What can the butterfly teach us?
“Social ecology is an appeal not only for moral regeneration but also, and above all, for social reconstruction along ecological lines.” – Murray Bookchin
Social ecology seeks to philosophically fuse the natural world (first nature) with that of human society (second nature), saturating the latter in the roots of the former. By appealing for moral regeneration, social ecology strives to socially reconstruct present-day society along ecological lines.
Society is in need of identifying and replacing forms of social domination associated with our economic system. Social ecology presents such a case. It claims that the environmental crisis is a result of the hierarchical organization of power and the authoritarian mentality rooted in the structures of our society. The Western ideology of dominating the natural world arises from these social relationships. As Bookchin argues, if we are to change human society, our relationship with the rest of nature will inevitably become transformed.
With respect to animal rights, the welfarist reform differs in kind, not degree, from the abolitionist reform. The former seeks quantitative measures, arguing degree of exploitation. The latter, the abolitionist reform, seeks qualitative measures, arguing moral inconsistencies. Francione writes: “We have historically justified our exploitation of nonhumans on the ground that there is a qualitative distinction between the minds of humans and other animals.”
The following briefly describes Professor Francione’s Theory of Animal Rights, in his words. For a thorough explanation of Francione’s abolitionist theory of animal rights, visit his website, Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach.
“We ought to abolish animal exploitation and not seek merely to regulate it.”
“Our only justification for the pain, suffering, and death inflicted on these billions of nonhumans is that we enjoy the taste of meat and dairy products. And if we really do take seriously that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on nonhumans, our enjoyment in eating animal products cannot be a morally acceptable justification. Our only use of animals that is not transparently trivial is the use of animals in experiments intended to find cures for serious human illnesses. But even in this context, there are serious questions about the necessity of animal use. Because of the biological differences between humans and other animals, there is always a problem extrapolating the results of animal experiments to humans. The data produced by animal use are often unreliable. For example, results from toxicity tests using animals can vary dramatically depending on the method that is used. Considerable empirical evidence indicates that, in many instances, reliance on animal models in experiments has actually been counterproductive. For example, the failure to create an animal model of lung cancer led researchers to ignore evidence of a strong correlation of smoking and lung cancer in humans.”
“We kill billions of nonhumans every year for reasons that cannot plausibly be considered as “necessary” even though we maintain that we accept that it is wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering on animals. When it comes to other animals, we humans exhibit what can best be described as moral schizophrenia. We say one thing about how animals should be treated, and we turn right around and do another.”
“If we recognized that all sentient beings had a basic, moral right not to be treated as property and that we had a moral duty to stop treating sentient beings as resources, we would stop bringing domestic animals into existence for our use. Recognizing “animal rights” does not mean letting all domestic animals run free in the streets. It means caring for those whom we have caused to come into existence. And not bringing anymore into existence to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experiments. If we took the interests of animals seriously, we would stop bringing domestic animals into existence. There is no reason-other than our pleasure, amusement, or convenience-to eat animal meat or dairy, wear animals, hunt animals, or use animals in entertainment.”
An abolitionist and a welfarist: Professor Francione and Erik Marcus debate.
Note: All thoughts in quotations are those of Gary L. Francione.
Fishing is not in keeping with the subject-of-a-life philosophy (Regan) you, the reader, are most likely familiar with. Fish, like other sentient beings, are an end in themselves and thus not a means to be exploited. They, like humans, possess inherent value. The abolitionist would argue that one (a human being) is never justified in performing an act such as this (among other things, the usually violent removal of a sentient being from its catered oxygenated environment and the subsequent allowance of maximum pain via suffocation upon removal, what we call fishing), no matter the circumstance. Since I indeed subscribe to this philosophy, I therefore think that fishing and ethical discussion have a qualitative difference and not a quantitative one (differs in kind, not degree). Ethicality is thus nonexistent when one engages in the act of fishing. We have seen this avenue of thinking applied to free-range (nonbattery-cage) chickens, pastured cows and the like. These attempts to bring ethics into the discussion are simply welfarist-based; concern is rooted in treatment, not in the reason as to why this sort of thing exists in the first place. Slavery was/is a perfect example: By philosophical standards, was slavery ever justifiable? Of course not.
As Gary Francione, Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, contends, “Many heinous practices and traditions, including slavery and sexism, have been justified by appeals to arguments that assume that certain people are naturally superior and others are naturally inferior.” It seems as though ethics is abandoned, or severely wounded (enter the welfarist), when the subject of our thought/action is nonhuman. Fishing is exploitative and immoral at its very root and thus is deemed unacceptable.
Fish protein clogs the arteries and is damaging to both kidneys and bone. 15 to 30 % of fish fat is saturated fat, which is particularly problematic for our species. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids can be collected from plants (where fish obtain it from). Humans require 0.5 to 2 g per day, which can easily be obtained from plant foods. In our toxic food environment, fish is labelled as a healthy item but in reality, it is just healthier than a cheeseburger. Some fish have more cholesterol per calorie than beef. Our waters have become our sewer systems and fish are now loaded with environmental contaminants. Even wild Alaskan salmon have detectable levels of mercury. People who eat the most fish (Greenlanders and Eskimos) have a low life expectancy and high rates of osteoporosis (highest levels on the planet). Does this sound like a food intended for human beings to subsist on? I think not.
Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart are the authors of Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), which has served as a personal inspiration ever since a close friend of mine introduced me to it in the first quarter of 2007.
“The book itself is a polymer. It is not a tree. With so much polymer, what we really need is technical nutrition and to use something as elegant as a tree. Imagine this design challenge: Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, mixes complex sugars in food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates… why don’t we knock that down and write on it.” – William McDonough
Aldo Leopold (1887 – 1948), life-long fisherman and hunter, was employed by the U.S. Forest Service before becoming the first professor of Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin. He died from acute myocardial infarction at the age of 61.
Leopold’s Community Concept
“…the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).”
“Man, he is constantly growing and when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas
or way of doing things, that is when he stops growing.”
– Bruce Lee
Photo: “Nurture the Spirit” by Michelle Boey
“We all follow an unknown path and an uncharted stream, and it takes great courage to move ahead with our eyes and our hearts open. When we look with deep compassion, we may find it necessary to change our life again and again, to let go of unwise parts of ourselves or to extend our compassion in new ways to the world around us.”
– Jack Kornfield