Brute Ethics





Animal Ethics Encyclopedia

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Fishing - Angling

See Fishing - Angling.

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Fishing - Deep Sea

See Fishing - Deep Sea.

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Fishing - Farming

See Fishing - Farming.

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Factory Farming

See Factory Farming.

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Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms are basic ideals of welfare for farm animals that farmers worldwide can apply to the animals in their charge. The Freedoms relate to livestock and poultry wherever they may be, such as at a farm, a market, a slaughterhouse or in transit.

Although the Five Freedoms were first proposed in Britain they make sufficient good common sense and are broad enough to apply to farm animals anywhere in the world. The Five Freedoms were first proposed in Britain in the 1960's and were subsequently affirmed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council established by the British government in the late 1970's to advise it on legislative and other changes for farm animals. The Council was conservatively made up of individuals with connections to agriculture: farmers, animal farming company directors, veterinary surgeons and academics specialising in agriculture. Other bodies concerned with animal welfare have approved the Freedoms.

The Five Freedoms are:
  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

  2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
The Farm Animal Welfare Council say the Five Freedoms are a framework for viewing and improving animal welfare "within the proper constraints of an effective livestock industry." The Council stress that well trained and supervised stockmanship is the key to farm animal welfare: "...without competent, diligent stockmanship the welfare of animals cannot be adequately safeguarded."

However, the Five Freedoms are not inevitably applied and how much animal farming and stockmanship concede toward them is demonstrated by factory farming, such as the chicken and egg industry.

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Foie Gras

 Making foie gras is a contentious issue, either an evil or a gourmet's delight. Foie gras (French for fat liver and pronounced fwah grah) is an expensive pate made from duck or geese liver. The main issue is not so much the slaughter of the birds, but the way foie gras is made - by farmers force-feeding the birds to make their livers fat and large. But in addition there is issue over the factory farm living conditions of the birds.

The ducklings and goslings are trucked to foie gras farms soon after hatching in commercial incubators. They spend the first few weeks of their four month lives walking about freely making traditional looking farm scenes. But when sufficiently grown they are confined in a large shed, darkened to keep them quiet for the last two or three weeks before they go for slaughter. Inside the shed each bird is restrained in a tiny individual cage, almost body-tight, from which only the head pokes out for easy feeding. Alternatively, some birds are squeezed together in little pens.

Ducks at a factory farm

Ducks for foie gras at a factory farm. Courtesy Farm Sanctuary.

Farm hands force-feed the birds a mixture of corn and fat, about half a kilogram per duck and over a kilogram per geese per meal, two or three times a day. They push a big tube down each bird's throat. The meal is held at the top of the tube in a funnel. Then they pump the food down by hand or electric motor. Delivery takes up to a minute, but pneumatic pumps take just a couple of seconds. In two or three weeks the birds are grossly fat with massive livers that have expanded up to ten times normal size.

Critics contend that force-feeding the ducks and geese for foie gras is cruel. Some of the effects of force-feeding, include bruising, inflammation and laceration of the mouth and throat. Bloated livers swell into the abdomen making standing and breathing laboured. The animals fall ill; haemorrhaging livers are among their problems. Some die from asphyxiation when farm workers stuff food into their trachea.

Foie gras producers insist that force-feeding is a bit like what wild ducks and geese and argue they are only exploiting the birds' natural body functions. Wild ducks and geese ingest large amounts of food to gain energy before migration. The birds' temporarily store the food in their oesophagus while digesting food in their stomach. Thus they can swallow large items, like as a fish, so force feeding does not harm the birds o when carefully done.

But the birds' housing is also an issue. Kept in their cages they can hardly move, barely stand and cannot turn. Life for penned birds is not much better. Whether caged and penned they cannot perform basic natural actions like preening or flapping their wings. Many birds injure themselves and their force-fed diet is deficient in calcium and induces weak and broken bones. The mortality rate can be at least 3.5 percent, 35 birds dying per thousand birds.

The Table below shows that about 23,000 tonnes of foie gras was produced worldwide in 2004. European Union regulations stipulate that force-fed duck and goose livers must weigh at least 300 grams and 400 grams respectively. Assuming an average of half a kilogram per foie gras liver, that makes 46 million ducks and geese farmed worldwide every year for foie gras.

Table: Foie Gras Production.
Rounded to the nearest hundred tonnes.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
France 15,800 16,400 17,000 16,400 17,500
Hungary 1,900 1,800 1,800 2,600 2,600
Bulgaria 1,000 1,000 1,000 1,300 2,000
Israel 350 300 300 300 500
Others 300 300 400 500 500
Total 19,350 19,800 20,500 21,100 23,100

1 tonne = 0.984 tons.
Source: Comite Interprofessionnel des Palmipedes a Foie Gras (CIFOG), as displayed on the web site of Association Gersoise pour la Promotion du Foie Gras. CIFOG is French foie gras trade organisation.

Foie gras is usually associated with France, the main producer, employing some 30,000 people in the industry. The production of foie gras is increasing worldwide, despite efforts to ban it. A relatively small production industry has started in the United States. Now China is set to become one of the biggest producers. China has produced 150 tonnes of foie gras per year up to now but is aiming to reach two million geese a year turning out 1,000 tonnes of foie gras annually (Shenzhen Daily/Agencies).

Foie gras is a delicacy of cruelty and lack of moral scruple that breaks all the principles of the Five Freedoms for farm animal welfare, except, ironically, the one about hunger. Gourmets and farmers treat birds solely as production machines for foie gras. In recognition of this cruelty, several countries, including Britain, legally prohibit force-feeding ducks and geese to make the product. Further, a number of European countries legally ban foie gras production, although these countries import it from where it is legally produced (international trade agreements make imposing import bans on unethical food fairly impossible). Force-feeding ducks and geese for foie gras may be banned in Britain, but traders import up to 50 tonnes of the pate annually.

For & Against: argue your case

It's Natural
  • Claim: Ducks and geese are migratory birds evolved to stock their liver with fat for long distance flights. So farmers are only doing nature's work by engorging the birds' livers.

  • Claim: Fowl do not ram big tubes down each other's throats to deliver mammoth meals in a few seconds while immobilising themselves for weeks in a straight-jacket.

  • It's Traditional
  • Claim: Making foie gras is a traditional activity and dates back to the Ancient Egyptians.

  • Claim: Foie gras production is now a mechanised industry that has no connection with traditional farming.

  • It's Made by God
  • Claim: God made ducks without a soul but instead with a delicious fatty liver for us to enjoy, and so we should enjoy it.

  • Claim: God and souls are not relevant. What is relevant is that ducks can suffer and humans make them suffer.

  • It's Good for You
  • Claim: Foie gras is good for you and takes pride of place on the dinner table.

  • Claim: Foie gras is full of fat, full of suffering of birds and takes arrogance of place on any menu.

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Fox Hunting With Hounds

See Fox Hunting With Hounds.

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See Fur.

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Scientific observations and experiments show that animals behave in ways that indicate they have intentions and expectations, that is they know what they want and what they want to do. The chimpanzees in primateologist Wolfgang Kohler's cognitive experiment wanted to get the fruit hanging above them and expected to get it when piling up crates to stand on and reach it (see Thinking Animals).

Animals feel frustration when prevented from doing what they are strongly motivated to do, such as moving freely, foraging, eating, nest building, exploring, finding and interacting with partners or relieving pain. Hens give a particular vocalisation (a 'gakel' call) and dairy cows expose more whites of their eyes, roll their tongue or shake their head when their goal is obstructed. Generally, animals get more active, aggressive and may engage in stereotypies (repetitive and apparently purposeless actions) like pacing up and down (clearly shown in zoo animals, see Zoos). Physiological changes are also apparent in the level of hormones. For example, sows on factory farms restrained for weeks to tiny crates (farrowing crates for giving birth (see Factory Farms) have higher levels of stress hormones (adenosine corticotrophic hormone and cortisol) matched against sows not in crates.

It is difficult to prove scientifically beyond all doubt that animals can be frustrated. But when moral questions are concerned it is incumbent on us by our intelligence, sentience and compassion to give animals the benefit of the doubt. Many people would surely admit that human activity, factory farming and fur farming are good examples, that imposes acute or prolonged frustration on animals is unacceptable and should be stopped.

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Fur Test

You may want to know whether fur you see in apparel is real or synthetic. Here are some simple and quick methods purported to be good checks. However, the better fake fur simulates real fur the more difficult it is to tell them apart. Some fake fur looks very convincingly real.

1 Roll the hair between your fingers.

Real fur is soft and slips about easily. Fake fur is course and difficult to role between your fingers.

2 Look at colour & length.

Real fur is made up of long topfur overlaying short dense underfur. Fake fur hairs are often all the same length and colour.

3 Examine the base.

Real fur is embedded in animal skin tanned as leather. Fake fur is embedded in other, synthetic, material.

4 Burn it (pull out quite a few hairs).

Real fur burns and smells like human hair. Fake fur burns and smells like plastic.

For more about fur see Brushes.

© 2004 Roger Panaman All rights reserved