TCS Daily


The Hog Butcher Blinks

By Stephen Bainbridge - May 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Chicago has been a self-declared nuclear free zone since 1986. In late 2005, cigarettes joined the list of products banned from the City of Big Shoulders. Now foie gras has joined the city's Axis of Evil.

Under a bill sponsored by Alderman Joe Moore, the city once famed for its stockyards will ban restaurants and retailers from selling foie gras just under 90 days from now. The move has elicited surprise in some circles. "What's going on in Chicago? No smoking, no foie gras and then what else -- no sex?" said chef Didier Durand of Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar, where a foie gras appetizer costs $15.

In fact, of course, Chicago has very little remaining room in which to regulate the sexual practices of consenting adults. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court held that a Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in intimate sexual conduct was unconstitutional, as applied to adult males who had engaged in a consensual act of sodomy in the privacy of their home. In so holding, the Court (per Justice Anthony Kennedy) explained:

"It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law. "Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.""

Justice Kennedy also approvingly quoted Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick, where Stevens opined that "the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice."

Should not the same reasoning apply to Chicago's ban on foie gras? After all, according to NBC Alderman Moore expressly justified the ban on moral grounds:

"Our laws are a reflection of our culture. They define our values and mores. They set forth the standards of behavior in a civilized society. Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures and we as a society, believe all God's creatures should be treated humanely," Moore said. "Our culture abhors the torture of small animals."

Isn't that precisely the line of defense unsuccessfully used to justify sodomy laws? If so, does the Constitution really give us more rights when it comes to sex than food?

To be sure, some will argue that the right to eat duck liver pales in comparison to the liberty interests with which Lawrence was concerned, such as intimate sexual conduct, marriage, procreation, and so on. But what is more fundamental to life than eating?

Once we decide that the morals of a "governing majority" suffice to justify decisions about what foods may and may not be eaten, where do we stop? After all, many activists regard the methods by which calves are raised for veal to be inhumane. According to animalvoices.com, "Foie gras and veal are both, by definition, the product of sick, maltreated animals. Why then does Chicago not add veal to its Axis of Evil Products?"

Indeed, many food activists in fact would not draw the line at foie gras and veal. The folks at GoVeg.com argue, "While the suffering of all animals on factory farms is similar, each type of farmed animal faces different types of cruelty."

Back when the professional do-gooders started turning government into society's nanny with smoking bans, some of us warned that they would go after alcohol next and then food. We were mocked as Cassandras preoccupied with visions of slippery slopes.

Who's laughing now?

The author teaches law at UCLA and writes a weekly column for TCS Daily.

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22 Comments

Humanity
I don't get your reasoning, Mr Bainbridge. Viz:

"Our laws are a reflection of our culture. They define our values and mores. They set forth the standards of behavior in a civilized society. Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures and we as a society, believe all God's creatures should be treated humanely," Moore said. "Our culture abhors the torture of small animals."

"Isn't that precisely the line of defense unsuccessfully used to justify sodomy laws?"

Answer: not in the slightest. Sodomy laws do not involve "the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures". What possible interest could you represent that would condone inhumane acts performed on animals?

We eat animals. In doing so, I think we take upon ourselves the responsibility for seeing that they are treated humanely while being raised for market and for killing them painlessly in an atmosphere free of terror. Is that too much to ask of ourselves?

If the price of humane treatment were that beef or pork was raised ten cents a pound, would that be a burden too great for us? I would gladly pay extra for humanely slaughtered meat, if the choice were offered to me.

Why isn't it being offered to me?

humanely slaughtered meat
I have to laugh at that statement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think “meat” animals should be treated well. It’s a health issue more then anything else. A well treated, healthy cow will produce healthy meat. A mistreated animal could run the risk of transmitting harmful effects to the consumer. But; the vary idea of “Humanely” “Slaughtering” something is ridiculous. The two terms are contradictive.

Supreme Court and freedom
Somewhere along the line, the SC decided that economic activities had no constitutional protections. The language to support this activity can't be found in the constitution, but what the heck, they've been pretty much ignoring it for the last 150 years anyway.

roy's sophistry
Apparently roy believes that the law reflects our values and mores, only when they also reflect his values and mores.

I'm guessing here
that roy believes that mistreated animals impart humors to their meat, and that roy believes he is susceptible to consuming these humors.

roy believes whatever his gut tells him to believe. He don't need no stinking facts.

Ha!
>"If the price of humane treatment were that beef or pork was raised ten cents a pound, would that be a burden too great for us?"

You would then have to go after Big Meat(!) for price gouging and profiteering.

It is amazing that you believe that you are so virtuous on so many issues yet you fail to practise the virtue of restraining from eating cruelty. Sure, you would pay more for humanely slaughtered meat but why don't you stop eating it until that happens?

Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin is a designer of livestock handling facilities and an Associate Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Facilities she has designed are located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

In North America, ALMOST HALF THE CATTLE ARE HANDLED IN A center track restrainer SYSTEM THAT SHE DESIGNED for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on thier animals during handling.

Here are some of the PRACTICAL BUSINESS REASONS Dr. Gradin uses to justify the "humane" treatment of livestock:

Recommended Stunning Practices

Stunning an animal correctly will provide BETTER MEAT QUALITY. Improper electric stunning will cause bloodspots in the meat and bone fractures. Good stunning practices are also required so that a plant will be in compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act and for animal welfare. When stunning is done correctly, the animal feels no pain and it becomes instantly unconscious. AN ANIMAL THAT IS STUNNED PROPERLY WILL PRODUCE A STILL CARCASS that is safe for plant workers to work on.

Electro-immobilization is NOT a humane method of restraint

The use of electricity to immobilize and paralyze animals to hold them still is very aversive and bad for animal welfare. ELECTRO-IMMOBILIZATION MUST NOT BE CONFUSED WITH ELECTRIC STUNNING. When electric stunning is correctly applied a high amperage current is passed through the brain which renders the animal instantly unconscious ... Research in many different laboratories has shown that electrical immobilization is very aversive and should not be used as a substitute for a well designed restraint device.

http://www.grandin.com/

Disagree totally
There is absolutely such a thing as humanely slaughtered meat. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 was designed to ensure that certain meat animals be slaughtered by methods that did not make the animals final minutes a nightmare. It has been only partially effective. I won't turn your stomach with details, but many beef cattle are run through the assembly line so quickly that they are occasionally skinned and gutted while still alive. It's grisly stuff.

I am of the inclination that we should try to avoid this kind of thing for the animal's sake, and not merely because it injects fear and pain hormones, thus a sour taste, into the meat. I think an animal's pain carries a moral value in the same way that a human's pain does. We lose some of our humanity when we prod bleating cattle into the abbatoir with poles, as they realize something horrible is about to happen up ahead. There's no reason the animal can't be quietly put to sleep first, and then butchered.

Insensibility
How to Determine Insensibility
(Revised October 2004)
by Temple Grandin
Dept. of Animal Science
Colorado State University

In both captive bolt and electrically stunned animals kicking will occur. Ignore the kicking and look at the head. To put it simply, THE HEAD MUST BE DEAD. When cattle are shot with a captive bolt, it is normal to have a spasm for 5 to 15 seconds. After the animal is rolled out of the box or hung up its eyes should relax and be wide open.

----------------

2004 Restaurant Animal Welfare Audits of Stunning and Handling in Federally inspected U.S. and Canadian beef, veal, pork, lamb, and poultry slaughter plants

Temple Grandin, PhD
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523

The plants were audited by McDonald'S Corporation, Wendy's International, and 3 other companies. There were a total of 59 U.S. and Canadian beef plants and five U.S. veal plants. Welfare of sheep was audited in 3 U.S. lamb plants. In the pork industry, 40 U.S. plants were audited. Data was also collected in 47 chicken processing plants.

Table 2 (Summary)
94% of plants (48 total) had their cattle 100% rendered insensible (completely unconscious) prior to skinning to skinning or other slaughter procedures -- 6% (3 total) had serious problems.

"On the PETA website there is an atrocious video of cattle having their tracheas (windpipes) ripped out after Kosher slaughter. ONE STEER WAS WALKING AROUND WITH HIS TRACHEA HANGING OUT. This procedure is not part of normal Kosher slaughter. Prior to this undercover video, the plant had not been audited by a customer. They also had no internal welfare auditing."

http://www.grandin.com/survey/2004.restaurant.audits.html

Abstaining from meat
I eat very little meat, and almost never pork or beef. I think we have a duty to care for those we use to sustain us, and it's not happening as yet. I see no problem with the principle of eating meat-- these animals would just be another endangered species if we didn't raise them for profit and for the table. But it is incumbent on us to care for them well and not abuse them in the process of either raising or killing them.

As for price gouging and profiteering, meat producers make fairly good money but I don't begrudge them that. They do shortcut many humane methods to maximize profit, and I would rather see them institute humane methods and charge more for the product.

Incidentally, this is a prime instance where only government regulation will be an effective tool. Do you suppose the Cattlemen's Association is likely to adopt this ethical policy without being prodded by the law?

Temple Grandin
I'm a big fan of Temple Grandin's work. It's all the more impressive when you realize she is autistic by background but has overcome that obstacle so well as to have become the world's foremost authority on humanely designed cattle enclosures and abbatoir procedures. She sees things from the animal's perspective and designs the process to be reassuring. She's quite impressive as a public speaker-- something she really had to work on.

First...
have you ever been to a cattle ranch and have you ever been inside a meat packing plant.

I have been to both and can say that the animals are not abused before slaughter. So, where do you get your information on the industry?

There you go.
>"In North America, ALMOST HALF THE CATTLE ARE HANDLED IN A center track restrainer SYSTEM THAT SHE DESIGNED for meat plants. Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on thier animals during handling."

So what was the problem Roy?

I graduated from CSU and have met Gradin. The great thing about her is that she has used most of her devices on herself. Some, she claims, help her deal with her condition.

PETA?
You mean the people that want to kill humans to save the animials?

What a bunch of nutcases

Slaughter
We use to shot our hogs in the head and then boil them in a 55 Gal drum when I was young. We would do two or three a year too fill the up the fridge

Nuts for Clean Meat
The PETA people may be nuts, but the careless slaughter of livestock does occur. Thanks to people like Temple Grandin, these kinds of practices are disappearing.

By-the-way -- do you care if livestock are slaughtered in some half-assed fashion, so that they are walking around with their throats hanging out?

Fine by me
Shooting them in the head would seem a perfectly humane method. No problem.

Government Regulation
The government has regulated the meat industry for decades. While I understand that "you can't professionalize if you don't federalize", we have already done so.

Strangely, I agree with Roy Bean here
And that's a pretty unusual circumstance.
As a dues-paying member of the vast (religious) right-wing conspiracy, I would like to point out that the Old Testament makes several mentions of proper care of animals, one of them something like, 'A wise man takes good care of his animals,' I think implying humane treatment, not merely profitable treatment.
And here's something sort of strange, from Leviticus, I think. "Don't cook a young goat in its mother's milk." (Perhaps I paraphrase; I'm not looking it up.) The numerous mockers of the Bible (many who will read this) would consider that this is a bizarre entry for the holiest of books. But I would submit that it is a sort of "teaser" demonstrating the concept of humane treatment of animals, the sanctity of the mother/child relationship, etc. Anyway, one little such reference like that is no more bizarre than hundreds of pages of state or federal laws and guidelines about how to kill a cow. Or, to put it another way, if we were a Godly people and followed our own internal laws, we wouldn't need thousands of federal and state laws to police our every action. (Dang it! There he goes preaching again!!) And that's why there's a big limit to libertarianism - there's not enough good folks like me!!

Interesting
Most of us consider ourselves good by our own set of values. Or, if you will, by our God's (or gods') set of values. The trouble is that our value sets are not cognate.

Some of us think that Man is the measure of all things, and that Jehovah put us here on earth to exercise dominion over (in approximate order) our wives, our children, our animals, the earth, everyone else and particularly the heathen-- from which no good can come until they are either converted or exterminated.

Others are more like St Francis. They feel the breath of life in all things, and think that if a creature bleeds when cut, it is fundamentally akin to us. They don't inflict gratuitous or casual pain on their fellows, lest they incur the justice of the same being done to them. Or even, because it's just not right.

My observation has been that the existence of the second group elicits anger and hostility among the first group.

At any rate, interesting that you and I would appear to share some views on the subject.

Reflexes
R doesn't understand that just because the reflexes of an animal may be triggered, that does not mean that the animal is not dead or that if feels pain.

-Bob

Knee-Jerk Response
rfbodi,
that's just not true. Spend some time at Temple Grandin's site to learn about the "humane" slaughter of livestock.

http://www.grandin.com/

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