Ethical treatment of animals

A friend described my home as rural. We have a barrier of trees obscuring the subdivision behind us. On the other side of them is another just being built and the other side of them a major shopping center. Across the street, behind them is a farm with horses. Another farm with cows is close enough, I can hear them moo.

On the drive to school, we pass a puppy daycare which always elicits excitement when they are in the pens outside. There is also a pasture with goats.

The troubling one is we pass an auction house. Sometimes they auction cars. This week, they have cows. Fleur has not asked where they go yet. And, honestly, I am not sure. I think they probably will go slaughter.

In that context, I found this article interesting:

Many adult consumers are averse to harm against living entities yet accept food production systems involving harm to maintain their eating practices. To solve this inner moral conflict, adults have been shown to objectify food animals (Bastian & Loughnan, 2017Bratanova et al., 2011)—attributing less intelligence, sentience, and ability to suffer. Our data shows, in late childhood, children evaluate eating animals and animal products as less morally acceptable. Children may be less likely to objectify farm animals as demonstrated by their reduced likelihood of classifying animals as food. Hence, we can speculate that adults learn effective strategies to solve inner moral conflicts regarding animal treatment. This, however, does not warrant the conclusion that children simply see all animals as equal. To assess that possibility, we asked participants about animals that we could argue have particular moral standing in society, namely, humans great ape cousins on the one hand (chimpanzees) and pests (rats) on the other (see Supplemental Information for results). We found that children think that chimpanzees ought to be treated better than pigs, and pigs better than rats. An important step in the research will be to establish at what age, and why, children start to form moral hierarchies.

McGuire, Luke; Palmer, Sally; Faber, Nadira. The development of speciesism: Age-related differences in the moral view of animals. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

My reluctance to offer up what will happen to these cows is related to that. I am not sure how I will respond when she asks.

Study: Keeping livestock in the yard just might help your baby’s immune system

black and white dairy cow s head
Photo by Jan Koetsier on

Years ago I used to tell people that having a pet that goes outside and inside is good for the immune system of kids. They tend to have fewer allergies. I never connected that to the concept that many human diseases come from livestock. For instance, influenza strains cross over to either chickens or pigs (swine flu). This study is interesting in that it suggests exposure to livestock can also boost the immune system.

It compares the fecal microbiota of Amish (kept cowsand/or horses) and Hutterite (just dogs) infants. The Hutterite children have 4-6 times the risk of asthma and allergies. The Amish households have higher levels and diversity of allergens, bacteria, and endotoxins. Ancestry beyond a couple hundred years of both groups are pretty similar. They primarily differ in environment they shape around themselves such as food consumption (grown vs purchased) which is potentially big confound.

Researchers delivered piglets via Cesarean-section so they had more sterile. The gave the piglets infant milk formula. And then they gave the piglets a fecal microbiota transplant from the infants. Later, they examined the DNA of the microbiota in the piglets to identify what was in the infant guts. Basically, the Amish microbiota resembles rural-types in previous studies and the Hutterite resembled urban-types. And the rural-types are better for properly training the immune system to lower the risk of allergies.

Really, this is more evidence of not being too scared about the presence of bacteria in our industrialized society. Exposure to a diversity of stuff means more will get into the gut. I recently learned in Gut that the immune system learns the bacteria it finds there and the appendix is where a selection are kept so that when diarrhea flushes the intestines, they can be repopulated with the bacteria we need. The rural lifestyle helps the infants get a better earlier diversity. And we as parents need to strike a balance between cleaning and overzealous cleaning. Too much kills eliminates the helpful bacteria.

Dhakal S, Wang L, Antony L, Rank J, Bernardo P, Ghimire S, Bondra K, Siems C, Lakshmanappa YS, Renu S, Hogshead B, Krakowka S, Kauffman M, Scaria J, LeJeune JT, Yu Z and Renukaradhya GJ (2019) “Amish (Rural) vs. non-Amish (Urban) Infant Fecal Microbiotas Are Highly Diverse and Their Transplantation Lead to Differences in Mucosal Immune Maturation in a Humanized Germfree Piglet Model.” Front. Immunol. 10:1509. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01509