July 26, 2007

Animal Cruelty in Ethics and Politics

Unless you're the sort that doesn't watch the news or sticks your fingers in your ears and screams while the sports segment is on, you know that Michael Vick, Quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, is being charged with a couple of felonies associated with his alleged involvement with a dog fighting right.

New York Times: Vick Faces Day in Court on Dogfighting Charges

Michael Vick, the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, is due in court in Richmond, Va., later today to respond to charges that he was involved in a dog fighting conspiracy on property he owns in rural Surry County.

I've killed animals before. I eat animals almost all the time. I wear animals and I support their continued slaughter for my benefit and comfort.

I ALSO support the keeping of animals for my entertainment and comfort. Animals like puppies and kittens and maybe a fish.

When I am able to inflict death on a spider, I am greatly pleased because those things skeev me out.

So, let's talk about killing, torturing, and abusing animals just for sport. This includes dog and cock fighting as well as having sex with whatever species of animal ewe prefer.

In politics, my position on this matter won't come as a surprise to my regular readers. If you own the animal or animals in question, you should be permitted to do with them as you please in the eyes of the law.

Animals do not have rights because they do not have the same sort of volitional, rational consciousness as human beings and as such can be granted no other consideration under the law above that of any other property.

Legally, you should be allowed to kill, torture, or molest your animals as you see fit.

If you're so inclined, you should be permitted to enter your dog into fights with other dogs, so long as the owner of those dogs agrees to the match as well. Naturally, you accept the risks associated with such an activity and would have little standing in the eyes of the law should you sue for damages to your property (dog) in the event that you lose the match.

That's politics.

In ethics, however, the wanton, pointless destruction of animals may be regarded as foolish, barbaric, and wrong. (Of course, it depends on the situation.)

I will go a step further: the wanton, pointless destruction of anything may be regarded as foolish, barbaric, and wrong.

I would equate killing your own cat for no other reason than to watch it die with throwing paint all over your furniture. It's totally your business because it's your cat, your paint, and your furniture, but I have very real doubts that such actions could be undertaken to achieve or maintain any rational values in your life.

Basically, my question would be: What good does it do?

The actions you undertake in life ought to be done to the end of improving and maintaining your life as a human being. You work to produce wealth so you can afford things you need for survival and comforts that will make your survival enjoyable and fulfilling. You take vacations so that you can rest, break out of your routine and experience a broader perspective on the world.

But destruction for the sake of destruction can't possibly produce anything that could be rationally defended as happiness.

I suppose if you weren't quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, you might find yourself in a position where dog fighting is a means of acquiring wealth on which you could survive, although I would expect a rational person to abandon that occupation as soon as is feasible just because it is more satisfying for the rational individual to do something productive and not merely destructive.

Some might argue that watching dogs or chickens fight is entertaining. I fail to see the amusement there. I've seen dogs fighting and it's horrible. An attempt to defend dog fighting as a wholesome, life-affirming way of entertaining one's self would be patently absurd. The whole notion flies in the face of the meaning of the word "life-affirming."

Basically, I stand here in moral condemnation of dog fighting, animal torture, and the senseless destruction of any property for mere amusement.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at July 26, 2007 03:29 PM | TrackBack

You said: "An attempt to defend dog fighting as a wholesome, life-affirming way of entertaining one's self would be patently absurd. The whole notion flies in the face of the meaning of the word "life-affirming.""

I agree with you that it is disgusting.

But what about in the case of humans fighting humans as a sport (boxing, wrestling, etc.)? Is an attempt to defend humans fighting humans as a sport (entertainment) also patently absurd and flies against the meaning of life-affirming? What about the athletes who are *involved* in these fights--are their actions patently absurd and has no life-affirming value to them?

Actually... writing this comment has made me think about it a little. I argue that it is immoral for a human being to inflict wanton cruelty on an animal for the sake of cruelty--it is pathological and not proper to a rational man; it is a reification of the destructive, the evil, the malicious, and the malevolent. The same goes with pitting animals against animals in a fight.

But the reason humans fighting humans in sports is not immoral and can indeed be life-affirming is because humans can abstract a conceptual value from their actions. For example, a boxer is not a mindless animal who does not know why he is fighting and why he is engaged in an action. A boxer can abstract the conceptual value of his actions, place them in the light of his other values, and make a conscious deliberation. His actions (of fighting) can provide him with fuel for growth, success, and self-esteem, all of which is life-affirming; which an animal cannot do.

Okay, so I answered my own question here. :)

Posted by: Ergo at July 27, 2007 05:24 AM

I do think human beings fighting is quite a bit different than dogs fighting.

I would compare having a dog fight to you and your friend running your cars into one another just to see which one is less ruined by the impact. Even if you had an indestructible car and it suffered no damage in the process, you'd still have destroyed your friend's car just for the sake of destroying his car. (We're assuming that this isn't a crash test or some other means of appreciating the engineering of some vehicle, but merely crashing cars for sport.)

When humans fight for sport, there is a certain amount of skill and athleticism that can be appreciated. I, personally, do not appreciate it because I know little about it and all I can see are big, muscular, sweaty men pounding on one another. Um. In a bad way.

I'm not sure that referring only to man's conceptual faculty is a sufficient defense of sport-fighting although it is necessarily part of the argument. Just because people can abstract doesn't mean that they should entertain themselves by bashing one another in the head. But I can see an appreciation of the might and skill of the athletes in the same way that we might appreciate the violent skill of a defensive lineman on an American football team who tackles and blocks well.

Posted by: Flibbert at July 27, 2007 10:17 AM

"I would equate killing your own cat for no other reason than to watch it die with throwing paint all over your furniture."

Equate? Really? You equate a creature that feels and is aware of your existence, and to some degree his own, to a couch? Are you sure you want to go that way? Under the law, yes, this is probably proper (although if you torture other people's cats I would dare say you deserve worse punishment than you might get for vandalising their couch). But as far as ethics are concerned, hurting animals, for all the reasons you describe and then some, is monstrous. It is made far worse by the fact that the poor creature is also made to suffer.

I would like to make the point that hunting or cattle ranching or the like are wholly different and the Men who do this are ethical when it is done with at least some regard for the suffering, or limiting thereof, of the animal (it is done quickly, for example). In the very least this regard should parallel respect for the great value the animal's body or other products can bring to a Man.

Posted by: Marnee at July 31, 2007 05:57 PM

Politically, I would not advocate stronger sentences for animal versus furniture vandalism unless it can be shown that the cat is worth more than the couch such as cases where the cat is some sort of rare breed or is perhaps one's accountant.

I'm not saying that I don't understand the emotional desire to punish such criminals more harshly, but there really isn't a way to quantify "emotional damages" and so I wouldn't begin to try. Therefore, politically, couches and cats are equal.

On a personal level, I like animals and there are animals whose company I have enjoyed immensely, but I find it troublesome to spend much time to think about the depth of their suffering or the quality of their particular sort of consciousness.

As a living thing, I relate to animals on a basic (but don't let's confuse basic with profound here -- the quality of having life is dreadfully unremarkable) level and I would generally like to prevent their suffering, but I have to emphasize that reducing an animal's suffering is extremely low on my list of priorities and is likely to come second to almost any other desire I have.

I suppose this may be regarded as callous, but I really do like my sofa more than most of the animals I've met in my life. My sofa is certainly more expensive than any of the animals I've ever owned.

Posted by: Flibbert at August 1, 2007 08:44 AM
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