Tag Archives: animal welfare

What are animals?

Though this question seems to be trivial, but in fact it is not. And if we want to introduce animal welfare legislation, we need to establish what organisms are animals.

In modern taxonomy animals (Animalia) are known as Metazoa. Animals are multicellular eukaryotes (i.e. animal cells have a nucleus), are heterotrophic (i.e. they don’t do photosynthesis, and chemical energy in the form of organic molecules to survive), and their cells don’t have a rigid cell walls (unlike plants, fungi and bacteria).

Taxonomists have divided the animal kingdom in three main groups: Eumetazoa, Mesozoa and Parazoa. The last subkingdom consists of multicellular animals who (unlike other animals) do not have tissues or organs. Currently only sponges belong to the Parazoans. The second group, Mesozoa, contains only worm-like parasites, and its actual status is subject of scientific dispute.

The first subkingdom, Eumetazoa, is by far the most interesting one, since it contains all other animals. Eumetazoans are animals with differentiated tissues and organs. Most aminals of this group of a symmetric body to a certain degree. Since only Eumetazoans are known to have nerve systems, and hence capable of suffering, it might be an idea to restrict animal welfare legislation to Eumetazoans rather to all Metazoans.

Many people have learned at school that life is divided into four kingdoms: bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Only this system is now outdated due to new scientific (genetic!) research. There are two superkingdoms: Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes. The former is divided into Bacteria and Archaea. The latter is divided into: Unikonta and Bikonta. The latter contains plants, algae and similar organisms. Unikonta contains amoebozoa and opisthokonts.

Opisthokonts are further divided into main groups: Holomycota (includes among others fungi) and Halozoa. The latter group is then further divided into Mesomycetoea and Filozoa. Filozoans are divided into Filasterea, Choanoflagellata and Animalia. Choanoflagellata are a group of unicellular organisms, and they are the closest relatives of animals (most recent common ancestor living about 600 million years ago).

In vitro leather

We have discussed in vitro meat several times at this site, mainly as an animal-friendly and suitable supply of meat for space settlers. The idea of in vitro meat is simple: take some muscle cells from an animal and put that in lab culture.

Andras Forgacs has realized that you do the same thing with skin tissue, and hence culture leather in the lab without killing animals. In the video below, Forgacs explains that cultured leather has not only the same qualities as “natural” leather, but actually one would create leather of superior quality. This because one has more control on conditions in which the leather is grown.

Leather has a certain appeal, and though I don’t buy leather for ethical reasons, I like this material. So do many vegetarians and vegans, so they do much efforts to obtain accurate imitation leather (if I need to buy new shoes, I have to take a one-hour train trip to Amsterdam to buy shoes at a special vegan shoe shop).

Cultured leather would be great for those who like both animals and leather products. Further it would prevent the slightly dystopian future I described in this story I wrote two years ago about a world were cattle farming has been out phased to make room for growing energy crops.

Barnstövlar,_kyrrassiärmodell_-_Livrustkammaren_-_76387.tif

An alternative for hunting

Due to our commitment to animal welfare, we oppose recreational hunting, e.g. the killing of wild animals for mere fun. In this post we advocate an animal-friendly alternative for those who like to hunt: sporting clays.

Sporting clays is a type of clay pigeon shooting. A clay pigeon is an object made of, not surprisingly, clay. In clay pigeon shooting a clay pigeon is launched into the air by a machine (called “trap”), and then shooters will attempt to hit the clay projectile. In most disciplines of clay pigeon shooting, the shooters stay at one place. Though most projectiles are intended to “fly” through the air, there are projectiles which are designed over the ground, known as “rabbits”.

With sporting clays several traps are spread over a terrain, usually a natural landscape. Shooters will walk around the terrain, and meanwhile clay pigeons are launched. In order to simulate real hunting experience as much as possible, the shooters will not know in advance when and from which trap a projectile will be launched or what type of projectile will be used. Consequently targets are launched at different angles, speeds and distances.

For safety reasons sporting clays ranges in space settlements will be enclosed, and access will be controlled. Only so many people can use the range simultaneously, otherwise there is a too great risk at accidents. Further shooters are not required to bring their own guns, they will able to rent guns at the range. Alternatively they can use laser guns.

Animal welfare

Humanism is about behaving like the best of civilised, thoughtful, responsible, considerate moral agents. We talk about being humane towards animals; that is, acting with the consideration and kindness that arise from conscious interest in their welfare.

A. C. Grayling in The God Argument p. 196.

As a humanist organization, Republic of Lagrangia puts great importance to animal welfare. Space colonization should not only be used to found a better society for humans, but the creation of a new society should also an opportunity to raise animal welfare to a higher level.

Here on Earth proposals aimed at the improvement of animal welfare, are too often resisted by established interests. In space, however, such interests do not exist, at least not yet. This enables us to introduce the best animal welfare legislation, we have to forge the iron when it’s still hot.

The first measure we should take, is the prohibition of intensive animal farming. Not only is intensive animal farming bad for animal welfare, it also constitutes a serious threat to animal health. Diseases in livestock can, when they jump to humans, cause pandemics. Instead space settlements should promote vegetarianism and encourage developments like in vitro meat.

A second measure is to ban the commercial exploitation of animals in the entertainment industry. No wild animals in circuses, no bull fighting and related blood sports, and no animal racing. Rather than betting on horses or dogs, people should bet on the 400m hurdling.

The third issue we have to consider is animal testing. Unlike the previous two topics, simple prohibition is here problematic. On one hand we do not want to inflict suffering on animals, but on the other hand we want to know whether the stuff we use is safe. This does not mean, however, we can’t and shouldn’t take steps to address this issue as well.

We should limit animal testing to those cases, in which the necessity of these experiments can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Next we should encourage research to reliable alternatives for animal testing. New scientific developments suggest that most, if not all, experiments on animals could be eliminated in the near future.

If we will succeed in eliminating animal testing without compromising scientific and medical progress, we have made an important step in the development of civilization.

The Cheering of the Bulls

Bull fighting is barbaric and should be prohibited, and not only in space settlements. But for some reason people have a unsatisfiable need for “gruesome” entertainment, hence a proposal for a totally animal friendly alternative for bull fighting.

First like traditional bull fighting, this game is performed in an arena. Second we substitute real bulls with two humans in a realistic bull costume (including sharp horns), alternatively we could remote-controlled animatrons (but my preference is the first option). Third we need a human who fights the “bulls”, this person is referred to as the “coward”. Fourth within the arena there’s a field with a marked line, called the “ring”.

The rules are quite simple. First, the coward enters the arena and will stand at the midpoint, then (s)he will greet the audience. Meanwhile the coward is booed and insulted for coward by the audience. Subsequently two “bulls” enter the arena, and now the audience is cheering for the “bulls”.

The task for the “bulls” is plain and simple: pushing the coward outside the ring, for each time they manage to push him outside the ring they will receive a point. But also the coward can earn points by leaping over the “bulls”, each time he succeeds in leaping over a “bull”, the coward receives a point. The team which has the most points after fifteen minutes, wins the game.

To make this game even more exciting, each time the “bulls” earn a point the audience will cheer, but every time the coward earns one they will boo him.

 

A proposal for the animal friendly production of eggs

Recently the first hamburger made of in vitro meat got much attention, not in the last place because Google founder Sergey Brin was revealed as the primary funder of this project. Much of the appeal of in vitro meat, is because this development would allow us to reconcile our desire to consume meat with our commitment to animal welfare. In vitro meat eliminates the need to kill animals, and it also reduce the number of livestock needed to meet the demand for meat.

But meat is not the only popular food obtained from animals. Eggs and dairy are other much consumed animal products. Even if by switching to in vitro meat will reduce the number of livestock held for meat, a large number is still required to produce milk and eggs.

And not only the number of animals needed is a problem from the perspective of animal welfare, but also the issue of young male animals. Since the latter are mostly valueless for dairy and egg industry, they are usually killed soon after their birth. But the male young account for half of the new-born animals.

In case for dairy the solution is quite simple, instead of using animal milk we could switch to plant milk. To “improve” plant milk we could genetically engineer plants to produce animal proteins such as casein. From plant milk one could produce all kind of dairy products such yoghurt or ice cream. I once read an article about extracting proteins directly from grass, which could be used for subsequent human consumption.

Eggs seem to be more difficult to replace, but like meat most consumption of eggs is in processed food. Eggs are used as binding or raising agents in many food products. Vegans and other people who do not consume eggs, have found several substitutes for eggs for these purposes, such as flax-seed and starch flour. By using these substitutes, the number of animals used for the production of eggs can be reduced.

But even if we are able to replace eggs in processed food products, there is still the “direct” consumption of eggs. The question is of course, if we can culture meat in a lab, can we cannot do the same thing with eggs? After all, the eggs we consume are nothing else than big cells. In vitro meat is produced by growing stem cells and turning those into muscle tissue. And as we have discussed here and here, stem cells can be turned into egg cells.

Once we have “artificial” (chicken) egg cell, we have still no (chicken) eggs. The challenge is now to simulate the processes which turn an egg cell into an egg in the laboratory. First we have to grow the egg, by feeding it nutrients. And subsequently, we have to give the grown egg a scale. But if this technology can be developed, we have a method to produce eggs for human consumption in a truly animal friendly way.

See also

Space colonization and vegetarianism – this post discusses the importance of vegetarian diets in space settlements.

Space colonization and in vitro meat – this post discusses the prospects of in vitro meat for space colonists.

Could in vitro meat save the whales?

Animal welfare is an important issue for Republic of Langrangia. How we treat our fellow living beings, is the litmus test of our humanity. One important issue is whaling. During the 20th century commercial whalers almost exterminated many whale species. Until in 1986 the International Whaling Commission put a moratorium on whaling.

Since then there are two camps: one side is for a permanent ban on whaling, arguing that the population of whales is still too small. The other side argues that some species have recovered enough to re-allow limited whaling. Since cetaceans are intelligent animals, we oppose the killing of these animals.

In-vitro meat is a recent scientific breakthrough, which allows people to produce meat in an animal and environmental friendly way. For this method of meat production there’s no need to kill animals, instead stem cells are taken from the animal through a biopsy. One stem cell can, according to the scientists involved, produce up to 10,000 kg of meat, which is in the order of the size of a medium-sized whale.

For research scientists perform regularly biopsies on living whales, and without killing them. Therefore whalers of the future shouldn’t have any trouble with obtaining whale stem cells for the production of in-vitro whale meat.

This approach would solve many issues: first, the IWC can prohibit the killing of whales for ever. Secondly, whalers do not lose their jobs, since they are still needed to collect tissue samples from whales. And consumers can buy whale meat with the knowledge that no whale has been killed and hence that whales will not be hunted to extinction again.

 

Google co-founders funds in vitro meat

Today it was made public that Google co-founder Sergey Bergin has been the mystery backer of Dutch scientist Mark Post’s project to create the world first lab grown hamburger. On this blog we have discussed to importance of lab-grown or in vitro meat before. As we have discussed in another post:

The main reason why Musk might want a vegetarian-only colony, is that meat is a very inefficient method of producing food. For producing 1kg of beef you need 10kg of vegetable food for cattle. Especially in the first Space settlements this will be an important factor. After all, the early space habitats will be small and agricultural land will limited. Since humans can perfectly live on a vegetarian diet, it will be an easy choice for Space governments to ban the raising of livestock for food.

It will be an easy choice, because for every cow ten people can be fed. So by banning livestock Space settlements can sustain a population up to ten times larger. Since these extra people will have a greater economic value than livestock, Space communities can grow faster to full economic independence from Earth.

As we can see in the article on BBC News: in vitro meat will require only 55% percent of the energy used by, emits only 4% of the greenhouse gas emission of, and only 1% of the land occupied by traditional animal farming. Especially the last reduction, is important for early space settlers. By switching to in vitro meat, space settlers can save 99% of their land, which can be used for more important applications.

Although at this moment only meatloaf can be produced by this method, we have to consider that most meat consumption consists of processed meat, such as hot-dogs, hamburgers, pizzas and chicken-nuggets. And in vitro meat is especially useful for producing such meat products.

Since the method developed by Prof Post, allow 10,000 kilogram of meat to be produced from one single stem cell, it is no longer necessary to kill animals. The needed stem cells can extracted from living animals through a biopsy, a standard medical procedure. Because stem cells can easily be frozen, there is no need for importing livestock to space settlements from Earth. However, in the more distant future it would be advisable to have a small herd of donor animals, for reasons of food security.

Incest and Bestiality are NOT victimless crimes

Introduction

Republic of Lagrangia endorses the version of classical liberalism as have been described in On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

The most important concept in this work is the so-called harm principle. What is this principle? The harm principle basically states that individual liberty should only be limited in order to prevent harming of others. In other words: a certain behaviour can only be prohibited by the government is such behaviour is harmful to others. This also means that the law should not make acts of self harm illegal. If some one chooses to harm himself without harming others, then we should not consider such person as a criminal.

Related to the harm principle is the concept of victimless crimes. These are crimes which do not have a victim. However, what is a victim? Some crimes such as murder, rape and theft, have clearly identifiable victims. But there are crimes in which the victims are less clear. An example is environmental pollution, which does harm person by destroying our environment. Only in case of environmental pollution it is often not clear who exactly has been harmed. Some wingnuts claim for these reason environmental pollution is a victimless crime, of course this is pure bullshit.

However, the harm principle does not state that some one has to be harmed intentionally by some act. If it is known that a certain act is harmful for some one, then this would be sufficient reason for prohibiting such act (or at least to regulate such behaviour).

Some people would argue that incest between mutually consenting adults is not a victimless crime. And people such as David Brink, suggest that bestiality is a victimless crime. In both cases, people argue that no one is harmed by such acts. In this post I will explain why neither incest nor bestiality is a victimless crime.

Incest

With incest we mean here: sexual intercourse between two consenting adults who are close relatives of each other. This definition excludes sexual relations between adults and minors and rape of a relative. These latter two act consist two separate crimes, since they are generally not considered as victimless.

One might argue that if two (or more) person consent to have sexual intercourse with each other, then there is no harm. In most cases, this would indeed be true. However, if two closely related persons have sex we have to take into account the children who might result from this act. And in case of two close relative having intercourse we have to deal with the risks of inbreeding.

It is a widely known fact that children of parent who are close relatives, have a greater change of having genetic disorders. Many governments are persuading pregnant women not to smoke or drink alcohol, because of the potential harm for their unborn children. Following this logic, we should also discourage close relatives to have sex with each other, in order to prevent harm to the children who might be conceived during an incestuous affair.

Inbreeding becomes even more serious when the children of closely related parents would have in their turn children with their relatives. For each generation that a family practices incest the incidence of genetic disorders will increase. And these disorders include very serious illnesses. There is incest certainly not a victimless crime.

Bestiality

Bestiality is when a human has sexual intercourse with a non-human animal. This behaviour is harmful in several ways.

First, we have to consider the harm done to the animal. According to Mill’s teacher Jeremy Bentham animals should have moral relevance because they can suffer, just as humans. Therefore animals are also covered by the harm principle. Although harming an animal might be justified in certain extraordinary circumstances, we absolute do not consider trying satisfying some (perverse) sexual urges as one of those.

Whether an animal will suffer of sexual intercourse with a human, depends on the physiology of the particular animal. However, even if an animal is not physically injured, an animal might suffer psychological damage from a unconsensual act.

A second reason why bestiality should be illegal is the problem of diseases which can be transferred from one species to another. By having intercourse with animal a human being might be infected by some disease. If such person subsequently has intercourse with a human, (s)he might infect other people. A new, potentially epidemic, infectious disease has been born. Or the zoosexual might infect other animals.

Scientists believe that HIV has been transmitted from apes to humans at some point in last century. We do not want just another of such disease. Therefore bestiality is not a victimless crime.

See also:

Space colonization and vegetarianism