SH: My provisional criterion for human “use” of nonhuman animals is based on whether something is necessary for (human) survival and health.

Some (but very far from all or even most) animal research may be necessary (the rest is just for curiosity, careerism, profit, incompetence)

 But (apart from the few remaining subsistence cultures (who have no choice). meat, fish, dairy and eggs are no longer necessary. (Just taste and habit)

Anon: ok, let’s provisionally accept that a lot of animal research may not be necessary, and that we could do without eating living sentient beings and be fine. there are still two questions to answer: 

i) who decides whether an animal study is justified, based on your criterion, and how? especially given that the future applications of basic research are often completely unpredictable. I am definitely in favor of guidelines and regulations for ethical choices in animal research, and I believe that most western countries implement such regulations. can you show how specifically these regulations violate your criterion?

SH: Yes I can: (1) the Precautionary Principle  and (2) the judgment of far, far broader and deeper oversight committees for grant proposals and animal research practices, those with strong (human) representation of nonhuman animal interests rather than just human interests. The current “guidelines and regulations for ethical choices in animal research” definitely do not do abide by (1) and (2). — And, yes, if asked, I (and many far more qualified animal advocates) would certainly be able to show how existing regulations – in practice, rather than just on paper – violate the criterion of necessity for (human) survival and health.

Anon: ii) why is eating diary and eggs unethical. this is not eating living sentient beings. I would accept the idea that some methods of farming cattle and chicken to produce milk and eggs may harm the animals. we need to change these. but if the farming is ethical, what is wrong with using these products? 

I am sure you have been asked these questions many times. but I am still curious to hear your opinion. 

SH: Yes, I — and many other animal advocates — have been asked these questions many times, and the two that you ask are natural and reasonable questions. (Some others are far more tendentious, and obviously motivated by cognitive dissonance and defensiveness rather than sincere humanitarian concerns.)

The simple answer about “benign” milk and eggs is that it does not scale. Everyone imagines buying a (rescue) cow or chicken, and providing a sanctuary in which she can live a happy, fulfilled life until the natural end of her days, while providing a little left-over milk or eggs to feed humans. This theoretical approach does not scale in any realistic way to the true global human demand for and use of milk and eggs, and of the animals from whose body they come. It is a self-deluding fantasy in practice.

I myself am guilty of having hidden behind this fantasy for almost fifty years, ever since I became a vegetarian on my 17th birthday (in 1962). And I am very deeply ashamed for it.

Across the years, when people asked me the question you asked, I used to reply with such a hypocritical sophistry that it makes me cringe every time I recall it: “Yes, animals suffer, in practice,  to provide us with their milk and eggs, but in principle they could provide it without suffering, whereas they could not provide us with their flesh without suffering. So I eat milk and eggs, but not meat and fish.”

I practiced this odious sophistry for decades – along with equally shameful quips, in response, at table, to concerned queries from fellow-diners as to whether it “bothers” me that they are eating meat with me: “No, « vive liberté ». Persuasion does not last: everyone has to decide for themselves.”

Then, 11 years ago, on March 10 2010, at a McGill symposium on Animal Law, when David Wolfson began his talk (on the unspeakable horrors of the dairy and egg industry, and their intimate entanglement with the meat industry) by addressing the vegetarians in the audience who imagine that in not eating meat they are not complicit in the horrors: David stated, simply, in a few words, what I had known or suspected all along, but had failed to face. The scales fell from my wide open eyes in 15 seconds, and I became a vegan and activist for the remainder of my life.

Look at these, if you dare: “Dairy Industry” “Egg Industry

And if you do, don’t imagine that these are exceptions. These are inherent in the industry, every second of every minute of every hour of every day, everywhere,

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