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 not mistaken.
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:
"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 rights?
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,
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