Letters

"Dominate. Intimidate. Control."

While the litany of horribles James Bovard cites concerning the Transportation Security Administration's ineptitude and high-handedness ("'Dominate. Intimidate. Control.,'" February) is certainly enraging, his alternative -- putting airlines and airports in the business of providing security and punishing them with crippling lawsuits if they fail to deliver it -- seems unworkable and unfair.

No amount of "better" intelligence from the feds will enable the private air travel system to thwart every terrorist attack. Yet if Bovard's solution were adopted, every such attack would result in "devastating" lawsuits against air carriers and airports, possibly driving them to financial ruin. Billions of dollars in settlements might be at stake for years, while litigants argued over whether the feds gave timely information or not, or whether some other party (how many airlines and airports did the 9/11 hijackers use again?) bore more culpability. 

The affected defendants would be under a financial cloud that would prevent them from getting private capital needed to fund expansion or retire old equipment. The result would be a degraded air transportation system that would put a huge dent in economic prosperity. Only trial lawyers could love such an outcome.

And what's this about the need for "amending U.S. foreign policy to reduce the number of foreigners willing to kill themselves to slaughter Americans"? Exactly which policies need to be amended to placate and appease Osama bin Laden? Support for Israel, the only democratic state in the Mideast? We've already withdrawn our troops from Saudi soil, and Al Qaeda's leaders still talk openly of "chasing us" all over the globe.

I think Norman Mineta is an incompetent horse's ass; he should be fired and the TSA monster defanged. But please, let's not engage in the idiocy of blaming the U.S. for global terrorism or suggest that private airlines and airports should bear the brunt of providing absolutely perfect security, with bankruptcy as the penalty for failure.

John E. Link
Belmont, MA

A Week of Eating Dangerously

Neil Steinberg's essay on eating any and all kinds of meat ("A Week of Eating Dangerously," February) reminds me of a child who steals a piece of candy from the drugstore just because his mother told him it was wrong. Stuffing himself with foie gras, veal, and steak simply because he can proves only that Steinberg chooses not to examine the treatment of farmed animals or the consequences of a meat-based diet for the planet and his own health.

He may not be troubled by what happens to animals: castration and dehorning without any relief from the agony; confinement in cages or cement stalls without fresh air, sunshine, or even space to turn; bloody slaughter by assembly line. But fortunately, many people are willing to find out what happens to chickens, pigs, cattle, turkeys, fish, and other animals before their body parts wind up on a plate. I hope your readers will call 1-888-VEG-FOOD or visit GoVeg.com for the facts and a free Vegetarian Starter Kit.

Bruce Friedrich
Director of Vegan Campaigns, PETA
Washington, DC

Neil Steinberg repeats an argument frequently heard in the debate over the humane treatment of animals: that "nearly every cow alive owes its existence to either the meat or the dairy industry, and that should the fad of vegetarianism ever really affect those businesses, animal lives would be lost, not gained." This notion has a superficial plausibility, but it's actually mistaken on two counts.

The world's highest concentration of cattle are to be found not in beef-loving North America, but in India, where Hindus don't eat cows but venerate them. Clearly there's more than one way to ensure high cattle populations.

But the deeper problem is Steinberg's dubious assumption that a concern for the ethical status of animals entails an obligation to ensure as many animals are born as possible. After all, human beings make the strongest ethical claims on us, but no one takes that to mean we are obliged to ensure the highest possible number of people. If we did, consider all the things that would be called into question, from celibate priests and nuns to access to birth control. We don't assume that because killing existing people is impermissible, creating new ones is mandatory.

Steinberg accuses animal advocates of a "sneering disregard for humanity" and "self-righteous delusion." Scrape away the bald ad hominems and the unpersuasive arguments, and there isn't much left. If Steinberg's article is any indication of the other side, it's no wonder the animal ethics movement is gaining such ground.

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