Thinking Citizen Blog — Animal Rights — Where You Draw the Line? Why?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Animal Rights — Where You Draw the Line? Why?
How important are animal rights? Is eating meat immoral? How about zoos? How about using animals for forced labor? How about breeding and killing animals for food? clothing? medicine? How about hunting? And how about plants? Do they have rights too? Today, a few excerpts from a book by Martha Nussbaum, “Justice for Animals: Our Collective Responsibility.” She is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
“THEY CAN THINK, FEEL PAIN, LOVE: ISN’T IT TIME ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS?”
1. “Animals are in trouble all over the world. Our world is dominated by humans everywhere: on land, in the seas, and in the ar. No non-human animal escapes human domination. Much of that time, that domination inflicts wrongful injury on animals: whether through the barbarous cruelties of the factory meat industry, through poaching and game huning, through habitat destruction, through pollution of the air and the seas, or through neglect of the companion animals that people purport to love.”
2. “In a way, this problem is age-old. Both Western and non-Western philosophical traditions have deplored human cruelty to animals for around two millennia. The Hindu emperior Ashoka (c.304–232 bce), a convert to Buddhism, wrote about his efforts to give up meat and forgo all practices that harmed animals. In Greece the Platonist philophers Plutrach (46–119 ce) and Porphyry (c.234–305 ce) wrote detailed treatises deploring human cruelty to animals describing their keen intelligence and social life, and urging humans to change their diet and their way of life.”
3. “But by and large these voices have fallen on deaf ears, even in the supposedly moral realm of the philosophers, and most humans have continued to treat most animals like objects, whose suffering does not matter — although sometimes make an exception for companion animals. Meanwhile countless animals have suffered cruelty, deprivation, and neglect.”
HUMANITY HAS TAKEN CRUELTY TO ANOTHER LEVEL
1. “In Porphyry’s world, animals suffered when they were killed for meat, but up to that point they lived pretty decent lives. There was no factory meat industry that, today, breeds these animals as if they were just meat already, confining them in horrible conditions, cramped and isolated, until they die before ever having decently lived.”
2. “Animals were long hunted in the wild, but for the most part their habitats were not taken over for human dwellings or invaded by poachers seeking to make money from the murder of an intelligent being, an elephant or a rhinoceros.”
3. “In the seas, humans have always fished for food, and whales have long been hunted for their commercial value. But the sea was not full of plastic trash that entices animals to dine on it, and then chokes them to death. Nor did companies drilling for undersea oil create noise pollution everywhere (drilling, air bombs used to chart the ocean’s floor), making life increasingly difficult for social creatures whose sense of hearing is their primary mode of communication.”
NB: “Birds were shot for food, but those who escaped did not choke on air pollution or crash fatally into urban skyscrapers, whose lights entice them. In short: the scope of human cruelty and neglect was relatively narrow. Today new forms of animal cruelty turn up all the time — without even being recognized as cruelty, since their impact on the lives of intelligent beings is barely considered. So we have not just the overdue debt of the past, but a new moral debt that has increased a thousandfold and is continually increasing.”
NOT TO MENTION THE RISK OF EXTINCTION
1. “So far, I have not spoken of the extinction of animal species, because this is a book about loss and deprivation suffered by individual creatures, each of whom matters. Species as such do not suffer loss.”
2. “However, extinction never takes place without massive suffering of individual creatures: the hunger of a polar bear, starving on an ice floe, unable to cross the sea to hunt; the sadness of an orphan elephant, deprived of care and community as the species dwindles rapidly; the mass extinctions of song-bird species as a result of unbreathable air, a horrible death.”
3. “When human practices hound species toward extinction, member animals always suffer greatly and live squashed and thwarted lives. Besides, the species themselves matter for creating diverse ecosystems in which animals can live well.”
FOOTNOTE — THE IDEA OF LEGAL ‘STANDING”
1. “Law — both domestic and international — has quite a lot to say about the lives of companion animals, but very little to say about any other animals.”
2. “Nor do animals in most nations have what lawyers call “standing”: that is, the status to bring a legal claim if they are wronged.”
3. Of course, animals cannot themselves bring a legal claim, but neither can most humans, including children, people with cognitive disabilities — and, to tell the truth, almost everybody, since people have little knowledge of the law. All of us need a lawyer to press our claims.”
NB: “But all the humans I have mentioned — including people with lifelong cognitive disabilities — count, and can bring a legal claim, assisted by an able advocate. The way we have designed the world’s legal systems, animals do not have this simple privilege. They do not count.” “Law is built by humans using the theories they have. When those theories were racist, laws were racist. When theories of sex and gender excluded women, so too did law. And there is no denying that most political thought by humans the world over has been human-centered, excluding animals. Even the theories that purport to offer help in the struggle against abuse are deeply defective, built on an inadequate picture of animal lives and animal striving. As a philosopher and political theorist who is also deeply immersed in law and law teaching, I hope to change things with this book.”
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
Two special attachments below:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.