Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not being sidetracked by particulars

The recent (Wednesday, January 27, 2010) death of 26-year-old Kansan Daniel Shaull in Portland, Oregon, who set himself afire downtown outside a fur store to protest the wanton and callous cruelty of the fur industry and of those who buy from fur stores and who engage in supporting the fur industry, has promoted much discussion on the Internet.

Man Sets Himself on Fire at Portland Fur Store
A man set himself on fire Wednesday outside Ungar Furs in Portland, Oregon. After dousing himself with gasoline, he attempted to enter the store, shouting “There are animals dying! Animals dying!” After police extinguished the flames, he was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he later died. The man was identified as 26-year-old Daniel Shaull from Kansas. Among the local activists I have spoken to, none are familiar with Shaull by name, nor recognized him as being a part of the active, long-running campaign against Ungar Furs. Yet the location and witness reports strongly indicate this man sacrificed himself to bring attention to the horrific treatment of animals on fur farms…..

2. The Defendants have literally gotten away with murder…

The courts are no friend to underdogs. They are ostensibly objective, but ultimately, they exist to protect the “rights” of the rich and powerful to bully the rest of the world, including the poor, minorities, immigrants, the working class, and, last but not least, nonhuman sentients and those who fight for them. Grand juries, which are often witch hunts and sometimes violate their victims’ Constitutional rights by imprisoning them indefinitely without charging them with a crime, and stalking orders, which are becoming frequently employed tools of judicial over-reach and creative law enforcement, are the repressive measures of choice that the corporate-state is using to attempt to intimidate and shut-down legal, above-ground animal rights activists….

Nuancing this sacrifice correctly is going to be a challenge to the AR movement, particularly activists in Portland because, even though Daniel may have wanted to the horrible things being done to animals (albeit rodents, we're often reminded), the attention has been on the burning of oneself.

Ethicists always focus; we focus on the (statistically-frequent) cruel interface between humans and nonhumans for whom some uses, often trivial and indefensible uses, have been invented.

We abolitionists don't separate defensible and indefensible human uses of others against their willful consent; many consequentialists do such a conceptual distinction.

Daniel, who may have said to others that he was going to 'do something' that day and had previously expressed that the (social) world is not as it should be (he has the world's religions and ethical philosophies backing him up there), still seems to have decided and acted on his own (and even his father commented in one interview that his son had never presented himself to his family as being an animal rights activist, though he had presented himself as being troubled about the state of the (social) "world" around us that was filled with so much wanton cruelty.

Whatever solutions we offer need to be adopted as sustainable solutions (such as abandoning ALL animal wearing - I suggest for items other than shoes, though we know quite easily that we can do without leather shoes) and recognizing the personhood of nonhumans - rather, acknowledging that what makes each of us humans persons is something that is not unique to us - individual corporeality, complex nervous systems that coordinate as individual self-aware selves capable of complex outlooks on the world and complex emotions regarding other persons, including persons of other species (demonstrated, WE think and many others think, too) in nonhumans widely.

However, the attention has been reassigned to Daniel's mental status, a mental status that IMHO remains fully capable of recognizing when something is dreadfully wrong with how one class of humans (from whom we expect moral accountability) treats another class of beings (who are structurally marginalized by the society of the dominant species).

This needs the kind of attention that will NOT marginalize or dismiss the atrocity of their even BEING industries of animal exploitation and abuse and will NOT let the definition of the situation drawn tightly around one individual's presumed mental status (a designation made by a relative, not a mental health professional).

"I'm not a big fan of self-sacrifice" in any way, and I've commented often in public spaces to that effect, but some desperation is triggered when society's moral condition reaches such overt depths of depravity that we wear bodies of tortured animals as symbols of status and glamor and pride.

The longstanding issue is NOT the mental status of Daniel Shaull; it's (a) the grave injustice of animal exploitation and abuse AND (b) the moral depravity of a species who, beyond all consequentialist calculations, continues to abuse where there IS no defensible rationale.

This is the year 2010.  Are YOU still eating and wearing dead animals?  [If so, grunt !]  It's time for a profound change in our understanding of our moral relationships with self-aware persons of all kinds, not merely symbolic readjustments or the same-old same-old dismissive marginalizations.

Living in the garage

On late night TV, Sigourney Weaver talked about how she lived in a tree while she was a student at Stanford University in Stanford, just next to Palo Alto, California.

Her jokes about how 'everyone was doing that sort of thing' reminded ME of MY college years living in an ELABORATELY-refurbished garage (in the SF Bay Area) with large picture window with thick lined pleated draperies, fancy door and doorstep, nicely shrubbed, with a private bathroom and three walls lined with bookcases filled with my textbooks and other books.  

My faithful Redstone House Noah, who waited in the mint patch for me to return from the university, slept at night at the foot of my bed.  My best friend parked his camper van in the driveway in front and drew electricity from my garage apartment, and the two of us farmed backyard and made a lush organic garden on land that had once been a highly-productive farm on a mountaintop, with clear views of the San Francisco Bay and the Peninsula, and the roadlway down the steep mountainside curving into the neighboring mountain.

Friday, January 29, 2010

World Day for the Abolition of Meat

It's global.

World Day for the Abolition of Meat

Organize your event in your city and post info on the Facebook wall (below)

  • The next World Day for the Abolition of Meat will be held on 30th January 2010 (Saturday).
  • This day is intended as a means of promoting the idea of abolishing the murder of animals for food. Worldwide six million sentient beings are killed for their meat every hour!
  • That figure doesn't even count the fish and other sea animals, which of course are included in the demand for the abolition of meat.
  • Meat consumption causes more suffering and death than any other human activity and is completely unnecessary.
  • Many groups will mobilize to promote the abolition of meat (and other animal products). They will not only advocate vegetarianism and veganism to individuals but will call for society to abandon the practice of killing animals for food. We hope that this initiative will strengthen the animal rights movement over the years.
  • It is important to address people not only as consumers but also as citizens like the anti-slavery activists who, although only a small minority, not only sought a boycott of sugar produced by slaves but also clearly expressed the idea that slavery should be banned.

It is important today to question society as a whole about the murder of animals for food so that it can no longer avoid a public debate on the legitimacy of this practice.
On 30 January conferences, street actions, leafleting, and information stands will be organized to spread the idea that the consumption of meat cannot be justified ethically and should therefore be abolished just as human slavery was in its time.

You CREATE an event.  Have you created an event where you are?

I suggest a do-it-yourself event like a barrage of any set of media sources with carefully-crafted e-mail messages about how meat is needless, tastes for meet can be satisfied TODAY with other foods (and in vitro meat is in the offing, which means that even carnivorous animals can have food without killing other animals - in the foreseeable future; no ETA is yet available), and a world without animal agriculture is the kinder, gentler world that the survival and development of human life requires.

That simple rationale can be endorsed by all dietary vegans without violating any humans 'rights' or claims or preferences or socially-conditioned tastes, which I think is ALL that most resistance to the abolition of animal agriculture is about.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have long thought that personalism is an ideal conceptual or philosophical 'vehicle' for expressing per-personal (and thus pro-animal) sentiments conceptually, abstractly, philosophically.  The later Peter A. Bertocci, a well-known Personalist, taught at Boston University.  He is often cited in papers about complex moral matters, particularly about sex and love, but the moral status of the person in distributed moral obligations is a concern for principled persons of all kinds, including those of us with profound respect for personhood in every species.

Peter Anthony Bertocci
May 13, 1910-October 13, 1989
Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy, Boston University, where he taught for thirty-one years. B.A., Boston (1931); M.A., Harvard (1932); Ph.D., Boston (1935).  Dissertation: The Empirical Argument for God in Late British Thought (published in 1938 by Boston University Press; advisor: Frederick Robert Tennant - the process metaphysician).

Other books include 
The Human Venture in Sex, Love, and Marriage 
Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion 
Free Will, Responsibility, and Grace (1957); 
Religion as Creative Insecurity
Sex, Love, and the Person (1967); 
The Person God Is 
(1970); and 
The Goodness of God 

On This Site:a
Materialism: Failing before Life’s Challenges
In 1951, Bertocci wrote:
“. . . no matter how narrow the gap between the chemical and the living becomes—and discoveries about the nature of viruses and colloids do indeed narrow that gap—we must remember that the gap is a qualitative and not a spatial one.  Suppose we consider the colloids the ‘missing link’ between living and dead matter.  This may impress our minds with the wondrous continuity of degree between one order of being and another.  But let us take a closer look.  Has the gap between life and matter really been crossed, let alone explained?  Even though a colloid may reproduce as living things do, it otherwise behaves like a chemical.  But a cell acts throughout like a living being and not like a chemical.  The fact still remains that when life appeared,life appeared. . . . This collocation of events, this close interrelation of living and nonliving beings, is an opaque fact unless we postulate a purpose which uses one order as an aid to the continuance of another.  Obviously this appeal to a broader purpose will not explain how the food enters the stomach becomes part of the living blood, bone, nerve, and brain.  Any biochemist can give us the sequence, but he is as silent before this fact of transmutation as we are.  However, we’re not trying to introduce a Purposer to describe what science has not so far described; here we seek to explain the harmony between two orders of being, the harmony between two differing and interacting qualities of existence.   We are seeking a view which, far from denying established scientific facts, will allow them to fit into a broader scheme which decreases the mystery.  What mystery?  The fact that living beings should appear and be so closely interconnected with nonliving beings—especially if all there was to begin with was the nonpurposeful, nonliving, nonthinking hustle and bustle of units of energy. . . .”
“. . . Our interest here is to emphasize the greater coherence which comes into our thinking if we consider the interrelation of the physical universe and life and the developing evolution of species as the handiwork of a creative Intelligence intent on producing a world rich in life, and, in the existence of man, rich in mind and value.  The evidence so far adduced enables us to envisage a Mind which is responsible not only for the ultimate physical preparations for life but for the first appearance of life in its many forms and for the additional mutations and variations discovered by our scientists.”
Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, 1951, pp. 333-34, 337 (italics in the original).
Fifty years later, the atheist Antony Flew wrote:
“[We may now know] how—by evolution through natural selection—one or more very primitive kinds of organism evolved into the enormous variety of species now known either still to exist or to have existed during some period in the past.  But that is a very different thing from knowing the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life or even of any life.  For, so far as I know, no one has as yet contrived to produce any plausible conjecture as to how even the most primitive kind of organism with a disposition to reproduce and thus to expose itself to natural selection might have evolved from a mixture of the many kinds of complex molecule which are now known to be required for that construction.  [My italics; Flew has been dealing with these issues for over fifty years.]
“Conway sees here a threefold challenge to the materialist, of which I consider two of the elements to be much more formidable than the third.  The first of these two is to produce a materialistic explanation for ‘the very first emergence of living matter from non-living matter. In being alive, living matter possesses ateleological organization that is wholly absent from everything that preceded it.’  The second challenge . . . is to produce an equally materialist explanation for the emergence, from the very earliest life-forms which were incapable of reproducing themselves, of life-forms which a capacity for reproducing them-selves.”
Review of David Conway, The Rediscovery of Wisdom, Philosophy, January 2001, p. 161.
Posted October 13, 2007