Paul Waldau, Animal Studies – Animal Rights



Part II – Paul Waldau
Animal Studies – Animal Rights

Paul Waldau is an educator, scholar and activist working at the intersection of animal studies, law, ethics, religion, and cultural studies. He is an Associate Professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where he is the Senior Faculty for the Master of Science graduate program in Anthrozoology. Paul has also taught at Harvard Law School since 2002, and in 2014 will again serve as the Barker Visiting Associate Professor on Animal Law.

The former Director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy, Paul taught veterinary ethics and public policy at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine for more than a decade. Paul has completed five books, the most recent of which are Animal Studies—An Introduction published by Oxford University Press in early 2013 and Animal Rights (2011 Oxford University Press). He is also co-editor of A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics (2006 Columbia University Press).

Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, we are back. I am Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to It’s All About Food here on July 30th, 2013.
Okay, that was good, I really enjoyed that last conversation about foraging. Now we are going to move onto something that is also very important, and that is Animal Studies and Animal Rights. I am going to bring on my next guest, Paul Waldau, he is an educator, scholar and activist working at the intersection of Animal Studies, Law, Ethics, Religion and Cultural Studies. He is an associate professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where he is the senior faculty for the Master of Science graduate program in Anthrozoology. Paul has also taught at Harvard Law School since 2002 and in 2014 will again serve as the Barker visiting associate professor on Animal Law. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Paul!

Paul Waldau: Hi Caryn, nice to be here.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi, you know I have listened to a number of your interviews and I have been reading your books. And I am just in awe at this very peaceful and non-judgmental tone that you have.

Paul Waldau: What a nice compliment, thank you, and can I reciprocate? I am preparing and I am thinking; I get to talk to Caryn, we are going to talk about responsible eating issues, and I think, “Gosh that’s such an immediate day to day issue that helps condition all of us to be more responsible actors in so many other realms.” So it is really an enjoyable thing to talk about this subject because there are so many creative and responsible ways to address this.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well I always try and find different ways because I know different people are going to respond to one thing or another. Some people appeal to a religious spin, some people appeal to a health spin, or environmental, and there is what got me on this path was not wanting to kill animals.

Paul Waldau: And also you’d find in education the same thing, and if you’re a good educator you are so sensitive to the fact the students in front of you arrive and they want to share but they often arrive with very personal and distinctive pasts. Though part of the task of an educator in this area is listening to them to say, “How do I take this person’s talents and let them flourish as much as possible?”

Caryn Hartglass: Well that is indeed a skill, a great skill to have. Okay, so let’s jump into this, I’ve been talking about animal rights a bit on this program and I’m going to continue for the next few weeks. One of the things I was thinking about, is that we seem to be, I like to visualize things, and I think about like a time line or a line of where the human consciousness is on this subject and we were talking last week about those that are way, way out there in what some people call “the extreme” and saying that the only type of activism is the all-or-nothing approach where we tell people it has to be one way and nothing else. And then there are those in the middle that allow for small steps, and I think in how important all of that is, in order to move the general feeling to a better place.

Paul Waldau: I think you’re right, that it takes a lot of different attitudes to constitute a social movement and a lot of different approaches, some circumstances do require us to go to the root, which is the meaning of the word “radical”. I don’t think violence is ever justified, I think that’s by far the most important position because so much of what animal protection people do is about stopping violence and it’s pretty hard to use the tool you’re protesting against as part of the protest. And everybody knows there are complex situations like self defense where some kind of force is needed, but I think on the whole the really important principle is to avoid violence, because that’s the problem. It’s no simple task of course, because the people who have privileges or the business that want to make profits in tough ways aren’t going to give up those privileges, so how do you move them? Well we need a lot of different approaches to convince them change is important for all of us.

Caryn Hartglass: I was going to bring this up later, but I’m going to bring it up now. There are a small amount of people that believe violence is necessary and a few of them unfortunately, in somewhat violent act had precipitated some laws that came out and that make it even more difficult for us to protest today or at least to uncover things that are going on in factory forums.

Paul Waldau: Yeah the recent decision just in the past couple days on AgGag laws has been pretty good where people recognize how incredibly unfair, not only do they harm the non-human animals but they harm the right to speak freely about what is actually happening in the world. Industry’s powerful, they can lobby to get the very narrow minded and favoritism oriented laws like that. But Caryn, last year there were very important AgGag laws that passed, now we have to undo that, but this is the storm that every social movement goes through, it’s sort of a pendulum swinging back and forth and the hopeful thing is that people stay the course, not having to go back to responsible eating. That really is the day to day encounter that we have with so much of the world around us, environmentally, animal-protection-wise and that’s just something that people start there and they start to see how important it is to get to the other areas as well.

Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned this a lot in your book, in One Way or Another, but responsible eating sure is important, but many people think they’re responsible, many people think that they are compassionate and yet they don’t have a clue, either they’re not educated or they’re so close minded that they don’t even acknowledge everything around them. And you talk a lot about what the animal perceives, and we have no clue what other animals perceive, we can barely understand what our partners, and our parents and our children are thinking, let alone other species.

Paul Waldau: Yeah that’s a really important note, in the most recent book the Animals Studies book, puts right up front that the task has to be for us to humbly seek out other animal’s realities, their communal realities, their individual realities but also to admit that is a limited success here, we have big brains and we’re wonderful when we’re humble but often on this area we’ve not been. So seeking that out is important. I’m sure the way for us to go through this is education but so much of our education has really dumbed people down. There’s a very famous saying by a man that said “People are not born stupid, they are born ignorant, they’re made stupid by education.” Of course he was talking about a bad kind of education, our job is, it’s up to us, can we turn our education system to help us with our limits and send humility versus making us arrogant and even unaware of the world.

Caryn Heartglass: You mentioned at one point, I believe it’s in Animal Studies, The People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn’s great book and that’s just one book that I believe should be in all high school students’ history classes. I learned so much about it, and not just what was in the book, but it’s just a great example of how we are taught to see things a certain way.

Paul Waldau: And not only was Howard Zinn a great man but he also does us a great service in showing how the history that we learned was this rather one dimensional, very narrow minded kind of history and if the history has treated other humans so badly Caryn, and it really has and this continues of course today. But he helped us see this much better; he models for us that you can be honest about history, even it’s ugly parts, in a constructive way, to say “Come on, let’s see this and let’s try to stop this.” And that’s very pertinent to what we do to the other living beings, besides our own species members. Often when I write, I’m really quite interested in the point that listen, if somebody’s really for animal rights, since humans are primates and mammals, and thus animals. Animal rights is a position that says these important and complex beings deserve protection, and human’s locked in there, this is for me, a win-win situation. But most of us know, it’s often a polarized debate and people pretend that animal protection people don’t like humans. Almost everyone I know who is an animal protectionist, really sees the value of protecting humans just as fully.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, when you understand what’s behind animal rights and understand exploitation is wrong, that causing pain and suffering is wrong, it is wrong for humans and wrong for other non-human species. We understand that.

Paul Waldau: And there is a wonderful set of arguments to be made about, listen of course it’s better for the non-human animals if we realize what you just said but it’s almost amazingly good for us if we develop our own moral character and strength and muscles. What happens when we ignore that, is our moral muscles, as it were, begin to atrophy and you loose the ability to be sensitive, not just to non-humans but humans as well. Just by taking responsibility in your day to day actions. I actually believe humans are remarkable animals, remarkable beings, but only when we’re humble. When we’re out there being arrogant about how important we are and the world was designed for us we are rather ordinary and ugly, to be frank. So to me, there is a win-win situation for living in a much better world.

Caryn Hartglass: There are other social movement that are moving forward and not in the places where they’d ideally like to be: civil rights, women’s rights, sexual rights, racial rights, etc. But the difference with Animal Rights is that these non-human species don’t have a voice.

Paul Waldau: Yeah there’s a powerful Austrailian group called Voiceless which is precisely looking at that point. For me, the harms we’ve done to women, disfavored races, all sorts of marginalized human groups, children for heaven’s sakes, when we become sensitive to them it just enlarges our capacity, one of the interesting things about compassion is that it isn’t a hyper-finite capacity. The more compassionate you are, you recognize how you can move that forward and be caring across the species line, protecting local dogs, local cats, wildlife locally. That really tunes you up for how important compassion is and that easily comes back inside the species line repeatedly. So for me, in our classes we constantly affirming that animal protection is about protecting all of the living beings on Earth as much as we are able to do and that will always benefit humans because we’re surely among the most complicated animals even if we are obviously not the single one that matters. But we definitely matter, so animal protection has a good message for humans as well.

Caryn Hartglass: Well it is very exciting that there are more and more Animal Studies courses at the university level, I remember when I was going to school back in the seventies, I don’t remember, well there were a handful of Women’s Studies classes, but I don’t remember any Animal Studies. And how has that changed over the decades?

Paul Waldau: These days there are literally hundreds and hundreds of Animal Studies classes, individual classes, you could go to the Animals and Society Institute and see the list. It’s really impressive! But what we’ve done in the past five years or so is move to the level of creating whole programs where people can not just have a single course, and those single courses are really important, but if they’re important imagine what happens when somebody over a sustained period of time with others who are doing this as well get the chance to encounter these issues to nurture their own understanding in others and if all of us in the community work so much better than we do as individuals if we’re really doing things with good will. Those programs have started to emerge and the Canisius program has got wonderful dynamics, so do some of the Animal Law classes like the one at Harvard, it’s such a pleasure to teach because the students are so involved for all the right reasons. Nobody takes that class because they’re trying to make more money, they take it because they care, and you’re in a class Caryn, and people care like that, which happens in the graduate program and the Animal Law classes. Well sometimes your job as an instructor is to just nurture them and then get out of their way, they’re so talented you just want to see where they’ll take it. It’s fun education when it’s working really well.

Caryn Hartglass: Right early on in your new Animal Studies book, I’m going to read here that this introduction to animal studies touches so many fields: history, cultural studies, education, natural and social sciences of many kinds, political studies, law, philosophy, critical studies, literature, arts, comparative religion, ethics, sociology, public policy studies, social psychology, geography, anthropology, archeology, criminology. It’s amazing.

Paul Waldau: Well it’s humbling to hear that, I’m obviously not an expert in every one of those, I was certainly writing about each one of those. For me, the whole task was something wonderfully interesting happening in all those fields on the animal question and how could we coordinate and cross fertilize so the last geographers have done wonderful work, talk to sociologists, talk to the law people, the religion people, talk to philosophers, etc. but that often doesn’t happen in the modern university and we need that multifaceted interdisciplinary approach. That sounds awfully intellectual but it’s so common sense that literature and art have something to say. So how do we get these participants to talk to each other, if we do I think we’ll see how really ancient and deep this concern is and if we do it again, Caryn, our educational system can be so much more remarkable than it is right now.

Caryn Hartglass: Well when I think about exploitation, and when I think about what we do to animals, it’s so disheartening on so many levels but then I think there are so many species that have so many skills and so many talents that we really take for granted and if we really respected them for what they knew and knew how to do, we would be so far ahead in so many fields.

Paul Waldau: Yeah, what a wonderful world it would be if we’d all been educated. I was just reading someone in preparation for this, who talks about how important it is for us to educate children, but frankly we often educate children, that to be an adult you have to put away those childish things like caring about animals. Oh really? I don’t think that’s right, you find great figures, like historically the Buddha, for example, you find wonderfully in Albert Schweitzer contemporary people like Jane Goodall, really stunningly interesting people have at the center of their lives these deep concerns about other living beings. And it is the way I think of an integrated person, in terms of again, you could talk your table choices, your other consumer choices, your treatment of the local wildlife or just your awareness in general of how history shows us how many people cared about this issue. It’s a question of being gentle, one of my favorite quotes is this one from Thich Nhat Hanh, he’s talking about the question, is there is a path to peace, and he says, “There is no path to peace, peace is the path.” I think yes, in a way, nonviolence in the world, not crazy nonviolence, self-defense in some situations but this very caring deep-seated commitment to non-violence is an important, how would you say, possibility for us.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m really curious about the students who take your classes, what disciplines are they studying and what makes them interested in taking your course, I imagine some of them might want to be lawyers, but there must be other fields.

Paul Waldau: There are some who want to be teachers at the elementary level, the secondary, or in the university level and get Ph.Ds some want to go off, one of our students in our program is going onto Oxford, others want to be lawyers. But frankly, many of them will start non-profit, some will start profit businesses where they want to use the effects of doing modern business in an ethical way to help out with the problem. For example, you can see someone providing ethically sourced fast food, think what a wonderful contribution that could be. Many of them want to do sanctuaries to provide protection for the many different kinds of animals. I think to answer the question, what do they do? They do everything, and part of my job as the principal recruiter is to just find out where this person is, it’s almost always female, in the entering class of 20 there were eighteen females and that’s pretty standard these days in Animal Studies courses unfortunately. I think we’re better off if it were a little more balanced but frankly the way it’s going has been so good I don’t want to complain but we’ll be better of when we come back to being a little better gender balanced. But what do they do, they do everything, some of them are literature, some of them are forty or fifty years old and are simply lost. Finally a form of education they care the most about and they’ll do this with abandon. And Caryn, that’s what makes it such a good educational dynamic inside the class, these are talented accomplished people helping to educate each other, like sometimes, I said earlier, my job is to just step aside, get out of their way, help nurture them, but really see the energy is the real genius here.

Caryn Hartglass: As you mentioned before humans have done some pretty awful things and continue to do awful things to each other and to animals, I think probably the worst thing we’ve come up with is the confinement of animals, CAFOS, the factory farming of animals for food. I just have to pause when I think about it, I can’t really think about it too much because it’s so overwhelming.

Paul Waldau: The numbers are just so mind numbing that you loose what’s happening and people say, “I don’t want to know” but the thing is, they do know.

Caryn Hartglass: We all know.

Paul Waldau: We all need to make the choices that stop that kind of immorality.

Caryn Hartglass: So you talked about veterinarians and some of them who work with these factory farms treating animals that are going to be slaughtered at some point, living in excrement and filth and are diseased. And there was one story with one who, maybe he wasn’t a veterinarian, but he came up with a solution to cure some of the pigs.

Paul Waldau: Yeah, the Animal Rights book, the 2011 book, somebody who worked in a big factory farm healed the pigs on his own because he came from a ranch where that’s what they would’ve done and he was disciplined. He bought the medicine himself, he was disciplined, but he eventually got his job back and told never to do that again.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, he was reprimanded. What I wondered is I thought that veterinarians for the most part got into the field because they cared about animals.

Paul Waldau: Yes, well I taught vet school where I worked for a decade educating over a thousand veterinary students in ethics, I think ninety plus percent do come for that reason, now they don’t always go out the door with that because interestingly individual vets many of the entering veterinary students are beautifully committed to healing but the actual veterinary profession through it’s big professional organization in the United States, through it’s administrators in the schools to be very focused on grants which come from the federal government often, or big businesses and so they are not driven by the same kind of motivation that leads someone to go into vet school, it’s like “I want to help heal.” Okay, so those two values co-exist in vet school and it’s a tough place for somebody uncomfortable with big scientific grants that do a lot of harm. And so veterinary medicine is a very complicated world but individual values, almost everyone I’ve ever met has, if you tap, most vets are women these days, if you touch them in a good way you can see their heart clearly, clearly, wants to be in a good place and often is, many of them are profoundly good healers but the question is how do we get those vets in charge of big national veterinary medicine? That’s a big challenge.

Caryn Hartglass: Certainly the news centers on sensational stories, and I’ve read a number of them about veterinarians who will drug race horses in order to get them to perform better even if they have a lot of inflammation, and don’t really treat them appropriately because it’s all about the money.

Paul Waldau: This is an issue, and it’s an issue in this profession which is a big part of how our society addresses non-human animals, goes forward and veterinary medicine I have great hopes for but it was complicated working there for ten years. Powerful forces, not being really interested in the ethics side just in the financial and scientific breakthrough side. Okay, scientific breakthroughs are important but not at any cost, we don’t experiment on humans to get scientific breakthroughs, but we do a little bit sadly, but we roundly repudiate that generally. And the question is when will we move to a position of protecting more kinds of living beings from this sort of thing and moving to other kinds of science, which is difficult to do, but you can do them, without having to harm these living beings in such tough ways.

Caryn Hartglass: I look forward to that and I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime but it’s something to hope for. So we just have two minutes left, do you have an animal story where you were touched by an animal?

Paul Waldau: I grew up in Southern California and I grew up in an area where there were dolphins and I talked to a local scientist and he said “We don’t know much about them,” my brothers and I learned to watch them from the cliffs and Huntington beach, and then we learned swim with them, and eventually I learned to kayak with them. But once when one came up to me while I was in the water, I had swum out and I could see them coming down the coast and it came up to me and looked at me. I had such a sense of “Oh my, there’s a light on,” the animal was right next to me, and then it darted away. It got away. But that experience to me as what somebody calls an epiphany where I realized there are other beings that have just as much of a light on as we do and to encounter them, I was in that being’s space and I was ever thankful for that individual dolphin coming up and interacting with me in that way.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s very very special, if only we’d open our eyes to see everything that is out there.

Paul Waldau: Yes, yes, yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you Paul for joining me, for all the books you’ve been writing and all the people you’ve been educating that is tremendous work, thank you so much.

Paul Waldau: Thank you Caryn, thank you for the opportunity here and also for the program it’s really a major contribution, thank you so much.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you. You’re listening to It’s All About Food, that was Paul Waldau and you may look for his books Animal Studies, Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know, very good reading. And please visit Responsible Eating and that’s my non-profit, and either at that site or the site you can visit, and watch the new video The Making of Swingin’ Gourmets: Making of Real American Barbeque, it’s twenty-eight minutes so find a comfortable place and take the time to watch it I think you’ll enjoy it, please let me know by sending me an email at and have a delicious week.

Transcribed by Anna Smith, 8/5/2013

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