JustinCEO Topic

I think it’s definitely possible you’ve been straw-manning or misunderstanding them, but I also think that overall most of the groups are bad.

I went to look at some PETA stuff for examples.

They have some stuff against cage free eggs, which I thought was interesting because in the discussion between @Elliot and @CorentinBiteau, @CorentinBiteau brought up cage-free as a positive change:

I actually think PETA’s position here is probably closer to right. (I’m not commenting on their execution though, just their position.) I agree with what @Elliot said later in that thread, which is that cage-free is greenwashing. And I don’t actually have knowledge about this, but intuitively I would imagine that “cage-free” might actually be worse than cages. I have read things about them needing to cut the beaks off of chickens to keep them from attacking and cannibalizing each other. Them being out in the open, exposed to ALL the other chickens, but packed into a warehouse without enough space to act naturally or get any distance from each other, could make that kind of problem worse.

I didn’t see anything on that PETA page about whether they believe cage-free is an improvement over cages though. Their focus just seems to be on letting people know that it is not actually cruelty-free, and the conditions are still poor, as well as some other problems with the egg industry (including their claim that eggs aren’t healthy). I did notice that their arguments don’t apply to backyard chickens, and a lot of them don’t apply to small, humane farms either. I think a lot of their claims are basically just that many farms lie about being humane. Which they have demonstrated, for example by doing undercover work with a former Whole Foods supplier. That page also calls humane meat a myth, but the reason seems to just be that companies are fraudulent, not that it is impossible. I even went to their page about animals used for food, and in the section about ‘humane’ farms, the only two points they made against them is that animals are often mistreated on farms that are called humane, and that animals products are still bad for you because they have saturated fat and cholesterol. I don’t know if they address actual humane farming anywhere else. And you can find disagreement about their health claims in other places. I don’t know if they address that anywhere else either. I doubt that they do – they seem to just keep stating it like it is obvious fact that everyone knows.

PETA also has a page for what to do in Go Vegan January (I assume people do this as a New Years Resolution type thing). Most of their suggestions are about trying various ultra-processed Vegan foods, and trying to convince your friends to also go vegan. They say stuff like " Swap Congealed Cow Secretions for Delicious, Pus-Free Vegan Cheese", but don’t mention that the vast majority of vegan cheeses are made of oil and starches (potato starch, tapioca starch, etc), which doesn’t exactly make them a nutritious food, according to most standards. It’s also a bit ironic, because many vegan cheeses are made with coconut oil, and then later on this same list they have an entry about helping the monkeys who pick coconuts.

I looked into the coconut thing, and one of PETA’s “victories” in 2022 was convincing Walmart and other companies to stop carrying coconut milk made using “forced monkey labor”.

That actually interested me. They are saying that you shouldn’t purchase any coconut products from Thailand, or you may be supporting the forced monkey labor. So they are seeking to hurt the economy of a country that apparently has an average salary of $435 USD per month, and has recently had its tourism industry devastated by COVID, and where many people live at a subsistence level.

Is it because the monkey labor is inherently bad, or is it because they found some abuses of the monkeys? If the issue is that monkey labor is inherently bad, what about dog or horse labor that we use here? I assume they also disagree with people riding horses and pulling carriages with them or police and drug-sniffing dogs. I am not sure their position on guide dogs and other properly trained service animals. But why are you going after another, poorer countries economy for something that we are doing here too? And a bunch of people signing these positions are actually completely hypocritical and are NOT against the “forced animal labor” we use. They are only against the monkey labor because it is so culturally unfamiliar to them.

It also seems interesting to go after monkey labor practices in a country that has bad human labor practices. What is the alternative to the forced monkey labor in a country with poor labor practices? Thailand has been found to be using human slave labor in its fishing industry. And that article also mentions the alleged child slave labor used in the chocolate industry in Ivory Coast.

I looked for a video of humans harvesting coconuts, and found this video of a guy climbing a tree. If you are in a country that already uses human slavery, and has other human-rights abuses in its labor, would something like this really be better than the monkey labor?

Is PETA doing anything to try to fight against human slave labor and child slave labor? You could say that they are an animal-rights group, not a human-rights group. But humans are animals, and one of PETA’s main points is that they are against speciesism.

I tried looking into the monkey labor a bit more, and found that mises.org has a post against PETA’s position. They claim that many people treat the monkeys well and keep them as pets. And that, yes, they do leash them, but we do the same to our pets here. I looked up some videos of monkeys harvesting coconuts, and they didn’t look particularly terrible to me. They didn’t look any worse than normal ways that people here treat their pets or working animals. And Thailand claims this isn’t even the standard practice in large operations, and monkey labor is something that very small operations (like individuals) would use.

I am not trying to argue that none of the monkeys are abused. Of course they are: many human laborers are abused too. But some of the complaints about the monkey treatment and living conditions seemed to be culturally unaware. For example, there are pictures of the monkeys living in/around garbage, and complaints about that. But that is often also where the people live: the monkeys are often being kept at their homes. You can find pictures online of many humans, both adults and children, living in and around garbage, playing in garbage, and picking through garbage (a lot of it much worse and more shocking looking that the monkey pictures and videos that I saw).

So while they aren’t just outright lying about the monkey labor, they are looking at it out of context. People do a lot of things to try to get money in lower income countries, and this is one of them. I don’t know whether or not it is widespread, and I don’t really trust either PETA or the Thai government to give me accurate information about that. Many of the “poor conditions” the monkeys live in are actually just the same poor conditions that the humans live in (in some of the videos I found, you can see the monkeys, and the adult & child humans are all just hanging around the garbage, with the humans being wither barefoot or in sandals). It is not the worst labor practice that is happening in Thailand, and I also don’t think it’s completely out of line with how animals are treated here.

To bring this back to what I was initially replying to, about your potential project: if you want to look into animals-rights groups, you are going to be looking at stuff like this. You are going to have to look at multiple sources and fact-check everything they say. You are going to have to look for bias and misframing and dropped context.

They also don’t even bother giving arguments or reasons for a lot of their claims. They don’t actually explain very much. There are many things that they just state, as if they are obviously bad. They use videos and images with shock value, to try to get people on their side. They don’t actually talk about the nuance or the underlying principles.

So, overall, my guess is that it isn’t a great project to work on. There isn’t any particular reason you are interested in animals rights, and it is going to require a lot of study. It would basically be a project of wading through someone else’s biased information, which will require learning a lot about the topic and looking up stuff from the other side too. If you are going to put that much time and effort into studying and learning a topic, and looking at multiple sides of an issue, there are a lot of other topics you could choose.

I do think that is a good goal. I am not sure the best way to go about it. It actually does make some sense that looking at some other people’s biased information could be helpful practice for finding biases. But many people are already good at finding the biases and flaws in the things they disagree with. They have trouble finding the biases and flaws in the things they agree with.