Professor Sherry Colb
Sun, 3/20 3:41PM • 20:49
animals, vegan, abortion, people, human, animal rights, book, questions, forced, pregnancy, professor, zygote, vegans, women, Colb, cells, veganism, anti abortion, anti abortion movement, cow
Emilia Leese, Sherry Colb
Emilia Leese 00:09
Hello, I’m Emi Leese and welcome to the latest episode of Think like a vegan, a companion podcast to our book, also entitled think like a vegan. In each episode, I’ll explore one topic related to veganism. One that might not be the focus of an everyday conversation, some we touched on in our book, and here we’ll have the chance to take a closer look. I hope these short talks will inspire you and expand the conversation around veganism. Do animal rights activists really care more about the well being of non human animals than they do about tiny humans? Do pro life activists really care more about a human cell than about the suffering of fully sentient animals whose evolutionary history brain chemistry and emotional repertoire closely resemble our own? These questions are at the heart of what I’ll be discussing with Professor Colb today, co author of beating hearts, abortion and animal rights. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Professor Sherry Colb. Welcome, Professor.
Sherry Colb 01:31
Thank you. Glad to be here.
Emilia Leese 01:33
I’ve been following your work for a long time. So this is quite a thrill. Today, Professor Colb will be speaking about reconciling reproductive rights and animal rights, something that’s rarely discussed together, especially in the UK, where we’re recording from the question over reproductive rights isn’t as contentious as it is in the US where the professor lives. Before we hear from Professor Colb, here’s a bit of background. She’s a law professor at Cornell University in New York state in the US. She teaches and writes about animal rights, criminal procedure and evidence. She also taught law at Rutgers University where I went to law school. So that’s pretty cool, although I was there after you already left. Professor Sherry Colb is a prolific writer and author with books, articles, blog posts and journals. To books on veganism. She’s authored our mind if I order the cheeseburger and other questions people asked vegans, which I read early on after going vegan. As the title suggests, she answers many of the questions vegan get from non vegans and does so in a forthright manner. And with humour sure you get facts, the ethical discussion and all the serious stuff. And it’s all wrapped up in a very accessible narrative. I highly recommend it. And in 2016, her next book was published, beating hearts, abortion and animal rights, which she co wrote with her husband, Professor Michael Dorf. I read this book when it first came out, and I highly recommend this too, especially because that’s the topic we’ll be focusing on today. To get us all into the mindset I want to read another excerpt. Both the pro life movement and the animal rights movement challenged conventional views about the moral relevance of membership in the human species. People in the pro life movement regard humanity as a sufficient condition for moral rights. People in the animal rights movement contend that humanity is not a necessary condition for moral rights. The two questions call into play many of the same considerations. With that, Professor hold the floor is yours.
Thank you. When I first became vegan and told people about it, I ended up hearing many surprising questions. Some of the questions came from sincere curiosity. And I think some might have come from resistance. I remember not being vegan and wanting to come up with a question that would stump vegans and lead to the conclusion that I could continue to eat animals and their reproductive secretions. Regardless of why someone was asking a question, I tried to treat both the person and her question with respect. Getting angry, annoyed or impatient, in response to questions would surely turn people off veganism. If we are having a conversation about it, then change is possible. The question I want to talk about today is some version of the following. If you believe that animals who are less intelligent and cognitively complex than humans deserve rights, then what about human embryos and foetuses? They too might have claims of right? And does that mean that an animal rights advocate should also favour embryonic and foetal rights? I’ve thought a lot about this question and partly cuz I’ve been pro choice since I was old enough to have a position on the issue. If favouring veganism, and animal rights as I do meant opposing abortion, I was confused about how to handle the cognitive dissonance. We’re human embryos and chickens in the same boat. After writing a chapter of one book mind, if I order the cheeseburger, which Amelia mentioned about the topic, I co authored a whole book on the subject, beating hearts as familiar also much. My sense is that before reading the book, many people would believe that the right analogy is between the embryo and the animal, they would then have to decide whether people should be free to kill both, or neither. I knew of a couple of anti abortion vegans so maybe they were examples of consistency. On the other hand, most vegans I had encountered believed in the right to abortion, and most opponents of the right to abortion were uninterested in veganism. So I knew I would have to figure out for myself what the best resolution of any real or imagined conflict might be. For some people opposing abortion and opposing animal exploitation makes sense. Together, they feel compassion for vulnerable living creatures, and enact that compassion in their lives. They believe that both abortion and the consumption of animal products require people to turn their heads away from violence. One might, for instance, forget that abortion causes a death and think of it as an ordinary medical procedure. And one might similarly eat animals and just focus on what the food looks like on the plate. In both cases, anti abortion, animal rights activists might criticise those who camouflage something bloody as something ordinary. So I agree that there are ways of thinking about abortion and animal exploitation that make them seem like similarly immoral practices. Yet, I do not find the analogy between the embryo and the animal persuasive. Why? Well, let’s look at things from the so called pro life perspective. When I think about morally troubling abortions, I immediately imagine those that happen late in pregnancy, and the signs that anti abortion activists carry around at protests support that image. I honestly have never seen an anti abortion poster with a picture of either a zygote a memorial or a blastula stages of embryonic development, which all cells are identical. But poster or no poster those are the clumps of cells, for which the US anti abortion movement supports forced pregnancy and birth. Indeed, some abortion restrictions have made late abortions much more likely by requiring waiting periods. a waiting period predictably keeps poor women saving up until they can finally miss work and travel many miles repeatedly or for an extended period of time. anti abortion activists want to burden all abortion and forced women who do not want to build a baby in their bodies to do so anyway. And by saying that life begins at conception, such activists effectively lie about reproduction. They claim that fertilising an egg completes the process and women are just vessels with a bun in the oven. fertilisation in reality is just the beginning of a lengthy and trying process.
Emilia Leese 08:50
We’ll stop here for a short musical break and return with more from Professor Sherry Colb. This is a snippet from half life by friend of the show Meredith Abila We’re back for the second part of Professor Sherry combs briefing on reproductive rights and animal rights. You’ll hear some dogs barking for about a minute after the break. And hey, this is a vegan podcast. So I hope you’ll just make a little allowance for that.
forcing women to create children against their will, I came to understand, had far more in common with female animals forced to create children than it had with embryos and foetuses. I do understand that women and other female animals are distinct, but they’re exploiters mindsets are quite similar. When humans want a slice of dairy cheese pizza, instead of a slice of vegan cheese pizza, they act as if their particular taste is more important than the life and freedom of a cow. To get cheese, farmers must impregnate their cows, because mammals generally Lactaid only when they have given birth. Then when the cows have birth their babies after a nine month pregnancy, Farmer separate the two animals who love each other and want nothing more than to nurse together. The farmer will hook up the cow to a pump. So the breast milk that is the perfect food for her baby goes instead to humans. The misery that baby and mother experience at separation is sickening to be hold, especially because it is so unnecessary. And once the cow has given birth several times, each time losing the love of her life to pizza. She like her babies will be trucked to a bloody and terrifying slaughter. None of these things routinely happens to human females. So why the comparison? In my view, forced pregnancy is violent exploitation. What animals experience is, of course far more violent, and far more exploitative. This is because our laws treat animals as though they were just things to be owned and used and discarded. But force pregnancy and birth is for women. A less extreme but nonetheless very extreme trauma. Creating people in your body is hard, risky and intensely intimate work. Many women do it happily when they want to turn an undifferentiated clump of cells into a baby they will love. But sometimes a person wishes to restore her body to its resting state, rather than to use it to create a new human when this is her wish. It is nothing short of a human rights abuse to threaten her doctor, or her insurance company or her friends with civil and criminal punishments for helping her avoid forcible pregnancy and birth. Likewise, the humble cow, a gentle animal never asked to be bred into the tortured existence of humanity’s wet nurse. Nonetheless, farmers repeatedly forced semen into her vagina and then take away the infant she loves all because people demand their dairy based ice cream, butter, pizza and milk. Despite the availability of delicious versions of all of it, that torture no one. And this mindset that holds that you exist for my use animates the core thinking of the anti abortion movement as well. For them the purpose of women is to produce children whether the women want to or not. In fact, even rape victims get no exemption from the newest brand of pro pregnancy pro forced pregnancy legislation. If a woman becomes pregnant, which means only that two cells have merged, the government will soon be entitled to force her to stay that way for nine months. She must create a new person, no matter how much she does not want to and thinking about abortion and animal rights. I cannot avoid saying something about religion. Some people believe in a religion that treats a zygote as morally equivalent to newborn baby. Such people in keeping with their belief system will probably avoid terminating their own pregnancies. But their belief is bizarre and I think it is important to point out clumps of cells are not anything like babies and believing that they are certainly should not underwrite the legislation that will soon proliferate among red states, perhaps purple states and maybe even at the national level, so that women will have to go to a Catholic country like Mexico, Colombia or Ireland to restore their bodies to a resting state. At some point, the religion of a minority somehow became the law of the majority
People similarly rely on religion to explain or justify or rationalise their refusal to grant animals the right to freedom from torture to which they’re entitled, God after all, give man dominion over the animals. I have read biblical exegesis explaining that Dominion meets stewardship, not domination and murder. I like such interpretations and they make sense out of the fact that God tells man shortly after the Dominion line to eat a completely vegan diet. But most religious people believe that human DNA entitles humans to impose their will on animals who lacked the same DNA. That is why for forced out for pro forced pregnancy firms, even one cell, a zygote containing human DNA is so infinitely valuable, that they can force a woman to change it into an actual human baby inside her body. Whatever the pain and risk to her to believe in animal rights is to put aside our dedication to human supremacy. Notice that I didn’t say human superiority, because we have long rejected the reign of superior over inferior among humans. So why should we insist on it between humans and other sentient beings, without human supremacy, a zygote or Morula, or blastula is nothing but raw material. And it is insane to conscript women into reproductive servitude on behalf of raw material. And without human supremacy, we would suddenly see clearly the suffering that we inflict on trillions of animals a year. For the sake of our particular and easily changeable tastes. We would no longer put people on the US Supreme Court who say that forcing pregnancy is okay because the victim can leave her infant at a fire station. And we would no longer ourselves say that tearing calves from their mothers is okay because dairy cheese, easily replaced with fantastic non dairy cheese tastes good. Human supremacy is all around us. And the abortion issue reminds us that of victimises people as well as animals. I’ve come to see the abortion issue as a gateway into valuing sentient life, not human DNA.
Emilia Leese 17:43
Thank you, Professor Colb, that was thought provoking and the way you lay it all out. So clearly is fantastic. Ultimately, these are important topics to think about together and the parallels are inescapable. Before we go, where can people follow your work online? And do you have any projects you’d like to promote?
Sherry Colb 18:02
Um, well, so the two books you mentioned are two ways they can follow my work they can get mind if I order the cheeseburger, or and or beating hearts and both actually, the first one is available as an audiobook and not positive whether the second one is and then in addition, I write columns on a website called verdict at justia or justia.com. And sometimes it’s about animal rights. Sometimes it’s about other legal issues going on at the time and, and then on the blog, Dorf on law, I also blogged sometimes as well about once a week, I guess. Thanks again,
Emilia Leese 18:45
Professor. Thank you. It’s great. This episode has been about how the debates over reproductive rights and animal rights are interconnected and can inform one another. Perhaps if we can understand the core concerns of each perspective, find the shared values and beliefs, we might be able to have better and more constructive dialogue about each one. Next time, I’ll share my thoughts about some of the things to consider when deciding to use graphic images of animals, even with the best of intentions. Around that around that’s it from me, Emi Leese. Thank you for listening. I’ll post the transcript and due course along with links and references to the materials we’ve discussed today, on our website, think like a vegan.com and the audio will also be available on Think like a vegan YouTube channel. Remember, you can get in touch by email at Think like a vegan email@example.com or find think like a vegan on most social media, or find me at Emmys good eating.com And On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to this podcast, share it with others and leave us a review. And for our book, Think like a vegan it’s on bookshop.org or anywhere you buy books and on your favourite audio book platform to or ask your local library to carry it. Production credit goes to Jim Moore of bloody vegans productions Music provided by Jenny Moore’s mystic business. The opening tune is flashbacks and we close with tear things up.