PETA's Latest Follies

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is back to its bizarre ways (if I didn’t know better, I’d swear
this group had been taken over by hunters looking to discredit the animal
rights movement). In mid-September PETA showed up to protest at the American
Meat Institute convention and held a “human barbecue.” It barbecued
tofu in the shape of a “cattleman.”

“People eat other animals,
why not humans?” asked PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a press release.
“The notion of eating any animals should be as preposterous as cannibalism.
So eating a hamburger is the same as roasting up Uncle Bob.”

If that wasn’t enough, PETA attacked
ads featuring the National Football League’s John Randle, who plays defensive
tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. The commercial, paid for by Nike, shows
Randle making a small football jersey emblazoned with a No. 4 similar to
the one that Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre wears. Randle then
practices chasing the chicken around the field (Favre is known for his
ability to take off running if he can’t find a receiver to throw
to). The chicken keeps getting away from Randle until the finale where
the audience sees Randle standing over a grill where he is preparing chicken.

PETA, of course, is horrified that
the ad is running and wants it pulled immediately. In fact, PETA claims
that “the commercial mimics what psychologists now see as a sign
of criminal mentality, in that pleasure is apparently derived from trauma
inflicted on a vulnerable animal.” According to Newkirk, “Young
people who see Randle as a role model may learn to associate the terror
of defenseless chickens as a form of amusement.”

So eating hamburger is cannibalism
and chasing a chicken is a sure sign that one is a sociopathic criminal.

I know a lot of anti-animal rights
people despise PETA, but in my opinion they are our best ally. No single
person or group does more to discredit animal rights and show just how
bizarre the animal rights agenda is than PETA.

Paul McCartney makes a fool of himself in Parade magazine

Parade magazine recently
ran a short piece on Paul McCartney in which the former Beatle said people
wanting to remember his wife Linda McCartney should send contributions
to Memorial Sloan-Kettering where she was treated for breast cancer before
her death. As an astute reader pointed out in the October 4 issue of Parade,
however, that McCartney said he was opposed to the use of animals but breast
cancer research relies on animal studies.

How does Paul reconcile this ethical
dilemma? He told Parade that he is still “totally against
experiments on animals,” so contributions in Linda’s name would only
go for spending on human trials.

Earth to Paul: the only way a breast
cancer drug gets to the human trial stage is after it has gone
through extensive animal testing. McCartney’s position seems to be that
it is okay to do human trials of breast cancer drugs, but the animal tests
that make the human trials possible should be banned.

“Live and Let Die” indeed!

Harold Hillman defends "ethical vegetarianism"

The Fall l998 issue of Free Inquiry featured an article by Harold Hillman
on “The Limits of Ethical Vegetarianism.” Hillman is a medical researcher
who is the director of the Unity Laboratory of Applied Neurobiology in the United
Kingdom. On the other hand he considers himself an “ethical vegetarian,”
meaning he doesn’t eat meat because he think it imposes needless suffering or
as he explains it, “ethical vegetarians feel that it is morally wrong to
kill animals to eat when one can live a healthy life without doing so.”

Hillman is certainly a reasonable advocate of this position. For example he
concedes that since “vegetarians tend to eat, smoke and drink less and
exercise more than the population at large … one cannot know for certain whether
their improved health is due to their way of life or to their diets.”

But he also takes his philosophy well beyond eating practices, concluding that
“an ethical vegetarian should not wear leather shoes, belts, or watch straps,
or buy such items as wallets, handbags, baseballs, footballs, or cricket balls”
or even common glues, although Hillman concedes that “I am not sure whether
there are any alternatives to the manufacture of these products at present.”

And yet Hillman believes it is not inconsistent with this doctrine to continue
to perform medical experiments on animals. He writes that “as a medical
researcher, I believe that medical and biological advances — to the advantage
of human beings and animals alike — could not have been made without experiments
on animals.” Hillman does argue that the use of animals should be minimized
where possible, but argues that nonetheless it is consistent with ethical vegetarianism
to continue such experiments.

I happen to think Hillman’s argument is grossly inconsistent. Once Hillman
commits himself to the claim that “we should avoid all pain to animals
and the use of products requiring animals to suffer,” there is no magical
exception that says “except for medical research.” In logical terms,
Hillman is guilty of the fallacy of special pleading (hunting, meat eating and
fur farming are unnecessary, but medical research is my livelihood. You can’t
take that away.)

If people should not buy baseballs that are made with animal products, should
they receive medical treatment which required animals to suffer and die in order
to be developed? Hillman seems to think using animals for medical research is
“necessary” but of course using animals for that purpose is no more
“necessary” than using them for furs or baseball.

I don’t mean to pick on Hillman since I’ve seen some fanatical hunters who
make the opposite argument — that hunting animals in the wild with weapons
such as bows and arrow is a natural and spiritual thing to do, and thus should
continue, while experimenting on animals in labs is a cold calculating process
which should be severely restricted if not banned outright.

As far as I’m concerned once either side of the argument is conceded, the whole
animal rights argument logically follows. If it is immoral to eat animals it
is certainly immoral to perform medical experiments on them and vice versa.
Where ethical vegetarians, a few fanatical hunters and the entire animal rights
community are wrong is in believing either activity is morally questionable.

Wall Street Journal attacks animal rights advocate Peter Singer

Peter Singer helped kick start the contemporary animal rights movement with
his 1975 book, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals.
Although some in the animal rights community try to distance themselves from
Singer, his ideas have generally been embraced by mainstream animal rights groups
(for example, the copy of Animal Liberation I own was reprinted in cooperation
with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals which advertises itself on
the cover and end pages).

Singer was recently offered The Ira W. DeCamp Professorship of Bioethics at
Princeton University’s Center for Human Values, which led the Wall Street
Journal
to attack Singer and Princeton in a September 25 editorial by Naomi
Schaefer and in an unsigned October 2 opinion piece in the Journal’s
weekend section.

Why the criticism? Because Singer has fulfilled one of the main predictions
made by those opposed to animal rights; he regularly uses the implications of
his pro-animal rights arguments to grossly devalue human life. Singer’s
philosophy is based on utilitarianism, meaning he believes morality consists
of minimizing suffering and maximizing pleasure or happiness. Unlike most utilitarians
he argues that animal suffering and happiness are also morally relevant. In
Animal Liberation, he argued that humans should abandon the use of animals
for food and medical experiments in order to minimize suffering. In doing so
Singer explicitly equated the suffering or happiness of non-humans such as chimpanzees
with humans who are mentally impaired in some way, such as very young children
or the mentally retarded.

But aside from simply not actively harming others, there is another way to
minimize suffering from the point of view of a utilitarian – namely by
killing beings that are suffering and likely to continue such suffering indefinitely.
After all, dead things (whether human or non-human) don’t suffer. Most
utilitarians twist themselves into knots to avoid the harsh conclusion that
murder is sometimes the moral thing to do. But not Singer. He’s more than
happy to see human beings living “miserable lives” killed to minimize
the overall level of suffering.

Schaefer quoted from Singer’s book, Practical Ethics, in which Singer
argued that abortion is morally permissible because “the life of a fetus
is of no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level
of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc., and that
since no fetus is a person no fetus has the same claim to life as a person.”
A pretty standard pro-choice argument, but Singer insists on taking his thinking
to what he believes is its logical conclusion, continuing, “Now it must
be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the
fetus.” As Schaefer sums up this bizarre passage, Singer agrees with some
antiabortion activists that abortion is like infanticide.

The main difference being that Singer approves of infanticide. Singer
has written that “killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to
killing a person.” And Singer doesn’t restrict his killing impulses
to just severely retarded and disabled infants. He also argues, for example,
that it is morally permissible to kill a hemophiliac infant if by doing so it
would improve the prospects of a non-hemophiliac infant.

Singer makes similar arguments about forcible euthanasia. Many people in the
United States and elsewhere support the right of individuals who are terminally
ill to voluntarily end their lives, but Singer goes way beyond this. He favors
killing people who have a low “quality of life” even when those people
would prefer to live — i.e. Singer endorses murder. Singer tries to pass off
this astounding conclusion in pseudo-intellectual drivel, writing that society
“would have to accept in some cases that it would be right to kill a person
who does not choose to die on the grounds that the person will otherwise lead
a miserable life.”

Presumably it would be Singer and others like him who would get to decide what
qualifies as a “miserable life” (may I suggest, just to get priority
on the idea, that someone who opposes medical research that could lead to a
cure for terminal illness, while simultaneously arguing it is okay to murder
those who suffer from such diseases certainly qualifies as leading a miserable
life?)

Call It Corruption

      With the repercussions of the Asian financial
crisis now spreading to Latin America and now beginning to be felt in
the United States, American taxpayers are being asked to make a sucker’s
bet. Just give the International Monetary Fund $18 billion, so the Clinton
administration says, and this global financial crisis will simply disappear
with the wave of a magic wand and plenty of austerity measures for the
developing world.

       But doesn’t the United States,
along and other nations, give billions of dollars to the IMF and the World
Bank to prevent this sort of crisis from happening in the first place?
What are the IMF and the World Bank doing with all that money anyway?
Where does it go?

       It goes to some of the most corrupt
governments in the world. A recent report by Transparency International
tells much of the story; its 1998 Corruption Perceptions Index tracked
the relative corruption of nations around the world based on how investors,
risk analysts and public opinion evaluated the countries.

       And what do you know, the two nations
that received the most aid from the IMF, Russia and Indonesia, also scored
as two of the most corrupt nations in the world. Russia came in at 76th
and Indonesia at 80th out of 85 countries that were considered at least
moderately corrupt. For those keeping score, the West Africa nation of
Cameroon came in dead last as the most corrupt nation in the world.

       But the World Bank and IMF tend
to turn a blind eye toward corruption – occasionally to the point
of denying it exists even when their own reports document massive corruption.
It recently came out, for example, that the World Bank buried an internal
report citing Indonesian corruption at the same time its officials were
publicly denying accusations that officials in that country were skimming
large sums of money from World Bank projects.

       That August 1997 report concluded
that up to 20% of money the World Bank gave to Indonesia for various projects
was skimmed by Indonesia’s political class. But what was its official
line at the time? In July 1997, Jean Michel Severino, World Bank vice
president for East Asia, responded to allegations of Indonesian corruption
by saying, “We know exactly where our money is going. We do not tolerate
corruption in our programs.”

       Is this a case of the blind leading
the corrupt?

       So after these corrupt governments
have skimmed and diverted funds, and in the process driven their national
economies into the ground, what are taxpayers expected to do — why let
the IMF and World Bank give them even more funds as a reward. Of course
in return the IMF and World Bank will ask for “reforms” such
as raising taxes on the poor to pay for the largesse of the political
class.

       In July, House Majority Leader Richard
Armey addressed an audience on the proposed IMF funding saying, “We’re
being asked to shell out $18 billion of your money for a pig in a poke.”
It’s about time the U.S. put at an end to its participation in this ongoing
fraud.

When Is the Federal Reserve Going to Bail Out My Gambling Debts?

       Living in Michigan means the yearly
spectacle of watching the Detroit Lions consistently perform as one of
the worst teams in the National Football League. But even, though they’ve
only won a single game this year, this should not stop you from betting
your life savings on the Lions to win the Super Bowl. Sure, it’s
a long shot, but if you win the returns will be huge and if you lose,
you can always count on the Federal Reserve arranging a bailout to prevent
you from going under.

       Not likely to happen? Tell that
to the investors of Long-Term Capital Management who got the Feds to help
them organize a bailout simply because its managers made such horribly
stupid decisions with is $80 billion portfolio that the Fed insisted LTCM
couldn’t be allowed to fail.

       LTCM is a hedge fund — banks and
brokerage firms, along with some rich individuals, gave LTCM’s managers
$80 billion to invest in extremely risky arbitrage schemes — the hedge
fund, in effect, bet billions of dollars by buying extremely risky lots
of Russian bonds. When the Russian economy tanked and Russia defaulted
on the bonds, LTCM was on the verge of collapsing.

       The Federal Reserve stepped in to
arrange a bailout of the banks and investors who potentially faced write-offs
of $10 billion and upwards. Although all of the funding for the bailout
was put up by private institutions, the Federal Reserve was instrumental
in brokering the deal. Don’t count on similar help if you get into
trouble gambling your money – this sort of intervention is reserved
for the ultra-rich.

      The whole series of events that put
LTCM on the verge of failure only to be rescued by the Federal Reserve
reveals the perverse effects of moral hazard, when government encourages
people and institutions to take on enormous risks with the belief that
if they fail the government will come to their rescue. LTCM bought Russian
bonds in part because its managers believed the IMF would save Russia
from its own economic mismanagement – after all, the IMF has repeatedly
bailed out nations who created their own economic hell.

       In turn, many of the banks investing
in LTCM have federally guaranteed deposit insurance, meaning even should
they fail due to their risky investments, the taxpayers would ultimately
bail them out just as the taxpayers had to bail out the Savings and Loans
industry for its mistakes.

       Of course the usual suspects immediately
discerned what the real problem was — not enough government regulation
of hedge funds. Hedge fund managers, of course, oppose any new regulations,
but they’ll gleefully take the government-brokered bailout, thank you
very much. Hey, if rich people, banks and others want to place their bets
on the economic equivalent of the Detroit Lions to win it all, more power
to them; but the government should get out of the business of riding to
the rescue of those who voluntarily agree to accept such risks.