heeb'n'vegan

"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)

1.21.2009

Jewish Animal Rights Advocate Tapped to Be New Regulatory Czar

Animal rights advocate Cass Sunstein has been tapped by President Barack Obama to oversee the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as "regulatory czar." The New Republic claims, "Among top officials, this is the most important position that Americans know nothing about." Sunstein, a widely revered Harvard law professor, is reportedly Jewish.

Sunstein co-edited the 2004 book Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, which includes his introduction as well as his essay "Can Animals Sue?" In the latter, Sunstein argued in favor of giving animals legal standing in order to enforce existing animal protection laws:
[E]ven if statutes protecting animal welfare are enforceable by human beings, Congress might grant standing to animals in their own right .... Indeed, I believe that in some circumstances, Congress should do exactly that, to provide a supplement to limited public enforcement efforts. . . . The point is even simpler at the state level. In general, state legislatures have the power to give animals standing to sue, and they might well seek to do this if they want to ensure more enforcement of the anticruelty laws.

In 2007, Sunstein spoke at Harvard's Facing Animals conference (his presentation can be seen about 39 minutes in here). Sunstein claimed that animal rights is unique in that, unlike other controversial issues, people's "moral judgments" are "far more aligned than we typically suppose" (i.e., there's widespread agreement that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering). Sunstein added that that “the striking phenomenon is not that we’re divided on the moral questions but that our practices violate our own moral commitments.” Sunstein strongly condemned hunting, saying, “We ought to ban hunting, I suggest, if there isn’t a purpose other than sport and fun. That should be against the law. It’s time now.” He concluded his presentation as follows:
[Humans’] willingness to subject animals to unjustified suffering will be seen, as [Jeremy] Bentham and [John Stuart] Mill thought, as a form of unconscionable barbarity, not the same as, but in many ways morally akin to, slavery and the mass extermination of human beings.
"Perhaps discussion about the ethical treatment of animals is going to be higher on the new administration's agenda than one might think," noted a post on The Dallas Morning News' Religion Blog. I'm not holding my breath for that to be the case, but as a new administration takes over with prevailing themes of hope and change, it's nice to know that there'll be an animal rights advocate in such a position of power.

Update (1/29): This post originally said that Sunstein is reportedly vegetarian, and indeed, numerous news articles included the assumption that Sunstein was vegetarian or vegan. However, Mother Jones reports, "According to [Sunstein's Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions co-editor, Martha] Nussbaum, Sunstein eats meat and has no secret plan to force vegetarianism on the American people."

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