Category Archives: Animals and ethics

The ethics of human interaction with animals

The End of Captivity? (review)

The End of Captivity?The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.

The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading

Whole Foods to stop selling rabbit meat

Nutmeg Sprinkles IMGP0537 rabbitsThe Rabbit Advocacy Network, the House Rabbit Society, and SaveABunny, released a statement on Tuesday (September 15) saying that they were “thrilled to announce the end of rabbit meat sales at Whole Foods Market.” A House Rabbit Society member, who was also a long-time Whole Foods shareholder, traveled 800 miles to attend the annual Whole Foods Market Shareholders Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made a plea to the Whole Foods leadership team on behalf of the rabbits. Continue reading

The Modern Savage — review

The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, by James McWilliams. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.

Industrialized animal agriculture is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Society is slowly but increasingly becoming aware of the cruel, unnatural, and environmentally harmful aspects of factory farms. But what is going to replace it?

Well-known food intellectuals such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Joel Salatin, and Jonathan Safran Foer have advocated returning to localized, more traditional ways of raising animals. Encouraged by some environmentalists and even some animal welfare supporters, nonindustrial animal agriculture has grown tremendously in the past decade. Continue reading

“Animals in Earliest Christianity”

I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.

The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.

The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?

Norm Phelps (1939–2014)

Norm Phelps died on December 31, 2014. An activist in the promotion of vegetarianism, veganism, and compassion for animals in spiritual traditions, he authored numerous books and articles.

He followed both the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the Unitarian Universalist tradition — neither of which, he noted, is exclusive. But he was raised as a Baptist and a Methodist and wrote about Christianity and animals as well. Continue reading

Whole Foods Escalates Attacks on Rabbit Advocates

lauren Ornelas with Nicholas at Animal Place (the lower-case “l” in lauren’s first name is the way she spells her name)

Well-known vegan and social justice activist lauren Ornelas was arrested for leafleting during a peaceful protest against the sale of rabbit meat on Sunday, November 16, in Sebastopol, California. Then, a week later (i. e. yesterday), there was another protest, with three protesters briefly entering Whole Foods, but this time no arrests were made.

That’s right: Ornelas was arrested for leafleting. Continue reading


What does "respect" mean?

The recently-concluded Denver event “Hoofin It” (August 17-20th) featured a different hoofed animal each day at different restaurants for customers to eat. The meat is from “responsibly raised hoofed animals,” and it was a benefit for the Colorado Food Guild, and tickets were not cheap: $60 for dinner for one person. The theme of the event was “respect your dinner.”

Had this been just another event of the “happy meat” people, vegans would have greeted this news with yawns and the ritualistic rolling of the eyes. But this event had an unexpected feature; the key sponsor was The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Continue reading

“Day of Action” for Rabbits

The “Day of Action” on August 17 to protest Whole Foods’ decision to sell rabbit meat is quickly gathering force. VegNews Daily has an article, “Campaign Targeting Whole Foods: Stop Selling Rabbit Meat”; and Animals 24-7 asks, “Are skinned and dismembered rabbits ‘Whole Foods’?” We’ll be at Whole Foods in Boulder, 2905 S. Pearl St. from 12:30 pm – 2 pm, with the Denver Vegans (among numerous other local groups).  If you want to make your own sign, there are instructions and signs to download here. Come on down! Or, if you can’t make it, sign the online petition here.

UPDATE August 28: PETA has now joined the protest against the sale of rabbit meat by Whole Foods. Continue reading

Whole Foods Selling Rabbit Meat

UPDATE August 15: A “Day of Action” is planned for August 17, see this link for more details.

Whole Foods is now selling rabbit meat in some of their northern California stores.  The House Rabbit Society has issued an outraged response and called for a boycott of Whole Foods, together with a sample letter.

Whole Foods countered by saying that “Americans have a long history of enjoying rabbit,” citing a Los Angeles Times article.  Whole Foods continues by assuring everyone that the rabbits which are eaten have been treated in accordance with their “high animal welfare standards.” Evidently treating them well and killing them are compatible in Whole Foods’ ideology. Continue reading

The Global Guide To Animal Protection

The Global Guide To Animal Protection. Edited by Andrew Linzey.  University of Illinois Press, 2013.

Andrew Linzey, tireless campaigner for animals, advocate of Christian vegetarianism, and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, has edited a marvelous book about animals worldwide. The Global Guide to Animal Protection is an encyclopedia of animal issues that is truly global — and we’re not just talking about on land, but in the sea as well. If you live with a dog, or have been to a PETA demonstration, or try your hand at preparing vegan meals, or have written letters opposing “Sea World,” or have joined a vegetarian group, then this book will likely tell you quite a bit in connection with any or all of the areas of concern to which you have just barely been exposed. Continue reading

Carl Anders Skriver

By Michael Skriver

Carl Anders Skriver (1903 - 1983)

Dr. Carl Anders Skriver has been a leading figure in the vegetarian movement during the last 60 plus years. Born on December 8, 1903 – 110 years ago – his view of the world changed forever at the age of 17 after reading texts on the teachings of Gautama Buddha. As a consequence he was no longer able to contemplate the killing and eating of animals. He studied classical Indology for his doctorate in philosophy (The Idea of Creation in Vedic Literature).

On encouragement of his Buddhist friend Hans Much, Professor of Medicine, he then studied theology.  Another challenge was posed by the question: Was the love of Buddha greater, and much more inclusive, than the compassion of Jesus? Continue reading

This Just In: Ancient Temple was a Slaughterhouse!

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Well, surprise, surprise! According to a recent archeological report, the ancient temple in Jerusalem was a slaughterhouse that powered the local economy. The animals sacrificed came from both near and far away, which “confirms visions of the temple depicted in historical Jewish texts and suggests the economic heart of the city was its slaughtering operation.”

The Journal of Archeological Science, in the December 2013 issue has an article on “The pilgrimage economy of Early Roman Jerusalem,” by Gideon Hartman, et. al., which (despite the date) is evidently already available. You can find the abstract online (scroll down to see abstract). What is new in this report is not the ancient testimonies pro or con on animal sacrifice, but that modern evidence supports the idea that animal sacrifice was a key part of the first century Jewish economy. Continue reading

Is Violence Declining?

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin Books, 2011), argues that human violence has declined. Violence was much more widespread in primitive societies than in historical times, and more widespread in the Middle Ages than in the twentieth century — yes, even worse than the First and Second World Wars. After reading his lengthy but quite readable book, I am convinced — violence between humans has indeed declined. It’s an engrossing and ground-breaking book, by the way; everyone from Peter Singer to the Wall Street Journal has praised it.

However, there are a few small points I want to raise concerning the book. Specifically, violence towards animals has increased; and the peace between humans is largely dependent on our relative affluence, which in turn depends on our exploitation of natural resources, which are now seriously depleted. Continue reading

The basic argument against backyard chicken ordinances

NOTE: this is the basic argument against city ordinances allowing backyard chickens, though obviously you could apply the same arguments to one’s personal decision to keep chickens.

The basic argument against backyard chickens is that allowing this practice creates an entirely new category of urban animal: an animal which may be routinely mistreated in a domestic urban environment.

This is not to say that most people who keep backyard chickens mistreat them. In fact, many consider their hens to be “pets” and will keep them even after they cease being “useful.” But this is not what the promoters of backyard livestock agriculture have in mind. They are promoting backyard livestock as a practical way to obtain food, namely, eggs and meat. Continue reading

More Problems With Abandoned Backyard Chickens

When I protested against the proposal to encourage backyard chickens in Denver two years ago, one of the questions I asked was “What do you think is going to happen when owners get roosters from hatcheries? Chicks are hard to sex, and ‘mistakes’ may not be evident until the chickens are six months old.” Most cities which allow backyard chickens (including Denver) allow hens but prohibit roosters.

Well, guess what! We now know the answer to this question, at least for Denver. They will be dumped at animal sanctuaries or at local animal shelters. Continue reading