Lab c4: Animal Rights and Vegetarianism

Animal Rights And Vegetarianism

This interview is set on Earth. Marco is an experienced traveller to the OboxPlanet. 

Interviewer: I like Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom on this topic: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Are animals treated better on the OboxPlanet than on Earth?

Marco: Yes, definitely. The first reason is that the people are wealthier, and secondly, there’s a competition for innovation, transparency, and credibility.

Interviewer: How does wealth directly relate to animal welfare?

Marco: As the German playwright Bertolt Brecht once bluntly put it, “First comes food, then comes morality.” It is not in our nature to treat animals well, it is a moral issue. As long as people struggle for their daily sustenance, animal welfare tends to take a back seat. Poor people, poor animals—exceptions exist, of course. But It’s no coincidence that the first animal welfare societies emerged alongside growing wealth at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 19th-century England, the US and other western countries.

Interviewer: But even in wealthy countries, we have factory farms.

Marco: That brings us to the issue of transparency and incentives. I used to think: for serious problems, there’s the state. The state t enacts animal protection laws, ensuring a minimum level of morality—anything beyond that is a luxury. The problem is that producers have powerful interests and often influence regulations in their favor. They can even manage to hide and obscure the reality if necessary.

Interviewer: At least there are some minimum standards, which is better than nothing.

Marco: The danger with state regulations is that people relinquish responsibility and stop paying close attention. I claim that many consumers and voters are unaware of what really goes on in some places on Earth; they wouldn’t accept it if they knew.

Interviewer: Okay, let’s look at how it works on the OboxPlanet. Can you be more specific? How does everyday life differ from Earth in this regard?

Marco: There’s a competition for transparency. Most animal products, from eggs to meat, show the production process, and packaging often illustrates the production facilities. Many production sites offer tours, and products can be bought on-site. This exists on Earth too, but it’s much more flexible and innovative on the OboxPlanet because there are no state-imposed obstacles. Most products have two quality indicators: one for hygiene, nutrients, and additives in the feed or the final product, and another for animal welfare.

Interviewer: But isn’t it convenient for the state to set minimum standards for people who aren’t interested, sparing them the trouble?

Marco: Convenience is an important human need, and that’s why there are also options for impatient and less interested customers. I remind you of a huge general difference from Earth: the OboxPlanet has no politics, no election campaigns, no ideologies, no bureaucratic hurdles or permits, no corruption, foreign policy, or wars. People have much more time and capacity to focus on personally important issues like morality and health – and animal welfare.

Interviewer: What are the biggest differences between state and private quality standards?

Marco: State standards are, at best, developed by a group of experts who must rely on existing knowledge. New insights have to wait for the next revision and there is little incentive for revisions. Meanwhile, many producers wonder why they should strive for any improvements or research at all. On OboxPlanet, in contrast, there’s constant competition to improve all aspects of production and marketing, including how quality criteria are measured and presented. There’s intensive collaboration with universities, zoos, and innovative producers.

Interviewer: And who ensures that the standards are adhered to?

Marco: The profit motive, probably the most powerful motive of all. On Earth, we must rely on the honesty and incorruptibility of officials. On OboxPlanet, competition ensures that the competition and journalists scrutinize everything closely.

Interviewer: But aren’t such organizations prone to corruption and biased reports?

Marco: Of course, there are black sheep here and there. However, on Earth, the state holds a monopoly. You only need to bribe one entity. If fraud is exposed, it may cause a scandal, but the institution and the state’s tasks remain intact. In the market, it’s much riskier. If negligence is exposed, it costs a company a lot of money. If fraud is discovered, the company’s very existence is at stake.

Interviewer: Let’s talk about vegetarians. Are there more of them, and what’s the difference from Earth?

Marco: I don’t know the exact numbers. Notably, the industry is extremely innovative, unhampered by state regulations and obstacles. Another difference is the existence of various communities with concentrations of vegetarians and vegans. People who hold these beliefs as a significant moral concern feel more comfortable among like-minded individuals. And mobility is greater on the OboxPlanet, again because there are no state-imposed barriers.


Some more details on Vegetarianism and regulations:

The growing concern for animal welfare significantly contributes to the rising popularity of vegetarianism on OboxPlanet. This lifestyle choice is closely tied to increasing wealth, and as a result, there is a higher prevalence of vegetarians compared to Earth. The enhanced flexibility to join communities with similar interests has given rise to “vegetarian communities.” These groups, united by common values, become hubs for innovation in various aspects of life, including living arrangements, gardening practices, cooking techniques, and health research.

On the OboxPlanet, competition fosters efficiency and transparency, while on Earth, regulations are backward-oriented solution at best and prone to corruption.

Let us take animal welfare to illustrate this universal principle.

On OboxPlanet, the moment people became concerned about animal welfare, a race for quality and transparency ensued. Producers openly advertise their latest, animal-friendly production methods, and independent rating agencies ensure these claims are accurate. The competitive environment discourages deception, as any attempt to corrupt a rating agency is swiftly countered by competitors seeking to take advantage and outshine them. Top producers proudly welcome people to tour their facilities, and in wealthier regions, animals are generally treated in line with cutting-edge knowledge.

On Earth, although some producers aim to promote animal-friendly products, there’s a tendency for people to turn to the state for solutions, seeking regulations and laws. Unfortunately, these laws, no matter how well-intended, have consistent drawbacks. They are based on current knowledge and resistant to change, hindering the progress of new technologies and animal welfare research. Moreover, they often diminish consumer interest, as individuals may assume that the state has taken responsibility. Producers may find it financially beneficial to merely meet the minimum requirements for a specific label, and in some cases, bribery of state officials becomes a cheaper alternative to actual improvements. Unlike rating agencies, which operate transparently with competitors watching, state controls are more prone to corruption due to lower chances of detection.u

What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?

On the positive side, the 19th century can illustrate the connection between increasing human welfare and animal welfare. Here are some notable examples of the first animal protection organizations:

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA): Founded in 1824 in England,

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): Founded in 1866 in the United States.

Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA): Founded in 1868, the MSPCA was the first humane society in the United States.

Société protectrice des animaux (SPA): Established in 1845 in France,

On the negative side, the mass production of animals illustrates the problems associated with state regulations, regardless of how well-intended they may be. People on Earth are increasingly looking to the state to solve just about all of their problems. But once again, in the case of animal welfare, the consequences of state interventions are not only costly but also detrimental to animals and well-intentioned farmers.

When politicians and bureaucrats make rules, they must base their decisions on existing knowledge and technologies. This may hinder or prohibit the adoption of new technologies and discourage progress in animal welfare research.

State laws also have a negative impact on consumer behavior, as they diminish the individual responsibility of consumers who believe that “the state is now responsible.”

For producers, it becomes financially advantageous to meet the minimum requirements for a particular quality label, and in many cases, it is cheaper to bribe state officials responsible for oversight than to make substantial improvements in reality.

Overall, while things are overall improving for animals on Earth, the process is slow and inefficient due to state interference. Transparency and innovation, rather than state intervention, would likely lead to faster progress in animal welfare.

Now it’s your turn: 

concerning the treatment of animals, do you care and if you could, what type of information would you want to have? And if today, you don’t make an effort or want to pay more for products with better animal protection, would this be different if you had two or ten times more money available?

Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet:

Get the state out of the whole business, give the consumers and producers the benefit of market competition: transparency, choice, self-responsibility.