Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Threat Animal Rights Poses to Non Animal Industries

What if individual animals could sue BP or other non animal using industries for damages? The result would choke the courts and ruin the economy. Here's my take on an article in the ABA Journal that discusses the issue.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Eating Meat Made Humans Exceptionally Smart

I have decided not to keep a separate animal rights blog--this one--as well as a general bioethics/human exceptionalism blog, which I call Secondhand Smoke. The reason is that I end up posting all animal rights entries there anyway. So, from this post onward, when I post an animal rights-related entry at SHS, I will merely link it here rather than repeat or abridge the whole thing.

An NPR report posits that eating meat made us the human beings we are today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Risking Aviation Safety–For Geese>

Now this really drives me nuts. There is certainly nothing wrong with having safe havens for wildlife. They are generally good things. But if our devotion to animals risks human life, we have gone way overboard. And that appears to be behind the so far unsuccessful efforts to limit the goose population in a wildlife preserve near JKF Airport in the wake of bird strike last year that landed a jet in the Hudson River. From the story:
A year and a half after Canada geese forced an airliner to splash down in the Hudson River, officials are rounding them up in almost every part of the city — but flocks are still free to take off around John F. Kennedy International Airport. The wild birds were at the center of a government vs. government battle on Tuesday. A National Park Service official told The Associated Press that, for now, his agency won’t touch the hundreds of birds living in a refuge near Kennedy airport’s runways. “Our mission is to protect and preserve wildlife — that’s a law — and it isn’t a given that the removal of the geese is necessary to protect the flying public,” said Dave Avrin, the official at the Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Are you kidding me? Hundreds of people were almost killed by these geese. Indeed, but for a valiant captain, that plane might have crashed in the middle of the city! If the owner of private property won’t let the government in to kill the geese, the apparent excuse here, get a court order! Good grief.

Priorities, people! Those geese are beautiful animals–but in this context they are just birds. The entire gaggle is not worth one human life. They have already taken down one plane. Can you imagine the uproar if they take down another?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy Lauded in Review

Well, this is a nice way to start the day. Someone sent me a good review on MercatorNet (Australia) of A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy. And how refreshing: The reviewer really got where I am coming from. Here are a few excerpts:

Our society rests upon the unspoken acceptance of a number of truths, like the rule of law, the authority of reason, or solidarity with our neighbours. One of these is so obvious that it used to need no defenders: human exceptionalism, the notion that humans are special and unique amongst living things. But today, animal rights activists are holding a big question mark over this hitherto undisputed truth.

Radical animal rights activists deny that there is anything special about human beings. Their campaign to grant animals rights is ultimately a campaign to revise Shakespeare’s assessment – “in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals” — and disrobe him of any unique significance. That is the argument of this important book. Wesley J. Smith distinguishes between animal welfare and the animal rights movement. The humane treatment of animals is something all of us should support. But animal rights is a worrying development. What looks like a noble and worthwhile crusade is at bottom really an anti-human ideology. It is in fact “a belief system, an ideology, even a quasi religion, which both implicitly and explicitly seeks to create a moral equivalence between the value of human lives and those of animals,” says Smith.

The review discusses some of the ideological bases I report on and notes:

Smith warns us of what sort of world we would live in if these radicals had their way: “Medical research would be materially impeded. There would be no more fishing fleets, cattle ranches, leather shoes, steak barbecues, animal parks, bomb-sniffing or Seeing Eye dogs, wool coats, fish farms, horseback riding, pet stores… Millions of people would be thrown out of work, our enjoyment of life would be substantially diminished. Our welfare and prosperity reduced.” Indeed, all domestication of animals would be taboo. There goes the family pet.

The review discusses some of the examples of animal rights activism in my book, such as Holocaust on Your Plate,” and PETA’s scurilous “comic books” depicting parents as animal killers:

It is not just intellectuals and academics who are pushing all this. Activist groups are targeting children and schools. They seek to convince young children that all domestication of animals is evil, and they must rise up and act now. There are even PETA comics. One produced in 2003 for its anti-fur campaign, “Your Mommy KILLS Animals!”, depicts an evil-looking mother knifing a rabbit to death, with gore splattered all over the page. These fear campaigns and propaganda exercises are found in schools all around North America.

The ultimate point of the book, as SHSers know, is defending human exceptionalism:

Rights can apply only to humans, because only humans possess moral autonomy. Seeking to include animals in the area of rights “would degrade the importance of rights altogether, just as wild inflation devalues money”. Given that Switzerland is now talking about “plant rights” it is time that we started thinking clearly and soberly about what rights really mean, and why humans are unique. At the same time we can and should ensure proper animal welfare. Smith gets this balance right. With so much irrationality and emotion being generated on this issue, his cool logic and common sense come as a welcome relief.

I tried. Thanks very much to Bill Muehlenberg, a lecturer in ethics and philosophy at several Melbourne theological colleges and a PhD candidate at Deakin University, for his obvious careful reading of my book and his thoughtful analysis.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ban Whaling Based on Animal Welfare, Not Personhood

The anti human exceptionalists are–rather desperately, it seems to me–ever pretending that animals are like “us,” even as they say there is nothing special about being human anyway. And now, the effort to stop whaling has scientists in high anthropomorphic gear about pods of whales being “tribes” and alleged cetacean personhood. Latest example, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier, who argues that we should “Save a Whale, Save a Soul:”

After two years of transcontinental haggling, the commission had been expected to replace today’s hunting ban with limited hunting quotas. Supporters of the policy change had argued that by specifying how many whales of a given species could be sustainably harvested over a 10-year period, and by tightening or eliminating current loopholes through which whaling nations like Japan and Norway kill the marine mammals for “scientific” purposes, the new measure would effectively reduce the number of whales slaughtered each year.

Yet many biologists who study whales and dolphins view such a compromise as deeply flawed, and instead urge that negotiators redouble efforts to abolish commercial whaling and dolphin hunting entirely. As these scientists see it, the evidence is high and mounting that the cetacean order includes species second only to humans in mental, social and behavioral complexity, and that maybe we shouldn’t talk about what we’re harvesting or harpooning, but whom.

To show you where Angier is coming from, I blogged about her writing over at Secondhand Smoke after she ridiculously opined that plants are the most ethical life form on the planet because they live without killing. I guess she forgot that ethics requires rational analysis and the intentional creation of moral codes, activities in which only humans are capable of engaging. Oh, and what about those cruel venus flytraps? They digest their prey alive!

Here’s the thing: We don’t need to go through the mental contortion of making whales people too in order to support an international treaty banning commercial whaling. Human exceptionalism supports it based on our duty not to treat animals cruelly or cause animal suffering for little human benefit. The need for whale meat is very low and the cruelty of the killing method very high. That being so, it doesn’t matter that a pod of killer whales once seemed to play with dead salmon (discussed in Angier’s piece). As a matter of applying basic animal welfare principles, the arguments in favor of a commercial ban are clear and convincing.