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Jane Sorensen

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Farming, Science, and the Animal Rights Debate


Farming is a major target of animal welfare campaigns and of the organic food revolution, based on concern for environmental justice and the health of the food we consume. It also has been a major recipient of financial support as it is, more than other industries, buffeted by adverse conditions in the weather and the market for its products. Farming gets governmental support for many reasons: farmers are a politically active group, with an historic link to our national heritage, providing a culture of its own that is distinct from urban culture, and a once-present lifestyle of husbandry (Rollin 523). It does not hurt that agribusiness is, as a whole, quite profitable, with the national appeal of feeding the world. Farmers are contributors to everyones well-being, the three days without bread being the buttress of civil society. We can tolerate the occasional farm failing just as any businesses can fail, but any trend of failure recalls the verse:
A dog starved at his masters gate Predicts the ruin of the state. - William Blake

This may also silently speak to the great dismay and rage that we feel whenever a farmer starves his flocks and herds. My father (a retired farmer) says that this does not happen intentionally and without outside cause, but even so, it is the farmers responsibility to take every humane recourse. When I was a child, one of our neighbors, Cecil Romanelli, had a herd of Charolais that were starving when the bank foreclosed on his loan. Early one morning he loaded up his pick-up truck with some of his dead cattle and dumped it on the sidewalk in front of the Royal Bank head office in Toronto a bank that has gold as part of its windows mirroring compound. While farming may merit some of the criticisms directed against it since farmers have changed their methods with the advent of agribusiness, Fraser notes the assumption we have that animal producers have shifted away from traditional animal care values. He asks if we actually have data on the shifting mores of farmers. If we dont, it would be helpful to find out in order to have a dialogue. (552) Farmers may care as much as they ever did, and some are not immune to care more (vis a vis organic farming), as societys
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Jane Sorensen

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general shift in perception of and compassion towards animals is due to the ability to know more about them - through documentaries of wild animals, responsible relationships with pets, and research on animal behaviour (ethology), psychology, neurology. (550) But, under the economic and social constraints farmers have, permission to care may be limited, and it does not easily translate to the increasing scale of their practices. (553) There is a film in Canadas Top Ten (2008) called Farmer's Requiem by director Ramses Madina1 about the disappearance of farming culture. There has been a concomitant relegation of pastoral structures in the adjustment to new practices, but another source of anxiety exists: It is rare to pass a farm on to your children. Most farmers live poor and die rich, because the most lucrative crop you can plant is concrete, so they sell their land to those who develop it for commercial and residential purposes, without respect for the land itself. (Witness another Canadian film, Radiant City, in which the city of Calgary small enough to still see fields of wheat between the airport and city limits has experienced such a boom that outlying suburbia is the coveted, yet dysfunctional, place to live.) Agriculture is such important work that to be done right, it needs diversity at the cost of efficiency (see Rollin, 524); competent, knowledgeable, and caring owners and workers; adequate compensation to retain the best workers, and social value to enable dialogue. Because it is not well-compensated and is seasonal, labour pool shortages and transient work are endemic problems, (Fraser 549) working against knowledge-building and caring. Small farms fall victim first. This is the beginning of where economics put the family farm at a disadvantage. Fraser identified government support of mass industrial production as the intent to improve the lot of farmers (549) in the face of competition pressures from expanding

http://topten.ca/films/farmersrequiem/default.aspx accessed latest on Tuesday, 08 April 2008

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Jane Sorensen

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

global markets. (550) The government has found cause to invest in intensive farms, and it has also benefited from corporate taxes and the jobs derived from the agribusiness supplier side which the government helps fuel through scientific research in its labs and at the universities. The most direct tools to protect farmers livelihoods are the production quota, the marketing boards, and compensation when the market plummets. Shrinking operating or profit margins have oblige even unwilling farmers to switch to confinement systems. Nevertheless, for farming communities, the environmental degradation and the loss of pastoral (pasture) scenes due to intensive farming is a serious issue. Both make the countryside less hospitable. In addition, the critique that has not been taken seriously enough is that these systems treat living beings in an industrialized manner. Although the organic revolution is portrayed with the self-interested reason of healthy choices, it is also in part a critique of the exploitation of the natural world. The perception is that money from this exploitation is being made across the board, even during compensation periods.2 Some pig farmers have been made rich since the advent of intensive confinement. This fuels the righteousness of animal welfare advocates that intensive farming is a game played on the literal backs of animals made miserable as reducible pawns. Fraser points out that the extension of the above critique, that either we return to the type of agriculture that preceded the agribusiness revolution, or become vegan, (551) is a two solitudes debate that has sidelined the resolution of practical conflicts (554) and is counterproductive when the people who most closely influence farm-animal welfare the producers themselves often feel alienated and vilified by the debate rather than being engaged in it. (554) To give a personal insight into a farmers frame of mind before this critique, farmers and farm workers feel they have, and may have always had, a pejorative stereotype.

http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080414.wpigs0414/BNStory/rob News/home?cid=al_gam_mostemail accessed April 15, 2008


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Jane Sorensen

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dont condemn farming when your mouth is full is a bumper sticker many farmers have. It is not directed specifically against animal rights activists. It tells people not to interfere in any negative way, that they ought to protect and support farmers. The trouble is, one cannot have it both ways. If you want more protection and support, you have to accept more demands and involvement. When it comes to confinement systems, there are legitimate reasons to avoid them that have to do with what we know animals experience of the world. There are also arguments about what level of violence and domination could be greatly mitigated or even rendered unnecessary if we allowed it to be. These concern the permission farmers give themselves to look at some of their practices through this filter, and some of the assumptions that we as a society ground our practices in regarding animals, which farmers are opposed to addressing for commercial or fear-of-change reasons. We will get into these shortly, but first, even that premise has hope. Gary Valens article Agribusiness: Farming without culture (a better title is Farming: Putting Culture back in Agribusiness) documented the resolution of practical conflicts in a document negotiated amongst key stakeholders entitled Creating a New Vision of Farming. Valen notes that there was almost unanimous consent that ethics matter when it comes to growing and raising food in contemporary agricultural production systems. (573). He also noted that production ethics are a moving target, as everything changes from year to year. To me, this gives indication that, provided that moving target is not a euphemism for a loophole, agribusiness will support the structures that give ethics expression and farmers will participate in forming and acting along ethical guidelines. Frasers article on Caring for Farm Animals identified the fallacy in the criticism that Judeo-Christian principles are the root of todays environmental crisis, but it also identified the failing of our Judeo-Christian society in living up to the pastoral ethic of empathetic responsibility (548). He returns in his arguments on behalf of farmers to the pastoralist ethic, advocating that just as this ethic did in biblical times, it might be the basis to form a consensus again. The reasons for confinement that work in favour of animals warmth, less food required, protection from predation and disease (551-52),
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have meaning, but nonetheless, many demand granting the behavioural needs of freedom for grazing, scratching, and wallowing in the fresh air. But he asks if our market can handle that producers allow animal-care standards to trump its demands. (554) In the meantime, the most exemplary case can (and should) be made for the moral farmer, who does what he or she can to alleviate suffering in the privacy of the barn, even if pretending (like researchers working with the SEMA chimps, on whose behalf Jane Goodall constructively advocated new standards [653]) that what the animal may be deprived of from birth may not be perceived as a lack. In turn, there are criticisms that need to be addressed at the level of cause. Valens noted that the USDA, followed by Canada, and the WTO value only scientific data (research that often opens up other ethical dilemmas) for food safety standards; the legal market supports amoral demands only, not cultural values (the WTO, as mentioned in Valens article, has ruled against the EU in their ban on hormone-treated beef, calling it a non-tariff trade barrier). This science-only-admitted criteria rejects the social level of precaution Steven Rockefeller, a religious scholar, discusses in his article on Earth Charter Ethics and Animals, which he helped negotiate. The point of his article was to demonstrate how working principles are negotiated, the concerns of various parties, and how issues get resolved. He is also writing from an actionable point of view, which, along with Valens article are working perspectives that are constructive to the debate and instrumental in making positive changes and alleviating negative conditions. A government that deals in positivist data only may be forever biased against goods of other value. So we come to the consumers. Food is a necessity, but people are capable of paying more than they do. We leave much of price to choice, constraining production costs beyond ethical values, if legal. Many choose to continue paying the same 10-15 per egg they have paid for the past 20 years, which means, at least, that chickens are cycled

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Jane Sorensen

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through and killed faster than they were before.3). When we rely on the market to set the prices of products which are necessary, and yet should meet an absent ethical standard (that we should not treat living beings like unconscious objects), it seems to me like asking fraudsters in white-collar jail to rewrite the laws that put them there. It is also a moral hazard: keep food prices low so that people can afford healthy choices, but no obligation to make those choices, because we bail them out of their health crises anyway. Food may also be too cheap because in 2007, for the first time ever, Canadians spent more at restaurants than they do on their grocery bills. This means both groceries and restaurants are affordable, and people are opting less to cook. If our farmers suffer under these conditions, and foreign countries can produce food according to a pastoral ethic that provides care as well as or better than we can apply, perhaps we should raise our standards and prices and allow them to participate. So why do we treat animals as objects in the market? Because there is pressure to do so. As scientists are on the forefront of creative endeavours to improve our lives, they have a responsibility to report on and incorporate new data into the paradigms and practices that affect all of our human and animal subjects. One such example is the Canadian Council of Animal Care, which established protocols of handling animals for research, as one way to ensure the publics (scientists and non-scientists alike) values regarding animal needs and emotions have some sort of resonance in scientific protocols. The average person knows that animals have emotional and physical feelings and farmers know that they have personalities more than some scientists do. Science, built so

A hen will lay about 300 eggs (13- 14 days to make a dozen eggs) her first year, then the second

year that decreases to 200 eggs per year - which doesnt pay for her food. At 12 per egg or $1.44 per dozen and we know thats being generous to the farmer she must consume less than $36 per year in resources. If she were kept as a domestic animal, a family would find her upkeep a pittance and she would, especially if paired with another of a different age, supply them with more than enough eggs. But these things are frowned upon in an urban setting.

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Jane Sorensen

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carefully on building blocks that need to be rigorously justified before allowing them to stand, has some who still consider animal lives in our meaning of the word a non-fact, and some others argue it has been kept from becoming one for as long as possible. Part of this is a rationale that if a fact is scientifically denied, it is merely a belief, and beliefs can be equated with religion and constrained from influencing secular interests. So, some enforce this status quo by limiting scientific inquiry that benefits our knowledge of animals via a we cannot know argument. Nevertheless, some scientists make interesting observations in spite of this enforcement. Wild Justice is an argument in favour of the factuality of animal emotions and thoughts. Bekoff gave many examples of the demonstration of animal emotion, contrasted to the scientific assumption that we can never know what animals think and feel. Behaviorism in psychology and reductionism in biology were so dominant from roughly the 1920s to the 1960s that scientists were reluctant even to consider the possibility that there was such a thing as animal cognition, let alone animal consciousness. (Griffin 481) It has taken another 40 years to change this. This leap from cognitive to consciousness studies in animals also implies they have private subjective states. The repeated evidence from purposive behaviorism for expectancies of animals leads to the possibility of consciousness and choices, but Griffin explained how most scientists preferred to create a framework based on behaviorism that eschewed any attribute of a state of mind or a possibility of intention or anticipation of a result. They justified avoiding the issue by emphasizing the impossibility of learning about animals mental experiences. (Griffin 483) Some also said that only reflective consciousness is real consciousness (484). Griffin gives examples of cognitive behaviours that show behaviorism is insufficient to describe and research the topic, and asserts that subjective private experiences are certainly an important part of cognitive ethology. The attempt to limit cognitive ethology to information processing is an obsolete relict of behaviorism. (487) It comes across, through Griffins article, that science appears to have a dogma (he even refers to indoctrination on p. 493). The article was carefully written for a scientific
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audience, and it appears that he has taken so much heat on this issue that he has every reason to be frustrated at the resistance to open up this field in entertaining a consciousness theory for animals, especially when 1) leaps in the scientific advancement have not necessarily nullified pre-existing explanations (491), and 2) we already are willing to apply less conservative conclusions to less-supported data in humans (493, 494). It is a needless limitation of our imaginations to assume that animals do not have thoughts, feelings, and mental experiences of their own, says Griffin. (495) He offers nine speculations in the hope that they will stimulate constructive research as an alternative to the prevailing view that animal consciousness is not an appropriate subject for scientific analysis. Considering that almost everything we learn about human cognition and neurology and psychology is vetted and supported by research done on animal subjects, the only thing that is surprising is the disconnect that we still have from admitting this information, subjective of the research subjects and applicable to their species in the natural world, into our canon of acceptable knowledge. Animals are probably conscious in a different way than us, according to the needs of their lives this distinction, helpfully supported by the founder of process thought, A.N. Whitehead. (Griffin 498) The avoidance of admitting as much is an attitude he coined as mentophobia, and attributed it as so intense that it suggests a deeper, philosophical aversion. (496) As we will come to, Adams has identified a basis for this aversion. Disregarding mentophobic baggage, Bekoff studies social fairness in animal behavior, beginning with animal play. He finds that they have a moralitywhich, when contrasted with popular ideas about the innate selection success of selfishness, ought not to exist. Good acts without reward are considered intrinsic to human morality, and yet are evident in animals. Bekoff posits that Charles Darwins (1859; [1872] 1998) ideas about evolutionary continuity, that behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and moral variations among different species are differences in degree rather than in kind not a void in the evolution of moral capacity or agency. (Bekoff 464)

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Jane Sorensen

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My analogy is that if we pretended that oral societies, without reading and writing, did not convey history but only instructions when they spoke, by just looking at their behaviors, their moral actions too would look only proximate and pragmatic. (Bekoff 464) This is an apt analogy because a versatility of communicative behavior in some animals provides fairly direct evidence about thoughts and feelings, which we would readily admit of any strange human society. We would not have any visibly clear cue that there is a progressive tradition in human conduct, as our notions of right and wrong are not so apparent in wordless action. If humans were stripped of the politics preventing us from knowing animals (the term anthropomorphism has become politically charged in order to scientifically continue the religious tradition of severing our similarities with animals4) which is what Bekoff, Griffin, and Hauser all advocated for would we have things to learn from them? (Bekoff 471-73) Are Animals Moral Agents? is where Marc Hauser explores inhibitory control in rhesus and tamarind monkeys. He notes that No one has yet developed an animalfriendly battery of moral dilemmas that might reveal how animals make such choices, (507) so what is tested is their ability to make choices against temptation to determine the context of the limitations that they have. They may be similar to us when desires overwhelm their known problem-solving abilities, and their tenacity to certain cognitive models (for example, the location of a fallen object in the face of contrary evidence) is also precisely what is expected if the animal has a theory. (511) Hauser also cited evidence gathered from old studies, now ethically questionable, which tested temptation and control as a social challenge. These studies shed light on the capacity for empathy and attributing beliefs and desires to others. (Hauser 511) The studies that followed were almost astounding for the personal costs animals would go to avoid hurting another animal, or to aid in their distress. This raised, according to

Consciousness is called (vilified) an anthropomorphism when applied to animals. (Griffin

494)
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Hauser, questions regarding evolutionary changes in the mind. Considering the age of these studies and the behaviourist dominance of ethology at that time, altruism shown by animals was not ready for admission. Knowing what it is like to have someone elses emotions takes us from emotion to feeling and from a straight-forward triggering system to having a theory of mind. (513) The basic conditions of life for both animals and people involve what it means to do well, what are the needs and rights, and what kinds of frameworks do animals and humans have to obtain them. Hauser argues that from needs comes the is. This is biology. From rights comes the ought. This is morality. (Hauser 515) None of us, human or animal, are immune from temptations and the punishments that can arrive from the satisfaction of such temptations and we dont even need to be the author of our own misfortune, the temptation of another can be our downfall. Hauser provides an argument concerning how humans evolved a unique trick, one that provided them with a degree of control over their passions that no animal has or ever could exert. With this trick in hand, humans must nonetheless remain vigilant of the is handed down from biology and use this knowledge to guide the ought associated with an ethical life. (505) The trick is actually four-fold: physical constraints, mental commitments, religious strictures, and legal documents. (515) In other words, a social contract that recognizes our limitations and protects us and from which, according to the same framework argued for its creation, it is unethical to exempt non-human animals. Carol Adams A Very Rare and Difficult Thing was an exhaustive article about the many constructs we use to avoid confronting the implications of the suffering we cause to nonhuman animals, starting with the fact that we are different. (593) This is part and parcel of the way our society looks at interests among people and non-human animals. The mechanism of status, power, and fear makes potential losers adhere and defend the interests of the powerful. It is, essentially, about scapegoating. She ascribes it to dualistic thinking, value-hierarchical thinking, and an ill-defined logic of domination. (592) Her model is biased she tries to deconstruct well-supported tenets without considering they can be extended positively. For example, the Western definition of
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the man of reason was that he could overcome body, history, social situations, and thereby gain knowledge of others he examined as objects. (593) Everything is both a subject and an object. It is possible to better handle a subject holistically by also understanding its object properties this is why, as Hauser advocated (and as Singer has elsewhere), we must understand what animals want. Adams also posited: The body, identified with animals, is what must be transcended. A rational, objective knowing person is one who esteems autonomy over relationship, hyperseparation over attention.Modern epistemology and its suspicion of emotions, its dualistic ontologies, its rationalist bias, its concern for achieving objectivity, and its avoidance of sympathy as a basis for ethical treatment is the point of view of an elite human male. (594) Yet there is counter-evidence in our culture; I find men have always celebrated the body, in classical times as now. Being emotionally functional has also long been a factor in ones success in life; the rational objective knowing person without emotions is a failure of a different sort. Attention and relationship is the basis of most ethical systems, at least as ethics is understood by most to be in practice. Nevertheless, Adams gives us a compelling construct that helps explain the tricks we play to allow ourselves to get away with subjecting someone or something to a fate we would not wish upon any of our own, a cognitive dissonance that we consider ourselves caring people, yet ignore the broad harm we cause in treating other beings in ways that have no consequence. It is by creating an absent referent. (595)
The most efficient way to ensure that humans are not reminded of animals suffering and our role in it is to transform nonhuman subjects into nonhuman objects. Someone becomes something, a who becomes a that, ultimately, the living are made (as) dead, and the process of reification triumphs. Who is suffering? No one. (594) The crucial point here is that humans make someone who is a unique being and therefore not the appropriate referent of a mass term into something that is the appropriate referent of a mass term. Humans make a subject into an object. (595)

When we say we esteem animals and care for them, fearing that we care too much, we create structures that enable us to care too little. (601) One of those structures we have already seen in science, by refusing to admit consciousness so shortly on the heels of cognition. This refusal is a power structure that Adams identifies as the god trick
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(600), seen in pastoral Judaic sacrifice as imitation Dei, resonating with our subjugation before a loving God, but inverted when God becomes distant and disinterested. The god trick is powerful enough to be the seat of the philosophical aversion Griffin called mentophobia. We are gods, but not God-like enough to need to love our subjects. The point is, we are different. She also notes the exception that proves the rule: that charismatic animals get the benefit of our attitude of care (though the benefit is still paltry, as too many face extinction). This is an appeal to the noble savage of the wild beast, bearing our positive traits, while we despise those who are slavish to us. (596) It also contains an element of the scapegoat, where ancient societies put their individual and collective sins onto an animal and drive it out, relieving the group of their guilt. The degradation and helplessness of the domestic animal allows it to be the scapegoat. I must object to the authors repeated argument of denigrating the female. Of livestock, as in nature, females are worth more than the males. The extent of the dualism she argues is not needed to defend the value-hierarchical and absent referent mechanisms by which we promote hypocrisy in the face of suffering. The value-hierarchical model is sufficient to explain the power structures that oppress, and our avoidance of paying attention to the suffering that we inflict through that oppression. It is also the valuehierarchical model that can flexibly change to allow the elevation she recommends of the kind of subjectivity that sees others as subjects, too. Peter Singers contribution to the book Animal Protection and the Problem of Religion noted that "there is much positive work that could be done short of these religions ceasing to be human-centered but notes what an uphill task it is. He has a better opinion of secular means to promote the compassionate treatment of animals, especially when facing governmental and scientific obstacles. However, I think that religious discourse and apologetics will be instrumental to changing hearts and minds even with secularists. His mistake in the interview was certainly the texts in Genesis were not very helpful. They portray God as drowning virtually every living thing on earth, just because humans had behaved badly. What kind of example does that set? (618) The crucial point is he
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Jane Sorensen

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neglected Gods instructions to Noah to save a pair of every animal on earth in order to repopulate it when the waters subside. God holds the animals innocent. The themes in the philosophical papers, as well as the scientific papers, all touched upon the need to be less objectifying, fragmenting and destroying the other in animals. The themes the papers on farming and agribusiness touch on the need to be less polarizing and more constructive in addressing the prevention of objectification of farmers and their livestock. It is clear that work needs to be done to force the sanction of truths we already believe to be true and have been demonstrated cogent, and education of ourselves and each other as stakeholders can only take place by addressing these issues directly and acknowledging the games we play to avoid measuring their importance.

Bibliography
Waldau, P. and K. Patton, eds. 2006. A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press.

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