Animal Rights

You=11,500 Sheep

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sheep

Want to know what people really think about animal suffering? Check out this quirky new poll from the Farm Bureau, which finds that people are willing see a heck of a lot of cows in pain before they'll hurt a farmer.

The proposition was phrased thusly, in a telephone survey of 1,000 people:

If a new technology were created that could either eliminate the suffering of 1 human or the suffering of X farm animals, it should be used to eliminate the suffering of the 1 human.

Different respondents were asked the question with the number of farm animals randomly set at 1, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000.

At an exchange rate of one human's suffering for one animal's, 86 percent chose the human. As the numbers grew, the percentage choosing the human tapered off. At 10,000 only 50 percent chose the human, with 34 percent rejecting the proposition (the remainder chose "don't know" or a similar response).

Extrapolating outwards, says assistant professor in the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics Bailey Norwood, "the suffering of one human was found to be equivalent to the suffering of 11,500 farm animals."

Interestingly, most people believe that their private purchasing decisions impacted animal welfare:

Consumers understand animal welfare is a result of their shopping decisions, in addition to farmer decisions. A majority of consumers believe their personal food choices have a large impact on the well-being of farm animals, and that if consumers desire higher animal welfare standards, food companies will provide it. Thus, when consumers choose to purchase traditional meat instead of more expensive meat raised under alternative production systems (e.g. organic meat or free-range meat), they understand that their purchase directly determines the level of animal care provided.

Norwood concludes that "if consumers are happy purchasing traditional meat, this signifies they approve of the animal care provided on traditional farms."

This may overstate the case for a variety of reasons, including the fact that most consumers–perhaps the urban consumers most likely to have choices from alternative production systems in particular–don't really know what happens on farms. And one must, of course, consider the source.

Still, these figures provide some food (cud?) for thought.

NEXT: Gideon Bibles for Some, Mini Vibrators With Lubricant for Others

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  1. Cool. Now I have data to backup my wooing: “Honey, I wouldn’t trade you for 10,000 goats.”

  2. Uh, what sick 14% chose the 1 animal over the 1 human?

    If I had to pick between one human from the 86% and 1 human from the 14%, I would rather relieve the suffering of the 86%.

  3. I’m sure there’s some sort of way to work in this joke:
    “Do you know why cowboys fuck sheep near the edge of a cliff? So the sheep push back.”
    Ooh, looks like I already worked in that joke.
    And now, back to our regularly scheduled H&R posts.

  4. “the remainder chose “don’t know” or a similar response)”

    similar response:

    WHO IS THIS? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER? CRANE! IS THAT YOU? DAMMIT. YOU INTERRUPTED MY AFTERNOON BATIN.

  5. Dave T,
    The 14% were clearly motivated by self interest.

  6. I’d pick a goat over EDWARD every day of every year.

  7. We should cross reference these people’s marginal rate of substitution (sheep for people) with their MRS blood for oil.

    And then have graphs. yes. graphs. with power point. POWER POINT!!!!!! GRAPHS!!!!!!!

  8. I’d be curious to see how the numbers would skew if the question were rephrased substituting one’s family members instead of just some random stranger.

  9. Norwood concludes that “if consumers are happy purchasing traditional meat, this signifies they approve of the animal care provided on traditional farms.”

    Actually, it would demonstrate that people value the incremental improvement in animal welfare produced by each shopping decision less than the difference in price.

    And that’s assuming a whole lot, such as fully-informed consumers, the availability of free-range organic meat, and the availability of the additional funds.

    I wonder how many informed people would choose factory-farm meat over cruelty-free if the two were priced the same, because those would be the only people whose purchasing decisions would demonstrate approval of the “care” provided on “traditional” farms.

    Isn’t it interesting how the practices that were only invented in the past few decades are called “traditional,” rather than those used for the previous 10,000 years. “Conventional” would have been a more accurate term.

  10. Uh, what sick 14% chose the 1 animal over the 1 human?

    People who enjoy messing with surveyors.

  11. I wonder how many informed people would choose factory-farm meat over cruelty-free if the two were priced the same, because those would be the only people whose purchasing decisions would demonstrate approval of the “care” provided on “traditional” farms.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d pick the freshest, best looking meat (price being equal – all else be damned).

  12. 34 percent rejecting the proposition (the remainder chose “don’t know” or a similar response).

    Presumably, “I’ve been to one World’s Fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of headphones.” was not offered as an alternative response.

  13. “I’d be curious to see how the numbers would skew if the question were rephrased substituting one’s family members instead of just some random stranger.”

    That’s pretty interesting actually. For me, it would probably be an infinite number of cows/sheep.

    However, that depends on how you define suffering. For instance, I suffer from traffic problems every day. However, I would probably choose reducing the suffering that 1 farm animal goes through over relieving me, a family member, or any other person that suffers from traffic problems.

    Now, if we are talking about the end of one person suffering through poverty, that’s different.

  14. If a new technology were created that could either eliminate the suffering of 1 human or the suffering of X farm animals, it should be used to eliminate the suffering of the 1 human.

    Y’all realize that the question is completely nonsensical, right?

  15. What, you mean an anti-suffering machine doesn’t make sense to you?

  16. Hrrm,
    I shall have to ruminate on these numbers.

  17. Correct answer, courtesy of Penn Jillette:
    “I would personally strangle every chimp on earth, with my bare hands, to save one street junkie with AIDS”

  18. I wonder how many informed people would choose factory-farm meat over cruelty-free if the two were priced the same, because those would be the only people whose purchasing decisions would demonstrate approval of the “care” provided on “traditional” farms.

    Joe,
    I see where you are coming from in this, and you are correct that price being equal those who sought out “alternative” meat choices would supposedly care more about the source of the meat. However, since more “traditional” means of meat production take far more resources, space and time than modern “conventional” methods, the price for non-conventional meat will never be less. Therefore, you must take price into consideration when evaluating the overall choice of the individual.

    I mean seriously, if the price of a one bedroom apartment and a 6 room house in equivalent neighborhoods in the same city were equal, how many wouldn’t choose the house?

  19. What, you mean an anti-suffering machine doesn’t make sense to you? Read the question again. Pay particular attention to “technology were created that could either…”.

    Turbines are not a technology that can power “either” planes or automobiles. If a technology exists, which is the supposition in the question, it can be applied to multiple uses. IOW, nonsense.

  20. Strangling chimps is much harder than you’d imagine. They’re rather feisty and strong — downright vicious under certain circumstances. And don’t even get me started on baboons. Don’t try to strangle a baboon.

  21. “Turbines are not a technology that can power “either” planes or automobiles. If a technology exists, which is the supposition in the question, it can be applied to multiple uses. IOW, nonsense.”

    My comment was intended to be a joke

  22. Correct answer, courtesy of Penn Jillette:
    “I would personally strangle every chimp on earth, with my bare hands, to save one street junkie with AIDS”

    Except that the consequences of strangling every chimp on Earth has a negative impact which would probably cause far more human deaths than the one junkie it would save.

  23. However, since more “traditional” means of meat production take far more resources, space and time than modern “conventional” methods, the price for non-conventional meat will never be less.

    Counting down to proposal to subsidize cruelty-free meat/tax conventional meat in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1

  24. My answer would depend whether the human involved was George Bush or Norman Borlaug.

  25. “Counting down to proposal to subsidize cruelty-free meat/tax conventional meat in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1”

    Which makes little sense, considering there are still A LOT of people in the world that starve to death.

    If anything, we should be trying to cram more and more crops and animals into smaller and smaller spaces.

  26. cruelty-free meat

    Kobe beef for everyone!

  27. My comment was intended to be a joke

    Sorry, I’m slower than usual today.

  28. Dave T. —

    Not disagreeing that whatever motivated the 14% was morally bankrupt, but I imagine at least for some the thinking would go something like:

    Humans are sapient, and therefore can cope with pain through intellectualizing, or by consciously modifying their behaviors to eliminate some secondary effects of chronic pain; lower Animals possess neither the intellectual capacity to understand pain, nor the ability to change their instinctual behaviors in order to minimize pain’s effect on the quality of their life. Thus, minimizing the pain of lower animals is of a higher overall priority than minimizing the pain of humans. [/end speculative conjecture]

    Just saying.

  29. I would strangle every street junkie with AIDS for a tax cut.

  30. How many persons of low IQ should suffer to prevent a person of high IQ from suffering?

  31. I wonder many respondents said, “What a stupid fucking question!” and hung up?

  32. Don’t Fight A Chimp

    Dr. Maureen Martin of Kern Medical Center told KGET-TV of Bakersfield that the monkeys chewed most of Davis’ face off and that he would require extensive surgery in an attempt to reattach his nose. Chealander told The Bakersfield Californian that the chimps also tore off Davis’ testicles and foot.

    Tore! Tore off!

  33. Presumably, “I’ve been to one World’s Fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of headphones.” was not offered as an alternative response.

    Anybody who gave that response has never been routed to a call center.

  34. Tore! Tore off!

    I’ve worked with primates. Not chimps, but large macaques. They are vicious, nasty animals with a violent streak a mile wide. And they don’t have near the intelligence–or strength–that chimps have.

  35. How many persons of low IQ should suffer to prevent a person of high IQ from suffering?

    Too easy, none. How many animals, on the other hand, gives very large numbers.

  36. “They are vicious, nasty animals with a violent streak a mile wide”

    sounds like you’re imagining you’re TIM the ENCHANTER again…

    [ducks]

  37. Episiarch,

    I’m reasonably strong, for someone with a library science degree, but I can hardly imagine the strength required to tear off a human foot. (Balls? Sure. Not my idea of a fun Saturday night, but I could probably manage it…)

  38. Too easy, none. How many animals, on the other hand, gives very large numbers.
    ……..
    Not so fast there Rub a Sub

  39. What, you mean an anti-suffering machine doesn’t make sense to you?

    Suffer-on, apply directly to the sheep.
    Suffer-on, apply directly to the sheep.
    Suffer-on, apply directly to the sheep.

  40. Kwix,

    However, since more “traditional” means of meat production take far more resources, space and time than modern “conventional” methods, That’s not an entirely true statement, especially the bit about resources.

    …the price for non-conventional meat will never be less. Correct, but it could be a lot closer.

    Therefore, you must take price into consideration when evaluating the overall choice of the individual. Oh, absolutely. Still, when drawing a conclusion about preferences, you should acknowledge the element of price, and not make a dumb-ass statement like, “if consumers are happy purchasing traditional meat, this signifies they approve of the animal care provided on traditional farms.” No, it does not. It significes that they approve of lower prices.

  41. .,

    It is true that there is a great deal of hunger in the world today, but it is not because of a lack of agricultural capacity.

    The world today produces a great deal more food than it consumes. Unlike, say, 100 years ago, where there is starvation, it is not the result of agricultural shortage, but of politics. Look at Zimbabwe; that country didn’t cease to be able to feed itself because of an agricultural shortage.

  42. Except that the consequences of strangling every chimp on Earth has a negative impact which would probably cause far more human deaths than the one junkie it would save.

    What is this negative impact you refer to? Do the apes have some sort of plan for mutually assured destruction? Is there a Dr Strangechimp?

  43. Vhy didn’t you tell ze vorld?!?!

    Oooh-oooh aaaahhhh aahhhh aaahhh!!!…

    You can’t fling poo in here. This is the War Room!

  44. He’s referring to the predestined Primate Wars of 2080s. The CyberChimps will be on our side against the AeroMacaques. Duh.

  45. So if I live long enough I’ll see what happens when you give gorillas rocket launchers? Sweet!

    More seriously, chimps can pull ~800 lbs without breathing terribly hard. You screw with an adult chimpanzee at your own damn risk.

  46. Gorillas have the smallest testicles as a percentage of body weight of any of the apes.

    I am not afraid of a gorilla with a rocket launcher.

  47. “More seriously, chimps can pull ~800 lbs without breathing terribly hard. You screw with an adult chimpanzee at your own damn risk.”

    Why the hell wasn’t a trait that we kept?

  48. Unintelligent designer?

  49. The only thing I could come with was that I would imagine that having additional strength would require more energy, and therefore more food?

  50. Why the hell wasn’t a trait that we kept?

    Speculation is that weakening our muscles, specifically jaw muscles, allowed our skulls to grow bigger. Making room for larger brains.

  51. joe-

    I wonder how many informed people would choose factory-farm meat over cruelty-free if the two were priced the same

    I wonder how many informed people would choose “public” schools over “private” schools- if the two were priced the same?

    (Which obviously explains why the Columbus(OH) Public Schools spend over $12k/yr/student while giving a “charter school transfer” student only $5k/yr— the School District that he leaves now gets $7k/yr for doing…
    absolutely nothing.)

  52. In the set-up for this thread Katherine spoke of food/cud for thought.
    That has been nagging me since. Namely how to work “cud” more often into everyday conversations.
    Then, this very day, we happened to have a shit-load of varietal lettuce left over from a little workplace luncheon meeting.
    One of the stiffs said it would be enough to feed a warren of rabbits for a month.
    It gave such a tingly feeling to all who heard it: WARREN.

    CUD
    Life is good…
    We need far more usage of outdoor, rustic, dare I say, “green” verbiage. Nostalgia.
    Let us stay in touch with the Oith.

  53. “Why the hell wasn’t a trait that we kept?”

    Which do we want: brains or braun?

    Or beauty?

    Can you have it all?
    Put me down for “c.”

  54. “I’d be curious to see how the numbers would skew if the question were rephrased substituting one’s family members instead of just some random stranger.”

    That would depend heavily on which family members you were talking about. Some of my in-laws would rank about 3 in-laws = 1 sheep. 😉

  55. “More seriously, chimps can pull ~800 lbs without breathing terribly hard. You screw with an adult chimpanzee at your own damn risk.”

    Why the hell wasn’t a trait that we kept?

    The answer to practically any evolutionary question: tradeoffs at the margin. The physiological traits that get you chimpanzee-level strength also get you chimpanzees. Any organ, whether muscles or bones or anything else, costs energy plus other associated costs, so if you don’t need the organ, or as much quantity of it, over evolutionary time the body conserves and redirects the energy into more profitable uses.

    The shorter answer: technology generally means less muscle and bone mass needed to achieve the same ends.

  56. Career Woman/smacky | December 5, 2007, 9:16pm | #

    “Why the hell wasn’t a trait that we kept?”

    Which do we want: brains or braun?

    Or beauty?

    Can you have it all?
    Put me down for “c.”

    Actually, we have you down here for a “c minus”.

  57. Is there a Dr Strangechimp?

    Sounds like he could be a quality contributor to Urkobold & Friends.

  58. A definition of human suffering would be nice! Of course many people that call themselves progressive are too stupid to see that millions of humans suffer routinely at the hands of despotic rulers who practice so-called progressive policies in the extreme. But, they’re smart enough to know that humans are the scourges of the Earth and we should defer to the animals because they happened to evolve first.

  59. Cool. Now I have data to backup my wooing: “Honey, I wouldn’t trade you for 10,000 goats.”

    What?! You only value your wife at 87% of the going rate of 11,500 animals per human?! Shame on you, sir!

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