Thursday, August 1, 2013

From The New York Times (Nicholas Kristof)

Treating Farm Animals With Respect

My Sunday column is a side trip from the issues I mostly write about, and has nothing to do with international relations or politics. Rather, it’s about our ethical obligations to animals.

I grew up on a family farm in Oregon, raising sheep, cattle, pigs and geese, and so I’ve had a special interest in animal husbandry. In the agriculture world I grew up in, farmers often (granted, not always) had lots of empathy for their animals, but today we have a model of corporate agriculture in which animals have been reduced to widgets. But outside of factory farms, there is progress, for all the reasons I outline in the column.

Granted, since I’m not a vegetarian, some of you will find this hypocritical and inconsistent. You’ll point out that I’m arguing for treating a cow with respect, until we kill it and eat it. I acknowledge the point, but in all areas we start by banning extremes. And in this case, that means not torturing or abusing animals unnecessarily, even if we eventually dine on them. So read the column, and let me know if I’m just a soggy sentimentalist, or a silly hypocrite, or whether humanity for non-humans is the wave of the future. I’d also welcome your thoughts on where to take this line of reporting. I’ll be spending some time on the family farm this summer and might come back to this broad issue.

 My response to Kristof's Editorial:

I know I am a moral creature. I know that it is morally wrong to allow my wanton desires to interfere with the basic needs and interests of other sentient beings.

I know the physical and psychological abuse – confinement, social deprivation, mutilation, genetic and reproductive manipulation, and profit exploitation – imposed by us on other animals is morally wrong. Our exploitation of other sentient beings cannot be achieved without cruelty, violence, or injustice.

When Gandhi said, “live simply so other may simply live,” he recognized that in order for life to survive on this planet all reasoning beings must adhere to this principle.

Long before we are capable of truly understanding, of making an informed and conscious decision on our own, our identities are formed by others for us.

As each year passes it becomes increasingly difficult for us to question and challenge what we have become, until, at last, in order to maintain our self-worth, our psyche's ramparts become nearly impenetrable.

Ignorance becomes our first line of defense. “Don’t tell me! You’ll spoil my dinner.”

For some reason I was never able to justify the “malice of no thought,” the hypocrisy of espousing a moral standard (the Golden Rule) without actually observing it.

Morality cannot be arbitrary.

That is why I have been an ethical vegetarian (vegan) for over forty years.

If we are to survive an increasing number of us must become aware of the the truth and consequences of our actions.

No comments: