Genetic engineering and animal welfare

mouse_in_a_jarThrough genetic engineering (GE), animals are under threat of a new way of exploiting them. Most people don’t know it, but biotechnology companies and scientists us genetic engineering on farm animals to achieve a higher productivity level (a.o. meat, wool, milk), modify characteristic traits (a.o. apathetic pigs, faster growth rates) and to improve resistance to deseases. Genetic engineering i also applied to laboratory animals to make them more “useful” for animal testing and experimental purposes.

Why is this unethical?

Scientists want to be able to transmit specific traits of agricultural products beyond the natural boundaries of species (like spider genes into goats and human genes into pigs) and animals bred by traditional breeding do not, in general, have to put up with cruel and deliberately or accidentally induced deformities and ongoing bodily malfunctions (T. Poole, Animals, Alternatives and Ethics, Elsevier, 1997. p277-282.)

Pigs, sheep, cows and chickens have already been genetically modified in attempts to increase their production of milk and meat beyond the limits their bodies can bear without damage. Through a process called gene pharming, they have also been engineered to secrete therapeutic protein products for human medicine.

Apart from the immense suffering they cause to animals, these technologies are unrivalled, ridiculously costly and inefficient, and, most importantly, unsafe to both animals and humans. Spreading the truth will help to end this needless suffering. Personally, I would call it a moral duty to act against this violation of life – especially so for people who care about animals. If this insidious technology isn’t stopped now, it will, like the atomic bomb, become a permanent shadow over our world. We cannot treat animals like this.

 

 

 

 

 

Human ranking on the food chain

Like most people, I need others to survive. I need grocery stores for my food, companies to provide me of gas and electricity, cops with guns to protect me from the bad guys and larger animals. The list goes on. I don’t have the means to grow crops and if my electricity and gas would be cut off, I would be completely shut out from technology. So let’s say I am like most people and a world catastrophe takes place and eliminates all forms of technology including papers or books to gather information from. And by some weird reason our weapons also wouldn’t work. In this scenario…

What would become of mankind? Will we still be on top of the food chain? Humans have the idea we belong on top of the food chain. Whether it is to justify how we treat other species or to just justify a carnivorous diet and lifestyle. But are we on top of the food chain? According to the trophic scale (calculated level on the food scale) we are just a 2,2 amongst pigs and cows! The samen animals we slaughter and abuse to feed ourselves. The only reason we are not prey is because of our ability to reason and our technology.

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How do we know we are a 2,2 and below the range of fish? French researchers calculated the human tropic level by using data from the U.N. Food an Agricultural Organization. The findings were published in 2013 in the, Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.

The scale is based on human diet, but in my point of view it shows we are not the stronger species. To be on top of the food chain we would have to eat the meat of the animals on the higher ranks and no way on earth are we stronger than a lion or polar bear. Imagine what I said at the beginning, without technology we would be as frightened as the pigs and cows or any animal we humans consume.

Quit hating on Trump

It’s quite interesting to see how those who oppose Trump use the same tactics they accuse him of using. Personal attacks, character assassination, stating ‘facts’ without proof (Tump=Hitler) and when asked for proof for such statements resorting to yet more personal attacks, the wholesale demonization of all those who do not agree with their own ‘moral standpoints’. Bullying and just being a dick seem to have become quite accepted forms of political debate on both sides of the divide. The Trump side doesn’t seem to care much about such accusations whilst the anti-Trump side seems to think these tactics are legitimized by a pressing social and moral need. Honestly, the latter scares me more than the first. It derives from a mentality that built places where you ‘reeducate’ people.

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Am I a vegan out of egoism or altruism?

174pigMr. Lincoln once remarked to a fellow- passenger on the old-time mud-wagon coach, on the corduroy road which antedated railroads, that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good or evil. His fellow-passenger was antagonizing his position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge, and the mud-wagon was shaking like a sucker with chills, they espied an old, razor-back sow on the bank of the slough, making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were unable to get out and in danger of drowning. As the old coach began
to climb the hillside Mr. Lincoln called out: “Driver, can’t you stop just a moment?’ The driver replied, “If the other feller don’t object.” The “other feller”—who was no less a personage than, at that time, “Col.” E. D. Baker, the gallant general who gave his life in defense of old glory at Ball’s Bluff—did not “object,” when Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back to the slough and began to lift the little pigs out of the mud and water and place them on the bank. When he returned Col. Baker remarked: “Now, Abe, where does selfishness come in in this little episode?” “Why, bless your soul, Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I would have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind don’t you see?” (Best Lincoln Stories Tersely Told by J. E. Gallaher, Pub. in 1898)

I read this story for the first time when I was a law student. Just recently I had to think of Abe’s story, because I have been asking myself a question that keeps lingering my mind. Am I a vegan to get peace of mind? If I would consume an animal product I would feel guilty, therefore I consume only plantbased products. Am I a vegan out of egoism or altruism?

According to Psychological Egoism an altruistic action produces a sense of self-satisfaction. People feel good about themselves when they act unselfishly. People sometimes act altruistically, but when we look closer we will find that there is an underlying motive. And then you will find that the unselfish behavior was to benefit the person who did it.

Reading Lincoln’s story it might be true that he saved the pigs for his own peace of mind, but this doesn’t mean there were no benevolent motives as well. The benevolent motives may have been greater and this is where I draw the comparison with the altruistic nature of veganism. If I see an abandoned baby near the dumpster, my desire to help the baby will be even greater than the desire to avoid a guilty concience. I might even poke myself accidently on a dirty needle while trying to rescue the baby. In this situation I don’t even have self interrested motives, because I also can get hurt.

To say vegans are vegans to only feel better about themselves is a hardheaded deflationary attitude towards human pretentions. Deep down, humans do have the desire to act altruistically, the good feelings are just a by-product.

Veganism and Moral Philosophy

I like to think my ideas can change the world. Mostly it is a vain hope. I write blog posts that are read by a few other like-minded people. On occassion there are theories that can change the way people think, that is what keeps me going.

Veganism is in definition a way of living, choosing and thinking that seeks to exclude as much as possible all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards all animals in terms of products and by-products such as food, clothing, cosmetics and entertainment. The modern day definition of a vegan was founded in November 1944, but according to the Vegan Society, veganism is a much older concept that can be dated back to 500 BC.

In the western world people have the financial means to own pets. We love our pets and wouldn’t want to see them suffer. And yet, those same people eat abused animals. This phenomenon is called cognitive dissonance. In psychology, (and I quote Wikipedia) cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. If you apply the above mentioned on meat eaters you will see that they try to resolve this contradiction with avoidance strategies where people use the argument that it is natural and in accordance with the foodchain to eat certain animals.

“A full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” ~~ Jeremy Bentham

Both humans and animals can suffer, both don’t want to be mistreated. If I get tormented, why is it wrong? Because I suffer. Similarly, if an animal is tormented, it also suffers, therefore it is equally wrong for the same reason. To me this line of reasoning is conclusive, humans and animals are entitled to moral concern.

For the animals, the system of meat production causes suffering, because we do not need to eat them. Vegan meals are also tasty and nourishing. Therefore it is wrong to eat meat. We humans are in many ways special and we all acknowledge that. But we are among many just one species inhabiting this planet and through morality we must acknowledge this fact.

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(Painting: Paulus Potter, De Stier (ca. 1647))

 

What is Sinterklaas?

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Something typically Dutch is Sinterklaas and it is also a celebration which is ill-informed abroad. It is that time of the year again, time for Sinterklaas, and every year you get the discussion whether this celebration is racist or not. In this blog post I will explain what Sinterklaas is, his connection with Santa Claus, the origin of Sinterklaas and whether he is racist or not.

Sinterklaas is a children´s festival, celebrated in The Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Bonaire, Surinam and the Dutch Antilles (for so far I know). In The Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th of December. Sinterklaas comes from Spain, with his helpers called Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) in November, to The Netherlands on his steamboat which we call the Pakjesboot 13 (Gift Boat 13). This year Sinterklaas arrives in Maassluis with his boat and this boat transports the presents for the well behaved children. From the mainland on Sinterklaas gets transported on his white horse named Amerigo.

Until December 5th the children put their shoe in the house near the chimney and if they are lucky they will get a present in their shoe from Sinterklaas . This all happens when the children are sleeping in the nighttime and Sinterklaas only stays on the roof with Amerigo. It is Zwarte Piet who goes down the chimney and he is the one who puts the gift in the right shoe. On the 5th of December the kids get to thank Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet and the children get to have more presents. Sinterklaas returns to Spain the day after.

Sinterklaas is not a Dutch Santa Claus. Santa Claus doesn’t even come close to Sinterklaas. There are different stories of the origin of Santa Claus, but the most logical story is the one that Santa Claus is based on the image of Sinterklaas by Coca Cola for purposes of marketing. As you can hear, the name Santa Claus is derived from Saint Nicolaas. Santa Claus is the American SInterklaas, never forget!

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The origin of Sinterklaas lies in Turkey. There he was a bishop around300 A.D. There are many legends of the origin of this festivity. There is the legend of the three children who were murdured and Sinterklaas brought them back to life, the legend of the three poor daughters who could marry because of the gifts from Sinterklaas which they used as a dowry, or the legend of the child that was saved from burning. In many ways, Sinterklaas has been celebrated for ages. Sinterklaas as we now know in modern times has been largely the work of Jan Schenkman, a teacher who wrote about Sinterklaas in the 1850’s.

Then you also have Zwarte Piet. His character was introduced in the 1850’s and there are two mostly used explanations for  his colour. The first story is that Saint Nicolaas the bishop bought an Ethiopian child slave and set him free. The second story is that the ´Pieten´ are black because of soot for going douwn the chimneys to give the children their presents. The second version is increasingly being told because of the discussion on racism.

Is Sinterklaas racist? There are people who find Sinterklaas a racist celebration, because they find that Zwarte Piet is portrayed as dumb negro helper of a white boss, representing slavery or the black people regarded as an inferior race. Since the 1960’s this discussion has been taking place but never hit ground until 2013 when the United Nations got involved by establishing a Task Force to study the celebration.

Where the discussion is coming from astonishes most Dutch people. For them, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet were a part of their care-free childhood which they would want their children to experience in the way they did. Making the celebration fun and lively, Zwarte Piet is essential to the story. And childrend don’t see Zwarte Piet as negative, especially not as connecting them to slavery or seeing dark skinned people as inferior. Before the discussion started, adults didn’t even make the connection. Even in Belgium they don’t have the discussion like we do here and we would almost forget that Surinam and the Dutch Antilles don’t paint the faces of the Zwarte Piet black, but they paint the face of Sinterklaas white. The Sinterklaas celebration is not racist.

So…don’t we have better things to discuss about? Like the current global warming trend that imperils the survival of the polar bear or like the radical Muslim threat in The Netherlands…I’m just saying.

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13 Reasons Why I Would Vote for Trump

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I think Trump will do quite well in the office. I am tired of all the Dutch sneering towards Trump supporters: “we know better”, “are you nuts?”. Instead of proclaiming Trump will make a fine president, many have been silenced. It is the forever on-going peer pressure that is in the human nature. To bend for the mainstream idea that is. Well I am not the average so this is why I think Trump would make a fine president:

1. He wants to build a wall between Mexico and America and will have Mexico pay for it.
2. He will fight ISIS / Islamic terrorism.
3. He is confident and has his own interrest, so he can’t be bought.
4. He puts Americans first.
5. He believes in a strong army.
6. He is a great negotiator and knows how to get things done in business.
7. He is not a racist, he just doesn’t like criminals.
8. He isn’t politically correct. At least you know he speaks the truth.
9. He doesn’t have to rely on sponsors, he has his own money.
10. He actually is concerned about the middle-class and the blue collared worker. Jobs first for the American citizen.
11. Wouldn’t surprise me if there is a democratic plot against him.
12. He helps women. He has a history of building women up and giving them career opportunities.
13. His immigration policy is spot on.

Yes I know, these are one-liners. But I work full-time and didn’t have any time to write an essay today and the results are in less than 10 hours.