TIME Culture

Foie Gras Freedom Is Also a Win for Free Speech

124358488
Sauteed foie gras lucydphoto—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Opponents of the delicacy shouldn't use the state to force their subjective value judgments on those who have a taste for things they find abhorrent

The overturning of California’s idiotic and repressive ban on the production and sale of foie gras is a small but important victory for “food freedom.” The only downside is that the decision is open to appeal, so it might be temporary.

The ban was passed in 2004 but only went into effect in 2012. The politicians responsible—including then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hypocritically claimed to be probusiness and in favor of limited government—said they wanted to give producers and restaurants time to adapt to the change. But in fact the long lag time had everything to do with Golden State term limits. By the time the ban was in full force, you see, none of those responsible would still be in the legislature.

As defined by the nonprofit Keep Food Legal, food freedom is “the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook and eat the foods of their own choosing, including everything from raw milk to trans fats, hemp to soda, and foie gras to Four Loko” (disclosure: I once served on Keep Food Legal’s board of trustees). In an age of artisanal everything and skyrocketing interest in all sorts of new and innovative cuisine, food freedom is every bit as important as rights to free speech and alternative sexuality.

Indeed, what we cook and what we eat have become as much an arena of individual expression as whom we vote for and whom we marry. Raw-milk producers still labor under draconian regulations and the threat of federal raids despite strong demand for their products by impeccably informed consumers. In a world in which caffeine-enhanced Four Loko has been prohibited, it’s a wonder that Irish coffee is still available.

In order to ban a choice of something as personal as food, government at any level should have extremely compelling reasons related to public health and safety. Simply finding something offensive is no more a warrant for prohibition than for censoring art that some find disturbing. In the case of foie gras, animal-rights activists could only express concern for the birds that are traditionally force-fed in the production of foie gras. All animals that are ultimately slaughtered for human consumption may have our sympathy and empathy. They do not, however, have rights equal to ours. The basic problem helps to explain why the California ban was written in a way that critics presciently called both constitutionally vague and impossible to enforce.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the major players in the foie-gras issue, has tried over the years to assert constitutional rights for orcas. In this, PETA is joined by other activists who have done the same for chimpanzees, dolphins and other animals. None of their lawsuits have gotten far, and they are not likely to because they are nonsensical. However much humans may or may not have an ethical obligation to treat animals in a humane fashion, animals simply do not have rights in any meaningful legal sense.

Which isn’t to say people opposed to foie gras have no means of carrying the day. They can work to end the market for foie gras and other animal products through persuasion and informational campaigns. But they cannot and should not bank on using the coercive power of the state to force their subjective value judgments on the rest of us who have a taste for foie gras or other delicacies they find abhorrent.

And they should assiduously make sure that tax dollars are not going to support food they would never eat. That’s a likely point of agreement between them and libertarian defenders of the right to cook and eat what we want. A central part of the food-freedom agenda is freedom from subsidizing other people’s preferences. Keep Food Legal’s mission statement emphasizes that the group “also support[s] ending agricultural subsidies, which distort the market and help lead to problems like obesity and environmental degradation.”

Increasingly, we live in a world of wildly proliferating choices in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Like never before, we are free to dress how we like, live where we want, marry whomever we love (or just live with them). The Internet and global trade mean we can have goods from all over the world shipped to our doors. In more and more states, we can even legally smoke pot. In such a climate, it is both folly and hubris for anyone to think he can command the world to live by his rules alone.

Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Companies

SeaWorld Chief Resigns After Blackfish Film Damages Firm’s Reputation

Killler Whale Calf At SeaWorld San Diego
A baby killer whale calf nurses from its mother at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium on Dec. 4, 2014 in San Diego Getty Images

The enterprise’s share price dropped by more than 40% in 2014

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s chief executive Jim Atchison announced plans to resign this week as the company struggles to attract visitors to their parks since the release of the 2013 film Blackfish, according to the BBC.

The critically acclaimed documentary revolves around the alleged mistreatment of the amusement park’s orcas and the gruesome deaths of several of the animals’ trainers.

SeaWorld’s current board chairman David D’Alessandro is set to serve as the corporation’s interim chief executive and will help manage a reorganization that aims to save $50 million by the end of next year.

[BBC]

TIME Courts

Chimpanzees Are Not Entitled to Human Rights, New York Court Says

ICOAST-ANIMAL-ZOO
A chimpanzee holds a lettuce at the zoo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on June 12, 2014 Sia Kambou—AFP/Getty Images

The chimpanzee at issue is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus allowing him freedom from his cage

A chimpanzee does not have legal personhood and is not entitled to human rights, a New York appeals court has decided.

The three-judge Appellate Division panel ruled unanimously on Thursday that the owner of Tommy, a chimpanzee, is not obligated to release him from what an animal-rights’ group has called unlawful detention.

The Nonhuman Rights Project had sought Tommy’s freedom from a cage in upstate New York, arguing that the animal’s living conditions, selected for him by his owner, equated to unlawful solitary confinement. The group, which planned to move Tommy to a sanctuary, did not seek to have the chimpanzee declared a human, but to obtain legal personhood, a status that would entitle him to a writ of habeas corpus and merit his release.

A trial level court had in October denied the Nonhuman Rights Project’s effort, when the group’s lawyer, Steven Wise, argued that Tommy, 26, is best compared to a human child who “can understand that he does not want to be imprisoned for his life in a cage,” but, unlike a human adult, cannot be held legally responsible for his actions. The judge, Michael Lynch, had noted that legal personhood comes with “responsibilities” and it would be unwise “to foist any responsibilities on this chimpanzee.”

In its decision, the appeals court reiterated the lower court’s findings that chimpanzees, though intelligent, are unfit take on the legal implications of personhood, ruling that, “unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

“In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights — such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus — that have been afforded to human beings,” reads the decision.

Tommy’s owner, Patrick Lavery, told the Guardian that he finds the Nonhuman Rights Project’s argument for his pet’s legal personhood “ridiculous.” Lavery, who has not attended any of the proceedings, called the chimpanzee’s living quarters “an excellent home” that includes a TV and in which the chimpanzee is “happy.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project did not allege that Lavery had violated any state or local laws in keeping Tommy as a pet. The appeals court concluded that if the group believes that current legal protections for animal welfare are insufficient, they should seek improved legislation on the issue, not legal personhood.

TIME Science

Humans, Chimps and Why We Need Personhood for All

Tommy the chimpanzee 2014 Pennebaker Hegedus Films, Inc.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary.

We accord rights to babies, the profoundly disabled and elderly people with dementia. Is Tommy the ape that different?

Advocates of animal rights are eagerly awaiting the results of a case brought before a New York state appellate court in Albany earlier this month that will decide if a chimpanzee named Tommy is a person. The judge’s decision may be handed down at any time between late October and December. If, in the eyes of the law, 26-year-old ape Tommy is deemed a person, he will be released from the small cage where he is kept in isolation by his owner near Gloversville, New York, and sent to an ape sanctuary in Florida.

Tommy would then become the world’s first non-human animal to be legally granted personhood.

The idea behind the court case, argued on October 8th by lawyer Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project, rests upon Tommy’s right to determine what happens to his own life. And that idea in turn rests on what researchers in my field, primate behavior, know to be true: Our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom (along with their close cousins the bonobos), chimpanzees, are conscious, intelligent and emotional beings. In the wild in Africa, they plan ahead by making tools and carrying them to a site where that technology enables them to get better food; remember details of past encounters according to features like kinship status and dominance rank of their social partners; and cooperate with each other in hunting monkeys and sometimes in carrying out acts of brutal aggression against apes of neighboring communities.

Field researchers across Africa, including Jane Goodall at Gombe, Tanzania; Toshisada Nishida at Mahale, Tanzania; Christophe Boesch at Tai, Cote d’Ivoire; and Jill Pruetz at Fongoli, Senegal, have published abundant evidence in support of these conclusions. This information becomes significant beyond the learned journal and the college classroom when we think about chimpanzees like Tommy who aren’t living in their natural habitat but instead in harsh confinement: It tells us that Tommy isn’t meant to live alone, without companionship, mental stimulation or, at its most basic, freedom to make choices about his own actions.

I’ve never met Tommy, but know that if I were to do so, I’d soon come to see him as a unique personality, an animal with characters traits and likes and dislikes conveyed to those around him–just as I have been privileged to know certain other non-human primates over the years of my own observational studies. There’s no question in my mind that Tommy deserves our help. But is Wise’s approach the best path forward?

In first reading about Tommy, I concluded that we humans need to ramp up our responsible actions toward apes rather than bestowing rights of personhood upon apes. This perspective is beautifully articulated by the philosopher Lori Gruen. And the questions tumble one upon the other when we consider what might happen if Tommy and other apes were to become persons in the eyes of the law. How exactly would they participate in the determination of their own lives? Yes, they are smart creatures, but they are relentlessly non-verbal. Will our observation of their behaviors be enough for us to know what they want? What if they want what we can’t give them (a great deal of space to roam, let’s say) or isn’t good for them (unhealthy but delicious sugary foods)? How would we begin to think about the interrelationship of apes’ rights and responsibilities? What could it even mean for apes to have responsibilities to society?

But I began to wonder, are these questions of mine the most appropriate ones? After all, we protect the rights of many humans who contribute to society simply through their own valued existence: babies, the profoundly disabled, elderly people with dementia. It’s well past time to create new ways of relating to other creatures who are sentient without language.

Having gotten this far in my thinking, I asked Wise to clarify for me how he approaches the question of Tommy’s ability for self-determination. Wise told me:

At the root of the Nonhuman Rights Project’s arguments that a chimpanzee is a legal person possessed of the right to body liberty protected by a common law writ of habeas corpus is [the view that] they are autonomous and self-determining beings. One of our experts defined autonomous behavior as ‘behavior that reflects a choice and is not based on reflexes, innate behaviors or any conventional categories of learning … [It] implies that the individual is directing the behavior based on some non-observable internal cognitive process.’ Because chimpanzees are autonomous, self-determining and social beings, it is unlikely that a mentally healthy chimpanzee would choose a life of forced solitary confinement in an indoor cage in a Northern clime over a life lived with dozens of other chimpanzees, outdoors, in a Southern clime. As human beings who are mentally unable to make complex decisions because they are too young or otherwise mentally incompetent have the right to make simpler decisions about their lives, so chimpanzees should have the right to make those decisions about their lives about which they are capable.

I find this definition of self-determination, which recognizes the reality of different levels of capability across species, and its application to Tommy’s case, to be persuasive. In the end, I think it’s time now to be bold, to throw open our imagination and envision a different future for chimpanzees like Tommy. This is what visionaries like Wise encourage us to do: to stand apart from the mainstream and pose new solutions. If those solutions come with a set of challenging questions attached, let’s open a conversation about them, and meet them head on.

Animal lives matter, all on their own. This is a wonderful and freeing perspective to embrace as we wait for the judge’s decision regarding Tommy.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary who teaches, writes and speaks about animal studies, primate behavior, human evolution and evolutionary perspectives on gender. Her latest book is How Animals Grieve, published in 2013.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Second Career

3 Secrets to Launching a Successful Second Act Career

Adele Douglass created the first U.S. humane certification program for farm animals raised for food Robert Merhaut

Adele Douglass built a non-profit that protects millions of farm animals and gives farmers a new marketing niche.

After a three-decade career in Washington devoted to animal welfare issues, Adele Douglass thought she knew a lot about how bad their mistreatment could get. Still, she was shocked when she began to look closely at the conditions of farm animals in the U.S.

She discovered chickens being raised in cages so overcrowded they couldn’t raise their wings, pigs unable to turn around in tightly packed pens, and animals left unsheltered against outdoor elements.

Douglass decided the best way to improve the conditions of livestock was to push for change herself. So in 2003, at age 57, she quit her job as a non-profit executive for an animal rights association and launched her own organization, Humane Farm Animal Care. “The more I knew, the more appalled I got, and the more I wanted to do something myself,” says Douglass, now 67. “Legislation was not going to solve the problem. It took 100 years for the Humane Slaughter Act to be passed.”

Douglass figured out a way to engage farmers and consumers on the issue—by addressing their growing concerns over eating meat from animals being fed antibiotics. She developed Certified Humane, which is the first certification in the U.S. that guarantees farm animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter. To get this certification, farmers must allow animals to engage in natural behaviors, provide appropriate space for roaming, and food free of antibiotics or hormones. Farmers who are Certified Humane can market to natural food shoppers and get higher prices for their products, Douglass says.

Humanely raised food appeals to American families of all income levels. “Young mothers want to feed their families good food. Poor people don’t want to feed their families junk” says Douglass.” Following humane practices also improves the environment, since fewer animals raised on more space creates less pollution.

To fund the organization, Douglass cashed in her $80,000 401(k) account. Her daughter, who had encouraged her to make the move, gave her $10,000 and worked at the organization during its first few years. Douglass also received grants from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and The Humane Society. In the first year of operation in 2004, 143,000 animals were raised under the organization’s standards.

Today 87 million animals are in the program, and the non-profit has three full-time employees and two part-timers. Fees for certification and annual inspections cover about 30% of the organization’s costs—the rest comes from donations and grants.

Douglass shares this advice for others hoping to launch a second act career:

Make a plan before you exit. Douglass spent years researching the issue before quitting her job. She was able to get off the ground in just one year because she modeled the certification program after an existing similar program in the U.K. called Freedom Food.

Leverage your contacts. Douglass has a deep list of connections, from animal scientists and USDA officials to fundraisers and academics, as well as contacts in the animal rights movement and veterinary profession. “I had the contacts, knowledge and experience which gave me confidence I could do this on my own,” says Douglass.

Cut personal expenses. Though Douglass’ salary isn’t much less than what she earned in her previous career, her compensation is a lot more volatile. She has willingly taken pay cuts in recent years. Douglass says she hasn’t had to change her lifestyle much. But she reduced her biggest expense—her home—by downsizing to a smaller place, which made it easier to adjust.

At 67, Douglass doesn’t envision retiring. Now living alone, with three adult children and five grandchildren, she says her family is one of her greatest joys. But her work remains an enormously satisfying part of her life too. “Sure, there are days when I am tired and frustrated. But I am doing something that benefits people, animals and the environment. I feel really good about that,” says Douglass.

Adele Douglass is a 2007 winner of The Purpose Prize, a program operated by Encore.org, a non-profit organization that recognizes social entrepreneurs over 60 who are launching second acts for the greater good.

Related:

How to Ace Any Interview and Land the Job of Your Dreams

The 9-to-5 Start-up: How to Launch a Business Without Quitting Your Day Job

How This Former Techie Gave Her Career a Jolt

TIME Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court Upholds a California Ban on Foie Gras

Forbidden Foie Gras Goes Underground At California 'Duckeasies'
A worker performs "gavage," or force feeding, on ducks in the preparation of foie gras at Hudson Valley Farms in Ferndale, New York, U.S., on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Haute diners in California will have to do without

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld California’s ban on foie gras, refusing to hear an appeal against the state’s kibosh on products made by “force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond a normal size,” Reuters reports.

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is made by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese, a process that animal-rights activists have described as cruel and unethical. The birds’ unnaturally enlarged livers are then harvested for high-end dining.

A Los Angeles-based restaurant group, a foie gras producer in New York, and a group of foie gras farmers in Canada had challenged the ban, calling it a violation of federal protections barring states from interfering in interstate commerce, Reuters says.

The ban was passed in 2004 but went into effect in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

[Reuters]

Read next: The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat

TIME ebola

360,000 Sign Petition to Spare Ebola Patient’s Dog

Spanish Nurse Tests Positive For Ebola
'Excalibur' barks from the balcony of the private residence for the Spanish nurse who has tested positive for the Ebola virus on October 8, 2014 in Alcorcon, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

"Excalibur" is at the mercy of Spanish officials, who want to euthanize the dog after one of its owners contracted the disease

Animal lovers have protested, tweeted and petitioned by the tens of thousands to stop Spanish officials from euthanizing an Ebola patient’s dog.

The outcry began shortly after the patient’s husband, Javier Limon, posted a YouTube plea to animal lovers to help spare the life of “Excalibur”. NBC News reports that Limon has been placed in isolation in a Madrid hospital ever since his wife, nurse-aide Teresa Romero Ramos, became the first person to contract the virus outside of west Africa while caring for a Spanish priest who had returned from the region.

Limon said in the recorded appeal, “I’m in the hospital and I’m sending a call to all the population for them to help me save my dog, Excalibur, who they just want to kill just like that without following any proper procedures.”

There have been no documented cases of dogs spreading Ebola to humans, or vice-versa, though other animals may become carriers.

Animal lovers protested outside the couple’s apartment in a southern suburb of Madrid on Wednesday, where Excalibur had been holed up alone with a bathtub full of drinking water and 33 pounds of dog food, Limon told Spanish daily El Mundo. “Murderer,” several shouted at health workers who had arrived to disinfect the apartment.

Protesters also launched a petition to spare Excalibur which has gathered more than 360,000 signatures to date and flooded Twitter with pictures of their own pet dogs signs reading, “#SalvemosaExcalibur.”

The campaign has intensified amid conflicting reports of the dog’s fate in local media, best summed up by the El Mundo headline “¿Dónde está Excalibur?” The most recent update posted by Limon on Facebook says the dog has not yet been taken away by authorities.

 

TIME animals

Is a Chimpanzee a ‘Legal Person’? Court Set to Decide

Tarongas Animals Receive Christmas Treats
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images

Could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful

A New York appeals court will begin hearing a landmark case on Wednesday that could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful.

Animal rights lawyer Steven Wise filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee kept by a private owner in upstate New York. The lawsuit alleged that keeping the chimpanzee in captivity was unlawful, because a chimpanzee was not merely a possession of the owner, but rather “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

As such, the case called upon the court to grant Tommy the status of “legal personhood,” thereby extending the fundamental human right of habeas corpus, or the right to not be unlawfully imprisoned, to a primate.

The case grabbed headlines, including TIME’s, for its ambitious attempt to blur a longstanding legal distinction between humans and animals. The organization pressing the case, the Nonhuman Rights Project, has stated that the case will not end with Tommy: “Our goal is, very simply, to breach the legal wall that separates all humans from all nonhuman animals.”

TIME Japan

Japan’s Annual Dolphin Hunt Has Resumed

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji
Fishermen hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, on Jan. 20, 2014 Adrian Mylne—Reuters

The slaughter made infamous in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove is still happening

The Japanese coastal village of Taiji has begun its annual dolphin hunt again this month, CNN reports.

The hunt, which runs from September to March, has long been the focus of outrage among environmental activists and was even made into an Oscar-winning documentary in 2009 called The Cove.

However, locals in Taiji, a town in Wakayama prefecture with a population of 3,500, say that hunting dolphins and whales is crucial to the region’s economy.

They appear to have the support of the Wakayama prefectural government, which declined CNN’s request for an interview but referred them to a statement on its website that calls dolphins and whales a legitimate marine resource.

“Located far away from the centers of economic activity, the town has a 400-year history as the cradle of whaling, and has flourished over the years thanks to whaling and the dolphin fishery,” the statement says.

Environmental organizations like Sea Shepherd, which has been broadcasting a live feed of the hunts for the past five years and running a robust social-media campaign against them, say the dolphins are tortured and treated inhumanely before they are killed.

The dolphins are captured and killed using a method known as “drive hunting,” which involves boatmen banging metal poles to cause deafness and disorientation in the dolphins, who then swim away from the boats and straight into the killing cove.

“Once netted into the cove, the dolphins are literally wrangled and tethered, often sustaining bloody wounds … The dolphin hunters use large metal rods to penetrate the spinal cord,” said Melissa Sehgal, Sea Shepherd’s campaign coordinator for the Taiji project.

Sehgal said the dolphins do not die immediately but are left to bleed out or drown in their own blood, a practice she described as “barbaric.”

Although most of the marine mammals are killed and sold for meat, a few choice specimens are captured. Captive dolphins can reportedly fetch over $100,000 from aquariums.

Sea Shepherd estimates that over the past three hunting seasons, there have been nearly 2,600 dolphins killed and a little under 500 taken captive.

[CNN]

TIME Companies

So Long, Shamu: Southwest, SeaWorld End Ties

Southwest Airlines debuts Penguin One in celebration of 25 years
Southwest Airlines debuts its newest specialty plane, Penguin One, in celebration of 25 years of partnership with SeaWorld on June 20, 2013 Stephen M. Keller—Southwest Airlines/AP

The decision comes amid animal-rights backlash, but the two companies insist the break is "mutual"

Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will be ending their 26-year relationship, a decision that comes a year after a documentary film raised questions about the theme-park chain’s treatment of whales.

In a joint statement released on Thursday, the two sides described the decision to end their decades-long co-marketing scheme as “mutual.”

“The companies decided not to renew the contract based on shifting priorities,” read the statement, explaining that the airliner would focus on expanding into international service while SeaWorld is eyeing new opportunities to grow in Asian and Latin American markets.

The press release made no mention of the pressure both companies have faced since the release of the film Blackfish last year. The documentary focuses on the alleged mistreatment of SeaWorld orcas and the violent deaths of several trainers working with the animals.

A petition posted on Change.org calling on Southwest to terminate its relationship with the Florida-based amusement-park chain garnered 30,000 signatures. Attendance at SeaWorld parks dropped 4.1% in the last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The three Southwest aircraft painted to promote the amusement parks will return to the company’s traditional livery by year’s end.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser