The Debate On Animal Rights

The Debate On Animal Rights

Why is it fine to eat animals, but not (fine) to have intercourse with them?
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I have previously written about my decision to become a vegan, and my change of position regarding the topic of animal rights. I am not, however, satisfied with how I articulated and justified my belief that animals do have rights. Perhaps my inspiration for writing this article comes from my recent reading of Plato’s The Republic, but I would like to try to better defend animal’s possession of rights.

I start with a question: why is it fine to eat animals, but not (fine) to have intercourse with them? I asked this to a colleague of mine at the university about a week ago; I had time to spare, and the topic of animal rights was brought up when different diets were being discussed. So I could not resist directing the conversation towards the topic of animal rights. My colleague could not answer, and I had an idea why. The answer that she had in mind was that animals could not consent, therefore any act of intercourse would be considered rape. Rape can only be applied to beings that can consent, so humans fit the bill. By rejecting bestiality on the basis of consent, then one must accept that animals are beings that can consent and therefore are equitable to humans. This is not the conclusion that those who eat meat would like to accept. The question I asked is not a novel one, indeed it is one of the most common Socratic question that vegans and vegetarians have in their arsenal; and for good reason. This question illustrates the hypocrisy of many who look down upon bestiality, but support eating animals, are guilty of. With this short pause, the discussion took off.

My colleague, after the short pause, then made their response. “It’s not decent, why would you want to sex with an animal to begin with?” I returned with another question: why is it not decent? “Because it’s an animal, it’s not a human," I asked her to explain the significance of humans; what is so great about humans? I had gotten the discussion I was waiting for. “They can consent." “Not always, can the unconscious consent?” “No, but they can wake up.” “What about children, can they consent?” “No they can’t, but when they get older they can.” “What about people with profound mental retardation? Do they have rights as well?” “Yes they do.” It was here that I was able to move forward into the topic IQ and human superiority.

“Why do people with profound mental retardation who cannot consent, still have rights? They cannot ‘grow up’ nor can they 'become conscious.' I could sense that she was at the end of her rope, partly because of her new position to justify her lifestyle: human superiority. It is important to note, that the concept of superiority -- whether it be in race, nationality, religion, or the like -- is a “last resort” argument. The idea is that it is supposed to end the debate or discussion at hand because it is, in essence, an opinion. “I think blue is better than green, apples are better than oranges, and pie is better than cake” are all opinions that declare an individual’s favoritism of one over the other. I cannot logically lead you to the conclusion that green is better than blue, or that cake is better than pie, because there is no right answer. It is all an opinion, so when someone does resort to that type of argument they intend to end the discussion as it is “only a matter of opinion and that both opposing positions are correct.” Of course this falls apart when you provoke the individual using this argument to explain their reasoning; which is exactly what I did. “Humans are smarter, they have higher IQs and build things. Animals don’t.” “Not all humans build and create things. Humans can only build and create things when they have time and resources. Not all humans have high IQs and not all animals have low IQs, dolphins and crows are intelligent animals for example.” “Okay so we don’t eat or kill those animals, where’s the issue?” “Is intelligence really a measure of worth? Do you think all humans are equal, despite their intelligence and that all deserve the same rights?” “Yes.” “So why use intelligence as a marker of worth if you believe that all humans, despite intelligence, deserve equal rights? Even the most humble human deserves just as many rights as the most knowledgeable, so what is the significance of intelligence then?” The discussion came to an end before we could continue, and my colleague was about to respond before being interrupted by a phone call. This was our debate, through this dialogue I hope that I have illustrated the validity of the rights of animals. I hope that I can continue this conversation with her again, or even with another, as I believe I may have at least swayed her opinion and perhaps you.

Cover Image Credit: socastsrm.com

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Don't Boycott Fairlife Because Of Fair Oaks Farms Just Yet

These shameful acts do not represent the dairy industry or agriculture as a whole.

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I am currently enrolled in Auburn University's College of Agriculture set to graduate in a short time. I am majoring in Poultry Production with a minor in Animal Science. I also work on a small cow-calf operation on the weekends and am completing an internship at a chicken processing plant. I am well-versed in areas of animal welfare, proper husbandry, and have many certifications and countless hours training in proper animal handling for all manner of livestock and meat-producing animals.

Because of this, my Facebook feed and other social media accounts are often filled with farming videos, new agricultural technologies, and the occasional Peta ad. Upon opening Facebook this week, I came across the Fair Oaks Farm scandal. I typically don't click on videos depicting animal abuse allegations without first doing a little research of my own.

Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) is an organization promoting the cessation of severe animal cruelty. A noble cause for sure, but as with many of these organizations, they often seek to demonize agricultural organizations by preying on the heartstrings of individuals who know little about farming or the industry as a whole.

Often, modern farming activities are misconstrued with either adulterated information, misguiding comments, or extremely old, outdated footage. While these actions recorded by ARM in the Fair Oaks Farm were very real instances, they were isolated.

These organizations never seek to show what humane treatment of animals looks like. They never aim to showcase good handling practices. For every minute of abuse, they videoed, how many hours of proper conduct was carried out?

Upper management, supervisors, and individuals in a position to stop unacceptable behavior are incapable of being everywhere at once. In addition, when offenders know they are being watched by such individuals, they will discontinue the behavior until they are unsupervised again.

Because of this, any company that handles livestock practices some form of the "See Something, Say Something" rule. This rule, under one of its many name variations basically means if an employee of any level sees another employee participating in behavior that is inhumane, they are required to report it immediately or risk termination. The undercover videographers were at one point, employed by Fair Oaks Farm.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that makes the ARM videographers employees of Fair Oaks Farm which men they went through the "See Something, Say Something" training, and knew they were supposed to report it, but didn't.

How many times in the four-month observation of the ARM videographers could they have reported the actions of the men in the videos? How many times did they fail to notify the company of the responsible party's actions? How many of these cruel instances of abuse been prevented had they notified management and how much sooner could the culprit have been terminated? They allowed these activities to continue to transpire until they had enough evidence to smear the dairy industry. They inhibited proper company function and they disregarded the safeguard practices the company had in place.

Fair Oaks Farm is not blameless, and these acts should not go unpunished, but boycotting Fairlife isn't the way to do it.

Sure, boycotting it will pull money away from the company until they inevitably source milk from another dairy in response to the media and consumer's cry for change, but how does this help the dairy cattle at Fair Oaks or the employees who have abided by proper animal handling? When you boycott, the responsible farm and responsible parties fall out of the public eye and the abuse goes uncorrected.

Boycotting is forgetting.

How about instead of refusing to buy their milk, you push for changes in their employee vetting processes or make amendments to their animal welfare checks. Don't let people forget about Fair Oaks, and don't turn your back on a farm because of the actions of a few. Instead of pretending the company doesn't exist, we hold them to a higher standard. Then, we will see change.

But if you simply cannot continue supporting this company, I understand. It's a hard concept to come to terms with. But remember, these shameful acts do not represent the dairy industry or agriculture as a whole. Do not stop supporting the dairy industry and the countless dairy farmers nationally.

Do not assume this is normal behavior because it isn't.

The employees in question were terminated before the release of the video campaign because a responsible employee reported them.

Do not turn your back on agriculture or farmers, and do not idolize organizations like ARM who interfere with proper business practices in order to capture the information they want.

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