Archive for the ‘animals’ tag
As most of us have, unfortunately, been forced to admit, the animal protection community is rife with infighting. For some time, I’ve been unable to understand why people who are theoretically working for similar—if not identical—goals would be so openly hostile and defamatory toward others.
Some potential explanations are beginning to surface, though. For instance, one part of the problem seems to be a struggle between authenticity and purism.
When a person behaves with authenticity, he or she stays in touch with the values that brought him or her to the animal protection cause in the first place. The compassion, empathy, and reasoning that originally connected the person to other animals remains intact and pervades his or her daily actions and interactions with others.
In this place of centeredness, a person’s ego is subordinated to both the outer goal of changing society’s treatment of animals and the inner walk of simply being a living embodiment of these values. The ego’s desires for beating others, being right, taking credit, gaining adoration, controlling others, and acquiring power are seen as counterproductive with respect to the outer goal and disruptive with respect to the inner walk.
When a person in the animal protection movement fixates on purity itself, the entire focus shifts away from the goal and the walk. The new focus becomes a game of competing for who can be “more pure” than others in the movement (“I’ve been vegan longer than you,” etc.).
Control and credit are the “rewards” for winning the game, and these rewards may accrue to the benefit of a given individual. But the movement itself loses, because the goal of societal change gets forgotten in the never-ending power struggle, and the inner walk of being the change is abandoned in favor of self-serving calculations and maneuvers.
Once again departing from the theme of this column (although I’m sure we can figure out a way to make eating great food a science!), this post features Carol Glasser’s vegan cupcakes.
Many folks live under the impression that people who don’t kill others have to sacrifice some of the finer things in life. Like cupcakes. Thank you, Ms. Glasser, for dispelling that myth in a most delicious—and aesthetically pleasing—manner.
1. Naturalist Fallacy
The naturalist fallacy is a well-known flawed method of reasoning in which it is argued that, since something occurs in nature, that thing is morally acceptable. An example of the naturalist fallacy would be:
Rape occurs in nature. Not only do humans commit rape, but other species commit rape as well. Therefore, rape is acceptable.
While few people would hazard the above argument in polite society, millions of modern citizens use the exact same argument in a different context:
Killing and eating animals occurs in nature. Not only do humans kill and eat animals, but other species kill and eat animals as well. Therefore, killing and eating animals is acceptable.
In technical terms, this fallacy consists of an unwarranted shift between descriptive premises (e.g., rape occurs) and a prescriptive or normative conclusion (e.g., rape is okay). The argument is accordingly invalid. A way to undermine a naturalist fallacy argument is to point out that mere occurrence of an event does not make it right. For instance, in the first example above, the argument is undermined by pointing out that our society has almost universally agreed that rape is unacceptable, even though it occurs.
2. False Dichotomy Fallacy
The false dichotomy fallacy is a well-known flawed method of reasoning in which two alternative conclusions are assumed to be the only two possible conclusions. An example of the false dichotomy fallacy would be:
John is not an atheist. Therefore, he must be a Christian.
The reasoning is flawed because there are many more than two philosophical or religious positions available to a person. In the context of justifying and perpetuating inhumanity, the false dichotomy fallacy is used in a variety of ways, such as:
Going without protein is not healthy. Therefore, we must eat animals.
In technical terms, this fallacy consists of an unwarranted assumption that there is a disjunctive (i.e., “either/or”) relationship between two terms (e.g., one must either be Christian or atheist). The argument is accordingly invalid. A way to undermine a false dichotomy argument is to point out that there is a third possible conclusion, one which can occur without either of the first two possible conclusions occurring.
For instance, in the first example above, the argument is undermined by pointing out that it is possible for a person to be neither an atheist nor a Christian but rather a Muslim.
3. Name-Of-God Fallacy
The name-of-God fallacy is a well-known flawed method of reasoning in which it is argued that, since a seemingly atrocious act is committed in the name of religion, patriotism, science or some other cause, the act is acceptable. An example of the name of God fallacy would be:
The World Trade Center was destroyed and thousands of people died, but this action was committed in the name of God. Therefore, this action was acceptable.
This form of reasoning is unfortunately common in its usage today. The reasoning is flawed because a person’s motivation for committing an act is not sufficient to justify the act itself. Other examples include:
These dogs were intentionally drowned, but this action was committed for the advancement of science. Therefore, this action was acceptable.
These prisoners were intentionally tortured, but this action was committed in the name of patriotism. Therefore, this action was acceptable.
In technical terms, this fallacy consists of an unwarranted shift from descriptive premises (e.g., the subjective intentions of a perpetrator) to a prescriptive or normative conclusion (e.g., a seemingly atrocious act is not atrocious). The argument is accordingly invalid. It may actually be worse than a bare ends-justify-the-means argument, since the name-of-God fallacy may be used even in the absence an “end” worth pursuing. A way to undermine a name-of-God argument is to point out that an atrocious act remains an atrocious act even when committed by someone who thinks that he or she is serving a cause or ideal.
4. Irrelevant Distinction Fallacy
The irrelevant distinction fallacy is a well-known flawed method of reasoning in which it is argued that, since a difference between two cases can be perceived, different treatment of the two cases is justified. An example of the irrelevant distinction fallacy would be:
Women and men have different chromosomes. Therefore, the legal system should treat women and men differently.
The reasoning is flawed because a mere scientific difference is not by itself sufficient to justify institutionalized legal discrimination. Other examples include:
These people are from a different culture. Therefore, they are inferior to us.
Humans are generally smarter than other animals. Therefore, only humans deserve rights.
These animals were intentionally burned alive, which would be a crime if committed at home. But these animals were intentionally burned alive in a university laboratory; therefore, this act was not a crime.
It is wrong to eat cats or dogs. But cows have hooves rather than paws. Therefore, it is not wrong to eat cows.
In technical terms, this fallacy is simply one of relevance, i.e., the argument assumes without warrant that the premises offered have probative value with respect to the conclusion. The argument is accordingly invalid. Arguments employing fallacies of relevance are particularly easy to shoot down by following the irrelevant premises to some bizarre conclusion. For instance, in the first example above, the argument can be undermined by pointing out that if a mere chromosomal difference were enough to require legal distinction, then every unique individual (except for genetically identical twins) would have to have a one-person legal system made specially for them. Such a situation would render the notion of a “legal system” largely meaningless.
5. Appeal to Tradition
The appeal to tradition fallacy is a well-known flawed method of reasoning in which it is argued that since a seemingly atrocious act is part of a tradition, the act is not an atrocity. An example of the appeal to tradition fallacy would be:
Female genital mutilation (euphemistically called “female circumcision”) seems like an atrocity. But since female genital mutilation is part of the African tradition, female genital mutilation is not an atrocity.
The reasoning is flawed because the mere fact that an act has become a tradition does not make that act acceptable. Other examples include:
Torturing a trapped bull to death seems like an atrocity. But since bull “fighting” is a Spanish tradition, bull “fighting” is not an atrocity.
Torturing an animal to death seems like an atrocity. But this form of torture is part of our religious tradition. Therefore, this form of torture is not an atrocity.
In technical terms, this fallacy is simply one of relevance, i.e., the argument assumes without warrant that the premises offered have probative value with respect to the conclusion. The argument is accordingly invalid. Arguments employing this fallacy can be easily shot down by demonstrating that many traditions have already been abolished because they were, despite being traditions, obviously immoral. Human slavery would be a classic example.
6. Perfect-Voting-Record Fallacy
The perfect-voting-record fallacy is a flawed method of reasoning in which it is assumed that a small set of issues that were expressly considered represent all possible issues that could have been considered. An example of the PVR fallacy would be:
The terrorist regime of Q commits thousands of acts of terrorism every year, but only once has the Q leadership considered a limitation on terrorism. This limitation—which provided that suicide-bombers should not eat garlic—passed unanimously. Therefore, the terrorists of Q have a perfect voting record on terrorism.
While most people would not be duped by the above argument, many well-meaning activists go for the following argument and even use it themselves:
The meat-eaters of political party J kill and eat several thousand animals each year, but only a few limitations on animal-killing have been considered. These limitations—which provide that animals to be killed must not be caged in veal crates—have been unanimously supported by the meat-eaters in political party J. Therefore, the meat-eaters in party J have a perfect voting record for animals.
In technical terms, this fallacy consists of reliance on an unrepresentative sample. Specifically, the argument ignores the potentially thousands of issues that could have been addressed but were not. The argument is accordingly invalid.
A way to undermine a perfect-voting-record argument is to point out that one cannot be said to have a “perfect voting record” on a subject when one has simply failed to vote at all on the major issues pertaining to that subject. For instance, the ancient Sumerians probably never held a vote on the militarization of space, but to conclude that they therefore had a “perfect voting record” on the militarization of space would be bizarre.
7. Misplaced Burden Fallacy
The misplace burden fallacy is a flawed method of reasoning in which the burden of persuasion is initially placed on the wrong side of a debate or legal battle. An example of the MB fallacy would be:
The plaintiff bears the burden of proof and persuasion in the American legal system. But, today, we’re going to pretend that the burden is on the defendant anyway. And since the defendant hasn’t proven his case, he loses.
No lawyer would allow such nonsense to slip by in court of law, but many well-meaning citizens, even animal rights activists, fail to confront this commonly held view:
Torturing and killing of the innocent is universally recognized as wrong. But, today, we’re going to pretend that torturing and killing of the innocent is right anyway. And since those who oppose such torture and killing haven’t proven their case, they lose.
In technical terms, this fallacy consists of replacing a premise known to be true with a premise known to be false. Specifically, the argument places the initial burden on party A, even though it is known that party B actually bears the initial burden. The argument is accordingly invalid.
Make no mistake: the burden of persuasion belongs on those who favor killing and torturing of the innocent, not on those who oppose it. And that burden will never be successfully carried. Which is why the global transition to veganism is not only desirable but inevitable.
A Little Culinary Confession
First, let’s make one thing clear: I can’t cook. I appreciate good food and truly admire folks who can bring together a fine meal (and sure do like to be invited to their houses—hint, hint!), but I am not such a person. And that’s putting it mildly. . . .
This reality caused me a bit of concern when I first adopted a vegan diet. My only motivation for going vegan was that veganism is the ethical choice. But, like most people in our culture, my eating habits until that time had relied largely upon dead animals (i.e., meat) and animal-exploitation products (e.g., milk, butter and eggs). Without any real cooking or food preparation skills and without being able to rely upon the same old menu, I remember pouring that last gallon of milk down the drain and thinking, “Wow, I sure I hope I’ll figure out a way to eat enough to survive.”
As it turns out, eating well—and eating better than I ever had before—has not been an issue. A vegan diet—much to my surprise—turns out to be easier, safer and healthier than an animal-based diet. And one company that is doing its part to make a vegan diet also a convenient diet is Sequel Naturals, which is based in Vancouver, BC, with U.S. offices in Blaine, WA.
Sequel produces a line of vegan convenience foods called Vega. Formulated by Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, Vega offers a wide variety of ready-made vegan meals that come in forms such as an energy bar or a powder that can be mixed with water. Here’s a quick guide.
Vega Whole Food Energy Bar
Sequel’s Vega Energy Bars condense a whole lot of nutrition into a small package. The size of a standard candy bar, the Vega Energy Bar includes ten grams (10g) complete raw protein, six grams (6g) dietary fiber, and four-and-a-half grams (4.5.) of Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. Available in chocolate, berry, and natural flavors, I have thoroughly enjoyed incorporating Vega Energy Bars into my diet as an easy way to get in a good meal while on the go.
My favorite is, of course, the chocolate Vega Energy Bar. And, since it’s often hard to find any vegan chocolate items, I’ve particularly appreciated discovering Sequel’s chocolate offering as both a yummy and good-for-you way to get my chocolate fix.
Left: My favorite super-model, Kitty Witty Bang-Bang, showed up at the shoot while I was photographing the Vega Energy Bar.
Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer
Sequel’s Vega powder is practically a feat of food engineering. Coming in a thirty gram (30g) serving that can be mixed with eight ounces of water to form a complete meal, the Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer blows away my previous expectations of what a convenience meal could be. To wit, this supercharged supplement provides:
- Calcium equivalent to five (5) cups of milk
- Fiber equivalent to seven (7) slices of bread
- Omega 3 equivalent to six (6) ounces of dead salmon flesh
- Potassium equivalent to six (6) bananas
- Iron equivalent to twenty-nine (29) ounces of dead cow flesh
- and a whole lot more
Moreover, two packages of the Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer provide 100% of RDI of vitamins and minerals. Such is the power of a convenience food that has been extremely well designed.
The Vega line from Sequel also includes the Vega Whole Food Vibrance Bar (Green Synergy, Chocolate Decadence, and Wholesome Original flavors), Vega Antioxidant EFA Oil Blend, and Vega Whole Food Smoothie Infusion. All these products include the same kind of plant-based nutrition that makes the other Vega products special.
My recommendation: a strong buy. For more information, visit the Vega website from Sequel at http://www.myvega.com.
NOTE: While this poem was written long before the lights came on for me about animal rights, I only just recently realized that it’s a bit of an animal defense piece. So—faced with an ongoing bout of writer’s block—I’m going to depart again from the theoretical “Science | Technology” theme for this column and run a poem.
Every night down the side of Hamilton Avenue
when it rains
the snails try to cross
I don’t know why
cause there’s nothing to eat out there
and it can’t be too comfortable
but maybe that’s why
The carnage is terrible
pedestrians clop along to the popping sound of crushing shells
like mouthfuls of ice being chewed
So I go down there and snail move
One by one I pick them up
each time slowly so that the snail has time to let go of the ground
and not get a sore belly
each one gets a scolding
get out of the street! what are you thinking?
it’ll take you a damned year to get back to the grass from here!
how did you manage to get to be full-grown behaving like this?
They are beautiful and keep coming back
to huddle around the puddle of their squashed friends
And I move them again
Nobody knows, and I don’t get paid
don’t sit around thinking about snails
I move them as my little way of saying no
Shelley Harrison teaches law, logic, writing and reading comprehension in Los Angeles, CA. Harrison is the author of Plutonomics: A Unified Theory of Wealth and a former Managing Editor of the Virginia Law Review.
Torture as Religion
In the good old days of torture, “religion”* served as the ultimate justifier. During the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials, for instance, one could make a hobby or career of slowly crushing people with rocks or burning people at the stake. And the perpetrator of these acts could still be considered a righteous person for doing so, because these atrocities were done in the name of God. During such time periods, both professionals (such as clergy) and amateurs (such as the girls who provided most of the Salem witch accusations) could be grouped into two basic camps: (i) those who actually believed that torture served a legitimate end, and (ii) those who used “religion” simply as an excuse to indulge their sadistic fantasies.
While the moral culpability or blameworthiness of the second group might be higher, the end results produced by both groups were the same: bloodcurdling and gruesome torture and death of innocent victims. It is, therefore, difficult to completely absolve the first group simply on the basis of their ignorance.
Fortunately, numerous political principles (e.g., separation of church and state) and legal principles (e.g., presumption of innocence) have come along to largely eliminate the power of “religion” to serve as justification for sadistic indulgences, at least in Western culture. Unfortunately, however, a substitute justification has stepped in to fill the void left by religion.
The new justification for torture is called “science”*. But, in order to avoid the human rights obstacles that dethroned torture-as-religion, torture-as-science has been directed at animals.
Torture as Science
In modern times, the sadist’s refuge is a university or commercial lab, not a church. Safe within these walls, a “scientist” can inflict unspeakable horrors upon innocent victims day after day, out of sight and out of earshot of any (human) witness, and free from any authority who can intervene to halt the suffering. Victims are poisoned, shot in the face, burned alive, dissected alive and otherwise tortured in ways that would make even the most perverted inquisitor bow in awe. These very same acts would be criminal felonies if committed by a layperson—such as rape or beating of an animal—, but they are allowed to go unpunished as long as the perpetrator is wearing a lab coat. Indeed, the perpetrator—generally equipped with doctoral degree—is often revered as a truth-seeker and lover of knowledge. Meanwhile, death is literally the best and only hope for laboratory animals.
As with “religion” torturers, “science” torturers fall into the above two groups: (i) those who actually believe that torture serves a legitimate end, and (ii) those who use “science” simply as an excuse to indulge their sadistic fantasies. People falling into the latter group don’t merit any lengthy discussion. They are sick perverts who share the same common trait that serial killers typically share: a desire to torture defenseless animals.
“Scientists” falling into the former group do require more discussion. These are people who have been taught that science is a sort of unqualified good, an end that justifies any means. This point of view has been discredited long ago in the realm of philosophy. But, unfortunately, the Philosophy Department and the Science Department don’t yet communicate with each other very well on some university campuses.
Accountability as Accounts Receivable
Hopefully one day, science will be subjected to the same ethical constraints that religion has been. We really cannot pretend to be civilized until such day comes.
But until then, there is one higher authority that even “science” torturers recognize: the Almighty Dollar. And the power of this Almighty can be tapped by people like you and me every day in order to bring some accountability to the otherwise unmitigated victimization of laboratory animals.
Specifically, we can choose to spend our dollars to purchase only those products that have never been tested on animals (other than human volunteers who have provided informed consent in writing and in advance) and only those products that are made by companies that never engage in animal testing. In refusing to support torture-as-science, we can hope to starve animal abusers financially just as they starve their victims literally.
Buy Only Those Products That Display the “Leaping Bunny” Logo
One easy way to bring the wrath of the Almighty Dollar to bear upon animal abusers is to buy only those cosmetics, toiletries and household products that display the “Leaping Bunny” logo. This logo is applied only to products which have met strict, cruelty-free standards as certified by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). Organizations making up the CCIC include: American Anti-Vivisection Society, The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Alliance of Canada, and European Coalition to End Animal Experiments.
The Leaping Bunny Logo
Disciplining ourselves to purchase only those items that display the “Leaping Bunny” logo serves two very important purposes: (i) it provides financial rewards to those companies that do practice ethical science, and (ii) it financially starves those companies that practice torture “science”. We want the former companies to prosper and the latter companies to perish.
One Final Thought
Somewhere out there, another helpless cat or rabbit or chimpanzee is being taken from her mother to be subjected to a life of terror, pain and despair. She will spend her remaining days immobilized in a head clamp while harmful chemicals are squirted into her eyes or her mouth or on her skin. The best we can hope for her is that the mercy of death comes quickly.
You and I have the power either to sponsor or reject torture. In honor of the latest nameless victim, take the “Leaping Bunny Pledge” to buy only cruelty-free products: http://www.leapingbunnypledge.org/pledge.aspx
*I have used quotation marks around the words “science” and “religion” throughout this article, where applicable, because I do not believe that torture has a place in actual science or religion.
Shelley Harrison teaches law, logic, writing and reading comprehension in Los Angeles, CA. Recipient of seven patents, Harrison is the author of Plutonomics: A Unified Theory of Wealth and a former Managing Editor of the Virginia Law Review.