Category Archives: Animals and ethics

The ethics of human interaction with animals

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

The Fish Stories in the New Testament

One of the big problems that people have with the idea that Jesus was a vegetarian is the “fish stories” in the New Testament — stories in which Jesus distributes fish as food to people, or in one case actually eats fish.  If Jesus was a vegetarian, then what are these stories doing in the New Testament?

We can get an important clue as to what they are doing in the New Testament if we take a quick look at what their effect is and has been.  From the point of view of a meat-eater, these fish stories are very convenient.  Jesus ate fish, therefore eating meat must be all right.  Continue reading

The Abolition of Slavery and Veganism

The Battle of Gettysburg (Currier and Ives)

The Battle of Gettysburg (Currier and Ives)

Can we compare the abolitionists in the animal rights movement, who will settle for nothing less than the abolition of all animal exploitation, with the abolitionists in the anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th centuries?  Absolutely!  But I would draw a very different set of lessons from history than most other vegans of either the “abolitionist” or any other type. Continue reading

On Raising Rabbits (review)

Comments by Nancy LaRoche on Chapter 13 “Raising Rabbits”
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading
By Sundari Elizabeth Kraft

Nancy LaRoche is the co-Manager of the Colorado House Rabbit Society

First I must state that I adore rabbits for their personalities, intelligence, compassion for other rabbits and smaller creatures, their affection for those to whom they bond, and the pleasure they have given me over the years, living in my home as house-rabbits.  Obviously, then, I cannot condone exploiting them by taking their lives to provide a meal of flesh.  But both they and we benefit when we use their wonderful fertilizer or their wool. Continue reading

Rules and Regulations Governing Food Producing Animals

Hens

The ordinance on “food producing animals” (chickens, ducks, and goats) in Denver was passed last June.  What follows below is the statement I submitted to the Board of Environmental Health on the proposed rules and regulations.  You can read the proposed rules here (PDF). Continue reading

The Ethics of a Natural Foods Diet

What revisions would I make to section III of A Vegetarian Sourcebook (AVS) on “Vegetarian Ethics,” if I were to rewrite it today?  In this section, I took a historical approach to the “timeless issues” of a more philosophical nature. How have vegetarians dealt with ethics throughout human history? For the most part, this is the history of vegetarianism in philosophy and religion, with section III giving a quick overview of the major philosophical and religious systems and their attitudes towards animals.

How much have ethical issues changed in the last 30 years? Well, if you’re surveying the past 3000 years of human history, not that much. If I were doing a minimalist revision, I could probably get away with a couple of sentences. Since this is going to be a pretty boring blog if all I say is “not much would change in section III,” I’m going to go into two details which have changed: (1) rights versus utilitarianism, (2) vegan versus vegetarian. Continue reading

HSUS Letter to Denver City Council on the FPA Ordinance

Hens

I have just received a PDF copy of a letter the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sent to Denver City Council concerning the proposed Food Producing Animals ordinance.  Read the whole thing (PDF document) here.

The letter raises a number of interesting points, some of which have not been publicly expressed so far in the discussion.  Continue reading

Next Door to Livestock — Another Neighbor’s Reaction

Hens

Hens

Sundari Kraft is the most visible proponent of the proposed “Food Producing Animals” ordinance which would drastically reduce the limitations on backyard chickens, ducks, and goats.  Earlier I reported that one of her neighbors, Roseanne Jelacic, has written to City Council objecting to the ordinance based on her own experience with Sundari as a neighbor.  Now, it turns out, another of Sundari’s neighbors, Lynn Herwick, has done the same thing some days ago.  Continue reading

Casualties of Backyard Livestock Agriculture

Hens

Figuring out how to live with a pet can be a challenging experience, just because animals are different from humans. Even in the case of dogs and cats, which are common enough in our society so that knowledge of their care is very widespread, figuring out their proper care is not trivial. But dealing with a new kind of animal, like chickens and goats, can be a major challenge. If you try to spread the acceptance and adoption of this kind of animal, a lot of people are going to get it wrong. Continue reading

Seattle’s Experience with Backyard Chickens

Hens

Backyard livestock supporters often tout the success of other cities who have allowed backyard chickens or goats. Seattle is often held up as just such a success. But is it?

If you just talked to city officials, that might be the impression you get. So I talked to Tiffany Young, a member of the Duck Rescue Network and backyard fowl rescuer. Continue reading