Thursday, June 03, 2010

New Zealand Bans Kosher Slaughter

By Mike Dorf

Last week, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry promulgated a new code of regulations governing commercial slaughter of animals.  Like its predecessor, the new code requires that prior to killing, animals must be stunned (unless the method of slaughter itself results in instantaneous unconsciousness or death).  However, unlike prior versions of the slaughter regs, the new code makes no exception for kosher slaughter.  Because most Orthodox rabbis believe that animals must be conscious when slaughtered for their meat to be kosher, the code thus bans kosher slaughter.  Here I  raise a few questions about the validity of the code under NZ law and the broader potential for conflict between animal welfare legislation and religious liberty.

With nominal parliamentary supremacy, New Zealand has no entrenched Constitution, but it does have a Bill of Rights, adopted in 1990 as an ordinary statute.  The Bill of Rights does not authorize judicial review of legislation, but it does require that laws be construed, if possible, to be consistent with the BoR.  Accordingly, without having checked the NZ case law, if any, I would guess that a judicial determination that the new code violates the BoR could conceivably result in a further finding that it is ultra vires relative to the underlying Act of Parliament, here the Animal Welfare Act of 1999.  Apart from the prospect of judicial invalidation, the NZ BoR places an obligation on parliament itself to repeal laws incompatible with the rights contained therein.

The NZ BoR contains two provisions protecting religious freedom.  One protects "the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief," and a second, more directly relevant here, protects the right "to manifest . . . religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private."


Here too, I haven't checked the NZ case law.  Based on the text alone, I would think that the international law is quite relevant.  The BoR language is drawn from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which in turn is based on language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  As Gerald Neuman argued in a 1997 article in Constitutional Commentary ("RFRA in Global Perspective"), the ICCPR/Universal Declaration language--and thus the NZ BoR language--has generally been understood to protect religious practice against both laws directed against religion and laws that have the effect of substantially burdening religious practice, even if not directed at religion.  In terms more familiar to a U.S. audience, the NZ BoR thus affords more protection to religious practice than, according to the Supreme Court in the peyote case, is afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  NZ, in other words, affords protection along the lines afforded in the U.S. by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  (That Act, though held invalid as to state and local laws, is still valid as a limit on the federal government.)


Does the new code substantially burden the religious practice of observant Jews?  As an ethical vegan (and a Jew, albeit not an observant one), I would like to say it does not.  After all, nothing in Jewish law requires the consumption of meat.  (Ritual animal sacrifice has not been practiced since the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans.)  An observant Jew living in New Zealand can comply with all of the commandments simply by refraining from eating meat.  Assuming he or she does not replace the displaced meat with other animal products (i.e., dairy and eggs), this would actually provide a benefit for the physical health of religious Jews.  Nonetheless, I recognize that this is not the proper legal analysis.  For the non-veg world, a law that says someone can comply with religious obligations only by cutting meat out of his or her diet will be understood as a serious burden.  And of course, the code certainly has a discriminatory impact on observant Jews.  No other religious group is barred from eating meat as a result of the code in combination with religious tenets.  (Stunning is consistent with Halal; most Christian denominations do not restrict meat consumption at all; and while Jains and many Hindus and Buddhists refrain from eating meat, that is entirely a matter of religious principle, not a combination of religious principle and NZ law.)


Like the ICCPR and many other national bills of rights, the NZ BoR permits rights to be infringed by "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."  Preventing cruelty to animals certainly should count as a reasonable goal, but there is a question of whether the NZ code as a whole is reasonable. 


I was told as a child that kosher slaughter is humane.  Perhaps in the time of the Bible kosher slaughter inflicted less suffering on animals than other prevalent methods of slaughter, but it is not, by any reasonable standard, humane.  Below is a short video narrated by the writer Jonathan Safran Foer.  You'll see that he concludes by announcing he is a vegetarian, a position that, to my mind, makes little sense, given how many animals are killed and harmed by the dairy and egg industry.  I include the video nonetheless because it shows footage of kosher slaughter.





Disgusting, right?  I agree.  But now watch the following video of a steer having his throat slit after having been stunned:



  

  

  

  

  

  

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Is that humane in any meaningful sense?  The whole idea of humane slaughter is an oxymoron.  Anyone seriously concerned about animal welfare (not to mention human health and ecological preservation) would simply abstain from eating animal products.  Accordingly, it is hard to see the requirement of stunning as promoting animal wellbeing.  Indeed, one could even argue that the supposed strictness of the NZ code--not even making an exception for kosher slaughter--principally has the effect of misleading New Zealanders into believing that the animals they eat led long idyllic lives before being massaged gently to death by Dr. Kevorkian.


Even if one thinks that the last minutes of life for animals slaughtered by stunning are marginally less horrific than the last minutes of life for animals subject to kosher slaughter without stunning, one could still fault the NZ code for exempting hunting and home slaughter, but not kosher commercial slaughter, from the requirement of stunning.  As in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Church of Lukumi v. Hialeah, the pattern of exemptions and non-exemptions could bespeak a lack of seriousness on the part of the New Zealand authorities in pursuing their anti-cruelty goals.  Whether slaughter is conducted for home consumption or for commercial sale, for example, in no way affects the suffering of the animal who is killed.


Note that Lukumi was decided by the same Supreme Court that decided the peyote case, treating the selective prohibition of ritual slaughter by practitioners of Santeria as a form of religious discrimination.  The NZ BoR incorporates by reference the Human Rights Act of 1993, which specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of religious belief, and so, to the extent that the non-exemption of kosher slaughter discriminates against observant Jews, it could violate the BoR in that way.  I think a fair case could be made for the conclusion that the code has a discriminatory effect, but is that its purpose?


That is an intriguing question.  Part of the theory of the peyote case is that mere indifference to a law's differential burden on religious practice is not nearly so bad as targeting religion or a particular religion for some burden.  But here the Minister of Agriculture was more than indifferent to the code's effect on observant Jews.  He made a deliberate decision not to renew the prior exemption for kosher slaughter when promulgating a new code.  It is useful to recall that the Nazi regime restricted kosher slaughter under the pretext of animal welfare.  Though I have no reason to assume that New Zealand's new code reflects anti-semitism, I also don't think that discrimination must rise to the level of anti-Semitism or other hatred in order to violate an anti-discrimination norm.  In the end, absent statements reflecting such animus, I think the only workable way to determine whether the underlying motive for repealing the exemption was an intent to discriminate is to look at the law's overall effect.  That brings us full circle.


Kosher slaughter is horrific.  How much more horrific is it than the horrific treatment of animals permitted by the law of New Zealand and the rest of the world?  A little bit perhaps.  Whether that should be enough to justify the repeal of the exemption for kosher slaughter is a question I find more depressing than interesting to contemplate.  To me it mostly shows the inefficacy of regulation relative to education as a means of changing a deeply entrenched economic and social practice like animal exploitation.

26 comments:

Rob said...

"Anyone seriously concerned about animal welfare (not to mention human health and ecological preservation) would simply abstain from eating animal products."

The paranthetical makes me ask, "What?!?!" It's healthier for an omnivore not to eat meat? It's better for the environment for an omnivore to completely cut out meat from his or her diet? That's just ridiculous. Diet is about balance, and we certainly don't have that balance with the various meat industries having such good marketing, but the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle -- however you justify it morally -- is certainly not healthy or ecologically sound.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Rob,

I'm not sure what you mean by your assertion that human beings are omnivores. Presumably this is an appeal to our nature. Over 90% of the generations of human beings to have lived thus far were "hunter-gatherers," who mostly ate plants. At a time when starvation was a constant threat, occasionally eating meat--a source of highly concentrated calories--was a sensible strategy when possible. Because human lifespans were short relative to those in modern developed countries, the long-term adverse health impacts of animal consumption typically did not manifest themselves. However, under modern conditions, even modest amounts of animal foods in a human diet substantially increase the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/yys7ap

As for the health of the planet, it takes many more times the land under cultivation to produce feed for animals to be eaten by humans than to grow plants for direct human consumption. This results in water shortages and very large contributions to greenhouse gases. See http://tinyurl.com/ygfrqcn
And that's to say nothing of local effects on air and water quality from the need to dispose of enormous volumes of animal waste.

We are only omnivores if we choose, against our own interests, to be so.

Joe said...

I see you weren't convinced by the comments to the linked post in respect to vegetarians.

I wonder how this would apply in other cases. All wrongs over history tended to be reformed in steps. Each step improved the situation some.

Also, many vegetarians simply do not tend to eat the same amount of milk and egg products as people eat "meat" as a whole. But, if they eat a piece of cake or pancakes with eggs at some point, they obviously aren't vegans. But, like many who take steps, they are closer.

As to humane slaughter, I understand the sentiment, but having watched the Temple Grandin movie on HBO recently, I also have to disagree if the idea is that the effort is trivial. Humane or not, there are ways to make it much better than it still is in many cases. Given the scale, that matters.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Joe,

1) I welcome individuals transitioning to veganism in steps. Jonathan Safran Foer has said, when asked why he is a vegetarian rather than a vegan, that he is moving in that direction. I applaud that. What I disapprove is his public promotion of vegetarianism without qualifying it as a mere transitional step that supports, e.g., the veal industry.

2) I think there is a real question whether Grandin knows what she is talking about. Her core claim is that as a person with autism, she has special insight into the experience of non-human animals. This is dubious on its face. Non-human animals are not an undifferentiated mass of defective humans that lack some capacity we have. They are beings evolved (in part through selective breeding) to their own environments, including social groups. Were humans not so committed to continuing to exploit non-humans, we would be a bit more skeptical about the claim that a human with autism has unique insights into the subjective experiences of a wide variety of non-humans.

3) That said, I don't doubt that Grandin believes she is helping animals. She takes the existence of the meat industry for granted and asks how to make it marginally less awful. You say that matters. If she and you are right that the enormous and growing meat industry is unstoppable, I suppose it does, but I would like to reverse the industry's growth, not simply somewhat decrease the suffering inflicted on each animal.

4) But, you say, this is a first step. I hope you're right, but I think you're wrong. So-called humanely raised and slaughtered meat is a growth industry. The efforts of Grandin and other welfarists allow people to go on eating meat and other animal products without considering reducing or eliminating their consumption.

5) Animal welfare laws have existed for over a century even as the industry has become much larger and more brutal. Still, it's possible that things will change, as you forecast. We don't yet know whether animal welfare laws will lead to dramatic reductions or simply continue to reassure people that what they're doing is fine. In the face of that uncertainty and the dismal track record of animal welfare legislation, I prefer not to cooperate with evil. Given that my position is a minority view among people who care about avoiding harm to sentient beings, I hope to be proven wrong.

michael a. livingston said...

I appreciate the humaneness issue, but the banning of kosher slaughter has also been a favored antisemitic or at least anti-Jewish tool for a long time, I doubt this is the motivation in New Zealand but I am concerned about the precedent.

Sherry F. Colb said...

A nice response to Temple Grandin was given by Jim Sinclair, a man who has autism and who helped found "Autism Network International," an organization for people with autism. Here it is:

"If you love something, you don’t kill it. I didn’t need to spend time in a squeeze box to learn that. Love is not killing. If you know what another being feels--not just how you feel when you touch it--then you know that living things want to remain alive. It doesn’t matter if they’re not afraid of death before they know what’s going to happen to them. In the moment when the killing happens, they know, and they want to stay alive. I have seen this, and I have felt death happen. I haven’t seen as much of death as someone who is obsessively drawn to slaughter factories, but I’ve seen enough to know. Life does not consent to be killed. I don’t need a Ph.D. in animal science to recognize that. Dying as a natural process is not the same as killing a healthy living creature. I have witnessed sudden death from injury, and gradual death from aging or disease. They’re not the same. (I have not witnessed deliberately inflicted death, because I will not stand by and allow killing to happen in my presence.) It’s irrelevant if a middle-aged scientist can say that she doesn’t fear death, that she understands it as a natural part of life. Almost all the beings whose lives she helps end are immature or just barely mature. Almost none of them are close to natural death. They’re not ready to die. If someone were to shoot or stab or electrocute the middle-aged scientist today, she might find that she’s not ready to die either. If you understand life, you know that it wants to continue. If you feel life throbbing under your touch, you know it’s desecration to set your hand to stop that living pulse. If you love something, you don’t kill it. There’s a special technique involved in tying a hangman’s noose so the victim is killed instantly by a broken neck, rather than slowly by strangulation. I suppose it’s part of a hangman’s professional expertise to learn to tie this knot properly. That expertise doesn’t make the hangman a caring or compassionate person. The hangman’s knot, the guillotine, the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the lethal injection were all designed to make deliberately inflicted death less painful to the victim. But I’ve never heard the inventors or the users of these technologies hailed as great humanitarians. I’ve never heard them praised for their great empathy toward the lives they’ve ended. Certainly it takes some ingenuity to invent new equipment. I’m a pretty smart person, but my expertise with knots is limited to being able to tie my shoes, to make a slip knot and a square knot. I tie these knots the way others taught me to tie them; I’ve never invented a new kind of knot by myself. If I were to try to design a knot that could quickly and painlessly kill someone, I’d never be able to figure it out. Whoever invented that knot had a type of mechanical creativity and skill that I don’t have. But if I did have it, I’d use it for other purposes. I wouldn’t need to invent a way to kill with a knot, because I would never be willing to participate in any way in killing a bound and defenseless person. Skill and ingenuity are not the same as empathy and caring. And love is not the same thing as killing. If you love something, you don’t kill it. It’s as simple as that."

Kera said...

Thank you for the thoughtful post. I struggle with the idea of what some call "incremental steps" towards ethical treatment of nonhuman animals. While I believe it's better to take steps to reduce animal suffering if we're unable to quickly eliminate it altogether, I also fear such steps may backfire and lead to even worse conditions for animals. As you mention, the phrase "humane slaughter" has become little more than a marketing label to appeal to consumers who claim to love animals (but not enough to stop eating them or products made from their bodies). Furthermore, I also fear the creation of "bad law" for animals by passing sloppy legislation that is ultimately overturned or repealed, leaving animals with less protection than they had before the law was passed. I'm going to think more about this post. I'm so glad you wrote it.

Paul Scott said...

Few people have done as much to ensure the long term torture of animals as Temple Grandin. That PETA gave her an award is an a mark I think that organization can never live down. If you choose to ignore what she has done with her life, I suppose you can admire that someone with such substantial obstacles became so successful. But it is hard to ignore what she has done.

I know many do not care for the Slaughterhouse/Holocaust equivalence, but it is as close to a perfect analogy as one can have with regard to Grandin. Without efficient, mechanized techniques to process humans en mass, the holocaust simply could not have happened (at least to the degree it happened). The same is true of the meat industry. Without Grandin's inventions, the slaughter of large animals simply could not take place to the same degree and cost-effectiveness that they do today.

Her expression of autism makes it impossible for her to empathize with other creatures - human or otherwise - and that is probably the only the separates her from evil.

Which, naturally, brings me to my second point on Grandin. I do not understand why someone who is, in fact, quite smart and who specializes in animal behavior can reconcile the two positions she holds:

1. Autism gives her insight into animals

2. "The part of other people that has emotional relationships is not part of me."

It should be obvious to anyone who has spent any time with animals that no person with a complete disconnect to emotion could possibly have special insight into animals. Animals are, human and non-human alike, emotional beings.

Joe said...

[1] Your original comment was "announcing he is a vegetarian, a position that, to my mind, makes little sense." Again, though it might be useful to have him say it isn't the best thing, it is but a half-way measure (like loads of things we do against bad things) it does make sense, since in practice it tends to be on the road to the promised land.

[2] You really try to prove a tad too much there, I think. She suggests her way of thinking provides her a special window (still not the same, since she is not a cow or whatever) into how they think in certain ways. She also in some fashion relates to them. This a personal thing, I don't know how she can be "wrong" exactly.

[3] Why exactly do you think I think the industry is unstoppable? That's presumptuous of you, isn't it? Your rather patronizing ideas -- given her expertise and lifetime work -- that she "thinks" she is helping them aside, how are great wrongs stopped? In stages.

Whatever she thinks as to the meat industry, and I surely don't agree with everything she says, her comments on how animals are not "things" alone would be a big step if people truly accepted that (as Prof. Colb has noted, we really don't, evenhandedly) in the right direction.

[4] History tends to show that before a wrong is put asunder, the wrong is tempered some. This was seen in the abortion context, for instance. Human and animal welfare, including let's say prisoner care, is a matter of steps, steps that quite often at first don't erase the underling system.

I don't see how Grandin is really making the system worse -- there doesn't appear to be some big movement across the board to stop factory farming. In that way, again, she is helping when the immediate alternative would be more pain for lots of animals.

Animal slaughter can be attacked on many levels. Her efforts only have been put in place in something like 1/2 of the slaughterhouses anyway. Thus, along with the underlining logic (animal aren't things), as with other areas, it is as possible that this will be a first step, not just a way to ease things along for slaughterhouses.

[5] I'm not asking you to cooperate with evil. I doubt you are a saint though, so I'm willing to bet you are in some fashion cooperating with some evil.* Like the vegetarian, you are doing so less them some others. I won't ridicule you for not being a saint in that regard. I will thank you for being better than many.

---

* It is not always easy to be a true vegan. A true vegan, according to some [see, e.g., "The Compassionate Ethic" by V. Moran], is a Gandhi like life choice of non-violence. It would require sustainable living choices, for instance, that just not eating animal products would not meet

[Also, I'm so glad to give people a platform to take pot shots at Temple Grandin, really, but my arguments don't rest on her alone. She's just an example used.]

Joe said...

I'm sorry. Victoria Moran wrote "Compassion: The Ultimate Ethic"

As to Prof. Colb's citation, I'm not making her into some sort of saint here. I'm not sure if she "loves" animals or whatever.

But, loads of people who have loved humanity have in various ways worked within a corrupt system, one they thought would not be done away with (from lack of imagination or whatever), to try in some way to make the pain and suffering of those in it lessened.

I think the excerpt somewhat unfair in that respect.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Joe,

My statement about cooperating with evil was not a claim to saintliness either in my personal life or in the positions I hold. It was about my own tactical choices and where I think people who want to reduce animal suffering can best direct their energy. I'm not opposed to half-measures if they have a good chance of succeeding. But if they're just as likely to make things worse--as I believe--then I'd rather not compromise my priciples and instead concentrate my efforts elsewhere.

Thus, as I said in my prior reply to your earlier comment, our disagreement depends in part on a prediction. You look at other rights movements that proceeded incrementally and infer that progress will be made incrementally here too. I look at over a hundred years of animal welfare legislation coinciding with ever-more-widespread animal consumption and crueler practices, and I conclude that whatever the record has been in other contexts, with respect to animal wellbeing, this approach has been a failure.

But I acknowledge that I could be proven wrong, whereas you seem to hold your view as an article of faith. You appear unable even to entertain the possibility that welfare measures (many of them welcomed by the industry) could actually end up harming more animals, by making people feel that the eggs, meat and meat they buy really are "cruelty free." You seem unwilling to acknowledge that a phenomenon so familiar in the environmental context that it has a name--"greenwashing"--could be at work in this context too.

Thus, my position is quite modest: We don't know for sure what the future holds, but my best read of the evidence to date makes me pessimistic about animal welfare laws. Unless I have badly misread you, your position is doctrinaire: You are certain that the efforts of well-motivated people will bear fruit because you think that incrementalism always works.

But perhaps I have misunderstood you. I'll give you the last word if you'd like to correct my misunderstanding. After all, this whole thread is only tangentially connected with my main post. I acknowledge there that an animal welfare measure could be upheld even if it is not especially effective at improving animal welfare.

Charles said...

If one wants to help reduce the consumption of animal products, a sound approach vis-a-vis those who appreciate logical consistency is pointing out that expressing empathy for animals and consuming those products are logically inconsistent. Eg, it has worked with me.

If one's target is people of a religious bent, accusing them of moral transgression may work. But for the former group, it may be (and in my case unequivocally is) counterproductive. My reaction to accusations such as being (or participating in) "evil" or even of being insufficiently "loving" is that the accuser is engaged in an activity analogous (if not equivalent) to religious cant. And my response to such is multifacetedly negative.

Hence, I find Joe's verdict "somewhat unfair" re Prof Colb's excerpt to be much too generous. In fact, all I gleaned from Mr. Sinclair's self-congratulatory (and IMO, largely incoherent) elaboration on his single - and debatable - mantra was that consistent with it, he will never commit suicide.

davorder said...

Michael Dorf's analysis is spot on, including his speculation on NZ case law concerning religious freedom and bill of rights litigation generally.
A regulation such as this might not survive scrutiny in a NZ court - it could be adjudged ultra vires the parent Act, when read in conjunction with NZ's statutory bill of rights. In other contexts outside freedom of religion this has occurred and regulations have been struck down (under section 4 of the nz bill of rights, courts cannot strike down primary legislation - but regulations are not necessarily protected, unless they conform to the parent Act).
A Lukumi-like analysis would almost certainly succeed if a court confronted the issue fairly (NB, NZ courts routinely use foreign cases, including American ones, to throw light on their analysis). The parent Act requires animals to be spared unnecessary suffering. Possibly one could say that hunting involves "necessary" cruelty (one doesn't capture, say, a deer, and then humanely euthanise it - that would defeat the point of hunting). But farmers who keep animals and wish to kill them for their own consumption (ie, not commercial sale) are not required to use pre-stunning. This is clearly discriminatory. There is probably no need to prove anti-religious animus either (only 2 justices in the Lukumi decision thought this was necessary).
In NZ however, religious groups tend to approach Parliament (or in this case the minister, since it's a regulation) rather than go through the courts, due to a general societal disapproval of litigating contentious matters.

The Jewish community is perhaps predictably being fairly subdued through all this, hoping to get a quiet and quick reversal of the law through democratic channels. Speaking as a legal scholar based in Auckland, this is a little disappointing, because there is precious little jurisprudence on religious freedom in this country.

beachwoodflea said...

Professor Dorf,
Wonderful analysis and a thought provoking set of comments. Thank you for providing us with your thoughts and energy.

You wrote in your last response to Joe: "But if they're just as likely to make things worse--as I believe--then I'd rather not compromise my principles and instead concentrate my efforts elsewhere."
I apologies if I misunderstand you... but I feel that the lack of willingness by the (majority) of the vegan & animal rights communities (both to which I by default belong) in actuality set back the goals of the movements. I think you are acknowledging this. But I don't understand how you can see vegetarianism, as opposed to veganism, as a choice that could make things worse.
I think we must remind ourselves that to expect most human animals, especially here in America, to embrace or even fully comprehend a strict ethical code concerning nonhuman animals is overreaching. It's a very sad truth. I believe that completely ending animal suffering must be done incrementally.
If there is, as there must be, a legislative and grassroots effort to make consumers of nonhuman animals aware of factory farming realities and also present them with options... only than will we truly be moving towards greater progress. I feel there is too much societal stigma with the all-or-nothingness the movements represent.
I am of the mindset, that to reach the desired outcome, we first must be willing to actively sacrifice some of the principles (not personally but theoretically) and accept that nonhuman animal consumption will continue to exist for some time. If we do not focus on total abolitionist tactics and focus on promoting things that may require us to step back from principles, the general populations may be more willing and able to embrace the thinking behind it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue(s). I apologies about the lack of clarity here, as I am kind of point jumping and pressed for time.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Beachwoodflea,

Let me give you an analogy. Suppose you are an abolitionist in 1820. You begin by emancipating your slaves and boycotting goods and services produced by slave labor. Now someone asks you to join his "slave welfare" movement. The movement seeks legislation limiting the number of whippings a master can inflict daily. It also seeks legislation that prevents children from being auctioned away from their parents before the age of ten. You object that these minor improvements in the lot of slaves are dwarfed by the fact that by supporting them, you will be tacitly condoning slavery itself. Someone says you're being unrealistically hardline. Slavery is going to be around for a long time so you should support efforts that ameliorate it and that may raise consciousness. You say that it's just as likely that the small improvements will only divert people who would otherwise boycott slavery, and they will start purchasing goods and services produced by "humanely treated" slaves. Wouldn't you be appalled by the "humane slavery" movement? And I'm not even saying I'm appalled by the animal welfare movement. I'm just saying that I want to concentrate my efforts elsewhere.

beachwoodflea said...

Thank you for your explanatory analogy and question Professor.

After having thought about it for the last night and today, my answer to your (probably rhetorical) question would be an emphatic no. The “slave welfare” movement would not appall me. In fact, if such a movement eased the pain of one slave for one second, or kept one mother and child together for any amount of time longer than otherwise… I would applaud the movement’s achievements.
I suppose my ethical constitution is malleable.
Now, if I may, with all do respect, address your analogy. The most glaring issue with it is the fact that slaves were (and sadly continue to be) human beings. While, I and many other ethical vegans, respect and acknowledge the similar traits amongst nonhuman animals and humans, we also acknowledge that we are a different species. It would be a hard sell to me to accept otherwise, I think an even harder sell to the general population.
I actually think this analogy is a good example of the all or nothingness I feel we, as a movement, need to reevaluate.
We share a common interests: abolishing animal use and suffering. I hope you do not read any disrespect in my comments. For me, in my 13 years as an ethical vegan I have found the tactic of understanding and passive teaching far more influential than understanding with judgment.
I am entering the field of law and I hope to apply my methodology to pursuing laws for animals. I look to you and others as the leaders of this field. If not for your acceptance, for your opinions and approach. Thank you for creating this forum.

beachwoodflea said...

For clarity's sake. I, of course, very much recognize the all-too-similar elements in the human slavery era and the current use of nonhuman animals.
I was hoping to suggest, I feel that analogies such as this, further alienate our cause rather than ingratiate it for the reason mentioned.

Michael C. Dorf said...

I wasn't making the slavery analogy. I find such comparisons apt but I realize that most people don't and so, for the very reasons you cite, I don't offer them. In my example, I meant to call attention to a tactical question faced by all justice movements: At what point do small steps become so small that merely taking them is repellant because they condone the overall injustice to too great a degree. Another example--that also doesn't depend on what one thinks of the merits of the causes or their similarities and differences--could be this: Suppose you are pro-life because you think that human life is sacred from the moment of conception; you might oppose--or at least not actively work to enact--proposed legislation requiring fetal anaesthetics for abortions.

Mark said...

Update - NZ does U Turn on Shechita ban - Minister has conflict of interest - link to article - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10690598

ajsutter said...

The news story linked in Mark's comment above re-frames the context of the post somewhat -- the proposed ban on kosher slaughtering was designed to maintain goodwill for New Zealand products with Muslim countries.

As for the vegan/vegetarian issue, it is not clear to me that vegetarianism in principle harms animals. Certainly it should be possible to provide food, shelter and love to animals, e.g. on a family farm, while also obtaining milk and eggs from them. Is it inevitable that this will shorten their lives or render them more uncomfortable than if they had to forage on their own in the wild? While these circumstances might seldom be realized in practice, especially on industrial farms, the ethics of vegetarianism seem more situational than absolute.

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amine lahragui said...

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