SPEAKER: I'd like to talk to you a little bit about animal rights. There is obviously a collection of philosophers who have put together some thoughts on animal rights. Many of them are coming out of a philosophical framework. I am certainly not a philosopher by training. But I want to make a few comments and put a little balance and perspective on it.
One of the concepts that it is part of the animal rights movement is the idea that all animals, just as we treat humans, are individuals, and they all have essentially equal rights. What this amounts to in a theoretical framework is that all animals should be treated equally, and that if one had to make a decision as to which animal to save, and you had a choice between a giant panda, a cow, and a frog, in theory, you'd draw lots and take whichever one-- save whichever one wins on the lottery.
Obviously, for most of us, that's not an acceptable philosophy. And as one of the folks who reviewed the slides that I'm using for this talk that represented the People for the Ethical Treatment of animals, he did point out that, in fact, in practical terms, there is not this extreme equality of consideration, but, in fact, that most of the animal rights organizations, and in practical terms, do make these decisions, and also wants to specify that, in fact, humans really do come ahead-- that we're talking about some rights, it's not the same collection of rights as human beings.
So in fairness to those folks who I don't particularly personally agree with, there is this distinction that rights doesn't mean the full set of rights because obviously one of the key differences is that animals clearly don't have the responsibilities that come with most humans. And, in fact, we obviously treat minors differently than adults because of this question of ability to take responsibility for one's actions.
So I think, again in fairness to the animal rights folks, there are distinctions that are made and to summarize them unfairly as just simply stating that people and animals are identical is probably unfair. But again, it is also probably appropriate to say that for many of us who believe that humans are different than animals and have much more rights and responsibilities that the dealing of animal welfare is a human responsibility. And it is up to us as humans to treat animals well on a basis of human behavior.
The other point I want to make in this context is to quote Jeremy Bentham. And the slides will have the actual quote, which I'll summarize, which is that, in fact, the nature of beings killed in the wild, when animals are hunted, when animals are naturally chased by predator animals-- and again, most of our domestic animals are prey animals; they are used to being the subject of attack-- and the fact is that if you watch any of the nature channels on television, you can see that these animals are really hurting.
And I mean this is not the way to die. And in fact, one could even argue a little bit, as I said, in terms of the sport of hunting being a lot more potentially causing cruelty at the time of death than we do with organized slaughter.
Again, that is no excuse for us not doing the best for the animals when they are alive. It is not an excuse for us not treating them well at the time of slaughter. But again, it's important to put it into perspective that from their point of view, we are doing a much better job of treating them well in our commercial production than often is the case and the wild.
The next topic I'd like to cover is the population perspective. One of my major concerns is the fact that we have 6 billion people on this planet Earth. And the demographics-type scientists, the folks who follow this, are telling us that we're going up to 9 and 1/2 billion, if we're lucky, in the next 50 years. And by "if we're lucky," I mean that there is some hope if we can take some of the developing countries in the world and get their economies and their social structures in some kind of order that that number may actually level off at 9 and 1/2 billion people.
One of the challenges in dealing with this population perspective is the way we think about farming. Traditionally, we think about what I call the Old McDonald's farm, which is a small farm raising many different animals and plants, feeding the family and maybe a few other people.
But if we're going to have 9 and 1/2 billion people on the planet-- and, of course, the planet Earth is a closed planet, and so whatever we use, we've got to think about very carefully, and it even more complicated with some of the modern issues like global warming coming in-- we have to think about land usage. And farming uses land, but people use land.
And so one of the benefits of indoor animal agriculture is that we can use our land more efficiently to grow things. And so we want to grow things, and we can grow animals indoors, or in confinement, or in fairly in tents, and use land that is not necessarily land that would be used for growing crops. So that's the first piece of thinking about this perspective of keeping the land available and moving animals into even possibly urban areas.
One of my dreams, at times, is the question of minimizing what we're now calling food miles. How far does our food travel? That's part of the concepts of sustainability that we're beginning to hear, in that agriculture and other activities need to be sustainable, meaning that we can do them over and over again, year after year, to provide, in our case, food and fiber for people, on and on.
And one of my crazier ideas is the question of going back into the urban area and putting animals in the housing units. This has the advantage that the body heat that the animals are producing might even be usable in other ways of heating. And, in fact, the manure that they produce can be used as either a fertilizer, which is its traditional usage.
But we're also learning that we can over time use manure as a resource for fuel. And there's now even talk about using manure for bio diesel. So again, as we think about trying to maximize the population perspective, again animal agriculture shows up with a number of benefits.
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Animal welfare is a controversial topic in modern agriculture. Join Joe Regenstein as he examines the ethical issues involved with the production of food and fiber in modern agriculture.
This video is part 4 of 9 in the Animal Welfare series.