The rough road to animal personhood

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Rakuen Growlithe
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The rough road to animal personhood

#1

Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

Originally published, with links and better formatting, on Flayrah: https://www.flayrah.com/8505/rough-road ... personhood
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Beaks are extremely important to birds, allowing them to hold objects and feed themselves. One can easily imagine the problems that a blue and gold macaw named Max experienced, when his beak was pulled off after two fights with other birds. Human caretakers helped him eat again, and when his remaining lower beak grew too long, they regularly shortened it so it was the right size for his tongue.

In search of a long-term solution, a South African team of veterinarians, doctors and other professionals led by Prof. Gerhard Steenkamp worked together to design and attach a 3D-printed beak for Max. As has been previously covered on Flayrah, many other animals have also received prosthetics when they've needed them.

(I use the term "animal" here purely for simplicity, meaning "non-human animal". Biologically, humans are as much animals as macaws, dogs, lizards and frogs. The distinction between them is purely cultural, and I can recommend Richard Dawkin's essay The tyranny of the discontinuous mind for further details.)

The example of Max, and others, shows us that humans can care about specific animals and are willing to devote a large amount of time, money and effort to improving their quality of life. While this is admirable, not all animals receive such treatment. In other situations, animals are seen as disposable goods, notably when it comes to food production.

Eating animals is a practice fraught with issues. Meat tends to be less healthy than plant-based food sources, is the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in food production, contributes to a large decline in the population of wild mammals, and there are serious ethical concerns related to killing and eating our fellow sentient beings. For some, the lesser intelligence of animals compared to humans justifies their use. Others take after British philosopher Jeremy Bentham who wrote:
The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but "Can they suffer?"
Indeed, a recent survey of nearly 1800 Western philosophers revealed that only 48% considered it permissible to eat animals or animal products under ordinary circumstances. This represents a large shift in the way that we treat animals, and this stance is not confined to academia. Proposed legislation in the UK recognises that even crustaceans and molluscs are sentient, and seeks to outlaw cruel practices such as boiling lobsters alive.

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Perhaps the biggest problem facing the world today is anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. It is well-known that farming animals for meat is a major source of greenhouse gases, and shifting our diet is one of the simplest and easiest steps to combat climate change. One of the proposed remedies to our food emissions is to farm insects for protein. However, there is growing evidence for insect sentience as well, and some scientists are concerned that if insect farming were to become commonplace, current misconceptions could lead to large-scale violations of insect welfare. The need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is urgent, but we should not do so at the expense of our fellow sentient creatures.

When animals are farmed for food, they exist as a means for humans to acquire nutrients. Kantian ethics states that humans should only be seen as an end in themselves, and not as the means to an end. As society has shifted from a discussion of animal welfare to a discussion of animal rights, the question has been raised whether animals should also only be treated as an end. Viewing animals as ends would mean that they have intrinsic worth, existing regardless of the instrumental value that they provide to humans. An important requirement for respecting the intrinsic value of animals is to recognise they are sentient beings with their own thoughts, emotions, memories and desires. In legal terms, this could be accomplished by recognising animals as persons.

While the idea of recognising animals as persons may strike some as absurd, it is not unheard of. In 2013, India said that dolphins and other cetaceans should be seen as non-human persons. A year later in 2014, an Argentinian court declared that an orangutan named Sandra should be recognised as a person, and ordered her release from the Buenos Aires zoo. No English-speaking country has gone this far yet. When the question arose concerning a female elephant named Happy, held in captivity at the U.S. Bronx Zoo, a New York judge dismissed giving her personhood.

The story of Happy is not over yet, as the Nonhuman Rights Project, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf, will be taking it to the New York Court of Appeals. One thing has changed since the original case. In Colombia, animals are permitted to sue. Due to legal proceedings surrounding Pablo Escobar's escaped hippopotamuses, this resulted in a federal U.S. court recognizing the animals as "interested persons". Two attorneys have pointed out that this does not mean that their status under U.S. law has changed. Despite that, it may help influence the result of Happy's case.



Regardless of the outcome of Happy's legal situation, there is an urgent need to rethink our relationship with animals. Despite copious scientific data showing that animals are sentient, can use tools, transmit culture, have morals, and use basic language, many humans still treat them as the mindless automatons René Descartes declared them to be in the 1600s. It is necessary that society moves forward to our current understanding: animals are more complex than we give them credit for, and that they, like humans, possess intrinsic value. This applies not just to those species that have traditionally been seen as pets, but also to those that have traditionally been seen as food.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
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Re: The rough road to animal personhood

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So if we could grow meat in a lab. Would it be a better substitute and would you eat it?

Also, how do we teach/convince the people in undeveloped African countries about animal rights or even to become vegan -if their main form of protein intake is cattle/poultry farming? Do you think they will give a shit about veganism? I certainly don't think so kek lmao. But I guess(as all liberals argue), "if you throw enough money at them and teach them from childhood you can fix it". Yeah right. In a perfect world of uniforms and rainbows we won't eat animals. I promise you that, but we are living in times of food shortages. And plants(or insects) is not just a good solo substitute.
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Re: The rough road to animal personhood

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Lab-grown meat would be better but not perfect. It solves most of the ethical issues but, if I remember correctly, it's quite expensive. Also most mammalian cell cultures are grown in the off-products from slaughter houses and that has not been fixed yet, although some companies were working on plant-based growth media. Would I eat it? Probably not. It just seems really weird to say that something is unethical and then go through all that trouble to try to recreate it. For me a litmus test would be, how comfortable would people be eating lab-grown human meat?

The "underdeveloped Africans" problem is not a particularly meaningful issue. It is a problem that will need to be addressed but it's far from the most urgent. Poorer people and subsistence farmers eat little meat. Meat consumption generally increases with increases wealth. So while there are cultural norms that would need to be changed, the people which are the biggest issue in terms of meat consumption are ones that are already wealthy and educated.

When we talk about food shortages we also need to be careful about what we mean. There is no global food shortage. We produce more than enough food to feed every person on Earth, a large amount of food is wasted and it is not equally distributed. Shortages only exist locally. Those are issues which can be addressed with political will. Some countries have made progress there. For example, in the US a lot of food is wasted because shops discard it once it's past it's sell-by date and sometimes take actions to make it inedible. In contrast, France passed a law where shops are forbidden from discarding food like that and all excess food that can't be sold must be donated.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
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Re: The rough road to animal personhood

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Post by LaShadow »

Rakuen Growlithe wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 8:44 am Lab-grown meat would be better but not perfect. It solves most of the ethical issues but, if I remember correctly, it's quite expensive. Also most mammalian cell cultures are grown in the off-products from slaughter houses and that has not been fixed yet, although some companies were working on plant-based growth media. Would I eat it? Probably not. It just seems really weird to say that something is unethical and then go through all that trouble to try to recreate it. For me a litmus test would be, how comfortable would people be eating lab-grown human meat?

The "underdeveloped Africans" problem is not a particularly meaningful issue. It is a problem that will need to be addressed but it's far from the most urgent. Poorer people and subsistence farmers eat little meat. Meat consumption generally increases with increases wealth. So while there are cultural norms that would need to be changed, the people which are the biggest issue in terms of meat consumption are ones that are already wealthy and educated.
The ethic's surrounding veganism revolves around the abuse of animals in the process of meats manufacturing. By eating lab grown meat, you bypass all those ethics. Don't you? So what's the issue? Then my next question is, is it really an ethics issue if you refuse to eat lab grown meat too?

And also, have you ever been to a township? I've stayed with black family in Hammanskraal Township for one week for a cultural experience. I've also been to Makekeng, a township in Limpopo. We had a plot there and we would frequently visit the locals. They are thriving with meats. If it's not chicken they're eating, it's beef. That market is alive and thriving. They also slaughter sheep for every second celebration. From weddings to certain birthdays. And it's a brutal process of slicing the sheep's veins so it can bleed out. So the consumption of meat has nothing to do with your income group, that's a lie. I can tell you that, from first hand experience. I didn't pull out some random source I found on a .org website. But the importance of consuming meats in underdoped areas is much more important, as there's no other substitutes. Unless you can prove to me that they can afford vegan patties from Woolworths.
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Re: The rough road to animal personhood

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Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

LaShadow wrote: Sun Dec 05, 2021 11:29 amThe ethic's surrounding veganism revolves around the abuse of animals in the process of meats manufacturing. By eating lab grown meat, you bypass all those ethics. Don't you? So what's the issue? Then my next question is, is it really an ethics issue if you refuse to eat lab grown meat too?
I fear you conflating two separate questions here.
The first one deals with the ethics as an abstract. I would say vegan ethics is a bit more complex than what you are saying but it's suitable for this discussion. As I mentioned, lab-grown meat doesn't bypass all the ethical issues, yet, because mammalian cell culture is still largely dependent on feral bovine serum which is extracted from cow fetuses at the slaughterhouse. Lab-grown meat using fetal bovine serum requires the slaughter of cows to continue. There are alternatives, though whether they are suitable yet or still in testing I don't know, however they are not as widely used.
The second question would deal with the personal question of whether I would lab-grown meat, or at least that is how I understood it when you said "would you eat it." In this case, I'm assuming all the ethical issues are solved and no animals are harmed. My personal decision not to eat lab grown meat does not mean that the decision to not eat meat is not an ethical issue. There are several things that I would agree are ethical to eat but which I would nonetheless not eat, either because of taste or disgust or whatever. To me, whether or not lab-grown meat is ethical, doesn't change the fact that it is creepy. Given that our nutritional needs can be met without meat, I do not see the need nor appeal of creating a fake dead body for consumption.
LaShadow wrote: Sun Dec 05, 2021 11:29 amAnd also, have you ever been to a township? I've stayed with black family in Hammanskraal Township for one week for a cultural experience. I've also been to Makekeng, a township in Limpopo. We had a plot there and we would frequently visit the locals. They are thriving with meats. If it's not chicken they're eating, it's beef. That market is alive and thriving. They also slaughter sheep for every second celebration. From weddings to certain birthdays. And it's a brutal process of slicing the sheep's veins so it can bleed out. So the consumption of meat has nothing to do with your income group, that's a lie. I can tell you that, from first hand experience. I didn't pull out some random source I found on a .org website. But the importance of consuming meats in underdoped areas is much more important, as there's no other substitutes. Unless you can prove to me that they can afford vegan patties from Woolworths.
I have no reason to doubt what you are saying but finding some exceptions in a certain region does not mean that the relationship is a lie. For example, professional basketball players are taller than the average person. But finding an ordinary person who is taller than a professional basketball player doesn't change that. The reason we need to aggregate data is because first-hand experience is very limited. You are talking about two towns in one country. They can be an exception. There are thousands and thousands of towns in hundreds of countries. You have not been to them all. It's a mistake to take that knowledge and extend it over all of South Africa, let alone all of the world.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
~John Milton~
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Rakuen Growlithe
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Re: The rough road to animal personhood

#6

Post by Rakuen Growlithe »

On the topic, I was informed that recently Spain recognised animals as sentient beings and not objects in civil law. It also suggests this was part of European law already but I don't recall hearing much about that before.
https://english.elpais.com/society/2021 ... eings.html
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
~John Milton~
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