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Reasons and Elephants (and Persons)

photograph of elephant at zoo painting

In ordinary language, the term ‘person’ typically refers to an individual human being (and, sometimes, their physical body): signs reading “one person per table” or “$10 per person,” comments about preferences like “I’m not a cat person” or location descriptions such as “I always keep it on my person,” and references to strangers or people with unclear identities like “I spoke to a person in customer support yesterday” are all mundane examples. But technical uses of the term ‘person’ abound: linguists use it to describe the intended audience of a speech-act; Christian theologians have developed the term in complicated directions to buttress the concept of a trinitarian deity; the law (roughly) defines it as something that possesses legal standing to bring complaints to the court, a category which includes individuals, but also corporations, churches, colleges, and other legally-protected entities.

It does not include elephants.

Over the last few years, The Prindle Post has periodically discussed the legal case of Happy, a 51-year old Asian elephant who has lived in the Bronx Zoo since 1977. In 2018, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a case on Happy’s behalf claiming that she is a legal person who has a fundamental right to liberty which is violated by her solitary confinement in her zoo pen; after several judgments and appeals, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in June that Happy is not a person in the relevant sense and, therefore, cannot request the court system to protect her. Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore explained that the legal principle of habeas corpus — which prevents someone from being imprisoned indefinitely without criminal charges — is irrelevant to Happy because “Habeas corpus is a procedural vehicle intended to secure the liberty rights of human beings who are unlawfully restrained, not nonhuman animals.”

In short, the court’s decision is squarely and explicitly speciesist: it treats Happy differently than other creatures because of her species.

While the five judges who ruled against her carefully avoided making a claim about whether or not Happy actually has a right to liberty, they instead concluded that the structure of the law simply cannot, in principle, apply to Happy because she is not human. By their own reasoning, Happy might well possess a right to liberty that is being violated by the Bronx Zoo, but New York law is not designed to protect such a right (if, they would say, it exists).

This should seem strange. Normally, people who talk about “rights” tend to treat them as a relatively simple category: if Susan has a right to “not be abused” and Calvin has a right to “not be abused,” then we would typically say that both of them possess the same right to the same thing. If we were to learn that Susan is a hamster, it seems plainly immoral to just suddenly accept that Calvin could abuse her without acting improperly. Presumably, if you think that Calvin should not abuse hamsters (or cats, dogs, red pandas, or whatever your favorite animal happens to be), then you might well think that Calvin has a duty to not abuse them (which also means that they have a right to not be abused). There is no need on this model to differentiate between “the human right to ‘not be abused’” and “the nonhuman right to ‘not be abused’” — but this alleged distinction is roughly the only reason why Happy’s right to liberty was ignored by the court system. According to the judges, habeas corpus is only about “the human right to liberty” alone.

This means that the five judges who ruled against Happy on these procedural grounds were effectively saying that “Happy must lose the case because creatures like her cannot use habeas corpus to win cases.”

But this seems like an example of a rudimentary logical fallacy: petitio principii, better known as begging the question or an argument that is circular. If I try to argue that “abortion is murder” because “all abortions intentionally kill an innocent person,” then I’m assuming (among other things) that a fetus is an innocent person — but this is what my argument was supposed to prove in the first place! For my argument to not be circular, I must first give some reason to think that fetuses are people, at which point I could say that an abortion kills a person (I’ll leave the ‘intentionally’ and ‘innocent’ claims as an exercise to the reader).

In a similar way, the court was asked by Happy’s lawyers to determine whether her rights were violated; for the courts to instead say “Happy’s rights were not violated because she is not human” assumes that “only humans have rights that can be violated” — but this is precisely what the court was asked to consider from the start!

Sadly, it seems like little else can be done for Happy: there is no further recourse available in New York’s court system. But two small silver linings are left on this cloud: firstly, the fact that the courts considered Happy’s case at all is surprising — she is only the third nonhuman animal to be given a legal hearing in this fashion (two chimpanzees named Tommy and Kiko were the first and second in a similarly unsuccessful case in 2018). But, even more encouraging is the fact that Happy’s case was not unanimous: two of the seven judges voted in her favor. According to Judge Rowan D. Wilson, the legal system should

recognize Happy’s right to petition for her liberty not just because she is a wild animal who is not meant to be caged and displayed, but because the rights we confer on others define who we are as a society.

It remains to be seen how long it might take for society to recognize the rights of nonhumans (we’re still struggling to legally recognize many human rights); until we do, we should expect the court system to continue spinning in logical circles.

Is “Personhood” a Normative or Descriptive Concept?

photograph of young child watching elephant at zoo

Many ethical debates are about “getting the facts right” or “trusting the science,” and this sentiment is driven by a presumed difference between political and ethical values and facts. This can be problematic because it naively assumes that facts are never a product of values or that values can’t be a product of fact. This can lead to mistakes like thinking that evidence alone can be sufficient to change our thinking or that the way we value things shouldn’t be affected by the way the world is. Ethical inquiry requires us to consider many questions of both fact and worth to draw conclusions. To demonstrate, we will consider the recent case of Happy the elephant and whether it makes sense to call her a person.

While it is tempting to think of values as being something entirely personal or subjective, in reality most discussion and debate about values is far more nuanced and complex than that. Determining the value of something, whether it’s going for a walk or eating a candy bar, involves considerations of function, worth, and means.

Eating a candy bar has the function of providing sustenance and a pleasant taste. The worth of the bar will be determined by considering the means required to attain it compared to the worth of other things I could eat. If the cost of the candy bar goes up, the means required to attain it becomes dearer. While the candy bar provides necessary energy, it is also harmful to my health, and so I re-evaluate the worth of the bar.

People may differ over the value of the candy bar, but the disagreement will likely hinge on the different functions the candy bar has in life. But notice that function and means – two essential considerations for valuation – are factual in nature. To ask what the candy bar will do is to ask what it is good for. In other words, any thought about worth inevitably involves factual considerations. Often, the reason we want people to avoid misinformation or to trust expertise has to do with the ethical concerns rather than the factual concerns; we expect facts to moderate the way things are valued and thus the way we act.

But what about facts? Aren’t the facts just the facts? Well, no. There is no such thing in science as the “view from nowhere.”

We don’t study every part of the natural world; we study things we are interested in. Our investigations are always partial, infused with what we want to know, why we want to know it, and what means we have available to try to find an acceptable answer.

The risk that we over-generalize our findings – start making pronouncements about the world and forget about our practical aims in research – suggests that facts alone cannot settle ethical debates. Just like values, a fact is defined by function, worth, and means. Indeed, many concepts are “thick” in that they perform a dual function of both describing something while also offering normative content. “Cruel,” for example, is often used both normatively and descriptively. But what about “person?”

Recently a New York court ruled that an Asian elephant named Happy is not a person. The case began after the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a petition against the zoo holding Happy, arguing that Happy’s confinement was a violation of habeas corpus because Happy resides in a solitary enclosure. They demanded recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and her release from the zoo.

Habeas corpus – a person’s legal protection from unlawful detention – has historically been used to push legal boundaries. One of the most famous cases is Somerset v. Stewart, which found that a slave could not be forcibly removed from England and so was ordered to be freed. This suggests that “person” is often a “thick” concept that not only describes something, but also inherently (especially legally) contains normative elements as well. In the end, the court, found that Happy was not a person in the legal sense and was thus not entitled to invoke those rights.

Those who supported Happy’s case emphasized that elephants are intelligent, cognitively complex animals. The Nonhuman Rights Project argued that elephants share numerous cognitive abilities with humans such as self-awareness, empathy, awareness of death, and learning. Happy was the first elephant to pass a self-awareness indicator test. In addition, several nations such as Hungary, Costa Rica, Argentina, Pakistan have taken steps to recognize the legal rights of “non-human persons.” The argument is that because these animals are intelligent enough to have a sense of their own selves, they are entitled to the robust liberties and protections afforded by the law.

But the question is not whether Happy meets some cosmic notion of personhood, but an instrumental question of what function we want the concept of “person” to perform.

The question for the court was to determine the worth of competing conceptions of “personhood” which would perform different social functions (one which extends to animals and one which doesn’t), and which involve very different means in operation. For example, a legal person is usually someone who can be held legally accountable. A previous ruling in a similar case held that “the asserted cognitive linguistic capabilities of a chimpanzee do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions.”

The issue of cognitive complexity in relationship to personhood is not static – simply meeting a given threshold of intelligence is not enough to warrant designation as a “person.” There are practical considerations that bear on the matter. Changing our conception of personhood would, as one justice noted, “have an enormous destabilizing impact on modern society.” It’s difficult to know what legal obligations this might create or how far they could extend. What would happen, for example, if there was a conflict of legal rights between a human and non-human person? The issue is thus not whether Happy should be treated well, but whether the concept of personhood is the right tool for sorting out these difficult ethical problems. Similar controversies crop up in the debate about extending rights to nature.

In other words, when we consider cases like this it will never simply be as simple as saying a fact that “elephants are cognitively intelligent” or proclaiming that “elephants should be protected.” As a “thick” concept, the definition of “personhood” is always going to depend on the practicality of the concept’s use in our particular social world. But if the problem with extending certain rights to elephants is problematic because of the stress it places on the function of the concept, then perhaps seeking to label elephants as “persons” is unhelpful. It simply isn’t going to be enough to point to evidence of cognitive awareness alone. When we consider what we want the concept “person” to do for us, we may find that by paying attention to the intended function we can achieve it more effectively with another ethical notion, such as the UK potentially granting rights to animals on the basis of “sentience.”

Is It Time to Show the Lobster a Bit of Respect?

photograph of lobsters in water tank at market

The United Kingdom is currently in the process of revising what the law says about sentience and the ethical treatment of animals. This week news broke that the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation has called for greater protections for non-vertebrates such as octopi and crustaceans. As a consequence, debate is emerging about whether practices such as boiling lobsters alive should be banned. Much of this debate seems to be centered on scientific facts regarding the nervous system of such animals and whether they are capable of feeling pain at all. But, perhaps this is the wrong mindset to have when considering this issue. Perhaps it is more important to consider our own feelings about how we treat lobsters rather than how the lobsters feel about it.

The ethical debate about the treatment of lobsters has mostly focused on the practice of boiling them alive when being prepared for eating. Lobsters are known to struggle for up to two minutes after being placed in boiling water and emit a noise caused by escaping air that many interpret as screaming. In response to such concerns, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, and New Zealand have all banned the practice of boiling lobsters alive and require that they be transported in saltwater rather than being kept in/on ice. But the debate always seems to hinge on the question of sentience. Can a lobster feel pain when being boiled alive? To answer that, questions of sentience become questions of science.

There is no clear consensus among scientists about whether the lobster nervous system permits it to feel pain. But how do you measure pain? To many the reaction to being in boiling water is taken as a sign that the lobster is in pain. Some studies have shown that lobsters will avoid shocks, a process called nociception where the nervous system responds to noxious stimuli by producing a reflex response. This explains why the lobster thrashes in the boiling water. However, other scientists have questioned whether the nervous system of the lobster is sophisticated enough to allow for any actual sense of suffering, arguing that a lobster’s brain is more similar to an insect. They suggest that the sensory response to stimuli is different than that to pain which involves an experience of discomfort, despair and other emotional states.

Indeed as invertebrates, lobsters do not have a central brain, but rather groups of chain ganglia connected by nerves. This can make killing them challenging as simply giving it a blow to the head will not do; a lobster must have its central nervous system destroyed with a complicated cut on the underside. It is recommended that they be stunned electronically. Because of this very different brain structure, it is suggested that lobsters lack the capacity to suffer. As Robert Bayer of the Lobster Institute describes the issue, “Cooking a lobster is like cooking a big bug…Do you have the same concern when you kill a fly or mosquito?”

Nevertheless, critics charge that this thinking is only a form of discrimination against animals with neurological architecture different from our own. Indeed, beyond nervous system reflex responses, because pain is difficult to directly measure, other markers of pain are often driven by using arguments by analogy comparing animals to humans. But creatures who are fundamentally different from humans may make such analogies suspect. In other words, because we don’t know what it is like to be a lobster, it is difficult to say if lobsters feel pain at all or if pain and suffering may fundamentally mean something different for lobsters than they do for humans and other vertebrates. This makes addressing the ethics of how we treat lobster by looking to the science of lobster anatomy difficult. But perhaps there is another way to consider this issue that doesn’t require answering such complex questions.

After all, if we return to Bayer’s remarks comparing lobsters to bugs, there are some important considerations: Is it wrong to roast ants with a magnifying glass? Is it wrong to pull the wings off flies? Typically, people take issue with such practices not merely because we worry about how the ant or the fly feels, but because it reveals something problematic about the person doing it. Even if the ant or the fly doesn’t feel pain (they might), it seems unnecessarily brutal to effectively torture such animals by interfering in their lives in such seemingly thoughtless ways, particularly if not for food. But would it all suddenly be okay if we decide to eat them afterwards? Perhaps such antics reveal an ethical character flaw on our part.

In his work on environmental ethics, Ronald L. Sandler leans on other environmental ethicists such as Paul Taylor to articulate an account of what kind of character we should have in our relationships with the environment. Taylor advocates that actions be understood as morally right or wrong in so far as they embody a respect for nature. Having such a respect for nature entails a “biocentric outlook” where we regard all living things on Earth as possessing inherent moral worth. This is because each living thing has “a good of its own.” That is, such an outlook involves recognizing that all living organisms are teleological centers of life in the same way as humans and that we have no non-question begging justification for maintaining the superiority of humans over other species. In other words, all living things are internally organized towards their own ends or goods which secure their biological functioning and form of life and respecting nature means respecting that biological functioning and the attainment of such ends.

Taylor’s outlook is problematic because it puts all life on the same ethical level. You are no more morally important than the potato you had for dinner (and how morally wrong it was for you to eat that poor potato!) However, Sandler believes that much of Taylor’s insights can be incorporated in a coherent account of multiple environmental virtues, with respect for nature being one of them. As he puts it, “The virtues of respect for nature are informed by their conduciveness to enabling other living things to flourish as well as their conduciveness to promoting the eudemonistic ends.” While multiple virtues may be relevant to how we should act — such that, for example, eating lobster may be ethical — how we treat those lobsters before that point may demonstrate a fundamental lack of respect for a living organism.

Consider the lobster tanks one finds at a local grocery store, where multiple lobsters may be stacked on top of each other in a barren tank with their claws stuck together. Many have complained about such tanks, and some stores have abandoned them as critics charge that they are stressful for the lobster. It is difficult to say that such “live” lobsters are really living any kind of life consistent with the kind of thing a lobster is. Does keeping lobsters in such conditions demonstrate a lack of respect for the lobster as a living organism with a good of its own? As one person who launched a petition over the matter puts it “I’m in no way looking to eliminate the industry, or challenge the industry, I’m just looking to have the entire process reviewed so that we can ensure that if we do choose to eat lobsters, that we’re doing it in a respectful manner.”

So perhaps the ethical issue is not whether lobsters can feel pain as we understand it. Clearly lobsters have nervous systems that detect noxious stimuli, and perhaps that should be enough to not create such stimuli for their system if we don’t have to. We know it doesn’t contribute to the lobster’s own good. So perhaps the ethical treatment of lobsters should focus less on what suffering is created and focus more on our own respect for the food that we eat.

Considering the Rights of Nature

aerial photograph of Pastaza River Basin in South America

In an essay entitled The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life William James argued that ethical progress could only be attained by using the ethical norms we have now and making sure that we are responsive to claims of others who are left out of those norms. He wrote, “The course of history is nothing but the story of men’s struggles from generation to generation to find the more and more inclusive order. Invent some manner of realizing your own ideals which will also satisfy the alien demands,–that and that only is the path to peace!” Part of the history of an increasingly inclusive moral order includes who we are willing to grant rights to as a person. The abolition of slavery obviously counts, as does the recognition in that women deserve equal rights to men. In the past decade, however, there has been another example which has gained significant traction and that has been the extension of rights to parts of nature. James’ essay only discusses a greater human moral inclusivity so does the extension of rights to nature constitute moral progress?

The recent US election was a surprise in many ways but perhaps one of the most interesting results was the 89% of residents of Orange County in Florida who voted for the Right to Clean Water Charter Amendment which extends natural rights to the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers. The rivers now have a recognized right to be clean and free of pollution and for citizens to enforce these protections. This comes after almost two years ago Ohio voters supported a measure to grant rights to Lake Erie after outbreaks of toxic algae blooms shut down a drinking water plant. While efforts to do this had some success before 2010, the past decade has seen rights granted to different parts of nature in California, New Zealand, Bolivia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Columbia, Ecuador, and India.

Most of the efforts to recognize rights in nature stems from the development of legal and moral theories which have rejected an anthropocentric outlook. Just as many legal jurisdictions recognize that humans have inherent moral rights, proponents of such theories argue that things in nature have an inherent right to exist and evolve independent of how much they are valued by humans. For example, environmental ethicist Paul Taylor has argued for a biocentric outlook which requires that humans recognize our dependence on the natural world, that things in nature have a good of their own as certain things will aid or inhibit natural growth, and that there is no non-question begging way to assert the moral superiority to humans. If something has inherent moral worth as a moral subject (such as a tree), then the extension of rights provides a legal mechanism to protect those things. However, arguments can also be made that natural entities should have recognized rights because of their instrumental value to humans. In the Florida and Ohio cases, much of the support for granting rights came from those who supported clean drinking water.

According to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, “Nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” The application of rights to nature has required shifts in legal thinking. For example, prior to New Zealand granting rights to the Whanganui River, the river was not treated as a single thing under the law. The laws governing the different parcels of land attached to it — the water, the riverbed, and the air above the river — were all different. Under a rights-based approach a river is no longer mere property but is recognized as a single legal entity whose ability to flourish depends on a larger natural system.

The most significant benefit of granting rights to nature is that it ensures these natural features have standing in court to defend its interests. So, if you live near a river that is being polluted, you can take those polluters to court even if you cannot prove that you are personally being harmed. It may also mean that a court could rule that the government must protect a species or maintain an ecosystem. By contrast with something like the Endangered Species Act which only protects a species when it is in danger, granting rights may force governments to be more proactive about environmental protection and maintenance. Even if laws and permits allow for certain kinds of pollution in a river, those could be struck down as a violation of that river’s rights. There are also possible indirect benefits in that many in the rights of nature movement also work on behalf of the rights of indigenous people. For example, the rights granted to the Whanganui River were part of a treaty agreement with the Maori people following over 100 years of litigation with the New Zealand government.

On the other hand, the idea of granting rights to nature is complicated and unclear in practical application. Much of the work on environmental ethics, for example, focuses on living things. Yet, in addition to rivers, New Zealand has also recognized a mountain (Mount Taranaki) as a legal person. It is easier to say that an animal or a plant deserves some protection because it has a good of its own; it is capable of dying and thus would fail to flourish. But mountains and rivers are not alive. According to environmental ethicist Ronald Sandler, for something to have a good of its own it must be goal-directed in a non-accidental way. If a non-living thing (such as a river) does not have a good of its own, then it does not have inherent value. In other words, the particulars of whichever moral account is being used to recognize moral worth must be specific.

Similarly, there is also the ontological question of what kinds of things should get rights. For example, ongoing debate has shifted our thinking such that a river is now considered a single legal entity rather than many. But why stop at just the river rather than the entire ecosystem surrounding it? Do environmental collectives deserve rights? Sandler, for one, argues that some collectives such as an ant colony may deserve inherent moral consideration, but an ecosystem in general does not. Nor does a species have any inherent moral worth. Sandler notes, “like ecosystems, species are less definitely defined than living organisms…It is often difficult to identify the limits of a species and the concept is unsettled both biologically and metaphysically.”

A similar problem concerns who gets to represent a river or a mountain. In some cases, guardians can be appointed. For example, the Maori have legal rights of guardianship over the Whanganui River. But in other cases, it may not be clear who should be able to represent a river, lake, or mountain in court. Even in the science of ecology, there can be disagreement about the best ways to conserve or promote environmental flourishing. For example, in his book A Tapestry of Values, philosopher Kevin Elliott discusses the controversy over systems of river restoration. Classification systems used as guides for restoring rivers can vary with some being more complicated to use while others may be more reliable. In other words, disagreement about how best to protect the rights of a natural object can lead to disagreements about who gets to represent it in court and what is in that object’s best interests when it can’t represent itself.

There is even greater unclarity regarding what should be done when the rights of one legal person conflict with the legal rights of another. Part of this lack of clarity led to the Lake Erie measure passed by voters to be struck down as “unconstitutionally vague.” The judge in the case noted that without guidance about what conduct would constitute a violation of rights, it simply isn’t clear how to apply the law. While a legal paradigm shift may be expected to be vague at first, the theoretical issues involved with who gets what rights and why would still need to be settled.

Elephants Are People Too

close-up photograph of elephant in the wild

37 years ago, the daughter of a Pakistani dictator was gifted a 1-year-old Asian Elephant calf named Kaavan. Kaavan ended up in Marghazar Zoo, a run-down facility in Islamabad. He had one elephant companion; a female named Saheli. When Saheli died in 2012, Kavaan spent days in his enclosure with her dead body before she was finally removed. Elephants are known to experience grief in response to the death of their companions. Since then, Kaavan has spent all of his time apart from other elephants, earning him the nickname “the loneliest elephant.” He has spent much of his existence in chains. With the help of animal rescue organization Four Paws International and Free the Wild, the animal welfare organization started by pop legend Cher, Kaavan has been freed from the zoo at which he was held captive and is now in an elephant sanctuary.

Kaavan was granted freedom from Marghazar Zoo as a result of a decision made by a high court in Pakistan. Chief Justice Athar Minallah began his opinion with a reflection about COVID-19. He notes that for the first time in memorable human history, human beings are confined to small spaces, restricted from interacting with friends and family, and limited in their range of autonomous choices. He argues that perhaps our own confinement provides us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on the ways in which we treat non-human animals, creatures who also enjoy social relationships, space to move freely, and a range of options when it comes to how, where, and with whom they will spend their time. In his ruling, Chief Justice Minallah poses the following question,

“Has nature forced the human race to go into ‘captivity’ so as make it realize its dependence for survival on other beings possessed with a similar gift, i.e., life? Is it an opportunity for humans to introspect and relate to the pain and distress suffered by other living beings, animal species, when they are subjugated and kept in captivity and denied the conditions and habitats created for their survival by the Creator, merely for momentary entertainment?”

Elephants are complex creatures who live rich social lives. They are highly intelligent and have excellent capacities for memory. Like all social beings, elephants thrive when they are in one another’s company. They flourish when they are able to do the things that elephants do when left unmolested. Humans have long benefitted from treating non-human animals as things, as instruments for human pleasure. We eat them, we conduct research on them, we hunt them for fun, and we force them to entertain us even when doing so is contrary to their own interests. Justice Minallah suggests that now is a moment, long overdue, at which we can start to view non-human animals with empathy and compassion, especially in cases in which their cognitive architecture is so similar to our own.

The court’s ruling on Kaavan’s case provided the conditions under which he was freed, but the question remained: to where and how does one transport a 5-ton pachyderm? Stunningly, the answer turned out to be: 4,000 miles away, to Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia — by plane. The Sanctuary is over 30,000 acres — space that Kaavan will get to explore with many other elephants.

Meanwhile, at the Bronx Zoo in the United States, a 49-year-old Asian Elephant named Happy is confined under similar conditions. Happy has been at the Bronx Zoo for 42 years. For the last decade, he has been held apart from other elephants in a one-acre enclosure. The Zoo insists that Happy is treated humanely. The Non-Human Rights Project, an animal advocacy group led by attorney Steven Wise that is dedicated to securing legal rights for non-human animals, disagrees. In recent years, the NhRP has also secured habeas corpus hearings for Hercules and Leo, the first non-human animals to be granted such a hearing. Though the judge in that case did not grant that the chimpanzees were legal persons, he affirmed the basic moral idea behind the movement. Judge Fahey wrote,

“The issue whether a nonhuman animal has a fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus is profound and far-reaching. It speaks to our relationship with all the life around us. Ultimately, we will not be able to ignore it. While it may be arguable that a chimpanzee is not a “person,” there is no doubt that it is not merely a thing.”

The NhRP has argued that Happy is being unlawfully imprisoned at the zoo. The central issue at play in the case for freeing Happy is whether he is a person with rights to habeas corpus protection. A person has a right to bodily autonomy which carries with it a right not to be unfairly imprisoned or held against their will. So, for example, if a person has been detained or imprisoned and they believe that they have been put in that position unlawfully, they have a right to file a habeas corpus brief with the court in an attempt to be released from confinement. The argument is that, like people, non-human animals, or, at least, some non-human animals, have the same right to bodily autonomy and the same entitlement to protection against unlawful imprisonment as human beings do.

A common objection and, indeed, one of the objections that was raised by one of the justices at the most recent hearing on Happy’s case in front of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department is that if we grant that elephants and chimpanzees are legal persons, we’ll have to recognize that they have the other rights of persons — the right to vote, the right to bear arms, etc. This strikes many as both absurd and dangerous. In response to this concern Wise points out that there are many entities to which the courts have granted limited personhood status, including corporations. When the NhRP insists that Happy is a person in the limited sense that he has the right to bodily autonomy and should not be imprisoned unlawfully, they are not also insisting that elephants have the right to free speech or to the free exercise of religion, or any other such absurdities.

Another concern that was raised by more than one of the justices in Happy’s most recent hearing is that the question of elephant personhood shouldn’t be an issue for the courts to decide. The appropriate body to make that decision is the legislature. If that body wants to declare by statute that certain animals should be treated as persons, they are free to do so, but barring that, such dramatic action that has consequences that are so wide in scope would be judicial overreach. In response, Wise points out that a writ of habeas corpus is a measure of common law. The common law is established by judicial decisions and precedent rather than by statute. As such, the courts don’t need to, and indeed shouldn’t, keep Happy imprisoned until such time as Congress decides to pass legislation protecting these animals, which it is unlikely ever to do. For good reason, habeas corpus writs provide courts with the ability to quickly remove persons from unlawful detainment. Wise argues that they should take the opportunity to do so in Happy’s case.

These legal questions are intimately connected to critical moral questions. Do non-human animals have rights? The concerns posed by the court suggest a way of answering this question that is supported by various social contract theories. According to a basic version of this kind of theory, fully free humans come together to form a society with the understanding that it will be in everyone’s self-interest to give up some of their liberties in exchange for certain protections. The social structure of society is granted legitimacy by the fact that the rational people involved in the decision-making consented to it. The trouble is, not all sentient beings participated in constructing the contract. Non-human animals are entitled to rights and protections only if the decision-makers have agreed to such protections. According to this view, in our modern time, elephants and chimpanzees only have rights if legislatures pass statues granting them those rights.

One shortcoming of social contract theories is that they have no mechanism for ensuring protection of the vulnerable. If decision-makers don’t want to provide protections, at-risk populations are out of luck. This means that elephants and chimpanzees might remain unprotected, and it also might mean that oppressed groups like women and minorities who weren’t permitted to be involved in the original decision-making aren’t guaranteed protections either.

An alternative approach, and an approach consistent with the strategy of the Non-Human Rights project, is to insist that all sentient beings have ownership over their own bodies and, to the extent that they can exercise autonomy without harming others, should be allowed to do so. This approach respects the inherent dignity of all life. It recognizes that Happy should be released from captivity, not because it is the will of the people, but because Happy is not the kind of entity that ever should have been “kept”; Happy is a “who,” not an “it.”

Pet Ownership and the Ethical Perils of Domination

photograph of dog in cramped cage

For many of us, our pets are our beloved family members. However, the lives of many pets are an excruciating ordeal, full of pain and boredom. This is an inescapable consequence of the fact that they are utterly dependent upon us to meet their most basic needs. For these reasons, I think that pet ownership should be drastically reduced and radically rethought.

What is a pet? Let me propose a novel definition, paraphrasing Yi-Fu Tuan: a pet is an object of our affections that we dominate. Philosophers define domination as an unconstrained imbalance of power that enables agents to control other agents or the conditions of their actions. My view is that our control of our pets is unjust because it is largely legally unconstrained: it is almost entirely up to an owner how she will or will not use her power. This fact, in turn, makes pets extremely vulnerable to abuse and, much more commonly, neglect.

Consider the average urban-dwelling dog. Almost nothing about her life is up to her: whether she receives adequate food, water, shelter, medical care, and social interaction is entirely down to the owner’s whims. This is because legally, pets are considered property; besides animal cruelty laws, there are no legally enforced standards for pet ownership.

The evidence suggests that the result of our dominion over our pets is an incredible amount of suffering. Although some pets are able to have genuinely good lives, owners as a whole seem either unable or unwilling to meet their pets’ complex needs. Let’s start with physical health. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of all dogs and cats in the U.S. are obese. The number of cats and dogs who never, in their entire life, visit a veterinarian is anywhere from about twenty-five to fifty percent, with most estimates falling on the higher end. At least 70 percent of captive reptiles die before they even reach the pet store shelf, and of these survivors, about 75 percent will not live past their first year as a pet.

Most of the animals we keep as pets are social creatures. Some, like dogs, have evolved to form strong emotional bonds with their human owners. But we humans are just as bad at ensuring our pets have rich social lives as we are at maintaining their physical health. The amount of time the average pet owner spends interacting with his or her critter is estimated at about 40 minutes a day — hardly enough to be called a reciprocal and mutually enhancing friendship. Goldfish are social creatures, but many are kept in tiny aquaria with no possibility of stimulating interaction either with their environment or other fish. For example, on Amazon one can find a USB Desk Organizer Aquarium — with attached desk organizer, including a multifunction pen holder and LCD calendar — that holds one and a half quarts of water (6 cups) and is advertised as suitable for live fish.

Many owners simply give away their animals when they no longer feel like shouldering the burden of caring for them. Somewhere between six and eight million dogs and cats and other sentient creatures pass through the shelter system each year; about one third of these are there because their owners brought them in. If they are lucky, these animals are adopted by a loving family. But many are not lucky: some 3 million are euthanized every year.

One challenge of ethically assessing pet ownership in the United States is the paucity of data, itself a sign of a troubling ethical insouciance. But the evidence of our mistreatment of our pets is all around us. To give one personal example: I once rented a house next to a family that owned a St. Bernard they kept in the backyard. This “family” dog spent almost all of the day baking under the New Mexico sun with no stimulation and no interaction with humans.

As we might expect, just as allowing humans to legally dominate one another — a practice that is outlawed almost everywhere in the world — leads to extreme suffering, so does allowing humans to legally dominate their pets. The echoes of human slavery in pet ownership raise the specter of a more radical objection: that pet ownership, like slavery, is wrong in itself. Luckily for pet owners everywhere, I do not think this claim can be sustained.

What makes slavery wrong in itself is that human beings have an actual and strong interest in autonomy, or in the ability to fulfill their desires unconstrained and uncontrolled by external forces. To say that they have an interest in this ability is to say that they desire it: human beings have the complex higher-order desire that they be able to fulfill their first-order desires without external constraint or control. Because slavery as such negates autonomy, it violates a human being’s autonomy interest. This makes slavery wrong as such. By contrast, I do not believe that animals have an autonomy interest. My dog wants to go outside, wants to snuggle with me on the couch, and wants to chase squirrels, but I very much doubt that my dog wants to be able to do these things without constraint. Having an autonomy interest requires a level of cognitive sophistication that our pets lack.

Although pet ownership is not wrong as such, this does not mean that we should rest content with the legal domination that is part and parcel of contemporary pet ownership. Instead, we should introduce far more stringent, and legally enforceable, standards. In particular, I propose that states adopt a pet “bill of rights,” to be enforced by a dedicated government agency, with at least the following provisions:

  1. Every pet is entitled to adequate food, shelter and water.
  2. Every pet is entitled to adequate medical care.
  3. Every pet is entitled to adequate physical and mental stimulation.
  4. If appropriate, every pet is entitled to adequate human or non-human companionship.

What can individuals do to make the world a better place for pets? Perhaps the choice with the greatest impact would be to not have a pet at all. The evidence suggests that many pet owners are not prepared to shoulder the burden of satisfying the pet bill of rights provisions. One should take this responsibility extremely seriously, which starts with considering seriously whether one is both willing and able to provide for another sentient being’s entire welfare.

Perhaps humanity’s greatest moral achievement to date was the abolition of legal slavery, driven by the insight that giving people legal dominion over other people is morally wrong. Our relationships with our pets are different in important respects from slavery. After all, many — though by no means all — owners are profoundly emotionally connected to their pets. There are already some legal protections for pets, as for all animals — although I have argued that these protections are woefully inadequate. Most importantly from the moral point of view, animals do not have the autonomy interest that would make pet ownership, like slavery, wrong in itself. Nevertheless, our history of slavery should make us sensitive to the moral implications of tolerating legal domination, even over non-human creatures.

COVID-19 and Food Justice

photograph of meat-packing workers crowded around conveyor belt

Despite the widespread effects of COVID-19 in the food industry and the centrality of that industry to everyone’s existence food and agriculture systems have not made their way to the forefront of the public conversation about the virus. Yet, the pandemic and the federal government’s bungled response to it reveals starkly how broken our food system is, and how standard responses to the virus threaten simply to maintain the status quo in the food system. The situation illuminates the inflexibility of a consolidated, industrialized food sector dominated by monopolistic companies, and the unethical consequences of such a system, whether under pandemic conditions or not. It highlights even more strikingly the untenable situation in which we find ourselves when it comes to industrialized animal agriculture.

Even as food waste has proliferated, for instance, with unpicked produce rotting in fields and eggs and milk deliberately destroyed, food banks struggled to keep up with the demand for their services. Food supplies have not been systematically redirected to meet the needs of the growing number of people experiencing food insecurity, but neither was production reduced or redirected. This issue is especially troubling with respect to animal agriculture, as farmers are forced to “depopulate” (i.e., cull) animals they cannot bring to slaughter, often using grisly methods. These disturbing problems are not merely the result of the pandemic, however, but are the natural consequence of conventional methods of raising, growing, producing, and distributing food. Closing or reducing the capacity of slaughterhouses threw off the chain of production because of the mechanical, systematic way animal products are produced: animals are continuously reproduced, bred to grow rapidly on a predictable, shortened schedule to maximize output, and raised in crowded confinement.

Our dependence on animals for food is also a direct contributor to the spread of the virus. Like bird flu, H1NI, SARS, MERS, West Nile Fever, Zika, Yellow Fever, and Ebola, which all have proven or suspected transmission via domesticated animals, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a zoonotic disease that moves between humans and nonhuman animals. Although some of these diseases did not originate in domesticated animals, their spread is often amplified, in various ways, through humans’ close contact with them. In a recent report on preventing pandemics, the UN Environment Programme explained that, “The frequency of pathogenic microorganisms jumping from other animals to people is increasing due to unsustainable human activities. Pandemics such as the COVID-19 outbreak are a predictable and predicted outcome of how people source and grow food, trade animals, and alter environments.” Among the worrisome trends that the report addresses are increasing human demand for animal protein and unsustainable agricultural intensification, including factory farming. The UNEP recommends shifting from “short-term political responses to long-term political commitments to secure human, animal and environment health” as a way to reduce the risk of zoonoses.

A prime example of such a misguided and short-term political response to the pandemic’s effect on our food system is the Trump administration’s decision in April to invoke the Defense Production Act to force meat processing plants to remain open to “ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.” Meat-processing plants rank among the top hotspots for COVID-19 and, to date, over 16,200 meatpacking workers have been infected with the virus and at least 86 have died. Not only is social distancing impossible given production speeds in such plants, but experts also hypothesize that normal working conditions in the plants encourage the spread of the virus. Despite continued assurances that workers’ lives and health are valued, this use of the DPA highlights the overall disregard for working-class, migrant, immigrant, and refugee workers that is a persistent feature of the food industry. Following this order, and receiving much less publicity, the USDHS removed limitations on the H-2B Visa program, making it easier for meat companies to hire guest workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union criticized both decisions as “a betrayal of America’s meatpacking workers, giving companies free pass to ignore safety.” The safety guidelines delineated by OSHA are voluntary and not enforceable, and companies are defying the state and local authority and law that could be used to protect workers, claiming that the federal mandate takes precedence. In addition, most people doing this work do not have the financial freedom not to return to work; the DPA order means that they can no longer utilize unemployment compensation, so they must choose to put their lives (and those of their families and members of their communities) at risk to make ends meet.

Designating meat-processing facilities as “critical infrastructure” through the DPA is a destructive decision, but is also a logical conclusion of the existing, exploitative system of agriculture and food production in the US, which involves farming so intensively as to deplete the soil, pollute the water, bolster antibiotic resistance, and harm the health of people in surrounding communities. Animals are treated as mere raw materials. Workers are devalued as replaceable and disposable, especially as the burden of farmwork shifted onto migrant laborers, people of color, and disempowered contract farmers. These kinds of exploitative relationships are at the heart of the system of industrialized, intensive agriculture because profit and efficiency, narrowly understood, are valued above all else. Through our food system, we have cultivated dependency on exploited labor, tortured animals, and powerful and monopolistic corporations, all in exchange for cheap, plentiful, and readily available food. The proliferation of COVID-19 outbreaks in meat-processing facilities is consistent with those values, revealing yet again that companies like Tyson are “… worried more about getting chicken on the shelves than the people who put the chicken on the shelf,” as one worker noted. While food corporations are adjusting to the new normal, they aim to go about business as usual by implementing testing regimes, which may foster the perception of safety in lieu of actually creating safe working conditions. But testing is not failsafe since it only identifies but does not prevent infection, and lag times as well as gaps between the administration of tests mean that workers could unknowingly be exposed to the virus before anyone realizes there’s a problem. Invoking the DPA to keep meat-processing facilities open thus clearly exposes the perverse logic of the dominant way of producing and consuming food.

Another looming global crisis, climate change, indicates how shortsighted and counterproductive it is to preserve the status quo with respect to food production and animal agriculture in particular. According to the UNFAO, animal agriculture is a significant driver of global climate change, contributing at least 18% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. By promoting the increased production and consumption of meat, the U.S. continues to ignore both the dangerous and intensifying consequences of climate change as well as the clear connections between animal husbandry and the spread of zoonoses. In fact, the frequency and transmission of zoonotic diseases are worsened by climate change: many disease vectors and the pathogens themselves tend to thrive in warmer, wetter climates, and in places where biological diversity is threatened. Thus, the more we depend on intensive animal agriculture for food, the more we commit ourselves to dangerous climate change, and, in light of both, the more likely we are to catalyze the outbreak of another deadly zoonotic disease like COVID-19. This risk is increased by both close and unnatural contact with animals as well as the changing environmental conditions brought on by climate instability. Yet, the approach of food companies and the federal government, along with many state governments, has been to uphold the status quo in our food system at all costs and, so, to declare that meat is so important that we will sacrifice human lives and climate stability to secure it.

The pandemic should be an occasion to call for changes to our food systems that genuinely bolster food security and protect human health by reducing reliance on a fragile, harmful, and overly centralized system of production. Yet, loosening the hold of industrialized animal agriculture on our system of food production is challenging because of the belief that meat is essential to both diet and the economy. It is unquestionable, however, that meat is not necessary, that there are various different sources of protein, and that alternative agricultural and food production enterprises could sustain the economy.

Still, we struggle to detach ourselves from the pervasive cultural narrative that we need meat. The standard American diet is synonymous with huge portions of meat, and many Americans consider a meal without it un-thinkable. This perception is unsurprising given that the USDA dietary guidelines do more to promote corporate interests than human health, and messaging campaigns funded by the government via check-off programs have been wildly successful in convincing Americans to increase consumption of animal products. Perhaps there’s no stronger evidence of the success of these efforts than the aforementioned use of the DPA, which fortifies the myth of the necessity of animal protein into law.

The pandemic has revealed our food and agricultural system to be cumbersome, unadaptable, unsafe, and unethical. The responses to the impact of COVID-19 on that system have been mere mitigation measures, simply shoring up the existing state of affairs. The current crisis, however, presents us with the opportunity to rethink how we relate to, produce, and consume food, and then to transform our food system radically. Such an examination should start with redefining what is truly “essential” regarding food and taking stock of all the costs of intensively raising animals for food. Meat, especially in the vast quantities produced in the US, is not essential. What is essential is a resilient, sustainable, and democratic food system that provides healthful food, offers safe and meaningful work, treats animals as sentient beings, and involves agricultural practices that conserve and sustain natural resources. The forms that such a system can take are myriad and no one agricultural model is a cure-all.

Likewise, in the face of global climate change, we must acknowledge that our real needs are radically different from how we have been accustomed to think of them. We need food systems that are flexible and responsive, that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that foster human health, that cultivate ecological, biological, and socio-cultural diversity, and that restore environmental integrity, especially in anticipation of climate instability and the resultant serious environmental problems. The work of organizations like Soul Fire Farm, which not only farms in ecological regenerative ways that sequester carbon but also prioritizes racial justice through mentorship and care for the local community, is a model. Policy changes are also necessary to address structural injustice and support the work of such organizations. One key move is to redirect agricultural subsidies from agribusiness, especially commodity crops and animal agriculture, to farmers using carbon neutral and carbon negative practices.

The global pandemic has highlighted all the ways in which our current food system is failing: instead of pouring more resources into a harmful food system and bolstering the profits of big agribusiness, we need a food system that serves the interests of the people from farm and factory to the table.

The Immorality of Nonhuman Police Officers

Police officer on horseback. Both horse and person are shown from behind

The number of non-human police officers currently in the United States is not known. 

Although law enforcement dogs and horses are routinely featured on departmental social media pages and in pop culture, the Bureau of Labor Statistics only tracks human employment data; this means that the 665,000 police and sheriff’s patrol officers counted in May of 2019 (and the over 423,000 additional correctional officers at that time) were all our fellow mostly-hairless bipeds. In 2010, the secretary of the North American Police Work Dog Association made a “wild guess” that more than 50,000 canines were being actively used by law enforcement officers of one kind or another; the higher costs of caring for horses means that their numbers have always been much lower by comparison, with many large cities maintaining a mounted police force numbering in the dozens, largely for reasons of pageantry and public relations.

However, to be precise, the first sentence of this article is incorrect: because only humans can be real police officers, the canine or equine law enforcement population is, technically, zero. Although police animals are often described and honored as full representatives of the organizations that own them, they are not literal members of the police force and are not obligated to carry out the duties of such an office. Dogs do not swear oaths to protect and serve their communities; horses are not licensed agents of the state. Police animals are police property, which is why their mistreatment is prohibited by the “Malicious Mischief” section of the U.S. Code that protects government-owned assets.

Although the motivation for police using non-human animals might be understandable, it poses several significant ethical questions that should be ignored.

Typically, police departments use dogs and horses in three basic ways: as shields to preserve the well-being of police officers, as devices to accomplish technical goals, and as props to bolster positive publicity. As the American Kennel Club describes, K-9 units are frequently “the first ones to put their lives on the line and go in against an armed suspect to protect their human partners;” in this way, police animals are essentially fuzzy versions of kevlar vests. In the second case, and perhaps most famously, dogs and horses are deployed as organic devices that perform tasks like detecting illicit substances or blocking pedestrian traffic; by co-opting the unique abilities of their species, police departments literally instrumentalize non-human animals as a standard operating procedure. But, most notoriously, the optics of cute and cuddly creatures are a powerful tool for manipulating public opinion about police behavior — so much so that Ray Allen Manufacturing, a leading provider of equipment for police K-9 units, explicitly discusses “public relations” as a key element of their marketing strategy.

Each of these uses is, at best, ethically dubious. Intentionally endangering the lives of innocent creatures is often taken as a paradigmatic example of immoral behavior — one that is only compounded by the fact that their training regimens make police animals place themselves in harm’s way. Regardless of the affection or honor shown to them during or after their deaths, insofar as these animals are taught to prioritize the interests of others over their own, they are subject to a kind of “bad faith” and are thereby prevented from being the sorts of creatures that they would otherwise freely be. (One might almost call them something like four-legged “serious men” in Beauvoir’s sense!

Moral philosophers disagree about the propriety of animal husbandry as a whole: some argue that labor-extraction from non-human animals is always, in principle wrong; others say that it is at least possible for humans to ethically benefit from animal labor under certain conditions, chief of which requires the constant protection of the animals’ welfare. Either way, it’s far from clear that what is good for a dog involves being able to identify the scent of cocaine or that a horse’s own good includes being able to march in formation in a city’s parade. 

Finally, the exploitation of public affection for non-human animals to parasitically improve popular opinions of police departments seems to be a text-book example of propaganda with all of the questionable moral baggage attached to such a practice. And even if such emotion-manipulating effects are engendered unintentionally, their real-world consequences (in matters like policy support and voting behavior) nevertheless demand our attention. 

Ultimately, it is true that many police animals enjoy their lives in the company of attentive care-takers (though a surprisingly large number of counterexamples exist), but Christine Korsgaard points out at least one more relevant difference between police officers and the animals they own: dogs and horses cannot choose to become police animals, but must always be drafted across the thin blue line. Although every single police officer currently serving does so voluntarily, the same cannot be said about any of their animal “partners.”

So, as the national conversation continues to focus on the immorality of many policing practices and the need for widespread policy change, the role of non-human animals within police departments deserves a portion of that attention as well.

Is the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act” a Step in the Right Direction?

photograph taken of turkeys overcrowded in pens

On October 22nd, Congress unanimously passed the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.” The law makes certain acts of cruelty against animals federal crimes. Before the federal law was passed, legislation protecting animals was largely a matter reserved for state legislatures. The law was met with praise from both private citizens and animal welfare organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The scope of the law is one of its most noteworthy positive features. Many animal welfare laws arbitrarily restrict protections to only certain species of animals—often companion animals or animals that human beings tend to find cute or pleasant. Bucking that trend, this bill includes, “non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians.” Specifically, the law prohibits the “crushing” of animals, where “crushing” is defined as “conduct in which one or more living non-human mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian is purposely crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury.”

While the law is laudable when it comes to the range of animals it protects, it is arbitrary in other ways. The protection the law provides is subject to noteworthy exemptions. The following conduct is exempt from protection: conduct that is, “a customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice,” “the slaughter of animals for food,” “hunting, trapping, fishing, a sporting activity not otherwise prohibited by Federal law, predator control, or pest control,” action taken for the purpose of “medical or scientific research,” conduct that is “necessary to protect the life or property of a person,” and conduct “performed as part of euthanizing an animal.”

On its face, the law seems like a step in the right direction. The exemptions, however, should motivate reflection on the question of what a commitment to the prevention of animal cruelty actually looks like. Exemptions to a law can be useful when there are compelling moral reasons for them. In this case, however, the exemptions highlight the inconsistency in societal attitudes about just how wrong it is to be cruel to animals. It looks as if all the law really prevents is the callous, perhaps even psychopathic, infliction of pain on animals by private individuals. This isn’t where the majority of animal abuse and cruelty takes place.

Consider the first exemption, allowing for animal cruelty in the case of “a customary and normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice.” This exemption covers a tremendous number of interactions that occur between humans and animals. What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious moral justification for the exemption. If animal cruelty is bad, why would cruelty for the purposes of “animal management” be any less bad? This exemption also constitutes a fallacious appeal to common practice. The fact that a given practice is a “customary” part of animal management practices does not mean that the practice isn’t cruel.

The slaughter of animals for food is a particularly interesting case. One might think that this exemption is morally justified. After all, we must balance the interests of animals against the very real need that human beings have for sustenance. The legislators in this case felt that this balancing act ultimately favored the needs of human beings. There are a number of problems with this argument. First of all, it assumes that the harms we are justified in causing to other creatures can ultimately be justified by human need. That assumption may not be morally defensible. Second, human beings do not need to consume animal flesh in order to satisfy their nutritional needs. We continue to consume animals, in a way that is, ultimately, unsustainable, because human beings like the taste of animal flesh. Even if the question of how we ought to treat animals must be resolved using a balancing act, it doesn’t seem like a justification that is based purely on taste preferences could ever be sufficient to come out ahead in the balance. What’s more, even if such considerations could come out ahead, factory farms currently engage in cruel practices simply to maximize the volume of their “product,” and, as a result, the size of their profits. For example, chickens are kept under conditions in which they don’t have the space to fully spread their wings. To prevent them from cannibalizing one another under these stressful conditions, chickens are often “debeaked.” This cruelty could be avoided if these farms simply raised fewer chickens. The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act does nothing to address this cruelty—it actually provides exemptions for it.

Finally, the passage of this act may provide many people with the false impression that the government is protecting animals in a real, thoroughgoing way. Many people probably believe that cruelty to animals is strictly regulated and enforced by the government. After all, how could the vicious treatment of a living being not be against the law. Before this law passed, there were two pieces of federal legislation offering limited protections to animals. First is the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966. The Act nominally provides for the humane treatment of animals, and its mere existence may make citizens feel at ease with the protections afforded. The Act does ensure that animals in certain contexts, are provided with “adequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, water and veterinary care.” They must also be protected against extreme temperature. However, this law contains significant exemptions as well, of the same variety as those provided in the Act passed this year. The second bit of legislation is The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, passed in 1958 and revised in 1978. This Act only protects certain animals from being killed in particular kinds of inhumane ways. It does not prohibit cruelty full stop. The bottom line is that animals are not protected from cruelty by federal legislation. Despite the pleasant-sounding name of the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act,” the Act fails to provide protections where animals need them the most. It’s unfortunate that sometimes psychopaths and future serial killers kill animals for kicks, and that should certainly be against the law. At the end of the day, though, the real problems that we face have to do with our attitudes about animals and with the institutions that we’re willing to go to great lengths to protect.

Animals as Entertainment: Some Notes on Animal Bullying

photograph of dolphin balancing ball at zoo

Cats are scared of cucumbers.

If you haven’t seen the viral videos of pet owners sneaking up behind their feline companions and quietly placing a green vegetable just out of sight, you might be surprised to learn this fact. Nonetheless, it remains true that something about the unexpected presence of a long, emerald gourd activates a fear response in the cognitive systems of most cats. It may be that the visual similarities of such produce to predators like snakes primes the cat’s automatic reactions to flee from what it perceives as danger. To many cat-owners, and many more cat-video-watchers, these reactions are amusing (hence their popularity), but I have quite intentionally avoided providing links to any examples of such behavior, for the simple reason that I do not wish to support the mistreatment of animals, however small.

All things considered, needlessly scaring a pet is a minute example of the ways in which human and nonhuman animal interaction goes badly for the latter group; everything from hunting, to habitat destruction, to factory farming could be trotted out as an example of a far more serious case of animal mistreatment. Nevertheless, the relatively mundane instances of abuse, precisely because they are so common, are worth considering.

Take, for example, the recent report that as many as three-fourths of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums allow for or promote at least one form of patron experience demonstrably contrary to the best interests of the nonhuman animals involved. According to the international nonprofit organization World Animal Protection, examples range from allowing park-goers to take “wildlife selfies,” to pet or ride various large creatures, or to watch performances of nonhuman animals in demeaning, circus-like settings. In many cases, years of harmful training are required to prevent the animals in question from endangering the park-goers, including harsh methods to establish dominance over strong-willed creatures. Although zoos and aquariums are often heralded as important players in conservation efforts, insofar as they educate the general public about the value of nonhuman life, if they do so at the expense of the well-being of the animals most directly under their care, then questions of hypocrisy arise.

In a similar vein, wild creatures in America’s national parks are frequently cornered by well-intentioned nature-lovers in ways that inevitably lead to dangerous situations for humans and nonhumans alike. This year, bison attacks in Yellowstone and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota were captured on video – in one, a nine-year-old girl was launched into the air by a bison after a crowd of four or five dozen park visitors surrounded the animal for over 20 minutes. Although park regulations require guests to remain at least 25 yards from all wildlife, the average bison’s calm appearance gives many people the impression that it’s safe to approach. In reality, bison tend to conserve their energy until it is most needed, moving in quick, short bursts of intense speed. As Emily Perrine, a Swiss psychologist, explains, “We interpret this as the bison being nice, and wanting to be near us, and that they want us to touch them. We have to understand that our human behavioral signals are very different than the behavioral signals given by wild animals.”

 This is precisely the point: whether we are misreading ‘fearful’ as ‘calm,’ ‘broken’ as ‘playful,’ or ‘terrified’ as ‘amusing,’ we are misreading the animals we encounter nonetheless – and, in all seriousness, potentially causing them harm. If a third-grader perpetually tormented a skittish first-grader by hiding behind corners and jumping out to scare her, then tried to defend this bullying on the grounds that “I find it funny,” we would call her a bully nonetheless – so, too, with cat owners and their cucumbers.

If we truly wish to be the animals lovers we claim we are, then we would do well to try and imagine how they experience the world we share, just as much (if not more) than how we consider it for ourselves. This could take the form of the sorts of concerns about relations of dependence and moral orientations as highlighted by care ethicists like Carol Gilligan or Nel Nodding; philosophers in this tradition highlight how bonds between individuals can ground unique sorts of obligations and rights – such as those between a human pet owner and the creatures who depend on her. Or this might look like the sorts of perspectival concerns highlighted by Sandra Harding and others under the heading of ‘standpoint epistemology’ – the thesis that individuals in certain social positions have privileged access to various forms of knowledge. Even though the setting on the side of a Yellowstone trail might seem peaceful to the humans present, it might equally be quite stressful from the standpoint of the bison – giving this perspective serious consideration is not only epistemically virtuous, but morally preferable.

1 My thanks to Sofia Huerter and Jasmine Gunkel, whose paper presentations at this summer’s workshop of the Society for the Study of Ethics and Animals in Boulder, CO, provoked my thinking on these matters.

The Ethics of Chimeric Research

microscopic image of human embryos

Recently, various news outlets covered the creation of the first human-monkey chimeras in China. A chimera is an organism whose cells come from two or more species. Researchers managed to develop monkey embryos containing human cells after previous attempts relied on pig and sheep embryos. While this type of research is prohibited in the U.S., the work was legal in China. 

Such projects have been conducted with the hope of developing human organs which can then be transplanted into humans and for conducting research into neurological and psychiatric diseases in humans. Even though such embryos do not progress past one or two weeks of growth, these efforts have been controversial. This is because it is difficult to restrict human cell growth to just one organ. According to Robin Lovell-Badge the concern is that without some way to restrict the contribution of human cells they could contribute to the animal’s central nervous system.

Such scientific endeavors present several ethical issues. These include concerns about animal ethics. For example David Shaw, Wybo Dondorp and Guido de Wert argue that given the limited number of organs for transplant, harvesting organs from human/non-human chimeras is a valid option so long as there is a substantial potential benefit to humans and if there are no reasonable alternatives present. 

Unlike other forms of animal research where the benefits may be less certain, harvesting human organs from a chimera would in most cases save a human life, so there is a large proportional benefit. Also, while there may potentially be other options for saving the life of a human requiring an organ transplant (such as research into artificial organs or changes to public policy requiring that people opt-out of organ donation), those options have not been established. For specific people who will die without an organ transplant there is no established alternative option. Thus, with these two conditions met, Shaw et al. argue that it is permissible to kill chimeras for their organs.  

César Palacios-González has argued that while harvesting organs of a human/pig chimera may be acceptable on such grounds, the case for great-ape/human chimera is more problematic. He argues that from a species-neutral standpoint great apes who possess qualities of self-awareness, complex social structures, and the potential to form rudimentary cultures are “borderline persons.” Because of this, great-ape/human chimeras are deserving of moral protection. 

Killing such animals for their organs would be no more morally justified than killing humans who possess less psychological capacities such as infants, toddlers, and adults with less mental capacities than great apes. Palacios-González suggest that we either accept that it is morally acceptable to kill great apes, great-ape/human chimeras and some human borderline persons for their organs, or we must reject harvesting the organs of any of them. 

While the animal rights argument covers some of the ethical issues involved with human/non-human chimeras, ethicists and philosophers also recognize the distinct ethical concerns presented by chimeric research. One of these concerns is whether it is wrong to cross species boundaries to create part-human beings. Is there some fixed line that distinguishes the human species from other animals, and should this boundary be breached?

According to some, crossing the boundary line of the human species is wrong because it is a challenge to God’s existence, however such arguments will not satisfy those who do not believe in a god. For others, crossing the species boundary is inherently wrong because it is unnatural. There are also those who would argue that is morally wrong because it would create too much moral confusion as we must determine the moral status of human-animal hybrids (for discussion, see Meredith McFadden’s “Moral Standing and Human/Non-human Hybrids”). 

On the other hand, such arguments are difficult to pin down because the concept of species is complicated. For example, according to Jason Robert and Françoise Baylis, “Biologists typically make do with a plurality of species concepts, invoking one or the other depending on the particular explanatory or investigative context.” 

One concept of species holds that species are defined in terms of reproductive isolation. If two populations of creatures do not successfully interbreed, then they belong to two different species. However, this definition only applies to species that reproduce sexually. Another definition considers the lineage of a population of organisms and its continuity over time. Such a definition is more encompassing but also more vague. Operationally it can be very difficult to arrive at a set of traits or qualities that completely distinguishes one species from another.  

The scientific conception of species, therefore, is not fixed. There are many ways to describe species, and it can be very difficult to arrive at a specific and distinctive definition of what makes homo-sapiens a distinct species. Because of this, the notion that it is immoral to cross species boundaries is problematic because it is difficult to define the human species in a fixed way. 

On the other hand, as Robert and Baylis point out, the fact that scientists do not have an account of fixed differences between species does not mean that the ethicist couldn’t employ a fixed account. They explain, “notwithstanding the claim that biologically species are fluid, people believe species identities and boundaries are indeed fixed and in fact make everyday moral decisions on the basis of this belief.” They use the example of race as an analogy; where race is not a biologically useful concept, but it can be a socially useful concept. 

If there are good reasons to adopt fixed notions of species for ethical purposes, then there may be a basis to claim that it is wrong to cross the species boundary, particularly because of the moral confusion it could create. Settling some of these issues will likely require that the public take note of the tension that can exist between a scientific account of something and an ethical account. Should we pursue a more open concept of species and of moral status in line with an experimental approach to these issues, or should we rely on the concept of fixed distinctions when it comes to moral matters. The issue of animal/human chimeras asks us to consider what, ethically, does it mean to be human and what does it mean to be a person?

“How Long Must We Wait?”: Lessons from the History of the Animal Welfare Movement

close-up photograph of two pigs in dark room

In a series of boxes in the D.H. Hill Library at North Carolina State sit scores of historical pamphlets and newspaper articles advocating an end to cruelty toward animals. The documents date back to the nineteenth century, and provide an undeniable record of the history of strong public sentiment against the mistreatment of animals. The collection preserves the stories of countless activists who opposed inhumane treatment in slaughterhouses, research labs, the entertainment industry, transport, and sport, among other endeavors. These activists dedicated inspiring amounts of time, energy, and resources to a cause that is seldom given the attention that it is due.

The boxes are part of a much larger collection—The Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive. Regan was a philosopher and activist who established the archive to create a home for works dedicated to promoting the interests of non-human animals. His book The Case for Animal Rights is one of the most influential works of philosophy on the subject, but, as the archive shows, he was one thinker among many on an impressive intellectual family tree of animal activists. 

Advocates for animals have always faced significant challenges from many directions. Nineteenth and early twentieth century documents are full of writers defending themselves against the charge of excessive sentimentalism. In fact, empathy for animals was viewed by some at that time as a mental disorder. Zoophil-psychosis was a term coined by American psychologist Charles Lomis Dana in 1909 to refer to what he viewed as a hysterical condition of excessive concern for non-human animals.

The form that this “excessive” concern took was activism against vivisection (roughly, the use of animals in scientific experiments), abuses of animals in slaughterhouses, and other instances of cruelty and exploitation. This concern was not, of course, baseless or the product of a psychotic break from reality. The basis was and continues to be the simple recognition that other sentient beings can also experience pain and suffering, among other significant emotions. Though this fact about other creatures should be fairly obvious, it is a fact about which very few people pause to reflect. We need to ask ourselves the fundamental question: what is the nature of our moral obligations to other living beings who suffer?

Many women who were involved in the fight for women’s suffrage were also involved in reform movements to further the humane treatment of other beings. Female activists played essential roles in the formation of organizations such as The American Humane Society and The American Anti-Vivisection Society. A treasure of the Animal Rights Archive is a collection of original correspondence between suffragette and animal welfare advocate Sarah J. Eddy and physician and social reformer Albert Leffingwell.1 This correspondence highlights one of the most significant challenges the movement faces—transparency. In their letters, Eddy and Leffingwell stress the importance of dissemination of information, which in their time often came in the form of the proliferation of pamphlets. They were optimistic that if the facts were accessible to the public, the force of reason would prevail. It didn’t. Until the very end of the nineteenth century, there were no animal welfare laws that restricted the practices of those operating in laboratories and slaughterhouses. Stunningly, that situation remains largely unchanged today.

Even if the transparency issues could be settled, other significant problems remain. Abuse of animals has always been big business. Many people stand to gain from it. When there is money to be made, people can’t be bothered to be concerned about whether their products have feelings. Sadly our historical record demonstrates that this motivation can sometimes win out even when humans are the “products.” That we are subject to errors of this magnitude should cause us to reflect on practices that are more commonplace, but that nevertheless involve suffering. In a letter to Eddy, Leffingwell laments the perils of powerful interests,

When we began the special agitation on the subject of vivisection a few years ago, it was—on my part—, with a very strong hope that the Medical Profession generally would meet us “half-way”—as the saying is, and concede some degree of supervision and controls. I was very sure that as a class, the physicians of this country did not approve of unlimited experimentation, and our investigations of five years ago, embodied in the REPORT proved that I was correct. But experience has demonstrated that I was altogether too hopeful. The older men, who disapproved of unrestricted vivisection have been passing away, and their places are not filled. The men who were engaged in vivisection as a means of gaining their daily bread realized their danger and united in a common defense. It is not merely that they control the medical newspaper press throughout the country, and that they have the confidence of a majority of those concerned with learning,–with this they were not satisfied and have stooped to unworthy methods in defense of vivisection. Five years ago, I could not have believed that members of the American Medical Association would have sunk so low as to employ falsehoods as a method of argumentation.

The letters between Eddy and Leffingwell tell the story of a sustained fight for animal welfare that lasted decades. Though they, along with others deeply committed to the cause, succeeded in putting together a society of diligent advocates, little changed when it came to the actual treatment of non-human animals or with regard to legislating any significant protections. Leffingwell complains, 

If I could feel that little by little, we are undermining the confidence so wrongly given, and that one day the falsifiers will be utterly discredited, and (as Wendell Phillips used to say,)—“the Truth get a hearing” and be accepted generally, I should feel greatly encouraged. It does seem certain that in the long run, falsehood cannot overcome truth. But how long must we wait?

Sadly, it turns out that the answer to this question remains unclear—we’re still waiting. Special interest groups like the meat industry and big pharma are more powerful than ever. The value of the use of animals for the purpose of scientific research in our culture has become like an article of faith. We’re propelled blindly forward, chasing progress, unreflective about whether it’s really worth chasing and what the cost of our pursuit actually is.

Some laws exist that seemingly protect animals against powerful interest groups. In the spirit of the advocates that have come before us, we should insist on transparency when it comes to the plain fact that the protections that currently exist are nowhere near enough. Their existence does little more than create an illusion of protection for the animals in question. Two federal laws are worthy of note here. First is the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1966. The Act nominally provides for the humane treatment of animals, and its mere existence may make citizens feel at ease with the protections afforded. The Act does ensure that animals in certain contexts, are provided with “adequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, water and veterinary care.” They must also be protected against extreme temperature. Crucially, however the Act, 

[…] does not cover every type of animal used in every type of activity. The following animals are not covered: farm animals used for food or fiber (fur, hide, etc.); coldblooded species (amphibians and reptiles); horses not used for research purposes; fish; invertebrates (crustaceans, insects, etc.); or birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus that are bred for use in research.

Society is quick to provide protections for cats and dogs, animals that are likely to be companions, but not for the animals most commonly used for research or those that are slaughtered and killed for food.

The second piece of federal legislation of note is The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, passed in 1958 and revised in 1978. Again, on its face, the Act seems to promise humane treatment of animals killed for food (at least to those to whom that does not sound like an oxymoron). There are troubling truths about this Act as well. First, the Act does not apply to birds of any type. This is striking because the vast majority of animals that are killed for food are chickens (9 billion in the United States alone). What’s more, the protections provided by The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act are limited to ensuring that that animals don’t experience pain at the moment they are slaughtered. Animals must be “rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.” The Act contains exemptions for religious slaughter. Notably absent are any protections for how animals must be treated while being raised for food. The abuses that take place during that time are significant and are articulated in careful detail in Peter Singer’s classic Animal Liberation.

When faced with facts about the way that animals are treated, and the lack of protection for those animals, it is important to be reflective. But change in one’s personal philosophy is not sufficient. As Tom Regan, championing the strategy of so many uncelebrated thinkers who came before him, says in the epilogue of The Case for Animal Rights, “How we change the dominant misconception of animals—indeed, whether we change it—is to large degree a political question. Might does not make right, but might does make law.” It’s up to us, then to take up the struggle.

1 Sarah J. Eddy and Albert Leffingwell Correspondence June 1898-1905. MC 00666 Halfbox 1

Swimming with Dolphins

Three women in life jackets swimming with two dolphins

As winter quickly approaches, many people seek an escape from the cold by planning a tropical vacation. These trips to paradise frequently include interactions with the area’s sea life, including the beloved “sunset dolphin cruises” and “swim with dolphins” programs for which many tourists try to book tickets. However, seldom do we think about what those exclusive experiences mean for both captive and wild dolphins, and how tourist money continues to fuel an industry centered around the exploitation of wild animals. We must collectively evaluate these human-dolphin interactions and pursue methods to educate the general public about the impact of their support for these organizations, which despite popular claims do not benefit the dolphins.

Ruthanne Johnson wrote an article for the Humane Society of the United States in which she explores how popular animal attractions may not actually have the animals’ well-being in mind. She discusses “swim with dolphin” experiences specifically, stating, “When strangers aren’t hanging on to their fins for a swim, the animals who swim long distances in the wild, are relegated to enclosures the size of a backyard pool. They may appear to be having fun, but they are merely doing the job.” In fact, Naomi Rose, who is a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, discusses the fact that these interactions with tourists have a negative impact on the animals, which could induce dangerous behavior: “dolphins have bitten, rammed and pushed people and male dolphins have shown sexual aggression toward tourists.”  And all of this is without mentioning the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis and the common cold due to close proximity between humans and captive dolphins.

While Johnson discussed the impact of interactive programs with dolphins in zoos, Christina Russo focuses on dolphins in the Caribbean where swimming with these wild creatures has become an increasingly popular activity. Resort facilities are a common place for these attractions, and one trainer in the Caribbean talked about his concerns with the high number of dolphins enclosed in shallow cells. He estimated that there were “about 40 dolphins caged in three compact cells and within a resort – debris like nails and fish hooks would float in from the ocean.” He echoes the statements from Johnson which outlined the toll these interactions takes on the dolphins:

“They were also under extreme pressure to perform, which may have made them dangerous to humans, they did 10 interactions a day – the same motions, the same speech, the same signals over and over. They would get frustrated and aggressive to guests or knock food buckets out of our hands.”

The obvious alternative for curious individuals would then be to seek out interactions with wild dolphins. However, Virginia Morell published an article for Science which explores why that might also be a detrimental choice. A study was done on Spinner dolphins in Hawaii and the impact tourism had on their wellbeing, The findings demonstrated that because tourist interactions occurred during a critical period of the day in which the dolphins would normally be resting or sleeping, the interruption by humans in the water caused a lack of sleep and as a result there were far fewer spinner dolphins in the lagoons over consecutive years. Interestingly, researchers also found that due to lack of rest the spinner dolphins were performing more aerial displays than dolphins in areas with little to no tourism. Contrary to popular belief these displays are not a sign of playfulness, but rather of distress. These results allow for not only an assessment of captive dolphins’ treatment, but also further education on tourism taking place in these animals natural habitats.

Now the question that remains is, “if not through zoos or theme parks, and not the wild swimming with dolphin excursions,” how is the average individual meant to witness the beauty of these creatures without causing harm? Meagan Salder attempts to answer this question by speaking to the head of the marine research program at the Hawaii Institute of Marine biology. Lars Bejder reiterates the importance of respecting dolphins’ space, especially because a breach of those spaces at the wrong time by humans could result in heightened levels of stress for the entire pod. In terms of determining which tours are best for the dolphins’ safety, Dolphin SMART was created as a partnership between the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) office for marine sanctuaries and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Foundation. It functions as a tool created by conservation agencies to help tourists see which experiences are best for the wellbeing of the animals. Their mission is “To promote responsible stewardship of wild dolphins in coastal waterways,” and the easy-to-remember acronym describes rules to integrate when viewing dolphins. “S” stands for stay back at least 50 yards, “M” reminds us to move cautiously away from a dolphin showing signs of distress, “A” is to always put your engine in neutral around dolphins, “R” is to refrain from feeding, touching or swimming with the wild dolphins, and “T” is to teach others to be dolphin smart. Consumers should keep an eye out for tours which are certified Dolphin SMART, and be sure to implement the rules outlined by dolphin and whale conservation organizations when going out on their own boats.

Naomi Rose makes a good point about the intentions of many tourists when buying tickets to interact with dolphins: “People swim with dolphins because they want a magical experience, or they may believe they are supporting conservation efforts.” However, we have seen that these particular interactions are not conducive to human or animal safety. Thoughtful information about the impact of these activities published by marine conservation organizations will better help individuals to make educated decisions about which experiences they choose to engage in, and as a result encourage them to fully commit to the wellbeing of the dolphins they hope to see.

 

The Triumph of California’s Impure Prop. 12

"Different Pigs," by Arran Moffatt licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Via Flickr).

Among a bevy of complicated results from the 2018 midterm elections, voters in California this month resoundingly chose to support a ballot measure designed to protect the wellbeing of industrial livestock. The “Farm Animal Confinement Initiative” – or Proposition 12 – was passed with 61 percent of the vote, setting California on a path to reshape the landscape of large-scale farming operations, including fully eliminating the use of cages by egg producers, over the next three years.

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Should Chimpanzees be Granted Legal Personhood?

An image of a group of chimpanzees

In recent years, advocates for animal welfare have pursued legal rights for animals in the courts.  Tommy and Kiko are chimpanzees who were once famous for their appearance in Hollywood films. Both now live in captivity in small cages—conditions that are far from optimal relative to what a flourishing life for a chimpanzee would look like.  Hercules and Leo are chimpanzees who have been the subject of invasive medical research and experimentation for their entire lives, nearly a decade.  Advocates for these animals argue that it is morally wrong to view them as mere property. There should be some legal recognition of their rights.

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The Legal Case of Elephant Personhood

An image of four elephants walking along a muddy field.

Asian elephants have been observed reassuring other elephants in distress. Elephants have also been observed behaving in ways that appear to show  grief at the death of other elephants. Evidence (admittedly sparse) has also suggested that elephants may be self-aware—that is, aware of themselves as separate from other objects and the environment. Over the years, we have learned much about the rich cognitive and social lives of elephants. Does this increasing body of evidence indicate that elephants should be treated as persons, too?

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Dogs and Cats First? Evacuating Pets During Times of Disaster

An image of a helicopter pilot rescuing a dog from flooding

In two back-to-back assaults on the mainland, Mother Nature sent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hurling into the American southeast. The destruction from the former in Houston and surrounding areas has news commentators already drawing comparisons to Hurricane Katrina. Many residents of New Orleans have struggled to fully recover from the devastation left in the wake of that storm, so many now are hoping that the lessons learned from Katrina will be applied to the situation in southeastern Texas.

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An Unhealthy Obsession: Pugs and the Demand for Cuteness

Cover image for The Carrot Seed featuring a young boy in overalls dropping a small seed into a divot in the ground

Among my friends, I would be one of the first to readily admit one thing: I love dogs. Pugs, specifically. My personal allegiance to my family’s dog aside, pugs are one of my favorite animals. If I need to take a break from studying or writing a paper, chances are decent that I’ll log on to Tumblr or Youtube for my daily pug fix. When my friends see an article or video about pugs online, they know just who to send it to. And, once I graduate, one of my personal milestones of success won’t necessarily be having children, but rather becoming a proud father to one of the wrinkled, snuffling, bug-eyed beasts.

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