Which is it Mr. Singer: Children or Cattle?

Peter Singer managed to anger
animal rights activists with a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, “The Singer Solution to World Poverty.” With his typical
flair for sweeping (and baseless) moral judgments, Singer argued that
Americans who do not give at least 20 percent of their income to solve
world hunger are morally equivalent to someone who would sell a Brazilian
child to be killed for his or her organs (a situation he borrowed from
the Brazilian film “Central Station.”)

Unfortunately for Singer,
he angered some animal rights activists and groups by recommending that people
donate to Oxfam which, all things considered, is probably the best place
to donate money if stopping world hunger is where you want to concentrate
your charitable giving. The only problem for the animal activists is that
Oxfam helps poor people in the developing world buy cattle and other animals
for agricultural purposes.

Since Singer is already on record
that eating meat is superfluous and therefore equivalent to murder except
in dire emergency situations, his position seems to be that Americans
are heartless murderers regardless of what they do. Are we to save a child
at the expense of a poor cow? In his book, Animal Liberation, Singer is unwavering in his view that this is unacceptable, especially
since animal agriculture is completely unnecessary.

Aside from this there are a couple
other problems and inconsistencies with Singer’s argument. First, he repeatedly
mentions the horrors faced by children in the Third World, which is certainly
a legitimate concern. It is surprising that given his well-known
views on suffering, that Singer does not simply recommend that Americans
underwrite a program to painlessly euthanize children who are probably
going to starve to death or die from malaria anyway. This would probably
be less expensive as well as meet Singer’s utilitarian criteria of minimizing

Second, Singer’s attempt at equating actively murdering someone with refusing to contributing to aid organizations is absurd, especially in the context of international aid. Singer
laments that aid from the developed world to the developing world is far
below goals set by the United Nations, but never mentions that a large
part of the reason is the horrible track record of such aid. The main
reason people starve in Third World countries is due to the corrupt, incompetent
governments there and, as heartless as it may sound, feeding those governments
more aid money is often counterproductive and may prolong suffering
by making corrupt regimes survive longer than they would without the aid.

Already this year controversy erupted
when it was revealed that aid intended to help out poor Russians was diverted
into the accounts of Russian politicians. Studies of the International Monetary Fund
and World Bank aid programs suggest that up to half of all such aid to
the most impoverished parts of the world may be diverted. Certainly some
groups such as Oxfam do a wonderful job, but Singer’s emphasis on large
amounts of giving for such a narrow purpose is extremely shortsighted
and by no means the obvious best solution to combat world hunger.

No Compromise's Printer Woes

The web site for the radical
pro-Animal Liberation Front magazine No Compromise recently
contained a whining screed about the difficulties in obtaining a printer
who would publish its Summer 1999 issue. Apparently they did finally find
someone willing to take on the job. As a courtesy for those of you who
do not subscribe to No Compromise, here are the titles of a
few of the articles planned for the Summer issue. You can judge for yourself
whether or not you’d agree to print the magazine:

“Smashing the Fur Trade Quickly and Efficiently.”

“Staying Safe While Fucking Shit Up”

“Simple Igniter”

“Keeping Your Mouth Shut”

“Don’t Get Caught!”

“One Hour Delayed Incendiary Device”

“Electronically Timed Incendiary Igniter”

Smithsonian Caves to Fear, Cancels Foie Gras Presentation

Animal rights advocates had
been targeting the Smithsonian Institute for several weeks after it announced
plans to hold a program called “Foie Gras: A GourmetÂ’s Passion”
on Sept. 21. Foie Gras is produced by force feeding ducks or geese. Animal
rights groups maintain the practice is cruel.

Rather than citing its agreement
with this argument, however, the Smithsonian cited concern for the safety
of visitors as the main reason for canceling the program. “Because
we are always concerned with the well-being of our participants, we have
regretfully concluded that it would be in the best interests of everyone
involved to cancel the program,” said Mara Mayor, director of the
Smithsonian Associates. Michael Gilnor, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras
and a scheduled speaker for the event, accused the animal rights groups
of inciting fear of violence to force the Smithsonian to cancel the program.

“What these people are
doing are terrorist acts,” said Gilnor. “They use means that
are close to terrorists but without the blood.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of the main groups opposing the program, said it has never
engaged in terrorism. “We have made no threats whatsoever,”
said Michael McGraw. “We would most likely dress up as ducks or geese and
hold up signs.” Of course they might also decide to light bales of
hay on fire in an act of arson as happened in two recent PETA protests.
Still McGraw is technically correct that PETA doesnÂ’t commit terrorist
acts – they just show up conveniently after terrorist acts have been committed
and provide legal and financial support for terrorists.

Let the Vegan Kid Wear His T-shirt Already

    Utah has been hard hit in recent
years by animal terrorists destroying fur farm property and releasing
animals, but unfortunately the legitimate concern over those acts of violence
has started expressing itself in counterproductive and unconstitutional
ways. There is currently a legal battle going on between Cooper Hills
High School and one of its students, John Ouimette, over the use of the
word “vegan.”

    Ouimette is apparently a vegan
and, believe it or not, the school district that Cooper Hills is part
of bans the use of the word vegan from student clothing arguing that it
is a gang-related term because many people in the Straight Edge movement
call themselves vegans.

    I donÂ’t have a lot of sympathy
for Straight Edgers, who always seem to come off as pretentious neo-Puritans,
or ethical vegans for that matter, but the logic of banning the word “vegan”
makes about as much sense as banning the Star of David as a gang symbol
as another high school recently did.

    Ouimette was forced by an
assistant principal to remove a T-shirt with the saying “Vegans Have
First Amendment Rights” and is suing the school over the incident
claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.

    The principals should be ashamed
of themselves. What sort of lesson does the school system think it is
teaching young Mr. Ouimette? First, it is sending the message to other
students that veganism is inherently connected with violence. This of
course is due to the most fundamental of logical fallacies, the undistributed
middle – some vegans commit acts of violence, Ouimette says he’s a vegan,
therefore Ouimette (and other vegans) must be the sort of people who would
commit acts of violence.

    More importantly, though,
if I were Ouimette the message I would take away from this whole flap
is that animal rights claims about animals are so accurate and dangerous
to the status quo that they have to censor me rather than let other students
hear my views. Certainly there is a legitimate concern about animal rights
groups giving one-sided presentations to ill-informed students, but on
the other hand the treatment of animals is certainly a legitimate debate
and one that schools should embrace rather than shrink away from.

    An honest, fair look at animal
enterprises will only strengthen support for medical research and other
areas as it debunks the myths that animal rights groups feed students.
Trying to suppress these ideas will only reinforce misconceptions and
myths as well as alienating young people with serious, legitimate concerns
about the treatment of animals.

Relief Flights Banned in Sudan

In the middle of July Sudan announced a ban on food relief flights to its
Western upper Nile province, where ironically two pro-government factions are
fighting each other for control of important oil fields. The main rebel group
in Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army announced a cease fire in the province
in July, but the government there apparently intends to keep on fighting.

According to the World Food Program, which is coordinating aid to Sudan, the
ban on aid flights leaves about 150,000 people at risk of starvation.


Ban on relief flights threatens 150,000 Sudanese, U.N. says. Associated Press,
July 27, 1999.

North Korea–Hungry, But Well-Armed

Amid continuing famine in North Korea, the government there recently asked
South Korea to resume shipments of much needed fertilizer. South Korea had agreed
to ship North Korea up to 200,000 tons of free fertilizer as part of an agreement
to hold talks in Beijing, China, about plans for uniting families separated
by the 1950-53 Korean war. South Korea shipped an initial 100,000 tons but held
up the remaining shipment after North Korea refused to discuss the family reunion
issue in Beijing.

Meanwhile, refugees continue to cross the border from North Korea into China
fleeing the famine — an estimated 100,000 North Koreans have made the trip
over the border in recent years. The refugees tell stories of hunger and in
a few cases cannibalism that confirm the grim situation inside North Korea.
The Economist cited one refugee as estimating that a kilogram of rice was selling
for double the average monthly wage on the black market.

Of course while its people starve, North Korea is busy improving its military
capacity. Sometime in August North Korea is expected to test fire a long range
missile capable of hitting targets as far away as Japan.


Echoes from hermit kingdom. The Economist, May 22, 1999.

North Korea, amid growing famine, asks for more fertilizer from South. Associated
Press, July 9, 1999.

North Korea famine lessens, but millions reported still at risk. CNN, August
10, 1999.