Doing the Right Thing

On Feb 28, 2020 [deleted] wrote:
From Galileo I learned that you cannot improve that which you do not measure…”

What had to be “measured” to “improve” on slavery, or the subjugation of women? Some wrongs are obvious, if you just look; and what needs “improving” is human behavior, not measurements.

“ignorance and apathy perpetuates the moral relativism typical of modern agricultural systems…”

The ignorance, apathy and moral relativism are those of individual human cerebra, not “systems,” which feel nothing.

“I think I can do more for animal welfare working from a complex adaptive system approach than by doing what they call ‘research on welfare’…”

Let us cut to the quick on this: Are you a vegan activist?

If not, your disposition toward “measuring” a “complex adaptive system” — in place of ceasing to harm animals and devoting yourself to inspiring everyone else to do likewise — is just cognitive dissonance (which is itself worthy of measuring and modelling: but it always transpires in individual human cerebra, not in “complex adaptive systems” — which, again, are not sentient).

(I will come back to “research on welfare” at the end.)

“… the utilitarian conception of life throughout time and… its foundations… for western civilizations… Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Rousseau, James George Frazer…”

Utilitarianism is counting. Just counting. Machines can count. But machines are not sentient. “Welfare” is a sanitized, self-deluding word. The right word is suffering

Utilitarians can say “measure and minimize suffering” — as if  most of it were not obvious. But if utilitarians can theorize (“measure and model”) while munching on the leg of a lamb, they are simply engaging in a pious exercise in cognitive dissonance.

“If you think this rudimentary idea is a waste of your time, please let me know, as the only thing I want to know is whether I am wrong…

This is not about the rightness or wrongness of a complex theory about a complex system but the rightness or wrongness of actions — which, in the case of what is being done to countless sentient organisms by our “complex agricultural system” every second of every minute of every day, everywhere in the “anthropocene,” is pre-theoretically and a-theoretically obvious to anyone who looks.

(Which is why I think that what is needed is to look, not just to count. Just counting — “measure and minimize suffering” — takes the “system” for granted, and tries to “improve” it. That is “welfarism: “Keep on using and killing animals, but try to hurt them less.” And that, in turn, is again just cognitive dissonance.)

I hope that while you keep measuring, you will keep thinking, and looking. Eventually you will begin feeling; and then you will know what needs to be done.

Welfarisme vs. Abolitionnisme

Est-ce que tu as cessé de battre ton épous(e)?


Est-ce que tu n’as pas cessé de battre ton épous(e)?

Comment répondre à une telle question quand on n’a jamais battu personne (et on n’est même pas marié)?

Est-ce que tu es abolitionniste?


Est-ce que tu es welfariste?

Je suis abolitionniste et je suis welfariste.

L’un n’exclut pas l’autre: C’est une fausse dichotomie.

Un abolitionniste milite pour que tout ce qui est possible soit fait pour abolir tout ce qui cause souffrance à d’autres êtres sensibles (sauf légitime défense). Je suis abolitionniste.

Un welfariste milite pour que tout ce qui est possible soit fait pour réduire tout ce qui cause souffrance à d’autres êtres sensibles quand il il n’est pas encore à porter de main de l’abolir. Je suis welfariste.

Qu’est-ce qui a donné la fausse impression qu’il y a une opposition entre l’abolitionnisme et le welfarisme — qu’on ne peut pas être et abolitionniste et welfariste?

C’était une hypothèse théorique: l’hypothèse que de militer pour réduire la souffrance quand il n’y a pas encore moyen de l’abolir réduit la chance de l’abolir.

Le seul argument apporté en faveur de cette hypothèse est que les industries qui exploitent les êtres animaux profitent de toute réduction de leur souffrance pour justifier le fait de ne pas abolir leur exploitation, et pour ainsi l’enraciner encore plus fermement.

Mais les industries qui exploitent les êtres animaux n’ont aucune intention de s’abolir, et font tout pour s’enraciner plus fermement advienne que pourra.

Donc cette une hypothèse théorique qui est apportée comme preuve que les actions pratiques pour réduire la souffrance réelle réduiront la chance d’abolir la souffrance.

Ce n’est pas une hypothèse scientifique, avec des preuves objectives. C’est une prémisse subjective.

Comme tel, ce n’est pas une justification pour abandonner les êtres aux souffrances qui pourraient être prévenues.

C’est plutôt comme la fausse prémisse cachée derrière la question:

Est-ce que tu as cessé de battre ton épous(e)?


Est-ce que tu n’as pas cessé de battre ton épous(e)?

Je dirais que ce n’est pas le fait d’être et abolitionniste et welfariste qui est auto-contradictoire mais le fait d’être abolitioniste et non welfariste.

Welfarism vs. Abolitionism

Have you stopped beating your spouse?


Have you not stopped beating your spouse?

How to answer such a question when you have never beaten anyone (and you are not even married)?

Are you an abolitionist?


Are you a welfarist?

I am an abolitionist and I am a welfarist.

One does not exclude the other: This a false dichotomy.

An abolitionist militates to do everything possible to abolish all human-caused suffering to other sentient beings (except self-defense).– I am an abolitionist.

A welfarist militates to do everything possible to reduce all human-caused suffering to other sentient beings when it is not yet within reach to abolish it. — I am a welfarist.

What gave the false impression that there is an opposition between abolitionism and welfarism – that someone cannot be both abolitionist and welfarist?

It was a theoretical hypothesis: the hypothesis that to militate to reduce suffering when there is not yet a way to abolish it reduces the chance of abolishing it.

The only argument made in support of this hypothesis is that the industries which exploit animal beings profit from any reduction in their victims’ suffering to justify not abolishing their exploitation, and thus to entrench it even more firmly.

But the industries that exploit animals have no intention of abolishing themselves; they are doing everything they can to entrench themselves more firmly.

So this is a theoretical hypothesis which is cited as evidence that practical actions to reduce real suffering will reduce the chances of abolishing suffering.

This is not a scientific hypothesis, with objective evidence. It’s a subjective premise.

As such, it is not a justification for abandoning sentient beings to preventable suffering.

It’s more like the false premise behind the question:

Have you stopped beating your spouse?


Have you not stopped beating your spouse?

I would say that it is not being both abolitionist and welfarist that is self-contradictory but being abolitionist and not being welfarist.

Conflicts of Vital Interest

In the fight against animal suffering, if we really want to help animal beings it is essential to take into account a fundamental distinction between what is done optionally, without vital necessity, and what is done obligatorily, in an inescapable conflict of vital (life or death) interests like the one between an obligate carnivore and its prey.

Tigers cannot survive if they do not capture and eat their prey. It is a biological imperative for their survival and health. Humans are not obligate carnivores. They can survive in full health today without consuming animal beings; it is not a biological imperative for them.

I was present once at a public event for animal rights defenders. A young vegan asked a question timidly: “I am a vegan and an activist defender of animal beings. But I have a chronic condition that requires me to take a drug that contains an animal component. What should I do? “

Most of those present replied, almost unanimously, “Take your medicine. Animal beings as well as human defenders of animal beings need your help. You are not helping them by sacrificing your life. It is a vital necessity for you.”

According to all  current scientific knowledge, vaccination saves lives. It is, therefore, a vital necessity. We can hope that one day there will be vaccines that no longer require any animal component. But in the meantime what is urgent is to put an end to the gigantic majority of animal suffering which is unnecessary – hence already completely gratuitous today – before entering the complex and tragic domain of conflicts of vital necessity between sentient beings.

— French version —

Conflits d’intérêt vital

Dans la lutte contre la souffrance animale, si on veut vraiment aider les êtres animaux il est essentiel de tenir compte d’une distinction primordiale entre ce qui se fait facultativement, sans nécessite vitale, et ce qui se fait obligatoirement, dans un conflit de nécessités vitales comme celui entre un carnivore obligatoire et sa proie. 

Un tigre ne peut pas survivre s’il ne mange pas sa proie. S’est un impératif biologique pour sa survie et sa santé. Les humains ne sont pas des carnivores obligatoires. Ils peuvent survivre en pleine santé sans consommer les êtres animaux; ça ne leur est pas un impératif biologique.

J’étais présent une fois à un événement publique de défenseurs des êtres animaux. Une jeune végane a posé une question timidement: « Je suis végane et militante défenseure des êtres animaux. Mais j’ai une maladie chronique pour laquelle il faut que je prenne un médicament qui contient une composante d’origine animale. Que dois-je faire? » 

On lui a répondu, presque unanimement: « Prend ton médicament. Les êtres animaux ainsi que les défenseurs humains des êtres animaux ont besoin de ta protection. Tu ne les aides pas en sacrifiant ta vie. C’est une nécessité vitale pour toi. »

D’après toutes les connaissances scientifiques actuelles, la vaccination sauve les vies. Il s’agit, donc, de la nécessité vitale. Il est à espérer qu’un jour il y aura les vaccins qui ne nécessitent plus aucune composante d’origine animale. Mais entre temps l’urgence est de mettre fin à cette gigantesque majorité des souffrances animales qui sont inutiles — donc  déjà complètement gratuites aujourd’hui — avant de rentrer dans le domaine complexe et tragique des conflits de nécessités vitales entre les êtres sensibles. 

The Deplorables, the Despicables, the Dements and the Decents

The clueless, mad-as-hell, red-capped rabble cheering Trump’s vile, brainless, heartless, shameless, mendacious malignity, come what may, are the Deplorables (just as HC said).

The corporations, lawyers, politicians, oligarchs and other opportunists who prop up Trump’s vile, brainless, heartless, shameless, mendacious malignity, come what may, are the Despicables.

The racists, jingoists, religionists, conspiratorialists and psychopaths who top up Trump’s vile, brainless, heartless, shameless, mendacious malignity, come what may, are the Dements

And the remainder of humanity, who reject and oppose vile, brainless, heartless, shameless, mendacious malignity are the Decents.

Sentience, biological imperatives and personal interests

A sentient being – unlike a chair or table – cannot have an “owner” in the usual sense.

The relationship must be more like that between a legal ward and her legal guardian (or caretaker or parent).

Guardians must be entitled to go to court in the interest of their ward.

If the animal being has no guardian, or if the guardian does not act in her interests, she must become the legal ward of the court, which must act in her interests.

Without this the notion of “well-being” is voided of meaning — and with it the notion of a sentient being with biological imperatives (= interests) that must not be violated.

This is why no one (including the “owner”) can do whatever they like to their dog, unlike to their chair.

Why? Because a dog, as a sentient being, has an interest in her own well-being (in not having her biological imperatives violated: deprived of food, water, shelter, space, freedom of movement, social imperatives, freedom from pain, freedom from fear, freedom from stress). That is what it is to be a sentient being. Chairs have no interest.

It is incoherent to enshrine this interest in law, formally recognizing animal sentience and its biological imperatives, yet not accord that interest legal standing in court.

It was explicitly in order to distinguish a sentient being from an insentient object without any interests that Quebec’s AWSA (BESA) law was adopted.

That is why the sentience law implies, both logically and practically, that the legal status of “owner” likewise needs to be updated to make it conform and cohere with the animal being’s status of sentient being.

That is why the status of guardian or parent is much more appropriate and natural than “owner” in the case of a sentient being as opposed to an insentient object.

A sentient being has biological imperatives and it thus has (like all sentient beings) a personal interest (even without needing to be declared a legal “person”) in not having its own biological imperatives violated. Being sentient means being capable of feeling pain and suffering if one’s biological imperatives are violated.

The only way to resolve, logically and fairly, the inconsistencies described above (owner, property, insentient object, sentient being, biological imperative, interest, guardian/caretaker/parent) will be to develop a new legal category of agent, other than “ordinary owner,” for those who have the care of a sentient being (human or non-human). If biological imperatives were not personal interests, the distinction between insentient objects and sentient beings would be empty and meaningless.

Sensibilité, impératifs biologiques, et intérêts personnels

Un être sensible — contrairement à une chaise ou une table — ne peut pas avoir un « propriétaire tout court ». 

La relation doit être davantage comme celle entre un pupille puis son tuteur (ou gardien ou parent). 

Le gardien doit avoir le droit de saisir le tibunal dans les intérêts de son pupille, 

Et si l’être animal n’a pas de gardien, ou si le gardien n’agit pas dans les intérêts de l’être animal, il faut que l’être animale devienne le pupille de la cour, qui agira dans ses intérêts.

Sans ça la notion de « bien être » est vidée de sens; et avec elle la notion d’un être sensible ayant les impératifs biologiques ( = les intérêts ) qui doivent être respectés. 

C’est pour ça que personne (y compris le « propriétaire »), contrairement qu’avec sa chaise, ne peut faire n’importe quoi avec son chien, . 

Pourquoi? Parce que le chien a un intérêt a son bien-être (le respect de ses impératifs biologiques: eau, air, nourriture, logement, espace, liberté de mouvement, impératifs sociaux, absence de douleur, absence de peur, absence de stresse). C’est ça d’être un être sensible. Les chaises n’ont aucun intérêt.

Il est incohérent de reconnaitre cet intérêt formellement dans la loi, en reconnaissant la sensibilité animale et ses impératifs biologiques, mais pas devant le tribunal, faute de « l’intérêt juridique » d’agir. 

C’est précisément et explicitement pour distinguer un être sensible d’un objet sans intérêts que la loi BESA a été adoptée. 

C’est pour ça que l’adoption de la nouvelle loi implique logiquement et pratiquement qu’il faut maintenant  mettre à jour le statut juridique de « propriétaire» pour le rendre conforme et cohérent avec le statut d’être sensible.

C’est pour ça que le statut de tuteur/gardien/parent est beaucoup plus approprié et naturel quand il s’agit d’un être sensible et non pas d’un objet insensible. 

Un être (un organisme) sensible possède des impératifs biologiques et il possède ainsi un intérêt personnel (même sans devoir être déclaré une « personne » juridique) à ce que ses impératifs soient respectés.

La seule façon de résoudre logiquement et équitablement les incohérences décrites ci-dessus (propriétaire, propriété, objet insensible, être sensible, impératif biologique, intérêt, gardien/tuteur/parent) sera de developper une nouvelle catégorie juridique d’agent, autre que « propriétaire » ordinaire, pour ceux qui ont la garde d’un être sensible (humain ou non humain). Parce que si les impératifs biologiques ne sont pas des intérêts personnels, la distinction entre les objets et les êtres sensibles est complètement dénaturée et dépourvue de sens.

Bioethics, heterotrophy and psychopathy

Biological organisms are living beings. Some (not all) living beings (probably not plants, nor microbes, nor animals with no nervous system) are also sentient beings. That means they are not just alive, surviving and reproducing; they also feel.

And with feeling comes the capacity to be hurt: chairs & tables, glaciers & shorelines, and (probably) plants & microbes can be damaged, but they cannot be hurt. Only sentient beings can be hurt — because it feels like something to be hurt.

And with feeling comes the capacity to be hurt: chairs & tables, glaciers & shorelines, and (probably) plants & microbes can be damaged, but they cannot be hurt. Only sentient beings can be hurt — because it feels like something to be hurt.

Most organisms are heterotrophic, meaning that they have to consume other organisms in order to survive. (The exceptions are autotrophs like green plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria.)

This means that nature is full of conflicts of vital (life-or-death) interests: predator vs. prey. If the prey is sentient (i.e., not a plant), this means that the predator has to harm the prey in order to survive (by killing and eating it) — and the prey has to harm the predator to survive (by fighting back or escaping, depriving it of food).

There is no point trying to make conflicts of vital interest into a moral issue. They are a biological reality — a matter of biological necessity, a biological imperative — for heterotrophic organisms. And there is no right or wrong or choice about it: The survival of one means the non-survival of the other, as a matter of necessity.

But now comes the unique case of the human species, which is sentient and also, like all heterotrophic species, a predator. Its prey are plants (almost certainly insentient)  and animals (almost certainly sentient). But unlike obligate carnivores (like the felids), humans also have a choice. They can survive, in full health, as either carnivores or herbivores, or both. We are facultative omnivores.

The primates probably evolved from earlier herbivore/insectivore species, but there is no doubt that most primates, including the great apes, are also able to eat small mammals, and sometimes do, but, unlike us, they can’t live on (almost) nothing bu meat alone. Our own species’ evolutionary history diverged from this mostly herbivore origin; we became systematic meat hunters; and there is no doubt that that conferred an adaptive advantage on our species, not just in getting enough food to survive but also in evolving some of the cognitive traits and the large brain that are unique to our species.

Far fewer of our ancestors would have survived if we had not adapted to hunting. They did it out of necessity; a biological imperative — just as it is hypothesized that it was under pressure of a biological imperative that our ancestors evolved a “sweet tooth,” a predilection for sugar, which was rare in our ancestral savannah environment, making it important to consume as much sugar as we could when we could get it, because we had many predators and needed the energy to escape. By the same token, our predilection for aggression and violence, toward other species as well as our own, had been adaptive in our ancestral environment.

But in our current environment many of these ancestral predilections are no longer necessary, and indeed some of them have become (mildly) maladaptive : Our predilection for sugar, now abundant (whereas predators are almost nonexistent), when unchecked, has become an important cause of caries, hyperactivity, obesity and diabetes (but not maladaptive enough to kill or prevent enough of us from reproducing to eliminate those genes from our gene pool). Our predilection for aggression and violence, when unchecked, is leading to ever more deadly forms of warfare and devastation (but not deadly enough, yet).

And in the same way, our unchecked taste for animal protein has led to industrial production of livestock, water depletion, air pollution, climate change, antibiotic overuse (creating superbugs), and a variety of human ailments. But the point is that we have retained our hominid capacity to survive, in full health, without animal protein. We are, and always have been, facultative omnivores — with two metabolic modes herbivore and omnivore — that could adapt to different environments. 

So far, I’ve only mentioned the negative consequences of animal protein consumption for us along with the positive consequences of  not consuming animal protein, for us.

But let me suggest that we should not minimize the moral/bioethical aspect. Even if, setting aside the climatic aspects, the direct health benefits of our no longer eating meat are, for us, only mild to moderate, the harm and hurt of our continuing to eat meat are, for our sentient victims, monstrous.

And it should not be left unsaid that the clinical hallmark of a psychopath is the fact that if they want to get something, psychopaths are unmoved if getting it hurts others, even when what they want to get is not a vital necessity. That is why it is so important that people be fully informed of the fact that meat eating is not necessary for human health and causes untold suffering to other sentient beings. Because most people are not, and do not want to be, psychopaths.

Why are you a vegan? How did you become a vegan?

— Why are you a vegan?  How did you become a vegan?

— What’s the saddest thing about being (or not being) a vegan?

— What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about veganism or (was aware of) regarding consuming animal products?

— Could you tell us about your “inner pig”?

I am vegan because I think it is wrong to hurt sentient beings when it is not necessary for survival (as it is for a carnivorous predator like a lion, who has no choice). I became vegetarian age 17, but only stopped eating eggs and dairy when I was reminded of the horrors of those industries at a McGill Symposium on Animal Law, nearly 50 years later — for which I am deeply ashamed, because I had suspected it all along, but didn’t want to look there. And because I now know how shamefully easy it is to stop. 

The saddest thing about being vegan is knowing all that animal suffering is completely unnecessary (except for the few subsistence cultures left who have no other choice yet). Most people still believe, wrongly, that eating animal protein is necessary for our health, or that it would be hard to stop eating it, or that food “livestock” live happy lives and deaths. The three lies we tell ourselves. It’s the truth I wish people knew. (I and many others are trying hard to awaken their minds and hearts faster than mine did.) 

I have an “inner pig.” She has spent her short 6-month life in misery, packed in with others (10%) dead or dying in filth, disease, stench, and violence all around her; she has been squeezed in a truck with hundreds of others and has just arrived at Fearman’s Slaughterhouse after a 36-hour journey with no food or water or protection from heat or cold; in a half hour she will be gassed with carbon dioxide, stunned (maybe), scalded with boiling water to soften her skin, and then her throat will be cut (maybe still conscious, as it’s 1000 pigs massacred per hour). I consult her whenever I wonder whether something that has just happened to me matters (article rejected; grant refused; experiment fails, can’t afford to buy something I want; someone has just been mean to me). She just looks at me. What her eyes say is unmistakable: “No, it doesn’t. Please save me.”

My Inner Pig
My Inner Pig