When the Death Penalty Isn\'t Enough

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

PETA Employees Face Added Felony Charges

...PETA’s massive euthanasia program which has resulted in the deaths of over 12,400 “companion animals” since 1998. Last year, PETA’s income exceeded $29 million...

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Stefan, You get the urge to

Stefan,

You get the urge to run around naked and shit in the woods?

No, not particularly. You'll note that I didn't say that I have the urge to do these things, only that doing them would be a natural state for humans. Had I been abandoned in the woods at age 2, then yeah, I'd have the urge to run around naked and shit in the woods. But I don't have those urges now because I've learned to act in unnatural ways. And I think that those unnatural ways are much better than the natural ones. My point wasn't that I have some sort of difficulty keeping my clothes on. It was that the fact that some behavior is natural isn't by itself a very good reason for thinking that we ought to engage in said behavior.

Micha, I keep saying this,

Micha,

I keep saying this, but no one seems to listen when I do. My objection is to causing _unnecessary_ pain to animals. I don't think that animals (of either the human or the nonhuman variety) have any inherent rights not to be killed. What is wrong is to cause unnecessary suffering.

So, then, the response to the polar bear question would be that it's hard to see how it is that we prevent polar bears from eating animals without thereby causing _polar bears_ suffering. They are carnivores. Their bodies just won't work right unless they eat other animals. Even leaving that aside, though, there is the further problem that preventing polar bears from eating seals will require locking up all the polar bears in the world. I suspect that locked-up, vegetarian polar bears will do some suffering of their own. So we would just trade seal suffering for polar bear suffering. And let us not forget, too, that polar bears help keep the seal population in check, so without polar bears, seals starve to death rather than get eaten.

None of these things applies to humans, though. We are omnivores, so we can survive quite nicely without eating meat. We needn't be locked away to do so. And we aren't needed to keep animal populations in check. Indeed, we actually breed extra animals to keep up with our demand for meat. Not many people make their main meat courses from animals that are genuinely overpopulated.

This is all pretty straightforward utilitarianism, so I wouldn't think that any of it would come as a surprise. Most committed utilitarians I know either are vegetarians or admit that they ought to be but aren't out of some moral failing. It doesn't take that much in the way of interpersonal (or inter-sentient-being) comparisons of utility to think that factory-farmed animals suffer disproportionately to the happiness you or I might get from a steak.

Another link for the PETA

Another link for the PETA story.
www.petakillsanimals.com/index.cfm

I consider those articles

I consider those articles propaganda not journalism. I don't think you should repeat them here. Skinheads say all kinds of terrible things as well. Are you going to link to them next? If you dislike PETA then say so, and say why you feel that way. To call them kitten killers is yellow journalism, even if there is a grain of truth somewhere in the accusation.

Sean, Um, not sure if you'd

Sean,

Um, not sure if you'd noticed, but it happens that I've posted here before. Last I checked, I'm not with PETA. I can, however, read the blurb at the end of the article that Don linked...you know, the one that says, "The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices." If you want to be an asshole, no problem, but maybe read a bit before making dumb comments. The main point still stands, by the way. How does it follow from the fact that two people with PETA are criminals that somehow or other all of PETA is illegitimate? That'd be sort of like saying that because one blogger at Catallarchy makes snarky comments, all libertarian anarchists are jerks.

And why the hostility toward PETA anyway? It's not as if recognizing that animals can feel pain and thus might deserve a bit of moral consideration is somehow deeply inconsistent with the free market. Indeed, isn't PETA exactly the sort of voluntary association that you pluralists ought pretty much to endorse? Even pluralists can try to convince others that they are wrong, no?

What would a sane person

What would a sane person want to poison kittens or puppys? Please explain your post. I hope this isn't a smear tactic on your part to discredit PETA. So what point are you trying to make?

I'm not sure that I see the

I'm not sure that I see the point of your post, either. How seriously should we take an article posing as news but really nothing more than a front for a lobbying group for restaurants? Nonpartisan doesn't mean that they don't have an ax to grind.

How seriously should we take

How seriously should we take an article posing as news but really nothing more than a front for a lobbying group for restaurants?

Wow! We're famous! PETA reads our blog! Or maybe they just look up any mention of their name on Technorati or Feedster.

Anyway, some additional links for anyone who is doubtful about the truth of this article:

So which empirical claim is

So which empirical claim is it that you think is wrong?

That animals have a level of consciousness high enough to warrant recognizing, among other things, their right to life.

The only empirical claim that I cited is the one that says that animals feel pain, too. I suppose that you could doubt that claim, but doing so is a pretty wacky position.

It's not that wacky. Yes, animals do respond to pain stimuli much as humans do, but the significance of this isn't clear. Bacteria also respond to stimuli. If we don't believe that animals are conscious in a sense that would warrant recognizing a right to life, then why should we assume that there's any moral significance to their response to pain stimuli? I'm not saying that there isn't, necessarily, but it's not wacky to be skeptical.

[libertarians? to whom does ‘us’ refer here]

Libertarians, or people in general.

would be horrified if I revealed that I breed cats to satisfy my fetish for flaying and vivisecting kittens. Why? Well, most people intuitively think that torturing an animal for kicks is just wrong.

I'd find it disturbing, but not for that reason. If you had some practical reason to flay and vivisect kittens, I wouldn't regard you as a bad person for doing so. But if someone enjoys torturing animals---that's weird. I'd expect someone like that to have other psychological abnormalities, possibly dangerous ones. The psychology of someone who enjoys hurting animals is radically different from that of one who's willing to hurt animals in order to do something else he enjoys.

Your freedom can be curtailed by not eating animals only if nonhuman animals don’t carry any moral weight at all.

Yes. Hence the bit about "If PETA's wrong." If they're right, their positions follow from libertarian principles.

After all, saying that you can’t farm and then eat human infants doesn’t restrict your freedom in the least...

Unless infants don't have moral standing. And to be honest, I have my doubts about that. This raises an interesting point. Neonatal circumcisions are typically done without anesthetic. I assume mine was. But I don't remember it. I'm no worse off for not having been given anesthetic. Does this suggest anything about the moral significance of inflicting unnecessary pain on newborns? What about animals?

The standard of living claim is just puzzling. It rests on the entirely unargued-for claim that eating meat is somehow better or higher or something.

Not at all. It rests on the claim that it's better to have the option of eating meat than not. If I choose to pay $10 for a steak rather than $5 for a bag of rice, then clearly I'd rather have a steak than $5 and a bag of rice. If I'm forced to take the latter, then I'm worse off---assuming that I'm competent to make good dietary choices, of course.

I propose we eat

I propose we eat speedwell.

First, we must sacrifice her for the cult.

I suspect he’d be pretty

I suspect he’d be pretty good fodder for hot dogs. I hear that they’re mostly made of assholes.

Doh! You were so coming out of this looking the better.

"Whine wine" was a typo.

"Whine wine" was a typo. Unless it's an incredibly clever pun that I haven't discovered yet. Then it was fully intentional.

I'll take the responsibility

I'll take the responsibility on this one.

Scott, I owe you one. I'll

Scott,

I owe you one. I'll say something nice about your next post. And I'll tell all the women I know that you're available.

Works for me. So do you go

Works for me. So do you go better with red wine, or with whine wine?

Jonathan, Yeah, I know, but

Jonathan,

Yeah, I know, but Scott really did just set up the perfect straight line. I really just couldn't resist.

I propose we eat

I propose we eat speedwell.

I suspect he'd be pretty good fodder for hot dogs. I hear that they're mostly made of assholes.

Would you like some cheesy

Would you like some cheesy arguments to go with that whine? :twisted:

I propose we eat speedwell.

I propose we eat speedwell.

Upset because I'm a fellow

Upset because I'm a fellow vegetarian and a traitor to the cult, Joe? Or did I just hit a nerve?

Rainbough, Look, I'm not

Rainbough,

Look, I'm not here to defend all of PETA's actions. I mentioned earlier that I disagree with lots of what they have to say. It's odd, though, to object to their killing animals. I haven't read all of their stuff (or any of it, really), so I don't know what they say about killing animals, but there is nothing inherently inconsistent with holding that euthanizing animals is less bad than having them suffer. It's only if you hold that animals have an inalienable right not to be killed that it would be wrong to euthanize them.

Oh, and I've no objection to both sides making arguments. I'm bothered by any side that purports to be offering objective news reporting when it really is advancing a particular agenda. It annoys me when groups I like do it and it annoys me when groups I disagree with do it.

Speedwell, It's always nice

Speedwell,

It's always nice to see enlightened and constructive additions to online discussions. Name calling, of course, being the highest form of discourse. I am, however, willing to second your desire never to sit by you in a restaurant.

The scary thing I'm reading

The scary thing I'm reading here is that a post giving a "heads-up" about a possible bad situation within an otherwise decent organization has broken down into unwarranted accusations and assumptions.

It’s starts with dismissing what might be something of truth about PETA euthanizing animals and ends with cannibalism.

So did this happen or didn’t it? If this was a story about some back room deal in upper echelon politics, would it simply be dismissed or would the reader try to verify the story no matter where the source originated? So what if PETA’s a “good” organization? Did they do something out of character or not? And if so, why? If they did do it, or condoned it, and it’s something that their supporters don’t agree with, then the only way to change their policy in that area is to let them know about it.

I’m all for raising awareness about animals and their treatment but passing laws is entirely another matter. Many laws tend to bring about unintended consequences. Are we really going to make it illegal to eat a steak or a turkey? And what happens when the world discovers that beans have feelings too? :neutral:

"If you and I have the same

"If you and I have the same income and you spend more than I do on your food, then which of us really has the higher standard of living? "

How could you measure that? It's not an answerable question.

"Well, most people intuitively think that torturing an animal for kicks is just wrong.

Oddly, though, torturing cows and pigs and chickens because you like to eat them is somehow okay. I just fail to see how that is somehow less problematic than torturing them for fun. Indeed, it’s really just a subset of torturing animals for fun. They suffer so that you get the pleasure of eating their flesh. Why that isn’t creepy is beyond me."

Libertarianism takes several fundamental rights pretty seriously. From my perspective, anyhow, government is only justified if it protects these fundamental rights. And from a mechanical point of view, this would translate into meaning that the government's role is to create a basic level of order and not be an arbiter of morality. It may or may not be wrong to do certain things to animals, but the real question is: to libertarians, are those concerns as important as life, liberty, and property for humans? Peta thinks they are as important, if not more.

It's nice to see Micha around and kicking, I miss seeing his posts.

...the simple principle that

...the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

That's rather frightening.

Or heck, should we eat each

Or heck, should we eat each other for that matter...

Also, Micha, should we eat

Also, Micha, should we eat animals of different species, or stick to just one?

We have the power to prevent

We have the power to prevent animal-on-animal predation. Should we exercise that power?

I'll probably regret asking this, but what's your position, Micha, on eating animals? Does it maximize or not maximize utility?

Yes, and running around

Yes, and running around naked, eating raw food with our hands, shitting in the woods, fucking whenever the urge strikes, and dying from infection are all perfectly natural things for humans to do, too.

You get the urge to run around naked and shit in the woods? :sweat:

Joe, Your last response

Joe,

Your last response doesn't fully answer the question. True, a polar bear is not a responsible moral agent, and neither is a legally insane human adult. Yet we still find it worthwhile to devote resources to locking up the criminally insane, for the purposes of preventing future crimes, not punishment. Shouldn't the same be true for polar bears? That is, if animals are deserving of moral consideration, then they should be equally deserving regardless of whether the predator is human or not. We have the power to prevent animal-on-animal predation. Should we exercise that power?

If you decide to spend more

If you decide to spend more on a car, or on clothes, who has the higher standard of living?

Neither of us, which was pretty much my point before. Brandon, however, seemed to be arguing that eating meat somehow gave one a higher standard of living. That claim is not just false but nonsensical.

Meat is very much a natural thing for humans to eat

Yes, and running around naked, eating raw food with our hands, shitting in the woods, fucking whenever the urge strikes, and dying from infection are all perfectly natural things for humans to do, too. Generally, though, most of us refrain from all of those sorts of things, despite their naturalness. That something is natural doesn't make it right or desirable.

If you live in an area which is too dry or depleted to grow much beyond grass, eating meat may be the only way to sustain yourself from the land.

True. Of course, people in such areas (a) don't factory farm, and (b) don't cause _unnecessary_ suffering. As you mention, though, those circumstances don't apply when _you_ eat a hamburger.

and if it’s morally wrong for humans to kill and eat other animals, is it wrong for polar bears and orcas to do the same?

Sure, that's exactly the right implication to draw. That's why, when my toddler gets mad and hits me, I have him arrested for battery. C'mon. Polar bears cannot choose whether or not to eat a seal. They aren't capable of being moral agents any more than my 3-yr-old is capable of being a moral agent. So I hold you to a different standard than I hold a polar bear or a toddler. It doesn't follow from the fact that I hold humans and nonhuman animals to different standards for their behavior that nonhuman animals therefore don't have any moral standing at all. They have moral standing for the same reason my son does: they are capable of feeling pleasure and pain. One can quite easily distinguish between being deserving of moral consideration and being a responsible moral agent.

If you decide to spend more

If you decide to spend more on a car, or on clothes, who has the higher standard of living?

Meat is very much a natural thing for humans to eat (and if it's morally wrong for humans to kill and eat other animals, is it wrong for polar bears and orcas to do the same?)  The nutritional and gustatory properties of meat could be considered part of one's standard of living, or just a lifestyle choice.  If you live in an area which is too dry or depleted to grow much beyond grass, eating meat may be the only way to sustain yourself from the land.  Of course, if any of us are in that situation it's purely voluntary.

Complicated issue.

Brandon, But if they’re

Brandon,

But if they’re wrong, as most of us believe that they are, implementation of their policies would dramatically curtail our freedoms and reduce our standard of living.

So which empirical claim is it that you think is wrong? The only empirical claim that I cited is the one that says that animals feel pain, too. I suppose that you could doubt that claim, but doing so is a pretty wacky position. Indeed, I would bet that "most of us [libertarians? to whom does 'us' refer here]" would be horrified if I revealed that I breed cats to satisfy my fetish for flaying and vivisecting kittens. Why? Well, most people intuitively think that torturing an animal for kicks is just wrong.

Oddly, though, torturing cows and pigs and chickens _because you like to eat them_ is somehow okay. I just fail to see how that is somehow less problematic than torturing them for fun. Indeed, it's really just a subset of torturing animals for fun. They suffer so that you get the pleasure of eating their flesh. Why that isn't creepy is beyond me.

I guess, then, that I'm interested in hearing what empirical assumption it is that you are wanting to reject. I think that I'm on pretty safe ground in asserting that animals do feel pain.

As for the second part of your claim, well, I think that it begs the question pretty fundamentally. Your freedom can be curtailed by not eating animals only if nonhuman animals don't carry any moral weight at all. After all, saying that you can't farm and then eat human infants doesn't restrict your freedom in the least; you just simply don't have the freedom to do that because human infants have moral standing.

The standard of living claim is just puzzling. It rests on the entirely unargued-for claim that eating meat is somehow better or higher or something. Historically it's true that only the rich could generally afford to eat meat, but the mere fact of eating meat doesn't itself imply a higher standard of living. Hunter-gatherers eat lots of meat, but may have a far lower standard of living than farmers who eat meat only very infrequently. Eating meat may be correlated with a higher standard of living, but it's not at all clear that meat-eating is itself somehow inherently better than not doing so.

Actually, your claim is pretty counter-intuitive anyway. Meat costs more than other sources of protein. So eating meat requires that you use resources that could otherwise be spent on other things. If you and I have the same income and you spend more than I do on your food, then which of us really has the higher standard of living?

[I]t’s not as if PETA is

[I]t’s not as if PETA is doing anything inherently inconsistent with libertarianism.

It's not inherently inconsistent in that there's a certain set of empirical assumptions under which PETA's positions on animal rights follow logically from libertarian principles. But if they're wrong, as most of us believe that they are, implementation of their policies would dramatically curtail our freedoms and reduce our standard of living.

Fortunately, their policies are unlikely to be implemented---the only thing the lumpenelectorate like better than bread and circuses is sausage---so I'm more amused than troubled.

David, That’s a little bit

David,

That’s a little bit more than “recognizing that animals feel pain and deserve a bit of moral consideration.”

No, actually, those are the _implications_ of recognizing that animals feel pain and deserve a bit of moral consideration. The moral recognition that lots of nonhuman creatures are sentient then commits one to a reevaluation of lots of practices.

I'm not saying that I belong to PETA or that I support everything that they do. I'm not personally opposed to lab experiments on animals, provided that the experiments really are important and necessary. I'm not even opposed to eating animals provided that they live and die humanely. What I am opposed to is wanton cruelty to animals, particularly when that cruelty is for no other purpose than "bacon is yummy and I don't wanna pay much for it." Inflicting unnecessary pain is morally reprehensible. I don't see why it matters much whether it's unnecessary cow pain or unnecessary human pain. (To be clear, I'd rather cause a cow pain than cause a human pain if I've no other choice, but then that wouldn't count as unnecessary pain.)

Still, even if one does think that PETA is extreme, it's still not clear why libertarians should find their actions so deeply troubling; it's not as if PETA is doing anything inherently inconsistent with libertarianism.

I think Peta supporters live

I think Peta supporters live on their own little planet in which peta can do no wrong and anyone who criticizes them has ulterior motives and therefore must be lying.

In any debate their tends to be at least two sides. If one side attacks the other side you don't decide that the attacked side's arguments and criticisms are therefore suspect, or invalid when they fight back. So the fact that some of the CFCF's supporters are restaurants is really irrelevant. In fact the only reason Peta has bothered to respond to the group is precisely because it is a credible organization. The center for consumer freedom works on a lot more issues than just the peta thing. They actually have a reputation to uphold that would be ruined if they just made shit up.

Penn & Teller did a show on Peta also in which they showed the documents (that were filed by peta) that proved Peta slaughtered thousands of animals a year, had purchased a freezer to store dead carcasses, and even quoted a Peta representative saying as much. They further showed documented proof (both written and audio) of Peta's financial support of known arsonists and of organizations that utilize violence to promote animal rights.

Then they talked to other animal rights organizations who find most of Peta's actions morally reprehensible. You can rent the show on DVD now - its from season 2 of Penn & Teller's Bullshit.

I'm a vegetarian, and most

I'm a vegetarian, and most of you are not, and as a libertarian and a mind-my-own-business type, I am perfectly OK with that. You and I will go into a steak place, and you will order the steak, and I will have three or four yummy sides and that terrific bread. It is not a problem.

What is a problem--what really does hack me off--is the sight of an idiotic wrangle over the "morality" of eating meat, started and perpetuated by an evangelical vegetarian putz and a defensive hedonist buttcrack, over whether it's more enlightened and humanist to eat meat (because they taste good, are you against pleasure?) or to eschew it (peace and love for all God's creatures, man).

You're both overfed and underworked, and you need to go find a real problem to solve. I hope to Christ I never have to sit next to either of you in a restaurant.

:wall:

"People for the Ethical

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 850,000 members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Founded in 1980, PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment.

PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of beavers, birds and other "pests," and the abuse of backyard dogs.

PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns."

That from PETA's website http://www.peta.org/about/

That's a little bit more than "recognizing that animals feel pain and deserve a bit of moral consideration."

What does this have to do

What does this have to do with the death penalty, I mean I am for animals rights and hate crimes against animals but I am researching the death penatly, camehere and now I am reading about PETA?

Well if you read the post

Well if you read the post that started the comment thead you'll realize that "Death Penalty" just occurred in the title, the debate is really over whether libertarians should support PETA or not.