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Banning factory farms in California

This issue of animal rights just will not go away. The author Nicholas Kristof is referring to:

‘… the stunning passage in California, by nearly a 2-to-1 majority, of an animal rights ballot initiative that will ban factory farms from keeping calves, pregnant hogs or egg-laying hens in tiny pens or cages in which they can’t stretch out or turn around. It was an element of a broad push in Europe and America alike to grant increasing legal protections to animals.

Spain is moving to grant basic legal rights to apes. In the United States, law schools are offering courses on animal rights, fast-food restaurants including Burger King are working with animal rights groups to ease the plight of hogs and chickens in factory farms and the Humane Society of the United States is preparing to push new legislation to extend the California protections to other states.’

I am not unsympathetic to these moves.  I think it is reasonable to include animal welfare in the social welfare function of human societies.  Most of us dislike seeing animals abused or exposed to unnecessary suffering. This means that most of us do assign some rights to animals and, in particular the right not to need to experience suffering. There then remains the issue of defining an appropriate boundary for these rights.

I am a carnivore who enjoys meat and fish products though, as I age, I like these products less.  My perspective is that animals raised to be killed and eaten should be able to live enjoyable lives and die as painlessly (and without fear) as possible.

Moreover, to suggest that killing animals is always wrong seems to me limiting if one seeks to sustain natural populations in the face of introduced feral species. Indeed eating animal protein supports certain forms of life that would otherwise not exist.

My guess is that greenhouse gas issues in the longer-term will increase the price of meat-based and fish-based proteins and that these price hikes will help drive the move toward ‘morally-based’ vegetarianism. About a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from agriculture and land clearing.

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