On Ethics

Over the weekend, James Aspey appeared on the Australian ABC program The Drum.

The title of the show was “The Future of Food”.

I believe that his appearance there was to support the position that we shouldn’t be eating/using other animals, and promote veganism.

One of the reasons that James used to support veganism was that it was unethical to kill someone who didn’t want to die.

A panelist, Matthew Evans, came back with a rather good response to it, and that is what I will be discussing here.

The Examples

In responding to James Aspey’s statement, Matthew gave the example of a farmer with an apple orchard who was killing possums because they were eating the apples he was growing.

He said that the farmer had lost many thousands of dollars worth of apples, this year alone.

He also gave another example of a farm that grows organic strawberries, that hires a hunter to shoot the ducks on the property.

He then said two interesting things.

There is no agriculture without an impact on animals.


There are people who are shooting birds who eat the pistachios. So why is that different than rearing an animal on a farm and using it for meat?

James’ Response

James’ response was straight from the Animal Welfare 101 playbook.

Animal products are inherently cruel. Always.

He further damaged his “animal rights” position by claiming that hunters are paying people to go onto farms to shoot animals due to changes in hunting laws.

This is blatantly incorrect, and shows how little James knows about things.

Yes, there have been changes to the weapon licensing laws over recent years.

With the relevant change being the genuine reason requirement.

This means that to own a particular type of firearm, the shooter has to show a genuine reason for its possession.

One of the ways they do that is by having a letter for a land owner to say that they attend the property for “crop protection” or “vermin control”.

Matthew corrected James, by saying that it isn’t hunting, it is “crop protection”, James acknowledges it, and drops it.

What Was Wrong With His Response?

Now, remember, James Aspey appeared on the show as an animal rights activist.

Therefore, it isn’t likely to be too much of a stretch to expect him to make some sort of statement that relates to the rights of other animals.

And how animal agriculture is ignoring those rights.

Except he didn’t.

Instead he talked about being vegan as being ethical and healthy.

Which, gave the panel the opportunity to throw in their own counter arguments.

Which means that if James had have lead with an animal rights statement, there wouldn’t have been room for them to bring up ethics, health, or anything else.

What He Should Have Said

Right from the start, James should have said that he is there to further the position of other animals having moral rights, which are ignored as soon as they are considered a resource.

This means that it doesn’t matter how many improvements you make, or how much an industry is reformed, the mere fact that there is an “industry” indicates that the animal’s right not to be considered property is being ignored.

This puts the focus back on the animals, and whether “we” believe they have rights or not.

If we accept they do, then we need to do what we can to make sure those rights are respected and not violated.

If we don’t, and there will be those who say they don’t, then why should it matter how they are treated?

A car or house doesn’t have any rights, which is why no one complains about how they are treated, used or abused.

A Lesson For All Of Us

There is a lesson that we can all, and should learn from James’ appearance.

And, that is the media will always stack programs to be in favour of whatever agenda it is they are pushing.

The other thing we really need to remember, and pay close attention to, is how we can end up off track if we start promoting “ethics” or “health” as a unique benefit of veganism.

Rather than falling into that trap, our focus should be on be on the simple message of other animals having rights.

Not how they are treated.

Not whether the treatment can be improved.

Only that they have rights which we are ignoring by using them as a resource.

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