Could The Republican Party Oppose Factory Farming?

In The American Conservative, a former Bush speechwriter, Matthew Scully, argues that animal rights – and, in particular, fighting the modern, super-cruel factory farms – should be a conservative cause.

I just used the phrase “animal rights,” but that’s actually a phrase Scully would have problems with. He argues that the left is mistaken to put the issue in terms of animal “rights”; instead, he argues, the issue should be seen in terms of human obligations to animals, without getting mired down in a discussion of rights.

…We are told to look away and think about more serious things. Human beings simply have far bigger problems to worry about than the well being of farm animals, and surely all of this zeal would be better directed at causes of human welfare.

You wouldn’t think that men who are unwilling to grant even a few extra inches in cage space, so that a pig can turn around, would be in any position to fault others for pettiness. Why are small acts of kindness beneath us, but not small acts of cruelty? The larger problem with this appeal to moral priority, however, is that we are dealing with suffering that occurs through human agency. Whether it’s miserliness here, carelessness there, or greed throughout, the result is rank cruelty for which particular people must answer.

Since refraining from cruelty is an obligation of justice, moreover, there is no avoiding the implications. All the goods invoked in defense of factory farming, from the efficiency and higher profits of the system to the lower costs of the products, are false goods unjustly derived. No matter what right and praiseworthy things we are doing elsewhere in life, when we live off a cruel and disgraceful thing like factory farming, we are to that extent living unjustly, and that is hardly a trivial problem. [...]

I have to admit that my reflexive reaction to this is to say “forget it, Conservatives would never, ever, ever endorse fighting cruelty if that meant going against the interests of profit.” Indeed, the author himself pegs this response, although he says it’s an unfair stereotype:

I am asked sometimes how a conservative could possibly care about animal suffering in factory farms, but the question is premised on a liberal caricature of conservatism…the assumption that, for all of our fine talk about moral values, “compassionate conservatism” and the like, everything we really care about can be counted in dollars. In the case of factory farming, and the conservative’s blithe tolerance of it, the caricature is too close to the truth.

He proposes new federal laws mandating decent treatment of animals in factory farms:

We need our conservative values voters to get behind a Humane Farming Act so that we can all quit averting our eyes. This reform, a set of explicit federal cruelty statutes with enforcement funding to back it up, would leave us with farms we could imagine without wincing, photograph without prosecution, and explain without excuses.

The law would uphold not only the elementary standards of animal husbandry but also of veterinary ethics, following no more complicated a principle than that pigs and cows should be able to walk and turn around, fowl to move about and spread their wings, and all creatures to know the feel of soil and grass and the warmth of the sun. No need for labels saying “free-range” or “humanely raised.” They will all be raised that way. They all get to be treated like animals and not as unfeeling machines.

This is an issue in which both Democrats and Republicans, like the larger society, have favored averting eyes rather than addressing the issues.

I’d certainly favor the law Scully suggests – but how many politicians, of either party, would? This law would almost certainly piss off voters suddenly facing a huge inflation in meat prices, and pissing off voters isn’t how successful politicians usually operate. (Full disclosure: I eat cheap meat from supermarkets. But I’d gladly pay more for meat, if in return I got assurance that the meat industry as a whole was being reformed as Scully suggests.)

I also wonder how much traction his arguments will find among libertarian conservatives. A new federal law, and using the government to tell farmers how to run their own farms, seems to me exactly the sort of thing that pisses off a significant portion of the conservative base.

I think that Scully is right to make it clear that factory farming is a justice issue. But there’s a curious lack in his article, as well; a text search shows that the word “capitalism” doesn’t appear once in the article. Neither does the word “market.” What’s driving factory farms isn’t the inherently cruel nature of some humans (although you might think so, reading Scully’s account). What’s driving factory farms is the free market; and his unwillingness to address this obvious fact is part of what makes Scully’s argument so “conservative.”

Nonetheless, I hope his approach is more successful than PETA’s has been.

Via Ambivablog.

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34 Responses to Could The Republican Party Oppose Factory Farming?

  1. 1
    thistle says:

    I like the idea behind the bill, but I also think it’s unrealistic in today’s climate. Certainly this White House isn’t going to support anything that restricts big business, which is what factory farming is. But I think it is likely that this kind of approach will be more successful than PETA’s, in particular since PETA’s approach makes vegetarians like myself ashamed to agree with them on anything.

  2. 2
    djw says:

    I support it, and furthermore I think I agree with Skully about ‘rights’ being the wrong philosophical concept to capture what we owe animals.

    On the other hand, there are financial reasons for both the left and the right to oppose it. The right, to protect corporate power andprofits. The left, to prevent the further erosion of the spending power attached to working class paychecks.

  3. 3
    Kyra says:

    1) He’s right.

    2) It’s really, really wonderful to see a conservative who ADDRESSES liberal criticisms of conservative philosophy and/or actions, rather than dismissing it.

    3) Now I’d REALLY like to see some pro-life groups pushing comprehensive sex education and birth control.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    You could get serious traction among a big element of the conservative base with a stewardship/responsibility-based approach. I can fairly speak for most conservatives when I say that we absolutely reject the notion that animals have any rights whatsoever, and we absolutely embrace the notion that we have obligations towards them. PETA can blather about rights from now until the eschaton, and I will continue to not give a shit; make a case for my obligation to the food I eat – hey, base it on the Bible if you really want some traction – and I will listen.

    In fact, a conservative wrote a book about animal stewardship that basically called for the end of factory farming on the lines being discussed here. I forget the name, unfortunately.

    Kyra – tell you what. Let’s start moving in on it from both ends. Pass these kinds of laws everywhere, and we’ll come in a bit on our side too; maybe add a frank and accurate discussion of condom usage to abstinence-based sex ed.

  5. 5
    ol cranky says:

    color me skeptical but the republicans that would endorse this are the “Bo Derek” Reps: the ones who don’t bat an eyelash at the higher cost of free-range and organic foods but instead see it as something quite chic. The hard-core bible thumpers would snear at being reminded of their obligations towards animals, instead citing that verse that said G-d gave man dominion over the animals as their right to do as they see fit. The first time I heard it was from my grad school advisor, who wasn’t hard core religious but had been raised in a somewhat fundie home, when I commented that I was glad I could use halothane to sac my rats humanely and that I would as little animal tissue as absolutely neecessary to obtain the data I needed (I’ve heard it much more frequently since in discussions about animal farming).

  6. 6
    Lee says:

    The stewardship issue has been around in moderate conservative circles for a long time. It was first applied towards environmentalist issues. Part of the reason more big companies don’t use stewardship principles more often, I think, is less a cost issue than an effort issue. Some companies have shown that going green is fairly cost-effective, but it took a lot of careful thought and planning to get there, and frankly, it’s too easy just to keep doing the SOSO.

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    instead citing that verse that said G-d gave man dominion over the animals as their right to do as they see fit

    And the response is to cite Jesus’ parables that address the nature of stewardship, and what God demands of us.

    There are certainly a number of people who would not be responsive to that message.

    Fortunately, in a market economy, you don’t have to get consensus. You just have to get a critical mass of people who will pay more in order to live their values, so that it’s worth somebody’s time to meet their needs.

  8. 8
    LAmom says:

    Now I’d REALLY like to see some pro-life groups pushing comprehensive sex education and birth control.

    Slightly off-topic, but Democrats for Life is including pregnancy prevention education and mandated insurance coverage for contraception as a part of its proposals aimed at reducing the abortion rate.

    The hard-core bible thumpers would snear at being reminded of their obligations towards animals, instead citing that verse that said G-d gave man dominion over the animals as their right to do as they see fit.

    The way to approach Bible Thumper Guy about human responsibility toward animals and the environment might be to ask him whether his divinely ordained dominion over other things (like his wife) gives him the right to abuse and mistreat them. He’ll probably want to distance himself from those men who claim they have a right to beat their wives.

  9. 9
    BStu says:

    The obligation angle is essentially how true conservative environmentalists make their case. That our obligation to nature and to our surroundings is paramount. That, indeed, there is a moral responsibility to act to protect nature of wildlife. (Of course, with environmentalism there are genuine cost benefits with acting in our environment’s best interests, both short term and the more obvious long term, but this is never the only argument right-wing conservationists hang their hats on)

    Actually, as a liberal vegetarian, I’m more inclined towards his framing of the issue that that of animal rights. It acknowledges a genuine responsibility for the welfare of animals without suggesting animals are morally equal to humans. That’s a position many make, and while I sympathize with their passion for it, it has never rung true with me. It always seemed like there must be a step between suggesting that animals deserve equal treatment to people and treating them like nothing more than a resource to be exploited. This framing seems to find that middle ground quite well. I find a lot to like in his approach. And this coming from a liberal vegetarian who is beyond disgusted by the insulting, cruel, and spiteful tactics so often employed by PETA. I believe Mr. Scully has provided those of us who wish to reverse animal cruelty with a useful vocabulary with which to confront people who are turned off by the inhumane approach loudly advocated by those few in PETA who think nothing of treating their fellow humans with vicious hatred and spite.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    In fact, a conservative wrote a book about animal stewardship that basically called for the end of factory farming on the lines being discussed here. I forget the name, unfortunately.

    My guess is that the book you’re thinking of is Dominion, which is written by the same person as the article I linked to.

  11. 11
    trey says:

    I certainly would agree to such legislation. I wonder if it would be better, given today’s climate, to do this on a state by state basis. Pass this law in the most friendly states till it gains some momentum nationwide.

    I love it when I see a conservative approach to something I could and do agree with. See, we can work together…

  12. 12
    alsis39 says:

    BStu wrote:

    I believe Mr. Scully has provided those of us who wish to reverse animal cruelty with a useful vocabulary with which to confront people who are turned off by the inhumane approach loudly advocated by those few in PETA who think nothing of treating their fellow humans with vicious hatred and spite.

    No kidding. I’m still seething every time I think of a month-old animal rights article I saw elsewhere that couldn’t resist capping its plea for more kindness to animals with a sneer at the average American and his/her “grotesque fat ass.”

    I also think one major tangible benefit –physical and financial– to humans if there were less factory farming would be a decrease in the chances of widespread food-borne illnesses.

  13. 13
    natural says:

    I am a liberal vegetarian, who feels that animals have rights. The whole notion of we humans having a “soul” that make us better than everything else is is entirely outdated malarky. I can also argue better animal stewardship on religious grounds, as we are in charge of God’s creation.

    The end of factory farming in the US will undoubtedly have positive consequences. Antibiotic use, biological waste, and risk for disease such as SARS will obviously decrease. I am all for this. It will help the environment and the welfare of animals in this country.

    However, with the globalization of the food industry, the change in US husbandry practices will not likely produce the long term effect it seeks. With the obvious increase in costs to the farmer, the prices will either be subsidized by the government or passed on to the consumer. The government may have to begin subsidies as compliance incentives, but it will not do so for long due to deficit increases. If the cost is passed on to the consumer, the liberal, moderately-wealthy, animal-rights activist may pay. The average consumer, unaware of the ethics or benefits of the new practices but just trying to feed his or her family, will definitely not. This consumer will buy cheaper imported chicken and beef from other countries with no such laws. The US industry, although complying with the law, will not be able to compete. The US industry will be in danger of collapsing.

    I argue that if this wonderful idea goes forward, we need to understand the full implications of the change. We need to engage the farming lobby to ensure that farming interests are kept in mind. We need to link husbandry practices with NAFTA and CAFTA (if the latter is passed). Also, China needs to be involved in the mix. The only way for this idea to work in reality is for the whole world to be involved.

    We also must address the fact that the new and improved worldwide farming industry may not be able to support the populations numbers we currently have on this planet. People in this country should eat less (or no) meat. Some sort of human population control worldwide will have to be enforced.

    Although problems exist and possible solutions are difficult, I think changing the husbandry practices to be more accomodating to animals will be worth it. It will take a long time, but it can be done.

  14. 14
    djw says:

    I am a liberal vegetarian, who feels that animals have rights. The whole notion of we humans having a “soul” that make us better than everything else is is entirely outdated malarky.

    I don’t find the idea of animal rights incoherent because I beleive ‘rights’ can only attach to those bearing a soul, or any other metaphysical quality. I think rights are too conceptually linked with responsibility and agency to be attached to animals.

    Of course, in the current political climate, this debate has about as much meaning as ‘how many angels could dance of the head of a pin?’

  15. 15
    natural says:

    djw-

    I concede your point about rights being most often tied with responsibilities. For people this is undoubtedly true. My point is that we forget that animals are sharing this planet with us. We have no fundamental right to cause their suffering for sheer profit (as most factory farms were developed to maximize). We have no intrinsic right to cause unnecessary harm to animals simply because they are making us money. Just because we have the power to conduct our husbandry practices otherwise does not make it morally acceptable.

    Animals have an inherent right to live out their lives as naturally as possible. They are living, breathing creatures that have emotions and can feel pain. You can tie rights such as these only to soul-bearing beings if you want. I tie these rights to fellow beings living on planet Earth.

  16. 16
    natural says:

    Sorry. I misstated the last paragraph. I meant to say that you can attach these rights to responsibilities and animals with agency (i.e.humans), but I feel these rights are granted to beings simply for being alive.

  17. 17
    BStu says:

    I think the concern with some who promote animal rights is that they do believe the rights of an animal are morally equal to those of a person. Thats something that just doesn’t register with a lot of even quite sympathetic people. Whats more, the only natural response to such an attitude is to call for no use of animals in anything for humans. Indeed, there are many who do that and that’s their right. What worries me, however, is they way they have been allowed to run the debate. At least with regard to pro-animal perspectives on this issue, it seems those who take the extreme position that animals are no different from humans and deserve all of the same rights and protections are the only ones who are given a seat at the table. This, in turn, has done a lot to foster a negative view of those who believe in animal rights. The problem being that I don’t think those groups that scream so loud are necessarily represenative of the majority of people sympathetic to that side of the arguement. But because they talk the loudest, they have been allowed to drown out more moderate progressive and even conservative voices who look at the issue in terms of a responsibility to prevent cruelty and in stewardship of our planet. We are disgusted by modern farming techniques, but we are not morally opposed to the use of animals for food. We think the fur industry is unspeakably cruel and inhumane, but we don’t necessarily oppose the production of leather and other non-food products produced from animals. The casual and unproductive animal testing that goes on in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries bother us, but we aren’t opposed to all uses of animals for medical testing.

    I’d suggest that this view represents a clear majority of the public at large, but it is one ill-served by the loud extremes. While both extremes have a right to make their case, I worry that middle majority has been denied a place in the discussion.

  18. 18
    natural says:

    In a perfect world, the lamb will sit with the lion. It is unrealistic to force people to cease using animals for their own endeavors. So-called animal rights groups such as PETA claim that there should be no suffering of any animal. They give centrist animal rights organizations a bad name.

    PETA craves constant media attention. They picket KFC and speak of its cruelty. This is not only bad marketing, as people rightly know that KFC does not own any factory farms, but bad publicity for animal rights activists. Although it uses deplorable techniques and often chooses inane issues to fight, it is commendable that it has brought attention to the plight of chickens that are debeaked in order to live their short lives in squalor. But this fact is lost in the noise.

    I do not think it unwise to stop and examine whether our goals warrant the suffering of other species. The issues of fur coats, carnivorousness, factory farming, and animal testing are ones which have varying, credible positions. I do not think it out of the question to ask sensible people to make deliberate, consistent decisions about those kinds of issues.

    Mindless acceptance of the established customs of using animals and the environment to one’s liking until they are gone is the worst possible thing one can do. There are consequences to our actions, both good and bad. Sometimes the long-term loss is much greater than the short-term gain. Some small operations are acceptable environmentally but are devastating in a larger scale. Evaluation of these practices is key if we want to enjoy the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. We may even have to evaluate our lifestyles and determine if the consequences are worth it. That is all I ask.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    In a perfect world, the lamb…

    Mmmm, lamb. Tasty, tasty lamb.

    I had lamb kebabs once when, as a boy, my family lived in Teheran and we went out one evening to a traditional Iranian restaurant – a restaurant where the locals went, not the American military and diplomatic personnel.

    Damn, I can still taste it. So good.

  20. 20
    Nella says:

    I oppose factory farming. (In fact, i oppose any animal farming, and eating animals in any circumstance where it isn’t necessary for survival, but that may be beside the point here) I’m amazed that anyone doesn’t oppose factory farming, and certainly i’m glad when someone does. Having said that, i don’t like the idea of it becoming ‘a conservative cause’, being heavily promoted by a conservative organisation. Maybe it is selfish of me to not want to be associated with people who oppose birth control and support the death penalty, but somehow i don’t, and somehow i think it will deter other people from supporting animal rights/welfare. (at a personal level, i have worked quite happily with a Conservative MP on one particular issue, but he was very much going against what his colleagues thought he should do)

  21. 21
    Roberta says:

    I think that we should treat animals the way we would want to be treated, of course this application being towards our food, but I guess it applies to other animals as well,

    animals that are allowed to live as much of a natural existance as possible will be healthier (less antibiotic use and less losses to diseases that sweep repidly thorugh a barn of crowded animals.) happiner which translates (for all your profit is most important people) into more profits with less expesnse.

    also most cattlemen pay very little money to graze cattle on public lands so where is the expense they supposedly save by factory farming? free ranging chickens don’t cost anything as chickens eat insects and seeds that are found around and they are healthier too. so less vet bills. if you factory farm there is more vet bills, drug bills, food bills since they can’t forage for themselves at least in spring and summer so you have to supplement.

    also when a animal in factory farm gets sick you worry about all the others who are rubbing shoulders, sick animals free ranging tend to go off by themselves away from others meaning less likly to spread the disease, as well as predators are around to cull them to.

    so any money saved in short term by factory farming is lost later on when there is disease and cost of irradicating testing etc of that disease and of course consumers get scared and stop buying the product for a while until the scare is over costing millions of lost sales.

    but of course for the principled it is simply very barbaric to be mean to your animals by denying them basic care, clean enviroment, good quality food and water. and air to breath. and at slaughter time human killing.

    so factory farming is actually a bad way to go economically and ethically. of course I have heard the horror stories of slaughter houses and how unfeeling the workers there are towards the animals suffering, but if you get repeated exposure to something over and over after a while you learn to tune out the emotions otherwise you go nuts, that is why slaughter houses have a high turn over rate.

    RR

  22. 22
    Diane says:

    I hate to be the bearer of such news, but Republicans have repeatedly taken a lead in Congress when it comes to animal rights. It is not a liberal-based issue. For example, as I have written about on a few occasions, one of the best animal rights advocates we have is Rick Santorum.

    I don’t care how we put a stop to factory farming; any way is okay with me.

  23. 23
    djw says:

    What worries me, however, is they way they have been allowed to run the debate. At least with regard to pro-animal perspectives on this issue, it seems those who take the extreme position that animals are no different from humans and deserve all of the same rights and protections are the only ones who are given a seat at the table.

    With respect, Bstu, what are you talking about here? What debate? What table? In our society, their position is competely marginalized, and has no virtually no impact on law or human behavior. We do have some laws and behavioral patterns that show that the idea of animal welfare and obligation to treat animals more humanely has made some legal and social impact, but the idea that animal rights extremists have some sort of dominance over anything but PETA meetings seems to describe a world I don’t live in.

  24. 24
    natural says:

    Robert,

    Sometimes I feel as though you just like to bait people. If you choose to participate in the discussion at hand, please offer something substantive.

  25. 25
    BStu says:

    djw, controling the messages brought into a debate is different than actually holding sway on those issues. No, extreme animal rights perspectives haven’t acheived many or any of their desired goals. The difficulty, however, is that those extreme voices are often the only ones allowed into the public discussion of these issues in the media. How often is PETA cited to represent the pro-animal side of this issue? How many celebrities shill for them? Their prominance in the public debate over these issues is outsized compared to their actual influence and there is genuine cause that their not merely extreme but openly hateful and mean-spirited positions are having a negative impact on the public’s perception of animal rights issues. This isn’t about making compramises. Its about knowing that change happens in steps and acknowledging you can’t change everyone. That can’t be accomplished so long as PETA is taking point in the public discussion of these issues, because PETA doesn’t want to accomplish anything. They don’t want to carefully persuade people and to acheive legislative goals for their cause. They want to incite. To do so, they are willing to treat many people with great insult and cruelty. Indeed, they are even willing to mock and insult potential supporters. The message people get out of this is that PETA is a petty and hateful organization not to be taken seriously. Paired with their outsized influence in the public discussion of animal rights, many people extend that negative impression towards the entire cause.

    PETA is not entirely at fault here. They screamed the loudest, so the media pays attention them even if centrist groups represent the most. While I’m not willing to absolve PETA since they do the screaming to get the attention to minimize other animal rights views, but the media deserves scorn as well for willingly supporting such cynical tactics.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    Sometimes I feel as though you just like to bait people.

    You’re just crabby because you didn’t get any of the lamb.

    Sorry for being non-substantive. Most threads on Alas! are about such serious and weighty issues that humor or personal reminiscence would seem out of place. This one is an exception, so I cut loose a bit.

    I think that the reason there is a perception that PETA is the only voice being heard, even though they are quite marginalized and ineffective, is that this issue is optional for most people.

    Amp and I have a mutual friend who is an environmental activist. She is quite moderate and reasoned in her views. She likes having groups like Earth First! around because they give her groups some leverage; she can say “you know, if you don’t talk to us, you’re going to end up talking to the nutjobs at Earth First! Wouldn’t you rather talk to us so that at least you’re dealing with people who don’t think that trees are more important than humans?” And they get some traction from that, because environmental issues are not optional issues. There are different positions and different worldviews, but nobody says “this is crap, this is unimportant, I just don’t care about it”. People have to engage because it’s really important.

    Whereas that option is always available re: the tragic plight of the exploited chickens. Most people could give a fuck about the tragic plight of the exploited chickens. The chickens, sad to say, are not very important in an empirical sense: the exploited chickens aren’t going to flood anyone’s seaside home or poison my kids. So the moderates don’t get leverage from having PETA out there; instead, when moderates try and get a hearing for their issue, the people who already are inclined to say “fuck the chickens” can say “oh, God, you’re just another one of those nutjobs like PETA” and ignore the moderate, reasonable proposals coming from the activists.

    In fact, I would not be at all surprised (begin conspiracy mode) to find that the worst of the factory farmers send resources PETA’s way, or make it easy for PETA to get publicity, specifically to undermine and discredit the reasonable people who, in the absence of nutjobs like PETA, could get a hearing.

  27. 27
    BritGirlSF says:

    RE What BStu said, I would characterise PETA as the EarthFirst of the animal rights movement (we have some much more extremist groups in the UK but they don’t seem to have made much impact in the US). They get heard because they yell louder than everyone else, and because they made provocative statements and the media likes provocative statements. The real problem is that we have a media which would rather run stupid and sensationalistic stories about shark attacks and missing white girls than engage in measured debate. I think the biggest reason for PETA’s prominence is that they figured out that almost any advertising campaign that uses nudity will get some media coverage, if you’ll pardon the pun, especially if you use celebrities. But it’s also because their messages are pitched at about a third grade reading and comprehension level, which seems to be what the MSM prefers. But I agree that PETA’s prominence at the expense of other groups is damaging and not at all helpful in promoting animal welfare. It’s rather like the situation we would find ourselves in if the public face of the environmental movement was EarthFirst rather than Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. It damages the credibility of the movement.

  28. 28
    BStu says:

    Indeed. We’ve seen that the industry response will be just as belittling and dismissive towards coherant groups like Greenpeace and Sierra Club as it is towards exploitative organizations like PETA. But those talking points have much more traction with PETA and by extensions animal rights because the public dislikes PETA without any industry prodding. When PETA launches into a campaign encouraging hatred and harrassment of fat people, for instance, all it achieves is some press coverage which at best is received as foolishly unrelated to the issue at hand. At worst, they’ve deeply offended millions of fat people by exploiting them as convenient punching bags for some twisted pro-animal message. I blame the media for covering it, but I also can’t absolve PETA because they know exactly what they are doing and this is exactly what they want. Someone should stand in their way, but that doesn’t make PETA any less responsible for its abusive and counterproductive practices.

  29. 29
    the amazing kim says:

    “Most threads on Alas! are about such serious and weighty issues … This one is an exception”
    Good to know where you stand then.
    I agree with Natural’s position that humans are not the extra-special beings we perceive ourselves to be. There are plenty of other animals on the planet, and we are the product of common descent. Just another animal (though a very influential one) in the ecosphere. Phrasing species in terms of superior or inferior, in my opinion, doesn’t work at all.
    So perhaps respect, not rights exactly, would be a good idea.

  30. 30
    Susan says:

    Righteousness begins at home.

    If you personally feel strongly about this issue – and I do – then either become a vegetarian or eat less meat, and that only from “free range” sources. Yes, it’s more expensive, that’s why I said you had to eat less of it, but Americans eat too much meat anyway, according to those who know about nutrition. We don’t need to gorge on steak at every meal.

    Robert unwittingly made an interesting point. The lamb he ate in Iran was almost certainly not the product of a factory farm. The good news is that animals (and eggs from animals) who live more natural lives and get out in the sunshine taste much better. My grandmother raised chickens on a distinctly non-factory farm, and her fried chicken was in a whole different league from that tasteless stuff that goes by the name of “chicken” in the supermarket.

    You say your personal choices won’t do any good? Well….it’s the personal choices of millions of consumers that have ended us up where we are. Just try casting your vote in the other direction.

  31. 31
    OH OH! says:

    You are what you eat.

  32. 32
    john howard says:

    I’m waiting for PETA to complain about the animal experimentation involved in most genetic research. But because they are so afraid of alienating their fundraising base, they pretty much have to support that. They rationalize it by saying that soon, diseases will be be cured, we will genetically modify people so they don’t have diabetes, and then we won’t have to do any more animal research on diabetes. They are right that a lot of research done on animals can be replaced by better statistics gathering and cause and effect correlation studies on humans, but they are wrong in not using their publicity machine to call for a stop for animal genetic research.

  33. 33
    alsis39 says:

    Susan wrote:

    We don’t need to gorge on steak at every meal.

    Amen. I’ve never understood why anyone would want a dietary regimen that tedious, anyway. Nothing but the classic 1950s American “Brown, Green ‘N White” dinner night after night ? Feh. Give me a big bowl of homemade lentil-rice salad with fresh veggies and herbs once in awhile to break up the monotony, please !! Vegetarian meals, when prepared right, are ambrosia, especially in hot summer weather. Not to mention that there’s the halfway measure of Asian stir-fries and similar alternatives to the steak;The school of cooking that calls for meat to be one small, harmonius component among many in the dish. It’s not the centerpiece of the meal around with all the lesser elements revolve as an afterthought.

  34. 34
    Rock says:

    A large part of the problem is the economics of farming and ranching. Back when my Grands and Father farmed, a family could live off of a quarter section of crop land with a few chickens and sheep. Currently my Uncles have the smallest farm I know of with 6 quarters raising very special seed potatoes, hence a niche market. All my other relatives manage corporate farms that are multi state and have a minimum of 60 quarters. The American farmers raise so much food with such efficiency and are poorly organized to where the prices are very low to them; it takes volume to make a buck. (100# of potatoes sells for around $2.00 off the farm. A quarter of land with a sprinkler on it can cost over a quarter million.)

    The same is true for animal protein. Consumers in America want cheap everything. Energy, clothes, food, etc. to have it where the economies of scale were not applied would cause significant raises in price. Personally I would not have much of a problem as I do not eat much meat, and know the overall health benefits would be huge. We would have to subsidize the poorer folks so they would not be protein deficient, and educate folks on the wonders of all the other food groups, but it would be worthy.

    The argument that the economy would suffer, or that range land is not farmable is weak. The money saved from lower cost vegetable alternatives would still be spent in the economy. The savings in healthcare would add up as well.

    As for Christianity and animals, stewardship is stressed more than dominion in my opinion in the Bible, but I have never done a detailed comparison. I see God’s hand in all of creation and am awed by the beet as much as the salmon. Any life we take should be appreciated and treated with respect. We ask God to bless our food at each meal and give thanks for the blessing, and for the nourishment; that should say something. I do not know if animals have souls; I do know that they feel pain and pleasure and serve us in so many ways; we ought to be far more grateful than we seem at times. It does not seem to me that the responsibility to earn rights is on the animals, we have the responsibility as they are in our charge. Rights should be afforded to them on that basis, as they do not choose the lot that we have assigned to them, it is incumbent on us. Blessings.

    I do enjoy Robert’s remarks, it is not hard to tell when he is being obtuse for the fun of it.