So Where Does This Guy Stand on Animal Rights Anyway?

I'm confused. I read a commentary in the NY Times Op-Ed section tonight and I really don't get what side the author is supposedly arguing. Nicholas Kristof starts off by saying:

In a world in which animal rights are gaining ground, barbecue season should make me feel guilty. My hunch is that in a century or two, our descendants will look back on our factory farms with uncomprehending revulsion. But in the meantime, I love a good burger.

Then Kirstof briefly mentions the animal rights referendum on the slate this November here in California, Proposition 2 (which would prohibit confining farm animals in such a manner that they are unable to turn around or extend their limbs). After which he waxes poetic about the geese his family raised when he was a child.

Perhaps it seems like soggy sentimentality as well as hypocrisy to stand up for animal rights, particularly when I enjoy dining on these same animals. But my view was shaped by those days in the barn as a kid, scrambling after geese I gradually came to admire.

So I’ll enjoy the barbecues this summer, but I’ll also know that every hamburger patty has a back story, and that every tin of goose liver pâté could tell its own rich tale of love and loyalty.

I'm sorry, is he claiming to argue for animal rights? Apparently his geese didn't have that much of an effect if he's eating goose liver pate. (Foie Gras is considered to be one of the most inhumanely processed foods.)

At least he acknowledges his hypocrisy. But I don't understand where in the article Kristoff actually stands up for animal rights. He doesn't go into any detail on Proposition 2 -- the closest he comes is this:

So, yes, I eat meat (even, hesitantly, goose). But I draw the line at animals being raised in cruel conditions. The law punishes teenage boys who tie up and abuse a stray cat. So why allow industrialists to run factory farms that keep pigs almost all their lives in tiny pens that are barely bigger than they are?

Defining what is cruel is, of course, extraordinarily difficult. But penning pigs or veal calves so tightly that they cannot turn around seems to cross that line.

So where, exactly, does Kristof think his meat is coming from? When he goes out, does he dine exclusively on grass-fed beef that is humanely slaughtered by the farmer, and not shipped off to a slaughterhouse? Or does he think that because "Burger King announced last year that it would give preference to suppliers that treat animals better," that means that all hamburgers are produced in a humane manner?

As for defining cruelty, I don't think it's too difficult to define the production of foie gras as cruel. I'm not alone either. According to Wikipedia:

The force feeding of animals for non-medical purposes, essential to current foie gras production practices, is explicitly prohibited by specific laws in six of nine Austrian provinces, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, or following interpretation of general animal protection laws in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

But I did learn one interesting tidbit. Apparently Harvard Law is offering a course on animal rights. That bodes well for the future of animal rights.

10 Comments

  1. Kate Saltfleet Thursday, August 14, 2008
  2. kelly g. Thursday, August 14, 2008
  3. kelly g. Thursday, August 14, 2008
  4. Lane Thursday, August 14, 2008
  5. kelly g. Friday, August 15, 2008
  6. Peggy Saturday, August 16, 2008
  7. heather Saturday, August 16, 2008
  8. Antonio Sunday, August 17, 2008
  9. Gary Monday, August 18, 2008
  10. Lane Monday, August 18, 2008

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