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The triumph of purist ideology over compassion and science means suffering and death for organic farm animals across America.

The week-old dairy calf, gangly and still, lay on a barn floor, her long-lashed eyes rolled back to expose the blue-white rim. The next morning, when I went to help my neighbor with his newborns, the calf was dead.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations defining organic standards mandate that if this calf had gotten one dose of antibiotics, even to save her life, she could never give organic milk—even after the two years it takes for her to become a milker, and even though neither she nor her milk would retain any trace of antibiotics.

The case in question is the 2008 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a California law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005, that imposed fines on stores that sell video games featuring “sexual and heinous violence” to minors. The issue is an old one: one side argues that video games shouldn’t receive First Amendment protection since exposure to violence in the media is likely to cause increased aggression or violence in real life. The other side counters that the evidence shows nothing more than a correlation between the games and actual violence. In their book “Grand Theft Childhood,” the authors Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson of Harvard Medical School argue that this causal claim is only the result of “bad or irrelevant research, muddleheaded thinking and unfounded, simplistic news reports,.”

In Plato’s ideal society, the work of Homer and other poets is subjected to ruthless censorship. The issue, which at first glance seems so contemporary, actually predates the pixel by more than two millennia. In fact, an earlier version of the dispute may be found in “The Republic,” in which Plato shockingly excludes Homer and the great tragic dramatists from the ideal society he describes in that work.

Could Plato, who wrote in the 4th century B.C., possibly have anything to say about today’s electronic media? As it turns out, yes, It is characteristic of philosophy that even its most abstruse and apparently irrelevant ideas, suitably interpreted, can sometimes acquire an unexpected immediacy. And while philosophy doesn’t always provide clear answers to our questions, it often reveals what exactly it is that we are asking.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows how feminism is done. Again.


 

Comments

The Cruel Irony of Organic Standards

I just read the USDA standards and can't find the 100% Ban. I understand that there were some new regulations instituted June 17th but I can't seem to find those online.

Any help?

The calf can be treated with antibiotics and the farmer can still be organic. The requirement is that the calf be separated from the rest of the milking herd. So he could have sold the calf or milked it for personal use.

http://www.ccof.org/faq_detail.php?id=81

That's what I saw too. He could treat it but then couldn't milk it for twice as long as the medicine remained in its system.

But that is bloody besides the point because you can't milk a calf.

LOL I suppose that's like trying to milk a male horse.

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Grammar Checker. None of them IS here = not one of them is here, which is the correct way to say it (if you're a stickler for tradition). Doesn't sound right, though, does it? Kinda like, Who's at the door? It is I.

The issue is an old one: one side argues that video games shouldn’t receive First Amendment protection since exposure to violence in the media is likely to cause increased aggression or violence in real life.

Ugh, Peoples fears about screwing up thier kids is the biggest threat to our freedoms. They would have us all live in disney world.

A sick animal CANNOT be denied appropriate medical attention just to keep Organic status. If disallowed medications are necessary, then only THAT ANIMAL may not be sold as Organic. The Farm and farmer may keep Organic status even if they also have non-certified stock.

Sick Calves that do not thrive, rarely make good stock for either milking or beef breeding. Only a small number of dairy calves are selected as replacement heifers, most become veal instead. Sick animals are a total bummer to a farmer, whether they be Organic or not. The decisions made about them are never easy, painless, or cost free. Fortunately, Organic Practice (including pasture access, no prophalactic drug treatements or growth hormones) means that most of the time, we are less likely to have to deal with illness.

The new rule relates to pasture access, not antibiotics.

National Organic Program (NOP) Pasture Rule website

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=PastureRulemakingNOPNationalOrganicProgramHome&rightNav1=PastureRulemakingNOPNationalOrganicProgramHome&topNav=&leftNav=&page=NOPAccesstoPasture&resultType=&acct=nopgeninfo

last I checked, DMI spreadsheets had formula errors in them, don't use them. However, the rule making is available at this site.

Thanks for the clarification.

I am ussuually a big fan of In These Times. There doesn't seem to be a basis for this article.

There are likely to be countless stories of non organic farmers letting uncountable animals die because it was profitable to do so.

Undoubtedly true, being an organic farmer doesn't make one a saint. All farmers are human, all humans have flaws, I don't believe that organic farmers have fewer flaws.

What you need to ask yourself is what would your reaction be if it were another story about conventional farming or ranching. it's not a fucking contest, there are unethical, greedy, bastards on both sides of the fence. The idea that being an organic farmer makes you immune to human frailties is a myth. Just examine the evidence and go where it leads and don't automatically assume that because you agree with someone philosophically they are pure.

I suspect for instance that if you checked prison populations, there makeup would mirror society in general.

Here's an interesting story that shows how polarized the issue has become: http://blog.beefmagazine.com/beef_daily/2010/09/01/hsus-closes-doors-to-agriculture-store-owner-cancels-meeting/

The number of atheists and organic farmers in prison is very low.

But it is a contest to get an article. There should be a point.

The number of atheists and organic farmers in prison is very low.

The number of atheists and organic farmers in society is very low. I'd be very surprised if there was a statistically significant difference percentage wise.

Nice one, Red.

Indeed, nice one, I stand corrected. Now lets see the stats that show that organic farmers are more moral than conventional farmers.

Looking, I can't find one that says that they are less or equal either.

Give me a break. If you actually gave a shit about the welfare of farm animals, you'd shun meat altogether, organic or not. You're using anecdotal pity for sick calves to make a cheap point in the "organic" debate.

By all means, argue that the organic method is inefficient or unrealistic, but don't sit there and stir up pity for livestock while you keep meat on your grocery list. Factory farmed animals live with enormous cruelty and neglect that utterly dwarfs the organic trade.

You also left out this tidbit from the article:

"Clearly, antibiotic overuse in conventional agriculture is a disaster. Daily low-dose antibiotics make animals grow larger and quicker, and they hold off disease and infection so livestock can survive the crowded, filthy conditions at industrial farms and feedlots. But as the 15-17 million pounds of subtherapeutic antibiotics that America’s livestock consume annually breed resistance in virulent pathogens, the antibiotics humans rely on are failing. In 2006, the U.S. government reported that 1.7 million hospital infections that year caused more than 90,000 patient deaths, up from 13,300 in 1992."

Overuse is bad and so is no use when an animal is sick. They do it too is a fallacious argument, and doesn't excuse mis-treatment of animals even if done by a saintly organic farmer, and in case you didn't know it organic ranchers eat beef. You really aren't trying to make the point that someone who eats meat can't also be in favor of humane treatment of animals. Oh yes you are, what a foolishly transparent attempt to deflect legitimate criticism. You aren't one of those dumb asses who feeds his dog a vegetarian diet, are you?

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They do it too is a fallacious argument

Actually, no. That is not explicitly a logical fallacy--it is context dependent. For example, if one is pointing hypocrisy in an argument, it is entirely logical.

What is fallacious is to cherry pick stories as if they are illustrative of a something significant in a discussion about policy related to a complex, social, macroeconomic process. Such a practice borders on the propagandistic, more worthy of big pharma or big ag (and yes, I will go there without apology) than of purportedly open, rational debate.

Actually, yes.

Two-Wrong Fallacy - Rejecting a criticism of ones argument or actions by accusing one's critic or others of thinking or acting in a similar way.

The Latin name of this fallacy, tu quoque, translates as "You [do it] too." The arguer who commits this fallacy is implicitly saying to the critic, "Because you are guilty of doing the same thing or thinking the say way that you are criticizing me for, your argument is not worthy of consideration. p 203 Attacking Faulty Reasoning, T.Edward Damer

The claim of hypocrisy (true or not) is a deflection, it is used in place of arguments or evidence against the point being made. You didn't challenge the claims of the article you simply pointed to hypocrisy falsely believing it to be a valid argument. If a smoker claimed that smoking was bad for you, you wouldn't point to his hypocrisy as an argument against his claim. You would cite the evidence for or against the claim. The hypocrisy though true would be irrelevant.

As to your claim of cherry-picking. I post articles that are of interest to me, and yes you can call that cherry picking. This is not a news outlet where I try for some balance in what I post, I post links to articles that I find interesting. They are posted to begin a conversation. It was not my intention in posting it to make a claim that organic is bad, the point I took from the article was that following rigid rules that don't allow for exceptions are a bad idea and can lead to negative outcomes.

The problem comes when the "true believers" take any criticism of any part of their dogma as a personal affront, and try and defend it not based on evidence, but on their emotional attachment to the position.

Many in the organic movement view practitioners as above reproach. What is wrong, I ask with simply acknowledging that they are human too? Or considering that the rule may be need of revision. But dogma can't be revised it can only be defended and so instead of discussion you get claims of hypocrisy that even if true have nothing at all to do with the issue.

This is not Fox News, I don't pretend to be fair and balanced. My choices of what to post are decidedly personal and everyone who reads this blog knows that. I allow comments so contrasting points of view can be presented, and in fact even provide a forum where you can post links to articles that you find interesting.

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Thanks for your reply.

I know what tu quoque is, and I agree that claiming hypocrisy can be a deflection. But it's context dependent. If a person is being a hypocrite it speaks to motive and definitely can be germane. After all, aren't you pointing to this purported cruelty of organic farming as a form of hypocrisy, that sheds a negative light on the entire enterprise?

You don't think that you argue purely on logical grounds (as if you were writing a math paper) without resorting to rhetorical devices, do you?! If you were, then you might be more justified in harping on the "logical fallacies" of others--but then your writing would be much less lively! But you are rhetorical, and are using charges of "logical fallacies" in a rhetorical fashion. And that's OK by me, because I accept that the entire universe of discussion and argumentation is much larger than mere logic.

The very method of fomenting discussion (very effectively, I might add--one reason I really like this place) by posting very narrow, carefully selected anecdotes is beyond any consideration of logic per se--it's a method of argument via message control. In short, cherry picking.

Now, for the record, I was just using hypocrisy as an example. I don't think you're being a hypocrite at all. Nor do I disagree with the basic point you are making: some people use the notion of being "organic" (or being "anti-GMO") in a fetishized way, and feel that this means almost by definition that they can't be cruel or illogical or stupid or hurtful to the environment, or whatever. That is pretty dumb.

But why single them out?

Finally, I understand it's your blog. And thank the Deity that you are not Fox News! You are free to do whatever, and I can ignore or respond or lurk, as I see fit. I don't have any issue with that. You're doing a great job so far, from what I see!

Your right this is not a news blog. It is an opinion blog and topics I post on necessarily reflect my opinion, though it is not quite that simple. I often post links to articles I disagree with as a point of departure for a conversation.

The article made a factual claim.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations defining organic standards mandate that if this calf had gotten one dose of antibiotics, even to save her life, she could never give organic milk—even after the two years it takes for her to become a milker, and even though neither she nor her milk would retain any trace of antibiotics.

It's either true or not. If true then since it can lead to bad behavior it needs to be justified. The question is why would using antibiotics something that would leave the system of the animal in time make it not acceptable as organic. It is that point that interests me. I'm not anti-organic or pro GMO. I'm pro sustainability and think some organic methods contribute to that, and that GMOs can also contribute to that. When I see behavior that seems illogical to me, in this case the organic regulations on antibiotics I point it out.

The only time hypocrisy seems relevant is if you're making an argument from authority sans evidence, or if there is some reason to believe the evidence is fixed. But that really has nothing to do with the argument itself. It should stand or fail based on the evidence not on who makes the argument.

You don't think that you argue purely on logical grounds (as if you were writing a math paper) without resorting to rhetorical devices, do you?! If you were, then you might be more justified in harping on the "logical fallacies" of others--but then your writing would be much less lively!

Interesting you once again discard the argument that you made a fallacious argument by attack me by questioning whether I always argue on purely logical grounds, it's irrelevant if I do or don't. Rather than address the subject of whether there was a fallacy or not you deflect by accusing me of accusing me of using rhetorical devices.. Whether pointing out a fallacy is part of one's rhetoric or not is once again irrelevant to whether the fallacy has been committed or not.

Finally your conclusion that I'm trying to paint the entire enterprise of organic in a negative light is straw man argument. I'm painting parts of it in a negative light. If you read this blog you've read that I agree with much of what's termed organic.

But why single them out?

Because their views result in real damage to real people. For example they contribute to organizations like Greenpeace, which spends millions of dollars obstructing the use of tools that can help improve the lives of millions of people. Why single them out indeed.

Why single out the monopolistic practices of corporations, because they too cause damage to real people.

There is an attitude among many of my fellow liberals that is just as stupid and misguided as the stupidity conservatives sometimes engage in. We should hold our views based on the best evidence not on the label conservative or liberal.

I think we have a real difference of opinion on when hypocrisy is relevant and when it's not. It is that I was pursuing.

re: "Undoubtedly true, being an organic farmer doesn't make one a saint. All farmers are human, all humans have flaws, I don't believe that organic farmers have fewer flaws. "

Not surprised you doubt the sanctity of any Organic farmer. We agree on this, I know fer sure I ain't no Saint. A belief in God seems rather essential to belief in sainthood. However the issue of MEDICAL INTERVENTION for livestock is a different one than relative sanctity of farming methods. It is also different from the relative virtue of Organic /vrs Conventional farming methods with respect to animal welfare. It is also different from choosing not to eat beef or dairy because of poor health and welfare conditions on factory farms.

The issue of MEDICAL INTERVENTION with respect to virtuous stewardship of livestock grown for food is a more nuanced subject than any of the above.

The purpose of a food animal is to earn it's keep through production of offspring, meat, eggs, or milk. That's the size of it. That's it's job.

The farmer utilizes land to produce the inputs (grass, grain, veg.) transformed by the food animal to produce these foods. The farmer utilizes waste from this process to replenish the land for producing the inputs. The job of the farmer is to manage these conversions. Further, the virtuous farmer cares for their livestock, wishing only the best for them, and doing all they can to make that animal's time on earth a good one. They respect life and honor the species they raise for food. A fruit tree may be easier to raise, but happy healthy cows and chickens make me laugh outloud.

And yet. The farm value of that egg, milk or meat is a very small part of the price you pay at the market. For the farmer, margins are razor thin. "Creeping up on breaking even" is too close to reality for most farmers. Economics must of course considered in medical intervention decisions. If successfully treated, What is the probability that this animal will then be capable of doing it's job in the future? What is the opportunity cost of pursuing that probability? What is the degree of threat to the rest of the herd from extended treatment?

Drugs are readily available, but not necessarily efficacious for ills of young livestock. Nor should bacterial infections for which antibiotics are appropriate be a common state of affairs in a well managed herd.

There is a difference between a food animal and a pet. I talked with an acquaintance recently. She'd acquired a rescue dog who appears at 12 weeks, to have developed a lung problem for which the Vet speaks of lung transplant. I find consideration of such medical intervention for a pet totally alien to my sense of prudence. All creatures on a farm pull their own weight. Death and life go hand in hand. There's nothing virtual about either.

Nothing wrong with being sad over loss of a week old calf. Changing the Organic Standard would not have saved it, nor, probably, expenditures for 'at any cost' conventional medical intervention.

re: "Here's an interesting story that shows how polarized the issue has become:

http://blog.beefmagazine.com/beef_daily/2010/09/01/hsus-closes-doors-to-agriculture-store-owner-cancels-meeting/"

Thanks for the reference! That's hysterical. Can't ya just see it.

Some farm gal notes an upcoming meeting of the Humane Society. She's thinkin' right off, "Yea right. All hat, no cattle and they're gonna tell us how to run our business. Look! They're meeting in the cupcake shop! Too right."

Now there's nothing like a riled up cattlewoman to raise most any situation to a whole 'nother level. She gets on the horn to her neighbors. They agree it to be an excellent plan for them to all show up there and let these crunchy granola's have a piece of their minds. One gal, just in from the feeding the stock, looks at her mucky boots and says "No need to clean those work boots first", she suggests. "Might just give those folks a little dose of reality."

Well OF COURSE the poor humane society folks are shivering in their boots. I mean, their WHOLE SPIEL for this show is NO DOUBT filled with low def black and white surreptitiously video taped scenes of extraordinary animal cruelty. Only MONSTERS could behave so badly around their beloved pets. And now, OMG, the MONSTERS are coming to the cupcake shop.

The whole deal just had to end badly.

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