Tuesday, June 29, 2010


"In 2007, Pork Quality Assurance evolved into Pork Quality Assurace Plus (PQA Plus)to reflect increasing customer and consumer interest in the way food animals are raised."

From: Pork Checkoff Certification Programs

Spelling is presumably not one of the qualities being assured....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Reviewers Wanted (for JAAWS)


I am looking for individuals who would be available to review books for the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. JAAWS is a peered reviewed academic journal that publishes articles and reports discussing methods of experimentation, husbandry, and care that enhance the welfare of animals in laboratories, farms, homes, and the wild.

Reviewers should have a strong background in a scientific discipline or profession, and a sound understanding of animal welfare. Members who are not directly invited should apply to join the group and leave a note outlining their relevant experience and/or qualifications. Members of animal related professions (e.g. laboratory technician, zookeeping, agriculture) are encouraged to join, as well as animal scientists and graduate students in animal science disciplines.

Books would be made available for selection by the reviewers, and books within the remit of the journal can be requested and may be provided at the discretion of the publisher. Reviews should be approximately 500-800 words in length and state a strong, expert opinion or perspective on the material covered in the book. The tone should be more like an editorial or commentary than a "book report". Reviews are due within two months of the receipt of the book unless otherwise arranged. Reviews will be published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science provided that they meet the approval of the editorial staff.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

People First?

I often see it argued that it is unjust to offer animals protections that are not offered to people, and to many this objection has intuitive appeal. It seems unnatural to place non-human animals first, like rescuing a dog from a house that is on fire while a baby is left in a burning bassinet. The point I would raise is, how should such inequities be remedied? Because the most common suggestion seems to be to not advance the protection of animals. I would argue that this is completely backward for two reasons.

Firstly, if two vulnerable groups need protection, leaving both unprotected is not morally superior to correcting this situation with one. Those active in neither animal nor human protection have no basis for criticising the choice of others to participate in animal protection initiative. Rather, if they see injustice in humans not being offered that same protection--they should pursue the provision of that protection rather than try to tear down advances in other areas. Rather than through the puppy back into the fire, they should go in to save the baby.

Secondly, the existance of a protection for animals will in fact encourage the advance of human protection. One famous example of this occurred in 1874 when there was very little legal protections for abused children. So when the case of Mary Ellen, a beaten and neglected 10-year-old girl, was taken by her would be rescuer--Etta Wheeler--to Henry Bergh of the ASPCA because he was known to be a compassionate and influential person. When agencies and individuals responsible for humans would not assist, the existence of a group compassionate towards animals provided a model and a champion for this girl, and this incident was a major stepping stone on the development of the child protection movement.

In summary, equality in suffering is no virtue. It reinforces a status quo where progress and compassion are subject to morally weighted criticism, but apathy and indifference are accepted as the norm. Advances in the treatment of animals should and must be pursued, and if this exposes the vulnerabilities of disadvantaged human groups, then this is better than leaving those situations unexposed.
If we find that we are, in some way, treating dogs better than people, the answer is to treat people better, not to treat dogs worse.

Picture credits: wilhelmien, contracox
See also:
Untangling the Animal Abuse Web, I am Only One
For an example of 'people first' see the comment section here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking the "Human" out of Psychology

As a psychologist who focusses on non-human animals, I find the decline of this specialisation rather sad. It is great to see biologists, veterinarians, sociologists and other academics and professional engaging in the study of animal behaviour. However, it seems that psychology as a whole is turning its back on non-human animals.

I am particularly dismayed the increasing trend of defining psychology as "the study the human mind and human behavior". (As exhibited by the institutions listed below). It seems to me that nothing would be lost, and much gained, if the word "human" was removed from that definition.

In this modern word it is important to understand what it is to be human, and why humans do what we do. But it is equally important to realise that humanity is not the only phenomenon worth studying--and the human animal is not the only species we should value, understand and learn from. Please join me in encouraging psychologists and psychological institutions to take the word "human" out of the definition of psychology.

Psychology Wiki: "Psychology ... is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of human mental functions and behavior."
La Sierra University: "Psychologists study the human mind and human behavior".