Fred the Labrador and Dennis the duckling became friends after Dennis’ mother was mauled by a fox, and Dennis was taken in by a kind human. This isn’t the first time Fred adopted an orphan; clearly he has a heart full of Divine compassion.
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: Can Killing an Animal Be
Compensated For by the Creation of a New Animal?
By Karen Davis
(Beth Clifton collage)
There’s a line of thought in moral philosophy that says “yes,” as long as the animal lived a pleasant life and the method used to kill the animal is humane – quick and painless. This is not about euthanasia, which means the merciful killing of a creature in irremediable misery. The other thought, by contrast, concerns killing an animal, not for the animal’s sake, but as part of a human enterprise or circumstance in which the animal is involved, but nonthreateningly, so that self-defense is not an issue. In this line of thought, the animal and his or her death are subsumed within a larger picture, purpose or project in which the animal as an individual is deemed incidental and replaceable in the overall scheme of things.
For example, William Howitt, in The Rural Life of England, defended sport hunting against charges of cruelty as follows:
The pleasure is in the pursuit of an object, and the art and activity in which a wild creature is captured, and in all those concomitants of pleasant scenery and pleasant seasons that enter into the enjoyment of rural sports; – the suffering is only the casual adjunct . . . the momentary pang of a creature, which forms but one atom in a living series.
Similarly, Washington Post columnist Ellen Goodman wrote in “Quality Time” that even though animal products were extremely important to her family’s enjoyment of Thanksgiving, it wasn’t “really” the turkey, chicken fat, and eggs she drooled over that drew them together. Rather, “it is really our appetite for togetherness that will bring us to the Thanksgiving table.” The birds who suffered and died for this get-together were merely the “casual adjuncts” of the pleasurable family gathering.
The absorption of animals into a human enterprise in which they are viscerally featured while simultaneously conceived of as not really there, not really important, not really themselves, or even complicit – be the enterprise religion, eating, cooking, laboratory experimentation, entertainment, or whatever – recurs thematically throughout human history. To this day, according to the scholar Basant K. Lal, an animal ritually sacrificed by Hindus “is not considered an animal” but is instead “a symbol of those powers for which the sacrificial ritual stands.” The sacrificed animals are incidental and replaceable; the symbol for which they stand is essential and enduring.
Absorbed into these human-centered worlds of thought and behavior, the animals virtually disappear, apart from how they are used. Our use becomes their ontology – “this is what they are” – and their teleology – “this is what they were made for.” Such maneuvering allows us to hurt and kill animals casually in many circumstances, with little or no compunction or care.
Why Does Killing Matter, If Another Mortal Is Born?
The predilection for conceiving nonhuman animals as incidental and replaceable creatures appears in an inquiry posed by utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1975 book Animal Liberation, revised in 1990, helped launch the modern animal advocacy movement. It goes like this: As long as the same amount of pleasure is maintained in the world, why is the killing of a dog or any other nonhuman animal a moral problem or a loss, if a new animal replaces the old?
In J. M. Coetzee’s (pictured) collection of essays, The Lives of Animals, [imagines Singer having] a dialogue with his daughter about their companion dog, Max, to deliberate the matter. He asks what is wrong with painlessly killing Max as long as Max is replaced by a puppy. He tells her, “Our distress is a side effect of the killing, not something that makes it wrong in itself.” This statement suggests that Max likewise is only a “side effect” of his own demise, including the betrayal of those he trusted.
In Animal Liberation (1990 edition), Singer proposes that nonhuman animals – who because in his view they “cannot grasp” that they have “a life in the sense that requires an understanding of what it is to exist over a period of time” – are therefore incidental and replaceable creatures whose deaths are no big deal as long as the amount of pleasure embodied in the original animal is maintained in the new form of pleasurable animal life:
[I]n the absence of some form of mental continuity, it is not easy to explain why the loss to the animal killed is not, from an impartial point of view, made good by the creation of a new animal, who will lead an equally pleasant life.
It isn’t the animal’s point of view that counts here – “the loss to the animal killed”; but rather the “impartial point of view” from which standpoint the utilitarian philosopher casts an emotionless eye.
Nullifying the Living Creature
While conceding that killing a sentient creature could be “a kind of wrong that cannot be made good by creating a new creature,” Singer makes this concession less with conviction than with the intent to show that he’s aware of philosophic alternatives to the view he’s advancing, a view that essentially nullifies the living creature and reifies pleasure versus pain as more “real” and important by comparison.
One may ask how the view of animals as replaceable embodiments of pleasure and pain differs from the view of exploiters. For these utilitarians, the animals they exploit are replaceable, interchangeable units of production. Farmers speak of “replacement” cows, sows, hens. The individuality of these animals is not an issue. Free from any onus of acknowledgement of the flesh and blood creatures in and of themselves, of each one’s one and only life, agribusiness representatives can glibly glide into abstract discourse about the “welfare” they claim their units of production are receiving, including “humane” slaughter. What is wrong with killing an animal as long as the killing is “humane” and the continuity of “welfare” is maintained?
If exploiters are looking outside their profession for “justification,” Singer’s argument for dismissing the intrinsic worth of individual animals, including an animal’s right not to be killed merely to satisfy human desires, provides it.
Philosophy or Sophistry?
Singer’s own consumption and approval of “free-range” eggs makes sense within this construct. In a recent interview, Singer (pictured) said he eats bivalves like mussels and clams because he believes they lack the capacity to suffer. He eats “free-range” eggs as long as he feels satisfied that the hens who laid them were “raised in suitable conditions and humanely killed.” The interviewer thereupon notes “the struggles in our family, finding eggs that we are confident come from chickens who were well-treated.”
To which Singer replies, “Yes, that’s right,” and proceeds to contrast the relative ease of getting “genuinely free-range eggs” in his home country of Australia with the difficulty “in the big American cities” where “it isn’t always that easy to sort out which are labeled free range, but actually kept in big warehouses with small patches where they go outside.” (Notice how the hens and their eggs are conflated in this reply.)
The 1975 edition of Animal Liberation already opened the door to “free-range” eggs. Since then, the idea of ethical alternatives to industrial animal production has become a common excuse for consuming animal products, even pulling some former vegans back into the carnage. Ethical objections to free-range eggs are said to be “relatively minor,” even though free-range hens are killed when they no longer lay enough eggs to be considered worth keeping. The 1990 edition of Animal Liberation further notes the fact that the killing of male chicks is standard industry practice, free-range or otherwise.
Notwithstanding, Singer holds that ethical objections to free-range eggs are “very much less” than objections to intensively-produced eggs and other animal products, and that the question is “whether the pleasant lives of the hens (plus the benefits to us of the eggs) are sufficient to outweigh the killing that is a part of the system. One’s answer to that will depend on one’s view about killing, as distinct from the infliction of suffering.”
Killing is NOT Distinct from the Infliction of Suffering
This distinction is false. As I discuss in my bookThe Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities, killing is not distinct from the infliction of suffering. The word suffering is not limited to sensations of hurt and pain. Suffering encompasses the bearing of a wound or a trauma whether consciously experienced by the injured individual or not. It is possible to harm an individual in a way that is technically or temporarily painless, but it is not possible to do so in a way that will avoid causing the individual to suffer.
To kill an animal is therefore to inflict the ultimate injury on that animal. If, in discussions of this topic, concepts such as “humane slaughter” were placed in the category of humane harm, performed not for the sake of the animal, as in a surgical procedure to remove a tumor, but solely for the benefit of the exploiter, then the impertinence of many seemingly reasonable proposals involving the use of animals would be clear.
Free-Range Rhetoric versus “Free-Range” Reality
Finally, the distinction between “genuinely free-range eggs” in Australia and eggs so labeled in the United States is disingenuous. To confirm this, I emailed decades-long farmed animal activist, Patty Mark, who as the founder of Animal Liberation Victoria, developed the strategy of Open Rescue in Australia and introduced this strategy – in which the rescuers document the farmed-animal abuse and publicly identify themselves instead of acting anonymously – to U.S. activists at our United Poultry Concerns Direct Action for Animals Forum, June 26-27, 1999.
Patty wrote back to me on October 31, 2020: “We don’t have some mythical egg industry here in Australia where all the male counterparts of so-called free-range hens live magical lives roaming the hillsides crowing with joy. And while hens can lay eggs for most of their natural lifespans of 8-10 years, commercialized free-range hens are killed at 18 months to 2 years of age. And then there are the parent birds of the ‘free-range’ hens who are kept in horrible conditions to produce the fertilised eggs/chicks for all types of egg production.”
“Obscuring the Face of the Other”
It is often the case in anti-factory farming discourse that the detailed descriptions of standard industrial farming practices are not matched by an equally scrupulous description of so-called alternative production practices – practices and conditions that undercover investigations have often found to be as callous and cruel as the “factory-farming” of which they are, in fact, extensions – debeaking, culling by cervical dislocation, and more. The reality is that the cruelest, most brutal and atrocious industrial farming conditions and practices are the standard by which “a good life” and “humane killing” of chickens and other farmed animals are measured.
The effort to get people to care about animals, and particularly about farmed animals beyond a mere nod of agreement about “humane” treatment, is daunting. All of us working on behalf of animals and animal liberation are trying to figure out how to succeed. I believe we increase our hurtfulness toward animals by contending that they, in the fullness of their own being, matter less, or somehow exist less, than the amount of pleasure or pain they embody and magically transfer upon their death to other embodiments.
Animal-based rituals, ranging from religious to secular, involve a rhetorical and conceptual transformation of the animals into a manifestation of something else. They are, in the words of Carol J. Adams explaining her concept of the absent referent, “transmuted into a metaphor for someone else’s existence or fate” without ever being acknowledged in their own right. “Obscuring the face of the other,” wrote Maxwell Schnurer in his essay “At the Gates of Hell,” is “vital to the reduction of living beings to objects upon whom atrocities can be heaped.”
Reducing an animal, such as Max the dog, to a replaceable unit of pleasure or pain is yet another way we have of degrading animals in our own minds so that just about any abuse, including killing them for reasons unrelated to euthanasia or self-defense, can be rationalized as both humane and inconsequential. This line of thought undermines animal liberation, including our own. --K. D.
Elliott Katz, DVM (pictured), founder and longtime president of In Defense of Animals (IDA), died on March 24 at age 86, having garnered the admiration of Jane Goodall and a police record of 37 civil-disobedience arrests. I like to think that all the animals he saved over the years, and those he inspired others to save, came running over the Rainbow Bridge to welcome him. (This image has some foundation in the Empathic Life Review, a concept developed from a study of Near-Death Experiences; see “Whatever One Sows,” in PT 47 .)
--Obituary Information Contributed by Judy Carman
Respect for Chickens Month
May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day, and the whole month celebrates fowl and holds up respect for them. “Happy chickens are cheerful birds,” says Karen Davis, who maintains a sanctuary for chickens in Machipongo, Virginia. “Chickens love the earth and sun, yet millions are sitting in filthy dark buildings on crippled legs breathing polluted air and suffering from debilitating diseases, as documented in my book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs and in my Encyclopedia Britannica article Chickens: Their Life and Death in Farming Operations.”
Pioneer: Ralph Waldo Trine, 1866 - 1958
Ralph Waldo Trine was a prominent writer and teacher in the New Thought or Positive Thinking tradition, which emphasizes self-reliance, the power of one’s thoughts to change oneself and one’s environment, and how thinking positively about health, relationships, and goals can help one attain the good in them. Trine’s some twenty books, above all In Tune with the Infinite (1897), sold widely and were favorites of persons ranging from Queen Victoria to the actress Janet Gaynor and industrialist Henry Ford. They, and some two million other readers of In Tune, found their lives strengthened by realizing the divine within themselves and others, the “law of attraction” by which one can accomplish results by prior affirmative thoughts, and above all the infinite grace of God which, if one opens oneself to it, will express itself in and through one’s life to bless oneself and others.
Like all great ideas with potential for good, New Thought can, and has been, twisted toward unworthy ends. The idea that, if one approaches a problem with confidence, it is likely to be solved, but if with doubt and discouragement the issue will seem too much to overcome, can be actualized on many levels. Indeed, such thought-power has been debased into ways simply to grow rich and realize self-centered goals.
But there is far more to Trine’s teachings on inner transformation than merely generating transitory confidence. Getting what one wants for one’s own sake was definitely not the New Thought or Positive Thinking taught by Ralph Waldo Trine. His emphasis is always on living and thinking in harmony with God’s life so that one can do God’s work in the world, and to see the good in others in order to honor it no less than in oneself. If one thereby becomes “successful” even in a worldly sense, that would be so one could use one’s wealth and power for doing greater good to the world.
This is the Spirit of Infinite Peace, and the moment we come into harmony with it, there comes to us an inflowing tide of peace, for peace is harmony. A deep interior meaning underlies the great truth, ‘To be spiritually minded is life and peace.’ There are people I know who have come into such a conscious realization of their oneness with this Infinite Life, this Spirit of Infinite Peace, that their lives are fairly bubbling over with joy.
And in a later chapter:
Let me give something to [others] that will lighten the everyday struggles of our common life . . . Let me give something that will lead each one to the knowledge of the divinity of every human soul. . .
Those “others” definitely included animals as well as humans. Trine served as Director of the American Humane Society and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was a vegetarian, and in his book Every Living Creature: Heart-Training through the Animal World (1899) he expressed seeing the divine in animals together with all that implies for one’s way of life. This short work opens with an account of how even children in his time (the tail-end of the horse-and-buggy era) were trained to use the whip on a horse to “make him go,” and insists instead, “Let them [children] be taught that the lower animals are God’s creatures, and they themselves are put here by a common heavenly Father, each for its own special purposes, and that they have the same right to life and protection.” (Italics in original.)
The volume then proceeds to hard-hitting sections on the evils of hunting, vivisection, docking, animal abuse in sport and war, and above all the consumption of animals for food. On vegetarianism he quotes extensively from two previous Peaceable Table pioneers, animal activists Henry Salt (pictured) and Theosophist Annie Besant (pictured). Trine himself saw meat-eating as custom carried over from savagery, with no redeeming functions today. This will change:
Yes, but we are not savages, nor are we purely animals, and it is time for us to have outgrown this attendant-of-savage-life custom. . . But with a decreasing use of flesh foods and with more attention given to the skillful preparation of the large numbers of other still more valuable foods, we shall begin to wonder why we have so long been slaves to a mere custom, thinking it a necessity.
Returning to his deepest theme, toward the end of this remarkable book:
And when we look into [her] eyes and see the soul of the animal look out upon us, with all its love and its fear, its warmth of feeling, its confidence, wherever possible, as well as its strange questionings, is it possible for us longer to remain among that company who feel there is a great gulf fixed, eternally fixed, between man and the animal, many of whom live far more consistent and honest lives than we at times live ourselves?
Who was this man, so far ahead of his times? Trine was born in Mount Morris, Illinois. He attended several colleges and worked at varied jobs in his youth, finally studying and teaching rhetoric at Emerson College in Boston. After In Tune with the Infinite became a best-seller in 1897 he was able to support himself independently as a writer and teacher, living with his spouse, Grace Hyde, a poet and playwright, in a cabin he built himself in a pine grove in Mount Airy, New York. He and Grace moved to California about 1920, where they lived for nearly forty years until he died in Claremont, in 1958. Trine was not an ordained minister, and worshiped as a largely independent Christian.
Although from another era, Ralph Waldo Trine deserves to be remembered by those seeking the best of the oft-criticized New Thought tradition. That best, in my opinion, has much to offer our spiritual lives, above all by those who would make it consistent by rightly seeing the divine in animals as well as humans, and actualize that splendid reality in our relations with those our kin under the same divine Father/Mother. In particular his books, especially those two cited above, are well worth reading. May his blessing reach past his own time into ours.
Poetry: Hilda Conkling
O Rainbow Rooster in your gray coop,
O stately creature with tail-feathers red and blue,
Yellow and black,
A comb gay as a parade
On your head:
On your feet:
The short feathers smooth along your back
Are the dark color of wet rocks,
Or the rippled green of ships
Their sides seen through water.
I don't know how you happened to be made
So proud, so vainglorious,
Wearing your coat of many colors,
Shouting all morning long your crooked song
Loud . . . sharp . . . victorious!
Recipe: Vegetable Cutlets
1 C. onion
1 C. potatoes, cubed
1 C. carrots, chopped
1 C. peas
⅓ C. raw lentils
1 T. ground flaxseed
3 T. warm water
2 C. wholegrain breadcrumbs
1 T. soy sauce
Chop and sauteé the onion. Steam the potatoes, carrots, and peas together; cook the lentils in ¾ cups water or veggie broth for 15 - 20 minutes. When the potato, carrot and pea mixture is soft, mash lightly, leaving bits of the original ingredients visible. Mix the flaxseed into the water in a and let sit for 5 minutes until it gels. Mix the mashed veggies, onion, breadcrumbs, lentils, flaxseed gel and soy sauce together. Taste for seasoning. Form into patties on oiled cookie sheet; bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve with condensed vegan cream of mushroom soup, (thinned as desired with water) or other gravy.
Being made from mostly familiar ingredients, these tasty cutlets are good to serve to pre-vegans (as well as seasoned ones).
Veganized from A Feast of Friendship, a cookbook produced by Orange Grove Animal Kinship Committee in 1987.