Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do invertebrates feel pain?

I got into a little comment discussion on the vegan soapbox blog yesterday about bees (the 'is it vegan question'), insects and pain,... I promised Elaine in the comment section to make a blogpost explaining my views on this topic, so here it is.

You can find the blogpost and discussion here: vegansoapbox: regarding bees and honey

To make things clear: I hold the view that insects in principle don't feel pain and don't have any interests to take into account. Therefore they don't have rights.

I come to this conclusion in part through the argument of analogy and part through a text by Steve Sapontzis.

The text regarding this question, is only available in french as far as I know. I will provide translations while quoting to make things easier.

Cahiers antispecistes: Steve Sapontzis

By the way: for anyone who speaks french. This site is a good ressource on animal rights theory. Check it out!

According to Sapontzis:

Ainsi, le critère qui détermine si un être est en ce sens moral un « animal » n'est pas le même que le critère biologique qui distingue la faune de la flore.

Here he makes a distinction between the meaning of the word 'animal' in the ethical/moral sense and the biological sense.

Suivant ce critère, proposé semble-t-il la première fois par Leonard Nelson dans A System of Ethics, tous les êtres qui ont des intérêts, et eux seuls, peuvent détenir des droits moraux

In short this states that only those living creatures that have 'interests' can have rights.

Quant aux insectes et aux plantes, tous ceux parmi eux qui satisfont au critère de possession d'intérêts doivent être inclus dans les préoccupations du mouvement de libération animale, si ses partisans se veulent cohérents. Cependant, à ce jour, il n'existe aucune donnée sérieuse montrant que les plantes possèdent des sensations de bien-être - en parlant de données sérieuses nous excluons les trop connus rapports sur la « vie secrète des plantes ».

Summary: When it comes to insects and plants, those among them that would have interests (as in: able to experience pain) have to be taken into consideration.

Until today there is no serious evidence that plants feel pain... According to Sapontzis the question is less clear with insects (but I disagree there, it doesn't seem unclear to me).

But from what I could gather while reading this text, he isn't convinced either that insects feel pain.

Steve Sapontzis further states the following:

Si parmi les animaux non humains il en existe qui possèdent des intérêts, alors les animaux que le mouvement des droits des animaux cherche aujourd'hui à libérer (tels les porcs, singes, ours, chevaux, etc.) en possèdent certainement. Une fois qu'auront été réglées les questions actuellement débattues concernant la manière dont nous devons (moralement) traiter ces animaux-là, le moment sera peut-être venu de nous demander si les insectes possèdent des droits moraux, s'il faut les libérer, et quelle forme doit prendre un tel code moral éclairé. Le fait de mettre en avant la question des insectes avant que ces problèmes actuels n'aient été résolus ne représente rien d'autre qu'une tentative d'éviter de faire face aux questions bien claires et réelles qui se posent.

Summary: Here he basically says that we shouldn't concern ourselves at the moment with the question of whether insects have rights or not. We should focus first and foremost on the other animals of which we absolutely know for sure. And once we have resolved all the issues concerning apes, pigs, chickens and so forth, then we can worry about the insects as a movement.

Now, I do agree with Sapontzis his distinction between the word animal in the biological sense and the ethical sense. To me it seems clear that it is the ethical sense of the word that is important when it comes to ethical vegetarianism/veganism.

So, are bees (or other insects) animals in the moral sense? I would say no. We know vertebrates feel. How do we know: because they have central a nervous system, a brain... The have the same structures we have that enable us to feel and experience.

Through the argument of analogy it seems only plausible to accept that animals that have the same basic 'systems' or 'hardware' also feel pain, have emotions and so on. There is no doubt about that when we take mammals into account.

When it comes to pain, stress, ... We can state with confidence that chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds feel too.

But the futher we follow the evolutionary tree, the more difficult it - evidently - becomes to use the argument of analogy.

When we arrive at the world of bugs and other invertebrates, there is almost no evidence that these animals (in the biological sense of the word) actually feel anything. They do respond to their surroundings and do have some nerves, but so do plants, in order to react to their environment.

I haven't seen any evidence that insects feel pain. We can't forget that invertebrates also followed a different evolutionary path then vertebrates. Which is quite obvious when we examine the neural structure of the two groups. Ours is centralized, while this is not the case for inverterbrates. Amongst inverterbrates however there are also big differences in neural structures. One of the few invertebrates of which I am quite confident to state that they have interests is an octopus, thanks to their ganglionic brain that is far more complex then that of other invertebrates. But of course this is a sea creature and something very different from an insect like an ant or a bee.

Also important to note is that insects shouldn't only have some structures that are capable of transmitting 'pain signals', but they also need to be sentient. Sentient in the meaning of: being able to perceive conciously.

Here is a concise text that reflects some of my thoughts concerning this discussion:

insects and pain

Pain is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) as “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage”3. The subjective, emotional component of pain is considered its important aspect, not the activation of pain sensors (nociceptors) in the body. The IASP makes this clear “Activity induced in the nociceptive pathways by a noxious stimulus is not pain, which is always a psychological state, even though we may appreciate that pain most often has a proximate physical cause”.

I'll make my views on vegetarianism/veganism clear in other posts...And maybe I'll elaborate further on this insect discussion in the future.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Leona Lewis has a heart for animals

On my previous blog (which you can still find via my profile) I used to put celebs in the spotlights that are vegetarian and/or are getting active for the animals. Why not pick it up here again on this blog?

Let's start with Leona Lewis...She is a british national, vegetarian since she was twelve years old and has a big hart for animals.

According to ecorazzi: Leona Lewis rescues doomed rabbit

Leona Lewis has saved a rabbit from becoming a homeless man’s dinner and gave him $100 to buy other food.

Leona is a vegetarian and an avid animal rights supporter.

Don't you just love her?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Open letter to Shakira on vegetarianism

Shakira went vegetarian some time ago, but according to ecorazzi she couldn't 'cut it': Shakira couldn't cut it as a vegetarian

Times of India featured a story about Shakira and her short lasted vegetarianism. It seems she couldn't resist her meat cravings and gave in.

This is very disappointing.

Well, the empathy for animals blog decided to publish an open letter to Shakira in response to this:

Hello Shakira,

The empathy for animals blog recently became aware of your attempt at becoming a vegetarian. I am very pleased that you had undertaken to do this. This world lacks compassion and empathy for animals. And it is great you felt the need to bring your empathy for animals in your day to day life by becoming a vegetarian. It is a great and very meaningful thing to do!

The four pet chickens you have are not 'just' chickens. As you quickly became aware of while taking care of them. They are animals with a psychological and physical welbeing. They are not stones. They feel and experience the world. The can enjoy life or suffer. And it is commendable you didn't kill your pet chickens and even were prepared to expand your empathy to other farm animals.

But I was very disappointed to learn that you seem to be stepping back from vegetarianism right now. If you felt cravings for meat, I can only assure you that this is very normal when you become a vegetarian. But it passes with time. As many vegetarians can attest.

When someone gives in to isn't the end of the world. The journey towards vegetarianism and more compassionate living doesn't need to end there.

It happens to other vegetarians too when they are starting out. Why not give it another shot? In just a month or two you won't miss meat anymore. It is just an 'addiction'. And that addiction can be 'cured'. Just visit this great (and funny site): meat junkie

Don't be a meat junkie Shakira. Please consider giving vegetarianism another shot and help change the world for the better of all animals, improve your health and help the environment.

Kind Regards,

the empathy for animals blog

blogging about animal rights and animal liberation

PS: I really digg your music Shakira. You have a beautiful voice!

vegetarian robots on the march

Ecorazzi brought a wonderful new development to our attention...vegetarian robots!

future terminators may be vegetarians

Yeah, you heard that arnold? Time to go with the times and adopt a vegetarian diet! The future awaits you...

Somewhere in America, in a government-funded laboratory, far from the blinking eyes of average citizens, lives the Eatr – the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot – and it’s hungry for your…twigs and possibly some wood chips. Yes, the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Darpa, has been working with several tech companies over the last decade to build a self-sufficient military robot

Yes, you read it: a robot powered by a vegetarian diet. How cool is that?

I remember I read this story before, but up untill know people were under the impression that this futuristic robot (Eatr) would also feast on animal flesh. Something anti vegan scumbags just loved to bring up. You know: the future being carnivorous and all (instead of the past).

Well, I knew it. They were wrong (when aren't these anti-vegans wrong really?)

The Guardian: Flesh-eating robot is actually a vegetarian

"We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous."

Now that the inventors of this futuristic contraption have come forward and set the record straight...I am more convinced then ever that the future is vegetarian. Even the robots are going green!

So, as I said in a comment on Ecorazzi: Meat industry...consider yourself terminated!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Swine flu and vegetarianism

Peta watch responded to this post: read my thoughts on it here: swine flu and meat production

Update: swine flu does indeed come from swines (go figure) peta watch and swine flu

Peta Watch Australia doesn't seem to agree with the link Peta made between swine flu or the H1N1 virus and factory farming (of course they never agree).

Scottish professor refutes PETA swine flu lie

And again, notice the neutral title Peta watch Australia uses. If it wasn't in such a serious context, it would make me laugh!

So according to Peta watch Hugh Pennington refuted the lies of Peta concerning the link between swine flu (H1N1 virus) and meat consumption.

So what did he say really?

According to Peta watch:

"You do not catch swine flu from animals. It is an airborne flu that passes from person to person and has nothing to do with eating meat or being vegetarian," he said.

And this was Hugh Pennington's response to these statements made by Peta:

The professor also hit out at animal rights group PETA, who put up a poster outside Glasgow's Southern General Hospital saying "Meat Kills - Go Vegetarian".

The protesters claim intensive pig farming is behind the swine flu pandemic.

Full article: Swine flu fatality

Did Peta state that you are going to catch the H1N1 virus from eating meat? Not that I know...Animal activists are saying something very different, just like many other people/groups who are concerned about this situation. Our current meat production and meat consumption (something that we could do without anyway) is responsible for this disease.

How dare they say that? Well, read this article by Caroline Lucas: Swine flu: is intensive farming to blame

Some quotes that speak for themselves:

But as Dr Michael Greger, director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, has pointed out, this is not the first time a triple hybrid human/bird/pig flu virus has been uncovered. The first was found in a North Carolina industrial pig farm in 1998, and within a year it had spread across the United States.

In 1998, North Carolina's pig population had hit ten million, up from two million just six years before. Yet the number of hog farms was decreasing, with more and more animals being crammed into fewer and fewer farms. Since the primary route of swine flu transmission is thought to be the same as human flu, the increased potential for the spread of disease in such conditions is clear.

How diseases can develop and evolve:

But in damp and cramped conditions, a series of mutations can occur resulting in a highly pathogenic form. Within crowded chicken factory farms, the mild virus can evolve rapidly towards more dangerous and highly transmissible forms

I advise everybody to read the entire article. It is quite interesting.

And for those of you that persist in denying the link between swine flu, factory farming and the breeding of billions of animals in disgusting conditions. You might want to read this: 2009 swine flu pandemic

On June 23, the New York Times reported that U.S. federal agriculture officials, "contrary to the popular assumption that the new swine flu pandemic arose on factory farms in Mexico," now believe that it "most likely emerged in pigs in Asia, but then traveled to North America in a human." They emphasized that there was no way to prove their theory, but stated that there is no evidence that this new virus, which combines Eurasian and North American genes, has ever circulated in North American pigs, "while there is tantalizing evidence that a closely related 'sister virus' has circulated in Asia."[123]

So perhaps it isn't the mexican swine flu after all, but the Asian swine flu. I recall SARS, bird flu and other diseases. Oh yes there is a link there aswell with factory farming practices and live animal markets (1000s of animals packed together,...

Our results show that this strain has been circulating among pigs, possibly among multiple continents, for many years prior to its transmission to humans." The research team that worked on this report also believe that it was "derived from several viruses circulating in swine," and that the initial transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the outbreak.

With this in mind, read this statement made by Peta watch:

wake up to the fact that your organisation capitalizes on any event or tragedy it can to promote a fringe vegan agenda that most will never agree with.

This tragedy is being produced by corporations ( and farmers) who breed animals in disgusting conditions that serve as the perfect breeding ground for new diseases. To make a profit human lives are put at risk, the environment is put at risk and billions of animals suffer and die horribly.

And on top of it, if anyone dares to speak the truth: then those people are called liars and extremists. What our society is doing is madness! Today it is the mexican/swine flu, but what will it be tomorrow? And why? Because pork chops bring in money?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Marylène Patou-Mathis: vegetarian ayatollahs

I thought it might be interesting to share some european media stories relating to vegetarianism/animal rights from time to time.

The honour today goes to Marylène Patou-Mathis (a french historian). And yes, she positively pissed me of...and oh yes, the title says it all now doesn't it? Prepare yourself for a shocker of a news 'story', which will also make it quite clear to all of you that france sucks!

This is no place for an animal activist or ANY animal to live in (and the abolitionists running around there aren't helping much either, but you already know I don't like 'em and that they aren't effective if you read my blog).

sans viande, pas d'humanité

title: without meat, no mankind


Coup dur pour les ayatollahs du tout végétal.

First sentence of the story already sets the tone: they refer to vegetarians/vegans as ayatollahs and nicely make the reference to religous extremism and terrorism in this manner. That's fair isn't it?

l'être humain serait sérieusement en train de faire fausse route. Une route «dangereuse» d'ailleurs, qui l'amènerait à rompre avec la dimension fondamentale de sa personne: son humanité, estime la préhistorienne française Marylène Patou-Mathis

summary: Mankind is going down a wrong and dangerous path according to Marylène Patou-Mathis. We are in danger of being seperated from our humanity??? yep, that's what she says...

The article also mentions how mankind (with us the evil ayatollahs spear-heading of course) is treating animals as 'sacred' and how we are in danger of treating animals better then people.

A quick search on youtube - type in: molokai pig hunt, killing chickens or any other sick nonsense - will show you otherwise...So I'm guessing that we are still to humane, maybe we should starting skinning animals alive like they do in China?

«La consommation de viande a été le catalyseur de la séparation entre les grands singes, principalement végétariens frugivores, et les Australopithèques, les premiers hominidés, lance-t-elle à l'autre bout du fil

Summary: She states that the eating of meat was the katalyst that made the human species come to be. This is also the topic in her book: Mangeurs de viande (meat eaters)

If you fail to see how this is relevant in an ethical debate: that makes two of us...Hang on to your bootstraps! Lets keep tumbling down the rabbit hole.

The news story further mentions how first man hunted for its food, learned to cooperate and became a social animal, while herbivores are supposedly individualists and don't work together. I suppose that is why there are so many herds of herbivores out there...but let's not think about...right?

Then she defends her idea that we need to find the 'animal' within ourselves again (who is worshiping nature now?)

la consommation de viande et son préalable, la chasse, s'accompagnent donc d'un corollaire simple: sans elle, pas d'humanité. Et notre ère moderne semble un peu mal à l'aise avec cette réalité, déplore Mme Patou-Mathis.

Summary: The consumption of meat, and hunting: without it, no humanity. And she regrets that in our modern times people don't seem to confortable with this idea.

Apparently it is a bad thing to think for yourself, to have a sense of morals and not worship nature...I doesn't matter whether nature intended us to eat meat or not. That is just pseudo-intellectual rubbish.

«Nous sommes devant un grand paradoxe, lance la préhistorienne. Ces gens-là, en cherchant au nom d'un certain respect, à sacraliser la nature, finissent par nuire à cette même nature qu'ils ne reconnaissent plus comme telle. En fait, ils veulent faire de la nature un monde culturel. C'est dangereux. Ça va finir par nous rendre complètement schizophrènes et nous conduire à poser des gestes pathologiques.»

Summary: Marylène Patou-Mathis claims that there is a 'paradox' because of people like us (yep, animal activists). People like 'us' are apparently in the name of respect sacralizing nature, while ignoring our own nature that is a part of us. Of course this is very dangerous and we are running the risk of suffering from a form of schizophrenia and acting in a pathological manner...

My response: HUH?

So we are worshiping nature, we are dangerous because of it...because we don't act like nature intended us to be according to her? Who here really acts like nature is sacred? And this is a defense to kill 60 billion animals a year to serve as steaks and pork chops? To go out and kill animals on hunts for the kicks?

Nature 'intended' mankind to live in caves and fight amongst each other for land, food, ... Maybe wars aren't such a bad thing after all. Hey, we have found remains of 'first man' with their skulls bashed has been killing each other since the dawn of time. This is nature, so it must be right. We can't deny nature...right? Lets not think about morality => FAIL

Who worships nature? This says it all I guess:

dit-elle, et il faut aussi renouer avec notre dimension naturelle, ancestrale, en mangeant de la viande

Translation: we need to find our natural and ancestral dimension again and eat meat.

Right! That makes perfect sense. Just throw in some rhetoric, say it is natural and that our ancestors did it. That makes it all fine. Our ancestors destroyed entire forests too (I'm gonna get me a axe and take down all the trees in the park!)

It is really depressing to read this sort of stuff. And the comments on that article. I'll spare you those. It comes down to this according to those über intelligent commentators: vegetarianism is a religion, eating meat is natural, we worship nature, ... Yep: more nonsense. It is like nobody is capable anymore of having a serious discussion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gary Francione: evidence for reformism

I've blogged about Gary Francione before, and if you have read my previous blogposts...then I'm guessing you know already why I don't like his all or nothing abolitionist approach.

If you haven't read my previous posts about Peter Singer, Martin Balluch, Gary francione and the whole reformism - neo-welfarism as Gary likes to call it to try and show the world that we are supposedly not true animal rights activists - versus abolitionism debate: you can find it here:

Why this vegetarian celebrates meat-out day

A rather recent post made by Gary Francione on his abolitionist approach blog peaked my interest: another welfarist revolution that wasn't

In it he again tries to convince the already converted (animal activists) that they are not really converted and that their methods are not effective. Basically he claims we shouldn't be campaigning to improve the lives of animals in farms, research and so on...but we should try and convince as many people as possible to go vegan untill animal abolition is attained. So this means: untill we convert all 6,5 to 7 billion people on planet earth one at a time via blogs, leaflets, commercials and books. Good luck, what makes you think a 1000 years of this is going to be succesfull?

I look at it this way. We can do vegan outreach and at the same time try and improve living conditions for the animals and make animal welfare laws stricter. Abolition is a goal that if it is ever going to be reached, will take decades if not centuries. So, what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Let the animals suffer on factory farms?

But are animal welfare laws effective to reduce animal suffering or even to abolish certain practices that are cruel (and by this I mean even more cruel and sickening then 'normal')?

Gary Francione has this to say:

I am sure that my friends at HSUS, PETA, etc. think that they are doing the right thing by pursuing these welfarist campaigns. My question to them is how much empirical evidence do they need before they see that they are in error? Putting aside the matter of moral principle, the bottom line is that the welfarist strategy simply does not work.

He further states:

The resources of those who really want to see the abolition of animal exploitation are better invested in clear, unequivocal, creative, nonviolent vegan education.

Evidence? How much evidence do we have to shove down the throats of the abolitionists before they accept our victories. The animals win. And here is some I promosed some time ago, I will now bring news fresh out of Denmark and Holland.

As you might have been aware, campaigns to outlaw fur farms are on the rise in the EU. Because of animal welfare concerns (yes welfare) and because of the publics concern for animal welfare, seal fur has been illegalized in the entire EU. Just like all other seal products.

In Denmark (a traditional fur country) the breeding of foxes for fur has been banned. This means that Denmark is now following in the footstepts of Sweden, where fox farming has been banned several years ago.

A key role was played by Danish animal right groups such as Anima (Francione would probably call it a welfarist group as well). Here is a blogpost of them about their victory: Forbud mod rævefarme vedtaget (danish)

Lovforslaget var fremsat af justitsministeren, der begrundede det med et etisk hensyn til ræve, der ikke kan anvises passende indhusningsforhold, da der er tale om vilde dyr, som ikke kan tilpasses et liv i fangenskab. Rævefarme er tidligere blevet kritiseret i udtalelser fra Det etiske råd vedr. husdyr i 1989, der kaldte produktionen ”uetisk” og Dyreetisk Råd i 2003 gentog en skarp kritik.

to summarize: it was outlawed because foxes are wild animals and cannot be kept in appropiate conditions in captivity. Fox fur farms have also been critized by the ethical council that called fox farms unethical.

another important quote:

Spørgsmålet er hvor længe der skal gå, før vi forbyder pelsindustrien helt, som bl.a. England og Østrig allerede har gjort?

Here Anima asks how long it will take untill the entire fur industry in Denmark will be outlawed (like in England, Austria,...). So it doesn't stop here either...but they acheived an important milestone for the animals.

We can help the animals now.

In Holland it started as well with outlawing of fox farms. Now a bill is being passed to outlaw mink farms as well (and Holland is one of the biggest producers in the world). This also shows that these campaigns are having an effect and public opinion is shifting.

In the EU, animal rights and animal welfare are starting to seep into the highest political circles. Here is some more evidence from Anima: Folketinget forbyder Marys pels

Anima beder de kongelige følge lovens ånd og ikke støtte en produktion Danmarks Folketing mener er uetisk.

In this blogpost the group requested the royal family not to wear any fox fur anymore, now that breeding of foxes for fur has been outlawed.

Some time later the royal family indeed did respond and let the citizens of Denmark no not to wear it again. Because of their function many people look up to them (like celebs). So it can only be applauded that they took a step back from fox fur.

I can keep going like this for quite some time. It is clear that reformism (neo-welfarism) does work and that public opinion (as in: society as a whole) is starting to shift. Albeit slowly...but not as slow as it would be if we were to go the Gary Francione way of abolitionism.

I think what really needs to be adressed is: why doesn't it work in the US or Canada? What are you doing wrong? Next to the infighting, protesting each other, making one public relation blunder after the other,...

nor vegan outreach nor anything else seems to have much effect out there.

just think about it. Thanks for reading!