The current Economist magazine, (February 25-March 2) has two stories of interest to animal folks, one, on the battle for rights for whales and one on test tube grown meat. They are, coincidentally, side by side beginning on pages 92 and 93 respectively.
The article "Whales are People Too" is part of a series of reports on the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The economist tells us that speakers proposed rights for whales (including dolphins) and that "The proposition that whales have rights is founded on the idea that they have a high degree of intelligence, and also have self-awareness of the sort that humans do."
This issue has been much in the news of late as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a suit in November 2011 against SeaWorld arguing that the Thirteenth Amendment prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude and that the prohibition does not necessarily apply to human beings. When I heard about the suit I worried that while I do indeed see the captive orcas and dolphins at SeaWorld as slaves, jailed and forced to perform in order to get food, the courts would be unlikely to see it that way. I was concerned about the legal precedent likely to be set, which could set back serious legal scholars attempting to makes inroads in the field of legal rights for non human animals.
Bruce Friedrich, a superb activist who spent years working for PETA (and now works for Farm Sanctuary while also studying law at Georgetown University) puts forward a strong argument in support of PETA's lawsuit, which you can read online at http://tinyurl.com/7782ek8
Friedrich quotes Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe who he describes as a "constitutional virtuoso."
The merits of the case are discussed but Friedrich closes with this telling quote from Tribe:
Even assuming that the claim
is rejected in court as a matter of existing constitutional doctrine, whether on some technical ground like lack of standing or on the merits, such a result wouldnt prove the group wrong for having made this effort
Even if that lawsuit fails and the orcas on whose behalf it is brought are not ultimately freed, we all benefit from the national reflection and deliberation that the filing of this suit could initiate.
The suit did fail, which it seems everybody, including Tribe expected. And it did raise awareness. The presentation at the AAAS and this Economist article on the issue are part of that wave of awareness. We can add force to that wave with the addition of our letters to the editor. Whether the right be legal or moral I am sure anybody reading this Dawnwatch alert believes that whales have the right to be free. The Economist article gives us the opportunity to argue for that right.
Please check out the Economist article. "Whales are People Too" on line at http://www.economist.com/node/21548150
And please send your letter to email@example.com
Friedrich's Georgetown Weekly article moves from whales into wider issues, and from legal decisions into daily decisions. He writes:
"Its worth noting that few of us will find ourselves in situations in which we might have an influence over orcas or chimpanzees. But we all have an influence over the suffering of other animalsevery time we eat. The average American eats roughly 35 land animals and more than 100 sea animals per year, most of us with no thought at all of how animals suffer for the meat industry or who those animals were as individuals.
While most of us would never eat a dog or a cat (or an orca or a chimpanzee), most of us are perfectly comfortable eating a chicken or a pig. PETAs lawsuitand the reflections of Sagan, Tribe, Sunstein, and Goodallchallenges us to rethink that decision."
I am going to grab that segue into the other article of interest in this week's Economist: "Hamburger junction: Muscle grown in factories could soon be appearing in a supermarket near you." Coincidentally it begins on the page where the whale article ends, page 93.
The article tells us, "Raising animals is a resource-intensive process. About 30% of the worlds ice-free land is used for it." It discusses the greenhouse gasses emitted noting "cattle are notorious sources of methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide." Regarding meat grown from cells in a laboratory we read: "In theory, one cow could thus supply as many hamburgers as a million slaughtered animals can today. ...Moreover, you do not even have to kill a cow to obtain stem cells from it. A biopsy will do."
You'll find the article on line at
The two Economist articles both focus on future solutions yet each of us can make a difference right now. We can personally stop supporting the enslavement of other animals by refusing to frequent what Ric O'Barry (featured in The Cove) calls "dolphin abusement parks." Or we can do it, as Friedrich points out in his Georgetown Weekly article, by choosing healthy plant-based diets; we don't need to wait for test-tube meat. Why not send letters reminding Economist readers of those happy available choices?
Again, the Economist takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send a letter in support of whichever article moves you, or both if that connection works for you. Just please make sure not to use any exact wording I have used in this alert as the magazine is looking for original responses from readers.
My thanks go to activist Debbie Elliot for making sure we saw the Economist article on whales.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts only if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)
Please go to http://tinyurl.com/254ulkx to check out Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which in 2008 was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of The Year!"
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Date: Fri Mar 2 11:24:04 2012