Thanks for your kind words.
I think at times like these it's wise to heed Thomas Jefferson's admonition that "I have never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friendship."
What Mike and Rob mean is not force in the literal sense that they think you are going to physically interfere with their eating, but that you would support laws that do so. Of course I presume this is technically true; I know I support such laws. The question is whether or not the laws would be an *initiation* of force against them, or a justifiable defense against *their* initiation of force.
Since this is obviously the point of disagreement, and both sides in our debate are using considered libertarian arguments to support their positions, I feel that continuing to accuse anyone of being busybodies or force-initiators or groupies, or whatever is a bit unnecessary -- certainly it is undiplomatic.
But from their perspective, of course we *are* proposing to initiate force against them. Just as libertarians on both sides of the abortion debate work together despite feeling that the others are advocating the initiation of force, we ought to be able to work together despite our similar disagreement on the topic of animal rights.
Obviously this can be a touchy subject. It was an animal rights conversation that led to Jean Kennedy getting so incensed by my calmly responding to her rabid email, after she said she didn't want to hear from me for a month, that she banned me from coming to her event!
Dear Starchild and the rest of us:
I cannot thank-you (Starchild) enough for the preceding. It explains my position clearly and succinctly. At the risk of being redundant, I thank-you again.
I must confess secondarily, that I am disturbed by some of the name-calling that has resulted from these discussions. Mike Denny (and yes Mike, I am taking this personally,) used the name "busy-body". I was not aware that expressing one's opinion and/or dismay qualifies as such. I have never attempted to force anyone to stop doing anything, and I feel quite offended that you would say such a thing. And to Rob, whom I have agreed with upon occasion, I am not a "groupie" for anyone. If this is true, then all of us that believe passionately are "groupies." I happen to be a dues paying member of ALF, and PETA as a point of clarification. However, I do not proselytize; I will respond with my opinion when these subjects are broached, (usually at someone else's instigation.)
I was under the impression that differences aside, we are all friends in liberty. Maybe I was mistaken.
Starchild <sfdreamer@...> wrote:
You assert below that the role of government should be limited to
protecting human life, liberty, and property. That's a step backward. I
thought we were agreed that intelligent extra-terrestrial life forms
would deserve legal protection on some other basis than belonging to
the human species.
Now I haven't heard about these French studies that allegedly prove
that force-fed ducks don't suffer from this treatment. But because this
defies common sense, I think a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.
I was not aware that France has a reputation for being
"hyper-politically-correct" -- they just refused to allow Muslims to
wear scarves in school, which is quite politically incorrect. Even if
your description were accurate, France is also known as a nation of
gourmets. In fact it is where foie gras originally comes from, if I'm
Common sense suggests that if the ducks were hungry, they would eat on
their own. How often do you see animals turn down food, even when
they've already had plenty? If they have to force-feed these ducks, I
suspect that the birds definitely *do not* want to be eating that food.
They are obviously not able to think about it rationally and consider,
"Hmm, I've had enough." The way they likely know that they've had
enough is because they reach a point where their bodies give them
negative feedback if they continue to eat -- i.e. they experience
discomfort or pain. The fact that tests allegedly showed no increase in
their adrenaline should not be taken as proving anything. Have you ever
gotten a rush of adrenaline from continuing to eat when you are already
stuffed? I haven't. But I have experienced the discomfort of having
eaten too much.
I'm not sure what a galvanic test is, so I can't comment on that. But
here is part of what the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie/index.html) has to say about
"Foie gras, which is French for "fatty liver," is made from the
grotesquely enlarged livers of male ducks and geese. Birds have up to 2
pounds of food per day pumped into their stomachs through long metal
pipes that are shoved down their throats. The cruel ordeal often causes
severe injuries that make it painful or even impossible for birds to
drink. Those who survive the feedings suffer from a painful illness
that causes their livers to swell to eight to 10 times their normal
size. Many birds become too sick to walk and are reduced to pushing
themselves across their cages with their wings. When the birds are
slaughtered, their livers are sold for foie gras."
I agree that the rights of humans should trump the rights of non-human
animals (remember the hierarchy I suggested). But I disagree that
putting humans first necessarily means that other animals may simply be
treated as property and should have no legal protection whatsoever. I
especially disagree that it's OK to subject them to torture in the name
of human supremacy.
My bias against "factory farming" is not a bias against modern
techniques simply because they are modern. My bias is against farming
techniques which are inhumane to animals. I agree that animal farming
in general tends to be rather gruesome, and am not holding up
traditional farming as an ideal. But grandma's farm seems downright
idyllic compared to living conditions and manipulation of animals'
bodies that are designed to maximize the production of eggs, milk,
meat, etc. with no concern for the health or comfort of the providers.
It seems idyllic compared to lifetime confinement in spaces where there
is no room to walk or move about normally, compared to systematic
mutilation, compared to deprivation of sunlight, etc. Rob, I suggest
you watch the "Meatrix" animation, or if you can stomach a more
detailed look, spend some time at the PETA website.
You say every right carries with it a responsibility. What
responsibility do newborn human babies have? None, correct? Do you
believe then that they likewise have no rights? That it's OK for their
parents to torture them? If you make an exception because of their
future potential as human adults, then let's hypothesize a baby born
with a definitely terminal condition who has only days to live. Would
you say it is OK to torture this baby, since it will never have any
responsibilities, and therefore (according to you) never have any
Saying that it *can* be more legally acceptable for a non-human animal
to poop on your property, tear it up, etc., than it would be for a
normal human adult to do these things is not trying to "have it both
ways." In fact it's the way human infants are currently treated under
the law. You would have no legal recourse against a human baby that
acted in such a manner. Responsibility is derived from knowledge;
rights are not. And in any case it's not true, as you put it, that
"animals cannot be held responsible for anything." People can and do
discipline their animal companions, and I'm comfortable with this if it
is done in a non-abusive manner, for example scolding a dog for heeding
the call of nature in the wrong place, or making her wear a muzzle in
public if she is prone to biting strangers. I would not consider it OK
to keep a dog muzzled just for the hell of it, so this is definitely
related to the animal's personal responsibility.
I know that libertarians as well as leftists often speak of the
impropriety of "legislating morality." Such phraseology works because
everyone knows what is meant by it, but I think it is technically
redundant. When it comes right down to it, *all* laws are about
legislating morality. How is a law against rape any less morality-based
than a law against eating meat? Laws are society's way of saying "this
is OK; that is not OK." If the standard were simply "act in your
self-interest," you wouldn't need a law to tell you what that
self-interest was. How is bringing up the issue of "might makes right"
missing the point? Isn't "might makes right" precisely what you have in
the absence of any morality? You mentioned being floored by the
response on this topic; I'm equally amazed that you seem to want to
discard the very idea that there can be legitimate standards about what
is right and wrong.
Yours in liberty,
<<< Starchild >>>
> Thanks Michael. Sometimes I forget to soften my own image. Yes,
> tofu in my fridge, no, I've not eaten veal in probably a decade, and
> yes, I
> pay extra for the more humane chicken eggs. I doubt I'll ever be
> vegan, but
> I'm certainly well on my way to vegetarian. I'd love to see the Star
> day where food is molecularly replicated. Blah, blah, blah… But
> rights still trump animal rights, even if we develop sufficient
> where we have no _need_ to eat them.
> Even people who believe in that human-to-animal-to-plant hierarchy of
> that Starchild mentioned should understand where I'm coming from.
> Since all
> laws are ultimately enforced at the point of a gun, the real
> question has to be whether it's okay to shoot a human for causing
> discomfort to an animal. (I say perceived, because the feed tubes
> used for
> foie gras mimic the mother bird's beak feeding the baby bird, and a
> gullet is anatomically much less sensitive than our throats. So I
> really do
> think we humans are projecting a "gosh, that must hurt" emotional
> when galvanic and adrenaline tests done in hyper-politically-correct
> _prove_ that the bird really isn't in any distress while it's being
> fed that
> As for this "might makes right" argument Steve brought up, that's
> missing the point. There is no "right" or "wrong". I'm saying it's
> altogether unacceptable to legislate morality's "rights and wrongs",
> it's totally subjective. I'm a gay man from the South. You'll simply
> to trust me on this point. Legislating _anyone's_ morality, whether
> conservative Christian or liberal Green, is always a BAD idea.
> I'm saying that, instead of legislating morality, we should only
> what is minimally required by the "social contract" (for lack of a
> term), i.e., mutual protection of humans' life, liberty, and property.
> Animals don't fit into this equation, because they don't have the
> ability to agree to this "contract". Every right carries with it
> responsibility, and animals can't be held responsible for anything.
> rights people can't have it both ways. It can't be more acceptable
> for an
> animal to poop on or tear up my property than a human, or more
> acceptable to
> bite or kill me than a human, unless you acknowledge that it does not
> the same rights as a human.
> Oh, and I did do high school debate, Steve. I know it's an extremely
> powerful strategy to simply dismiss any slippery slope argument as
> intellectually dishonest. But I ask you to look at the trend. When
> leftists went after the smokers, all of us for smokers' rights said
> the next
> stop on the slippery slope would be fattening food, and all the
> people claimed that such slippery slope arguments were ridiculous. As
> now know, it wasn't so absurd, after all. So, now that the leftists
> saying there's no slippery slope from foie gras bans to veganism at
> gunpoint, I hope you don't mind that I'm highly suspicious of such
> Back to Michael's attempt to soften my rhetoric, let me say this: I
> look at
> animal rights like housing the poor. Just because it's something that
> of us believe in and are voluntarily willing to support, does NOT make
> the proper domain of government, which should be limited to protecting
> life, liberty, and property.
> P.S. Regarding Starchild's bias against "modern farming techniques",
> afraid that is falling into the leftist trap of saying that all modern
> technology is automatically bad. The only modern technology I recall
> Grandma's farm was the year they put an electric light fixture in the
> milking shed and another in the chicken coop. Yet even without "modern
> techniques", farm life was pretty gruesome in comparison to the foie
> feeding tubes. I think you city boys have been too sheltered by only
> grocery store meats that come in Styrofoam trays with clear plastic
> So the shock of seeing how that meat gets into those trays is what
> you into such ardent animal rights activists. Maybe that's why 90% of
> animal rights activists are middle-to-upper-class college-educated
> sheltered young people. If anything, modern techniques seem much more
> sterile than the traditional ways, so decrying modern farms as evil
> magnifies how sheltered these activists are.
> From: Dr. Michael R. Edelstein
> Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2004 9:06 AM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [lpsf-discuss] Re: John Burton seeks to prevent cruelty to
> You wrote:
>> I am well aware of where ducks rank intellectually,
>> but that in no way sanctions abuse to them
> I don't think Rob is saying that because he is against
> Big Govt micromanaging his eating habits, he
> therefore favors abusing animals.
> I am a vegan and I like animals, but I am passionately
> against the state telling me how to run my life.
> Best, Michael
> From: "Leilani Wright"
> Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2004 8:37 AM
> Subject: Re: [lpsf-discuss] Re: John Burton seeks to prevent cruelty
> to ducks
>> Dear Rob:
>> You obviously mis-understood my point. No where in my discourse did
> I compare Africans to ducks in regards to intelligence, etcetera. My
> point was simply that the perception at the time, was that Africans
> were mentally inferior, in fact were considered by many as "animals,"
> which was used as justification for sub-standard treatment. The fact
> that these ideas were later discarded, (at least in theory that is,)
> does not nullify the fact that this was accepted at this time in
> history. Subsequently, you are saying that because ducks are less
> intelligent than humans, it is okay to abuse them. I am well aware of
> where ducks rank intellectually, but that in no way sanctions abuse to
> them or any life form. I, quite frankly, am stunned that humans feel
> that abuse is okay,as long as the victim is less intelligent, and
> un-able to either resist or extract retribution. There is something
> sadly amiss with the human species, if we operate from this premise.
>> Rob Power wrote:
>> I'm shocked that anyone would compare Africans and ducks regarding
>> intelligence and status as a rational being. Slavery was a case of
>> _perceived_ lack of intelligence, but that perception was clearly
> wrong and
>> based on "junk science". Do you really think it's just our mistaken
>> perception that ducks aren't as rational and intelligent as us?
>> I'm really floored by this discussion. I had absolutely no idea
> that we had
>> this kind of division amongst Libertarians regarding what is and
> isn't the
>> appropriate place for the use of government force.
>> Well, let's just put it this way – if Animal Liberation Front
> decides to
>> inflict force on me for the "crime" of eating meat, they'd better be
>> Rob Power
>> Leilani Wright said:
>>> To all:
>>> I have thus far refrained from participation, because this is
> obviously an
>>> incendiary subject. However, I can be silent no longer. I cannot
> agree that
>>> intelligence levels, and ability (or lack thereof) to exact
> retribution should
>>> be the criteria on which a decision(s) of whether or not being
> cruel is based.
>>> This specious argument can be used in many situations, one example
> being the
>>> slavery trade and subsequent ill-treatment of Africans and their
>>> The prevailing thought of the times was that Africans were
> mentally inferior,
>>> and as they were under extreme subjugation, could extract little
> or no
>>> retribution. And if they were able to do so, they were summarily
>>> so they were of little or no threat. Every being on this planet
> deserves to
>>> right to life without un-necessary cruelty. Humans have no right
> to make such
>>> decisions as to who or what life forms can be treated badly
> without penalty.
>>> The suggestion that the ability to reason on a human' s level, and
>>> back," as the deciding factor, sounds extremely callous.
>>> Whether or not the government should legislate these types of
> activities, is
>>> not clear to me. However, if we are as many have claimed,
> "superior" to other
>>> life forms, (a position that I feel based on my many years of
> study of human
>>> behaviour through-out the centuries, is on shaky ground at best,)
> we should
>>> strive to value each life for its own sake, and avoid un-necessary
>>> whenever possible. This is one of the denotations of a "superior"
>>> Cruelty to anyone or anything saddens me greatly, and reflects no
> credit upon
>>> the perpetrator.
>>> Postscript: I am an avid supporter of The Animal Liberation Front,
> and hope
>>> that they continue to refrain from any sort of cruelties towards
> humans, as I
>>> do not believe that cruelty to stop cruelty is sound.
>>> Starchild wrote:
>>> I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I think you make
>>> points that deserve to be addressed. I'm glad that your conception
>>> rights leaves the door open to the possibility of intelligent
>>> extra-terrestrials, and does not accord rights only to human
>>> simply because they are human.
>>> Perhaps a tree does experience some form of distress at
> being cut
>>> down – I think there is some evidence for this. But I acknowledge
>>> our current level of development forces us to draw the line
>>> Perhaps tomorrow – a distant tomorrow – we will all be
>>> well provided for that it will be possible to care for each tree,
>>> plant, each micro-organism. A universe in which every living being
>>> be empowered to exist under conditions that allow it to reach its
>>> potential, and enjoy life without externally-imposed suffering, is
>>> worthwhile goal for the human race.
>>> However this is obviously much more impractical at present
> than even a
>>> ban on meat. Again, I acknowledge that we must draw the line
>>> It makes most sense to me to draw the line between plants and
>>> In biological terms, this is where the largest division of life
>>> Humans are much more like cows then either species are like trees.
>>> Non-human animals feel pain, as we do. Just because they are not
>>> intelligent compared to humans does not necessarily mean that pain
>>> more bearable for them. Though I think more advanced species of
>>> are generally more hardwired to experience pain. I believe in a
>>> hierarchy of life: To kill a human is worse than to kill a cow is
>>> than to kill a fish, is worse than to kill a grasshopper, is worse
>>> to kill a tree, is worse than to kill a sprout. In other words, a
>>> system of rights – or legal protection, if you will – based on a
>>> being's capacity for suffering. This is Peter Singer's thesis in
>>> influential book "Animal Liberation," and it makes more sense to
>>> than any other solution I've come across.
>>> I don't think one can solve the problem of where to draw the
>>> simply by saying it's rational to ascribe rights of life, liberty,
>>> property to beings of approximately equal intellect because they
>>> fight back. As Steve pointed out, this is "might makes right" –
>>> ultimately, a lack of any morality. Under such a code, anyone who
>>> the ability to murder you and get away with it has a perfect right
>>> do so.
>>> And where does this approach leave severely retarded human
> beings? If
>>> you say that their rights must be respected simply because
>>> and killing them would piss off too many other people who would
>>> back on their behalf – well, I submit to you that this is rapidly
>>> becoming the case with various categories of non-human animals as
>>> I assume you've heard of the Animal Liberation Front. So far they
>>> limited themselves to things like arson and break-ins, explicitly
>>> refrained from killing people in defense of animals. But I predict
>>> if human progress, freedom, and wealth continue on an upward
> curve, the
>>> animal rights movement will only grow larger, stronger, and more
>>> vehement. At some point, some people will be willing to fight back
>>> behalf of animals using all the means normally used by groups of
>>> engaged in armed struggle against each other. I'm not making a
>>> judgment about this course of action, simply stating that I
> believe it
>>> will happen. A purely rational approach might want to take this
>>> consequence into consideration and weigh it against the importance
>>> maintaining a right to abuse non-human animals at will.
>>> Yours in liberty,
>>> <<< Starchild >>>
>>>> I'm sorry, but I have to draw a line somewhere. Today, it's
>>>> "human" rights to birds with brains the size of acorns.
=== message truncated ===