Pharmaceutical Products and Animal Ingredients

Although we should all avoid using pharmaceutical products in favor of more natural approaches to health, it may, on occasion, be advisable or even necessary to take a pharmaceutical product.

Putting aside other problems with these products, they often are not vegan in that they contain various animal products as “inactive” ingredients. For example, many tablets contain stearates or glycerin, which often come from animal sources, or lactose, which is a milk derivative. And standard capsules are, of course, made of gelatin.

I often hear vegans say that in such circumstances, they have no choice but to depart from their vegan principles and take medicines that contain animal products. This is not true. Even in situations in which a pharmaceutical product may be required, it is not necessary to use a product that contains animal ingredients.

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A Comment on Violence

I am asked frequently about my views on those who advocate violence against animal exploiters.

My response is simple: I am violently opposed to violence.

I have three reasons for my position.

First, in my view, the animal rights position is the ultimate rejection of violence. It is the ultimate affirmation of peace. I see the animal rights movement as the logical progression of the peace movement, which seeks to end conflict between humans. The animal rights movement ideally seeks to take that a step further and to end conflict between humans and nonhumans.

The reason that we are in the global mess that we are in now is that throughout history, we have engaged and continue to engage in violent actions that we have sought to justify as an undesirable means to a desirable end. Anyone who has ever used violence claims to regret having to resort to it, but argues that some desirable goal supposedly justified its use. The problem is that this facilitates an endless cycle of violence where anyone who feels strongly about something can embrace violence toward others as a means to achieving the greater good and those who are the targets of that violence may find a justification for their violent response. So on and on it goes.

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A Note About Michael Vick

There has been an enormous amount of coverage of the alleged dog fighting operation sponsored by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Vick and three other men were indicted on federal felony charges claiming that Vick had sponsored illegal dog fighting, gambled on dog fights and permitted acts of cruelty against animals on his property. The talk shows are filled with talking heads from the “humane community” condemning dog fighting and calling for Vick to be punished if he is, indeed, guilty. Nike and Reebok have suspended products endorsed by Vick.

Please let me be very clear: I think that dog fighting is a terrible thing.

But I must say that the Vick case is rather dramatically demonstrating what I call our “moral schizophrenia” about animals. That is, if one thing is clear, it is that we do not think clearly about our moral obligations to animals.

In this country alone, we kill over ten billion land animals annually for food. The animals we eat—even those supposedly raised “humanely”—suffer as much as the dogs that are used in dog fighting. There is no “need” for us to eat meat, dairy, or eggs. Indeed, these foods are increasingly linked to various human diseases and animal agriculture is an environmental disaster for the planet. We impose pain, suffering, and death on these billions of sentient nonhumans because we enjoy eating their flesh and the products that we make from them.

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Is Heterosexism Different?

Since we have launched the new site, I have been receiving dozens of questions every day. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer all of them personally, but I do appreciate your interest in the abolitionist approach.

There are, however, some questions that I feel compelled to respond to because they go so directly to the philosophy that I am trying to promote.

Last week, someone wrote the following:

I understand that speciesism is problematic because it is like racism and sexism because it attaches a negative value to species in the same way that racism attaches a negative value to race or sexism attaches a negative value to the status of being a woman. But you also often liken speciesism to heterosexism and I think that there is a difference here because unlike race or sex, which have no inherent moral value, sexual relations between members of the same sex may be considered as immoral because such conduct is not natural.

This is not the first time that I have heard this position expressed and I want to address it and explain why I think that heterosexism cannot be distinguished from racism or sexism.

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Farewell, Satya

When The Animals’ Agenda stopped publishing in 2002, Satya took over as the primary journal of the new welfarist movement, promoting the fantasy that incremental animal welfare reform could provide significant protection to animal interests and pretending that there was no inherent conflict between the abolition and regulationist approaches to animal ethics.

And now, Satya has gone the way of The Animals’ Agenda and has stopped publishing with its June/July 2007 issue. Although in its final year, Satya devoted some of it pages to criticizing the regulationist approach, which is stronger today than it has ever been, Satya remained until the very end a magazine that, as a general matter, embraced the welfarist approach.

I sincerely wish Beth Gould, Cat Clyne, Martin Rowe, and all at Satya best wishes for the future. I am just sad when I think of what Satya could have done if it provided a clear voice for abolishing animal exploitation rather than collapsing under the weight of an incoherent foundering impulse that so many “animal people” feel—to “do something” about animal suffering without a theory of how this change can occur.

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The Failure of Anticruelty Laws

We are still hard at work redesigning the Web site. We are very excited about it and we hope that you will like it and find it useful in your abolitionist advocacy.

I did, however, want to offer a brief comment this week about a recent legal case that is making the news. In December of 2005, an investigator with an animal protection organization claimed to have filmed various instances of animal abuse at Esbenshade Farms, a large intensive egg facility in Pennsylvania. The owner and manager of Esbenshade were each charged with 35 counts of violating the Pennsylvania anticruelty law. The videotape was claimed to show hens impaled on wires from their cages, unable to get food or water, and caged with the decomposing bodies of other hens.

On June 1, 2007, the state court judge found the two not guilty on all charges. The egg farmers claimed that the video did not actually depict his farm. But the judge apparently did not issue a written opinion, so the basis of the decision is unclear.

The animal-advocacy community is in shock.


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My Response to Johanna

Last week, I received an email from a person whom I will identify, with her permission, only as Johanna. Johanna wrote, in part:

You argue that we ought to put all our time and energy in trying to persuade people to become vegans. I think that is a wonderful idea but what about all of those people who are not at all concerned about animals and are never going to become vegans? What about those who may become vegan eventually but are not willing to do so right away?

Doesn’t it make sense to pursue welfare reform with respect to these people? Isn’t it better to encourage these people to eat foods that are produced in a more humane manner, even if the differences between those foods and foods produced in a conventional way may not be very great?

Johanna’s concerns are quite typical among those who promote welfare reform and the “happy” meat/animal products approach. I am posting my reply to Johanna in the hope that others will find it of use in thinking about these issues.

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Peter Singer: “Oh my god, these vegans…”

In the ongoing debate between those who promote the abolitionist approach and those who promote the welfarist approach, some of the welfarists claim that they support veganism so there is, in reality, little difference between the two approaches on the matter of eating and using animal products.

To the extent that welfarists support veganism, it is important to understand that the abolitionist position on veganism is very different from the welfarist position on veganism.

The abolitionist sees veganism as a non-negotiable moral baseline of a movement that maintains that we should abolish all animal use, however “humane” our treatment of animals may be. The abolitionist position maintains that nonhumans have inherent value and that we should never kill and eat them even if they have been raised and killed “humanely.” Abolitionists regard veganism as an end in itself—as an expression of the principle of abolition in the life of the individual.

Abolitionist vegans do not campaign for welfare reforms that supposedly make animal exploitation more “humane.” It is, of course, “better” to inflict less harm than more harm, but we have no moral justification for inflicting any harm on nonhumans in the first place. It is “better” not to beat a rape victim but it does not make rape without beating morally acceptable, or make campaigning for “humane” rape something that we should do.

Abolitionists regard veganism as the most important form of incremental change and spend their time and resources on educating others about veganism and the need to stop using animals altogether, rather than on trying to persuade people to eat “cage-free” eggs or flesh produced from animals who have been confined in larger pens.

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Vivisection, Part Two: The Moral Justification of Vivisection

In Vivisection, Part One: The “Necessity” of Vivisection, I discussed the problems surrounding the claim that the use of nonhumans in biomedical experiments is, as a factual matter, “necessary” to get data needed for purposes of human health. In this essay, I want to explore briefly the argument that even if animal use is necessary in the sense that we need to use nonhumans to get vital data, we cannot justify using nonhumans for this purpose.

Humans and nonhumans alike have an interest in not being used in biomedical experiments. We accord all humans a right not to be used as non-consenting subjects in such experiments even though it would be more efficient to use humans as this would obviate the difficulties that I discussed in the earlier essay about extrapolating results from nonhumans to humans and the other problems that make animal research problematic and unreliable from a scientific perspective.

When we say that humans have a “right” not to be used for these purposes, this means simply that the interest of humans in not being used as non-consenting subjects in experiments will be protected even if the consequences of using them would be very beneficial for the rest of us. The question, then, is why do we think that it is morally acceptable to use nonhumans in experiments but not to use humans?

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Some Questions from the Vegan Freaks

I regard the Vegan Freak Forums as one of the most intelligent and lively places on the web to discuss vegan issues. One of the participants posted four questions that were posed to her by someone defending animal use and other participants said that they had received similar questions. These questions are typical and I am offering some short replies that I hope you will find helpful in your advocacy.

1. Turkeys don’t have the brain power to have interests other than breeding or fulfilling basic survival urges, do they?

A fundamental principle of the animal welfare position is that nonhumans are like us in the sense that they can suffer so we have some vague (and meaningless) moral and legal obligation to treat them “humanely,” but because animals are otherwise not like us in that they have minds that are not like ours, they are “inferior” to us and we may, therefore, use them as we want.

We really do not know what goes on in the minds of other humans, let alone what goes on in the minds of nonhumans. My guess is that turkeys have many, many interests and are cognitively very complicated creatures. They certainly do not have many of the interests that humans have but turkeys probably have interests that humans do not have.

But let us assume for the purposes of argument that turkeys have interests that are limited in the way that the question suggests. What does that say about whether it is morally acceptable to kill turkeys and eat them, or otherwise to exploit them?

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