Some notes from my recent travels:
I'm spending some time with my husband, Kim, in Timor Leste, where he is working on a land tenure property rights program; it is a poor but naturally beautiful country, struggling to regain its independence after a long term occupation. During his pre-dawn jogs, Kim is amused to encounter herds of goats clustered in twos and threes, nestled together in road determined to enjoy last few moments of their nights' rest. They barely flick an ear as he weaves between them, appearing to be no more than darker shadows in the dim morning light; they know the road belongs to them, at least until the break of day. This pre-dawn sedentary determination belies their youthful exuberance during the day. I think of their american cousins in the CAFOs, the FDA's approval of the sale of cloned meat, and it prompts me to consider the relative quality of life of the livestock in Timor Leste as compared to the livestock in the Industrial Food Chain in the US.
What strikes me is that we, in the US, while priding ourselves in the humane treatment of our companion animals, turn a blind eye towards the cruelty of the livestock in our industrial food chains, our CAFOs -- the CAFOs that feed the fast food, cheap food, sugary food industry, arguably the food industry chain that is eroding the quality of life of humans in the US.
My observation is that the goats, pigs, cows, and chickens in Timor Leste have a much more interesting, satisfying, and likely, longer lives than their supposedly "free range" US cousins.
While not meaning to diminish the extreme poverty of the human condition in Timor Leste, the everyday presence of the goats, pigs, cows, and chickens are a reminder that we can learn something about importance of recognizing our interconnectedness and the potential dangers of disconnection and disassociation -- and about the infinity diversity of living things with which we share the planet.
[Addendum, Jan 20, 2008: Colleague Art Caplan writes that Don't ask, don't tell is bad policy for cloned food. -- I might add I think it's bad policy for food in general. Also, Chris MacDonald at the Business Ethics Blog gives a different perspective. ]