Dr. R. L. Wysong
October 1992
Animal Ethics For A Sustainable World
    Abraham Lincoln said, “I am in favor of animals’ rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of the whole human being.”      Was Lincoln correct, or does “Do unto others...” apply only to members of the same species?  These are delicate and complex issues charged with emotion.
    Of late, periodicals and scientific publications are permeated with the debate.  Animal rightists are zealously making their views known.  Their perseverance, rising economic strength and militant activities have the agricultural and research industries alarmed that the movement is now a serious threat.
    A Complex Issue
    Like many difficult issues, opposing sides tend to oversimplify in an attempt to foster their own position and easily discredit opponents.  The Animal Rights controversy is really bigger than zealots breaking into laboratories setting animals free, bigger than the question of factory farming, bigger than controversies over furs, hunting, and habitat destruction.   There is no simple clear philosophic “right” or “wrong” on any of these singular issues. 
    There are consequences, however.  How we treat animals, how we treat one another, and how we treat the Earth all reap definite, predictable consequences. They are not abstract “moral” choices made in a vacuum. 
    I want to focus on these consequences later as a valuable tool in making decisions in such controversial areas.   But for now, let’s look at how we tend to narrowly evaluate issues as they relate to the question of Animal Rights.
    Simplistic Approaches
    On a recent trip my eye was caught by a roadside display of beautifully patterned rugs.  I pulled over to look and noticed that they were made of furs.  This seemed unusual in light of the modern sentiment against furs.  But the merchants were aware of this controversy and had an answer ready.  Attached to each rug was a small card that read:
    “Gen. 1:28  God said be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth... and have DOMINION over every living thing...
    Gen. 3:21  Clothes made from skins
    Deut. 7:22  Animal   population kept low”
    These merchants felt their ethical responsibility and that of their customers should end with compliance to their interpretation of Biblical scripture.  Thus, case closed. 
    A farmer feels he is justified with seven chickens cramped in a wire laying cage, housed with hundreds of thousands of others, or with pigs similarly confined, or veal calves restrained within small stalls in darkened barns.  After all, this is his livelihood and he sees the responsibility to feed his family and the world.  Case closed.
    A hunter enjoys his sport and perhaps sees his actions not unlike those of predator and prey throughout the natural world.  He might also argue the benefits that come back to the species in terms of thinning herds, and from license fees financially supporting natural habitats.  Case closed.
    The laboratory researcher may argue the greater benefit to humanity from the pain he inflicts on laboratory animals.   He may ask, “What’s more important, a baby’s life or confinement and pain for a chimpanzee?”  Case closed.
    The meat-eating public justifies their meals by taste and the nutritional value of high protein meat products.   They argue that humans need something to stick to their ribs.  Besides, people have eaten meat since the earliest cave dwellers.  Case closed.
    Scripture Logic 
    There is logic in each of these arguments, particularly if certain premises are simply accepted a priori and the logic remains sequestered from larger life and world considerations.  For example, if you believe your interpretation of scripture is the same as the inerrant word of God, and that interpretation declares that furring or any other dominion over animals is not only a right but a responsibility, further use of your mind on these issues is superfluous.   However, the danger lies in one's imperfect ability to interpret something believed to be perfect.  Consequences to you, your family and the world can result, in spite of your commitment to a belief.  The mind, like a parachute, is of no value unless open.   
    The crusades, the inquisition, the dark ages and modern religious wars demonstrate that immeasurable harm, death and suffering can be visited upon those who insist on their religious views.   Adaptability, not inflexibility, is the key to survival for all life.
    Hunter Logic 
    Let’s similarly look at the hunter logic.  To argue that because humans have likely always hunted and consumed flesh, and the hunter-prey relationship is a part of the natural order, and since we are part of nature that therefore our use of animals for our needs is justified, presents an incomplete logical equation.  Technology is a unique human wild card that changes premises and definitions.  The hunter and prey relationship – without the intervention of technology – as we see it among creatures in the wild, does strike a natural balance.  A carnivore’s food often is the genetically unfit, the old, and the diseased.  Natural preying truly serves to refine populations and tune them to their environments, thus helping to ensure survivability for the species being preyed upon.  It ultimately does not harm balances, it protects them.
    Simply plugging modern humans into this hunter-prey equation, however, gives an entirely different answer.   Although humans — without   weaponry and technology — might indeed fit and serve a balancing function in the natural order, the modern technocrat hunter is like an alien.  What other animal has the ability to kill another in an instant from hundreds of yards away with a high-powered rifle, without the prey even being aware of the hunter’s existence?   What other hunter can set fire to forests, divert rivers, hold back tides, catch tons of fish in an hour, remove mountains, fill in the oceans, or obliterate every life form within hundreds of miles by the use of atomic weaponry?  What other creature can damage life into the future, for millennia, as can occur with radioactivity and pollution?
    Does our ability to subjugate and use other animals at our discretion give us the right to do so?  Does might make right?  In the wild, there is no question.  Those most powerful exert that power to reap as much benefit and pleasure as they can from their environment.  But the ability of even the most ferocious predator is essentially zero compared to the capability of the modern human technocrat predator.
    Human predation is non-selective, and can occur at an unprecedented rate.  Human predation does not refine animal populations.  It can, however, decimate them — and it has.
    Managed hunting actually can convert wild populations to something closer to agricultural herds.  Predators are slaughtered and animal counts are pushed to their limit to provide human sporting fun by state funded winter feeding, clear cutting for habitat, hunting seasons and selective licensing.  When such artificially maintained herds suffer losses from overpopulation and depleted feed sources, hunters then feel vindicated in their role in wildlife management.  “If we don't cull the herd, they'll starve to death.”   Such may be true, but it is a self-fulfilling prediction.  Wild animals allowed  their natural balances  have never needed human predation.
    While it has been argued that lions kill antelope fiercely, and the grizzly attacks with no show of mercy, clearly, modern humans do not fit the true definition of the hunter/prey natural phenomenon.   Yes, humans would be welcome predators out in the woods with only their fingernails and their vegetarian-style teeth.  Then they would get to kill only the very old, very young (if they can find them without a vigilant strong adult in attendance) or very weak.  At the same time, however, the unarmed human would be fair game as someone else’s meal.  (I must qualify even these arguments by pointing out that without modern weaponry, evidence suggests humans were actually better scavengers than hunters.)
    Today's Reality
    In the wild, facing the daily need to feed myself and my family, I would surely hunt, wear furs, and eat meat.  I would do whatever was necessary to survive.  Compassion would take a back seat to survival.  Predation skills would not only provide food, but additionally would serve to protect against attack by animal or humans.
    But today, food in plenty is provided by the grocery store.  And, socio-politically, we need peace, sensitivity, kindness, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and sharing.  How do sharpened predatory skills fit today’s reality?  Assuming that our goals must include betterment of the planet at large – benevolence, wisdom, fairness, and so forth – how are these qualities served by luring deer to eat carrots, apples and sugar beets at a feeding station we make, training them to trust us, and then shooting them from a tree with a bow and arrow designed with missile technology, or from a blind with a high powered, scoped rifle?  An aggressive predatory personality no more fits today’s world than would a passive anti-vivisectionist "bunny hugger" fit the paleolithic world. 
    The ability to adapt appropriately and immediately is one of the beauties of humankind.  If we suddenly needed predation and survival skills, we could call on them.  Our heady success in domination over creatures has led us to believe, however, that such is our right, if not even our purpose and mission.  Simply possessing karate skills , however, is not reason enough to use them at a tea party.  If we are in a time where peace, compassion, and fiduciary foresight are essential to survival, these are the skills we should hone.
    Our Environmental Tie
    We are indeed no longer a part of the natural order of things, in the hunter/prey sense, at least.  We are still, however, inextricably linked to our environmental context.
    We are now seeing the consequences of our short-sighted, mindless, apex predator mentality.  Not too many years ago most of us simply threw our garbage out the windows of our cars as we traveled up and down the highways.  The world’s boundlessness and vastness would seem to be able to swallow up anything we might do.  But the consequences of our mindless abuse and plundering are now evident on many environmental fronts.  Our actions do have consequences.  The toxins coming out of the factory chimney and pumped into the local river are ending up in our homes and drinking water.
    The Agricultural Age
    About ten thousand years ago the Agricultural Age began, primarily because humans, even during that primitive time, had an incredible capability of eliminating their animal food supply even with crude technology.  In the last 200 years, since the Industrial Revolution, our animal harvesting capabilities have escalated logarithmically.  Look at the production capabilities of a modern factory farm:  cows producing their own weight in milk in eight days, a million laying hens on two acres, and instead of 500 beef cattle roaming 10,000 acres, we have 10,000 head on 15 acres of fenced concrete.
    Will we ultimately learn how to strap sedated cows (production units) side by side on a production line, feed them with a 100% complete (of course) parenteral IV fluid and simply vacuum the milk from the udders to a freeze dry instantizer?  Would such efficiency ultimately serve human needs?   Could such a cow be healthy?  Could its product (milk) likely create health in the human consumer?  Looking ahead with foresight, measuring our multiplied actions extrapolated into the future gives us wisdom on what we should do now.
    These issues can be resolved by not thinking of them as right or wrong, but in terms of their inevitable consequences.   How we view our position in nature affects not only how we treat other life forms, but also ultimately affects human survival.  Endless deforestation, for example, could do irreparable harm to soils and wildlife habitat, and destroy pristine natural beauty our children could enjoy.  True, harvesting native forest timber may keep some individuals employed for a few months longer, and the forest could be replaced with new seedlings all planted in a row, but the damage, once done, is far reaching and unfixable.
    Urban development and habitat destruction may seem necessary for economic growth.  If extrapolated to its ultimate end, however, we would have a world of asphalt, plastic, and elevator shafts.  Nature would only be found in the local zoo and greenhouse. 
    Is hunting right or wrong?   Does our world need peace, protection, compassion, caring, and sensitivity — or a sharpening of predatory instincts?  To answer we must consider that human activity cannot be equated any longer with the interplay of species in nature.  The same human brain that has given us the ability to subdue our environment must now be used to sustain it.  As populations increase and pressure for food and resources escalates, we need now, more than ever, a world governed by foresight and fiduciary responsibility, not short-sighted raping, plundering, exploitation, and predation.
    The lesson to be learned from the study of nature is not that our sense of compassion should be ignored because a spider kills without hesitation or a tiger plays with its prey before devouring it.  Nature also shows a male lion killing kittens in an apparent attempt to protect his own genetic lineage.  Is predation okay for us but child killing not?  Do we get to justify our actions by simply picking and choosing from various behaviors seen within nature?
    Clearly, once we withdraw from the natural order into our social and technological world, new rules apply.  We are a species capable of inflicting incredible misery on one another, even capable of sterilizing the entire planet.  Therefore, courses of action which maintain peace become essential to our — and the rest of the world’s — survival.
    Changing our lifestyle now for what might occur in the future is not particularly easy.  The lack of immediate consequence for many of our actions in day-to-day living is dangerously deceiving.   We learn not to stick our hand in the fire because we tried it once as a child and it hurt.  Filling in a wetland, showing pharmacology students how to melt the eye of a live rabbit to demonstrate drug toxicity, embalming and cosmetically grooming our food supply with every manner of chemical to extend shelf life and improve organoleptic properties all seem to be without immediate harm.  But reason and foresight tell us there are consequences. 
    It is particularly difficult for those in the animal industry to be objective and measure the long range consequences of actions that bring their daily livelihood.  Making a living from a course of action may skew our view of reality.  Rationalism is usually directly proportional to the distance from the problem.  Researchers, professors, veterinarians and the medical industry are not likely to provide clear long-range world effect thinking on the issues. 
    The publics’ sense of ethic is likely to be less encumbered, prejudiced  and more reliable.  It is they who are usually the victims of “policy” and it is they who often can intuitively sense misdirection.  Credentials are no more important on the animal rights issue than they were for the residents of Love Canal.
    The modern enlightened mind seeking courses of action which will not bring harm, either in the short-term or long-term, must measure consequences by extrapolation.  I must think, if a particular action were performed over and over by either myself or by the world community of people, would this serve to the betterment or to the detriment of life on our planet?  True, not stepping on an ant, going vegetarian, declining from hunting, or refusing to buy cosmetics tested on animals may seem picayune – even like extreme fanatical actions not justified by reason.  But if a person cares about ants, they may also care about the environment and their fellow man.  If everyone were vegetarian (not to suggest necessarily this is a healthy choice for everyone - see Wysong Health Letter Vol. _, No. _), incredible food resources would be freed to feed the hungry and resources conserved.  (One large hamburger uses enough resources to feed 100 third world vegetarians.)  If people declined hunting and stopped animal testing due to ethical difficulties, would these same people not likely be promoters of peace and pacifism  rather than aggression, weaponry and war?  What harm could come from saving the forests, protecting whales or banning chlorofluorocarbons?  On the other hand, if killing and experimenting on other species, and encroachment on natural habitat were enthusiastically supported and lustily practiced by everyone, what kind of world would we eventually have? 
    If we simply take life choices and magnify them, the extrapolated benefits or consequences become apparent.  This logical tool is easily applied and can be understood by layman and scientist alike.   It is, in effect, wisdom, intuitive, common sense.  We must use such foresight rather than be mindlessly led by our tongues, politicians, marketers, instant gratification or recreational predatory instincts.
    Our modern world community no longer enjoys the range of choices once possible when the world seemed to be an endless sink hole.  Population and technology shrink our world, making short-sighted, arbitrary choices potentially ruinous.  Many indicators argue that we are on the precipice facing catastrophic Earth-wide man-made catastrophes.  By extrapolation, and thinking in terms of ultimate consequences, a rational world-view can emerge to give us the best hope for long term survival.
    Does the foregoing therefore mean hunting is evil, food animal farming is cruel, wearing furs is callous and animal research is sadistic?  As I said at the start, these are not simple matters.  It does not serve anyone to smugly categorize others and self righteously condemn.  The purpose of this article is to open minds and broaden horizons, not simply replace one narrow view with another.
    Do we condemn hunting yet eat chicken parmigiana and steak?  Do we sneer at animal researchers but use cosmetics or drugs tested on animals?  Do we judge furriers and food animal farmers but wear leather shoes and eat living plant creatures?
    Making perfect life decisions is not possible.  We may not even know what perfection is, much less be able to follow it.
    But all is not lost.  The general principles we have developed here - that we must foster natural balances by using fiduciary foresight and judgement- provides a general working framework for decision making.  There is no black or white, right or wrong, but only better or worse.
    For example, if you decide to hunt, do it for food, not for “sport” or because it is your commission as a herd manager or predator.  Be unobtrusive to wildlife habitat and humane in the kill.   This makes your actions neither right nor wrong but better.       If you eat grocery animal products, eat less of them.   This is not only healthier, but spares the environment.  Find organic suppliers who raise livestock free range.  If it costs more, it is a small price to pay for health and our children's future.  If the public shifts support to small organic farmers, more farmers will adopt this agricultural style. 
    By such reasoning, life choices become choices of transition along a gradated line from worse to better.  With a view toward ultimate planetary consequences, we can continually improve, ever learning, adapting and adjusting to make a better and sustainable world for all life.
Rx - Proceed With Caution
    A young man developed a sore throat.  He went to his physician who prescribed penicillin for the inflammation.   The sore throat promptly disappeared.  Three days later, however, he developed itching and hives all over his body.  A physician correctly diagnosed a penicillin reaction and prescribed antihistamines.  The hives went away.
    The antihistamines caused the patient to become so drowsy that he cut his hand while at work.  He went to his company’s nurse who put some anti-bacterial salve on the injury.  The salve contained penicillin and caused the hives to return.
    Recognizing a possible serious anaphylactic reaction for the second time, his physician then prescribed corticosteroids (cortisone).  The hives again disappeared.
    Unfortunately, the patient developed abdominal pains and noticed blood in his stools.  The correct diagnosis was then made of a bleeding peptic ulcer brought on by the cortisone.  The patient failed to respond to standard measures to correct the hemorrhage so the next course of action indicated was a partial gastrectomy.  The surgery was successful.  The stomach pains diminished and the bleeding stopped.
    The patient lost so much blood due to hemorrhaging and the stomach surgery that a transfusion was indicated.  He was administered two pints of blood and promptly contracted hepatitis as a result of the transfusion.
    Being young and vital, he recovered from the hepatitis.  However, at the point of insertion of the transfusion needle, painful red swelling appeared, indicated a probable infection.
    Having had previous bad experience with penicillin, the drug of choice for this infection became tetracycline.   The infection promptly subsided.
    Disruption of the intestinal bacterial by the tetracycline caused painful abdominal spasms and severe diarrhea.   The patient was then administered an anti-spasmodic type drug and the diarrhea and spasms subsided.
    Unfortunately, this drug was from the belladonna, a muscle-relaxant group of drugs which relaxed the smooth muscles all over the body.  From this action on the muscles of the iris of the eyes, it impaired the patient’s vision.  He drove his car into a tree and was killed instantly.
    A true story.  
        Nassau County Nursing Society
Social Ties Boost Immune Function
    Studies from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh have shown that monkeys in groups that continually lose established members and replace them with new ones experience stress that apparently compromises the immune system and increases susceptibility to disease.  Monkeys in such unstable groups showed a weaker proliferation of white blood cells in response to stimulation by a substance that normally causes these cells to divide. 
    If such findings relate to humans, then we could certainly surmise that the increasing breakdown of the family unit will compromise health.  The wisdom of ancient societies that fostered, if not mandated the integrity of families and even extended families to grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and so forth, may have served far more function than just maintaining tradition.
        Science News, October 10, 1992: 237
Happy Birthday And So Long
    Birthdays and other holidays may be fun and games for children, but pull much more powerful emotional strings for adults.  A study of over two and a half million deaths from natural causes in California showed that the approach of a birthday appears to prolong life for a short time among women, but hastens death among men.  There was almost a three percent higher death rate expected among women in the week following their birthdays and male deaths reached a similar peak in the week before their birthdays. 
    Researchers conjecture that this may be due to women cherishing the increased attention from family and friends evoked by birthdays, and that this may somehow postpone death until after the event.  Men, on the other hand, may view birthdays with a sense of dread if they take stock and there’s a disparity between their career economic goals, and achievements.   Any annual event that rubs in perceived failures may speed death among those with a serious preexisting health problem.
    For adults, special events and holidays usually do not measure up to the same expectations held by a child.  Good psychological and physical health seems to be fostered best by living each day to its fullest.  Special event days tend to make us think ahead to the future, or in retrospect, nostalgically backwards, thus distracting us from the worth of life at the moment, and ultimately leading us to disappointment because of fantasies we tend to attach to the future and to the past.
    “If you worry about what might be and wonder about what might have been you will miss what is.”  - Mark Twain.
        Science News, October 10, 1992:. 237