A Week of Eating Dangerously.
He may not be troubled by what happens to animals: castration and dehorning without any relief from the agony; confinement in cages or cement stalls without fresh air, sunshine, or even space to turn; bloody slaughter by assembly line. But fortunately, many people are willing to find out what happens to chickens, pigs, cattle, turkeys, fish, and other animals before their body parts wind up on a plate. I hope your readers will call 1-888-VEG-FOOD or visit GoVeg.com for the facts and a free Vegetarian Starter Kit.
Bruce Friedrich Director of Vegan Campaigns, PETA Washington, DC
Neil Steinberg repeats an argument frequently heard in the debate over the humane treatment of animals: that "nearly every cow alive owes its existence to either the meat or the dairy industry, and that should the fad of vegetarianism ever really affect those businesses, animal lives would be lost, not gained." This notion has a superficial plausibility, but it's actually mistaken on two counts.
The world's highest concentration of cattle are to be found not in beef-loving North America, but in India, where Hindus don't eat cows but venerate them. Clearly there's more than one way to ensure high cattle populations.
But the deeper problem is Steinberg's dubious assumption that a concern for the ethical status of animals entails an obligation to erasure as many animals are born as possible. After all, human beings make the strongest ethical claims on us, but no one takes that to mean we are obliged to ensure the highest possible number of people. If we did, consider all the things that would be called into question, from celibate priests and nuns to access to birth control. We don't assume that because killing existing people is impermissible, creating new ones is mandatory.
Steinberg accuses animal advocates of a "sneering disregard for humanity" and "self-righteous delusion." Scrape away the bald ad hominems and the unpersuasive arguments, and there isn't much left. If Steinberg's article is any indication of the other side, it's no wonder the animal ethics movement is gaining such ground.
Andy Lamey Ottawa, Ontario
I was disappointed that reason, the magazine celebrating the noble concepts of "free minds and free markets," would publish an article celebrating exploitation, misrepresenting animal rights supporters, and making light of the suffering of other beings.
Neil Steinberg brushes aside the suffering of tens of billions of animals killed annually on factory farms in an attempt to classify animal rights activists as nuts who receive a big grin from "Mother Earth" every time they eat a soy burger. The truth is that ethical vegans choose not to consume animal products because they do not want to support actions that cause suffering. They put aside some minor pleasures to make the world a more compassionate place. What part of that suggests a "disdain for people"?
Steinberg thinks animals should be treated decently and eaten guiltlessly, and then deludes himself into thinking that the animals aren't really suffering at all. But the way animals are treated on factory farms is anything but decent--it's downright sickening.
Veal calves are separated from their mothers only days after birth and chained in tiny, dark crates. When they are finally slaughtered at about 16 weeks old, they are often too sick or crippled to walk. This is a very far cry from life in a field.
Freedom-loving individuals should try to spread liberty as far and as wide as possible. To deny certain sentient beings liberty while granting it to others is narrow-minded and hypocritical. Animal rights and libertarianism are harmonious causes. Libertarianism and exploitation are not.
Josh Corn State College, PA
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|Date:||May 1, 2004|
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