Category Archives: Animals and ethics

The ethics of human interaction with animals

Keep calm: plants have protein

I’m ready for this campaign.

The pandemic is scary, but its scariest aspect is something we still don’t know: what will be our society’s ultimate reaction to it? Our treatment of animals was key to the origins of the pandemic, but it is also part of resolving the pandemic.

President Trump is struggling to keep slaughterhouses going and recently declared them to be “essential.” His views are now being backed up by armed right wing protesters demonstrating to reopen the economy. Slaughterhouses are trying to return to their bloody normal, with some sort of minimal protections for slaughterhouse workers; but protections for workers from the virus are still not mandated by the CDC. Some think that slaughterhouses will just continue to produce meat even if it means increased risks to workers.

Vegans can become the voice of calm in this crisis by stating the obvious: plants have protein. Continue reading

Shut down the slaughterhouses

On Tuesday, the Denver Post reported  that “5th Greeley JBS worker dies.” JBS is a Colorado slaughterhouse employing 6000 workers. Over 100 employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and five have died: four workers and one person who worked at the corporate office. (Let’s see, that works out to about a 5% mortality rate.) Despite this, JBS is re-opening! And the company is going to court to stop the union from raising safety concerns in public! Continue reading

This pandemic is about animals

“Pandemic” is a popular board game. If our current situation were replicated in game terms, we would have lost already, because more than seven outbreaks have occurred. Source: author’s photo.

This pandemic is a pivotal event, not just for vegans, but for almost everyone on the planet. There’s a lot that we still don’t know. But there can be no doubt that this pandemic is a consequence of our treatment of animals. Continue reading

Destroying the planet to save it

Ecotourism in Zimbabwe. Source: JackyR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mudbath5.jpg)

Flying harms the climate. Air travel is growing rapidly. Its net impact is nearly twice as great as the impact of the CO2 emissions alone, much greater than that from cars. Air travel creates nitrous oxides, water vapor, sulfate aerosols, soot aerosols, and contrails. Noted climate activist Greta Thunberg famously went out of her way to avoid flying to a climate conference on the other side of the Atlantic.

So should we all stop flying, or at least avoid flying as much as possible? In a recent New York Times opinion article, Costas Christ (of Beyond Green Travel) argued that flying as part of wildlife tourism may actually be climate-friendly. Continue reading

Why geese in Denver is an important issue

After the roundup and slaughter of geese in Washington Park, an article by Michael Roberts appeared in Westword, “Things Denver Should Care About More Than F*cking Geese.” Flynn’s argument was, in effect, “what about crime, what about homelessness, and what about affordable housing?”

My response is—”what about water? What about living space? Where, exactly, do you think you’re living?” There’s already insufficient water and land for everything that people want to do in Colorado. The “goose problem,” at its heart, is about living space. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Geese

Some of the survivors on July 4 in Washington Park

Some Denver residents are still unaware of the roundup and mass killing of over a thousand Canada geese in Washington Park and other Denver city parks, which took place toward the end of June. The city claimed that the geese were a health problem; and the goose meat is going to the homeless.

Before getting to the rationale for the mass killing of innocent creatures in our parks, it’s worth reflecting on the irony of giving their meat to the homeless. The meat is likely tainted with pesticides and metals, and a few years ago some city officials seemed to think that this precluded feeding the meat to the homeless. Evidently the city has now resolved its doubts on that score. The city also recently defeated, overwhelmingly, Initiative 300, which in effect would have legalized homelessness in Denver by repealing the “camping ban.” Congratulations, homeless people! You won’t be able to sleep anywhere — but you WILL get some goose meat of questionable quality. Continue reading

If slaughterhouses had glass walls

Paul McCartney PETA

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.” This quotation from Paul McCartney is the basis for a 13-minute PETA video narrated by Sir Paul with some pretty graphic slaughterhouse footage. PETA is betting that once you know the truth about slaughterhouses, you’ll go vegetarian or vegan. This is also the philosophy implicit in a lot of vegetarian information campaigns ranging from gentle to graphic — Vegan Outreach pamphlets, the hour-long video “Earthlings,” and Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. But is it true? If slaughterhouses really had glass walls, either literally or metaphorically, would we all be vegetarian? Continue reading

Keeping Backyard Chickens Is Not a Good Idea

chickens-in-coopBy Kate Lawrence
(reblogged from A Practical Peacemaker Ponders)

The following is a letter I sent to Denver’s Washington Park Profile in response to their front-page article on keeping backyard chickens:

I’m glad your July article on backyard chickens included the downside.  Given the practical issues of daily care, humane concerns, and health consequences of eating eggs, is this something the city of Denver should be encouraging?

Continue reading

Would a Deer Hug a Hunter? I Don’t Think So

Billboard hunter deer

Billboard at Colorado and Evans

By Kate Lawrence
(reblogged from A Practical Peacemaker Ponders)

At a major intersection in my Denver neighborhood, this large billboard shows a deer and a hunter in an embrace.  The caption has the deer saying “Thanks hunter, for making sure my home isn’t turned into a mall.”  Really?

The billboard is part of an extensive advertising campaign by The Wildlife Council here in Colorado to convince the public that hunters and anglers care about preserving wildlife.  Then why are they systematically killing them by hunting and fishing?  If you cared about a group of animals, would you want to kill them?  Especially since you are not starving and have no need to eat their flesh? Continue reading

Protect Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Malheur - PETA - cattle-ranchers-1-602x452

PETA urges the militants to grow crops, not cows

How much longer are we going to have to put up with the cowboys who have barged onto the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, armed to the teeth and making demands? The situation is both comic and frightening, and it is easy to lose sight of the basic problem, which is livestock agriculture. What we need to do now is to act compassionately and vigorously to protect the wildlife refuge itself. Let’s make the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge an actual wildlife refuge. This means enforcing the principle of law, but going further. We need to change the law and get the cattle out of Malheur completely. Continue reading

Public Lands Grazing Issue Provokes Armed Takeover of Government Building

This photo by Mike Hudak dramatically shows the impact of cattle ranching on the American West

This photo by Mike Hudak dramatically shows the impact of cattle ranching on the American West

Many people are now discussing the situation in rural Oregon, where a group of armed militants have taken over the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The militants are supporting unlimited access of cattle ranchers to public lands and are apparently willing to use force. In an age where people snapping pictures of factory farms are accused of being “animal rights terrorists,” it is going to be interesting to see how the government will react to what seems to be the genuine article — actual terrorists with actual guns.

Continue reading

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?

UPDATE March 24, 2016: I just found out that the talk has been uploaded to YouTube. The bad news is, the video and audio are seriously out of synch. So maybe you could listen to it as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the video portion. Otherwise the video and audio are both of pretty good quality. If anyone knows how to fix the synchronization problem, let me know. In the meantime, though, here’s the link.