Friday, July 31, 2009

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights and Vegetarianism at The Corner

I participated in a conversation on animal rights over at The Corner about vegetarianism. Here was my point.

Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights [Wesley J. Smith]

Eating meat is a natural human activity — that is, we are biologically omnivorous. In my view, this makes it entirely moral for human beings to eat meat. How that meat is obtained is important. Human exceptionalism — a concept denied in animal-rights ideology — holds that we have a duty to treat animals humanely. Arguments can certainly be made that factory farms are not humane, although they do provide important human benefits of inexpensive and nutritious food. Many opponents of factory farms don’t have to worry about food prices when feeding their families. Still, there is “humane meat,” advocated by Matthew Scully in Dominion, which is more expensive but is raised on Old McDonald–type farms with humane methods of slaughter.

I consider vegetarianism for moral reasons akin to a vow of chastity by monastics: It eschews a normal human activity for higher moral purposes. That is to be admired. But no monastic would or should say that his vow of chastity makes him morally superior to married married people who have sex. Similarly, vegetarians’ decision to refrain from eating meat does not make them morally superior to people who do eat meat.

In Dominion, Scully does indeed come at his advocacy from an animal-welfare (as opposed to an animal-rights) perspective. But he is barely on the right side of the line because he is indifferent to the human good derived from animal industries and animal use.

He also claims that the ideology doesn’t matter in this debate. That is absolutely wrong. Animal-welfare philosophy supports human exceptionalism; animal-rights philosophy disdains that approach and rejects human exceptionalism as “speciesist.” There is a huge difference between the two. Whether we believe human beings have a unique moral status in the world has tremendous implications for human rights and human flourishing. Indeed, it could be the most important ethical and moral issue of the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Draft Book Cover

A book is put together like a puzzle. The first piece is the proposal that gets you the gig. Then the research. Writing 80.000 words comes next. Then editing. My upcoming book has passed these hurdles.

We now have a rough of the book cover, reproduced on your left. This is not necessarily the final look, but I think it fairly represents where we will be taking it.

Pub date: January 19, 2010. Or, you can pre order at Amazon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Animal Research Update: Malaria Vaccine 100% Effective in Mice

A vaccine has been found that is 100 percent effective in preventing malaria in mice. From the story:
A new malaria vaccine has been shown to provide 100% protection in mice. If it can approach that level in people, it could slash the toll from one of the world's worst scourges, according to Stefan Kappe of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI). "We're shooting for 90%-plus protection," said Kappe, who is the leader of the international collaboration behind the vaccine. "I am extremely optimistic this will work. The initial trials on Kappe's vaccine are tentatively scheduled to start in January at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is required.

Many experimental drugs falter in the leap from mouse to human. And even if all goes well, it will be nearly 10 years before the new vaccine would be ready to roll out, Kappe estimated. The $17-million project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $1 billion into the fight against malaria in the developing world.

If potentially saving millions of children's lives isn't worth the sacrifice of these mice, than the sun doesn't rise in the East. We have duties to treat animal humanely. And they are important. But sometimes our duties to suffering humanity must come first. This is one of those times.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Still Need Chimps in Medical Research

A bill in Congress would outlaw invasive medical research on chimpanzees. This is folly. Chimps are highly intelligent and social creatures, and we should not use them in research blithely. But chimps are the closest genetically to humans in the natural world, meaning that in limited circumstances where the potential human benefit is most pronounced, we still need to be able to use them in research.

A story today illustrates the point. It turns out that, contrary to what was previously thought, chimps do die from HIV infections. From the story:

A team of scientists, including two from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, have discovered chimpanzees in Tanzania falling ill and dying from an AIDS-like disease, a surprising finding that researchers hope could lead to new insights into the disease process and ultimately to a vaccine. The team's study, to be published in Thursday's edition of the British research journal Nature, showed that chimps infected by certain strains of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, a precursor to HIV, died 10 to 16 times more frequently than uninfected chimps during a 9-year study.

Could there be a more urgent cause in reducing human suffering and death than finding a vaccine or cure for AIDS?

PETA's alpha wolf Ingrid Newkirk once said that she would rather see AIDS remain uncured than see animals used in research. Ponder that when you think you might support animal rights because those really are the stakes in the research debate. And it turns out, we still need to use chimps in the most urgent areas of medical research. Unless, we prefer to permit millions suffer and die from AIDS rather than use chimps in medical research.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Animal Research News

Boy, let us hope this works out! Scientists have discovered that adult stem cells may be able to help restore memory lost to Alzheimer's dementia. From the story:
Researchers have shown for the first time that neural stem cells can rescue memory destroyed by advanced Alzheimer's disease, leading to hopes for a treatment for the condition.
American scientists at the University of California have shown for the first time that stem cells injected into the brain can rescue memory in mice, rebuilding neurons and memory. "Essentially, the cells were producing fertiliser for the brain," said Professor Frank LaFerla, director of the university's Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders. They examined the mouse brains after the injection and found six per cent of the stem cells had turned into neurons with the majority becoming other types of brain cells which aided growth. The stem cells were found to have secreted a protein called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF which caused existing tissue to sprout new neuritis – the connections between neurons.
More proof of the utter need for animals in medical research.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Good Example of the Need for Animal Research

Most animal rights activists insist that humans receive no benefit from animal research. I make a big point of rebutting this in my upcoming book, which I think convincingly demonstrates that biological science would be materially impeded if animals could no longer be used. One such area is basic research in which scientists learn about biological processes or are able to test hypotheses regarding potential areas of future research. Sometimes, this work can be done with computer models, cell lines, or other non animal studies. But sometimes you need an intact, operating biological organism, which either means animals or humans.

Here's a good example: Scientists have learned a way to interfere with the workings of the gene that causes muscular dystrophy in mouse studies. From the story:
U.S. researchers have found a way to block the genetic flaw that causes a common form of muscular dystrophy, the team reported on Thursday. Mice injected with a compound that neutralizes faulty gene activity regained the use of muscles frozen by myotonic dystrophy, the researchers said. "We haven't corrected the underlying gene abnormality," said Dr. Charles Thornton of the University of Rochester in New York, whose study appears in the journal Science. "What we've done is made it behave in a more mannerly fashion," Thornton said in a telephone interview.
Will this turn into a treatment for the human disease? There is no way to tell at this point. But the success of these experiments--which involved the taking of the lives of many mice--pointed scientists into a potentially fecund area of research into this and other genetic-caused diseases.

It is too bad that a defense of animal research needs to be mounted--but it does. This is how science moves forward. Animal rights activists would stifle such activities and choke off many efficacious approaches to alleviating human suffering.

PETA Will Save Beach if Named "Sea Kitten State Park"

PETA is a publicity junky. Whether negative, positive, or just plain loopy, if it will get them in the news, PETA is there.

Latest example, PETA seeks to take advantage of California's financial implosion, in which our state parks might have to close for lack of maintenance funds. From the story:

PETA sent a letter to California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman on Wednesday offering to pay to keep Pescadero State Beach open, but only if it is renamed Sea Kitten State Beach. Pescadero State Beach is among the 219 state parks slated for closure under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to close a $26.3 billion deficit.

The term "sea kitten" is an effort to evoke the same sympathy for fish that people feel for cats and dogs, according to PETA Manager of Campaigns Lindsay Rajt. "Pescadero means 'the place to fish,' so we thought by renaming it 'Sea Kitten State Beach' we could make it the place for fish instead of fishing," she said.
PETA clearly doesn't care about keeping the open space available for the people of California. It is just using our misery to get itself in the news. How compassionate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Smith on Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna is one of my favorite radio hosts. A political conservative, she plies her trade over the airwaves of Madison and Milwuakee. Vicki has energy, vivaciousness, a great radio voice--and she likes me! I was on her show "Upfront With Vicki McKenna" yesterday on WIBA Newstalk 1310 about Cass Sunstein wanting animals to have the right to sue their owners. I think you will enjoy the show. We also get into GE partnering with Geron to create embryonic stem cell lines to avoid using animals in research and the Great Ape Project. Here's the link.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whales Are Not Trying to "Tell" Us Anything

This isn't explicitly an animal rights post, but it is closely related.

Popular science writers have fallen in love with their subjects, leading to blatant anthropomorphizing of animals--to the detriment of their work and credibility. Barely a week goes by these days without some writer pushing the meme that animals are really people too.

Latest example, "Watching Whales Watching Us," by Charles Siebert in the New York Times Magazine. From the article:
Somehow the more we learn about whales, the more we're coming to appreciate the sublimely discomfiting reality that a kind of parallel "us" has long been out there roaming the oceans' depths, succumbing to our assaults. Indeed, when that baby gray calf bobbed up out of the sea and held there that first morning, staring at me with his huge, slow-blinking eye, it felt to me as if he were taking one impossibly long and quizzical look in the mirror.
Oh, please: When a writer rockets that far over the top, I lose trust in the entire article. Siebert is clearly smitten. It's a romance. And when one is emotionally involved with the subject, yearning for something to be true, one will tend to interpret events to make them appear to be for which one hopes. (Just ask any man who has fallen in love with the wrong woman.)

And I hate to tell Siebert, but that whale who gave him the eye was unquestionably a magnificent animal who may have been curious. But the writer's deeply romantic yearning to transform whales into huge versions of us notwithstanding, was quite indifferent to his existence.

What are whales trying to tell us? Not a blessed thing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why "The Lawyers" Support Animals Being Allowed to Sue

You just knew "the lawyers" would jump right on the animals-being-allowed-to-sue bandwagon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When Animals Sue

As promised last week, my extended piece on Cass Sunstein supporting granting animals "standing" to sue in their own names, is now out in the Weekly Standard. From the column:
Imagine you are a cattle rancher looking for liability insurance. You meet with your broker, who, as expected, asks a series of questions to gauge your suitability for coverage:
Have you ever been sued by your cattle?

If the answer is yes, what was the outcome of that suit?

Have you received any correspondence or other communication from your herd's legal representatives threatening suit or seeking to redress any legal grievance?

If you think that's a ridiculous scenario, that animals suing their owners could never happen, think again. For years, the animal rights movement has quietly agitated to enact laws, convince the government to promulgate regulations, or obtain a court ruling granting animals the "legal standing" to drag their owners (and others) into court.
Animals suing is often laughed at as one of those things that "can't happen here." (Anyone who says that line just hasn't been paying attention for the last 20 years.)

Of course, the real litigants would be animal rights ideologues who would use the courtroom to destroy animal industries:
Animals are not (yet) legal persons or rights-bearing beings, hence, they lack standing to go to court to seek legal redress. That procedural impediment prevents animal rights activists from attacking animal industries "from within," as, for example, by representing lab rats in class action lawsuits against research labs. This lack of legal standing forces attorneys in the burgeoning field of animal law--who are dedicated to impeding, and eventually destroying, all animal industries--to find other legal pretexts by which to bring their targets directly into court.
With Cass Sunstein--a high Friend of Obama and on board for "animal standing," and others of that visibility and prestige backing the project, this issue is could unquestionably be implemented:
In a 2004 book which he edited, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Sunstein wrote:
It seems possible .  .  . that before long, Congress will grant standing to animals to protect their own rights and interests. .  .  . Congress might grant standing to animals in their own right, partly to increase the number of private monitors of illegality, and partly to bypass complex inquiries into whether prospective human plaintiffs have injuries in fact [required to attain standing]. Indeed, I believe that in some circumstances, Congress should do exactly that, to provide a supplement to limited public enforcement efforts.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe has also supported the concept--and I provide the quote.

Senator Saxby Chambliss( R-GA) has put a hold on Sunstein's nomination over the issue because of harm it would do to family farms and ranches. (No kidding!) But that isn't all: Animal standing would be profoundly subversive to human exceptionalism:
But animal standing would do more than just plunge the entire animal industry sector into chaos. In one fell swoop, it would both undermine the status of animals as property and elevate them with the force of law toward legal personhood. On an existential level, the perceived exceptional importance of human life would suffer a staggering body blow by erasing one of the clear legal boundaries that distinguishes people from animals. This is precisely the future for which animal rights/liberationists devoutly yearn.
This stuff could not be more seroius. I even quote a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision stating that animal standing would be constitutional.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Explicit Illustration of the Anti-Humanism of "Animal RIghts"

Animal rights is both explicitly and implicitly anti human. The movement often tries to obfuscate this view, but occasionally, a liberationist makes the agenda explicit. Such is the case of a screed by an associate of the the violence promoting Jerry Vlasak named Jason Miller. From his column:

Despite the nearly unanimous anthropocentric belief that we human animals are superior to nonhuman animals, we are equal-AT BEST. In fact, our collective malevolence, greed, apathy, belligerence, arrogance, selfishness and tendency to dominate, exploit, and mutilate the Earth and its other inhabitants, have me convinced that we are inferior to other animals, both morally and, in a perverse way, intellectually...

Nonhuman animals are sentient, and an increasingly impressive body of peer-reviewed research scientifically legitimizes the empirical, common sense observations that many other animals are also 'subjects of a life' in that they lead relatively rich and complex intellectual, emotional, and social lives. Intentionally killing them is as much murder as it is to kill a human being.

No it's not, and anyone who thinks it is has no business preaching morality to anyone. But it gets worse:
[I]f our cravings for flesh consumption, our desires to wear the skin of another, our cowardly compulsions to stalk defenseless creatures and riddle them with bullets or pierce them with arrows, or our perceived need to subject other animals to heinous torture to "advance our science and medicine" are too strong to overcome, we need to put human flesh on the menu, stock the store shelves with shoes and coats fashioned of human skin, turn our hunting rifles on human targets, and fill our research laboratories with human subjects. After all, if we're going to use, abuse, and slaughter sentient beings to please our palates, enhance our lives, and vivisect, in order to restore justice and to put an end to abject hypocrisy, we need to include our own species in these activities.
And then comes the thinly veiled threat of murder:

If the corporatists and their faithful flock can shoot, trap, slash, cage, enslave, cut, gut, slit, slaughter, butcher, burn, shock, inject, beat, stomp, rape, wear, eat, and brutally murder voiceless sentient beings, how can we anti-speciesists, in good conscience, allow them to operate unchallenged and with impunity?...We needn't worry about maintaining the moral high ground. Dante wrote an unpublished addendum to the Inferno that includes a Tenth Circle–just for our opposition.

In the corporatist state's legal system, which principally serves to protect profit and property, an activist who killed a factory "farmer," a vivisector or a hunter would be punished as a murderer. Yet in the court of nature's higher laws, those who didn't engage in some form of activism (be it direct or indirect, violent or non-violent) to defend nonhuman animals would be tried as accomplices to murder. Apathy is complicity. With whom do you want to ally? Thanatos or Gaia?
Understand this: These people mean what they say. They are anti human and appear to be coming closer to lethally lashing out. The only people who can stop the pot from boiling over are other animal rights believers. But they are quite as church mice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ingrid Newkirk Lies to Laura Ingraham

I am listening to the Laura Ingraham radio show and PETA alpha wolf Ingrid Newkirk is the guest. Ingraham asked her if having a leather belt or leather shoes meant that one was engaging in cruelty. Newkirk said, and this is close to a quote, “No! That is not what we claim.” Like heck it isn’t!

Recall the “Holocaust on Your Plate Campaign?” that PETA ran for about two years all over the world. Here’s a quote:

Like the Jews murdered in concentration camps, animals are terrorized when they are housed in huge filthy warehouses and rounded up for shipment to slaughter. The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps

If a couch is akin to the Holocaust, so too are leather belts and shoes.

Newkirk later apologized for a “insensitive” comparison, a classic non apology, apology, as I reported here.

Newkirk and PETA’s ability to obfuscate and game play is extraordinary. They are master propagandists, perhaps the best around. The one thing we do know is that Newkirk is not a candid truth teller.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Obama Appointee Wants Animals to Be Able To Sue Owners in Court

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R=GA) has put a "hold" on the nomination of Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein to be what is sometimes called the "regulations czar." And for a very good reason: Sunstein wants animals to have the right to sue their owners in court. From the story:
Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) has blocked President Obama’s candidate for regulation czar, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, because Sunstein has argued that animals should have the right to sue humans in court. Obama has picked Sunstein, his adviser and longtime friend, to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office that has power to review and assess all draft regulations proposed within the administration.

But Chambliss worries that Sunstein's innovative legal views may someday lead to a farmer having to defend himself in court against a lawsuit filed on behalf of his chickens or pigs. Chambliss told The Hill that he has blocked Sunstein’s nomination because the law professor "has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks." Indeed, in his 2004 book, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Sunstein wrote: "I will suggest that animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law." More specifically, he wrote: "Laws designed to protect animals against cruelty and abuse should be amended or interpreted to give a private cause of action against those who violate them, so as to allow private people to supplement the efforts of public prosecutors."
As I explain in my forthcoming book, this issue is known as "animal standing," and it could not be more important--or more alarming that a high Obama appointee believes in it--because if it were ever to be implemented, it could destroy animal industries. That, of course, is the point

The animal standing controversy is rarely discussed outside of animal rights and animal law literature. We'll soon change that. I will have a more extensive exposition about this most important matter soon.