the degree to which we value a tick, then we must accept that the value of the human species is greater (to humans) than the value of various species of ticks. I am suggesting that there is nothing morally wrong about valuing the survival and ability to flourish of one’s species over other species. Furthermore, it seems ludicrous to imagine ticks (if they had such abilities) to make a rule never to attach to other animals because it is morally wrong. Efforts to avoid “specieism” are doomed to make the very mistake that is being condemned: if you say that it is permissible for animal behavior to occur in nature as it does (I am aware of the absurdity inherent in the claim) and you give humans the extra responsibility of not killing/using as a means because humans have the capacity to “know better,” you are placing the value of human consciousness above that of other beings and therefore shooting yourself in the foot when you make the “equality” claim.

    Also, if it is morally wrong to eat products derived from animals (such as eggs or cheese), then is it also morally wrong to conduct research on human biological materials such as a blood sample (freely given) or cord blood or even human shit? It also seems that, according to Babble’s reasoning, having pets is morally wrong. People who have pets bridge the gap between species and experience what seems to be reciprocal love. What do you call that? Morally wrong or progress? Speaking from my own experience, many people who use non-human animals for research take the humane and respectful treatment of their subjects very seriously. The value of the responsible use of non-human animals (and humans) for research far outweighs the potential moral risks involved.

  84. #84 JohnV
    October 19, 2009

    @Babble

    The anthropomorphizing comment was more self-directed than directed at you. I didn’t include it to attempt to detract from your position but to note that I was maybe engaging in it (using it to rig the game?).

    Thanks for sharing your position. I was curious what you would think since those specific issues aren’t ones I see (since who besides a microbiologist would even know about them). While it would have been entertaining to see, I expected neither a “oh no save the bacteria” response nor a “oh well that makes me reconsider my position on sentience and what’s permissible”.

  85. #85 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Some animal research is more equal than other animal research.
    There. I said it.

    So have I, several times. That’s being ignored, to recast my position as the AR extreme.

    Yeah, I’m an extremist, by some measures; so what? We may as well be asking if I am now, or have ever been, a member of the Communist Party.

    That doesn’t mean that what I’m saying is factually incorrect. It’s just inconvenient to your present status quo.

  86. #86 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “we’re humans so we get to decide what to do.” Guess what Babble? That underlies your decisions as well. That is underneath every damned decision any of us makes.

    Of course, the obvious difference you’re sidestepping, DuWayne, just as you do every time you fling this claim on NIO is this:

    I’m not arguing on my own behalf, here. You are.

    If “because we say so” is a valid justification, that works for me, too. But what I’m arguing FOR is against the continued unethical use of animals for the forseeable future. You can’t really rest on anything other than “I get to because I say so.”

    What I’m arguing for is better. Not for me. Not for you. For nonhumans.

  87. #87 Coriolis
    October 19, 2009

    I’m certainly not going to waddle into this whole complicated mess but I’m personally curious Babble if you can define how exactly you draw the line between what you consider to be a sentient being that must be protected, and a nonsentient being that can be eaten. You say:

    “It doesn’t say anything about the use of complex vertebrates who are much more like us than the bacteria (or yeast, or algae) that are being used in these sorts of examples.”

    and then:

    “none of the animals we’re talking about for THESE uses are so radically different from us that the difference in species makes an ethically relevant difference.”

    So here you seem to be advocating that whether an animal is “like us” is the relevant question when determining whether they are sentient or not. Well, how do you define “like us”? By what measure is a dog like us, but a tree not like us? What is the principle by which you make these decisions?

  88. #88 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Ok, look, since Jason and DuWayne have seen fit to make it such an issue:

    I’m not calling gotcha to shut down any discussion. That much should be obvious. I’m calling gotcha to ask you folks to be more honest about your motives.

    You’re not here to dialog. You’re here to poke holes in the AR position. You’re not going to change; I’m not going to change. You have an agenda. You’re trying to change my mind. I’m doing exactly the same thing. I’m just honest about that fact. Don’t call it a “dialog” if what you really really want to do is score rhetorical points. Calling it a “dialog” in this case is fairly dishonest, because you get to fall back on “We don’t have to explain anything to you to your satisfaction, this is a dialog, not a debate” but, of course, *I* don’t have that luxury. That’s the problem.

    It’s a debate when you need it to be.

    It’s not a debate when you need it to be. Convenient.

  89. #89 babble
    October 19, 2009

    So here you seem to be advocating that whether an animal is “like us” is the relevant question when determining whether they are sentient or not. Well, how do you define “like us”?

    Very generally speaking, I’m concerned with expanding our sphere of moral concern to life which thinks. (Please, please, no rabbit holes about complex abstract thought. If it’s got a brain or a central ganglion, it’s capable of receiving sensory information and taking volitional action. It’s useless to make rigged claims that “thinking” MUST always be limited to “thinking like humans.”)

    I didn’t make the “like us” claim initially; that was earlier in the thread, where folks have made the claim that some great apes, or dolphins may be due some moral concern, given their relative intelligence. I’m expanding on THAT claim, because I don’t see an arbitrary measure of intelligence (“close enough to human”) to be ethically relevant.

    “Unintelligent” humans, by some arbitrary standard, are not food, or experimental subjects.

    It wasn’t that long ago that even THIS idea would have been viewed as laughably preposterous. Now? Not so much.

    I’m aware that sentience and moral consideration may be something of a moving target, as new evidence of rudimentary bacterial communication or similar “sort-of-maybe” sentient behavior comes to light.

    I’m not arguing that humans need to go to preposterous lengths to avoid ANY and ALL harm to nonhumans. I’m saying we DO have a range of choices in front of us. Some of them are more difficult. Many of them are ridiculously easy. Not a single one of us avoids killing microbes going about our daily living. I’m not claiming otherwise. I’m also not claiming that there’s one magical rule that will answer this to your personal satisfaction, because no such rule exists. If you think animals exist for you to use, no answer at all is even relevant. If you think animals DO NOT exist for our use, that answer is evolving as new information (and better WAYS of being vegan) become possible.

    Twenty or thirty years ago, being vegan generally meant, “I eat a vegetarian diet that doesn’t allow for eggs or dairy.” Now it generally includes avoidance of leather, wool, honey, animal tested products, etc.

    The point is to strive, when and where possible to avoid the exploitation and use of nonhumans for human purposes of pleasure or convenience. Is killing bacteria the same as blowtorching a dog? Of course it isn’t. The dog expresses clear preferences, which bacteria, despite interesting evidence of some cellular communication do not, by any reasonable measure. What I’m saying here isn’t really difficult: we shower love and affection on SOME animals, and have no problems seeing SOME of them as creatures with their own wants, preferences and desires, but we blithely override the exact SAME evidence in other animals, because we wish to eat them, or hunt them or use them for our purposes. We override the clear evidence of a given animal’s expression of her own wants and preferences *as it suits us, as a matter of convenience TO us.* This is insufficient justification, where we clearly have the choice not to do this.

    Not a single one of us avoids ancillary animal death when plants are harvested. I’m not claiming otherwise. If it were meaningfully possible TO avoid it, I’d advocate avoiding it. Where a given form of life can meaningfully act in its own interest, and US killing that life clearly IS optional, it’s better to NOT kill than to kill. Where a given form of exploitation is CLEARLY in the interest of ONE party (hunting) versus the other (the hunted), it’s better NOT to exploit, than to exploit.

    Is any killing free of moral consequence? Perhaps not, by this measure, but there IS avoidable killing, and there IS killing for trivial, selfish reasons, which we justify after the fact.

  90. #90 DuWayne
    October 19, 2009

    I’m not calling gotcha to shut down any discussion. That much should be obvious. I’m calling gotcha to ask you folks to be more honest about your motives.

    As apposed to your own, when you’re the one asking the “gotcha” questions? You aren’t here for dialog without debate, anymore than most of us are. You are here to present your position in the hopes that others will accept it or at least move closer to it. I am here to rebut you, point out inconsistencies and ask difficult questions, in an attempt to prevent others from assuming your characterization is true.

    Dialog is just a rather fancy word for debate that allows one side or the other to justify holding something back or not fully engaging. For all your whining about me and my “rants,” you will note that I am fully engaged and unafraid to respond to your questions. That you happen to find the responses rather difficult to respond to is irrelevant…

  91. #91 Pat Cahalan
    October 19, 2009

    I don’t have time to jump into this thread fully at the moment, which is too bad because it seems really fascinating.

    However, at least one of the meta-level issues going on here is similar to another debate I’m currently engaged in elsewhere on the Internet, and I’d like to point out the difficulty in an attempt to illuminate.

    Philosophical discussions, whether they be discourse or dialogue or debate or argumentation, often fail to recognize a problem with basic formal logic and set theory. Since a lot of people who engage in philosophical discussions often aren’t well versed in formal logic (or set theory), they miss this problem.

    A definition of a class is useful in determining absolute correct behavior if and only if that definition creates a subset of the overall population that, when unioned with its inverse set, forms the entire population.

    That is to say, if I can define the principle “foo” using some methodology, I can then make an absolute statement about “those things which are foo” if and only if I can define “*all* things” as either “foo” or “non foo”.

    Usually, people attempt to define such a principle “sentient” (or “alive”, or “good”, or “just”) in such a boolean fashion, but they fail for one of two reasons: either their definition does not in fact create two unique subsets of the population (common), or there exist members of the parent population whose status *cannot be determined* using the criteria made available in the definition.

    To illustrate, we have posited on this thread that “sentient beings deserve all the rights of all sentient beings”. People are then discussing the relative merits of inclusion into the class “sentient beings”… are yeasts sentient? Higher order animals? Etc.

    But the foundational problem is that the term “sentience” *cannot* be used to form unique subsets of “beings”. No matter how you define “sentience”, there will be a subset of “beings” who will have an indeterminate status. So at the best all we can say is, “sentient beings deserve all the rights of sentient beings only to the extent that we can show that they *are* sentient”.

    Now, this does *not* mean that of the remaining population “those who are known to be non-sentient” and “those whose status is indeterminate in regards to sentience” can be regarded equally. We cannot say, for example, that it is deterministically okay to forbid rights to the remaining population.

    It just means that we need a different criteria for deciding whether or not these beings {(the non-sentient) and/or (those whose sentience cannot be determined)} deserve rights.

    Rather than debate who is or is not sentient, then, you can settle the question by simply stating “both sides will agree that sentience includes {these properties}”. This will of necessity (in this particular case) exclude a lot of nonhuman animals, because many people will not accept a definition of sentience that includes a yeast, or even a cat for that matter.

    However, it still behooves *both sides* to acknowledge that the property “sentience”, while enough to establish recognition of “rights”, is not in and of itself a required property of “all things that deserve rights”.

    So start describing other possible sets of criteria for things that may (or may not) deserve rights. If one side proposes an addition set of criteria that the other side finds *objectionable*, that side should be able to describe why the criteria is objectionable. Usually you can do this easily by proposing that the criteria set will of necessity exclude some set that we’ve already agreed upon fall into the set of “sentient beings” or that the criteria set will of necessity *include* some set that *both* sides will agree do not belong to the set of “rights holders”.

  92. #92 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Thanks to Dr. Freeride for hosting this important discussion. Babble, one question: What makes it morally permissible, in your view, to eat plants?
    Should we all live happily together with roaches, mice, rats, fleas and other vermin that infest our living spaces?
    Again, I’m not saying that human and nonhuman interests will NEVER conflict. I’m saying that the human desire to eat animals is trivial, and unjustifiable given that we have other, easily available options.
    The human desire to see animals used in circus acts is equally trivial.
    Some animal testing is so trivial. Some of it isn’t.
    Where, according to your view, do we draw the line?
    Where there’s not a legitimate need being served. Allowing “vermin” to coexist in your home is a disease vector for you and the folks you live with. Trap them humanely, if at all possible. Failing that, kill them as humanely as you can.
    This doesn’t say anything about other, entirely optional, entirely trivial choices where ONLY human pleasure or convenience are being served. That’s the point.
    Is it true that human life is *always* valued and respected above all other forms of life? Plenty of people treat other humans more carelessly than they treat their pets.
    Isn’t this just a form of, “if other animals do it, humans get to do it, too?”
    That humans treat other humans badly isn’t ethically justifiable. That doesn’t say anything at all about the human choice to eat flesh, wear leather, test cosmetics, etc.
    Furthermore, it seems ludicrous to imagine ticks (if they had such abilities) to make a rule never to attach to other animals because it is morally wrong.
    I’ve addressed so many version of this claim that it’s becoming fairly silly. Because YOU behave badly doesn’t justify ME behaving equally badly.
    Other animals may or may not make any moral considerations. I’m not taking a hard position on that, because it’s pointless to really speculate. Humans unquestionably *can* make such choices. That’s the point.
    The claim of moral equality is not to say that all humans and all nonhumans are *intellectually* equivalent.
    But all humans relative to other HUMANS are not intellectually equivalent.
    …if you say that it is permissible for animal behavior to occur in nature as it does (I am aware of the absurdity inherent in the claim) and you give humans the extra responsibility of not killing/using as a means because humans have the capacity to “know better,” you are placing the value of human consciousness above that of other beings and therefore shooting yourself in the foot when you make the “equality” claim.
    Again, the claim is moral equivalence, not equal intelligence. Humans DO have the extra responsibility to act morally, because we *DO* know better. Other animals may or may not; it’s not relevant to speculate, because, once again: what other animals may or may not do doesn’t really say anything about what humans SHOULD do.
    Also, if it is morally wrong to eat products derived from animals (such as eggs or cheese), then is it also morally wrong to conduct research on human biological materials such as a blood sample (freely given) or cord blood or even human shit?

    Of course not, but those aren’t remotely analagous situations. If humans were farmed on “blood or shit” farms, and killed for their meat when we were done taking blood and feces from them, you’d have a better claim.
    Humans are making a choice to give samples. Animals aren’t making a CHOICE to give eggs or milk. We’re doing that TO them, and we don’t HAVE to. We just enjoy the taste of eggs and cheese.

    It also seems that, according to Babble’s reasoning, having pets is morally wrong. People who have pets bridge the gap between species and experience what seems to be reciprocal love. What do you call that?

    Wishful thinking on the part of pet owners. I want to believe my cat loves me as much as I love her. I can’t reasonably make that claim without HOPELESSLY anthropomorphizing her. Maybe she does, of a sort. Maybe she just sees me as a comfy animal to sleep on, and convenient for food. It’s pointless to speculate.
    The point is that absent human care, she’d have died in a shelter as a kitten. I didn’t ask for her to be bred, and dumped, but I can deal with the fact that she’s here now and needs care.
    Pet-keeping as an ABSOLUTE question is wrong, and it, too, needs to end, even if it isn’t going away today or tomorrow.

    Morally wrong or progress? Speaking from my own experience, many people who use non-human animals for research take the humane and respectful treatment of their subjects very seriously.

    Again, this rests on “we use animals because humans benefit, and because we say we get to use animals.”

    I don’t doubt that your use of animals is humane in your view. It may even be relatively humane in mine.

    That doesn’t make it okay.

  93. #93 Lab Rat
    October 19, 2009

    Babble – you occupy a position held by I think everyone here…in that you say you would prefer no animal research to be done, even though in some cases you admit it is utterly unavoidable. Seriously, thats how every scientist I’ve known feels about animal research.

    You say that there should be more of a drive to look for alternatives. Give me the funding and I’ll do it. Seriously. it is not the fault of scientists (and I will hastily add that I’m not blaming you for that attidude specifically, it’s just one I’ve come across a lot), it’s just bloody hard to get funding for. And also, before anyone accuses me of it, that is NOT a greedy-rich arguement either…it’s the simple fact of doing a job that you need to get paid.

    And babble, you are right. We *do* hold humans in higher regard to non-humans. it’s nothing to do with brains/ganglions/any kind of moral justification, it’s simply because we are humans. And we know how it feels to be humans, and do not want to feel that. And changes are being made, research on most animals (especially great apes and human-type animals) *is* being cut down, but there’s some that *can’t* be cut down because quite frankly you can’t suddenly turn to a group of ill and dying people and say “No…we can’t work on researching ways to make you better because we don’t want to kill mice.”

    So yes. I guess I am saying I would kill a mouse to save a human. If someone held a gun to anotther guys head and told me right there and then they’d shoot him unless I trod on a mouse I’d squish that thing. (I would not kill a human if someone held a gun to a mouse and I really *really* hope you wouldn’t either.) I wouldn’t enjoy squishing the mouse. I wouldn’t want to do it. And I sure as hell would’t call it in any way morally justified (but morals are a whole nother discussion *anyway*). But I’d do it. And researchers do it.

    (also, point of note. You say that there is no group of non-consenting humans used for research. Do the research, think like Pharma or go read “the constant gardner”. They do illegal drug trials in third-world villages)

  94. #94 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Side commentary about me doesn’t count as responding, DuWayne. It’s just more of your usual silliness. At least you’re finally being honest: you’re just here to uselessly debate. Have fun with that.

  95. #95 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Babble – you occupy a position held by I think everyone here…in that you say you would prefer no animal research to be done, even though in some cases you admit it is utterly unavoidable. Seriously, thats how every scientist I’ve known feels about animal research.

    I understand that folks aren’t exactly enthused about killing animals for research, or using them, but there’s also no particular ethical push to do something else. It’s not just about funding, although I don’t doubt that’s PART of the problem. That’s not the part of the problem I can reasonably be expected to address, here, though. The OTHER part of the problem, which I *can* talk about here is this…

    And babble, you are right. We *do* hold humans in higher regard to non-humans. it’s nothing to do with brains/ganglions/any kind of moral justification, it’s simply because we are humans.

    We get to do x, because we say we get to do x is insufficient grounds when we’re talking about causing suffering or death.

    and dying people and say “No…we can’t work on researching ways to make you better because we don’t want to kill mice.”

    I’m aware that the “sick and dying human” trope sounds good to you, but it doesn’t really address the underlying ethical problem. Again, if experimentation on unwilling humans could save a large number of other humans, would it be okay to do it? Of course not.
    We make certain absolute ethical proscriptions, *regardless* of claimed human benefit. That we do it in the interests of humans EXCLUSIVELY, just because we ourselves ARE human makes no sense.

    (also, point of note. You say that there is no group of non-consenting humans used for research. Do the research, think like Pharma or go read “the constant gardner”. They do illegal drug trials in third-world villages)

    Which is wrong, and not morally defensible, of course, but that doesn’t really mean much in this instance. Again, you’re arguing for the exceptional case (this is like arguing that we perform experimental procedures on a few humans in a few cases) to justify the routine case (using and killing millions of lab animals as a matter of course).

  96. #96 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Usually you can do this easily by proposing that the criteria set will of necessity exclude some set that we’ve already agreed upon fall into the set of “sentient beings” or that the criteria set will of necessity *include* some set that *both* sides will agree do not belong to the set of “rights holders”.

    The problem is that we rig the whole concept of “rights” at the OUTSET to favor humans.

  97. #97 Katharine
    October 19, 2009

    babble, the proposed alternatives don’t work. I would go so far as to say that if you don’t understand biology at a beyond-introductory level, don’t make claims about things you don’t know about, because too many people do.

    There’s so much that we’re discovering every day about how organisms work, STILL, that using computerized models doesn’t suffice. Things such as genetic mechanisms, epigenetics, receptor interactions on cells, et cetera. We cannot code what we don’t know into a simulation.

    Also consider that not every animal used in medical research gets killed. There are cases where animals are simply occasionally stuck with a needle for genetic samples and then allowed to go about their furry lives. (My mother the NIH employee tells me this is the case in more than a few molecular genetics labs.)

    Here’s a thought: Modern medicine was largely made on experimentation. If you take medication, they were all likely tested on human beings.

    I also wonder what animal rights activists think of carnivores.

  98. #98 babble
    October 19, 2009

    I also think it’s important to reiterate here that I’m STILL not calling for “all” rights of humans to be granted to ALL nonhumans; this would be (naturally) impossible. Again, we don’t even do this to all humans. But the fact that all rights can’t be meaningfully granted to ALL humans doesn’t mean that NO rights can be granted.

    The case for restricting rights to humans – and perhaps a very few others, who are “human enough” to qualify – rests entirely on being human (or human “enough”). Folks have expended an awful lot of energy to class my ethical claim as arbitrary. How is this any LESS arbitrary?

    Even if it IS, I’m still not arguing something for my personal benefit. I’m arguing for the benefit of nonhumans would *would* advocate for themselves, if they could, but they can’t (or at least, not in ways we’ve chosen to pay any attention to, because, again, we’ve rigged the whole question of rights to favor us).

  99. #99 babble
    October 19, 2009

    babble, the proposed alternatives don’t work. I would go so far as to say that if you don’t understand biology at a beyond-introductory level,

    If you’re not going to read what I’ve posted, responding to you is obviously a waste of time.

    don’t make claims about things you don’t know about, because too many people do.

    Given that you’ve not actually read what I HAVE claimed in this, I see no reason for you to fling this bit of fluff. Not that it will stop you, of course.

    We cannot code what we don’t know into a simulation.

    …which completely ignores what I HAVE actually said, over and over and over again. Maybe you should read what I HAVE said, before you decide to piss and moan about it.

    Also consider that not every animal used in medical research gets killed.

    Yeah, I talked about them, too. You’re ignoring that.

    There are cases where animals are simply occasionally stuck with a needle for genetic samples and then allowed to go about their furry lives.

    …which, rather like happy meat claims, doesn’t address the underlying unethical use in the first place, regardless of any claims of humane treatment. But you’d have seen that already if you bothered to read what I’ve posted. You haven’t, and you won’t, of course, but it would be nice if you did. One can dream.

    Here’s a thought: Modern medicine was largely made on experimentation.

    Here’s a thought: the antebellum south was built on slavery. That a given unethical act WAS performed doesn’t make it any LESS unethical, and doesn’t justify doing it in perpetuity. Which, again, are all things I’ve already said, that you’re blithely ignoring so you can fling bits of irrelevant fluff.

    If you take medication, they were all likely tested on human beings.

    Who volunteered to be test subjects. I don’t have a problem with that. I have a problem with forcing animals who don’t GET to chose to ALSO be test subjects for the same drugs. Which, again, you’d understand if you actually bothered to reach what I’ve said.

    I also wonder what animal rights activists think of carnivores.

    I think they’re carnivores. I’m not. Neither are you.

  100. #100 Pat Cahalan
    October 19, 2009

    > The problem is that we rig the whole concept of
    > “rights” at the OUTSET to favor humans.

    That’s not a problem.

    Again, we all can say there exists some set of beings that we will call “rights holders”. If both sides agree that humanness is a baseline for inclusion, that’s not necessarily a problem (unless there is debate over what “humanness” is, which is actually my issue on the other thread, but that’s neither here… er, wait, that’s not here, but it’s there). Sufficient is not the same as necessary.

    What I’m saying is that everyone on both sides must admit that “beings that possess humanness” is not necessarily isomorphic to “beings that possess rights”.

    So, “humans” get in, by default, since we all agree they qualify as sapient. “Non-humans” (“non-living”, for that matter) may or may not get in.

    You are positing a particular extension of “beings that possess rights” to include some beings that do not exhibit humanness. In principle, that’s certainly fine with all concerned, I’m sure (most people who visit this blog will grant you that alien sapient creatures, should they exist, and/or artificial ones would qualify as potential additional, non-human rights bearers).

    The point is, trying to extend “sapience” past “humanness” results in a tautology (which I was obliquely referring to in my post in “sapient creatures deserve rights we grant sapient creatures.”)

    Rather, you should propose *the actual criteria* which makes up your “additional rights holders” set. Is a central nervous system sufficient? Necessary? Self-awareness? Long term memory? The ability to recognize pain?

    By defining “additional rights holders” by criteria, then, both sides can discuss whether or not those *criteria* are suitable.

    This actually makes it easier on the animal rights position, because if you say, “Self-awareness is not necessary”, and the non-animal rights holder insists that self-awareness *is* necessary, you can point to “humans” that do not possess self-awareness and yet are already in the class “rights holders” (the unborn, those in a coma, etc.) Since we allow “humans” who are *not* “self-aware” into “rights holders”, it stands to reason we cannot make self-awareness a necessary criteria, unless we are going to remove “humanness” as a necessary criteria.

    Calling “non human animals” “non-sapient” does not automatically mean that they ought not to be regarded as rights holders. We can (or should) all be able to agree on that point. However, we *can’t* all agree that “non human animals” are necessarily “sapient”. So rather than go down that road (which turns into a semantic back and forth with no conclusion), instead start constructing (or propose a construct) that would define what sorts of non-human creatures *should* be regarded as rights holders.

  101. #101 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Katherine’s post, is a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about through all of this.

    a) You’re not listening.

    b) You’re not going to.

    c) Boil everything else away and we’re left with where we came into this: humans are special, because we say so. Nonhumans *aren’t* special (except for the ones that are) because we say so. We get to exploit and use whatever nonhumans we say we do, because we say we do.

    We’ll propose this or that or the other humane standard, once in a while, because it may make US feel good about ourselves, but when you get right down to it, we get to use animals because we say we get to use animals.

    This isn’t the great, grand “rational” basis folks seem to think it is.

  102. #102 Pat Cahalan
    October 19, 2009

    @ Katharine

    > There’s so much that we’re discovering every
    > day about how organisms work, STILL, that
    > using computerized models doesn’t suffice.
    > Things such as genetic mechanisms, epigenetics,
    > receptor interactions on cells, et cetera. We
    > cannot code what we don’t know into a
    > simulation.

    Ah, ah, ah!

    You’ve just run smack into a fallacious argument, “Arguing from the consequences of a belief”.

    Either animals deserve rights (or they deserve some subset of what we call rights, or some superset), or they don’t.

    Saying that they don’t because that makes medical research more difficult isn’t germane. We’ve already established (by granting humans “rights”) that medical research should be more difficult than it would be without any rights mechanisms whatsoever.

    While I probably disagree with babble’s as yet undisclosed criteria for inclusion into “rights holders”, critiquing the extension of “rights holders” based upon consequences isn’t particularly compelling.

  103. #103 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Pat, I think I get what you’re saying, but the problem is that it’s hopelessly impractical and abstract from a rights-advocacy perspective. Non-scientific humans have a hard enough time coming around to accepting something like the personhood of *apes* let alone the pigs or cows or chickens they derive pleasure from eating.

    I’ve argued edge-case, exceptional cases for humans several times, to make a case that we don’t view these edge-case HUMANS as acceptable to use for food, for experimentation, to turn into handbags, etc.

    What I’ve gotten for that is a) it gets sidestepped, or b) it gets argued in the exceptional case, to justify the usual case. If we perform a few lifesaving surgeries on a few nonconsenting infants, that’s “the same” as routinely experimenting on a gazillion lab mice a year.

    It’s not. I’m sorry, folks, it’s just not.

    All of that being said:

    1. Yes, a central nervous system is generally necessary (but not theoretically absolutely required; if it were possible to live as a breatharian, sealed in a hermetic bubble, so I didn’t kill anything at all, I’d do that. It’s not, so I’m doing THIS instead).

    2. Pain and suffering are where this STARTS, for me, but not the be-all and end-all position, because pain and suffering makes allowances for things like happy meat (or dairy or eggs) which is every bit as unnecessary as factory farmed meat, dairy or eggs. Where pain and suffering can be *reduced*, in a given animal use, I’m all for it, but not to JUSTIFY a completely unnecessary use (food, as one example).

    3. Self-awareness, long term memory or pain recognition aren’t a given in all humans, so I can’t see any reason why they should need to be a given in nonhumans as well. Again, this is trending into reasons we use to JUSTIFY animal use, not a completely objective assessment of available criteria.

  104. #104 babble
    October 19, 2009

    I’ve disclosed my criteria, I think. I’ve just not eliminated every possible outlier from those criteria (we’re back to algae and yeast, again).

    Sentience, not taxonomy. I’m not hung up on protecting animals because they’re classed as such in a given kingdom.

    I’m interested in protecting them because they suffer (much as we do), they’re aware (much as we are) and they have their own wants and preferences (much as we do).

    Exactly as we do? Maybe; maybe not.

    But the same can be said of Human A as compared to Human B. That’s the point. We allow for differences in awareness, capacity for suffering or expression of needs or wants between certain edge-case humans, while not allowing that those edge-case HUMANS are acceptable to eat, to wear, to experiment upon, etc.

  105. #105 Pat Cahalan
    October 19, 2009

    > The problem is that it’s hopelessly impractical
    > and abstract from a rights-advocacy perspective.

    Well, we’re not (at the present time) discussing rights-advocacy from a general population standpoint. Yes, non-scientists may have a hard time coming around to another viewpoint, but this isn’t something limited to “non-scientists”.

    In any event, this is a *hard* philosophical question, so saying that it’s impractical or abstract isn’t very compelling. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a point of contention.

    > If we perform a few lifesaving surgeries on a
    > few nonconsenting infants, that’s “the same”
    > as routinely experimenting on a gazillion lab
    > mice a year.

    I don’t know that anyone made this contention (like I said I haven’t read the whole thread, and at this point I probably shouldn’t bother to keep commenting until I can take the time to catch up).

    > Where pain and suffering can be *reduced*, in
    > a given animal use, I’m all for it, but not
    > to JUSTIFY a completely unnecessary use (food,
    > as one example).

    I’m not sure I understand the objection behind unnecessary uses that don’t cause harm. Milking a cow for milk may be unnecessary, but it (in and of itself) doesn’t necessarily lead to the objectification of the cow… in fact, I generally find that people who raise livestock for a living have a higher respect for non-human lives than those that don’t. Several of the people I know who *are* vegan or vegetarian came to respect livestock by working with them.

    More to the point, including “necessity” in your position leads to all sorts of tricky widgets, as we can get into an entirely different and more obfuscatory discussion about the semantics of necessity.

    For example, while the “infant non-consenting surgery is not the same as millions of lab mice” proposal may be a notable point, capturing (or killing) a rat because it may be a carrier of infectious disease seems to be widely dependent upon a very un-compelling (at least, to me) definition of necessity.

    If a rat has rights, the rights of the rat cannot be abrogated without ethical consequence. Killing the rat because I’m afraid of the consequences of living near a possibly infected rat doesn’t sound like necessity to me, it sounds like convenience.

    Why is it that the rights of the rat don’t transcend my right to be housed in a particular space? We certainly would not regard it as okay for me to kill a human being because they might infect me, when I can simply move out of the house.

    Again, I haven’t read all of the above, so perhaps you’ve already answered this. In any event, I need to hit the road, so I’ll have to catchup later…

  106. #106 Katharine
    October 19, 2009

    Er. That is to say all medications are usually tested on animals before they are tested on human beings.

    To follow up on another point, because I’m trying to suss out your line of thinking here, do you also think a lion is being morally wrong by hunting down and killing a gazelle?

  107. #107 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Hey Pat,

    It was loads earlier in the thread. I made a claim that we wouldn’t consider unwilling humans suitable subjects for experimentation, and folks said we perform experimental, lifesaving surgeries on (some) nonconsenting humans all the time.

    I objected to this on the grounds that we overwhelmingly do this a) for therapeutic reasons for that individual, not general research which may or may not benefit the species as a whole, b) we do it with extremely rigorous standards of care and c) we obtain consent from the legal guardians of those nonconsenting humans.

    None of this is applicable to the present circumstance of animal testing.

    a) We routinely experiment on a gazillion lab mice and other animals every year not for THEIR benefit, but for ours. Some benefits may accrue to some other animals as a result, but that’s a happy accident, and unusual, not routine.

    b) Standards of “humane” care of lab animals aren’t remotely comparable to the standards of treatment we provide humans. (Leaving aside the question of whether or not we *should*, for the moment; I’m just pointing out the ways the two situations aren’t anywhere close to equivalent).

    c) No such system of legal guardianship to protect the interests of nonhumans exists. The use of nonhumans is justified almost exclusively by claimed human benefit. (Again, that some advances in veterinary medicine may have been made out of some biomedical research is neither here, nor there. We aren’t experimenting on lab animals for the benefit of those individual animals, or for other animals in the same species, which is exactly the OPPOSITE of the case for nonconsenting humans).

    It’s not that I object to the act of milking a cow divorced in a philosophical vaccum, divorced from any other considerations.

    It’s the fact that that cow – no matter HOW nicely treated while alive – will be slaughtered and eaten when we’re done using her for milk, and she wasn’t ours to – you’ll cringe, here, no doubt, but there’s no way around it – enslave for this use in the first place. That we may have bred her, cared for her from birth to adulthood and she’s regarded as property by the present legal fashion is completely irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. Just as we don’t get to own humans and use them for milk (justifying it by saying the women involved don’t suffer overmuch), we don’t get to own cows and use them for milk (claiming that THEY don’t suffer overmuch).

    If cow’s milk was a nutritional necessity for humans – if we’d die of malnutrition without it – fine. Raise and milk cows. But that’s not the case.

    We don’t NEED her milk (it’s for her calves, and nature already provides human infants with human milk) – we simply enjoy drinking it. That we enjoy the TASTE of a given animal doesn’t make it acceptable to USE that animal for food.

    Properly cooked, human flesh might taste just fine. That wouldn’t make it acceptable to kill X Random Stranger, just so I could enjoy the taste of his flesh. It certainly wouldn’t make it acceptable to farm jazillions of them.

    I probably should have made a more qualified claim about killing the rat.

    I’m not saying that human and animal interests will NEVER conflict. I’m a pacifist. I won’t hit other HUMANS, even if they hit me. I won’t kill humans, regardless of “self defense” exceptions. (Yeah, yeah, easy for me to say. Right now, that’s what I’m saying.)

    I wouldn’t kill the rat. I’d trap them and take them to my sanctuary and talk with my sanctuary folks about the best way to release them.

    But not everyone will make that choice. I wish it was different. But not everyone will.

    The thing is, just as I understand that – regrettably – I can’t get around the use of *some* animals in *some* research, again, regrettably, not everyone has access to an animal sanctuary that’s willing to talk to freaky vegans who don’t want to kill rats.

    The vermin are going to be killed, with or without my consent. I don’t like it. There’s nothing I can do about it.

  108. #108 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “To follow up on another point, because I’m trying to suss out your line of thinking here, do you also think a lion is being morally wrong by hunting down and killing a gazelle?

    I think the lion is probably hardwired by instinct and probably isn’t capable of making moral choices. I don’t know for sure, but given that there’s no way for me to meaningfully communicate moral concepts TO the lion, it’s pointless to speculate one way or the other.

    Once again, this particular gotcha says that if other animals do x, humans get to do x.

    No, we don’t.

    If Human A murders Human B, am I justified in murdering Human C, based on the observed behavior of Human A?

    What other animals may or may not do doesn’t have anything to do with what humans SHOULD do. I’ve said this over and over and over again. Continually repeating versions of this claim won’t change that answer.

  109. #109 babble
    October 19, 2009

    …and, again, you’re hung up on obligate carnivores. The lion *can’t* survive eating a plant-based diet. Humans CAN.

    Because we *can*, and because we *do know better*, the ONLY reason we eat animals, the overwhelming majority of the time, is because we enjoy the way they taste.

    Again, if “Meat TASTES GOOD!” is acceptable justification, we have no particular reason not to barbecue humans. (Yes, yes, hardwired species preference and all the rest. We could just as easily override that and farm a subclass of undesirables and eat them, with no particular consequence to the long term survival of the species as a whole).

  110. #110 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “If a rat has rights, the rights of the rat cannot be abrogated without ethical consequence. Killing the rat because I’m afraid of the consequences of living near a possibly infected rat doesn’t sound like necessity to me, it sounds like convenience.”

    One other bit: I’m not actually claiming that somebody else’s choice to kill rats (justifying it, perhaps, with a disease claim, which is why I brought it up in the first place) is actually FREE of ethical consequence.

    I’m saying in the heirarchy of moral choices, avoiding disease trumps “Meat tastes good.” Not by much in the given example, perhaps, but it’s at LEAST slightly more understandable than “I get to eat steak, because steak tastes good.” If humans have a legitimate risk of contracting malaria in a given instance, spray the mosquitoes. If you’re annoyed by mosquitoes in the back yard, light citronella.

    Need vs. want.

    I know you don’t want me to argue necessity cases, but I don’t THINK what I’m saying here is really that semantic and hair-splitting.

  111. #111 NJ
    October 19, 2009

    At present this thread has 109 comments, not including this one. One commenter has posted 67 of them. This allows for two observations:

    1) Said commenter seems to be principally focused on monologue, not dialogue.

    2) Said commenter’s chosen name would seem to be particularly apt.

    We now return you to the previously scheduled infinite loop, already in progress…

  112. #112 DuWayne
    October 19, 2009

    Side commentary about me doesn’t count as responding, DuWayne. It’s just more of your usual silliness. At least you’re finally being honest: you’re just here to uselessly debate. Have fun with that.

    First babble, it isn’t commentary about you, it was actually commentary about the notion of “dialog” versus outright debate. In theory a dialog format is preferable, in practice it is often an excuse for not clarifying one’s position. Second, I have responded to you in great detail. I have made it clear that you are characterizing a whole host of varying viewpoints oversimply and as though they are all the same. And I made it clear that your own position fits neatly within that same characterization.

    I am not debating what your position is, I am debating your characterization of everyone else’s position.

    Your only response, because you are too much the coward to actually respond to difficult questions, is to call me silly. That says nothing about me, but speaks volumes about you and your black and white world.

    Finally, debate is not useless when it clarifies the positions being debated. And it isn’t really too far off Dr. Freeride’s proscription for dialog – it hasn’t been particularly unruly. My position is clear, as are the positions of several other people who do not live in your black and white world. Ultimately, the most important factor to be considered about those who do not share your views on animal rights is out and open – we are not the same and we do not think the same things about animal welfare and/or rights.

    However, in your zeal to characterize those who do not agree with you as being the same and something most of us are not, you have completely failed to clarify your own position. So I guess you would be the one engaging in something useless…

  113. #113 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Why is it that the rights of the rat don’t transcend my right to be housed in a particular space? We certainly would not regard it as okay for me to kill a human being because they might infect me, when I can simply move out of the house.

    Hopefully the rat-killing issue is dealt with. But there’s yet ANOTHER bit here that deserves comment.

    Yes, you’re right: I wouldn’t be justified in killing a random human who took up residence in my house (and, again, I’m not calling for the killing of rats OR humans), but I also wouldn’t be required to respect so-called “squatter’s rights” for you (OR the rat) just because you decided to move in.

    If you move into my house, I’m going to take steps to remove you from my house. I choose not to live with you.

    If a rat moves into my house, I’ll take steps to remove the RAT from my house. I choose not to live with him, either.

  114. #114 babble
    October 19, 2009

    I am not debating what your position is, I am debating your characterization of everyone else’s position.

    …which, again, is based on my calling one of your fellow hunters a sociopath, for claiming he wanted the majority of humanity to die of starvation so he could return to “subsistence.” Sorry, kiddo, Russ IS a sociopath.

    …those who do not share your views on animal rights is out and open – we are not the same and we do not think the same things about animal welfare and/or rights.

    Which, despite your repeated attempts to ignore it, is where I came INTO this, and what I’ve said, over and over and over again.

    Once again, that you choose to view me as “dogmatic” is spectacularly unimportant.

    I get that you don’t give two flaming figs about my views on animal rights.

    Why on EARTH should I be even remotely worried about your oh-so-precious opinion of my so-called “extremism?”

    Who are you? Why do you matter?

  115. #115 babble
    October 19, 2009

    DuWayne, go back and reread the thread before you showed up to bitch and moan about me. Jason had points of agreement with me (I still question his motive for that, but fine; take it at face value for the moment). A couple of other folks were okay with what I was saying; not agreeing full stop, but not ranting and raving and acting like a spoiled little child.

    That was YOU, kiddo, when YOU showed up. I do get that you miss me terribly on NIO, since I’m not around to pat you on the head and tell you how special you are for trolling Camille’s blog day and night, but never fear: I’ll be back. You can bitch and moan and complain and tell me how horrible I am all you like over there.

  116. #116 babble
    October 19, 2009

    “2) Said commenter’s chosen name would seem to be particularly apt.”

    Oh, lovely. More useless whining about me.

    Look. My comments are modded, just like everybody else’s. If Dr. Stemwedel chooses not to publish them, that’s entirely up to her.

  117. #117 babble
    October 19, 2009

    It is quite interesting that you’re not ranting and raving about Jason’s AGREEMENT with me over the sociopath comment:

    “Anyone that wants to kill off most of the human population is a sociopath. I extend this to wanting to destroy science for its own sake, despite it being our only unique characteristic, as some of your bretheren (though notably not you) suggest.”

    I shall conclude from this that you, DuWayne, are the same pathetic little useless troll HERE that you are on NIO. Have fun with that.

  118. #118 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Just for you, DuWayne. Do try to read it this time (you won’t, I know, but heck, I can dream):

    This is me, at #2:

    Whether or not you agree is somewhat irrelevant. Most of you are never going to agree; but a few folks will open their eyes and see.

    This is me again at #8:

    As I said, I’m more than aware that most of you will continue to see animals as an exploitable resource;

    ..and again at #19:

    As I said when I came into this, I’m more than aware that most folks are going to continue doing whatever they were doing before today.

    Here’s a good n’ DOGMATIC claim about testing at #23:

    Where we do not YET have alternatives to using animals for a given experiment, develop them. I’m under no illusions that vivisection is going away today or tomorrow;

    …and even MORE “dogma” at #24:

    I hardly think I’m claiming a return to the dark ages; I’m fine with human epidemiological studies, computer modeling, drug trials using consenting humans, developing cancer chemotherapy on excised tumors, etc. etc. etc.

    …shall we keep going? I know you’re just going to bitch and whine – ENDLESSLY – but I’ve made every flipping concession you want, and MORE and you’re STILL complaining.

    Keep whining. I know I can’t stop you.

    But I’m under no obligation to pretend it’s anything other than what it is.

  119. #119 babble
    October 19, 2009

    Now then:

    Some of you seem to be confused about what exactly constitutes a dogmatic claim.

    Make no mistake: my ethics are not debatable. I’m not debating them. They’re right. Non-animal rights ethics are wrong. Period. Eating animals is wrong. Wearing animals is wrong. Using animals, where we have a clear, easily available choice not to is WRONG. It will always BE wrong. No matter what.

    THAT’S dogmatic.

    Yes, that gets DuWayne’s nipples in a twist. Big deal.

    But that doesn’t force a single solitary one of you to change anything, despite the lunatic ravings of some of you that reading posts on a blog is doing “violence” to you.

    Reading a blog post is not violent.

    Killing animals for your own pleasure – yes, that’s YOU DuWayne, and every other sport hunter, and every other meat eater, and on and on – is violent. You can very EASILY stop. You’re just fourteen kinds of pissy and moany because I won’t pat you on the head and tell you it’s okay for YOU to hunt, or shovel dead animal flesh down your throats.

    Because you think you’re special.

    You’re not special. You’re wrong. Period.

    I do understand that you dislike being CALLED on your violent tendencies; there’s a simple and easy solution to that.

    Stop doing it.

    I’m required to live in a culture, 24/7 that horrifies me.

    It HORRIFIES me.

    DuWayne is horrifying.

    Absolutely, profoundly, unequivocally, HORRIFYING.

    My family is horrifying.

    The random passersby on the street, happily shoving dead animals down their throats every day are horrifying.

    I hate everything about this culture’s use of animals. Every last bit of it.

    So I do what I can to try and change it.

    …and I’m met with you twits whining and complaining and bitching and moaning, because where your precious desire to kill animals for NO REASON AT ALL matters so desperately much to you.

    WHY should I give two shits that you’re offended by my “dogmatic” views? I’m offended by humans every single blessed day, in about a THOUSAND different ways.

    You folks have no exclusive claim to being offended, in ANY of this.

    This entire CULTURE is offensive.

    But what I should REALLY worry about, what I should be so DESPERATELY concerned with, is DuWayne’s useless prattle, because I won’t pat him on the head and give him a cookie.

    I’m not going to. I’m never going to. Get it through your head.

  120. #120 IS
    October 20, 2009

    Babble, I think you dismissed my use of language as dividing line without my understanding my underlying point.

    I understand that the Language rule would by itself allow the eating of and experimenting on severely brain damaged humans. However at least 99% of adult humans are clearly capable of conceiving of and articulating the concept of personal autonomy. The remaining ~1% get a free pass because it would be horrible to get the decision about awareness wrong, and for a whole host of other reasons.

    Which ever way you resolve that dilemma, does not distract from the fact that mice are entirely incapable of articulating any concept of personal autonomy. At least one reason they cannot articulate that concept is because their brains are not even capable of holding the concept or reasoning about it. Language is a visible manifestation of the underlying thought processes.

    So my reasoning is thus: If a mouse cannot reason about its own personal autonomy, is unaware of its role and future life in a lab, then there is no moral imperative to not experiment on that animal. There is a moral imperative to minimise or eliminate pain and suffering since the animal is capable of expressing its misery, but not much else.

    I would be interested in why you think our moral decision to (for example) not experiment upon adult humans without consent extends to a requirement not to experiment upon mice. It is not clear to me at all why such an extension should be made.

    BTW I understand you are replying to a lot of commenters here, but if you want to reply quickly by assuming that I am not aware of the basic implications of my own statements, and dismiss this comment as irrelevantly as you did my last one, then I suggest you spent your efforts making a more substantial response to someone else.

  121. #121 DuWayne
    October 20, 2009

    babble –

    You really aren’t understanding my point. I am not looking for a cookie, nor am I interested in your agreement. All that I have been looking for is your honesty.

    At least you have gotten half way there…

  122. #122 Tsu Dho Nimh
    October 20, 2009

    babblesaid, “We don’t HAVE TO experiment on animals

    Yes, we have to.

    At some point in the development process of any drug, the toxicity of that drug for entire organ systems and complex whole animals has to be established. In other words, does it kill cancer AND kill the rest of the animal? Does it kill plague bacilli superbly in a petri dish and leave the brain epileptic or (like the still-useful chloramphenicol) cause a fatal aplastic anemia?

    How do you get past this step?

    Computer modeling? You can’t create a computer model without data. Where would you get the data for what a new compound does to a functioning nervous system or bone marrow?

  123. #123 babble
    October 20, 2009

    Babble, I think you dismissed my use of language as dividing line without my understanding my underlying point.

    I really wasn’t trying to be dismissive. I just don’t think getting into an abstract debate about the relative intelligence of *this* animal vs. *that* animal is at all useful. We don’t apply an intelligence or a language-use standard to *humans* to declare them off limits for food or experimentation. (Please, please, for the love of $DEITY, I’m not talking about lifesaving experimental surgeries to save the life of a *particular* human. I’m talking about the conventional context of animal experimentation as it exists).

  124. #124 babble
    October 20, 2009

    Yes, we have to.

    We may have to right NOW, in some (or even very many) cases. If you’ll read what I’ve said throughout the thread, I’ve allowed for that, over and over and over again.

    That doesn’t address the ethics of *use* in the first place, and doesn’t establish a framework for eventually ending it. I accept that the status quo exists. I do not accept that the status quo should exist *forever*.

    I do find it interesting that in all of the OTHER examples I cited in that particular post (human epidemiological studies, developing cancer treatments using excised tumors, testing drugs on willing human subjects) the ONE thing you folks focus on over and over and over again is computer modeling.

  125. #125 babble
    October 20, 2009

    Given that folks are apparently going to default to versions of an intelligence or language use justification over and over and over again, it’s potentially worth restating this.

    Philosophically, my bent is abolition, not utilitarianism, but Bentham did get one thing right on: the relevant question isn’t “can they think?” or “can they reason?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” Causing unnecessary suffering (where we have available alternatives that do not cause suffering to those animals), just because the use or consumption of animals is pleasurable to us, or the most convenient thing for us to do isn’t ethically justifiable. We’re thinking animals. We can create alternatives for ourselves. We’re morally obligated to do so.

    In addition, I have a moral objection to use. It shouldn’t need to be debated that our use of animals typically, and in a clear, overwhelming majority of cases, causes an extraordinary amount of suffering. But even in cases where suffering is claimed to be minimized (such claims typically being made in a way that serves a human interest, not the nonhuman’s), even if the *use* of animals could be made utterly pain-free, utterly comfortable and gave us the appearance that the animals in question were all quite content and happy right up to the moment that we slaughtered them, the *use* of those animals would still be morally objectionable. Animals do not exist for us to use as a means to an end, any more than humans do. Animals have a demonstrated interest in their own lives and in not suffering; whether or not they *understand* the concept of “being used as a means to an end” is irrelevant. Not all *humans* understand this concept, but that doesn’t justify using those edge-case humans in the ways we choose to use nonhuman animals.

    There is a basic moral equivalence between a nonhuman animal and a human. Both have an interest in living, free of unwarranted interference or oppression from others. Both have an interest in not being caused to suffer or die. Where we have the easily available OPTION of not interfering with those basic interests (such as eating humans or nonhuman animals), there’s a clear moral dictate: don’t do it. Where we don’t have a such a clear and easy option (some animal testing *does* save human lives; some of that testing has led to advances that benefit some other animals), we need to develop alternatives. Simply resting on the status quo as it is (testing is acceptable because humans derive benefit from it, as the Pro-Test petition states) is not ethically justifiable.

  126. #126 babble
    October 20, 2009

    I would be interested in why you think our moral decision to (for example) not experiment upon adult humans without consent extends to a requirement not to experiment upon mice. It is not clear to me at all why such an extension should be made.

    Why *shouldn’t* it so extend?

    What is it about the perceived lack of “personal autonomy” that *ethically justifies* using the mouse as a means to an end?

    You’re resting on “Because I say so,” with the following:

    “So my reasoning is thus: If a mouse cannot reason about its own personal autonomy, is unaware of its role and future life in a lab, then there is no moral imperative to not experiment on that animal.”

    That may SOUND reasonable to you, but it’s entirely weighted in favor of your preference to experiment on the mouse. The mouse’s legitimate potential interest in not being used is simply overridden, because the mouse does not communicate its wishes to you in ways you *choose* to see as relevant.

    Why should I accept YOUR arbitrary moral line rather than my own? Given that we’re both drawing very arbitrary distinctions – because we say so – mine is still better. It’s better NOT to use, where we have the option of doing so. It’s better NOT to cause to suffer, or kill, where we have the option of doing so.

  127. #127 babble
    October 20, 2009

    All that I have been looking for is your honesty.

    Which leaves the dishonest implication on your part that I’ve claimed NOT to be dogmatic by your standard. I have not.

    I’ve simply said that your claim that I’m BEING dogmatic is of no importance to me. I accept that according to you I’m dogmatic. I have from the very beginning, despite your dishonest attempt to imply otherwise.

    I just don’t care that you think so.

  128. #128 Paul Browne
    October 20, 2009

    IS (#120) you make a very good point. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of people (myself included) who are pro-choice do not regard all members of the human species as having human rights, certainly embryos and foetuses at an early stage of development cannot be said to have full (and in some cases any) human rights. That’s not to say that they should be or are denied all legal protection, decisions such as when is it acceptable to use ES cells in research or abort a fetus can never be taken lightly and such procedures need to be tightly regulated. It does show that the decision as to when a member of the human species acquires human rights, though it errs on the side of caution, is not dependent on any one factor but rather on a collection of criteria related both to that individual, their position in society and considerations about the effect of granting or withholding those rights on society as a whole (unintended consequences etc.)

    Ultimately it does come down to whether you think it is morally acceptable for humans to use non-human animals for their own benefit, and obviously I think it is. For me the moral questions revolve around what uses are acceptable for which animals and how we should treat the animals that we are using.

  129. #129 babble
    October 20, 2009

    Ultimately it does come down to whether you think it is morally acceptable for humans to use non-human animals for their own benefit, and obviously I think it is. For me the moral questions revolve around what uses are acceptable for which animals and how we should treat the animals that we are using.

    Paul, I understand that that’s your view, and the view of most of the commenters here. The problem, as I’ve been saying, is that it’s an entirely rigged game. We rig the entire CONCEPT of rights, moral consideration and “humane treatment” overwhelmingly in favor of human interest, first, last and always.

    We may TELL ourselves that a given use of animals is “humane” but that’s a three-card monte. That’s us telling that to US, to justify something after the fact. Humane or not, if humans have decided that injecting lab mice with soda pop is going to yield some potentially useful information, we’re going to do it.

    We shouldn’t GET TO do it.

    The mice do not exist *for us to use* in the first place.

  130. #130 becca
    October 20, 2009

    babble, Do you see anything ethically wrong with canibalism, assuming the person died of natural (non-contagious) causes and consented prior to death?
    How do you feel about growing animals (human or nonhuman) in vats in such a way they never develop a beating heart or a brain, and thus cannot be “alive” to be killed, and cannot possibly think to suffer?
    (incidently, I’m none-too-sure that absence of a heart is important- cardiac cells in a dish can beat on their own- it’s really interesting to look at. I don’t know anyone who would state that we’ve created a life just by putting cells in a dish… Granted, the neuroscientists are still in the lurch.)

  131. #131 babble
    October 20, 2009

    babble, Do you see anything ethically wrong with canibalism, assuming the person died of natural (non-contagious) causes and consented prior to death?

    That’s a fairly extreme hypothetical, I think. Are there likely ever to BE many (or any?) such humans who are a) consenting and b) will have died in these particular circumstances?

    In that event, I don’t think there would be any specific moral issue (so long as we aren’t playing games with the idea of consent, and we’re CERTAIN this was what the person *wanted*, or at least, didn’t object to), but what in the world would be the practical issue? Just to enjoy the taste of their flesh? To derive “protein” or “B12″ or any of the usual things folks assume *MUST* come from flesh?

    I’m not saying that’s a claim being proposed *here*. It’s just a common claim nonvegans make.

    We have plant sources for all of those things.

    In the extremely unlikely event that there’s a consenting human who fits these criteria that someone else wanted to eat, I can’t see an ethical issue with it. I wouldn’t eat that person, however.

    I also don’t think it’s very likely that this circumstance is going to happen.
    How do you feel about growing animals (human or nonhuman) in vats in such a way they never develop a beating heart or a brain, and thus cannot be “alive” to be killed, and cannot possibly think to suffer?

    I’d actually prefer this as an option for vegan pet owners. I wouldn’t eat vat-grown meat, but at that point the question is more aesthetic than anything else.
    (incidently, I’m none-too-sure that absence of a heart is important- cardiac cells in a dish can beat on their own- it’s really interesting to look at. I don’t know anyone who would state that we’ve created a life just by putting cells in a dish… Granted, the neuroscientists are still in the lurch.)

    I think this is trending back to yeasts and algae and etc. Again, I’m not saying there’s not some interesting evidence of awareness (of a sort) at the cellular level, but that’s not of-a-piece with what we conventionally think of as awareness or the capacity for suffering, or the expression of desires and preferences in animals.

  132. #132 Pat Cahalan
    October 20, 2009

    > The problem, as I’ve been saying, is that
    > it’s an entirely rigged game. We rig the
    > entire CONCEPT of rights, moral consideration
    > and “humane treatment” overwhelmingly in
    > favor of human interest, first, last and
    > always.

    I disagree, but we can discuss that.

    On a meta-level, however, your approach is simply to do the opposite: rather than “rigging the game” in favor of humans (which again, I don’t grant outright), you’re espousing “rigging the game” in favor of anything with a brain stem. I don’t see this as a substantively different approach, it is simply a matter of moving the goalposts 40 yards that-a-way. One can certainly regard it as “safer”, from an ethics standpoint, to err on the side of caution, but doesn’t it make more sense to try and find out more clearly where the line ought to be drawn in the first place?

    Which is why I was proposing an alternative approach. Rather than attempting to quantify based upon species membership (which doesn’t scale, again, as it cannot take into account an immediate classification of any non-member on merit, such as an extraterrestrial species without a central nervous system and yet possessing sapience or an artificial construct, should those become part of the human experience), we should describe those essential properties that merit membership in the class “rights holders”.

    And while you’ve made some good points, babble, you’ve done a very bad job of describing discretely what you actually mean by “rights holders”. When asked, you back off on some rights, and enforce others, and you’re not really clear on why you believe the rights should fall out the way you are discussing. For example:

    > If you move into my house, I’m going to take
    > steps to remove you from my house. I choose
    > not to live with you.
    >
    > If a rat moves into my house, I’ll take steps
    > to remove the RAT from my house. I choose not
    > to live with him, either.

    This presupposes that the rat is supposed to acknowledge our concept of property rights. Whysoever would we assume this to be the case? If the rat was in the house before you were, why does your ability to offer some previous human a sum of cash (or a promissory note) to “acquire” the house trump the rat’s squatter’s rights?

    The implicit reason that I’m thinking you hold is that there *are* indeed differences between human sapience and non-human sapience. You refer to that here:

    > given that there’s no way for me to meaningfully
    > communicate moral concepts TO the lion, it’s
    > pointless to speculate one way or the other.

    and here:

    > I’m interested in protecting them because they
    > suffer (much as we do), they’re aware (much as
    > we are) and they have their own wants and
    > preferences (much as we do).
    >
    > Exactly as we do? Maybe; maybe not.

    … but this is in fact the crux of the contention. You’re saying that because animals do these things, they ought to be considered sapient, and since they are considered sapient, they should be granted rights.

    But clearly, if we agree that the definition of sapience should be extended to include other animals, we are adding a lot of ambiguity to the definition of sapience; and moreover, we’re doing it completely unnecessarily.

    There’s a mathematical concept called “incommensurable” to describe what’s happening here. If humans and other animals are each describable as “sapient”, but the qualities that make up their “sapience” are not directly comparable, then it’s best not to include them under the same term. If the rights of humans and the rights of animals are similarly not directly comparable, it makes no sense to call them both “rights bearers”, because the term means different thing when applied to the two classes.

    So instead what we have is two different propositions:

    Humans are sapient (we still need to define this term appropriately, of course). Sapient beings are to be granted a set of basic rights (we still need to agree on these as well).

    Animals are, by your own admission, not sapient in the same way that humans are. So rather than redefining/using the term in an attempt to get the associative property to do your work for you, let’s talk about what sort of cognitive powers animals have and why they should tie to some sort of set of basic rights (which you also by your own admission say aren’t the same rights that we allow for humans).

    If you can’t describe your position more precisely, it makes me wonder why you have such a certainty that you’re unshakably correct. This doesn’t mean that you’re *wrong*, per se, just that you seem to have a very iron resolve for something that you yourself can’t describe fully.

  133. #133 babble
    October 20, 2009

    On a meta-level, however, your approach is simply to do the opposite: rather than “rigging the game” in favor of humans (which again, I don’t grant outright), you’re espousing “rigging the game” in favor of anything with a brain stem.

    Sure, but I don’t think I’ve been misleading about that. What I’m saying is that we go REALLY out of our way to err on the side of moral caution *if* the subject in question is human. I can’t see a good reason to limit that to JUST humans, or to JUST humans and animals with “sufficient intelligence” by some “close enough to human” standard.

    I don’t see this as a substantively different approach, it is simply a matter of moving the goalposts 40 yards that-a-way.

    Again, I don’t think I’ve been misleading about that. I’m advocating moving the goalpost, for essentially arbitrary reasons, because I think where we’ve PLACED the goalpost in the FIRST place is just as arbitrary.

    One can certainly regard it as “safer”, from an ethics standpoint, to err on the side of caution, but doesn’t it make more sense to try and find out more clearly where the line ought to be drawn in the first place?

    Here’s where I’m going to reintroduce the potentially hoary spectre of speciesism. I’ve seen lots and lots of anthropocentric justifications for keeping things generally as they are, with lots and lots of reassurances that “everybody” supports “humane treatment,” but the point is that as I see it, that doesn’t actually mean very much. Humane as defined by us, to justify what we want to do is a very, very convenient argument.

    And while you’ve made some good points, babble, you’ve done a very bad job of describing discretely what you actually mean by “rights holders”.

    Very generally, life which is easily observed to express its own desire to live. Yeast sensing sugar gradients doesn’t count, since as stated in the example given, they’ll keep on producing alochols until it becomes toxic to them. Bacterial communication is interesting, but hardly evidence of a *desire* as we conventionally think of the term.

    This presupposes that the rat is supposed to acknowledge our concept of property rights.

    I don’t think I’m requiring that the rat should acknowledge anything at all. I’m saying there are places where human and nonhuman animal interests will inevitably conflict, and as animals with a moral consciousness, we have an obligation to consider the interests of the nonhuman animals in question when resolving those conflicts rather than defaulting to various versions of “we get to do what we want, because we have superior intellect” and justifying that with loose, and again, conveniently-defined-by-us claims of humane treatment.

    The implicit reason that I’m thinking you hold is that there *are* indeed differences between human sapience and non-human sapience. You refer to that here:

    Sure, but I don’t think those differences warrant our using animals as a means to an end.

    … but this is in fact the crux of the contention. You’re saying that because animals do these things, they ought to be considered sapient,

    I don’t know that I am.

    I’m saying – without trying to introduce an awful lot of very asbtract ideas which I think we’ll end up going the rounds on again – that we have options. We very often tend to default to overriding nonhuman interests for what I think are very trivial reasons. I’m attempting to get society to move the goalposts so that those trivial reasons don’t get to be used as justifications any longer.

    There’s a mathematical concept called “incommensurable” to describe what’s happening here. If humans and other animals are each describable as “sapient”, but the qualities that make up their “sapience” are not directly comparable, then it’s best not to include them under the same term.

    Perhaps, but we lack a clear set of terms that *aren’t* hopelessly weighted in favor of describing consciousness in humans. Similar to the issue of sexism in language limiting our conceptual framework, speciesism in language (and definitions, and on and on) is an issue here.

    If the rights of humans and the rights of animals are similarly not directly comparable, it makes no sense to call them both “rights bearers”, because the term means different thing when applied to the two classes.

    Is this a semantic or definitional disagreement over the PHRASE “animal rights”? What I’m hearing in this (admitting that I may be MIS-hearing) is in for a penny, in for a pound. Except, of course, that we don’t consider all possible rights applicable to all HUMANS in all cases, but that doesn’t invalidate the fundamental notion that those humans should have at least SOME rights. Again, I’m not proposing that ALL rights – all human interests, if you wish – are even applicable to all nonhuman animals. But I don’t see how that makes any moral difference.

    …let’s talk about what sort of cognitive powers animals have and why they should tie to some sort of set of basic rights (which you also by your own admission say aren’t the same rights that we allow for humans).

    I think that despite various side discussions about abstract thought or reasoning about one’s autonomy, it’s not debatable that MOST animals show clear behavioral evidence of expressing their own desires, chief among them a desire to live, free of suffering and interference by others.

    Schools of fish don’t simply allow sharks to swallow them up; they swim away, if they can. Given that *we* can devise moral alternatives to the use of animals, we *ought to* devise alternatives to the use of animals.

    This doesn’t mean that you’re *wrong*, per se, just that you seem to have a very iron resolve for something that you yourself can’t describe fully.

    My reasons revolve around the triviality of inflicting suffering, and exploiting living beings just because we can. I KNOW we don’t have perfect alternatives in all cases, but I don’t think that matters. Where we *DO* have alternatives, we rest on – as folks have over and over and over again in this – we get to use animals because we SAY we get to use animals.

    If that works for the opposition, that SHOULD work for the AR position.

    Given that we’re arguing not for ourselves, but on behalf of a population whose interests we *do not profit from* by protecting, I still think our “just because” trumps the opposition’s “just because.”

  134. #134 babble
    October 20, 2009

    This presupposes that the rat is supposed to acknowledge our concept of property rights. Whysoever would we assume this to be the case? If the rat was in the house before you were, why does your ability to offer some previous human a sum of cash (or a promissory note) to “acquire” the house trump the rat’s squatter’s rights?

    Sorry, I missed this:

    That’s perhaps a fair point, but I think this runs the risk of riding off the rails into claims that I’m calling for various slippery slope absolutes. I *know* there are places where my interests and a given animal’s interests will conflict.

    I also *know* that my default interest will be to trump the nonhuman’s interest with my own, just as the rat’s default interest will be to trump MINE.

    The difference is that while the rat may or may not be able to take at least SOME of my interests into account, I *can* take at least SOME of his into account.

    Again, *I* wouldn’t kill him. I’d catch him, and release him somewhere else (hopefully for the best “compromise position” for the both of us).

  135. #135 JohnV
    October 20, 2009

    “I *can* take at least SOME of his into account.”

    That’s what scientists do as well. If they didn’t, there would be a lot less paperwork and associated lab practices. The sticking point is where to draw the line. Which is ok, that’s what has been discussed here all along (sentience/which animals/which rights/what research is necessary and what isn’t).

  136. #136 babble
    October 20, 2009

    That’s what scientists do as well.

    I don’t think I’m claiming that scientists don’t *care* about welfare; I’m saying that welfare as a construct is itself flawed. Humans in general use welfare to justify use: scientists, hunters, meat-eaters, vegetarians…even ethical ARA (or “animal liberationist,” if you prefer) vegans.

    The point is that the LAST set of us (ARA’s/vegans) want that use to be as MINIMALLY implemented as possible, with an eye toward ending it altogether, because *how* we use animals is a relevant concern, to be sure, but that’s trumped – drastically so – by the fact THAT we use animals.

    The sticking point is where to draw the line.

    I do get that; what I’m TRYING to get people to think about is that just because it sounds good to US that humane treatment is our ethical pass to continue using animals, the very idea of animal exploitation ITSELF is ethically flawed. Whether we treat them nicely or not, they’re not ours. They’re not a “resource.”

  137. #137 babble
    October 20, 2009

    At the risk of turning everybody off with hoary cliches, I *know* animal welfare sounds like a nice idea. It even sounds like a nice idea to me.

    Treating animals nicer is nice. I don’t dispute that.

    The point is that we’ve invented the construct of animal welfare, and we get to decide what it is, what it entails, who gets it, under what circumstances, when to apply it, when *not* to apply it, etc. etc. etc.

    The whole thing is rigged BY us to justify wants, preferences and desires FROM us.

    It’s not really about nonhumans; it’s about us. It makes US feel good to tell ourselves we’re doing this for their sake, but we’re not. We’re doing it to make it *seem okay* to us.

  138. #138 babble
    October 20, 2009

    Rather than attempting to quantify based upon species membership (which doesn’t scale, again, as it cannot take into account an immediate classification of any non-member on merit, such as an extraterrestrial species without a central nervous system and yet possessing sapience or an artificial construct, should those become part of the human experience)

    One other bit:

    That my claim ‘doesn’t scale’ to sentient AI’s or sapient ET’s really is neither here nor there. We have no need to worry about it in the present circumstance, and it’s fairly unlikely that we *will*, at least not any time soon. I find this to be a version of, “What will we do with all the livestock if everyone goes vegan overnight?”

    Everyone won’t GO vegan overnight.

    Sentient AI’s do not yet exist. They may never exist.

    If it becomes an issue, we can tackle it at THAT point, but I find it fairly useless to hang our moral consideration of beings who are here NOW on hypothetical consideration of beings who may or may not exist.

  139. #139 becca
    October 21, 2009

    If it’s morally acceptable to eat humans, isn’t it a moral imperative?
    I mean, otherwise you’re advocating wasting all that tasty meat! And you’ll have to eat more plants to compensate. Which will mean fewer plants for other animals. Ergo, more animal death.

    I’m not going for “gotcha” here. I honestly believe nonviolent canibalism should be more widely accepted by the vegan community.

  140. #140 Pat Cahalan
    October 21, 2009

    > That my claim ‘doesn’t scale’ to sentient AI’s
    > or sapient ET’s really is neither here nor there.
    > We have no need to worry about it in the present
    > circumstance, and it’s fairly unlikely that we
    > *will*, at least not any time soon.

    Science fiction fandom aside (yes, you may be essentially correct that we don’t need to worry about AIs anytime soon if ever), you missed my point. My bad, I let whimsy into my comment.

    Any attempt to provide a correlation between species and rights is going to be (at best) a flawed correlation. This is because any framework of rights that is constructed this way is going to fail at all the edge cases… we know this is an existing problem, right now.

    For example, you can build an entirely robust and internally consistent framework of rights based entirely upon human species membership. Your rights framework does not cover any of those edge cases that we now debate *strenuously* in public policy: assisted death/suicide, euthanasia, abortion, animal rights, women’s rights, minority rights. For a specific example, you see it now in the affirmative action debate, when a policy wonk equates affirmative action to “reverse racism”. Relying entirely upon a species-based classification of rights is so broad as to be utterly useless for all of the complex issues we’re trying to tackle.

    Thus, I (personally) find species-related rights assignment positions to be vastly un-compelling. Adding another species (or several other species, or classes of species) to the list is just compounding the problem.

    Moreover, if you’re trying to take a dialogue-based approach, blanket terms make it difficult for either side to actually engage in real dialogue, as they’re not actually listening to the underlying problem, which is *they don’t define the terms they’re using the same way*.

    So why use it?

    It seems evident to me that everyone involved, on both sides (at least on this particular thread), can agree on two over-riding principles: we all agree that some large collection of beings deserve some large collection of rights, and we all agree that these rights are themselves not universal; that is, we agree that some of these rights apply to some class of members of the large collection, and some others of these rights apply to some other class of members of the large collection, and that this mapping is based upon some properties of the members of particular class.

    So let’s work that out.

    For example, I’ve been thinking about the issue of what constitutes appropriate animal rights for some time. Some of your positions I may actually agree with. One thing that I really don’t grok is your objection to what you call “use”.

    You’re claiming that self-aware, sapient, ethical beings have an obligation *not* to “use” possibly self-aware, possibly sapient, demonstrably non-ethical beings. This is a pretty hard core foundational principle for you, as you’ve described in multiple posts.

    But it is quite easy to regard, instead, many of the things that we call “use” as a symbiotic relationship with a particular animal species. I have a dog. Note, I mean that in the same sense of “I have children”; the use of the word “have” in English is ambiguous.

    I’ll have to digress for a moment.

    Some animal rights activist may point at my characterization of my relationship with my dog as a possessive one, claiming that “I have a dog” == “I *own* a dog”, but that’s not the case in my case (indeed, that’s not precisely the case as established in common law even for the morons who may claim otherwise, as they can’t train their dog legally to dogfight, society has established restrictions on their relationship with their dog).

    My dog is an idiot. Lovable, but clearly incapable of existing upon its own recognizance. Without support from a human family, he would likely die, certainly be malnourished, and at best become a carrier for a number of vermin that would be no good either for him or any other animal with which he comes in contact.

    Undigressing.

    Not “in return for”, but “concurrently temporally correlated with” several thousand dollars worth of ongoing care, he has an established role (with responsibilities, like not pissing on my rug) in my family. It’s not an “ownership” relationship, I don’t “use” the dog for companionship, we have a symbiotic relationship. Literally, I scratch his back (although he doesn’t scratch mine, the ingrate).

    This is the case for most agricultural animals, albeit grossly distorted in the last 30 years due to industrialized agricultural practices.

    Milking a cow demonstrably does no harm to the cow. Trading a pail of milk for a couple bales of hay is a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between an individual person and the cow.

    In fact, there have been (and undoubtedly continue to be in several different places in the world) historical cases where the animal is regarded both as highly and in some cases with *higher regard* than a human life, due to the position of importance the animal held in that symbiotic relationship.

    Rustlin’ cattle used to be a hangin’ offense, in these parts.

    Now, certainly, you can make the case that there’s a lot of unreasonable and unethical extensions, in *today’s practice* of agriculture. But this is not because “having a cow” is, by nature, an act of slavery… it’s because the particular incarnation of “having a cow” that is implemented in U.S. agriculture *is* unethical. That’s not a foundational problem, it’s an implementation detail.

    Similarly, it’s actually demonstrably the case that several species of wild animal are outside of a normal predator/prey relationship with their environment (just ask anyone who lives where they have a deer overpopulation due to a lack of natural predators, or take a drive in Australia and see how many dang kangaroos there are). Hunting and killing those animals can certainly be regarded as attempting to establish a working symbiotic relationship between the herd of deer and the local human society. Eating the dead animal (as much as you personally may find it repugnant) is then simply a matter of biomass efficiency.

    Yes, you may say “well, that predator/prey relationship wouldn’t be out of balance if humans hadn’t killed off all of the predators”, but quite frankly I’m not keen on the idea of grizzlies still hanging around California in their historical numbers pre-human invasion. Keystone predator positions in all local ecosystems have been pretty much usurped by humans. We, as a species, are no more to blame for that than any other previous species who occupied that particular ecological niche. That doesn’t mean that we ought to screw up the entire ecosystem by acting like a collective bunch of dumbasses, but that’s an entirely different issue.

    And, as an aside for the record, there’s no particular *ethical* reason why you can’t eat dead people. That’s not an ethical question at all, it’s a cultural one (a pretty strong cultural one, certainly… *I* wouldn’t eat dead people, but not because it’s ethically *wrong*). A dead person is just biomass; in fact, it’s pretty much a given that your existing biomass includes lots of dead people biomass. Elements are elements are elements, and the planet recycles carbon through the ecological lifecycle and will continue to do so no matter what steps we take to try and end the process.

  141. #141 babble
    October 21, 2009

    If it’s morally acceptable to eat humans, isn’t it a moral imperative?
I mean, otherwise you’re advocating wasting all that tasty meat! And you’ll have to eat more plants to compensate. Which will mean fewer plants for other animals. Ergo, more animal death.

    That it may be *conditionally* permissible under your highly unlikely scenario says nothing about making it imperative.

    You’re trying to trap me into saying all interests should be given EQUAL weight. I’m not saying that. I’m saying human interests don’t get to AUTOMATICALLY trump animal interests just because they’re human.

    I’m not going for “gotcha” here. I honestly believe nonviolent canibalism should be more widely accepted by the vegan community.

    As I’ve already said, under the terms of your incredibly unlikely scenario, I don’t see a problem with it. The issue is that your scenario is about as likely as as asteroid in the shape of Britney Spears striking the earth at 4:23 next Thursday.

    It’s remotely possible. It’s just very, very unlikely. As with Pat’s claim that my moral case doesn’t scale to unlikely possible candidates, hanging our moral considerations on every possible outlandish hypothetical is a waste of time.

  142. #142 babble
    October 21, 2009

    Here’s the thing: *of course* humans are going to weight their own interests over the interests of animals in some (or even very many) cases. I’m not saying we don’t already do this, or that it’s ever going to stop. Proposing that would be ludicrous.

    Which is why I’m not actually proposing that.

    What you’re missing is that humans weight their own interests over other *humans* as well.

    The reason we have a system of rights (emerging from our fundamental ethical axioms, perhaps codified in a system of laws) is that we need a system in place to rank instances where one human wishes to express his or her interests at the expense of another human’s interest.

    I wish to drive my car to work. I may find it expedient to drive it through your living room – it would be faster for me to get to work that way.

    You have a legal right to live in your home without the constant worry that I may barrel through it on a regular basis on my way to work.

    My *desire* to get to work does not supersede your more fundamental right to a place to live, free of unwarranted intrusions. I have perfectly acceptable roads I can drive on, instead. That it may be *less convenient* for me to use those roads is immaterial.

    That I may have a *desire* to get to work more quickly does not AUTOMATICALLY trump a more fundamental, more important right held by someone else. I *do* have a reasonable expectation that society won’t impede my ability to get to work unnecessarily. I do not have a right to claim that my interest to do something trivial (get to work as *quickly* as possible, at your personal expense) should be given equal or preferential weight when considering which desire or preference is more important.

  143. #143 Pat Cahalan
    October 21, 2009

    > If it’s morally acceptable to eat humans, isn’t it
    > a moral imperative? I mean, otherwise you’re
    > advocating wasting all that tasty meat!

    Er, no.

    It’s not a moral imperative to eat anything (let alone everything) that’s consumable, that’s silly.

    Now, I’ll agree that it might be a moral imperative to ensure that dead people are continued to be part of the lifecycle of the earth (entombing them in clear plastic for posterity’s sake seems to be objectionable on several grounds), but that’s neither here nor there. Actually, practically, you could make the opposite argument right now as carbon sequestration is an issue :)

    There’s a difference between an ethical act, a moral act, a legal act, and a culturally acceptable act. Optimally, you’d like them all to be aligned, but in practice that’s not going to happen, usually for obvious reasons.

    For example, one could argue that it’s morally wrong to defend a guilty party from the consequences of his (or her) actions. You can make a pretty strong case for it, actually. However, we’ve all agreed (here in the U.S. anyway) that it’s *ethically* wrong to do otherwise; in fact, we’ve made it *legally* wrong to do otherwise. The reason for this is that there is an indeterminate problem, we have no way of knowing for certain that a party is guilty, and we’ve decided as a society that it’s both ethically and legally wrong to allow a party whose guilt has not yet been determined to go without representation, due to a whole host of undesirable consequences.

    “Waste” is not an issue that has an inherently moral or even ethical consequence; it’s a byproduct of whatever you do, thanks to entropy. Now, you can argue that “indiscriminate” waste *is* an ethical or moral issue, but you’d have to describe what “indiscriminate” means to come to a substantive determination.

    It’s relatively trivial to put several things in the bucket of “acceptable waste”, and put “human flesh” in that bucket, without creating a huge moral or ethical quandary.

  144. #144 babble
    October 21, 2009

    Science fiction fandom aside (yes, you may be essentially correct that we don’t need to worry about AIs anytime soon if ever), you missed my point. My bad, I let whimsy into my comment.

    Yeah, I reread it a couple of times, and I think I see where I missed your point. I think we’re holding AR to an unrealistic standard of excluding every potential outlier or accounting for every extreme possibility that we don’t use when analyzing other *human* rights advocacy, generally. Rights consideration between HUMANS is a moving target. It will necessarily be so, if we ever get around to recognizing the moral status of nonhumans. Would it be sensible to exclude every possible exceptional case in order to make a claim that discrimination based on race or sex (in humans) is unjustifiable? I don’t think so.

    Any attempt to provide a correlation between species and rights is going to be (at best) a flawed correlation.

    Perhaps, which is why I asked if you had a semantic or definitional issue with *calling* it “animal RIGHTS” as opposed to say, “animal liberation” or something else. I don’t particularly care about the nomenclature. “Animal rights” is a term of convenience that says, “Animals do not exist for the convenience of humans. Welfare or kind treatment is insufficient justification for considering animals a means to human ends.” I’ve said repeatedly that I see a *basic* moral equivalence between human and nonhuman animals. This doesn’t imply that I seek to grant irrelevant rights to all animals. I’ve tried to be clear about that.

    This is because any framework of rights that is constructed this way is going to fail at all the edge cases… we know this is an existing problem, right now.

    I agree, but the problem is that even at the edge cases, we take EXTREME moral caution when overriding the *presumed* interests of the edge-case individuals – *if they’re human.* We choose to override the presumed interests of animals because we find it convenient to see them as a means to an end. I don’t think this distinction is ethical.

    Relying entirely upon a species-based classification of rights is so broad as to be utterly useless for all of the complex issues we’re trying to tackle.

    Perhaps, but I don’t see a reason for AR to need to advocate on these bases JUST to cover every possible edge case. What I’m saying is this:

    1. Humans and many nonhuman animals possess a clear capacity to suffer. Causing suffering is bad (we’ll go the rounds on what THAT means, if you want).

    2. Humans and many nonhuman animals clearly express their own wants and desires. Overriding those wants as desires in order to use *one* (or many) individuals as a means to and end for other individuals is unethical, *regardless of the benefit* such use may create.

    3. Causing harm or suffering to humans and many nonhuman animals will probably not be perfectly avoidable in all cases. Take extremely cautious steps where harm to humans (and nonhumans) is expected, and where harm and suffering are easily avoidable, causing it anyway just because it’s expedient (or pleasurable) is unethical.

    I don’t think anything I’m saying would be at all unusual or controversial if we were talking about protecting these interests of humans *exclusively*. I can see no good reason not to extend that consideration to other animals wherever possible.

    Thus, I (personally) find species-related rights assignment positions to be vastly un-compelling. Adding another species (or several other species, or classes of species) to the list is just compounding the problem.

    Perhaps, but again, the whole thing is a species based construct at the outset, as I see it. We privilege humans because we ourselves are human.

    Moreover, if you’re trying to take a dialogue-based approach, blanket terms make it difficult for either side to actually engage in real dialogue, as they’re not actually listening to the underlying problem, which is *they don’t define the terms they’re using the same way*.So why use it?

    I’m fine with using a different term if you want to go the rounds on the semantics. I’m not hung up on calling it “rights” by this very abstract sort of dissection. I align myself with the “animal rights movement” as a distinction from the “animal welfare movement” which has entirely different aims, in my view. I’m interested in changing folks’ minds about the idea that animals exist for our use. I don’t agree that they do, and furthermore, that our thinking in this manner causes massive amounts of avoidable suffering. I accept that *some* animal use will persist, but that needs to be the *exceptional*, not the *typical* case, and if at ALL possible, it needs to end.

    But it is quite easy to regard, instead, many of the things that we call “use” as a symbiotic relationship with a particular animal species. I have a dog.

    You do, but you *bought* him, or otherwise obtained him because the current social custom regards him as *property.* My shelter rescue is property. That I do not *personally* regard her as property does not change this fact. She (or her mother, perhaps) wasn’t especially valuable property to a previous property-holder, so they discarded her. That I didn’t personally *pay* for my cat to be bred doesn’t change the fact that as a matter of status in the larger scheme of things, she’s every bit as much property as my toaster oven or my MacBook.

    …for the morons who may claim otherwise, as they can’t train their dog legally to dogfight, society has established restrictions on their relationship with their dog).

    That means we have an emotional affinity to treating *some* animals with a modicum of kind treatment, in some cases. That doesn’t address the underlying property construct that led to your dog being bred in the first place. Again, I understand that YOU don’t value him or treat him as property, any more than I do my cat. I love her, desperately. She is, nevertheless, every bit as much property in the current social construct as livestock.

    My dog is an idiot. Lovable, but clearly incapable of existing upon its own recognizance.

    I think this is generally comparable to how I’ve been comparing domesticated animals to refugees. If you think I’ve got this wrong, let me know.

    Without support from a human family, he would likely die, certainly be malnourished, and at best become a carrier for a number of vermin that would be no good either for him or any other animal with which he comes in contact.

    No disagreement here. I use the same reasoning to make an ethical exception for care of the current shelter animal population that presently exists. I say *exception* because I ALSO want to end the current line of thinking that says pets are a commodity, to be bred, sold, and discarded when we no longer have any use for them.

    It’s not an “ownership” relationship, I don’t “use” the dog for companionship, we have a symbiotic relationship. Literally, I scratch his back (although he doesn’t scratch mine, the ingrate).

    I don’t quibble with your specific relationship with YOUR dog. I have an ethical objection to the *practice of pet-keeping* that leads to treating these animals as property, with all of the attendant abuse and neglect that inevitably involves. That we *could* potentially solve all of those problems with an aggressive animal welfare framework is neither here nor there. We have not done so, in the roughly 100 years or so that various forms of the animal welfare movement have existed. I see no reason to expect that we WILL do so.

    Put short: I don’t trust most humans to do the right thing. As I’ve said, I’ve worked in animal shelters. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, too much, too often. Your dog (and my cat) won the lottery, and good for them. That doesn’t make the massively larger misery of millions of other dogs and cats acceptable, and no amount of trivial welfare regulation will change that, I really really believe, while we still choose to view these beings as essentially property.

    This is the case for most agricultural animals, albeit grossly distorted in the last 30 years due to industrialized agricultural practices.

    No, it isn’t. Your dog isn’t going to be killed and eaten when you’ve decided you’re done keeping him as a pet. if you *do* actually do this, he’s livestock, not a family member.

    Milking a cow demonstrably does no harm to the cow. Trading a pail of milk for a couple bales of hay is a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between an individual person and the cow.

    Assuming we ignore the reality that when we’re done using her as a milk producing machine she will be killed, eaten, and turned into shoes and handbags. Yes, in the UTTERLY abstract, the *act* of milking a cow does not harm her. But that’s not what’s actually happening.

    Here’s what IS happening:

    – Cows are bred, because they possess commercial value.

    – While they possess commercial value to use for milk, they are so used. In order to continue being so useful, she is reimpregnated, as necessary. Her male calves are slaughtered as veal. Her female calves are either slaughtered or funneled back into the same system of commercial exploitation.

    – When the cows no longer possess commercial value to use for milk, they are slaughtered.

    This is not in ANY sense a “symbiotic” relationship, except in ridiculously silly abstraction. This is a commercial MARKET VALUE relationship and nothing more. That these cows “benefit” by being bred for our use does not change any of this.

    In fact, there have been (and undoubtedly continue to be in several different places in the world) historical cases where the animal is regarded both as highly and in some cases with *higher regard* than a human life, due to the position of importance the animal held in that symbiotic relationship.

    No, that’s because the cow has market value that some humans are willing to prioritize over human life. That still doesn’t make it a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties, any more than slavery was a “symbiosis” between the slave and the slave owner. It was a property relationship then, and it’s a property relationship NOW.

    But this is not because “having a cow” is, by nature, an act of slavery…

    Yes, it IS. Just because we choose to see it as a socially *acceptable* form of slavery does not change this.

    …it’s because the particular incarnation of “having a cow” that is implemented in U.S. agriculture *is* unethical. That’s not a foundational problem, it’s an implementation detail.

    It’s both. Again, if cow’s milk were absolutely required for human nutrition, if humans would starve without it, fine, breed and milk cows. This is not the case. We *enjoy* cow’s milk. We do not NEED cow’s milk. That we wish to tell ourselves that some cows are treated relatively nicely (again, as defined by us, so we can tell ourselves it’s all just fine) is immaterial.

    Hunting and killing those animals can certainly be regarded as attempting to establish a working symbiotic relationship between the herd of deer and the local human society.

    No, that’s a convenient justification to the practice of killing animals for sport. The point is this: we COULD come up with better (ethically better) alternatives. We choose not to, because we choose to prioritize the human wish – to kill animals for the entertainment value of doing it – over coming up with other alternatives.

    You want to tell me we need to deal with places where we’ve interfered with a given ecosystem? I don’t disagree. Use chemical contraception. If it’s unworkable in the near term, develop better chemical contraception. If that means *some* “sport” hunting will persist in the short term, there’s not much I can do about that, but that doesn’t change the fact that “sport” hunting isn’t being DONE for the “benefit” of kangaroos. It’s being done because some humans enjoy doing it. We tell ourselves after the fact that it’s beneficial to OTHER kangaroos, just as folks have tried to justify animal experimentation HERE on the grounds that some very small part of it has led to advancements in veterinary medicine.

    Sport hunting isn’t FOR the benefit of the hunted. It’s for the enjoyment of hunters. That we can come up with some nice-sounding justifications after the fact doesn’t change any of that.

    Eating the dead animal (as much as you personally may find it repugnant) is then simply a matter of biomass efficiency.

    No, it’s because we’ve created a system that creates dead animals that humans choose to consume. You’re trying – desperately – to argue on a hopelessly abstract basis.

    If one were in danger of starving and the ONLY option was to hunt, fine. Hunt. But that’s not what’s ACTUALLY happening in the real world.

    Yes, you may say “well, that predator/prey relationship wouldn’t be out of balance if humans hadn’t killed off all of the predators”, but quite frankly I’m not keen on the idea of grizzlies still hanging around California in their historical numbers pre-human invasion.

    See earlier. I accept that humans have tampered with existing ecosystems. I do not accept that killing animals for fun is an ethically acceptable solution to that problem.

    We, as a species, are no more to blame for that than any other previous species who occupied that particular ecological niche.

    We ARE responsible for how we choose to deal with it, IF we choose to do so.

    And, as an aside for the record, there’s no particular *ethical* reason why you can’t eat dead people.

    As I said, I don’t have a particular problem with becca’s hypothetical, beyond the fact that her conditions as stated are ridiculously unlikely. That again has nothing to do with hunting, farming, animal agriculture, etc. etc. etc.

    If we were saying we wished to FARM and kill humans, I’d object to it. If a given human simply wishes to be eaten after she dies naturally, and other humans don’t see any particular problem with doing so, do so.

    But that doesn’t JUSTIFY running out and intentionally killing humans so you can eat them, or farming humans so you can do it.

  145. #145 becca
    October 21, 2009

    “Milking a cow demonstrably does no harm to the cow.”
    You clearly haven’t breastfed a little chomper lately.

    That it may be *conditionally* permissible under your highly unlikely scenario says nothing about making it imperative.
    1) It’s not that highly unlikely; my friends and I have a pact to eat each other, so unless we die from something nasty and infectious or the authorities figure this out… mmmm, Charles-bacon. That’s assuming our corpses can’t be used by science, or if when science/organ donation/other higher causes are done with the flesh, there is anything tasty left.
    2)The moral imperative stems from:
    “Eating the dead animal (as much as you personally may find it repugnant) is then simply a matter of biomass efficiency. ” (thanks Pat Cahalan!)

    Look babble, you of all people should know that cultural change nearly inevitably starts with the unthinkable. For many people, the notion that “animals have rights” is still unthinkable (or nonsensical). Canibalism is the wave of the future.

    “It’s not a moral imperative to eat anything (let alone everything) that’s consumable, that’s silly.”
    What I’m saying is, assuming you want to live, you must eat. Assuming there is a moral imperative to have minimal impact on your environment (lowest carbon footprint), the “efficient use of biomass” argument implies canibalism is a morally preferable choice to using up land.

    “Actually, practically, you could make the opposite argument right now as carbon sequestration is an issue :)” Seeing as worms eat corpses and turn them into dirt, and plants eat dirt and consume CO2 and produce O2, no, you couldn’t make that argument. Not matter how whimsical the image of corpses stacked up to high heaven is to you :)
    “”Waste” is not an issue that has an inherently moral or even ethical consequence; it’s a byproduct of whatever you do, thanks to entropy.” If entropy applies, so does conservation of mass, which means that “waste” is an intrinsically nonsensical concept. That is the way physics would view this. In biology, on the other hand, ‘waste’ is produced. By waste, we mean forms of matter or energy that are less useful (or more detrimental). In an ecosystem where humans must consume a certain amount of matter to maintain their existence, eating a small amount of matter that is conveniently arranged into a neat packet of all-the-nutrients-you-need is less wasteful than scavenging the nutrients from a larger mass that has lots of extraneous stuff. Not that we should take it to extremes. We’s probably end up constipated without any fiber. Although I wonder if hair could help with that?

    “It’s relatively trivial to put several things in the bucket of “acceptable waste”, and put “human flesh” in that bucket, without creating a huge moral or ethical quandary.” It only seems ‘relatively trivial’ because that’s the status quo. When the status quo involves moral or ethical contradictions, we just accept them, despite the fact that if we actually think (a dangerous passtime, I know) we have to go through convoluted contortions in our moral/ethical calculus. It’s much simpler to be consistent, and just eat people.

    “I wish to drive my car to work.”
    Why do you assume your wish to drive to work trumps the Right of animals in the rainforest to live in the acres that have been deforested for the rubber in your tires? Or the Right of animals to live in the ecosystem which your smog is causing pollution sufficient to wipe out entire species? If you are truly non”speciesist” you will surely see how that’s worse than genocide (I know, I’m skirting Godwin’s law here, bear with me).

    I declare your desire to get to work by car is trivial and unimportant, compared to the animal rights you are impinging upon!
    Just like you’re declaring the desire of cancer patients not to suffer is trivial compared to the animal rights researchers impinge upon.

  146. #146 babble
    October 21, 2009

    If I BUY you and I USE you, you and I have not “entered into a relationship” except in the most exceedingly abstract sense. You are my *POSSESSION*, not an actor in a relationship.

  147. #147 Dario Ringach
    October 21, 2009

    I join this interesting discussion a bit late and, I admit, I have not read all the comments above. It seems clear that Babble is opposed to animal research based on moral considerations.

    Perhaps this is a good time to briefly share some my thoughts on the topic. As it turns out I am sympathetic with some of the ideas put forward by Tom Regan, such as when he says “animals have a life of their own that is it of importance to them…  They are not only in the world, they are aware of it and what happens to them.  And what happens to them, matters to them.”  

    Indeed all animals endeavor to survive by the end of the day, but this is a goal that depends on their ability to kill for food. That’s simply how Nature works.  It is this simple fact of Nature that pushes the interests of one individual to conflict with the interests of another.  Nobody would ask if it the lion is morally justified in killing the gazelle.  We accept this as part of the natural order.

    Humans are part of Nature too (we are animals too), and what happens to us matters to us as well.  We also have interests of our own.  We don’t want to die from cancer, or Parkinson’s, or heart disease.  It is in our interest to find cures for diseases (that will benefit both human and non-human animals). 

    Unfortunately (and despite the claims to the contrary from animal right activists) there are no alternatives to the use of animals to gain the knowledge necessary to understand how living organisms work and what goes wrong in disease. In the search for such knowledge is where our own interests conflicts with those of other animals. 

    I agree with Babble that mankind has advanced to a stage where animals are not essential for food or clothing. I also sympathize with the idea that animals should not be used for pleasure nor convenience. But in my opinion the use of animals in medical research does not fall into ANY of these categories — it is truly and absolutely necessary.

    It seems to me that it is difficult to proceed with any discussion about the morality of animal research if we cannot agree on this simple fact.

    Babble, do you dispute this?

  148. #148 JohnV
    October 21, 2009

    “Milking a cow demonstrably does no harm to the cow.”
    “You clearly haven’t breastfed a little chomper lately.”

    I may not be a farmer, but if you’re using your teeth I strongly believe that you are milking the cow incorrectly.

  149. #149 babble
    October 21, 2009

    Becca:
    Canibalism is the wave of the future.

    Perhaps, but I’m still not going to waste my time advocating for it under your stated conditions. If you want to, feel free.

    Dario:
    It seems to me that it is difficult to proceed with any discussion about the morality of animal research if we cannot agree on this simple fact.

    I don’t dispute that in some (or perhaps several) cases, animal research is the most expedient means available to us for some cures, right now. I’ve said this several times. I suppose I’ll have to keep repeating it as new folks hit the thread. (This isn’t a slam at you in particular; I just REALLY have said this, SEVERAL times.)

    I’m not disputing that *in the present.* What I object to is the idea that the status quo should persist as it is, indefinitely, and I see no particular motivation, right now, to changing anything, because we choose to rest on the notion that as long as humans benefit from animal research, no alternatives NEED be developed.

    Again, that some nonhumans have benefitted from animal research in a some cases is neither here nor there. As I’ve ALSO said several times, we aren’t performing research for their sake; if it *does* benefit any of them in any specific instances, that’s by happenstance.

    Becca:
    Why do you assume your wish to drive to work trumps the Right of animals in the rainforest to live in the acres that have been deforested for the rubber in your tires?

    Not an unfair point; see (AGAIN) my repeated claim that I’m not saying that there are no instances where human and nonhuman interests will conflict. I’ve explicitly said quite the contrary. What I object to is the notion that human desires will ALWAYS trump.

    Veganism is easy. Ridiculously so, in this day and age. I’m saying we justify SOME things for trivial reasons, not all things. Taste is trivial. Making a living is not. Getting around in this society without using at least SOME modern inventions is not. If I had a better alternative for your claim above, I’d use it. I don’t. That doesn’t make all other choices that impact animals ethically neutral.

    Just like you’re declaring the desire of cancer patients not to suffer is trivial compared to the animal rights researchers impinge upon.

    Which would be exactly what I’m claiming, sure. See my reply to Dario above, or the other 5,000 times I’ve made exceptions for ACTUAL lifesaving research. Do I REALLY have to keep repeating this?

  150. #150 babble
    October 21, 2009

    …If you are truly non”speciesist” you will surely see how that’s worse than genocide (I know, I’m skirting Godwin’s law here, bear with me).

    Except that I haven’t actually even claimed THIS.

    I’m a speciesist. You’re a speciesist. We’re ALL speciesists, just as we’re all racists, and sexists and homophobes (and yes, that even applies to me, as a big ole homosexual.)

    The culture is speciesist.

    The difference (I think) is that I don’t think we get to just pretend that that’s okay and go on using animals where we have the clear option of NOT using them.

    Once again, none of this says there will be NO other conflicts. This says that we justify our choices, where we have the clear choice NOT to use animals by claiming that all other instances of animal exploitation are equivalent. If X is bad, and Y is bad, that doesn’t mean X and Y are equally bad, or that X is any less avoidable just because you claim X and Y are equally bad.

    I *could* live in a hut and refuse to use electricity and all sorts of things, true.

    That doesn’t have a thing to do with the easily avoidable choice not to kill animals for the pleasure of eating them, or the entertainment value of killing them.

    I don’t have a reasonable option not to make my way in the modern world, absent simply opting to starve. I’m not advocating that either. I do have a reasonable option not to consume animals, and not to pretend that the use of animals is all just hunky dory because humans claim benefits from it.

  151. #151 Pat Cahalan
    October 21, 2009

    > No, it isn’t. Your dog isn’t going to be
    > killed and eaten when you’ve decided you’re
    > done keeping him as a pet.

    Point of fact, that’s exactly what is going to happen to my dog when I’ve decided he’s no longer part of the family (due to age and chronic infirmity). I’m going to have him put to sleep, so that he doesn’t live a life of suffering, and then I’m probably going to bury him somewhere where worms are going to eat him.

    If I had a cow (which I don’t, living in urban Pasadena), I’d also euthanize the cow, and yes, it would get eaten, by something.

    > No, that’s because the cow has market value
    > that some humans are willing to prioritize
    > over human life.

    No, that’s an absurdly modern (and Western) characterization. Agriculture existed for thousands of years before we had anything resembling a market. If you’re going to claim that historically livestock have only been given consideration due to market values, you’re ignoring the vast majority of agriculture (most of which is pre-modern history). You’re also ignoring the fact that food animals in many cultures have passed well beyond “monetary value” in estimation.

    You’re also ignoring the fact that you can make the same reducto observation about anything else; you can always over-simplify any discussion by putting it in strict market terms, “We only think that way because it’s profitable”. This isn’t even really a highly regarded theory in economics anymore.

    > That still doesn’t make it a mutually
    > beneficial relationship for both parties

    Yes, it does. Cows would be extinct now, much like the bison almost were (and the dodo are, and the Irish elk, and the Moa, and dozens of other examples, all the large meat bearing animals that were dominant in their geographical region before hunter-gathering humans showed up and ate them), if it were not for their favored food animal status with the apex predator *and* the adoption of domesticated herds. It may not make it mutually beneficial for an individual *cow*, but by gum it’s sure helped out the species. And symbiotic relationships are species-beneficial.

    > It was a property relationship then,
    > and it’s a property relationship NOW.

    It’s certainly something like a property relationship now, this is not historically a universal truth. It’s also not entirely accurate now. You cannot treat a dog any way you like, it’s not an iPod.

    >> But this is not because “having a cow” is,
    >> by nature, an act of slavery…

    > Yes, it IS. Just because we choose to see it
    > as a socially *acceptable* form of slavery
    > does not change this.

    No, it’s *not*, because again it is incommensurable with human slavery. The essence of the relationship is essentially different, period. Sorry, I’m not going to accept this characterization. You can keep using it, certainly, but if you’re going to continue to try and force me to accept this usage of the word, I’m going to consider this dialogue closed, because you’re trying to call an apple an orange. They might both be bad (a fruit), but they are NOT the same.

    I agree that this doesn’t automatically make it *right*. But, like my other observation regarding “sapience”, you’re not communicating a very substantive analysis for your view. You’re just repeating tautologies. Animal use is slavery, because slavery is animal use.

    > Sport hunting isn’t FOR the benefit of the
    > hunted. It’s for the enjoyment of hunters.

    I would put forth at this point that you’ve either known a very small number of hunters, or a socially congruent subset of people who hunt in the manner you have now attributed to all hunters. I’ve personally never hunted, although I did work for three months in a slaughterhouse in college, so I can attest that yes I know exactly what it’s like to kill an animal for meat. Most people I know that *do* hunt don’t do it for enjoyment (like target shooting). They do it for a vastly more complex set of reason, of which enjoyment is only a very small part. This is of course not a universal statement, there are certainly borderline sociopaths who hunt simply because they like to kill things, but the point is that you’re oversimplifying.

    > You’re trying – desperately – to argue on a
    > hopelessly abstract basis.

    There’s no desperation here. I don’t feel a moral (or ethical, or cultural, or legal) compunction to defend my own position. Even if I did, you don’t really know what *my* position is, so I don’t really have anything to defend.

    In any event, I’m not *arguing*, I’m trying to explain to you why your method of communicating your moral/ethical stance (you’ve got the two jumbled together) doesn’t work, at least in my case. So even if we were actually arguing, I still wouldn’t feel very desperate, because you’re not arguing points that I find very compelling.

    (And, quite frankly, I find it sort of amusing that you’re claiming that I’m being hopelessly abstract when my main point since I chimed in on this thread is that you’re talking in hopelessly broad terms that actually need to be quantified and qualified to be substantive.)

    > If one were in danger of starving and the
    > ONLY option was to hunt, fine. Hunt. But
    > that’s not what’s ACTUALLY happening in the
    > real world.

    Actually, that’s what’s ACTUALLY happening in most of the real world. It’s only not happening that way in a very small subset of the population, most of which are fairly well pampered Western market economies.

    You’ve made similar statements throughout the thread, and quite frankly here’s where you’re losing my empathy to come over to your way of thinking.

    If animals have rights, they have rights. My comment #102 applies: if they have rights preventing us from *ever* experimenting on them, it’s just too freaking boo-hoo on us if the only way we can test new medicines now is on animals. We don’t get new medicines until we can come up with a different methodology, it’s a rights violation, suck it up and get some humans to volunteer or come up with new technology.

    If, on the other hand, we acknowledge that there is something about some animals that warrants less rights protection, then it’s perfectly okay to experiment on them now *or* in the future (unless, of course, their essential nature changes either through evolutionary processes or by our direct intervention).

    Slavery is not okay, it’s always been not okay. It doesn’t matter if it was a culturally accepted practice elsewhere or elsewhen, it was still morally bankrupt and ethically questionable, even if it was culturally or legally acceptable. If killing a human for food is not okay, it doesn’t matter if that human willingly participates in the process or if it is a social norm in a particular tribe, it’s still morally bankrupt and ethically questionable, even if its culturally acceptable and the tribe has no semblance of a legal code.

    If killing an animal for food *is* okay somewhen, then it’s still okay now, from a moral standpoint. You cannot claim a rights violation.

    You *can* still claim that it’s bad for a whole host of other reasons. It may be unsustainable (a necessity position). It may be of such a high cost/benefit ratio that it represents an unreasonable luxury given that other people go hungry (a moral position). It may be repugnant to a majority of people (not now, but in the future) and thus warrant discontinuing the practice (a cultural position).

    But you can’t throw out a rights position and then say it only sort of applies or it ought to apply some point in the future when it’s convenient for us to apply it. That’s weak sauce.

  152. #152 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    It occurs to me that my last post might be regarded as a sandbagging move on at least one part, so to clarify:

    I’m not going to eat my dog when he dies because it’s not a cultural norm for people in my society to eat dogs (plus, when the dog does pass on, it’s really unlikely that the carcass will be edible). I’ve eaten a lot of weird things in my life (it’s actually possible that I’ve eaten dog without knowing it), and when in other cultures I usually do partake of those cultural norms (barring of course moral, ethical, or legal objections) out of a desire to more fully understand that culture; if I was visiting a country where eating dog was culturally normalized, I’d try it while I was there. I don’t, however, adopt this as a “culturally universal” mandate. This doesn’t mean that I think eating my dog is morally wrong or ethically wrong, just culturally odd.

    You could say that this is just a belief system and I really wouldn’t because deep down I know dogs don’t deserve to be eaten, I suppose, but for the record I *have* eaten “pet” animals (4H sheep and pigs, albeit not my own pet animals). I didn’t feel freaked out by this, although I will gladly concede that many people who *do* raise food animals as a hobby project and form an emotional attachment to them reject the idea. Generally this is not because of a moral conviction that eating animals is bad, it’s a particular case of anthropomorphizing.

  153. #153 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Point of fact, that’s exactly what is going to happen to my dog when I’ve decided he’s no longer part of the family (due to age and chronic infirmity).

    Not equivalent to the cow in your example at all, and I think you know that. If you were talking about breeding thousands and thousands of dogs, keeping them around for a little while and then killing them off when they were no longer useful for you for purpose A, but still long before they would have died of old age or infirmity, and* you made a multibillion dollar industry out of doing this to lots and lots of dogs, you’d have a real comparison,but this isn’t it.

    If I had a cow (which I don’t, living in urban Pasadena), I’d also euthanize the cow, and yes, it would get eaten, by something.

    Still not an apt comparison. See above. I know you’d prefer it if I pretended that milking cows was all we ever did to them, and they died in their dotage, but I’m not going to do that.

    No, that’s an absurdly modern (and Western) characterization. Agriculture existed for thousands of years before we had anything resembling a market.

    Unless you’re claiming to live in a pre-market society thousands of years ago, this is also irrelevant. We’re living here and now. Again, I know you’d prefer it if I pretended that milking – in and of itself, as you said a couple of times – was all that mattered. It isn’t.

    Cows would be extinct now

    Then domesticated cows face extinction when we stop breeding them. That we choose to breed cows does not do nice things for COWS. That’s US doing things TO cows. I’m not claiming all animals that now exist, have ever existed, or may potentially exist have an absolute right to do so, any more than I’m claiming humans have an absolute right to do so. We will face extinction, too, one day.

    It’s certainly something like a property relationship now, this is not historically a universal truth. It’s also not entirely accurate now. You cannot treat a dog any way you like, it’s not an iPod.

    Again, unless you’re planning on traveling back in time, making claims about what HAS happened at various points in the past is not relevant. I’m talking about what’s happening NOW.

    I can’t treat my cat *quite* like an iPod, but short of incredibly horrific abuse, I would face no legal sanction for causing her all manner of harm and neglect for which I would be imprisoned if I did even a tenth of it to a human. I have SEEN horrifically abused animals, discarded and neglected, every single day. I am not arguing this abstractly. We treat pets deplorably. Absolutely horribly. That you love your dog is nice. I LOVE my cat. Desperately. Our pets are lucky. Incredibly so. Volunteer for a weekend at your local animal shelter if you think ALL pets are so lucky.

    No, it’s *not*, because again it is incommensurable with human slavery. The essence of the relationship is essentially different, period.

    Only because you choose to consider human slavery special. You don’t BENEFIT from human slavery in the current social context, so it’s easy for you to make a false distinction. Domesticated animals are slaves. Period. Reject the comparison. Accept it. It doesn’t matter. It’s the truth.

    Animal use is slavery, because slavery is animal use.

    Animal use is slavery because they do not consent to being used and they are regarded as property. This is not a tautology, no matter how many times you pretend it is.

    They do it for a vastly more complex set of reason, of which enjoyment is only a very small part.

    It’s not that I *ENJOY* killing, so much as I enjoy it a little.

    There’s no desperation here. I don’t feel a moral (or ethical, or cultural, or legal) compunction to defend my own position.

    I’m not DEFENDING my position. I’m merely talking about it. Agree. Disagree. Who are you? Why do I care if you do?

    I still wouldn’t feel very desperate, because you’re not arguing points that I find very compelling.

    So you’ve said, now, several times. So what? I understand that you don’t find my position compelling or a reason to change. That’s not especially important, though I expect you’ll keep saying it.

    Actually, that’s what’s ACTUALLY happening in most of the real world. It’s only not happening that way in a very small subset of the population, most of which are fairly well pampered Western market economies.

    Which has less than nothing to do with people right here and right now eating animals for the trivial reason that they enjoy the way they taste.

    You’ve made similar statements throughout the thread, and quite frankly here’s where you’re losing my empathy to come over to your way of thinking.

    I’m not willing to pretend you were ever sympathetic to my position. You’re playing a game, Pat, and we both know it.

    If animals have rights, they have rights. My comment #102 applies: if they have rights preventing us from *ever* experimenting on them, it’s just too freaking boo-hoo on us if the only way we can test new medicines now is on animals.

    If I could enforce this, I would. I can’t. If I could force you not to consume animals, I would. I can’t. That I’ve entertained your specious claims up TO now says nothing one way or the other about what I *would* do if I could.

    Slavery is not okay, it’s always been not okay. It doesn’t matter if it was a culturally accepted practice elsewhere or elsewhen, it was still morally bankrupt and ethically questionable, even if it was culturally or legally acceptable.

    Animal exploitation is not okay, it’s always been not okay. It doesn’t matter if it was a culturally accepted practice elsewhere or elsewhen, it was still morally bankrupt and ethically questionable, even if it was culturally or legally acceptable.

    If killing an animal for food *is* okay somewhen, then it’s still okay now, from a moral standpoint. You cannot claim a rights violation.

    It’s NOT okay. If I could force you not to consume animals, I would absolutely do so. I cannot.

  154. #154 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Once again, understand: I don’t care if any one of you agree with animal rights. As I said when I came into this, not a one of you is going to change as a result of this discussion. You folks get to claim you’re not arguing your position; you’re right. You’re not. You’re complaining because I’m not arguing my position to your satisfaction. I take it as a given that NO argument for animal rights will EVER be made to YOUR satisfaction. Arguing it to your satisfaction is irrelevant.

    Once again, this is a debate when you need it to be and NOT a debate when it’s convenient for you.

    It’s all very VERY convenient. For you. How very special.

  155. #155 babble
    October 22, 2009

    I’m going to consider this dialogue closed

    Please do.

  156. #156 babble
    October 22, 2009

    No, Pat, you’re just sandbagging. You want to pat yourself on the back for having bested me in your pathetic little non-debate debate, feel free. It doesn’t really matter. None of this abstract BS really matters. The only thing that DOES matter are the billions of animals we’re killing for no justifiable purpose at all. That’s ALL that matters, in this.

    I took Dr. Stemwedel’s invitation to actually hear from an ARA seriously. You took it as an invitation to take cheap shots. I’m not impressed, in the least.

  157. #157 babble
    October 22, 2009

    What Pat gets, although she’s attempting to sidetrack around it is that incrementalism is a valid strategy to move from a position of disregarding rights to regarding them.

    As I’ve said, throughout the thread, many times, NO animal experimentation is acceptable. Absolutely all of it needs to end. I am not now, nor have I at ANY point, despite Pat’s attempt to mischaracterize my position (that’s the cheap shot) saying that the situation as it exists is okay.

    I’m saying if the only way we can move things forward is conceding some positions because humans are generally selfish and resistant to change, then we make certain concessions in order to move the agenda forward.

    The ENDA dis-included transgender/transsexual protections in order to pass; this does not say that TG/TS people do not DESERVE rights protection. It says that an incremental rights strategy is sometimes necessary.

    Animal rights is no different.

  158. #158 babble
    October 22, 2009

    What Pat gets, although she/he’s sidetracking, doh. Shouldn’t have presumed gender.

  159. #159 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    > Only because you choose to consider human
    > slavery special.

    No, babble, not because I choose anything. If I enslave a human person, the effects on that human person are empirically measurable. If I put an cow in a pen and feed it and milk it the effects on that cow are also empirically measurable. They’re not the same. That doesn’t make human slavery *special*. You’re confusing “incommensurable” concepts with ordinal concepts. Humans being owned as property = slavery. Animals being owned as property = something else. Something else != slavery. You’re assuming that I’m saying that something else < bad than slavery. I'm not saying that, I'm saying it's up to you to show me that this is the case by communicating with me.

    Rather than do that, you keep going back to animal ownership = slavery because you want your semantic classification to do your ethical work for you.

    > You don’t BENEFIT from human slavery in the
    > current social context, so it’s easy for you
    > to make a false distinction.

    Oh, please, could you be more baselessly insulting? I can easily reflect that directly back on you. Rather than assuming that I’m entirely driven by utilitarianism (which is laughable for anyone who knows me), why don’t you just try to communicate in the (completely objective and unobjectionable) way I’m asking you to?

    > I’m not willing to pretend you were ever
    > sympathetic to my position. You’re playing
    > a game, Pat, and we both know it.

    I’m not, and your dismissal of my commentary because you choose to characterize me as inimical to your position on principle is a cop-out on your part, nothing more.

    See, as I’ve said, there are credible positions to take here. There are ways that you could go about characterizing your stance that I would find not only interesting, but compelling. The fact that it’s hard and you don’t want to do it leads you to simply say, “Well, you’re never going to change your mind because you can’t”.

    That’s (in no particular order) insulting, incorrect, and ultimately defeating your own purpose.

    You claim to want to do anything you can to stop this cultural behavior you find so abhorrent, but when given a very concise method in order to communicate effectively with at least one individual, you choose not to attempt to do so, but fall back on the same descriptive methodology I’ve already explained to be fairly uninteresting.

    > Animal use is slavery because they do not
    > consent to being used and they are regarded as
    > property. This is not a tautology, no matter
    > how many times you pretend it is.

    It *is* a tautology, you’ve just got a hidden layer in there that you’re refusing to acknowledge. You’ve also got a layer that’s not hidden that you’re refusing to acknowledge: “Animal use is foo because foo is use and we use animals”.

    Saying that animals do not consent is meaningless; animals have no ability to communicate and have no concept of self that enables *informed* consent, which is actually the standard of consent. Animals cannot give informed consent any more than a rock can give informed consent – it is not a capability of rocks or animals. They cannot give consent not because they would choose not to give consent and are unable, they cannot give consent because they *cannot choose*, they don’t possess the ability. And unlike human children or cognitively impaired individuals, they never had or will have the ability.

    Again, this does not mean that you’re *incorrect*, it just means you can’t keep trying to use the terms you’re using the way you want to use them.

    > I’m not DEFENDING my position. I’m merely talking
    > about it.

    That’s my entire point… you’re not talking about it. In order for us to be *talking* about it, we have to actually be using the same words to mean the same thing. You keep insisting that we don’t do that. That’s not communication, that’s obfuscation.

    > Agree. Disagree. Who are you? Why do I care if you do?

    Presumably you care because you want people to change their behavior, as you have claimed earlier. So why don’t you try it my way, if this is the case? If it’s not the case, then why are you responding to my posts?

    > Then domesticated cows face extinction when we
    > stop breeding them.

    This doesn’t make any sense in light of the rest of your statements. You are claiming that cows possess the same essential properties has humans, which is why they deserve rights in the first place. Doesn’t it follow then that we have a responsibility to preserve their existence, because we can choose to do so?

    Why do we have an obligation to choose to treat some animals a certain way and not also have an obligation to not treat them in a way that preserves their existence?

    > You want to pat yourself on the back for
    > having bested me in your pathetic little
    > non-debate debate, feel free.

    If there is a single person on the planet that is more disinterested in external validation than I am, I haven’t met them (although I’ve met a few that are *as* disinterested). I don’t need the “joy” of “proving” people to be idiots. Generally, I prefer to learn, which usually implies being shown that something I previously believed was incomplete or incorrect.

    > You took it as an invitation to take cheap shots.

    May I ask, at which point, I used any terminology that could be characterized as insulting, demeaning, belittling, or dismissive? Compared to “pathetic”, “speciest”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, “horrifying”, and “racist”, not to mention implying that I’m a utilitarian (which is only one step above accusing me of being a post-modernist and still worse than all of the above).

  160. #160 DuWayne
    October 22, 2009

    I took Dr. Stemwedel’s invitation to actually hear from an ARA seriously. You took it as an invitation to take cheap shots. I’m not impressed, in the least.

    From what I have seen, you have not taken it that seriously. You have not had the least interest in explaining or exploring the limits of your position, which is all that is really of much interest here. I doubt very much there is a single person who has been involved in or reading this discussion, who has any doubt that you find the exploitation of non-human animals absolutely immoral. What is of interest are the limits – where your claim of sentience ends – where it begins – what you believe sentience really entails.

    And you have taken cheap shot, as it were, after cheap shot. In a dialog, both sides are presenting their position, theoretically taking those positions on face value. Yet you refuse to take any of the myriad positions expressed by those who disagree with you at face value. And then you have the temerity to whine about people taking supposedly cheap shots at you.

    The point of this was to learn about your position and express our own. If all there is to your position is that the exploitation of animals is wrong – absolutely wrong, no matter that you cannot define the limits of what is an animal – this thread could have ended on about 150 comments ago. Instead, you pretended to engage in dialog, so you could get your shots in.

    We’re not terribly impressed either. Not in the least.

  161. #161 Dario Ringach
    October 22, 2009

    Babble:

    One of the goals in initiating this dialogue is for each side to lay out their thoughts about the use of animals for research.

    My feeling is that the public does not appreciate the variety of ideas and positions taken by scientists, as the majority of us have remained silent on the issue for too long.

    I think activists do not appreciate that, in many respects, most of the scientists will agree with them on a number of topics important: from our need to behave responsibly towards the planet and the environment, the need to reduce assure biodiversity and the preservation of species, and more. So I think the two groups will find a lot of areas where there is (surprisingly) a lot of common ground.

    Given these large areas of agreement, doesn’t it seem peculiar that we disagree on the animal experimentation issue? Why is that? I think one important reason is that we are not basing our judgment based on the same set of facts.

    So before claiming that we will not be able to change each others moral position this topic, why don’t we start by making sure we agree on some key facts?

    For example, some activists argue that the use of animals in research does not lead to knowledge that is applicable for human health. This, to me, is just factually wrong.

    Some activists also argue that alternative methods are available, and that the use of animals is no longer necessary. Again, I think this is factually wrong.

    I agree that if we each start with different sets of facts we will not be able to advance the discussion forward in any substantial way.

    So lets get the facts right first and move on from there.

  162. #162 babble
    October 22, 2009

    The point of this was to learn about your position and express our own.

    I expressed my position. You proceeded to piss and moan over here, just as you do on NIO, so I pointed out the obvious fact of your agenda, which you THEN complained about. I know you’d like to pretend this is all aboveboard and sweet and innocent, DuWayne, but it’s not.

  163. #163 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Pat, the clear implication was that if I really “believed” in animal rights, I wouldn’t make ANY concessions for ANY testing, or ANY use as food, etc. That’s a cheap shot, no matter how many ways you dance around it. Either acknowledge it, or don’t. I see it for what it is, whether or not you choose to be honest about it.

    In the absolute case, I do not. It’s NOT okay. It ALL needs to stop, as I’ve already said. That I make SOME concession isn’t because I think it’s okay to do these things. It’s because humans are selfish and refuse to change; if an incremental strategy will move a rights agenda forward, then an incremental strategy will have to do.

    I would force you to change, if I could. I cannot.

  164. #164 babble
    October 22, 2009

    For example, some activists argue that the use of animals in research does not lead to knowledge that is applicable for human health. This, to me, is just factually wrong.

    That some activists may say so is neither here nor there. My position throughout has been that research HAS led to advances which benefit humans, but that advancements that benefit humans (or other animals) are not justifiable through unethical means.

    If I’m going to inherit a large sum of money from you, and I’m going to donate a large chunk of that money to a children’s hospital, that’s arguably good. But that doesn’t make it ALSO good for me to kill you in the hopes that I might inherit that much faster – even though I might claim that I’d be doing even MORE good by putting the money to good uses more quickly.

    The arguably good *end* does not justify the unethical *means*.

    I don’t argue that animal research has benefitted humans (and nonhumans); I don’t think that matters.

  165. #165 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Doesn’t it follow then that we have a responsibility to preserve their existence, because we can choose to do so?

    Only if I believe we have a responsibility to preserve human existence. We don’t. We will face extinction; this has nothing to do with “responsibilities” one way or the other. If there’s no possible way to return domestic animals to the wild – if this is the end of the line for cows, then this is the end of the line for cows.

    I wish we hadn’t ever domesticated them. I can’t prevent the fact that it happened. But that doesn’t justify breeding more of them, just so they can exist in perpetual servitude to us.

    Domesticating animals is not FOR their benefit. It’s for ours. We simply choose to try and justify it by making various false claims that we’re doing nice things for them by permitting them to exist – essentially as flesh machines that serve us. That’s not acceptable.

  166. #166 babble
    October 22, 2009

    …it leads you to simply say, “Well, you’re never going to change your mind because you can’t”.

    Which would be incorrect, yet again. You’re flinging this false claim so you can pretend to be insulted. Big deal.

    I’ve simply said you WON’T change your mind. Not that you can’t. You could. You just won’t.

  167. #167 babble
    October 22, 2009

    [consent] is not a capability of rocks or animals.

    It’s not an ASSUMED capability of animals. That they do not object in ways we choose to consider relevant does not mean that they do not object at all. It’s merely convenient for us to assume so.

  168. #168 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    Sorry, this got cut off because of the web’s desire to use a perfectly common mathematical symbol as the open command for its tagging system, and it’s sort of important so I’m going to redo it:

    Humans being owned as property = slavery (this is actually what the word means: to own a human person). Animals being owned as property = “something else”. “Something else” != slavery. You’re assuming that, because I don’t agree that animal use is slavery, I’m necessarily saying that “something else” is *less* than slavery on a moral offensiveness scale. I’m not saying that. It might be comparably as morally offensive as slavery. It might be less. It might be more. But it is not slavery, and if you’re going to dialogue about the moral offensiveness of it you can’t just keep repeating that it is. You have to explain to me what your principles are that make animal use morally objectionable based upon the essential properties of animals, ownership, etc.

    Rather than do that, you keep going back to animal ownership = slavery because you want your semantic classification to do your ethical work for you.

    To the post you made after this one, yes, and incremental rights strategy is certainly a suitable method for trying to enact social change (I’m not a she, by the way).

    That’s not my frustration here.

    My frustration is that you’re using some sets of declarative statements in some cases, and completely different sets elsewhere.

    Case in point:

    > Again, unless you’re planning on traveling
    > back in time, making claims about what HAS
    > happened at various points in the past is
    > not relevant. I’m talking about what’s
    > happening NOW.

    and

    > Animal exploitation is not okay, it’s always
    > been not okay. It doesn’t matter if it was
    > a culturally accepted practice elsewhere
    > or elsewhen, it was still morally bankrupt
    > and ethically questionable, even if it was
    > culturally or legally acceptable.

    If animal exploitation is not okay *on principle* (as opposed to *in practice*), then it’s not okay regardless of whether or not someone is a prehistorial agrarian or an industrial farmer, so yes, you are talking about what HAS happened or WILL happen or what happens now that doesn’t fit into the one case you keep bringing up as objectionable.

    If I’m providing an example of “animal use” that obviously does not correspond to industrial farming, you are therefore somewhat obligated to communicate to me *why* that is also morally objectionable, because (as you say) it is always morally objectionable.

    You can’t say, “well, those cases don’t count because our current method of farming is morally objectionable”, because *we’re not talking about whether or not our current method of farming is morally objectionable* (in fact, I *agreed with this* earlier in the thread). We’re talking about what the essential properties of animals are that demand *no* use relationships exist.

    You have a number of really odd disjoins in things you’ve said. It’s morally objectionable for me to care for a cow in return for its milk, but it’s acceptable for you to care for a cat in return for its company. Why? How is my relationship with the cow “use” and yours isn’t? Psychic “use” isn’t use? What does “use” entail, then? You gloss over this by saying my relationship with the cow has market value, but that’s temporally dependent so it doesn’t cover all cases. If it’s always morally objectionable to have a ownership relationship with a cow, then you can’t use “market value” as your differentiation, you have to use something else.

    DuWayne said it pretty succinctly: “You have not had the least interest in explaining or exploring the limits of your position, which is all that is really of much interest here. I doubt very much there is a single person who has been involved in or reading this discussion, who has any doubt that you find the exploitation of non-human animals absolutely immoral. What is of interest are the limits – where your claim of sentience ends – where it begins – what you believe sentience really entails.”

    I’m actually *very* curious about your position, which is my frustration. I want to know what your position is, and I need descriptors so that I can understand it (let alone agree or disagree with it). But you’re not giving me those.

  169. #169 babble
    October 22, 2009

    I agree that animals do not *communicate* consent. I do NOT agree that animals possess no sense of self. We don’t know. We assume not, because it’s perhaps *likely* that they do not. But we don’t know. We cannot know.

    You can’t be absolutely certain that ANYTHING outside of you, yourself possesses a “sense of self” because your own sense of self awareness is the SOLE “self awareness” you can possibly experience. You can only take it somebody else’s word for it that they do, too.

    We *assume* animals possess no sense of self-awareness, because we think this justifies our use of animals. If they don’t care THAT we use them, the only possible concern is HOW we use them – because causing “undue” suffering is something WE generally dislike doing, because it makes us feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes.

    The whole construct is based on a flawed assumption rigged in FAVOR of continued use.

  170. #170 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Because even in that pre-industrial agrarian society, we made a flawed choice: we ASSUMED that animals do not care THAT we use them; they may only care HOW we use them.

    We can’t know that they don’t care THAT we use them. We simply assume that they do not, because we WISH to use them. The assumption is rigged in favor of us getting to override an easily presumed interest – I’d say the ethical safer bet is to assume it DOES in fact exist, given all we now know about the anatomical similarities between humans and so-called “food” animals.

    That these animals are less *intelligent* than us does not eliminate the possibility of self-awareness. We simply wish to think that it does, because we’ve chosen to use an entirely athropocentric system to rank which beings get which treatment.

  171. #171 babble
    October 22, 2009

    It’s not acceptable for me to care for my cat in *return* for her company. That’s immaterial. It’s my moral obligation to care for an animal which would have been killed for a matter of convenience had I not been willing to provide that care.

    That I do everything I can to make her comfortable, and yes, that I even love her – which I do – does not mean she “owes” me anything. She didn’t choose to be in this arrangement, so whatever claims one may make that this is a reciprocal one are irrelevant. It may be; whether it is or it isn’t is beside the point.

  172. #172 babble
    October 22, 2009

    As I’ve said, several times, not all moral concerns are equally weighted.

    Use a cow for milk, with the clear understanding that you’ll kill the cow when she’s done being useful as a milk-producing machine? Bad.

    Care for a pet? Also bad. But not EQUALLY bad. There’s a moral case to be made that allowing a pet to live a relatively comfortable life, and dying naturally is better than languishing in a shelter and dying much sooner than she would have otherwise, for the sole reason that the shelter itself is at capacity, and there’s no more room to house her.

    Both are morally objectionable. Both conditions that create the current exploitation *should not exist*. But both conditions are not *equally bad.*

    What I’m arguing for will probably lead to the extinction of domesticated pet breeds, as well, THEY cannot be returned to the wild. Again, I wish humans had never domesticated animals in the first place, but I can’t do anything about that.

    But that doesn’t mean than “caring for a pet” is morally equivalent to “drinking milk from a cow.”

  173. #173 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Look, if we were saying we wanted to care for the cows that currently exist as PETS, and when those animals died off (not when we killed them for the purpose of turning them in to food and clothing), we weren’t going to breed any more of them, I’d be fine with it. It would be unethical to use *their* milk, but in the hierarchy of moral concerns, less to worry about than the indefinite perpetuation of “cows as servile objects for our use.”

    If we even said, “Hey, this cow is uncomfortable. She’ll feel better if I milk her,” I’d be okay with that.

    But that’s not what’s going on.

    We’re saying “cows are a means to an end, because we enjoy drinking their milk, the taste of their flesh, and wearing leather goods. So we’re going to keep on producing cows, because we enjoy these things, indefinitely. Oh, and, they exist. So that’s good for them.” That’s a rigged game.

    If we had ONE generation of cows left, and those were going to die naturally, fine. Milk THOSE cows, for THEIR comfort. But that’s not comparable to the situation that actually exists.

  174. #174 Dario Ringach
    October 22, 2009

    Babble wrote:

    “What I object to is the idea that the status quo should persist as it is, indefinitely, and I see no particular motivation, right now, to changing anything, because we choose to rest on the notion that as long as humans benefit from animal research, no alternatives NEED be developed.”

    I think you are wrong here, as alternatives are being developed all the time. People should understand that to develop an alternative you need in the process to validate the measurements. For example, if you develop a method to measure blood-pressure that is non-invasive, you would like to compare the measurements to invasive arterial measurements. It is only after a careful comparison is done between the two that one can accept the new methods as being preferable and yielding the same information.

    I’d tend to agree with the idea that it would be better to need to do more, in terms of budgeting more federal grants, to search for efficient alternatives. This is one area where activists and scientists can work together. However, as I said above, such initial work will require working with animals as well.

  175. #175 DuWayne
    October 22, 2009

    I expressed my position.

    No, you have expressed the obvious. You have not however, provided anyone with the actual clarification that they are seeking about the limits of your position, where sentience ends.

    You proceeded to piss and moan over here, just as you do on NIO, so I pointed out the obvious fact of your agenda, which you THEN complained about.

    No, you have repeatedly mischaracterized my position, here and with the few comments I made at NIO.

    I know you’d like to pretend this is all aboveboard and sweet and innocent, DuWayne, but it’s not.

    I am not pretending anything and never have. I am and have been commenting on this here, at NIO and on my own blog with the expressed purpose of expressing my own position and learning more about yours – the position of common AR extremists, so that I can better respond to your position. I do all of that with the express and clear purpose of convincing people that your position is nothing short of complete and utter insanity.

    That you refuse to clarify your position and explore the edges of it is telling in itself and suits me just fine. For a more nuanced explanation, I can turn to folks like Steve Best, Jerry Vlasak and other members of the AR priesthood. They at least provide substance that one can shred.

    You on the other hand, are pretty much only good for an example of someone who has taken a fundamentalist position without any real thought about what that position entails.

  176. #176 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Look, I’ve STATED my position several times. You know what it is. You just disagree with it, and my reasoning (or, perhaps in your view my LACK of reasoning), for arriving at my position. If I came here saying, “I’m going to convince all of you that I’m right” that might be a valid complaint, but it isn’t.

    I came INTO this saying, “none of you are going to change.” Complaining that I’m not arguing sufficiently to change your mind is immaterial. You said you wanted “dialog” with the AR community. (You don’t, but I’m playing the same make-believe you are, here.)

    I’m simply saying, “This is the AR position, and here’s why.” That you find that explanation to be uncompelling is neither here nor there. You’ve got a vested interest in the perpetuation of the use of animals in research, which means it’s a GIVEN that you’re going to find any claim against it uncompelling. Animals are not ours to use. That’s my position. You know this.

  177. #177 Dario Ringach
    October 22, 2009

    Babble writes

    “My position throughout has been that research HAS led to advances which benefit humans, but that advancements that benefit humans (or other animals) are not justifiable through unethical means.”

    I am glad you agree on the benefits of research. I am puzzled as to, why under no circumstances whatsoever, you feel the use of animals to save lives would be unethical.

    This strikes me as an extreme position where humans are called to live their lives detached from the rest of Nature… yet, we are obviously part of it. Are we not?

    I recently took my family camping near Santa Barbara, where we learned much about the Chumash people. It was remarkable how they understood the relationship between sustainability and balance in Nature in ways we are now trying to teach our kids.

    You can learn a bit more here for example:

    http://www.wishtoyo.org/projects-educational-chumash-values.html

    Babble, tell me — do you think the Chumash in their relation with Nature are behaving unethically?

  178. #178 babble
    October 22, 2009

    I am glad you agree on the benefits of research. I am puzzled as to, why under no circumstances whatsoever, you feel the use of animals to save lives would be unethical.

    Because I don’t view “saving human lives” as the be-all and end-all of existence. Humans will die. So will other animals. So will everything. That doesn’t mean we get to justify something JUST because it saves the life of a fellow member of our species. I accept that it’s going to happen. I don’t accept that it’s morally permissible THAT it happens.

    If “saving human lives” makes something morally neutral, then there’s no real reason to forbid experimentation on whatever unwilling humans would provide a benefit to the larger whole of the human species. Given that this would, in fact, be BETTER SCIENCE than what we’re doing now, there’s a decent argument to be made on amoral grounds that forcing whatever humans to submit to testing would save lots and lots of human lives.

    This strikes me as an extreme position where humans are called to live their lives detached from the rest of Nature… yet, we are obviously part of it. Are we not?

    …says the fellow talking to me on his computer, over the internet. We already live our lives detached from nature. Saying that our use of animals is justified because it’s “natural” is immaterial. Science isn’t “natural” save for the fact that it’s occurring on the planet.

    Nearly about our present lives is thoroughly UNnatural. We don’t get to claim a particular convenience for us is “natural” as if that makes it all okay.

    tell me — do you think the Chumash in their relation with Nature are behaving unethically?

    Yes. Perhaps not quite as harmfully as you or I, but yes. No use of animals is ultimately morally justified. They’re not ours to use. That it was the sole available option at some point in time is irrelevant. They’re STILL not ours to use.

    DuWayne: You’re not interested in LEARNING about my position at all. I’m not interested in hearing your justifications or excuses for using animals; I’m just honest about that fact.

  179. #179 babble
    October 22, 2009

    I think you are wrong here, as alternatives are being developed all the time.

    I find it curious, then, that whenever we have these discussions, there’s no shortage of people who fly out of the woodwork to claim that a) humans benefit (so what), b) alternatives don’t work (make them better) and c) there’s no moral consequence to our use of animals anyway, because they don’t care, and we get to do what we want. (That’s not a debatable position, because it’s constructed so that you folks don’t need to pay attention to anything else, but that’s irrelevant, as well.)

    This is one area where activists and scientists can work together.

    Scientists aren’t INTERESTED in working with us. The scientific community, as evidenced by the vast majority of the thread, and everywhere else, are just going through the same motions, over and over again, telling us how much benefit animal research provides to humans.

  180. #180 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    > I do NOT agree that animals possess no
    > sense of self.

    Neither do I. That doesn’t mean that their sense of self matches ours, is meaningfully measurable in the same way ours is, or needs to be regarded at all in any decision.

    > We don’t know. We assume not, because
    > it’s perhaps *likely* that they do not.
    > But we don’t know. We cannot know.

    You’re now making the classical error committed by a number of different philosophers (self included at one point); you’re assuming that axiomatic certainty is a must in order to make a moral framework. It’s not.

    > You can’t be absolutely certain that
    > ANYTHING outside of you, yourself possesses
    > a “sense of self” because your own sense of
    > self awareness is the SOLE “self awareness”
    > you can possibly experience. You can only
    > take it somebody else’s word for it that
    > they do, too.

    No, actually, I can’t take somebody else at their word for it, either, because I can only take their word in the context of my own awareness, and you’re saying we can’t be absolutely sure about anything other than our own awareness. The entire universe may be a fabrication of my thought process.

    This is the sort of philosophical positioning that renders all other attempts at value judgments utterly meaningless: if you will not assume that anything other than yourself exists, then it does not follow in any way that you need to care, at all, about anything or anyone.

    Personally, I think this is an utterly useless method of investigating moral quandaries, as it leads ultimately to never being able to make reasonable claims about anything. If you will only accept absolute truth as a method of justification for anything, you need to become a mathematician and leave the messy universe alone.

    Otherwise, you have to instead assume that the rest of the world does exist, it can be measured in a way that is objective, and that it will continue along its merry way following its rules.

    If you assume that *this* is the case, then you can look at actual meaningful analysis of animal cognition, memory, adaptive skills, bonding capabilities, etc. But you can’t decide to take some evidence when it suits your purpose and discard other evidence when it doesn’t.

    > We *assume* animals possess no sense of
    > self-awareness, because we think this
    > justifies our use of animals.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc. You have no credible justifcation to make this claim (see, here you’re trying to drag me into a debate again).

    You assume that everyone assumes this because it means you don’t have to examine *why* some people think animals possess no sense of self-awareness (or a reduced sense of self-awareness). If someone actually has examined the question of animal self-awareness, and come to the conclusion that animals are *not* self-aware (or have a mechanism for self-awareness that is not meaningfully related to human self-awareness), you’re saying that the only possible reason for that is that they’ve rigged the game to justify their use of animals.

    This is ridiculous, it’s also dialogue-destroying. You now don’t need to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with you, because no matter what they say, you’re going to just say, “The Society Makes You Say That”. How can you even make this case, given that society doesn’t make *you* say that? You must grant that it’s possible for people to break cultural conditioning, as you have at least one documented example, *you*.

    So why cannot you accept that someone can break cultural conditioning, examine the same issue that you are examining, and come to a different conclusion based upon *merit*?

    > It’s my moral obligation to care for an animal
    > which would have been killed for a matter of
    > convenience had I not been willing to provide
    > that care.

    Then why is it not your moral obligation to care for a species which will become extinct as a matter of convenience if you’re not willing to provide that care?

    > As I’ve said, several times, not all moral
    > concerns are equally weighted.

    Certainly.

    And that, itself, is what I’m actually curious about. What your weighting scale is. What properties of what classes of creature warrant what sorts of protections, whether those are active protections or passive ones, when they apply, what that means as it impacts other protections that we grant other animals (or people).

    But what you’re doing here is saying, “Not everything is equal” and then when presented a case you’re saying “In this case, foo”. But I have no ability to generalize anything you’re saying. I have no way of knowing what sorts of use are what sorts of objectionable. So the only way for me to know what you approve of is to bring you the specific case and get your sign of approval.

    > But that doesn’t mean than “caring for a pet”
    > is morally equivalent to “drinking milk from
    > a cow.”

    I didn’t say it was. I’m asking you to explain *why* they’re different. Why are they not morally equivalent? What is it about “caring for a pet” that makes it less objectionable than “drinking milk from a cow”?

    > There’s a moral case to be made that
    > allowing a pet to live a relatively
    > comfortable life, and dying naturally is
    > better than languishing in a shelter and
    > dying much sooner than she would have
    > otherwise, for the sole reason that the
    > shelter itself is at capacity, and
    > there’s no more room to house her.

    Okay, there’s something resembling a difference. Let’s look at it.

    You’ve already said that we have no way of judging animal choice, and choosing for the animal is objectionable. So why is it less objectionable for you to make this choice for this animal in this case? Perhaps the cat would rather live free and die hard than be sheltered in your house. You cannot know, in an absolute sense. You’re making a judgment of “comfortable”ness that requires you to make a huge number of assumptions about the cat. What gives you this right? One could easily say that you only feel this way about cats because the culture says that cats are comfortable as housepets (if you’re going to allow this as a case for your position, you have to allow it as a case against).

    Why is the alternative languishing in a shelter? Why not just let her go? This is, after all, the end result you’re proposing for the entire species, what makes this cat so special? Why does your love for this cat and your concern for this cat’s welfare trump the cat’s right to be free of the imposition of your choices?

    You claim that you’re not giving this cat shelter *in return* for companionship, but why should I accept that claim on face value? You’re not taking in every cat you see who would suffer the same circumstances, or even a number of other cats that you could reasonably support. Just the one cat. Clearly this is a case where you have an emotional attachment to the particular cat; so the companionship question can’t be discarded.

    Note: by this example, I’m *not* seriously trying to attack your decision to care for this cat. I’m trying to show you that if one takes the *framework you’ve used* throughout this thread to characterize *other people’s views* and plops it down upon your own case, it leads to some very glaring points which you probably (and IMO rightly) regard as unreasonable.

    So, perhaps the problem is not the questions that we are discussing, but the framework itself, it’s unreasonable.

  181. #181 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    > That doesn’t mean we get to justify something
    > JUST because it saves the life of a fellow
    > member of our species

    So why do you get to justify something just because it saves the life of your cat?

    Yes, I agree, the two questions could be different. But in order for them to be different, you have to start drawing lines in something other than the sand, and those lines can’t be crossed when you choose to cross them and not crossed when you don’t want others to cross them.

    If making an unethical decision to save a life is always unjustifiable, then please justify your relationship with your cat *without involving* a discussion of your estimation of her welfare.

    If making an unethical decision to save a life is *sometimes* justifiable, then when is it justifiable and when is it not? Is it based upon a utilitarian measure? Is it based upon the consequences of the unethical decision? If, as you say, life is not the end-all-beat-all, then why is killing and eating an animal after some period of time *always* unethical?

  182. #182 DuWayne
    October 22, 2009

    You’re not interested in LEARNING about my position at all.

    That would be what we call projection babble. I have stated clearly that I do in fact want to learn about your position. I have also stated why. And the fact that I have spent the majority of my free time lately, doing just that is testament to my desire to learn.

  183. #183 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Neither do I. That doesn’t mean that their sense of self matches ours,

    This doesn’t matter, unless we’re claiming that edge case humans are acceptable to experiment upon or farm for food.

    is meaningfully measurable in the same way ours is,

    Also doesn’t matter. See above.

    or needs to be regarded at all in any decision.

    Yes, it does. That we choose to think otherwise is done so that we can justify animal use to ourselves.

    …you’re assuming that axiomatic certainty is a must in order to make a moral framework.

    That doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m saying. What you’re saying is that you’d PREFER, or perhaps find it more reasonable if I argued from something OTHER than an absolute axiom. I see no reason to do this, just to suit the whims of other humans.

    The entire universe may be a fabrication of my thought process.

    True, but that doesn’t really mean anything in terms of the choices we’re talking about here.

    I think this is an utterly useless method of investigating moral quandaries, as it leads ultimately to never being able to make reasonable claims about anything.

    While I accept that you think so, THAT you think so isn’t especially important.

    But you can’t decide to take some evidence when it suits your purpose and discard other evidence when it doesn’t.

    I’m unconcerned with specific minutiae. I’m concerned with suffering; that doesn’t need to be picked apart endlessly to make a case that:

    a) Humans by-and-large disregard suffering as a matter of course (we do, we always have and we always will) when it suits them.

    b) Animals unquestionably suffer.

    c) Humans CANNOT be trusted to do the right thing, so an absolute moral proscription against use is better than hemming and hawing over which use is more “humane” than another.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc. You have no credible justifcation to make this claim (see, here you’re trying to drag me into a debate again).

    Debate it; don’t debate it. I’m NOT debating it. It’s just what we do, to justify use. That you disagree really only means that you disagree.

    So why cannot you accept that someone can break cultural conditioning, examine the same issue that you are examining, and come to a different conclusion based upon *merit*?

    Because the *claimed merits* are rigged in favor of an unethical outcome.

    Then why is it not your moral obligation to care for a species which will become extinct as a matter of convenience if you’re not willing to provide that care?

    Because I’m not ultimately concerned with the survival of any particular species as a whole, including humans. A “species” is a concept, a way humans use to group *these beings* and *those beings*. It is just an idea. It has no wants of its own, no capacity for suffering of its own, etc. Individuals matter. Species, ultimately, do not.

    Preservation of wild animals as a matter of biodiversity is fine; preservation of domesticated animals is to serve a human end.

    So why is it less objectionable for you to make this choice for this animal in this case?

    Because, even though you’ve argued that I’m using her as a means to one end (companionship, perhaps), that’s not equivalent to using a cow for her milk in the current context (I know, I know, you’re going to drag this back into preindustrial societies again. It doesn’t matter).

    Yes, I get something out of the relationship. But I’m not saying that the use is acceptable. I’m saying that as an ultimate practice, even THIS use needs to end.

    There’s a difference between saying, “I love my cat” and “I love the taste of beef.” One at least *attempts* to value the given animal as an individual, and not just an exploitable resource.

    Why is the alternative languishing in a shelter? Why not just let her go?

    Because I’ve seen what happens to too many animals where humans have done this. Yes, I’m enslaving her, by my own reckoning. No, that’s not okay. Starvation or horrific abuse at the hands of someone else are worse, in this case.

    You’re not taking in every cat you see who would suffer the same circumstances, or even a number of other cats that you could reasonably support.

    Given my living situation, and this particular cat, yes, I am.

    If making an unethical decision to save a life is always unjustifiable, then please justify your relationship with your cat *without involving* a discussion of your estimation of her welfare.

    Because in the context of your earlier discussion about using domesticated animals for food, we’re not talking about saving the lives of any particular cows. Perpetuation of a given species – for our use – is not “saving” a life; if it were, I’d have bought a cat from a breeder. I didn’t do that. I got a cat that was GOING to be killed. If I could care for a cow to save HER life, I might. I’m not in a position to do that. We’re talking about killing boatloads of them, so we can consume them. If we were talking about farming some or very many cats, keeping them alive for a while for dog or cat milk, and then killing them at 6 or 7 years old for their skin, that would be equally objectionable.

    then why is killing and eating an animal after some period of time *always* unethical?

    Because, as I’ve said, the former case (pet care) at least ATTEMPTS to value the pet as an individual. The latter case (farming animals for food) does not. Yes, some individuals will be afforded some basic welfare, but that’s not really in the interest of valuing those cows as individual beings. That’s in the interest of making sure they taste good when we kill and eat them.

  184. #184 DuWayne
    October 22, 2009

    Pat –

    You’re now making the classical error committed by a number of different philosophers (self included at one point); you’re assuming that axiomatic certainty is a must in order to make a moral framework. It’s not.

    Forgive my interjection, but as morality is the fundamental base for this discussion I want to add something to this. Indeed, this is where my next blog post is heading to some degree (though the next one will not actually be regarding AR, it will be relevant to my next AR post).

    Not only is axiomatic certainty not necessary to make a moral frame, it is counterintuitive. When our moral frames become axiomatic, we cannot help but stop pushing the limits of our moral frames – our moral frames become static. When our moral frames become static, they fail to grow and mature with our ever increasing life experience. Worse, it is likely that such a moral stasis would in turn stunt our personal growth and maturity – inhibit our ability to change with our ever increasing life experience.

  185. #185 babble
    October 22, 2009

    *LIFE* in general IS the be-all and end-all. Human life, especially valued by us, because we ourselves are human, is not. I’m saying we weight our decisions first last and always around animals by what THEY can do for US.

    I accept, with regrets, that animals will be used in very many ways that I view as unethical right up to the day I die. I accept that none of the ultimate changes I’d like to see will happen within my lifetime.

    But that only leaves me with a gigantic mess I can only take very small steps to try and correct. When I try to get others to HELP, all I get are endless justifications telling me things are just fine as they *are*, and there’s no mess to clean up, anyway, because things are beneficial to us.

    I get that not a one of you agree with my reasoning, my conclusions, or any of the rest of it. That’s not really important. The only thing that DOES matter is to do what we can to reach the people we can.

    I understand that none of the folks responding here are going to change (no, Pat, I’m not insulting you by saying you *cannot* change. I’m saying you won’t). But it’s not about you. It’s about the folks we can reach, when and where we can. Folks will see this who MIGHT rethink the idea that a given experiment MUST be done in a given way, and that’s better than not having bothered with any of this at all.

  186. #186 Cleveland
    October 22, 2009

    babble: Every bit of evidence, from surveys to laws and discussions everywhere suggests you are in the extreme fringe in your views. this is why nobody is interested in “working with” you.

    At what point do you consider that in a fundamental way you might be *wrong*?

    To head off the usual hoary old chestnuts, women’s suffrage and anti-slavery managed to round up a lot more support, going by the available history. Comparable to the softer views on animal *welfare* numbers. The animal *rights* end is minuscule…much more comparable to fringe wacky cult numbers in the past that, importantly, *history has not validated*.

    I repeat, how deeply have you considered the notion that you could be entirely, fundamentally *wrong* in your views?

  187. #187 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Cleveland: that AR is unpopular is neither here nor there. That suffrage and abolitionism managed to round up supporters EVENTUALLY doesn’t mean they weren’t unpopular INITIALLY. All movements for social justice will be met with resistance from the existing status quo. The current *popularity* of AR is immaterial.

    I’m not suggesting that ARA’s and the scientific community *should* work together. That was Dario’s claim (or at least, a reasonable inference of his saying activists and scientists could work together). I’m saying the scientific community, like every other human community on earth right now, has a vested interest in perpetuating the status quo. Asking us to work together *right now* is meaningless. When there’s more of an AR mindset in the general culture, various subsets OF the culture will work with us as a matter of course, because they’ll have no other choice.

    If the fashion of a prior era was to force humans to be experimented upon against their will, no amount of “working with” the scientific community would have amounted to anything useful, at all. After the change in the *general population* came about, forbidding such uses on moral grounds, the scientific community would be required, by the new legal framework, to do something else.

  188. #188 babble
    October 22, 2009

    I repeat, how deeply have you considered the notion that you could be entirely, fundamentally *wrong* in your views?

    I imagine, about as much as you may have, Cleveland.

  189. #189 Dario Ringach
    October 22, 2009

    Babble says

    “Saying that our use of animals is justified because it’s “natural” is immaterial. Science isn’t “natural” save for the fact that it’s occurring on the planet.”

    The use of animals to ensure one’s survival is natural… is it not? It takes no more than passing knowledge of evolution to realize this, I think.

    You further say: “Nearly about our present lives is thoroughly UNnatural. We don’t get to claim a particular convenience for us is “natural” as if that makes it all okay.”

    I repeat: I don’t think animal research is a convenience — it is truly a necessity if we want to advance medical knowledge.

    You did a good job at summarizing your position by stating: “No use of animals is ultimately morally justified.”

    I think this is the crux of the issue, and now I see why you expected us to ultimately disagree when we started this discussion.

    In a scenario where a pandemic on earth was threatening to kill millions of human lives, if a cure could be discovered by the use of a few mice, I think most people would feel ethical to do so.

    Also, I think one easily run into trouble holding the consistency of such a strict/extreme position. As an example, you previously dismissed the “bacteria dilemma” merely practical grounds: “[...] I can’t (yet, perhaps) meaningfully avoid killing bacteria going about my daily living.”

    You shouldn’t let practical matters overshadow your ethical commitment. You go around the world killing bacteria because is just convenient to you. However, you know very well there is an obvious solution to this problem… but dying is also inconvenient, isn’t it?

  190. #190 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    > I’m unconcerned with specific minutiae.

    Why? Ethical questions are all about specificity.

    > I’m concerned with suffering; that doesn’t
    > need to be picked apart endlessly to make
    > a case that:
    >
    > a) Humans by-and-large disregard suffering
    > as a matter of course (we do, we always have
    > and we always will) when it suits them.

    This is an overgeneralization. If we disregard suffering, why are there animal rights laws? If we disregard suffering, why are there IRB’s for animal-based studies? Certainly, we have a tendency to be selfish creatures, but this doesn’t mean that our ethical and moral frameworks are completely bankrupt. If we disregard suffering, why is there outrage at *human* rights violations?

    Yes, humans may have displaced estimations of the value of animal life, I grant that. But this clearly cannot be because we ignore suffering entirely.

    > b) Animals unquestionably suffer.

    If animals unquestionably suffer, and you’re concerned with suffering, you have a moral obligation to reduce suffering. You do not have a moral obligation to eliminate suffering (as it’s impossible).

    Your moral obligation to reduce suffering comes into conflict with other moral obligations. In one case (your cat), you decide that your moral obligation to allow the cat to live freely is contraindicated by your moral obligation to prevent the cat’s suffering. In another case (a cow), you decide that your moral obligation is to allow the species to be exterminated rather than impose your will upon the cow. In yet a third case (medical research), you state that your moral obligation is not to suffering whatsoever (by reducing human disease and suffering), but to prevent “use” of animals.

    All of those may actually be perfectly credible positions, taken individually.

    There is no common thread between any of these things, except your own personal declarative statements regarding these individual things. You as yet have (obstinately) refused to even attempt to bring any common thread *to* any of those things, by claiming that this is just “minutia” or “abstract”.

    > c) Humans CANNOT be trusted to do the right
    > thing, so an absolute moral proscription
    > against use is better than hemming and
    > hawing over which use is more “humane”
    > than another.

    Simpler != better. If humans cannot ever be trusted to do the right thing, then there is no point to having discussions about ethics or philosophy or theology; indeed, attempting to form a constructive society is actually contraindicated. It’s better to pack up a set of survival equipment and relocate to a British Columbia island and establish your own society.

    > When I try to get others to HELP, all I
    > get are endless justifications telling me
    > things are just fine as they *are*, and
    > there’s no mess to clean up, anyway,
    > because things are beneficial to us.

    This is a legitimate reason to express frustration. It’s not a legitimate reason to then presuppose that everyone who does not automatically buy completely into your belief system is wrong, pigheaded, deluded, insane, unethical, immoral, or some combination of the above.

    Note, nothing I’ve said in this thread is an attempt to justify anything, and I’ve even come out defending your position when other people have tried to claim a utilitarian defense. All I’m asking you to do is stop overgeneralizing, stop attempting to co-opt verbiage to mean something other than what it means, and to deeply explain how your belief system actually works, as a system.

    You don’t seem able to do that, you’re openly dismissive of putting any effort into doing so, and (to put it bluntly) rudely assuming that my questioning of your position (in an attempt to clarify it) is instead some sort of misguided attack on your morality launched by a depraved and/or immoral idiot.

    You claim to be uninterested in specificity, but you’ve given me no framework of generalization; your entire view (as expressed so far) is a set of atomic declarations that actually contradict each other in some way or another, using the principles you yourself use to describe those specific declarations.

    In order to be able to generalize, we have to have some sort of meaningful method of classification. Why does it bother you so much that I’m asking you to provide it?

  191. #191 babble
    October 22, 2009

    If we disregard suffering, why are there animal rights laws? If we disregard suffering, why are there IRB’s for animal-based studies?

    We have animal WELFARE laws; are you conflating animal welfare with animal rights? The welfare case, as I’ve been saying, is essentially yours: animals don’t care THAT we use them. They may only care HOW we use them. The RIGHTS case is that speculating about whether or not the CAN care HOW we use them is a flawed assumption at the outset, and will ALWAYS be rigged because humans made an ethically flawed choice originally.

    Animals DO NOT exist for our use, period. Any system that seeks to reexamine “use” as a fundamental question is flawed, because “use” *is not* a fundamental *question.* It’s a fundamental *wrong*.

    Certainly, we have a tendency to be selfish creatures, but this doesn’t mean that our ethical and moral frameworks are completely bankrupt.

    I’m not arguing complete moral bankruptcy. I’m arguing that so long as we’re dancing around attempting to justify use, we’re always – ALWAYS – going to view things through a particular lens that seeks to justify that use in a particular way. Even I do it (it’s what you tried to point out to me regarding pets); I don’t deny that this happens. I want it to STOP happening. The only real way for that TO happen is to abolish the use of animals altogether, if that takes 100 years or a thousand.

    If we disregard suffering, why is there outrage at *human* rights violations?

    Because human suffering causes emotional distress in some humans. So does some animal suffering. This is why we have animal welfare regulation, such as it is (not much, in my estimation, but that’s a whole OTHER discussion). The animal welfare aim is NOT the animal RIGHTS aim. If I thought the only issue was how we treated animals, I’d not bother with veganism. I’d eat happy meat.

    Yes, humans may have displaced estimations of the value of animal life, I grant that. But this clearly cannot be because we ignore suffering entirely.

    I’m not claiming that we ignore it entirely. I’m claiming that we devalue its importance – massively so – in order to justify doing what we want.

    If animals unquestionably suffer, and you’re concerned with suffering, you have a moral obligation to reduce suffering. You do not have a moral obligation to eliminate suffering (as it’s impossible).

    I agree that absolute elimination of suffering is impossible. I disagree that humans can, will, or have ever had the motivation to devise a system of “animal welfare regulation” that reduces suffering *enough* such that use is no longer ethically problematic, because…

    Use is ethically problematic in the first place. Even if animals are made flawlessly comfortable right up to the moment we anesthetize them so that they feel absolutely nothing and kill them, the act of doing so would still be unethical, JUST as it would be if we did such a thing to a human. We would not propose keeping humans as comfortable and pain free as possible in order to use them as a means to an end. We’d simply say humans are off-limits for such purposes IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    In another case (a cow), you decide that your moral obligation is to allow the species to be exterminated rather than impose your will upon the cow.

    I haven’t said this. I’m not in favor of throwing all the cows that may presently exist into the woodchipper and washing our hands of it. *IF* we can return cows to the wild, I’d be in favor of that. We likely cannot, but if it’s an option, use that option.

    If we can return domesticated dogs and cats to the wild, do THAT, although I accept that that, too, is unlikely. If it CANNOT be done, then the last generations of those animals to be bred will be the last generations of those animals to be bred. I don’t LIKE it, but I hate the abuse that’s inextricably bound up in use much, much, MUCH more.

    In yet a third case (medical research), you state that your moral obligation is not to suffering whatsoever (by reducing human disease and suffering), but to prevent “use” of animals.

    I’m saying that human suffering does not – in and of itself – render animal suffering unimportant. Yes, I know, everyone here is deeply concerned with the welfare of the animals you use. See above. Just as we have alternatives to the use of animals for food, we can devise alternatives to the use of animals for research. That we may not have such alternatives NOW is immaterial. We should devise them. I don’t really know why we need to keep going over settled issues, but apparently, we do.

    I HAVE declared an overall common uniting principle: the abolition of animal use as a means to human ends. I’ve repeatedly stated that it’s more or less axiomatic for me (just as “humans ought to have rights” is JUST as axiomatic, if you boil away all of the claimed justifications for that position). We choose to accord humans some collection of rights *because we choose to.* This is no less resting on fundamental axioms than anything I’m doing.

    You just disagree with the axiom. Which is neither here, nor there, really.

    It’s better to pack up a set of survival equipment and relocate to a British Columbia island and establish your own society.

    I’ve considered it, more than once.

    Obviously, I do see some value in this, or I wouldn’t bother. I don’t see value in endlessly rehashing the fact that you think I’m being unreasonable, or that I don’t have good reasons (in your view) for arguing my case. That’s irrelevant, as I’ve said.

    Even IF I manage to convince not a one of you here, this doesn’t exist in a vaccuum with only these eyeballs reading it.

    Here’s the thing: the “humans cannot be trusted” bit works for all sorts of things. Would we trust humans to come up with a system for humane *human* slavery? Of course not. We’d object to the question, in the first place. Humans proposing that such slavery could be MADE humane would not be trusted to make ethical decisions about any such humane treatment, because human slavery ITSELF is still wrong, regardless of how humane its proponents may wish to make it.

    Humans cannot be trusted to devise a system of ethical “humane” animal use, because animal use – no matter how humane – is not ITSELF ethical. Yes, treating the animals we DO use nicely is nice. I don’t dispute that.

    …unethical, immoral, or some combination of the above.

    You’re reading more into what I’m saying than what I’m saying.

    “Animal use cannot be ethically justified” is an axiomatic position. Agree with it. Disagree with it. Roll it into a ball and deep fry it. It doesn’t matter one way or the other, fundamentally WHAT you do with it. It’s the truth. Any system of “classification” to decide *which* animal uses are ethical are themselves flawed. This doesn’t say you’re a horrible person. It says you’re deluded – as we ALL are – by thousands of years of cultural conditioning that arises from a fundamentally wrong choice humans made, a bazillion years ago, that we’ve grown used to. We can’t see things any other way. It’s not surprising that this is getting so much pushback. All we really know, every one of us, is that use can *SOMEHOW* be justified, if we just do it “correctly” or under certain conditions.

    No, it can’t.

    …is instead some sort of misguided attack on your morality launched by a depraved and/or immoral idiot.

    No, I think it’s a misguided effort to justify your speciesism. See above. It’s okay that you’re steeped in it. It’s understandable that you’re reacting against having it pointed out. We ALL do this, every one of us, when confronted with the idea. Some of us work through that. Some of us choose to continue whatever we were doing before.

    You claim to be uninterested in specificity, but you’ve given me no framework of generalization;

    …because any such framework would be flawed, at the outset. You’re trying to get me to come up with a way for you to decide that SOME animals are morally neutral for you to use under SOME conditions.

    In order to be able to generalize, we have to have some sort of meaningful method of classification.

    Heh, and yet, you’re complaining because *I’m generalizing.* We’re able to make moral generalizations without the sort of “system of classification” you’re proposing, just fine. You just disagree with the axiomatic claim I’m using to MAKE the generalization.

  192. #192 babble
    October 22, 2009

    The use of animals to ensure one’s survival is natural… is it not? It takes no more than passing knowledge of evolution to realize this, I think.

    That it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s ethically sound. Yes, it’s natural. All sorts of things are arguably natural. Rape and infanticide and all manner of things we don’t consider acceptable behavior in humans, because we know better. We can make a choice not to do x or y or z just because other animals may do so, or just because it’s the most convenient option available to us.

    I repeat: I don’t think animal research is a convenience — it is truly a necessity if we want to advance medical knowledge.

    And I’ve agreed, over and over and over again, that in some or even many cases, we don’t have good scientifically valid alternatives RIGHT NOW. That’s not the issue. That’s the distraction folks keep throwing up to avoid even THINKING about the real issue.

    I think this is the crux of the issue, and now I see why you expected us to ultimately disagree when we started this discussion.

    Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

    In a scenario where a pandemic on earth was threatening to kill millions of human lives, if a cure could be discovered by the use of a few mice, I think most people would feel ethical to do so.

    Utilitarian claims only ever seem to be ethically justifiable if the victims of the claim are nonhumans, though. Would it be acceptable if we forced a few humans to be subjected to research against their will for the greater good? We obviously don’t think so, which is why we only perform research on consenting humans in the present circumstance.

    You’re trying to get me to agree with you that *some* animal death just isn’t that bad, because vastly larger numbers of humans will benefit from it. This is exactly the lens of speciesism I’ve been talking about. I don’t disagree with the specifics of your claim. Such a hypothetical is eminently possible.

    It just doesn’t have anything to do with the underlying ethics of doing it in the first place.

    You shouldn’t let practical matters overshadow your ethical commitment.

    Why? Because you say so? Killing bacteria doesn’t fit my previously stated criteria; despite some evidence that bacteria may communicate, we have no reason to think they may suffer.

    That said, if it becomes possible to avoid killing them without going to insane extremes, I will. It’s not possible now.

    It’s entirely possible to make better choices about what to eat, what to wear, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s *possible* to devise alternatives to the use of animals for research. The fundamental issue isn’t that alternatives are IMPOSSIBLE to devise. It’s that folks here – yourself included – seem to have no moral objection to using animals in the first place, for this purpose. That actively gets in the way of ANY real progress on any other alternatives.

    Until we move the needle on our immoral understanding of what animals are in relationship to us, all the claims in the world that alternatives are “being developed” won’t amount to much.

    but dying is also inconvenient, isn’t it?

    This is an old chestnut that anti-AR trolls used to love to toss around. If I really were committed to veganism, I’d just commit suicide, wouldn’t I?

    That would let you folks off the hook too easily.

  193. #193 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Once again:

    I’m concerned with animal welfare.

    But *because* I’m concerned with animal welfare, I’m morally *opposed* to use. I don’t trust humans when we claim we’ll use animals and only ever do it “nicely”. We have THOUSANDS of years of evidence to the contrary. It wouldn’t matter how comfortable we made subjugation for any random collection of humans. They would not ENJOY being used as a means to an end, against their will, despite some, or even very many welfare regulations to ensure maximum comfort.

    Do I know that my cat detests living with me? I hope not. I don’t *know* one way or the other. It’s possible she might. I hope not, but she might.

    Nevertheless, she’d suffer MORE if I let her out and she starved to death. So I override her desire to get out and explore the apartment complex at all hours of the day or night.

    Not a flawlessly perfect application of my stated ethics, but there is no flawless ethical system devised by humans, and there never will be.

    Do I *know* for certain that cows would object to being used as a means to an end in any and all circumstances? I don’t. But they might. Given that I can’t see a legitimate necessity to breed cows for the trivial purpose of drinking milk or leather handbags, I don’t think we should be breeding cows.

    Do I *know* for certain that lab mice aren’t happy as little balls of fur right up to the moment they’re killed and dissected? I don’t. I imagine, being mice, they’d much prefer NOT to be so used, but I can’t make any absolute declaration that they’re beyond miserable. But I can’t imagine they’re consenting to *die* at any of your hands, either.

    Over and above ANY practical consideration, the whole mess comes because we’ve chosen to view animals as an exploitable resource. I wish we hadn’t done so. If I could go back in time and prevent the domestication of animals that put the idea in our heads in the FIRST place, I’d absolutely do that.

    But the animals that are here now are a muddle. I don’t pretend I have perfect solutions for ANY of it.

    But that doesn’t mean the moral case I’m making is flawed. It just means you disagree with it.

  194. #194 Dario Ringach
    October 22, 2009

    Pat says “You [Babble] claim to be uninterested in specificity, but you’ve given me no framework of generalization; your entire view (as expressed so far) is a set of atomic declarations that actually contradict each other in some way or another, using the principles you yourself use to describe those specific declarations.”

    I agree. I think the summary of his position is simply:

    “No use of animals is EVER morally justified NO MATTER what the goal is”.

    I have to admit I don’t really see in which direction this conversation can evolve in a way that would be productive.

    I wonder how many animal right activists feel exactly this way.

  195. #195 babble
    October 22, 2009

    It’s what I said at the OUTSET, Dario. I don’t know what you expected me to say differently, through any of this.

    I’m not going to tell you that testing is ethically neutral, because it isn’t. As bad as everything else? Nope. But that doesn’t make it ethically neutral.

  196. #196 Pat Cahalan
    October 22, 2009

    > It says you’re deluded – as we ALL are – by
    > thousands of years of cultural conditioning
    > that arises from a fundamentally wrong choice
    > humans made, a bazillion years ago, that
    > we’ve grown used to. We can’t see things
    > any other way.

    I’ve pointed out at least twice now that this obviously, empirically, is not the case.

    You see things another way, ergo not all humans see things another way, ergo humans can, in fact, see things another way.

    However, the way you’re establishing your position is that you are enlightened with the truth, and anyone who does not accept your position is deluded, because they cannot break this cultural conditioning, because this cultural conditioning is unbreakable. And yet, you have broken it. Doesn’t this seem even slightly odd to you?

    > But *because* I’m concerned with animal
    > welfare, I’m morally *opposed* to use.

    I thought you were opposed to use as a root principle in and of itself.

    > I don’t trust humans when we claim we’ll use
    > animals and only ever do it “nicely”. We have
    > THOUSANDS of years of evidence to the contrary.

    And yet, when I brought up those thousands of years of diverse and divergent attitudes of humans towards animals, you summarily dismissed them as irrelevant, “because it is not what is happening now.” You would think if these were substantive evidence to the contrary, you would seize upon it rather than dismissing it.

    > Nevertheless, she’d suffer MORE if I let her
    > out and she starved to death.

    Again, freedom of choice, or freedom from suffering. You’ve declared these both to be foundational principles, but you’ve described no way to compare the two in a general case. It just so happens that you apply them the way you find personally appealing.

    > Do I *know* for certain that cows would object
    > to being used as a means to an end in any and
    > all circumstances? I don’t. But they might.

    Let us re-frame this part of the discussion, if we may.

    What sort of evidence would you accept as sufficient proof that cows are incapable of choice? Is there any evidence that you will accept as sufficient proof that cows are incapable of choice?

    > But I can’t imagine they’re consenting to
    > *die* at any of your hands, either.

    For the record, I don’t do animal experiments, myself, so the “any of your hands” doesn’t apply to me (or to Dr. Free-Ride, or quite probably most of the actual commentators on this thread).

    That said, again, this statement only applies if consent is a possibility. Is there, in fact, any sort of empirical or experimental evidence that you will accept as sufficient proof that mice are incapable of choice?

    > We can make a choice not to do x or y or z
    > just because other animals may do so, or
    > just because it’s the most convenient
    > option available to us.

    See, here’s the oddity. You claim that this moral obligation rests upon humans to behave in a manner that other animals do not, because we have the choice to do so, and they do not. And yet you then turn around and say that they may have the capability of choice, and as a result we must grant them the same standing as humans. Do you not see that there is a contradiction here?

    > Utilitarian claims only ever seem to
    > be ethically justifiable if the victims
    > of the claim are nonhumans, though.

    Yes, because clearly it’s never been the case that a human has sacrificed him/herself for the greater good. Sorry, that was snarky, and I don’t want to defend utilitarianism in any event. This is, however, an unfair characterization of utilitarianism.

    > Would it be acceptable if we forced a
    > few humans to be subjected to research
    > against their will for the greater good?

    Forced? No, obviously, because humans *do* have the capability of choice. That’s what makes “forced” objectionable in this case (not the cosmetic fact that the subject is human).

    > We obviously don’t think so, which is
    > why we only perform research on consenting
    > humans in the present circumstance.

    Well, again, informed consent, not just consent. But again, the difference between the human and the animal is the capability of choice, and the possibility of informed consent. This is why we regard the forcing of humans as ethically questionable, not because of speciesism.

    > …because any such framework would be
    > flawed, at the outset. You’re trying to
    > get me to come up with a way for you to
    > decide that SOME animals are morally
    > neutral for you to use under SOME
    > conditions.

    No, I’m trying to get you (actually) to provide a framework that isn’t flawed, and that covers your desired behaviors.

    I suspect you’ve come to (or are coming to) the realization that you *can’t*, without creating exactly that condition that you fear; that you can’t create a meaningful framework that protects all the animals you want to protect, doesn’t protect those creatures that you don’t want to protect, and doesn’t have any gaping and glaring inconsistencies.

    The interesting thing to me is that you aren’t taking this as some sort of compelling evidence that your position is fundamentally flawed. Your orthodoxy must be protected from your own power of reason?

    > Heh, and yet, you’re complaining because *I’m
    > generalizing.*

    No, that’s not what I’m complaining about at all. I’m becoming more convinced that you’re just not seeing what I’m saying.

    > We’re able to make moral generalizations
    > without the sort of “system of classification”
    > you’re proposing, just fine.

    No, we aren’t. You’re not making moral generalizations (generalizations come from classes of specifics). You’re stating hopelessly broad conditions (that you yourself by your own admission do not follow) and then handwaving away your failure to follow your own ethical code as “it’s impossible to follow an ethical code”, instead of recognizing that it is the methodology you’ve used to create the code that has resulted in a code that is impossible even for its proponents to follow.

    > You just disagree with the axiomatic claim
    > I’m using to MAKE the generalization.

    If you will formally make a claim based upon what you’ve said above, it won’t take much more than basic ontological analysis to show that it is not, in fact, axiomatic at all.

    All of your “axiomatic” claims require very ambiguous definitions. Your implied version of “sapience” covers basically anything of higher order than a bacterium, your implied version of “self-aware” could be easily applied to even bacterium. I doubt you can construct a definition of “choice” that fits the way you variously use the word without making it apply to plants. The result is the declarative statements you make based upon these definitions are quantitatively and qualitatively meaningless.

    None of this necessarily means that your underlying philosophy is wrong, as I’ve said before. In truth, I’d like to see someone present a nice clear cut philosophical analysis that makes a logically consistent case for *any* resolution of this dilemma, or even a messy philosophical analysis that presents the possibility of resolution with hard work.

  197. #197 babble
    October 22, 2009

    However, the way you’re establishing your position is that you are enlightened with the truth,

    This adds a value judgement that I wouldn’t personally claim. I see speciesism as a fundamental wrong. The anti-AR position sees speciesism as fundamentally *irrelevant,* or perhaps *nonexistant.* We’re seeing the world through two ENTIRELY different perspectives.

    and anyone who does not accept your position is deluded, because they cannot break this cultural conditioning, because this cultural conditioning is unbreakable.

    a) I’m claiming to be equally deluded, in some areas (I’m not going to turn my cat loose to roam in the urban jungle), so I don’t think I’m making the sort of wild-eyed accusations at you that I think you’re attempting to imply.

    b) I’m not saying this cultural conditioning is unbreakable. You’re allowing for this…

    And yet, you have broken it.

    I’m saying this cultural conditioning is pernicious and colors our thinking in very many ways, and like racism or sexism or homophobia may never really go completely away, but that we need to be aware of it, and work our way through it, ANYWAY.

    I thought you were opposed to use as a root principle in and of itself.

    I am, but as I’ve said more than a couple of times now, I accept that there are places where – given the fact that we HAVE used animals for so very long – there are no “perfect” solutions for enacting abolition in one fell swoop. I’ve tried to be entirely open about this. It’s WHY I make some exception for testing in the first place. Not because testing is OKAY. It’s WRONG, TOO. But there are other uses that are much more trivial (food).

    I’ve been entirely honest about this, I feel. I just don’t think you’ve been listening, because you’ve gotten hung up on trying to get me to give you a list of “acceptable” animal uses. There are none. There are only varying degrees of crap.

    And yet, when I brought up those thousands of years of diverse and divergent attitudes of humans towards animals, you summarily dismissed them as irrelevant, “because it is not what is happening now.”

    No, that’s not actually what you did. You brought up human history to try to JUSTIFY that use could be made neutral, because the PRIOR context wasn’t factory farming.

    I’m saying we STARTED OUT seeing animals as a resource, and have gotten stuck, because we’ve seen them as such a resource for a very long time.
    Again, freedom of choice, or freedom from suffering.

    No, I’m claiming freedom from suffering FIRST, and abolition of USE as it becomes possible. Again, I don’t feel I’ve been misleading about this. You’ve gotten sidetracked by trying to get me to give you a list of acceptable uses.

    What sort of evidence would you accept as sufficient proof that cows are incapable of choice? Is there any evidence that you will accept as sufficient proof that cows are incapable of choice?

    Flawed assumption. See here:

    Animals DO NOT exist for our use, period. Any system that seeks to reexamine “use” as a fundamental question is flawed, because “use” *is not* a fundamental *question.* It’s a fundamental *wrong*.

    If a given human consents to being used in a particular way, we may say, “Hmm. Well, that one human did, and that was useful, so let’s get more of them to consent.”

    It doesn’t take much to see that consent becomes a very convenient thing to ignore, after a very short while.

    None of this is to say we shouldn’t provide for the welfare of the animals that are here NOW. We absolutely should. We just shouldn’t be creating more of them.

    For the record, I don’t do animal experiments, myself,

    I meant “you” generally. I’m not saying you’re horrid, personally.

    See, here’s the oddity. You claim that this moral obligation rests upon humans to behave in a manner that other animals do not,

    You’re comparing two different cases. In the first case, that other animals eat meat doesn’t mean humans get to. In the second, speculating about *consent* is irrelevant, because we’ve told ourselves we’re going to use these animals *whether or not they actually do* and we’ve rigged any system of observation in our favor to decide that they “can’t really consent anyway.”

    Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. We don’t actually CARE one way or the other, any more than the slave-holder cared whether or not his slaves consented to being used. Their consent – pro or con – was immaterial.

    This is, however, an unfair characterization of utilitarianism.

    A human choosing to sacrifice herself is not the same thing as a human sacrificing mice.

    Forced? No, obviously, because humans *do* have the capability of choice. That’s what makes “forced” objectionable in this case

    Again, you’re assuming that consent from nonhuman animals is impossible because it’s convenient to perpetuating the use of nonhumans.

    It may be possible, in some cases. It may be impossible in others. It’s irrelevant. They’re not ours to use in either event. Until we can come up with an iron-clad way to GET informed consent from any such intelligent nonhumans as we may wish to use – just as we would from humans – nonhumans *should* be off the table. That they are not now, and will not be at any time in the near future is immaterial.

    I understand that you don’t think anything I’m saying is at all reasonably founded, Pat, as I’ve said several times. It simply doesn’t matter to me that you think so, any more than it matters to me that DuWayne thinks I’m a raving lunatic. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Yes, fine. I’m “handwaving” as you see it. So what?

  198. #198 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Your orthodoxy must be protected from your own power of reason?

    …which, by several of your prior claims doesn’t exist anyway, so calling it irrational is beside the point.

    If I’m as irrational as you’ve variously claimed and implied, why do I care that you view my ethical claim as not rationally founded?

    You’re trying to have this both ways: tell me I’m being irrational, claim that I “can’t” reason, and then complain when my claim isn’t reasonable enough to make you happy.

    So what?

  199. #199 babble
    October 22, 2009

    Oi. None of this is really that difficult to understand, people.

    If it’s not serving any interest of the animal in question, if it’s JUST a human use for pleasure or convenience, STOP DOING IT. Right now. Today. Immediately.

    Absent a handful of subsistence cases, that’s food, animal actors, circuses, sport hunting, etc.

    If it’s not JUST a use for human pleasure, but it will harm or kill the animal we need much much more rigorous welfare standards than we have now, and we need to work toward ending it, rather that simply accepting it as the way of things. That’s testing.

    If it’s a use that at least serves the individual animal’s welfare, care for THAT animal, but that doesn’t say breed a gazillion more of them to funnel back into an unethical system of exploitation of those animals, forever. That’s pets.

    All of those uses are wrong. Every last one. None of them are good. But they’re not all equally weighted. One of them serves a human need. One of them serves an animal need (and perhaps a human desire). The rest are trivial.

  200. #200 Pat Cahalan
    October 23, 2009

    > You’ve gotten sidetracked by trying to get me to
    > give you a list of acceptable uses.

    Not at all. And I’ve never been sidetracked, I’ve been doing the same thing on the entire comment thread; trying to get you to actually explain your position without relying upon obfuscatory language.

    > You’re trying to have this both ways: tell me
    > I’m being irrational, claim that I “can’t” reason,
    > and then complain when my claim isn’t reasonable
    > enough to make you happy.

    (laugh). No, not in the slightest. I never said you couldn’t actually reason your position out, I said you’re refusing to do so. Won’t != can’t. In addition, simply because your particular claim is not reasonable (in my estimation) doesn’t imply that you are therefore universally irrational. There’s certainly volumes of cases where a reasonably rational person held a few irrational beliefs.

    The nice thing about trying to convince people with irrational beliefs to rethink their position is that if they *are* in fact otherwise rational, they will either work it out and be able to eventually express their irrational belief *rationally*, giving you a chance to learn from them (again, just because your current construct is odd doesn’t mean that you’re wrong), or they will realize that their belief is irrational and either discontinue it or at least not try to force the world to adapt to it.

    > We’re seeing the world through two ENTIRELY
    > different perspectives.

    This is true, but again this this doesn’t mean that we can’t at least settle on the common ground. But we can’t do that unless we use the same language to mean the same things.

    > b) I’m not saying this cultural conditioning
    > is unbreakable.

    No, but you *are* saying that if someone’s estimation does not match yours, it’s because they haven’t broken their cultural conditioning, invariably, on the entire thread.

    So perhaps it’s most accurate to say you are not accepting that there is any way to break cultural conditioning unless it leads unavoidably to your position.

    Case in point…

    > Again, you’re assuming that consent from
    > nonhuman animals is impossible because it’s
    > convenient to perpetuating the use of nonhumans.

    No, I’m not, no matter how many times you claim this to be the case.

    To the best of my reading in neuroscience and animal intelligence, there is no evidence that animals in general possess the sort of intellectual qualities that would be necessary for informed consent, or even for a meaningful estimation of sapience. There may be enough evidence that certain primates and whales do possess enough cognitive capacity that they ought to be given the benefit of the doubt, IMO, but nothing else comes close to qualifying. Now, admittedly I’m not a neuroscientist myself, nor am I anywhere near well enough versed in brain physiology to make this as an authoritative claim; I welcome the possibility that my reading of the literature is insufficient (it’s certainly somewhat out of date, as I can’t keep up with everything).

    So go find me some, and I’ll change my mind. See, I have a falsification standard for my belief in animal cognition.

    Because, you see, my estimation of animal cognition comes from science, not from some predisposition imposed upon me by my culture.

    >> What sort of evidence would you accept as
    >> sufficient proof that cows are incapable
    >> of choice? Is there any evidence that you
    >> will accept as sufficient proof that cows
    >> are incapable of choice?

    > Flawed assumption. See here:

    This is not a flawed assumption in the slightest. Nowhere do I say that if cows are incapable of choice that it then immediately follows that they can be used indiscriminately.

    All I’m saying is that if cows are incapable of choice, you need some other reason to decide they can’t be used indiscriminately, instead of relying upon a proposition that has been refuted. There are several other possible principles you could apply.

    See, Babble… P implies Q, not the other way ’round. “Capable of choice” implies “cannot be used”. You’re going the other way, you’ve decided that they cannot be used, and you’re saying that ergo they’re capable of choice, because that justifies your conclusion. That’s backwards.

    So I ask again, is there any evidence you would accept as sufficient to decide that cows are incapable of choice? If this is the case, this doesn’t automatically mean that you must decide they can be used, it just means you need to figure out another reason *why*.

    If you don’t want to do this, the most plausible reason is that you’re afraid that every argument you put forth is going to be falsified, and that you’re going to be stuck with a conclusion with no supporting propositions. You still won’t be required to change your mind, of course; nobody is insisting that the entire human species be required to think rationally at all times (well, probably PZ is over at his blog and some of the other commentators may very well be, but I frankly won’t play that card).

    But, at least then I’ll know that you actually *don’t* have anything to say of substance, that you have no reasonable framework that I haven’t already looked at myself. Again, I actually hope you *do*, I just don’t think it likely given what you’ve said thus far.

  201. #201 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Animals do not exist for us to use as a means to an end. Call it a tenet of faith, if that makes dismissing it easier, for you. It doesn’t matter. As I said, agree; disagree. It’s irrelevant. It’s the truth, with or without any agreement whatsoever.

    Now: because we’ve used animals for a very long time, we’ve created a whole culture based on animal exploitation. That cows may be “incapable of choice,” even if true, does not mean cows are an exploitable resource. That’s a human *CHOICE* based on the assumption that human desires get to trump, because humans say so. I reject that. I will ALWAYS reject that, no matter how many ways people attempt to claim that their use of animals is somehow morally neutral.

    It’s not morally neutral. It’s wrong. It’s not all EQUALLY wrong.

    Because our culture is bound up in exploitation, top to bottom, none of it is easy to absolutely eliminate. Some compromise of the absolute position is necessary, because the absolute position can’t be implemented with a wave of a wand.

    I’m willing to make some necessity cases; you attempted handwave away necessity cases early on; nevertheless, I’m willing to make a limited number of conditional necessity cases – not to justify use in perpetuity, but as part of a strategy of incrementalism toward an abolition goal. Humans are selfish; we won’t immediately give up the use of animals for some things, and the animals we’ve caused to exist do not deserve neglect.

    If it serves a LEGITIMATE human need, use animals, under some very specific conditions. We haven’t gotten to those, because you’re using the issue of use justification as a distraction.

    If it serves a LEGITIMATE animal need, use animals, under some very specific conditions. We haven’t gotten to those, for the same reason.

    Any particular belief you have about the implications of animal cognition one way or the other is irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. That animal use cannot ultimately be justified will remain true, regardless of any particular agreement or disagreement you may have.

  202. #202 babble
    October 23, 2009

    This is true, but again this this doesn’t mean that we can’t at least settle on the common ground.

    Pat, as I said at the beginning, and repeatedly through the thread: there IS NO common ground. If you think animal use CAN be justified, then you dance around doing the welfare dance deciding what regulations suit your emotional preferences not to harm animals, and what harm is acceptable to ignore if it serves some other human purpose that you weight preferentially over animal suffering.

    If you think that the choice to USE is an ethically flawed choice, then none of the above really matters, as an ultimate question. Yes, in the meantime, we need to make *some* concessions to the reality as it is. But that doesn’t mean that the status quo is acceptable. Yes, treating those animals we may use is nice. It makes us feel good, and treating animals better IS still treating animals better. But that doesn’t JUSTIFY using animals, breeding animals, and perpetuating their exploitation for human purposes.

    Love your dog? Fantastic. Don’t buy another dog from a breeder. (I’m not pretending you care one way or the other, here, what I’m saying.)

    Can’t come up with an alternative to a given animal test? For now, do the test. Develop a better alternative. That humans benefit doesn’t make the whole thing neutral.

    WIsh to tell yourself that milking a cow “in and of itself” does no harm? BS claim. Cows *are* harmed in the system of exploitation puts milk in your refrigerator. There is no “in and of itself.”

  203. #203 Dario Ringach
    October 23, 2009

    Babble — I do understand your position: using an animal for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance, is immoral.

    We obviously view the world differently.

    I view Man is part of Nature; you as its keeper.

    I tend to view Man’s relationship with the world more along the lines of the Chumash: we should aim to live in balance with it, take as little as possible, and respect all life that shares the planet with us.

    Your ethical position, in my view, leads directly to the paralysis of Man, as nearly all of our activities might be considered negatively interfering with Nature.

    My vision of a distant future is one where knowledge and technology will have advanced sufficiently that we can overcome the need for the use of animals in research and any other purposes.

    I have no doubt this will happen. It may take 1, 2 or 10 thousand years. This seems a long time to wait, but in the cosmic calendar of human evolution it will be no more than a few seconds.

    Your vision of the future, I fear, is the past.

  204. #204 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Your ethical position, in my view, leads directly to the paralysis of Man, as nearly all of our activities might be considered negatively interfering with Nature.

    Then we’ll die, and nature will start over with something else. Maybe bees. Hopefully they’ll do a better job of it than we have. I have no emotional attachment to humans as a species persisting for any particular length of time.

  205. #205 babble
    October 23, 2009

    I’m also not conceding any of Pat’s claim in the above. The notion that cows don’t care THAT we use them is absurd. That they do not communicate consent is irrelevant. That we judge them to be unintelligent (compared to us) and therefore incapable of consent is a rigged claim, top to bottom.

    I don’t concede any of it.

    I’m saying it doesn’t matter, one way or other, whatever “evidence” one uses, because that doesn’t have anything to do with the fundamental ethical issue.

  206. #206 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Dario, you do get that if you’re resting on science and technology, perhaps thousands of years after everyone here is long gone, as your ethical way out, fetishization of nature doesn’t really mean much, right?

  207. #207 DuWayne
    October 23, 2009

    Why? Because you say so? Killing bacteria doesn’t fit my previously stated criteria; despite some evidence that bacteria may communicate, we have no reason to think they may suffer.

    How come bacteria don’t fit your previously stated criteria? Because they are really, really small? They, like many other creatures you claim do fit your criteria do what they can to survive and actively avoid things that will harm them.

    It simply doesn’t matter to me that you think so, any more than it matters to me that DuWayne thinks I’m a raving lunatic.

    But does it matter to you that the people observing this, the people you are obstensibly trying to reach also think you’re a raving lunatic who is inconsistent and who can’t reasonably define his position? (A tip, you look moderately less insane, when you don’t randomly capitalize words)

    Then we’ll die, and nature will start over with something else. Maybe bees. Hopefully they’ll do a better job of it than we have. I have no emotional attachment to humans as a species persisting for any particular length of time.

    Good, now why don’t you pretend you give two humps about the suffering of animals, human or otherwise. Because like it or not, humans fill an ecological niche as predators. Take humans out of the equation and animals still suffer, many of them considerably more than they do now. Nature is brutal – exceptionally and painfully brutal. Animals always have and always will exploit each other.

    The only difference between humans and non-human animals, is that humans are the only animals who are even capable of taking the suffering of the animals we exploit into account. Humans are the only animals who are even capable of reducing that suffering. And humans are the only animals who have found more complex ways to exploit other animals, besides as food sources.

    Humans are the only animals capable of abstractions such as morality. The difference between your moral frame and my own, is that you believe ending human exploitation of animals and our impact on the animal world is a moral imperative, while I believe that reducing the suffering of other animals is a moral imperative.

  208. #208 babble
    October 23, 2009

    How come bacteria don’t fit your previously stated criteria?

    Very rudimentary awareness, even if it exits doesn’t equal a capacity suffering.

    Good, now why don’t you pretend you give two humps about the suffering of animals, human or otherwise.

    Not actually what I said, but that won’t stop you from bullshitting your way through it, as usual.

    If our current course continues unabated, and nothing in the course of this conversation leads me to think otherwise, we’re headed straight for extinction. Not much I can do about that, given general human selfishness.

    If we die off because we’re too selfish or too stupid to change, nature will start over. That’s all I said.

    But you go on ahead and tell yourself whatever makes you feel comfortable, DuWayne.

  209. #209 babble
    October 23, 2009

    ….while I believe that reducing the suffering of other animals is a moral imperative.

    You aren’t hunting other animals for their benefit, no matter what lies you may spew over HERE, DuWayne. You just enjoy killing. I know it. You know it.

  210. #210 babble
    October 23, 2009

    The only difference between humans and non-human animals, is that humans are the only animals who are even capable of taking the suffering of the animals we exploit into account.

    …none of which justifies hunting because you enjoy doing it, eating meat, or even animal testing, really.

    It just says you’re going to “account” for suffering when it suits you, and ignore it when it doesn’t.

    You’re not TAKING animal suffering into account when you hunt, DuWayne. You’re killing them because of whatever YOU get out of the deal. That you can tell yourself various things about that action after the fact is neither here nor there.

    Similarly, we don’t actually “take suffering into account” when we test. If a given invasive, harmful test is going to be done by humans, it is GOING to be done. For all of the various reassurances that everybody here cares deeply about the welfare of the animals they use, this doesn’t really change anything.

    If we came up with a test that was going to cause all manner of stress and suffering to a given animal that we thought was going to yield useful information, we’d do it, welfare considerations be damned, just as our “welfare” considerations are avoidable everywhere ELSE we use animals, when it suits us.

    It’s all fine and good to pretend to be concerned with animal welfare in the abstract, in these discussions. It doesn’t actually mean anything at all in the larger culture.

  211. #211 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Animals always have and always will exploit each other.

    That doesn’t make it acceptable for us to do it. That just makes it convenient for you to rationalize your choice to kill for fun.

  212. #212 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Dario, I don’t view us as the “keepers” of nature; if I did, my position would be DuWayne’s, essentially. It would be just fine – if we were the ones who got to make all the choices, all the time about who lived and who died – to hunt for my own personal enjoyment.

    Quite obviously, I don’t think so.

    I’m saying it’s hypocritical for us as a species to claim that our use of animals is somehow “natural” when everything we’ve done from the earliest civilizations onward is to run AWAY from existing “naturally” as quickly as we possibly could. We don’t exist “naturally” now; that doesn’t mean our use of animals is somehow “natural.” That’s just an excuse we choose to tell ourselves.

  213. #213 DuWayne
    October 23, 2009

    You aren’t hunting other animals for their benefit, no matter what lies you may spew over HERE, DuWayne. You just enjoy killing. I know it. You know it.

    Excuse me, you very tiny little man. You haven’t the faintest clue what you are talking about. You do not have the ability to read my mind and absolutely no reason to think that I am lying. I expect this discussion is over, as you are clearly unhinged and are now perfectly content to accuse people you do not know of lying.

    It is obvious that you have no foundation for your beliefs in animal rights, other than it makes you feel bad that we involve ourselves in their lives. You obviously do not care in the slightest for the welfare of actual animals and/or just have no comprehension of what role predators play in the ecosystem. You are very obviously an ignorant little git, who simply wants to pretend to care about animals, because it gives you something to get all worked up about.

    I want to thank you for your little exhibition here, showing anyone who cares to pay attention to this, just how completely and utterly insane you and your terrorist buddies really are.

  214. #214 Pat Cahalan
    October 23, 2009

    >> How come bacteria don’t fit your previously
    >> stated criteria?

    > Very rudimentary awareness, even if it exits
    > doesn’t equal a capacity suffering.

    *You don’t get to say this*. You don’t accept empirical evaluation, *you* discarded it already, rather forcibly.

    You’ve stated that we must accept that you believe, as an tenet of *faith* (your words, not mine) that “Animals do not exist for us to use as a means to an end.” Any measurement of an animal’s cognitive capability is rigged, according to you, to outcome the way “we” desire.

    You continually play it both ways, Babble, retreating behind articles of faith when asked to actually *describe* your position, and then coming out swinging an empirical bat when people point out that your article of faith is so ambiguous as to be completely useless.

    Let me put it to you another way; if you wish to actually attempt (as you claim) to sway people (and by extension, culture) over to your way of thinking, I suggest to you that the most effective way to do so is by *first figuring out what it is you actually believe*. That means asking yourself hard questions about *why* you believe what you believe, what characteristics the creatures that you want to protect warrants their protection (other than speciesism, which seems to be your current criteria for protectionism… again, which seems odd given that you think speciesism is bad).

    You can’t say, “awareness”, because you then turn around and discard “awareness”. Unless you actually *mean* awareness, in which case you have to include bacteria too. Unless “awareness” doesn’t mean what you’re saying it means, in which case figure out a definition that works.

    You can’t say “choice”, because you then turn around and discard “choice” when “welfare” is involved (except sometimes you don’t). Unless you actually mean *choice*, in which case stop feeding your cat and let it go free (no, if it comes back you can’t feed it, because then you’re bribing it). Unless “choice” doesn’t mean what you’re saying it means, in which case figure out a definition that works.

    In short, actually try and come up with a working definition for the words you’re using that remains consistent throughout your proposed outcomes. It’s building your philosophy backwards, so you’ll probably do a lot of unnecessary wrangling to make it come out the way you prefer, but at least you’ll wind up with something you can communicate effectively.

    Right now, after 212 comments on this thread, all I understand about your position is that you think some things are “bad”, but all I know about these things is that it’s some finite list that you append to when a new case comes up, and each append is done as an individual case only very loosely describable given all of your previous cases, and all I know about “bad” is that you think it should stop at some point when some very loosely based criteria is met, but that all “bad” things aren’t “bad” the same way, but each “bad” thing can only be compared to other “bad” things using some magic formula that’s locked inside your head. When you are asked to describe these things in a way that’s meaningful, you just refuse to do so.

    That’s your right, certainly. You don’t have to answer to anyone here or anywhere else about why you believe what you believe.

    But substantive long-term societal change does not come about by saying, “War is not the answer” or “Abortion is murder” or “Animal Use is Slavery” or “Universal Health Care is Socialism” or even “The End of the World is Near, Have You Made Jesus Christ Your Personal Savior”. That’s just a bunch of bombastic rhetorical devices designed to scare or guilt people into changing their mind, and the fact that people still put these silly signs up in the air shows that it doesn’t really sway people in the long term, any more than sticking a gun in their face and saying, “Vote this way” works in the long run.

    Yes, you might grab a few of the easily frightened or guilted people into your crowd, but unless you can actually fundamentally change their mind, they’re not going to stay.

    For the record, I’m actually sympathetic to your some if not all of your ideas, despite whatever you yourself may think about my commentary. I just think that your expression of those ideas is seriously lacking. I also think that your gut-level reaction to my criticism of your expression (as opposed to your ideas) indicates that you’re not really going to listen to this comment either, but you do what you can.

  215. #215 babble
    October 23, 2009

    I get to *SAY* whatever I *WANT*, Pat. That you disagree with it, or find it not-well-founded, or not-well-argued is meaningless. I claimed at the OUTSET that you weren’t ever going to agree. Telling me over and over and over again that I’m not arguing this in ways you like is meaningless.

    DuWayne: You be sure and let me know when you graduate to hunting humans. The thrill of killing game animals must be wearing off, if you’re now flinging the “insane” and “terrorism” charges over here. Not enough attention being paid to you elsewhere?

  216. #216 babble
    October 23, 2009

    I actually said, “call it a tenet of faith” if it makes it easier for you to disregard.

    You’re still asking me to come up with a list of acceptable USES. I’m not going to do that.

    NO *uses* are acceptable. Some will persist, because humans are selfish and resistant to change, or because some actual animal interest may be served. But the *uses themselves* still need to be brought to an end.

    The *end-goal* needs to be abolition.

    Why? Because our *use* creates suffering. It always has, and it always will. I KNOW you want me to give you a nice, philosophy-class style answer you can pick apart and play endless, meaningless games with, but I’m not going to DO that, because I understand your actual motivation: you’re going to pick it apart and try and get me to concede to this or that or the other standard of animal welfare that suits your personal taste.

    I *always KNEW* what you were doing, Pat. I’m just not going to engage you on your terms, because I *reject your terms* at the outset. I even *said as much* at the outset.

    Use is wrong. Fundamentally wrong. It’s nice to pretend we’ll enact some magical animal welfare scenario in which animals will never be hurt by us “unnecessarily” (again, such standards as devised by us, to justify doing what WE want to do), or that we can magically make welfare “welfare-y enough” such that use no longer becomes a morally problematic issue, but that WILL. NOT. HAPPEN.

    It has not happened, in the thousands of years humans have used animals. There is absolutely no reason to expect that it ever will.

  217. #217 babble
    October 23, 2009

    if you want to call ME dishonest over and over again through the thread, DuWayne, I’m more than happy to return the favor. You’re still a pathetic, whining little troll.

  218. #218 babble
    October 23, 2009

    You can’t say, “awareness”, because you then turn around and discard “awareness”. Unless you actually *mean* awareness, in which case you have to include bacteria too. Unless “awareness” doesn’t mean what you’re saying it means, in which case figure out a definition that works.

    This got hung up on awareness in and of itself because I (correctly) anticipated the various happy meat claims you and the others intended to make, Pat.

    Talking about awareness leads to talking about suffering.

    Causing suffering for trivial, frivolous reasons is morally wrong. Most of our uses of animals are for trivial, frivolous reasons.

  219. #219 babble
    October 23, 2009

    …and while we’re at it, let’s also pretend I haven’t said, “If it becomes reasonably possible to avoid killing bacteria, that would be fine.”

  220. #220 babble
    October 23, 2009

    Are we saying here that bacteria (or, heck, algae and yeast) possess a form of consciousness and can experience pain and pleasure? Chemical communication may be awareness of a sort, but as I’ve already said, it’s not of a piece with what we *conventionally*, without having to play endless semantic games (which you folks claimed you didn’t want to play, when hand-waving away “necessity”) non-gotcha, non-debate-BS mean when we say “awareness.”

    Do bacteria consent to anything? Who knows? Probably not.

    Do cats? Who knows. But it’s far more likely. I’m not arguing one should hunt, kill and eat one’s pets, though, no matter how many times one you tries to draw a false parallel.

    This is ALL just you folks playing a game so you can dismiss something you were never EVER going to consider in the first place, *AND* you know it.

  221. #221 Dario Ringach
    October 23, 2009

    Babble says “Similarly, we don’t actually “take suffering into account” when we test. If a given invasive, harmful test is going to be done by humans, it is GOING to be done.”

    Wrong again. It is going to be done under anesthesia and with sedatives, certainly taking into account the potential suffering of the animal. Very much so.

    Yet, discussing these details is irrelevant when your strict position is that we should not use animals for any purpose and/or circumstances.

    After all, it seems clear there is no amount of consideration towards the animal that will ever satisfy you.

    As for your statement of letting humans die and let a new species take over and do a better job. Well, I guess that shows the deep rooted anti-human sentiment in some animal right activists.

    Sad.

  222. #222 Pat Cahalan
    October 23, 2009

    > I KNOW you want me to give you a nice,
    > philosophy-class style answer you can pick
    > apart and play endless, meaningless games
    > with

    Trying to understand your position is a meaningless game?

    > but I’m not going to DO that, because I
    > understand your actual motivation: you’re
    > going to pick it apart and try and get
    > me to concede to this or that or the
    > other standard of animal welfare that
    > suits your personal taste.

    Please do not continually refer to my “actual” anything as if you possess the capability to read my mind, because you don’t.

    Let us assume, however, just for the sake of discussion, that all I want to do is tie you in a philosophical knot and cackle evilly. So what?

    My intention still isn’t really relevant. If your position is as unassailable as you claim, you should be able to meet the request and then laugh an entertained little chuckle as my nefarious schemes unravel against your ironclad logic and superior moral position.

    > I *reject your terms* at the outset. I even
    > *said as much* at the outset.

    Given that you seem to think that the human capability of reason comes with it some rather unique moral obligations (not present for other creatures), why do you so utterly disdain its use?

    Why do you continue to respond to the fact of my commentary, if you’re just not going to respond to *any* of the substance of it? Is this just a case where you’re going to continue to post until I stop, so that you can have the last comment on the thread?

    I’ll tell you what, if you can avoid making any sort of negative commentary about me or any more unsubstantiated claims regarding my intentions, I’ll just let you have the last word, go ahead.

  223. #223 babble
    October 24, 2009

    As for your statement of letting humans die and let a new species take over and do a better job…

    If humans won’t change (nothing said here changes my conviction that we’re ridiculously unlikely to) we’re headed for trouble we can’t just blithely ignore. If we die off because we won’t change (we won’t, I’m more sure than ever), then nature will start over. Why should I view the perpetuation of humans as something ever so special?

    Yet, discussing these details is irrelevant when your strict position is that we should not use animals for any purpose and/or circumstances.

    You’re right, it’s not. Here’s the thing: it would be all sorts of nice to pretend that our use of animals was ONLY ever being done “nicely.” But it isn’t. It just isn’t.

    Separate and apart from that…

    As I said far far earlier: we could assume that laboratory mice are happy as little balls of fur, and anesthetize them so that they felt NOTHING right up to the moment that we killed them, and it would STILL be wrong.

    Because the mice themselves *are not* willing participants to being killed. Despite various claims that they “can’t” consent and are just little puppets of meat whose use carries no ethical weight whatsoever, it’s INSANE to pretend that these creatures are acceptable to KILL just because humans derive benefits from that act.

    None of this says ANYTHING at all about unavoidable killing.

    None of this says that testing is going away any time soon.

    The mice aren’t ours to kill, JUST because that benefits US. We wouldn’t propose doing this to any human. A given human may choose it, but that’s not what’s happening in this case. WE are making that choice, and then coming up with reasons that sound good (to us) why that carries no moral weight whatsoever.

    Trying to understand your position is a meaningless game?

    I don’t actually think any of this is in any effort to *understand* anything. That’s the point. I understand that several folks here wish to see animals as a means to an end – some with some regrets, some with none at all – because humans derive benefits from that use.

    That doesn’t mean ANYbody really cares one way or the other a) that I object or b) why.

    Given that you seem to think that the human capability of reason comes with it some rather unique moral obligations (not present for other creatures), why do you so utterly disdain its use?

    …not actually what I said. I said humans can *choose* to do something else. We just don’t. This doesn’t need a long, drawn out, meaningless set of semantic games about this meaning that or other distractions. Yes, yes, fine; I haven’t supported my claim to suit you. That doesn’t matter.

    As I’ve said, oh, DOZENS of times now:

    Our use of animals creates massive amounts of easily avoidable suffering, in very many cases. Given that, I do not accept that ANY use at all can be made moral just because we wish to tell ourselves that a) they ‘can’t’ consent or b) that our uses aren’t really THAT bad.

    Why? Because I say so.

    Why do animals deserve not to be so used? Because I say so.

    I’m not going to give you, or anybody else an opening to make an irrelevant claim that this use or that use or another use isn’t really so bad according to this or that or the other abstract criteria.

    Because those abstract criteria are a tidy little abstraction divorced from the reality of what’s actually going on. It’s different variations on making a claim about the act of cows being “milked in and of itself.” That action isn’t HAPPENING “in and of itself.” That’s the point.

    Are Dario’s anesthetized mice better than slicing into them conscious and awake? Sure.

    Does that make it okay to use mice forevermore? Not in the least. Does that mean his example is happening in any and all cases? Of course not.

    The problem is that *we don’t see any of this as a problem*. So despite various claims that “everybody” cares about “welfare”, NOTHING is ever really going to change.

  224. #224 babble
    October 24, 2009

    After all, it seems clear there is no amount of consideration towards the animal that will ever satisfy you.

    There is, of course, an obvious answer to this. Of course there is: stop using them.

    Stop breeding pets. Stop selling pets. Care for the ones that are here now. When those die, don’t intentionally breed more. If the remaining animals can be returned to the wild, do that. If they can’t, they can’t. We never should have domesticated them in the first place.

    Stop breeding livestock. Care for the ones that are left (that doesn’t mean killing and eating them), and if they can be returned to something more like a natural existence, do THAT. If they can’t, they can’t. We never should have domesticated them in the first place.

    Come up with alternatives to animal testing. Yes, it will take a while. Do the work. Make the current ethical quandary unnecessary to even discuss. Eliminate it as a problem.

    Carrying capacity is an issue in some wild animal populations? Use chemical contraception. If what we have doesn’t work, develop better contraception. Yes, this will mean some tightly regulated hunting in the meantime, most likely. As with testing, what needs to happen in the *interim* doesn’t mean we should just accept it as the way of things *forever.*

  225. #225 Dario Ringach
    October 24, 2009

    “Come up with alternatives to animal testing. Yes, it will take a while. Do the work.”

    We are indeed coming up with alternatives. But coming up with alternatives requires animal work too. Don’t you see that? You can’t stop animal research and develop alternatives in the vacuum, without being able to compare to anything.

    I am all for developing alternatives. I do not know of any scientists that are against alternatives. In fact, I’d work with anyone interested in creating new programs at NIH aimed at accelerating their development.

    Animal research today is very different from that performed 20 or 30 years ago. Those that argue that we have been in status-quo in animal research for decades, are simply wrong.

  226. #226 Dario Ringach
    October 24, 2009

    “Why should I view the perpetuation of humans as something ever so special?”

    Because you view the perpetuation of other animal species as something important too.

    More than a prediction about things to come, you appear to be willing to accelerate the demise of the human species.

    As I said, a very anti-human sentiment.

  227. #227 babble
    October 24, 2009

    Dario, how many possible ways do I need to keep addressing this with you?

    Yes, I understand your point. Yes, in the near term testing will persist. I hate it. I wish I would wave it away with a magic wand. I can’t. So testing, in the near term will persist. Reread the thread. Much of this rests on “testing isn’t even an ethical question *at all* provided the animals are kept relatively comfortable and we tell ourselves that they don’t understand what we’re actually doing to them…so that makes it all ethically neutral.”

    No, it doesn’t. For all of these repeated claims that the welfare of these animals is of paramount importance, and that new alternatives are being developed, we’re no closer to ending animal research today than we were 100 years ago, because we – as a whole – don’t really see it as a problem that needs to be solved. It’s just a PR issue, mostly. Humans don’t like thinking about the infliction of cruelty, so we’ve taken some measures to make some animals more comfortable.

    It’s an excuse to continue things as they are, not progress toward ending anything.

    Animal welfare consideration isn’t really FOR animals. It’s for us. WE don’t like seeing animals suffer – sometimes. So we’ve enacted the bear minimum our conscience will allow us to get away with to allow testing to persist for the foreseeable future. Why should I see all of these welfare claims as progress?

    If animals don’t care THAT we use them – if they only care HOW we use them, and they don’t have a self awareness that ethically matters, why bother treating some of them relatively more kindly than others? If they’re just little meat puppets existing in an eternal now, moment to moment, “suffer” in one moment has no real relationship at all to “comfortable” in the next.

    Why bother treating any of them with any particular kind treatment at all?

  228. #228 babble
    October 24, 2009

    Because you view the perpetuation of other animal species as something important too.

    As I said, I think protecting wild animals as a matter of biodiversity is acceptable on grounds of reducing suffering. Ecosystems we’ve screwed up we DO have some responsibility for at least trying to reduce our impact on, even if fixing them is unlikely.

    But the point about species extinction wasn’t that. The false comparison was that if an individual pet cat has a desire to live, that should somehow translate into a moral obligation to breed pets for humans to own for the rest of time, so that we can pat ourselves on the back for granting the existence. As I said, *animals* have a desire to live, which should be respected where we can. A “species” has no desires at all. It’s a human concept to classify *these* animals and *those* animals.

    Pet breeding isn’t solving a problem. It’s serving a human desire to live with pets.

  229. #229 babble
    October 24, 2009

    …and, none of this is in any effort to understand anything I’m really saying. Just disagreeing with it. Over and over and over again. Because nothing we’re doing is really wrong. Everything is just *fine*, isn’t it?

    Sure, we’ll kill millions of lab animals this year, and next year, and every single year after that until everybody here is long dead and gone, just as we’ll kill billions and billions of animals for the sake of eating them, but heck: it’s all just “biomass” so we get to do whatever the heck we want, right?

    But we should all all over ourselves and consider that “progress.” Which really just means, “you silly AR activists. We’ll pretend we give a damn about working with you, but all we really want is for you to shut up.”

    “Progress,” indeed.

  230. #230 Pat Cahalan
    October 25, 2009

    No, babble, “we” really don’t want Animal Rights activists to shut up.

    What “we” (and by “we”, here, I mean “I”) want is something more than this:

    > Why? Because I say so.
    >
    > Why do animals deserve not to be so used?
    > Because I say so.

    … which is a communication methodology that failed to work on me *when I was five*. It’s certainly not going to start working on me now.

    You have a self-fulfilling method of communication: “Nobody is going to listen to me, because they don’t care. Here, I’ll tell them what I’m going to say, and there! See! They don’t listen to me, because they don’t care!”

    People may or may not care about what you say, granted, but if they don’t listen to you, there are several possibilities: they don’t care enough to listen, or they care enough to listen but don’t find what you’re saying to be compelling, just for a couple.

    I can guarantee to you that you can’t make people care about what you say when you’re (a) talking to them as if they were five and (b) adamantly refusing to expose your own thought process to critical evaluation.

    Your main premise is that people are aware, and can choose to treat animals differently, which makes them different from other animals, and thus they have an obligation to regard animals differently than animals themselves do.

    And yet, you attack a further investigation of this structure as being “abstract” and “divorced from reality”… when this structure is *itself* abstract. How else can we talk about it if we don’t discuss the semantics of it?

    Okay, I get it, you’re not going to do that. Then, in this particular case, yes, I’m going to stop listening to you. And I imagine that you are going to again apply your “see, I knew it” self-justification, claiming that I never wanted to listen to you all along.

    Which I think is a little weird, given that I’ve been writing thousands of words on this thread. Your desire to write is self-evident, because you truly believe in what you’re writing (I don’t doubt that), in a very visceral and committed way.

    And yet, I don’t do animal research, or hunt, or run a CAFO (or even a free range chicken farm), I don’t particularly profit from animal processing, and I really don’t care enough about hamburgers to blow six plus days talking to a person I don’t know about defending my right to eat meat or even generally use animal products.

    Particularly given that today, as you note, you don’t have a credible probability of affecting any change on that score in even the medium run, so really, do I have real pressure to respond to anything you say from a practical standpoint?

    We know why you’re talking… do you really know why I am?

    Perhaps you should ask yourself… doesn’t it seem possible that this person with whom you’ve been chatting for a week might possibly have at least some engagement with your side of this discussion and if that’s the case, then what you had here was a bona fide opportunity to actually convince someone that you had something to say. You blew that opportunity.

    If you actually want to convince people that you’re right, Babble, you can’t do it solely on your terms. You can’t refuse to communicate with them on common ground. You can’t dodge defining your terms. You can’t take everything that they say that doesn’t 100% agree with your moral philosophy and take that as ironclad evidence that they’re just playing some sort of mind game with you.

    Well, you *can*, of course, do that. You can do whatever you want.

    But it’s not going to produce the result you claim you’re looking for: you’re not going to convince people you’re right.

  231. #231 babble
    October 25, 2009

    The point isn’t to *convince* people I’m right. The issue is to try and get folks to rethink their relationships with other animals without needing to play endless semantic games about what “awareness” means, or without needing to cover ALL possible bases in the course of one discussion.

    That isn’t going to happen.

    It isn’t about excluding every possible outlier so folks can make neat, tidy generalizations about which animals and plants and possible microorganisms are *okay to kill*.

    Ideally, none are.

    But that’s not actually going to happen. Despite DuWayne’s repeated claim that I’m insane, I really, REALLY do get that.

    What I’m saying is that life that *experiences the world much as we do* – for now, that appears to be life that’s like us enough to experience the world given a brain, sensory organs, a nervous system (in short, MOST animals) should be off limits to human uses that cause that life to suffer, or die *if we can possibly avoid it*. Because I *do* understand that the issue of consent as I’ve presented it can have several holes knocked in it, I’m not really debating it. I think it’s a good moral principle to *try* to use – allowing that it will be imperfect – but I’m not debating it.

    I’m not going to argue this in complex logical abstractions, because those abstractions *are a waste of time*. They’re just ways humans use to justify doing whatever they want to do.

  232. #232 babble
    October 25, 2009

    The problem is that folks only ever WANT easy answers.

    If the AR movement doesn’t have magic-wand solutions for everybody’s claimed objections, folks just tell us they’re going to do whatever they want *and we can’t stop them.*

    We can’t. Not *today*, anyway.

    We can’t even move the needle on moral consideration of animals because folks set up a completely self-contained system that permits them to justify ANY use of animals, ANY at all, provided they tell themselves their particular uses of animals are “humane” – as defined by them.

    But claims of humane treatment don’t mean a damn thing, when you get right down to it. Not a single, solitary thing.

    Want to blowtorch a dog? It’s going to happen. You might even face some piddling legal sanction. Maybe, depending on where you are, and if the legal system feels like making an example out of you on that particular day. Yes, folks will feign upset at that notion that you did it, just because you could. Some of them may actually even give a damn.

    Those are the very same people who will sit down to steak or chicken treated every bit as horribly as the person who tortured a dog just for fun; worse, in most cases.

    Want to hysterically tell me I hate humans, as if you’ve uncovered some great, grand secret? No you haven’t, and generally speaking, yes, I do. Why the hell do you NOT? We’re fat, lazy, selfish, hideous *awful* wastes of space who won’t do *anything* to prevent what we’re doing, because we tell ourselves we don’t have to. I hate that. Fine, guilty as charged. So what?

    Sure, we’ll pat ourselves on the back six or seven times a day about how we *really* care about humane treatment (we don’t) and inevitably there will be some sport hunter who kills just because he can to try and claim that what he’s doing is even MORE humane, so that makes it all okay (no, it doesn’t), or that clearly USELESS animal testing should persist for the rest of time, because, well, we just HAVE TO make sure that Burroughs profits are nice and fat this quarter – because they’re *saving human LIVES!* with all of the *very important RESEARCH!* they’re doing. It’s all a completely rigged game, rigged top to bottom to perpetuate things as they are.

    Because folks are fine with things as they are.

    What you folks won’t bother to try and understand is that – for us, the AR movement – just about every other possible animal use (with a small number of exceptions, I totally allow) is just as every bit as senseless as blowtorching your dog, just because you can. We do all this because we *can* do all this, and for not a single, SOLITARY other reason. It’s because we can just get away with it.

    But if we try to TALK about that, it ALWAYS ends up in useless, USELESS petty debates over defining awareness, what counts as sentient and various other bits of idiotic bullshit.

  233. #233 babble
    October 25, 2009

    Your main premise is that people are aware, and can choose to treat animals differently, which makes them different from other animals, and thus they have an obligation to regard animals differently than animals themselves do.

    For the record, I don’t actually have a problem with discussing THIS.

    But *none* of this – not a shred of it – actually gets to any of this. It’s just laying a foundation for making several claims that happy meat is okay, or hunting is okay, or etc. etc. etc.

  234. #234 Dario Ringach
    October 25, 2009

    Babble says: “Want to blowtorch a dog? It’s going to happen.”

    I am not sure if you are serious about this… but if you really are then remember that:

    First, you need to write a grant proposal to NIH explaining what is the health relevance of blow-torching a dog.

    Second, you need to explain why you picked a dog and not say… a worm.

    Third, the NIH study section will probably raise many issues about your animal protocol.

    Fourth, you are competing against many other proposals and the likelihood you will get funded is ~10% or so.

    Fifth, you would need to convince your institutional committee (including members of the public) that in fact blow-torching dogs is useful.

    Overall, I think your chances of getting any federal funds to blow torch a dog are… well, infinitesimal.

    In other words, if you want to blow torch a dog… well, it is never going to happen under our current system.

    But more importantly, at UCLA we are frank and honest about seeking a dialogue. I think in my interactions with you here I have never shown disrespect. I am sorry you think we are trying to play games. We obviously cannot force anyone to be part of the discussion. However, the fact that you have spent the time and effort to engage with us here tells me that there deep down there is something more that this pessimistic conviction.

  235. #235 babble
    October 26, 2009

    Third, the NIH study section will probably raise many issues about your animal protocol.

    Which sounds nice, in the abstract, but the reality is that if humans decide humans will benefit, the test *will* occur. Please be honest, Dario. You understand what I’m saying here, don’t you? Is it THAT difficult to really understand?

    But more importantly, at UCLA we are frank and honest about seeking a dialogue.

    No, I don’t actually think that’s the case. If your version of “dialog” is:

    – Humans benefit
    – We’re taking animal welfare into consideration
    – Alternatives don’t work
    – Animal consent is an irrelevant issue

    …you’re not actually seeking dialog. You’re looking to massage your image in the minds of the general public, and allow the status quo to persist for the foreseeable future. That’s not dialog, Dario. That’s public relations.

    I think in my interactions with you here I have never shown disrespect.

    …save for claiming that I’m hastening the extinction of the human species by posting on a blog. It’s a couple of rungs above DuWayne’s usual bravado (threatening us over on NIO was amusing, really), but not much.

    I am sorry you think we are trying to play games.

    I’m not asking for you to apologize. I’m simply asking for you to be honest and not to ask me to pretend otherwise. Yes, I’m sure in your own mind you’re doing everything you can to ensure the welfare of the animals you use. But that’s very, very convenient for you to claim. *WE* get to decide what animal welfare means, when it applies, when it doesn’t, etc. etc. etc.

    Because the welfare consideration we *do* show, when we do, *if* we do, isn’t for them. It’s for us.

    We obviously cannot force anyone to be part of the discussion. However, the fact that you have spent the time and effort to engage with us here tells me that there deep down there is something more that this pessimistic conviction.

    …then don’t try to shut down the conversation claiming I hate humans. Whether I do or not, using it as a rhetorical device in this instance only serves to *fuel* that pessimism.

  236. #236 babble
    October 26, 2009

    Here’s the thing: want us to take you seriously when you claim you want testing to end? Talk about it more.

    That’s not how any of this is sold at Pro-Test events. That’s not how the Pro-Test petition is worded. The *whole* thing is designed from the outset to “sell” the public on the notion that testing has done very many good things for humans.

    If you want us to take you seriously that you’re developing alternatives, *talk about those alternatives.*

    What we get, instead, are the very many ways in which animal testing has benefitted humans historically, the various ways in which testing is benefitting humans presently, and (since folks love their pets) let’s not forget a few instances of advancements in veterinary medicine, too. Pro-Test isn’t “answering” the animal rights movement in any particular way. It’s selling testing to the general public in the wake of instances of abuse brought to the public consciousness *by* the animal rights movement.

    The clear implication is that if we crazy AR lunatics get our way, Grandma will die because lifesaving treatments that *could have saved her* will be declared off-limits. It’s not *QUITE* Obama’s death panels, but it’s close.

    None of this makes it appear that you have any particular motivation to *actually* develop or use alternatives. If we have a flawed perception of your motivation on that score, the vast majority of the fault for that perception lies with you.

  237. #237 Dario Ringach
    October 26, 2009

    Babble,

    Entering into a dialogue or debate does not mean I have to give up my principles and convictions at the door.

    Yes, I want to convince people that the work we do is important and, in my view, ethical… in very much you want to convince the public that it is useless and unethical.

    Where the public has concerns about research, I think we should try to understand what those are and try to address them.

    In fact, once all the facts are laid out in front of the public, if the decision is that we, as a society, should stop researching on animals, then I am prepared to accept that.

    I think this is far for promoting the “status quo”.

    One thing I don’t understand: if you are so convinced about the my dishonesty and intent of our conversation, why are you exactly taking so much time in this interaction?

    I assume we both have other things to do…

  238. #238 babble
    October 26, 2009

    One thing I don’t understand: if you are so convinced about the my dishonesty and intent of our conversation, why are you exactly taking so much time in this interaction?

    I think that it’s hypocritical to try and get me to shush up and go away by claiming – several times – that alternatives to animal research are being developed “all the time,” but when I ask you folks to talk more about it, to then turn around and claim that you don’t really have to, because using animals is all just fine as it is.

    One or the other. You can’t claim both. (Well, you *can*, and you *likely will*, but that doesn’t mean you’re interested in dialog, so much as selling what you’re doing as acceptable.)

    No, you don’t really have to do any of this. Neither do I. But obviously, I think it’s important, or I wouldn’t bother.

    But this does rather call into question the value of all of this “dialog” you claim you’re seeking. I think it’s rather more obvious that – as I said – not a damn thing is going to change, and all of the various claims about alternatives being developed, and humane treatment is a smokescreen.

  239. #239 DuWayne
    October 27, 2009

    I was so very done with this discussion, but here I am again.

    But this does rather call into question the value of all of this “dialog” you claim you’re seeking. I think it’s rather more obvious that – as I said – not a damn thing is going to change, and all of the various claims about alternatives being developed, and humane treatment is a smokescreen.

    What calls into question the dialog is not what you see as being a smokescreen, but your refusal to actually engage in dialog. What you call a smokescreen is nothing less than the positions we happen to hold in regards to the treatment of non-human animals. The problem is not that things aren’t going to change – not only will they, they are constantly changing already. The problem is that you aren’t going to get your way.

    When we express our positions and why we hold them, you claim we are lying about our motives and/or try to come up with some halfassed solution to the problems we present. You refuse to explore the edges of your position as irrelevant and offer some halfassed notion of ideals that simply can’t be met, so it’s all ok.

    It simply isn’t black and white to most of us, the way it is to you. We can in fact seek alternatives, in spite of believing that what we are doing now is acceptable. There is absolutely no contradiction in accepting what we are doing now as the best current option, while also seeking to circumvent the options that are currently available to us.

    The thing is, you don’t have to accept our conclusions as correct, to recognize that from our perspective it isn’t as simple as you make it out to be. And until you are willing to recognize that it isn’t that simple, you aren’t going to have a place in the discussion. Your black and white worldview precludes your voice. And fraternizing with terrorists and supporters of violence against humans – no matter your own feelings about such violence – precludes you from being taken seriously.

  240. #240 babble
    October 27, 2009

    It simply isn’t black and white to most of us, the way it is to you.

    I said that none of you were going to change, when I *came into this*, DuWayne. Repeatedly claiming that I’m being “dogmatic” in your view is irrelevant. I understand you’re going to go right on doing whatever you were doing before any of this happened.

    The point, as ever, is that it’s exceedingly disingenuous for you folks to simultaneously claim that alternatives are “being developed” but that you don’t have any NEED to do so. I understand that you feel no particular compulsion to develop any. But it does call into question the actual motivation for making the claim, over and over and over again.

    As does this repeated false claim of being “interested in dialog.”

    You folks are interested in no such thing, as your rhetoric here ably demonstrates.

    … precludes you from being taken seriously.

    As does showing up on NIO for the express purpose of bragging about “being armed,” DuWayne. You don’t take me seriously? So what? I don’t take *you seriously either.* Big deal.

  241. #241 babble
    October 27, 2009

    I was so very done with this discussion, but here I am again.

    …and you will be, again and again and again. You claim you’re “done” with me, and that I’m irrelevant and so on. But that, of course, doesn’t give you the opportunity to keep shrieking about “terrorism”, which is ALL this is for you.

    So you’ll keep on doing this. Won’t you?

  242. #242 DuWayne
    October 27, 2009

    I said that none of you were going to change, when I *came into this*, DuWayne. Repeatedly claiming that I’m being “dogmatic” in your view is irrelevant. I understand you’re going to go right on doing whatever you were doing before any of this happened.

    I certainly will. What you have done is precluded the possibility that anyone paying attention to this will change their behaviors, based on what you have to say.

    The point, as ever, is that it’s exceedingly disingenuous for you folks to simultaneously claim that alternatives are “being developed” but that you don’t have any NEED to do so.

    That’s because you wouldn’t understand nuance, if it hit you upside the head with a 2×4. If you were capable of thinking outside your narrow little worldview, you would understand that necessity and preferable are both motivational. You would comprehend that many of us would like to see alternatives, because while we accept animal testing as necessary, we too would prefer to see alternatives. Just because we don’t look at this as black and white, doesn’t mean we want animals to suffer any more than you do.

    But that, of course, doesn’t give you the opportunity to keep shrieking about “terrorism”, which is ALL this is for you.

    Honestly? Yes it is. When people are blowing up cars, invading homes, burning out labs, blowing up fast food restaurants, threatening me and others who engage in animal research or support those who do – yes, that is a point of focus for me. Given that I don’t happen to support your cause, I am not inclined just to focus on the terrorist aspects of the discussion, the way I do with the ELF. Here I attack the dogma and shred any implication of credibility that you and the thinkers of your cause might have.

    But the bottom line is terrorism. Always has been and I have made no bones about it. Damned straight I will keep on doing this. Just because you have exposed yourself as insane and irrational, does not mean I am done – not by a long shot.

  243. #243 babble
    October 27, 2009

    …as predicted. The SOLE reason you’re in this is so you can whine about terrorism. Keep at it. I knew what you were about the MINUTE you trolled NIO, and your agenda is blatantly obvious.

    As is mine.

    I just haven’t lied about it. I want you to stop. You won’t, because you are amoral, but I haven’t misled anybody about what I’m doing here.

  244. #244 babble
    October 27, 2009

    That DuWayne is back to his usual whining is no surprise at all. It does rather point out the idiocy of pretending his position is one of “nuance.” You simply enjoy killing animals. You always have, and you always will. Hopefully, you’ll be imprisoned before you graduate to killing humans, but sociopaths rarely get paid attention to *BEFORE* you folks escalate.

  245. #245 Janet D. Stemwedel
    October 27, 2009

    OK, folks, given that things seem to have taken a slide toward name-calling rather than serious attempts at engagement, let’s declare this experiment (or at least, this iteration of the experiment) done.

    I do have a post in the works (probably up tonight or tomorrow) reflecting on what seemed to go right in this attempt at a dialogue and where we ran into trouble. After we think on these “meta” issues together, I’m hopeful that we can give it another try.

  246. #246 Cleveland
    October 27, 2009

    Cleveland: that AR is unpopular is neither here nor there.

    Yes, yes it is. Because ultimately history weighs in on what are correct views, what are harmless fringe eccentricities, what are tolerable theologies and what is harmful wackalunacy that should be ignored or suppressed.

    By way of example, since you seem to fail to grasp the point, NAMBLA advocates fringe theology / politics. The group has a dedicated minority of true believers. History and current vote says they are nucking futz.

    They believe that they are oppressed crusaders for truth and that history will show them to have been martyrs ahead of their time.

    There are many, many, many extreme and nutty philosophical positions that have emerged over time and have been consigned to the dustbins of history.

    There are also, as you mention, fringe philosophies that have become increasingly popular and generally adopted.

    How do you know which one you are?

    I would say a fundamental starting point is to grapple firmly with the notion that you are indeed a fringe wackaloon believer in an unfalsifiable theological cult.

    Or at least to compare the structures of your belief to the structures of other beliefs.

    Let us take the women/AfricanAmerican equality issue so dear to the heart of people in your position.

    The factual assertions were that said persons were *incapable* of accomplishments, both physical and intellectual, of white males. The actual evidence showed that this is bollocks.

    In your case, the notion that nonhuman animals are similar to human animals on traits of consciousness, capacity for “suffering”, etc have all be thoroughly falsified (to date). If you get into a discussion you are gradually backed down into a position of theological belief. A position which says humans and nonhumans are equivalent merely because you say so. In my book, this is no more or less important than the say so of the next person.

    It boils down to pure and simple individual preference since there are no objective things that you can point to that stand up.

    So yeah, votes count.

  247. #247 babble
    October 27, 2009

    In my book, this is no more or less important than the say so of the next person.

    …only because you wish to continue using and killing nonhumans in the ways you find personally useful, pleasurable, etc.

    Yes, history will decide which of us is correct. If I weren’t certain that future humans will look back on our present actions as utterly immoral, I wouldn’t bother doing any of this.

    But if I sit silent and let you dominate ANY possible discussion, the status quo will persist for far longer than it needs to.

    Yes, humans have always resisted expanding the sphere of moral consideration, and animal rights is no different. I do not expect otherwise.

    But that is no reason for us to stop speaking the truth. That you refuse to listen merely means you refuse to listen.

  248. #248 babble
    October 27, 2009

    …and, of course, it’s laughable in the extreme that Cleveland is now claiming nonhumans cannot SUFFER.

  249. #249 Cleveland
    October 27, 2009

    Who said they “cannot” suffer? The question is whether they are similar to humans in their capacity to suffer. That’s what the ARA nuts always bring up. There is little evidence for the similarity between human and nonhuman animals on this level. Humans raise affective behavior to a fine art form, much as they do with their many other behaviors. And just as with those other behaviors (like language, “entertainment”, food preparation, etc, etc) not one single nonhuman species comes anywhere close to “similar” to humans. The most human-like exemplars that you can raise are more similar to all other nonhuman animals than they are to humans. To claim otherwise is to willfully disregard the evidence that is as plain as day. Of course, since your motivation is the advancing of your pre-determined belief system rather than any sort of rational evaluation of evidence we should not be surprised.

    I return to the point you continue to ignore. What about all those examples of wackaloon extreme beliefs that, although honestly held, you probably agree with me were wrong in the perspective of history? How do you *know* you are not one of these? How does your belief system in this area distinguish itself from a theologically-based cult?

  250. #250 DuWayne
    October 27, 2009

    In your case, the notion that nonhuman animals are similar to human animals on traits of consciousness, capacity for “suffering”, etc have all be thoroughly falsified (to date).

    Really? Umm Cleveland, I hate to break it to you, but non-human animals most certainly do have a similar capacity for suffering to that of humans. I am all for debunking the bullshit, but honesty is important and there is no evidence what so ever that animals do not suffer much like humans do.

  251. #251 babble
    October 27, 2009

    Who said they “cannot” suffer?

    You did, by placing the word “suffer” in quotes, much as you’re doing in the above (“cannot.”) Call me insane to your heart’s content. That’s irrelevant. Don’t expect me to pretend you’re claiming animals do not suffer. You are.

  252. #252 babble
    October 27, 2009

    As for the rest of your side commentary, really. Juxtaposing me with NAMBLA? Sure. That’s relevant. You’re just hoping I’ll run away pissed because you implied I’m into sexually abusing children.

    I’m queer. I’ve been told I’m into kids by homophobic twits for years. Try again.

  253. #253 babble
    October 27, 2009

    The fact that Cleveland is using NAMBLA as his preferred bogeyman is no different from DuWayne hysterically invoking terrorism. Not a shred of meaningful “dialog” at all. Predictable, pathetic, but not meaningful in the least.

  254. #254 Cleveland
    October 28, 2009

    Nice ploy to yet again avoid the question babble. Extra points for bringing up being queer (which of course I had no knowledge of) as some sort of victimization bonus. The selection of NAMBLA was so that we could have one agreed-upon exemplar so that you might address the *point* instead of dodging once again. Yet you manage to do so…

    Select any cultish, extremely tiny minority position you like that has been shown by the tide of history to be nuts and address the question. How do you know that you are not one of these instead of on the side of eventual righteousness? How is the grounding, nature and evidence in support of your current position more like the latter than the former?

    DuWayne, show me. Show me the evidence that any research animal raises “capacity to suffer” to the art form humans express. Remember, you need to start from our recognition of pain-and-distress that we prevent and/or alleviate under the AWA, the USDA regulation, the local IACUC protocol and go beyond that. To the types of “suffering” referred to by the ARA position as being that which prohibits use of animals even in the context of alleviation of acute pain and distress that is observable and definable. That is the point at hand, to address the ARA position on this topic.

  255. #255 babble
    October 28, 2009

    Cleveland, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with the question:

    If I’m actually a true-believing member of a fringe cult, is there any possible hope on your part I’d actually agree with you that veganism and/or animal rights are such a thing? Honestly. If you felt Scientology was a dangerous cult, what in the WORLD would be the point of putting that question to a Scientologist?

    No, animal rights is not as you’ve described it. How it will be regarded 50 or 100 years from now is anyone’s guess, but I remain confident that future humans will look back on our present exploitation of animals as something shameful. Repeatedly asking the same questions, over and over and over again, in the hopes that I’ll give you an answer you like is silly.

    I’m not hiding anything. I’ve referred to myself as queer at LEAST a couple points in the thread. I’m not victimized by your comparison. I’m just pointing out your *very obvious* agenda.

  256. #256 babble
    October 28, 2009

    The only POSSIBLE answer for an AR proponent is no, Cleveland. You’re being ridiculous. Someone with no particular AR affinity may think AR is a cult (or not), but…

    – If it IS a cult, I’m not going to agree with you, and I’ll still be an AR advocate.

    – If it’s NOT a cult, I’m still not going to agree with you, and I’ll still be an AR advocate.

    BS distractions remain, as ever, BS distractions.

  257. #257 DuWayne
    October 28, 2009

    That was not, in fact, what you said in the comment I was responding to. In your earlier comment, you implied that non-human animals do not have a similar capacity to humans for suffering. It is always useful to be very precise when you are making claims about most anything, otherwise you leave large openings for people who would like to discredit you to do so.

    As it stands, I am still not sure I agree with you, but I am rather ill and disinclined to push it.

  258. #258 Cleveland
    October 28, 2009

    If I’m actually a true-believing member of a fringe cult, is there any possible hope on your part I’d actually agree with you that veganism and/or animal rights are such a thing? Honestly. If you felt Scientology was a dangerous cult, what in the WORLD would be the point of putting that question to a Scientologist?

    The point of putting the question to someone in a fringe cult is that it is a further diagnostic of the cultishness of the belief versus a more well-considered position.

    People who are honestly open to evidence and rationale and consideration of opposing positions have to, in my view, be capable of exploring the “what if I am wrong” part of the discussion. Animal researchers essentially have to consider this in a formal way each and every time they have to mount a justification for a protocol or a grant proposal (the Vertebrate Animals justification of a NIH grant, for example). Less formally, most researchers of my acquaintance have grappled with these issues at least once and often multiple times in their career. Similarly, many researchers demonstrate day in and day out that there are many animal research uses which they do not personally (or professionally if they review grants or serve on IACUCs) find to be justified. Many researchers have evolved their techniques over time. In short, there is evidence of scientists and the scientific enterprise deciding that they were doingz it rongz, so to speak, and changing.

    Some discussants who lean toward the ARA side are capable of nuance and change in the face of rationale and evidence. Some are not. These latter are motivated by an intransigent theological position..which happens to be a very narrow fringe one.

    I just like to get it absolutely clear which type of person I’m dealing with and I find the response to the question of “what if you are wrong?” to be very helpful.

    Interesting sidebar- if you’ve ever dealt with schizophrenics, the surprising thing is that many of them know perfectly well that they are crazy. Their experiences and thought processes are very *real* to them, they just know that they are not normal. In some ways this makes them considerably saner than many true believers in cultish theologies.

  259. #259 babble
    October 28, 2009

    This is, as ever, just an irrelevant distraction.

  260. #260 Cleveland
    October 29, 2009

    It is always useful to be very precise when you are making claims about most anything, otherwise you leave large openings for people who would like to discredit you to do so.

    Sure. But since nobody ever expresses themselves perfectly for every possible audience, this is why we have question-clarification. In the decent person’s world anyway. In asshat land we cling desperately to the text we feel most allows us to miss the persons point and thereafter proceed on to idiotic excess.

    I’m glad you didn’t venture into asshat land.

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