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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Opinions on the topic of Vegetarianism - 3

Part 3 of this Topic. See Part 1 for introduction.

Ideoform Msg. 204

"I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect."
~Temple Grandin

Grandin is considered a philosophical leader of both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. Both movements commonly cite her work regarding animal welfare, neurology, and philosophy. She knows all too well the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her in her quest to promote humane livestock handling processes. Her business website has entire sections on how to improve standards in slaughter plants and livestock farms. In 2004 she won a "Proggy" award, in the "visionary" category, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

One of her most important essays about animal welfare is "Animals are not Things," in which she posits that animals are technically property in our society, but the law ultimately gives them ethical protections or rights. She uses a screwdriver metaphor: a person can legally smash or grind up a screwdriver but a person cannot legally torture an animal.

As a proponent of neurodiversity, Grandin has expressed that she would not support a cure of the entirety of the autistic spectrum.

"Animals Make Us Human," By Temple Grandin
"Animals In Translation," by Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University.
She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College, her master's degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.

Dr. Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on thier animals during handling.

She has also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. This scoring system is being used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare. Other areas of research are: cattle temperament, environmental enrichment for pigs, reducing dark cutters and bruises, bull fertility, training procedures, and effective stunning methods for cattle and pigs at meat plants.

She teaches courses on livestock behaviour and facility design at Colorado State Univeristy and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare.

She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, PrimeTime Live, the Today Show, and many shows in other countries. She has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Time Magazine, the New York Times book review, and Discover magazine. Interviews with Dr. Grandin have been broadcast on National Public Radio. She has also authored over 300 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. She is the author of "Thinking in Pictures", "Livestock Handling and Transport," and "Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals." Her book "Animals in Translation" was a New York Times best seller.

Her aim is to educate people throughout the world about modern methods of livestock handling which will improve animal welfare and productivity.

"The Emotional Lives of Animals," by Marc Bekoff

"Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect" by Marc Bekoff, Forward by Jane Goodall

Marc Bekoff is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a former Guggenheim Fellow. In 2000 he was awarded the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for major long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. Marc is also regional coordinator for Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program, in which he works with students of all ages, senior citizens and prisoners, and also is a member of the Ethics Committee of the Jane Goodall Institute. He and Jane co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies in 2000.

These authors are both educated in science, and are highly ethical.
Ideoform Msg. 223

Algernon's Story

Or, Why care about what animals feel, or think or communicate before we eat them.

Here's the story of a real rat. His name was Algernon. He was my lab rat in college. I was majoring in Psychology, and at my particular University, Behaviorism was the norm. Behaviorism says that it doesn't matter what is "inside the box" of people's heads (or animals) because we can't really know that, we can only study behavior. Which is the evidence of "something" inside the box, but we don't have to know what it is to study it.

Algernon was a white lab rat bred to be practically identical to all the other white lab rats my class was using, so any differences in behavior we noted would be supposedly entirely due to how we treated them and experimented on them.

The rats were in little wire cages stacked on top of each other with numbers on the front, a water bottle and a small amount of food pellets for them to eat. They could see and smell each other but not touch each other. We were to reduce the food until they all were hungry based on a formula that was called a starvation diet, then they went without food for a day so we could experiment with hungry rats. The hunger was the motivator for them to do what we wanted to train them to do.

We were rewarding them with a single food pellet for pressing a bar in another cage while we took notes. There was a specific process called "shaping" that we were all supposed to be learning. So us students were being "shaped" too.

I felt sorry for my rat. I wasn't supposed to name him because we weren't supposed to think of them that way so we could be objective when we called them by the numbers we had given them. Of course, I thought the number was a name, too. But I had just read the book "No Tears for Algernon" and thought I'd be cute and name him that to be a bit rebellious. I started feeding him in between other classes. I brought him real food, like lettuce. He seemed to really love the real food--but that was "inside the black box" so I couldn't be sure except that I knew he was very hungry, and I saw him eating it very fast.

Anyway, my rat should have been the slowest to press the bar in the group of rats. The days we all got our rats, most students put on these heavy gloves to pick up their rats so they wouldn't be bitten. Algernon let me pet him when I fed him, so he let me pick him up easily, and then I would pet him and talk to him. My classmates made fun of me talking to a rat. Other classmates picked their rats up by their tails like we were taught to (to avoid the "friendliness" part.) I made fun of them because of their squeeling and even screaming a bit when they reached in to get their rats and the rats struggled.

So I cuddled Algernon a bit, watching all this. My professor frowned at me and said my rat would do poorly because we didn't have as much time to do the "shaping." So, Algernon goes into the testing cage. He looks around curiously exploring everything, touches the bar, sniffs the food pellet, takes his time eating it. Then goes and looks around some more and then looks at ME. I cheer him on. I get teased. (MY shaping isn't going so well.)

This goes on for a few minutes, and pretty soon he's eating about 5 pellets and grooming himself. So I look at how the other rats are doing, thinking I can learn something from all the other behaviorist experts who are doing it "the right way."

Next to me, a student's rat is in a corner, fur all ruffled up, head down. I ask, "So how many pellets has he eaten?" She says he hasn't eaten any because he had stayed in the corner the whole time so far.

On the other side, the rat is going in circles, around and around, looking nervous or angry about something (although, I am not supposed to presume such a feeling inside its "black box".) I ask the student how many pellets his rat has eaten and he says something like, "I don't give a shit, he's just bit me when I put him in there. This rat is F***** crazy, he just keeps going in circles." This is the guy who put him in by lifting it by the tail like we were told to.

The next day, I give Algernon a special treat of seeds and fruit. He's not hungry at all when he goes into the cage. We talk a bit, he goes into the cage, looks around, gets comfortable, and saunters over to the bar and then LOOKS AT ME. I cheer him on, I get teased again. He proceeds to push the bar about ten times. The other rats still haven't found the bar yet. Some are just starting to get "closer" to the bar, though. This is the shaping part--we were supposed to give them a pellet for just looking at the bar at first, then for getting "closer."

The next time, I do the same thing. He goes right over to the bar, looks at me, and proceeds to push the bar about 20 times. I cheer him on. I get teased. But everyone comes over to watch. He pushes the bar another 20 times. I have only rewarded him with a few pellets. He looks at me. I think he is enjoying this, but I am probably only "projecting" my feelings onto him. I know I certainly am enjoying this. He proceeds to push the bar another 30 times before cleaning his fur. I take him out of the cage, and give him a bit of bananna. I talk to him. My professor is furious. He says I have "ruined" the experiment.

The next day, nobody is watching anyone else's rat. Algernon is the star. He is pushing the bar as fast as he can, to cheers and whoops. He pushes the bar 100 times, and I have to stop him and give him a rest. The experiment is over. He only had to do 100 times to get one pellet to "prove" how shaping works. He didn't need that one pellet. I had given him an entire apple that morning.

I was reprimanded by my professor, and my grade was docked for feeding my rat and not keeping him on the standard starvation diet during the experiment. I complained that my rat completed the experiment, did the shaping, and I had learned how to do the shaping even though he wasn't "motivated" by hunger. The professor said I had disrupted the class (just because everone was watching my rat, not because I was acting disruptive during class) and was a bad example to the other students, and my grade was reduced.

I asked to keep Algernon when the experiment was over. The professor said it was against the rules because the students tended to loose track of them and they got into the University's sewers. I was going to sneak in and steal him (the professor told me I would be accused of stealing University property if I did) but because I had spoken to my professor about it, he had expedited the process of killing all the rats used in the experiment by the standard method of putting them all into a black plastic bag and gassing them.

There were lots of tears for Algernon. He did a very good job of being a lab rat for me.

So my experience with Behaviorism, was that I got really good at shaping animal behavior. I got on the Dean's list that year. I used that to get a scholarship, and I used the scholarship to buy a motorcycle.

Thank you for the motorcycle, Algernon. It drove me really nice to my Physics class, where there are few parking spots.

Ideoform Msg. 241

Human Chow

This concept has happened. A man who runs a bakery in our area used to work for large food manufacturers as a biochemist did the research that created it while working as a food scientist for Tenneco Corporation and the Quaker Oats Company. He studied the nutritional deficiency syndrome called Kwashiorkor in Columbia that is caused by protein deficiency in starvation victims. He then went on to create protein in a lab setting to end starvation and in particular end this disease. But once it was created, the product was "terminated" because ending starvation in the world was not profitable.

He then went on to do some of his own research and started this local bakery based on his findings.

He wrote a small book about his experiences working in the food industry and revealed the convoluted politics of food in it. He says the food industry determines what you eat and how much you eat, by manufacturing foods that create cravings.

Its called "Beating the Food Giants" by Paul Stitt. He put the entire book on this site:

"Paul Stitt gives a first hand account of the inside workings of the giant food companies of America. He tells how they program you to crave certain foods, to overeat every day, to make you feel stuffed but hungry, and how this "mad energy" of the food industry is destroying you and what you can do about it."

Here's a quote from the introduction:

"Our 50 year national experiment of letting the giant food companies dictate what we eat, how often we eat and how much we eat, which began in 1945, is now beginning to reveal its full effect.

We are now a nation where 90% of the people cannot pay their own lifetime medical expenses. Lifetime medical expenses are now so great that no one else can pay them either — neither employers nor government nor any other group.

We can live without cars, computers, fancy homes and new clothes every month, but we can't live without being healthy. We Americans brag about having the cheapest food bill on Earth, but is it so cheap when it's impossible to pay the sickness cost of consuming "cheap" food. In actuality it's not so cheap—on a per-pound, per- week, or per-lifetime cost, a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a little meat is far cheaper than the junk food the Food Giants grind out and force down our throats.

In other words, the do-gooders of this world have it all wrong. "Health" care is not expensive — it's free. Because a healthful diet is less expensive, short term and long term, than an unhealthful junk food diet.

Sickness care is bankrupting our country and is leading the way in destroying our way of life and our culture. Staying healthy is by far the least expensive way to live — and the most fun. Why choose any other? Why become a burden to your family and society?"

Here's another quote about some research on food that was done at Quaker:

"It contained a report on a study in which four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole-wheat kernels, water, vitamins and minerals. Another group received Puffed Wheat, water, and the same nutrient solu­tion. A third set was given water and white sugar, and a fourth given nothing but water and the chemical nutrients. The rats which received the whole wheat lived more than a year on the diet. The rats who got nothing but water and vitamins lived for about eight weeks, and the animals on a white sugar and water diet lived for a month.

But Quaker's own laboratory study showed that rats given vitamins, water and all the Puffed Wheat they wanted died in two weeks. It wasn't a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition; results like these suggested that there was something actu­ally toxic about the Puffed Wheat itself. Proteins are very similar to certain toxins in molecular structure, and the puffing process of putting the grain under 1500 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure, and then releasing it, may produce chemical changes which turn a nutritious grain into a poisonous substance. And Quaker has known about this toxicity since 1942. "

Ideoform Msg. 253

Responding to poster "HO2"

Quoting HO2: "humans truly aren't moral"

If humans aren't moral, then is any moral question just fakery?

Another way to ask the OP's question is:
Is it moral to care about the suffering of animals?

Or is any suffering that might happen to anything other than a human not a moral concern?

Perhaps we can have a separate "morality" (even though it's fake by your standards) for how to discuss caring about animals well-being or suffering.

And a separate "morality" that only exists for discussing human well-being and suffering.

Responding to poster "Bright1Raziel:"

Quoting: "Your argument is from morality, mine is from biology. Morality dose not impinge on biology in any way, they are entirelly seperate arguments."

Is it scientific to discuss morality? If you only discuss morality in scientific terms, then you are never going to come to any moral conclusions. Only scientific ones.

But you can use science to discuss morality by using data to support claims as to whether animals do indeed experience suffering or not, or have emotions or not, or feel pain or not. However, it is non-scientific to call pain suffering. People can experience pain during sex and feel pleasure.

Is the experience of suffering then, only something that a being that is self-aware can be said to experience?

Is the self-aware being the only one that gets to decide this?

Morality is totally voluntary. You can't force someone to be moral, only to behave as if he/she is moral.

My personal morality, chosen voluntarily by me, has led me to feel that the worst evil is preventable suffering. My experiences with suffering, both personal suffering, and from observing the suffering and death of others, both human and non-human, is that pain can be born, and great inconvenience, disease, distress and all kinds of trials. But in the effort of doing so, morality is revealed by how it is dealt with and why.

You know the true measure of a man/woman by what he or she is willing to die for. Animals have died rescuing their human. I have seen humans die rescuing their animal. In Christianity, Jesus said that you must give up your life to save it. I think that what he meant was that in a spiritual sense, morality is only truly born in a man or any being, when he, she or it demonstrates giving up life itself (the ultimate pain) for something that means something beyond survival.

As a parent, I know the feeling of wanting to trade places with a dying child. I would have done so in a minute. This is my measure as a moral being. It might be a biological drive also. But when people march off to war to protect a country, a family, a way of life, that is also a measure.

The bond between humans, their family their community, is priceless. This bond exists between species also. It is a circle where our lives and survival intertwine. We cannot exist truly without the others.

Paul Stitt invented a protein that could be made from one of the world's most abundant resources; methane. We could stay alive on protein made from methane. But is this really living, or is it just survival? I would rather appreciate the life force given up for me by the plants and animals that went before me in this world than try to live a sterile life devoid of these complex, emotional relationships.

Yet to see this only in terms of biology, survival and science is to miss an entire realm of awareness, consciousness and being in this world. To claim that you must shut off your emotions to eat dinner, to sustain your continued relationship with this world, is an unsatisfying solution to me.

"Facts are generally overesteemed. For most practical purposes, a thing is what men think it is.
When they judged the earth flat, it was flat. As long as men thought slavery tolerable, tolerable it was.
We live down here among shadows, shadows among shadows."

~John Updike

Ideoform Msg. 263

Quoting previous post: "This was not my point. I was trying to make it clear that as an animal, my behavior is largely subject to my genes, and I refuse to let vegitarians make me feel guilty for something that is just a natural function of my biology."

The original question of this thread was posted by a meat eater, not a vegetarian trying to make people feel guilty. It was a set-up to get people like me to try to show our methods of "conversion." However, over the many years I was a vegetarian, I met not a single one who was trying to convert anyone else to vegetarianism. Each of the one's I met had come to their own conclusions on their own.

Morality is voluntary. Coersion is antithetical to that. Conversion is close to coersion. Enforcing morality with laws is just a way to create standards of behavior we all can agree to live by so that we can be in a community together. You can't punish a person into being moral. Nor does guilt work that way.


Guilt doesn't convert people. It doesn't change people. Guilt happens when you break your own version of morality that you have previously decided upon.

Jeffery Dahlmer was from my hometown. He kept people's heads in his refrigerator. He treated people and animals the same way. He had no empathy for people's suffering, and also had no empathy for animal's suffering. A lot of crime profilers say that the way a person or a group treats animals is a sign of how they will or could treat humans. Its not a "slippery slope." It is an indication of the ability to have empathy for another sentient being.

I believe that most people come to vegetarianism by personal choice, not because of being made to feel "guilty" or because they were coerced or converted. Meat eaters who observe vegetarians or talk with them about this, put the guilt on themselves.

As for rights. A dog who bites a human is held responsible by generally being "put down." This consequence is part of responsibility, in that even a dog should know not to break "the rules" of his enslavement or the rules of living with humans.

Animals that cannot cohabitate with humans peacefully are not allowed to. Is that the responsibility of the animal or of the humans who have decided what peaceful cohabitation means to them?

Many, many disabled and mentally ill persons populate our overcrowded prisons. Is this just because we can't "put them down?" Do they retain the right to be alive because they can feel suffering, or because they have "rights?"


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