Monday, October 22, 2007

Human health & animal ethics: an introduction to this Category

Of all the major areas of animal exploitation, two of them, animal experimentation and farming, have two fundamental characteristics in common, which will make them, in my opinion, the real battleground on which the case for animal rights and equality will be fought.

What vivisection and farming have in common is: 1) they involve an enormous number of animals, far superior, at least in the case of farming, to other areas of animal abuse; 2) there is an appearance (I underline “appearance”) of genuine conflict between the liberation of animals from these two forms of abuse and human health, which in many people’s minds, unfortunately, justifies them on moral grounds.

For this reason I’ve created a special category in the current blog, Human health and animal ethics, to explore this assumed conflict between human and non-human animal interests. In animal testing, the conflict is purported to be in the fact that renouncing it would deprive medicine of an irreplaceable tool of immense value, or at least this is the claim. In animal farming, the conflict is said to derive from the fact that humans need to eat animal flesh products to stay healthy, believed by many people to be true despite the repeated assertions to the contrary by the most prestigious medical authorities and organizations in the world, who say that the opposite is true and vegetarianism is indeed a healthier option.

All other forms of animal exploitation do not involve any real, important human interest. Nobody can claim that they will die or become ill without a fur coat (not even Eskimos), if they don’t attend circuses, if they don’t visit zoos, don’t go fishing or hunting.

The lame excuses of some of these animal abusers, like hunters justifying torturing foxes to death because they are “pests”, are only seriously believed or appeared to be believed by themselves and their close supporters.

But with vivisection and animal farming, the belief that they are necessary for human health is widely held by a majority, so it needs to be addressed with empirical and logical instruments. I’ll do that in this category, which has the advantage of tackling both major areas of animal abuse with one common approach useful for both, and I will also explore the tricky question of whether veganism can really be suitable for human health: on this issue I have to say that I am not convinced myself. People wouldn’t need vitamin tablets to supplement a vegan diet if the latter were an appropriate, fully well-balanced diet. And if you look at it from a naturalistic viewpoint, the human species is not a herbivorous species: we use a similar argument against meat-eating when we say that humans are not a carnivorous species, so it seems to me that, if we are intellectually honest, we recognize that the argument cuts both ways.

No comments: