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

Ingrid Newkirk in Denver

It has been literally decades since I last heard Ingrid Newkirk (of PETA fame) speak.  She is coming to Denver and in fact, by a quirk of fate, speaking at Denver University on Thursday, August 22, just a few blocks from where I live.  She’ll be at the Ritchie Center, fourth floor, Gottesfeld Room, at 7:30 p. m. Ingrid’s talks are always controversial and inspiring; they also frequently sell out, so if you are interesting in hearing her, you should buy your tickets soon. You can do that by going to this PETA website.

For several years, the animal rights movement in the Denver area has perhaps not been as effective as it could be, and I am hopeful that this event will generate some new energy that will go in a positive direction to help animals everywhere.

The Normalization of Cruelty (continued)

Michael Pollan, while celebrating the virtues of keeping backyard chickens, recently made a comment that chickens are “nasty and stupid” — and therefore, it sounds like, more deserving of being killed.  Karen Davis, founder of United Poultry Concerns, incisively responded, “Even if chickens manipulated for meat production were stupid, blaming them for their defenseless predicament is cruel.”

There is another important point to be made, though, and that is the effect of killing chickens on Michael Pollan himself. Continue reading

Dear Professor Fesmire

Steven Fesmire, a professor at Green Mountain College, has posted a thoughtful response on the controversy over killing Bill and Lou.  For those of you hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, Bill and Lou are two working oxen slated to be killed at the end of the month, even though a place for them has been guaranteed by Vine Sanctuary.

Fesmire, although a “default” vegetarian himself, defends the decision of the community and is dismayed by the vitriolic attacks on Green Mountain College (GMC). Continue reading

They’re Not Your Animals

Green Mountain College in Vermont has, in the name of “sustainable agriculture,” chosen to kill its two working oxen — Bill and Lou — rather than allow them to retire in peace at Vine Sanctuary.

The attempt to defend the pro-execution point of view has now spread to the Post-Carbon Institute, which has posted an article by Philip Ackerman-Leist, “Bill and Lou: A parable for saving our broken food system.” The basic thesis of this article is a long-winded way of saying, “if we own it, we can kill it,” though he puts it a bit more elegantly:

Given the pressures exerted from outside interest groups that know neither the facts nor the animals nearly as well as our students do, it is beginning to feel more like an issue of food sovereignty. Continue reading

Slaughter as Art — update

UPDATE Feb. 29: the “slaughter for art” project has been cancelled. Local activist Judy Carman met with Amber Hansen (the artist), her partner Nicholas, and KU professor Elizabeth Schultz on Monday. Amber will still display the empty coop and there will be a public dialogue at the end of the project.

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There have been some new developments in the Spencer Museum’s proposal to slaughter five chickens as part of an art project in Lawrence, Kansas. Continue reading

Slaughter as Art

A beautiful creature

“The Story of Chickens — a Revolution” is an art project sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas.  The stated purpose of the project is “to transform the contemporary view of chickens as merely ‘livestock’ to the beautiful and unique creatures they are, while promoting alternative and healthy processes of caring for them.”  So far, so good!  This is something I might actually be able to get behind.

The kicker, though, comes at the end: the chickens will be publicly slaughtered, and then fed to participants at a potluck. 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


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