Kristof has a friend named Bob who raises dairy cows in relatively humane conditions, giving them names and calling them his "girls". What happens, though, when they grow old? Kristof tells a story about one of Bob's favorite cows, Jolly, that's supposed to reassure us --
When Jolly grew old and unproductive, he traded her to a small family farm in exchange for a ham so she could live out her retirement with dignity.If only I were teaching Animal Rights this semester, I could have the fun of asking my students what's odd about that sentence. (Whisper: the ham, what about the HAM?)
The last paragraph is just as unreflective--
The next time you drink an Organic Valley glass of milk, it may have come from one of Bob's cows. If so, you can bet it was a happy cow. And it has a name.IT has a name? Either you can urge people to support farms with named cows or you can refuse to use personal pronouns for animals, but surely you can't do both! (Aside: I'm mighty puzzled by the convention that animals are to be called "it". Aren't there very plainly male and female animals?)
OK, minor points. Kristof is a good guy trying to support more humane methods of farming. I applaud him for that. Gary Francione, predictably enough, doesn't. Here's Prof. Francione excoriating Kristof for his wrong-headed concern.
For Kristof and other welfarists, and this includes just about every large “animal protection” organization in this country, animals are things. They are not nonhuman persons. They are not members of the moral community. It is fine to exploit them as long as we torture them less than they would be tortured in an alternative situation; as long as we send them to slaughter with a name.Well, that's right. Kristof does not think animals are persons, and that's probably because (if he thinks it through) he would reject the theory that sentience is sufficient for personhood. It doesn't follow that animals are mere things or that they don't matter at all. They just don't matter in exactly the same way that persons like us matter.
Even if they matter in some intermediate, "somewhere between person and thing" way, there's still the question how we can possibly be justified in taking an animal's life, just for the pleasure we get from eating animal products. The more I think about that question, the less I find it has any easy answer. It's one thing if the pleasure in question is a small increment--like the difference between (say) Godiva chocolate and Hershey's. It's another if the difference is quite large--like the difference between eating in a school cafeteria and in a great restaurant. Sad fact: I think for many people, a vegan diet would be like a lifetime of eating in the cafeteria.
For someone like Francione, Kristof is a major enemy. He makes it seem like you can reconcile ethics with eating animals, just so long as you make enough humane reforms. This essay from Slate, sent to me by a reader (thank you!), makes clear how intense the fight is between abolitionists and other kinds of animal advocates.
Take, for instance, this year’s annual Animal Rights National Conference, which was held in Alexandria, Va., last month. After an abolitionist petition to ban HSUS from the conference failed, abolitionists tried sponsoring an independent seminar in protest of HSUS’s involvement. The hotel where the conference took place then attempted to shut down the abolitionists’ competing seminar (apparently at the main conference organizers’ behest). It’s this dust-up—not any of the myriad practical strategies of reform discussed during the four-day conference—that has earned the bulk of the attention in animal rights circles.The rest of the article is well worth reading.