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Update Newsletters
21 July 2010 Issue

1. Web Site of the Week

2. Essay: The Abolitionist Approach, Part 3, Public Policy

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

1. Web Site of the Week

Animal Acts of Kindness blog: http://animalactsofkindness.blogspot.com/

2. Essay: The Abolitionist Approach, Part 3, Public Policy

When it comes to public policy, I think there is a place for welfare reforms and compromise, for at least two reasons. First, for better or worse, it is the nature of the legislative process to include compromises. If animals are to have legal protection (or even legal rights in the event that the property status of animals were abolished), it will be necessary to employ the legislative process, which reflects the range of views on animal issues in our society.

Second, the abolitionist approach, in isolation and without the assistance of an animal welfare reform movement, seems futile to me. Relying on only this approach presumes that it is reasonable to expect abolition of harmful treatment of animals at some point in the foreseeable future. My experience has been that, while most people care somewhat about animals, most don’t care enough to be willing to make significant personal sacrifices on animals’ behalf, and many don’t care at all. Human selfishness and hard-heartedness seem to be huge barriers to the widespread adoption of animal rights, because the vast majority of the public wants to exploit animals for food, clothing, entertainment, science, etc. How many of us have close family and friends who have heard our arguments, witnessed our dedication, and maybe even seen our videos, and yet their attitudes and behaviors remain largely or entirely unchanged? Indeed, throughout history humanity has generally treated other humans, as well as nearly all members of other species, badly. I don’t think that humans, in general, are sufficiently kind-hearted to relinquish the perceived benefits of animal abuse, now or any time in the foreseeable future.

Many of those advocating the abolitionist approach predict that animal rights will come about in a few generations. I find this unsatisfactory, because the scale of animal abuse is so huge that waiting generations for abolition would mean that trillions of land animals would be subjected to extreme abuse without any chance for relief. However, I don’t think that contemporary human civilization, which includes massive institutions of animal exploitation, is sustainable. We are depleting scarce land, water, and energy resources, and we are changing the environment in ways that will undermine human civilization. Further, it is likely that the massive use of antibiotics, which is necessary to keep animals from dying in unhealthy environments, will lead to bacterial resistance that will render the antibiotics impotent. Once that happens, factory farming will cease, because animals can only survive in factory farms if stress-induced diseases are controlled by continuous use of antibiotics. I anticipate that animal abuse will fall dramatically in the upcoming decades, but I doubt it will be a consequence of the goodness of human hearts. It will result from widespread collapse of human institutions due to human short-sightedness and hard-heartedness – the same human attributes that underlie factory farming. If my pessimistic outlook has merit, then it makes sense to reduce animal suffering as much as possible now, since animals will likely be largely free of the horrors of factory farms within a few decades, regardless of whether human compassion grows over time.

Even if somehow animal rights became the law of the land, there will always be powerful forces trying to undermine animal rights. There will always be some people who lack empathy and caring, and they will seek to dominate and exploit. Animal rights will always be a struggle, and there will always be people who are very tempted to harm vulnerable animals. Human civilization has seen periods of relative peace and good-will, but when times turn sour due to natural disasters, economic downturns, or other crisis, fear-mongers find fertile soil for ideologies that call for exploitation and abuse.

In summary, abolitionism points to an ethical ideal, and I think those who articulate and advocate abolitionism can strengthen the animal protection movement. I also think that welfare reforms play an important part of the struggle to defend “the least of these.”

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

Daniel, God’s Man in the Field (Part 1)

Your question and comments are welcome

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