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[P]
Double Standards in Animal Rights

By marx in Op-Ed
Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:27:40 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

The debate about animal rights will escalate with the more widespread use of genetic engineering. There will come a point where people will have to drop the current pragmatic stance, and make a moral decision. Does a human without a brain have any rights? Does it have more rights than a pig without a brain? Than a pig with a brain? If we can enhance the intelligence of a monkey, at what point does it gain human rights? Etc. etc.


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Basic definitions and scope:

An "animal" is a bird or a mammal, not a fish or an insect. A human is typically not an "animal". This definition is natural in public discussion today, and is also typically used in laws relating to animal rights.

The scope of this article is not to define a new moral system for society, but to start with what we have and make it consistent. If people disagree about axioms, then there's not much use in arguing. We can just as well argue if blue is a nicer color than red. However, starting from common axioms, we can demand consistency. If we don't, then any statement is provable, and we're back to arguing about colors.

History:

Many people think that "animal rights" is something new, invented by some crazed vegans on a rampage or some dried up philosophy professor. This is nonsense. The concept of animal rights is easily traceable to early civilization. It has probably existed ever since humans became reasonably intelligent.

If we regard religion and its rules as a reflection of the moral system of a society, it is clear that animals have rights in Judaism, Christianity, probably every major religion. Perhaps the most famous Jewish rule:

We should not boil a kid in the milk of its mother (Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21)
stems directly from the view that killing animals is a necessary evil. To compound it by boiling the child of an animal in its mother's milk is unnecessary, and gives rise to such revulsion that it's explicitly forbidden.

Another similar rule:

You shall not muzzle the ox when he threshes the corn (Deut. 25:4).
and more humorously (and fundamental):
Wherefore have you smitten your ass? (Num. 22:32)

Throughout history and its many moral codes, the excuse people have made for violating the rights of animals has been necessity. This is no longer even remotely valid, and it's time we review our moral and legal systems to make them up to date.

Today:

Today we have institutionalized many of these moral rules, and we have a quite extensive legal description of animal rights. This is from the California penal code:

Except as provided in subdivision (c) of this section or Section 599c, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, or, alternatively, by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.

Laws in other regions and countries are similar.

In addition to forbidding torture and mutilation, we see that "malicious killing" is forbidden. This further strengthens the point that killing is something which should only be done out of necessity. I think it would be hard to argue that a Big Mac is a necessity for life however.

Furthermore, today we also have a clear definition of the criterion for being granted the right to life. Abortion has become the "poster child" for the disagreement between conservative religious groups and modern society. This is no coincidence however. With abortion laws, we define that a child under a certain age does not have the right to life, the same as for animals. In essence, an abortable child is seen as an animal.

It is here that the double standard starts to appear however. A child just old enough to be non-abortable is a simple lifeform. Even a newborn infant is simple in an animal context. No one can argue that a newly non-abortable child is more intelligent, or sentient, or emotionally capable, etc. than a gorilla, monkey, dog, or any higher mammal for that matter. We have a criterion for right to life, but we apply it unfairly. Animals are clearly discriminated against purely based on species.

The second double standard relates to the ranking of crimes. There exists a well-defined ordering of the severity of crimes, both morally and legally. Battery is worse than theft, but not worse than murder. Except for in cases of extremely large magnitude differences, if someone were to steal the entire tax income from a country for example, all crimes can be cleanly ranked.

With this, we can establish that murder always is worse than battery. Yet, when the victim is an animal, the reverse is true. In fact, when it comes to animals, murder (without malicious intent) is not even a crime, while battery is a quite serious crime. This is a clear contradiction in the application of a principle, and I'm quite certain that in analogous cases, this would quickly have been resolved by a higher judicial institution. However, in this case, the judicial system protects the contradiction.

The future:

We have covered the existing territory. Nothing is terribly earth-shaking, and if people had wanted a consistent moral and legal system, it would have been changed long ago. Laziness and complacency have triumphed.

When black people were in a similar situation to the animals of today, they had the advantage of impracticality. There was no real philosophical reason why black people were given the same rights as white people. There existed a clear biological criterion, so there was no arbitrariness involved. People here on K5 have argued that there exists a mental difference, this was most likely an assumption accepted by virtually everyone at the time. Thus, given the situation with animals rights today, it was probably natural that they had less rights.

However, when a black person and a white person had a child together, then the problems started. Lines were blurred, and to make matters practical again, the criterion had to be moved back a step. Instead of race, species was chosen as the criterion. You had to belong to the human species to get rights.

Biologists have supported this moral decision by almost frantically asserting that the concept of "race" is really just a figment of our imagination, and that it's in "species" that the real classification can be made. This is ridiculous, since the entire classification is artificial, and human-constructed in the first place. Since the scientists belong to one of the classes themselves, I suppose some lack of objectivity is expected however.

With genetic engineering, even the resort of specie differentiation becomes impractical. Unlike artificial intelligence, genetic engineering doesn't require some sort of major breakthrough to be able to produce nonstandard lifeforms. It's primarily based on trying out interesting things, and now and then something which stays alive comes out.

It is not at all improbable that a human with a massively reduced brain can be developed (for organ harvesting purposes for example). Which principle should be applied to see whether this human has rights or not? Conversely, say we start with a monkey, and play around a bit with the genes related to brain development. A chimpanzee with human-like brain development does not look very far-fetched. How do we classify such a lifeform?

We could have avoided this entire problem by developing a consistent criterion for when a lifeform is granted "human rights". The craving for the Big Mac won however, and now we will face a traumatizing period where we will see more and more human-like animals being developed, probably with little or no regard for the cares of the "person" involved.

My only consolation however, is imagining what will happen when the new super-intelligent cows start to dominate. Will they read discussions similar to this? What happens when they find the author responsible for:

However, animals happen to be made of very tasty meat, you see, and I like tasty meat.

I suspect penance will not be painless.

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Is battery worse than murder?
o Always 20%
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Votes: 34
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Double Standards in Animal Rights | 73 comments (68 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Double standard? (4.00 / 8) (#3)
by mech9t8 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:33:38 AM EST

No one can argue that a newly non-abortable child is more intelligent, or sentient, or emotionally capable, etc. than a gorilla, monkey, dog, or any higher mammal for that matter.

Yes, but they have the potential to be so. It is for their inherit potential to be fully human that they are valued so; same thing with babies and small children. (Also, of course, the value they have for their parents, and society, and whatnot.)

With this, we can establish that murder always is worse than battery. Yet, when the victim is an animal, the reverse is true. In fact, when it comes to animals, murder (without malicious intent) is not even a crime, while battery is a quite serious crime.

Two reasons for this. First, again, the potential. By depriving a person of life, we deprive them, society, and their loved ones from seeing what they could accomplish. The other is that by killing a person, you are causing immense pain to people that love them. (That is, of course, the same reason that killing pets is a crime.) One could make an argument that it shouldn't be a crime to painlessly kill someone with no relationships with any other person, but that would be taking logical ethics to a ridiculous extreme (just in case someone thought they'd be clever by making that point<g>).

A cow, OTOH, doesn't have any loved ones to feel pain by its passing, and doesn't have any potential to affect the world. Other than eating grass.

We have laws against cruelty to animals because causing pain is different than causing death. Causing pain something that clearly causes suffering, and that suffering can be observed. There isn't sufficient suffering caused by painlessly killing a cow to warrant concern.

That's why, for the most part, people are more concerned with giving animals humane conditions in which to live that the actual killing of them. A chicken that leads a normal chicken life before being painlessly killed doesn't suffer; a chicken which is raised in inhumane conditions being giving drugs and whatnot does.

It is a species-est attitude? Yep. But until we can charge lions with murdering gazelle, I don't think too many people are going to worry about it.

--
IMHO

Potential is not relevant here (none / 0) (#5)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:24:11 AM EST

Yes, but they have the potential to be so. It is for their inherit potential to be fully human that they are valued so; same thing with babies and small children.

No, the potential is irrelevant here. We have established a time limit, before which you are allowed to abort a child. The child has the same potential before the time limit as it does after, yet we allow it to be aborted.

What is considered is the mental development of the child. We've said that if the child is sentient to a certain level, and can do and experience certain things, then it's granted human rights and abortion is forbidden.

First, again, the potential. By depriving a person of life, we deprive them, society, and their loved ones from seeing what they could accomplish. The other is that by killing a person, you are causing immense pain to people that love them.

This applies just as well to animals. You say that an animal has no loved ones, but this is clearly wrong. Monkeys, elephants and dogs are very explicit examples. You pick cows because they seem so devoid of expression, but I would be very surprised if cows have no emotions and sense of belonging.

Also, uselessness is not a valid reason to kill someone. People still have the right to live even if they're completely useless.

We have laws against cruelty to animals because causing pain is different than causing death. Causing pain something that clearly causes suffering, and that suffering can be observed. There isn't sufficient suffering caused by painlessly killing a cow to warrant concern.

Again, why can this not be applied to humans? I think most people want to avoid death because they want to live, not because it might hurt. I've said it before, but if there's one thing we know, it's that animals (and humans) most of all in this world want to live and procreate, that's the whole point of life.

Your whole argument seems to assume that humans have a self-worth, and animals don't. It's not so hard to come to your conclusions with that. My article questioned why animals are not given self-worth, even though they seem to fulfill all the requirements that humans do (aside from belonging to the human species).

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

I hate to break this to you... (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by ti dave on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:02:35 AM EST

You say that an animal has no loved ones, but this is clearly wrong. Monkeys, elephants and dogs are very explicit examples. You pick cows because they seem so devoid of expression, but I would be very surprised if cows have no emotions and sense of belonging.

My friend, Disney movies are works of fiction.


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Learn first (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:34:07 AM EST

Bah, spend some time with a dog and learn what you are talking about.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Karl...can I call you Karl? (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by ti dave on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:43:32 AM EST

Are you referring to a real dog, or one of the ones on the television?

Perhaps the dogs I've cared for in my past were merely figments of my imagination.
Worse yet, perhaps the photos of me and my dogs were faked by some evil person!

Look pal, your dog example is a moot point with me.
Where I'm from, a dog is a companion, not food.

While I'm on the subject, I don't make a practice of eating Chimpanzees or Dolphins either.

Cheers,

ti dave


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Delicious irony? (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by BadDoggie on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 07:46:33 AM EST

Look pal, your dog example is a moot point with me.
Where I'm from, a dog is a companion, not food.

That's the point. What you call a companion, someone else calls dinner. You had/have a relationship with your dog. Maybe you even cried when you saw Old Yeller. I know people who wondered why they buried the dog instead of dressing and cooking him.

If you watch a few documentaries (popular in N. America and Europe, you'll see there has been a lot of research into and documentation of animal relationships, especially in canines (very ordered social structure), swine (wild pigs, boars), elephants, dolphins, whales, rhinos and others. Across from my office building there is a free-range farm (we're outside Munich where a bunch of buildings went up on former farmland). I can tell you from my own observations that chickens also have a very ordered social structure, moreso than the ducks or geese also raised here.

Also, the initial submission is in error from the start. Fishes and crustaceans are indeed animals. Stating they are not does not make it so. They have both independent locomotion and a nervous system. Jellyfish, too, are animals, albeit very primitive.

woof.

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]

Not to mention... (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by Noodle on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:04:38 PM EST

Amphibians and Reptiles.

This article seems to me to be very hypocritical, which is quite ironic as it's sole intent seems to be the reconciliation of various hypocritical ideas about animal rights...

Speaking of hypocrites, which is worse: the militant vegan who claims to love animals, yet insists on keeping several as household comfort-slaves (pets); or the rabid meat-freak who, though he has no problem with the conditions his Big Macs are raised in, owns several pets who he loves dearly and is disgusted at the idea that they eat dog meat in the Philippines?

{The Nefarious Noodle}

[ Parent ]

Dog and Cat Eating (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by defeated on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:11:45 PM EST

I remember seeing, on HBO, a year or two ago, a documentary on dog and cat eating in China. It wasn't the fact that they ate what I consider to be companion animals that horrified me, rather, that aspect made me feel lucky that I can afford a luxury like pets that serve no other purpose than companionship. It was the treatment of those animals. I remember vividly the scene of a cat in the process of being boiled alive, screaming and trying to crawl of the pot, an eel being skinned alive, and dogs being beaten ferociously because it supposedly made the meat more tender.

[ Parent ]
Wow (none / 0) (#71)
by lb008d on Mon Feb 25, 2002 at 06:32:27 PM EST

It was the treatment of those animals. I remember vividly the scene of a cat in the process of being boiled alive, screaming and trying to crawl of the pot, an eel being skinned alive, and dogs being beaten ferociously because it supposedly made the meat more tender.

I wonder how many people would eat beef/chicken/etc in this country if they saw first hand their living and slaughter conditions?

The fact that that is all "out of sight, out of mind" must be the reason that people can do it. I'm sure I'd quit eating meat if I ever witnessed a slaughterhouse first hand.

[ Parent ]

Ooh! Puppies! (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by panum on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:38:41 PM EST

This reminds me about a (semi?)-funny story. I used to be a tutor for foreign exchange students back in engineering school. In the training we were told to show and tell for our wards how to deal with the strange ways of Finnish society.

We were instructed to make a trip to local supermarket and tell how to do shopping. How does a Finnish milk cartoon look like, where to look for fish, how beer is sold and so on.

For Asian exchangees, we were told to hint them Hubert and Caesar sausages were NOT for human consumprtion. The products had pictures of cute dogs - and contained dog food, of course.

This instruction was given, as one Korean student had been eating Hubert sausage for two months...

-P

-- I hate people who quote .sigs
[ Parent ]
re:Ooh! Puppies! (none / 0) (#39)
by spring on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:05:44 PM EST

"Jeez, this potted Finnish dog meat is terrible. These Finns don't know how to treat a dog. Give me good old Korean dog sausages any day."

[ Parent ]
Really? (none / 0) (#41)
by ti dave on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:26:46 PM EST

we're outside Munich..

Whereabouts? I lived in Giesing for 3 years. My daughter was born in Krankenhaus Harlaching.


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Munich &c. (none / 0) (#73)
by BadDoggie on Fri Mar 15, 2002 at 10:54:39 PM EST

Hey, I work in Ismaning, but I live between Westend and Schwantalerhöhe. You could get hold of me at mgrossmann *dot* siebel &at& com or something like that, if you really want. woof, BD PS: Don't moderate this comment you mooks!!!
Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]
"Abortable" level is not a moral constan (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by mech9t8 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 11:10:08 AM EST

What is considered is the mental development of the child. We've said that if the child is sentient to a certain level, and can do and experience certain things, then it's granted human rights and abortion is forbidden.

Well, that's not entirely true. I mean, the abortion debate is contraversial and whatnot, and the arbitrary point that is chosen as still "abortable" is more due to do political compromise than any firm moral principal. But I'd say the artibrary "can still abort" point is based on two points:

(a) Whether the fetus is distinctive enough from the mother to be considered a separate creature (with its own potential to become a person), or whether it's just some of the mother's cells.

(b) Whether the fetus is developed enough to experience pain from the abortion procedure.

I'd say it isn't a level of reaching a certain level of mental development compared to animals as, as I said, human babies are pretty dumb. They don't even have such basic human faculties as sentience/self-awareness.

The reason why there's such contraversy is that, even at the earliest stages, fetuses have the potential to be people. When we allow abortions has nothing to do with "well, it's not worth anything at that stage" - it has to do with the rights of the mother - and weighing her rights vs. the rights of the fetus.

It's a grey area, and has a million other factors that are more important than the level of mental development. So just picking the development level that happens to correspond to the development level of an non-"abortable" human and trying to apply it to other situations is, I think, spurious.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Brief biology primer: (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by pietra on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 04:42:26 PM EST

(a) Whether the fetus is distinctive enough from the mother to be considered a separate creature (with its own potential to become a person), or whether it's just some of the mother's cells.

A fetus starts as a fertilized egg, composed of a mother's egg cell and a father's sperm cell. It is never, at any point in its development, "just some of the mother's cells."

(b) Whether the fetus is developed enough to experience pain from the abortion procedure.

Nope. Those laws exist in large part for the safety of the mother. A first-trimester abortion isn't a very complicated process--it can even be done chemically, as relatively little cell differention has taken place and the fetus is still extremely small. Past three months, though, things start getting much more complicated, and surgery becomes a necessity. You are no doubt thinking of so-called "partial-birth abortions" regarding fetal pain. News flash: third-trimester abortions (which is what these procedures should properly be called) are *never* performed on live fetuses. They're almost always the only way to get a dead fetus out of a living mother without a Caesaran operation. However, that doesn't sound half so gruesome as the ridiculous stories of cute little preemies crying as they're ripped from their uncaring mothers' wombs. Third and second-trimester abortions are illegal unless the mother's life is in danger, in large part because medical technologies exist such that fetuses born at five and six months can sometimes survive (though it's dicey). That's the real issue: can the fetus survive outside the womb? If yes, it's a separate person, says our current legal system. If not, then it's not. Technology keeps pushing this line back and making things ever more complicated, though.

[ Parent ]

No double standard (3.50 / 6) (#4)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:22:15 AM EST

"Animal Rights" does not have the double standard you speak of. Animal rights activists would agree with you on all of this. Read anything by Peter Singer for example.

This double standard does exist with "Animal Welfare" however. There is a huge difference between the two.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.

Explain please? (none / 0) (#19)
by bilyji on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 09:24:02 AM EST

What is the difference between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare?



[ Parent ]
Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare (none / 0) (#48)
by defeated on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:58:11 PM EST

Animal Rights: the notion that animals have rights that are equal to what most Westerners consider to be basic human rights. AR proponents usually oppose the idea of humans keeping animals for any reason, usually referred to as "exploitation"

Animal Welfare: the notion that the only "right" animals have is to fair and humane treatment by humans. That's why maliciously killing a dog by beating it or setting it on fire or any other fun method that a certain kind of person can come up with is NOT okay, but humanely euthanizing an unwanted dog or a dog that is judged to be a dangerous animal IS okay.

[ Parent ]
you quote the Bible but... (3.80 / 5) (#6)
by Xenophon on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 03:09:54 AM EST

You seem to ignore the religous (not necessarily) idea of the soul. Specifically with regards to your abortion argument. I'm sure we all know about the Christian (and otherwise) belief that only humans have souls. This means that when you kill an animal, it is only biological matter. There is no eternal consequence if the being doesn't have a soul.

Maybe you aren't religous, but doesn't this deserve to at least be mentioned?

"No one can argue that a newly non-abortable child is more intelligent, or sentient, or emotionally capable, etc. than a gorilla, monkey, dog, or any higher mammal for that matter. "

It can, however, be argued that animals are animals and humans are humans. If they are completely different entities then there's no contradiction. This is where the axioms come in, right? :-)
ms=nv;

Animal souls (none / 0) (#65)
by John Milton on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 07:28:41 PM EST

Religiously, it's not that simple. Many Christians would say that animals do have souls. Genesis mentions animals as souls using the same word to describe Adam. Although the Bible gives humans the right to use animals as they see fit, it doesn't seem to denigrate them. Animal souls are just regarded as different from human souls.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
You can't get there from here (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by joecool12321 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 03:10:14 AM EST

You say, "The scope of this article is not to define a new moral system for society, but to start with what we have and make it consistent." Although I would normally object at this point, I find something interesting. By "what we have" I assume you mean the (California) penal code. Therefore, you're insinuating that double standard exists somewhere within the California penal code. However, the code in its entirety states in section 599c exactly what is excluded from provision 597a. Namely, "No part of this title shall be construed as interfering with...the right to kill all animals used for food..." So there's no contradiction, because the system takes animals as a food source into account.

But then you abandon your own constraint! You say, "A child just old enough to be non-abortable is a simple [life form]." "Sez Who?" as my friend always says. Where does the California penal code say that?

Then you branch out even further into non-axiomatic territory when you say, "Even a newborn infant is simple in an animal context." [emphasis added] I know a lot of people that take offense to including humans in the same category as animals. And actually, as I think about it, the penal code opposes grouping them together, too! Because, you see, the penal code has separate sections for animals and people, indicating the penal code (the agreed-upon axiomatic system) thinks they should be treated differently!

You may very well be right in that killing animals is, as Singer would call it, "speciesism" - but "you can't get there from here." You have to go outside the current system in order to prove your point. Your argument that humans and animals should be placed in the same category is not axiomatic, and I see no argumentation provided to prove that point.

--Joey

No (none / 0) (#12)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:30:40 AM EST

By "what we have" I assume you mean the (California) penal code.

No, I don't mean the California penal code. I meant what is currently agreed on, i.e. by most people like who are reading this article. The California penal code was just an example of a typical animal rights law. I don't even live in the US, so it would make no sense to base my argument completely on that code.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Doesn't answer the questions (none / 0) (#31)
by joecool12321 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:28:08 PM EST

Hrm, interesting. So the axiom becomes tyrany of the majority, "most people who are reading this article," now determine what is and is not the case? That hardly sounds like a stable foundation. What if public opinion swayed against those axioms? Would you still be right? Apparently not, in your scheme.

But my next questions are unfortunately unanswered. Who says babies are simple life forms? As I mentioned, many people find a distinction between any child and any 'lower' form of life. You haven't provided a reason for them to abandon that posistion.

And you provide no reason to put humans in an animal context, and public opinion is against you, there! Humans have a history, and still do, place animals and humans in different categories. You provide no reason to place them together.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Some elaboration (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:56:13 PM EST

Hrm, interesting. So the axiom becomes tyrany of the majority, "most people who are reading this article," now determine what is and is not the case? That hardly sounds like a stable foundation.

As I said in the beginning, I'm not interested in creating a new moral system. If society can create a consistent moral system where animals have no rights and humans have rights, then that's the way it will be, and I'll have to accept it.

Wouldn't you say that democracy is a pretty good way of determining what should be morally right or wrong? The only objection I can have to that is when the decisions are inconsistent.

Who says babies are simple life forms? As I mentioned, many people find a distinction between any child and any 'lower' form of life. You haven't provided a reason for them to abandon that posistion.

My opinion is not really interesting here. There exists an argument describing why a fetus younger than 6 months can be aborted, and why an older fetus cannot. Presumably this is based on mental development of the fetus. If an animal can show a similar level of mental development, then it has the same right to life.

If people don't want to accept that, and claim that the lifeform in question must belong to the human species, then they can do that, but then they are discriminating purely based on species, and are using the exact same argument as a racist.

And you provide no reason to put humans in an animal context, and public opinion is against you, there! Humans have a history, and still do, place animals and humans in different categories. You provide no reason to place them together.

My reason is science. If public opinion decides that the world is flat, then it's still going to be round. There exists no scientifically measurable property which places a human fetus of 6 months "above" a fully grown chimpanzee, or even a dog.

You can go into religious reasons, but I could find many religious reasons for why Jews should be exterminated, Americans should be obliterated from the face of the Earth etc. I prefer not to base my life on religious reasons.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Telling? (4.83 / 6) (#9)
by Ranieri on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:16:55 AM EST

I find it rather interesting that you start an argument against double standards in animal treatment, and then open with a sentence like this one:

An "animal" is a bird or a mammal, not a fish or an insect.

I know plenty of fishes and insects that would like to disagree with that statement. You can't just run around and modify the definition of animal to match the creatures that are evolutionary speaking close enough for you to emphatize with. This is exactly the reason why i could never muster much sympathy for fish-eating so-called vegetarians.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!

A definition (none / 0) (#11)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 05:24:09 AM EST

You can't just run around and modify the definition of animal to match the creatures that are evolutionary speaking close enough for you to emphatize with.

It's just a definition, there's no value associated with it. I defined it like that because that's what people usually mean, and that's how it's defined in the legal texts. I hate it when I've written something, and then someone says "you really think a shrimp and a human should have the same rights?". This just simplifies things.

There's nothing I've written in the text that says that fish should somehow be excluded from the criterion I'm after.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Well, do you? (none / 0) (#30)
by joecool12321 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:21:49 PM EST

I hate it when I've written something, and then someone says "you really think a shrimp and a human should have the same rights?".

Why do you hate that question? It seems a sensical question to me, and a question you should have to answer. Or an even more important question: Should a vine and a human have the same rights?

--Joey

[ Parent ]

How to say this (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by Rand Race on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 08:53:27 AM EST

Too endothermic-centered? An anti-poikilothermic bias? Homeothermic supremecy? Ectothermiphobic?


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson

Endo-centric (none / 0) (#23)
by Osiris on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 10:38:05 AM EST

Only cute animals get rights under these types of schemes.



[ Parent ]
Does a potato have any rights (3.80 / 5) (#17)
by danne on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 08:58:28 AM EST

or a tomato?

Well we boil potatoes and slice tomatoes.

I would gladly take organs from a braindead person whitout a second tought.

Disclamer:
I'm not in need of organs. Every fresh organ sent to me would end up on my pizza.

Missing groups.... (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by Elkor on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 09:17:52 AM EST

Where do frogs and lizards fall in?

Power to the Toads!
Equal rights for Lizards!
Throw off the chains of oppression and repression!
Let evolution reign supreme!

Oh, um, oops. Got carried away there. :)

Anyway, since you tell us what an animal is, and what it isn't, we "need" to know where lizards fall in because they are a rather large group and factor into your arguments as well. Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Misunderstanding (none / 0) (#21)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 10:17:15 AM EST

Anyway, since you tell us what an animal is, and what it isn't [...]

The definition was made to limit the scope of the article, not to exclude or include species from having rights. Maybe I should have made this more clear.

Since the whole point of the article was to argue against basing the "rights" concept on species, and instead coming up with a general criterion, I thought this would be clear.

To answer your concrete question, it of course depends on the criterion. The current criterion that seems to be established is the mental development level of an abortable child, i.e. a fetus less than 6 months after conception.

If a lizard has the same or better mental development than this, then it should be granted the right to life. I suspect this is not the case however.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Two responses (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by joecool12321 on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:19:01 PM EST

First, by limiting the scope you do gain the advantage of apparant sense. That is, I more readily identify with protecting a gorilla or a cow, than I identify with protecting the termites in my house. But your distinction is artificial, and unfair.

Second, by limiting the scope of your article you further entrench the idea that there's something different between mamals and other life forms. I think that's as speciest as you claim other people are.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Double Standard? (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 10:06:19 AM EST

I don't really see a double standard here. The code you refer to says more or less that human beings can not be killed. The law says unborn children are not yet human beings and many people rabidly support or oppose this distinction. Once they are humans they can not be killed. Animals are not humans, thus they can be killed. The statute in California is much less innate than you suggest or the basic ethic against human killing. More than anything you make an argument against that statute.

Genetic Engineering remains pretty irrelevant in this case. Sentience is the benchmark for protection under this general rule. Aliens are not classified as "animals" under most speculative and philosophical writings that involve them. If a sentient creature was created by man it too would have protection under this assertion.

Animals under your definition do not have sentience. Genetic engineers are Nowhere Near developing another non-human sentient species. That would require a huge leap, much like AI. If a new species was created this way, it would have protection. However, a new species it would be because no other species could be altered in a way subtle enough to keep it part of an existing species whilst gifting it with sentience.

Sentience (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 10:26:01 AM EST

Animals under your definition do not have sentience.

What do you mean by sentience? The concrete rule we have is that once a human fetus reaches 6 months, then we claim that its mental development is high enough to have a right to life. I think it's obvious that many animals have a much higher mental development than a 6 month old fetus. Why should they not have a right to life?

You can't say that a 6 month old fetus has a potential to reach a higher mental development, because earlier it's ok to kill the same fetus. The potential does not increase with age, it stays the same.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

What? (none / 0) (#24)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 10:38:17 AM EST

The concrete rule we have is that once a human fetus reaches 6 months, then we claim that its mental development is high enough to have a right to life

What? Thats not the rule at all. In fact Roe vs Wade allows things like late term abortions (I'd link but it's readily available and likely to be disturbing) well after 6 months.

Sentience is an intelectual level that, as far as any current evidence points out, has only occured in humans. Current US Supreme Court rulings state that before actual birth, abortions are legal because it is not preformed on humans. There's no contradiction, although you may disagree with what constitutes a human.

If you want to argue that animals are sentient go right ahead. You won't get far though.

[ Parent ]

Define it then (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 11:31:37 AM EST

If you want to argue that animals are sentient go right ahead. You won't get far though.

I asked you what you meant by "sentience", but you refused to answer. Yes, I won't get far because I don't know what you mean by it.

Regardless of how you define it, I'm pretty sure that it will be a property which either most, but not all, humans have, or a property which all humans have, but also all chimpanzees, and perhaps other species.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Irrelevant (none / 0) (#33)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 12:57:59 PM EST

The exact definition of sentience is irrelevant. Society defines is as that inteligence that humans possess. As far as ethics go, that is the definition currently used. For the purpose of a more abstract definition of sentience, you have many choices.

Rand called sentience the potential to act rationally. Humans have this, for even if they don't always act rationally, they have this ability.

Modern sentience has shifted to include more than one previous concept. Other more traditional philopshers (Kant and before basically), split what we now call Sentience into three sub catagories: sentience, or the ability to experience(mentally, not just nervous system), rationality - or the abilty for rational thought, and autonomy (free will). Previous to that Aristotle defined the concept closest to it as rationality, that which the "ox and horse" does not have.

Each of these contribute to this concept of moral actor. For actions against a being to be immoral, it must be a moral actor. Utilitarianists believe any sentient being is a moral actor. Kant believed rationality and free will were the factors. Aristotle wanted rationality.

Use whichever of these definitions you wish, or find another one supported by outside sources. It doesn't matter to me. We can only generally prove sentience through the similarities of our own experiences and the ability to express said feelings. Thus proving sentience by any of these definitions is going to be dificult if not impossible in animals, where evidence intuitively seems contradictory.

[ Parent ]

Sentience (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Pseudoephedrine on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:20:42 PM EST

Actually, some primates and dolphins are accepted to possess varying levels of sentience, defined as simple awareness of the self. The easiest way to test it is with a mirror - if the animal can learn that a mirror is only reflecting itself back at it, then it must have some sense of itself. Not every animal can do this - rats, for example, never learn, nor did the dog in Aesop's fable. Dolphins and higher primates (Chimpanzees, in particular - I'm not sure if they've studied Orangutans and Gorillas) show evidence of having a sense of self in tests like these.

Fetuses also begin to demonstrate behaviour that can be considered self-aware late in pregnancy - around the beginning of the third trimester, actually. This is why, personally, despite being pro-choice, I am against third-trimester abortions except in cases of medical necessity. Before that crucial third trimester, the fetus is just a chunk of tissue with the potential to someday become human. After it, it is a sentient being.

Anyhow, I'm of the opinion that chimpanzees and dolphins should be treated like any other sentient person with reduced mental capacities (Dolphins, while arguably smarter than humans, obviously do not understand concepts such as property, crimes etc.), albeit with concern to the fact that these are not really 'retarded' people in any sense. Just as we care for the mentally retarded and give them rights (albeit slightly more limited ones) than regular people, so too should any species proven to be sentient be treated.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Narrowing causes Clarification (none / 0) (#42)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:42:37 PM EST

Proposing to create a third catagory, between "human" and "animal" is much more reasonable than unifying the two. Personally, if laws were made such that killing members of some small group of higher mammals (dolphins, some primates) was illegal. Arguements can certainly be made that killing a member of such is morally wrong (although IMNSHO not as wrong as traditional murder). These species don't quite have the intellectual level of even retarded humans (lack of abstraction, logic, etc) but are close enough that claims of moral responsibilty to their protection would be reasonably valid IMO.

Classifying all animals, or even mammals and birds, as protected from killing seems overkill and poorly thought out however. Just because a bunny rabit is a warm blooded creature and had a certain level of cuteness does not mean killing it is wrong.

I actually share at least from your description our position on abortion. Roe v Wade is too far reaching to me. I have no problem with abortion, up to about 22 weeks, or viability of the fetus/baby. I simply used societies 'official' feelings as an argument since the original poster did.

[ Parent ]

What about the mentally ill? (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Pseudoephedrine on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 03:07:03 PM EST

Actually, chimpanzees are quite capable of using language and abstraction, at about the level of a normal four-year old. Sentience itself is a form of abstraction too, don't forget.

Overall, though, I agree with your notion of creating a third category of 'sub-competent individuals', but I would deal with the category slightly differently. Firstly, I would put the seriously mentally ill and mentally disabled persons as well as young children into this category. Secondly, I would say that members of this group have all the legal rights of a normal person. However, where they differ is that people and animals in this group are not capable of meeting the expectations of civil society - specifically, they are not capable of forming the mens rea to commit a crime, and thus cannot be convicted for their actions.

This category therefore indicates that the persons in it, whether dolphin, schizophrenic or baby, all require caretakers who intermediate between them and civil society - whether they are 'zookeepers', 'psychiatrists' or 'parents' hardly matters.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Animalizing and Potential (none / 0) (#46)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:10:49 PM EST

Do animals deserve free education? Or other governmental assistance that the mentally ill and/or children sometimes receive. My grouping humans whose inteligence isn't developed (or will never develop) with animals, you'd actually take away some of their existant rights without a real benefit.

Classifing who becomes this second class citizen would be dificult as well. Psycology is not a true science and its subjectivity would just ask for abuse. And many of us know that simply attaining an age (say 18) does not make one a true adult, nor does being under that age make one a non-adult. With children it becomes especially problematic because they someday will (except in cases where they are retarded) be a member of the regular human population, and switching from one to another over the course of one day with emphasize its artificiality.

Current society already has structures for this type of thing. Mentally ill people can be 'certified' and minors don't have all the rights of nonminors. By having specializations, you don't have as many edge-cases and only those rights that are appropriate to be denied are.

[ Parent ]

What do you mean by sentience? (none / 0) (#54)
by joecool12321 on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 04:05:00 AM EST

Why is sentience so special? Why do you think there's anything _fundamentally_ different about a fetus at 5.9 months and 6.1 months?

--Joey

[ Parent ]
As I said in my first post... (none / 0) (#62)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 02:53:43 PM EST

...Sentience is awareness of a self.

The reason that it is important is that it indicates a higher level of cognitive ability than available to lower organisms - specifically, it indicates abstract thought and the capacity to learn. An animal that is sentient therefore shares a mental kinship with humanity that is not found in less intelligent organisms.

And while it may in real life be somewhat fuzzier than '6.1 months' and '5.9 months', there _is_ a fundamental difference between a fetus before and after roughly where the third-trimester starts, in that activity in the fetus's brain indicates that it is now conscious and aware of its surroundings, whereas before it was unable to attain that state due to underdevelopment of the brain.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Nice Troll! (2.50 / 2) (#35)
by Jehreg on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:30:08 PM EST

This is by far the longest piece of trolling I have seen in ages. Good syntax, good quotes, and even a good premise: "strive for consistency".

The problem is that there are no actual facts, nor any new information. I know Op-Ed means that we get to state our opinions, but this article seems to be more about arguing about abortion, racism, religion, cloning, and sociology, then having a discussion about animal rights (or lack thereof).

my $0.02

Thank you (2.40 / 5) (#37)
by trhurler on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:56:09 PM EST

I appreciate being linked to in an obvious bullshit story that should never have made it out of the queue in the first place. Really, I do.

Eat some veal. You'll feel better.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

You missed a lot (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Stickerboy on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 01:58:27 PM EST

If we go along with your line of reasoning, and that all living things should be treated equally, then

1. Whenever we spray for disease-carrying mosquitos, we're basically committing mass-murder.

2. Smallpox eradication was an act of genocide. And we've learned nothing from our mistakes, since polio is next.

3. Putting down a rabid animal is inhumane, which should instead be captured, put into a hospital, treated, and released.

4. Pest control is nothing more than organized crime.

The practical line is always where it has been: the potential for sentience, or self-consciousness. If you can show that dolphins, dogs, or whatever form of animals are capable of developing this form of higher thought, then we'd grant them equal rights with us humans.

Trial (none / 0) (#61)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 09:10:26 AM EST

I recall a SF story where a guy goes on trial because he has some type of bacteria in him that is keeping him alive. Nevermind that the bacteria loved being in the dark, the court wanted to remove them so they could enjoy the sunlight just as the law demanded.




[ Parent ]
In other news (4.00 / 5) (#43)
by epepke on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 02:53:33 PM EST

  • Flaw Discovered in Political System
  • Peace-Loving Religion Used as Excuse For Genocide; Revealed Text has Nasty Bits
  • The 60's Really Didn't Work So Well
  • Franco is Still Dead
  • People Aren't as Smart or Nice as they Think
  • Entscheidungsproblem is Undecidable
  • Microsoft Products Sometimes Crash
  • Two People Get Married but Wind Up Hating Each Other

You think The Onion might want to do a writeup?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


If I were a super-intelligent cow... (none / 0) (#45)
by SIGFPE on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 03:57:57 PM EST

...I'd eat ordinary cows.

When species eat other species the important thing is to ensure that you don't get short closed cycles. For example humans eating humans is a good way to get ill by allowing parasites to travel directly from host to host via ingestion. If however you define a non-symmetric relationship on creatures and derive your gustatatory mores from it then you can ensure that parasites can flow only one way along the food chain. For examples if organisms only eat dumber organisms then parasites will have a harder time climbing up to more intelligent species. So super-intelligent cows could eat dumb cows, get a tasty meal, and know that they aren't going to end up with spongiform brains.
SIGFPE

Growing meat (none / 0) (#60)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 09:08:05 AM EST

I recall a SF story I read once where, although it was considered wrong to kill an animal for meat, people still ate it anyway because they grew meat in huge chunks by stimulating cell growth, so restaraunts would have these big pieces of meat they kept carving new slices from.

This is something they can more or less do now.

I don't see why it couldn't be done with human meat, too, although that would be kind of gross.




[ Parent ]
Cannibalism (none / 0) (#47)
by deryni on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 04:53:04 PM EST

I want to preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert on the cannabalistic practices that have existed among different cultures.

I am of the opinion that were it not to be specifically againt my religion (Judaism), against the laws of my country (USA), and HIGHLY looked down upon by nearly all people in the world, I would see nothing wrong in eating dead humans.

Now before I get attacked by people saying that I am condoning murder, notice how I phrased my comment, "dead humans", I don't think killing people to eat them would be ok, but I don't think that were someone to die in a way that would leave their flesh edible, and wholesome that it necessarily makes sense not to eat it.

I am uncertain as to whether I would agree that it is unfortunate that "[t]he craving for the Big Mac won." I do understand the argument, but I would say that the idea of consciousness, as many other commenters have pointed out, is the issue at hand. Until it can be shown that the animals have conscious thoughts, of a measurable level, I see nothing wrong with killing them to eat them.

I wonder what you would say about eating vegetables? You are killing them too. Does that bother you? Is that therefore another inconsistency in our societal mores? And if not, how come?

Cannibalistic Practices (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by epepke on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 06:03:55 PM EST

A lot of real cannibalistic practices (as opposed to made-up ones, which are far more common) are ritualistic. In some cultures, when a family member died, the family would eat a little bit of the person in order to keep the dead person, in some fashion, still with them. A beautiful if fictionalized portrayal of this practice is part of the movie The Emerald Forest. (I had a ceremony a bit like this with some of my father's ashes, only I used beer, as it seemed more appropriate.) Or else a conqueror would eat part of an enemy to absorb the enemy's power.

I don't see anything wrong with this, either. If I crashed in the Andes, hey, I'd fire up the Hibachi without a second thought.

As I pointed out somewhat satirically elsewhere, I think it's a pipe dream to expect any sort of system to be consistent. I won't eat slaughtered primates, dogs, cats, mammalian predators, frogs, toads, terrapins, cetaceans, or most arthropods (underwater bugs like lobsters are OK, and ants with rice is pretty good). I feel a bit funny eating veal and any bird that isn't really stupid (domesticated turkey) or really vicious (chickens). I would rather eat free-range rather than battery fowl and grass-fed rather than grain-fed beef, but I'm not a stickler about it. Everything else, other than endangered species, are OK.

Does that make any sense? No, of course not. Can I find a rationalization for it? Sure. I can point out that cow pastures host a hundred or so major species, while soybean-for-tofu fields host about six, or that swampland produces more sustainable calories than anything else, all of it in the form of crawfish and alligators, or that one of the best ways for a species to survive is to grow a product that humans can use, or that ranching in Africa is working out much better for the animals than conservation ever did. But it's not much better than what vegetarians or PETA go on about.

I like meat, and, perhaps more importantly, my body and brain work a lot better when I get it. I can stop a major depression with six cans of tuna fish or one steak. Tofu, egg white, cheese, and brown rice don't work. This is probably due to my Bavarian gut, which passes the corn-on-the-cob test in 4 to 8 hours as opposed to the usual 24, which is what you'd expect from natural selection over millennia of beer and pig hocks.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Species classification not arbitrary (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by Daemin on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 07:57:49 PM EST

An "animal" is a bird or a mammal, not a fish or an insect.

What about reptiles?

Biologists have supported this moral decision by almost frantically asserting that the concept of "race" is really just a figment of our imagination, and that it's in "species" that the real classification can be made. This is ridiculous, since the entire classification is artificial, and human-constructed in the first place.

While the decision on which system to use in clssification is arbitrary, the particular ones which have been used by biologist are definetly not. Species means a group of animals which breed solely with themselves. The reasons for this are many: geography, mating habits, DNA compatability. Those conditions are definetly outside of human hands. They are arbitrary in that the landscape couldve been differnt, or species could have evolved differently.

But the fact remains that animals were divided up into different types long before any human came up with the idea of categorizing them. We have recognized this fact, and chosen to base our classifacation systems on these pre-existing traits. Seeing as the point of this process in the first place was to record all theses different types, it is to be expected that we use the traits that already divide them, instead of inventing arbitrary systems



Species (none / 0) (#52)
by marx on Fri Feb 22, 2002 at 09:31:58 PM EST

What about reptiles?

Read the other posts. What's interesting is that no one has protested about humans not being included in the definition of animal.

Species means a group of animals which breed solely with themselves.

This is what I wrote in another reply:

This is a moot point today though. You mention a mule. It's possible to clone a mule, and perhaps perform some genetic modification in the process, so any individual female is today a species. Within a decade or two it will probably be possible to raise a fetus without a womb, so then you don't even need a female. Then any individual animal is a species. Don't you think this definition is quite meaningless today?

The concept of species is completely meaningless with the existence of genetic engineering.

Sure, DNA compatibility is a possible way to classify animals. So is skin color. It's still just an artificial classification and doesn't belong in a moral system.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Man (none / 0) (#59)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 09:03:55 AM EST

> What's interesting is that no one has protested about humans not being
> included in the definition of animal.

How does that saying go? "People on the left want Man to control nothing...except other men."





[ Parent ]
naturaly bread (none / 0) (#72)
by nodsmasher on Sat Mar 09, 2002 at 09:21:43 PM EST

the idea is a species is somthing that can naturaly breed with in only its self
this works for most vertabretes but once you get out side of them it stopes working quite as well (many plants that are completly unrelated can breed together)
also spesis clasifacation is not arbitrary, the names are, but the groups are based on commen ansetory
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Where's the double standard? (3.50 / 2) (#53)
by fluxrad on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 03:02:06 AM EST

I'm not sure what the double standard is that you're talking about. I sure hope that it's not the difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. If it is, I'm not so sure you've thought your argument through very well. Humans are treated with a different set of rules primarily because we are humans. It makes no sense for humans to eat eachother because it contradicts basic survival instincts. i.e. don't eat a member of your own species because you automatically reduced your population by one.

Additionally, we don't treat our own species like shit, relatively speaking, for the same reasons. Humans are born with an innate desire to perpetuate their own species. Maming and killing automatically contradics this "genetic programming," therefore, we don't do it.

How do animals work into all this? Well, as far as humans are concerned, every animal except for themselves is a target for food. Why? Because that's the way our ecosystem works. we eat them, the decomposers eat us, and they eat the decomposers. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's the same with every other carnivorous/omnivorous species on the planet (humans are omnivorous, BTW). So, as far as the big mac goes: give me a blade and I'll slit the cow's throat myself, because that's the way the food chain works. Fortunately for most of the meat-eaters I know, they've never had to do this. McDonalds and Burger King have served to isolate the masses from the food production process enough to where people start talking about "animal rights" and "don't hurt the chickens!" because they've never had to actually kill their food. But boy would they bitch if they couldn't get their chicken quesadilla from the nearest taco bell.

If your "Op-Ed" was about breeding stupid humans and the like for "slavery" purposes, then don't fret. That's a long ways off, and we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
Another dilemma (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by xriso on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 06:48:55 AM EST

If I create a simulated mind on my SuperComputerThat'sNotInventedYet, and then delete that mind, am I committing murder?
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Simulated (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by A Trickster Imp on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 09:02:26 AM EST

A simulated mind, no. A real mind, yes.

Of course, a simulated mind would claim it had subjective perceptual experiences, even though it didn't, and how would you tell?

Then again, our severe penalties for murder derive from the inability to bring people back from the dead. Computer minds, barring complete destruction, would have no such problem.




[ Parent ]
My Big Mac just gave me an idea (5.00 / 5) (#56)
by pyramid termite on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 07:45:10 AM EST

Perhaps the most famous Jewish rule: We should not boil a kid in the milk of its mother (Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21) stems directly from the view that killing animals is a necessary evil.

Actually, no, it's a prohibition against a ritual that was done in the worship of other gods in the area.

It is here that the double standard starts to appear however. We have a criterion for right to life, but we apply it unfairly. Animals are clearly discriminated against purely based on species.

Nothing but rhetoric and sophistry. What is wrong with double standards? Surely you would like us to be able to tell shit from shinola. Or are you arguing we should treat them equally?

A child just old enough to be non-abortable is a simple lifeform.

A newborn infant is not a simple lifeform. And simplicity as a measure of quality is a ridiculous concept.

Even a newborn infant is simple in an animal context. No one can argue that a newly non-abortable child is more intelligent, or sentient, or emotionally capable, etc. than a gorilla, monkey, dog, or any higher mammal for that matter.

Now this is confused writing and thinking. Are you comparing adult animals to infants? Or infant animals to infant humans? If it's the first, you are neglecting the potential of each and comparing apples to oranges, if it's the second, you're just plain wrong.

Animals are clearly discriminated against purely based on species.

Absolutely. We are discriminating. And guess what? THAT'S GOOD! Yes, folks, discrimination is GOOD. Without it, we can't tell poison from food, danger from safety, bad from good. It's only when we use concepts such as racial or sexual superiority that it becomes bad.

The wolf discriminates against the lamb and the lion discriminates against the gazelle. I'm sure that in your crusade against those who violate the rights of animals, you're going to reform these animals and their disregard of the rights of other critters.

Come to think of it, you kill bacteria every time you bathe, and you eat plants. What about their rights? It's discriminatory, I tell you, it's a shame!

It is not at all improbable that a human with a massively reduced brain can be developed (for organ harvesting purposes for example). Which principle should be applied to see whether this human has rights or not? Conversely, say we start with a monkey, and play around a bit with the genes related to brain development. A chimpanzee with human-like brain development does not look very far-fetched. How do we classify such a lifeform?

What would be the point of creating such a lifeform? What could a big brained chimpanzee do that a human or a robot couldn't? It's clear to me that creating such problematic beasties shouldn't be done, as there are cheaper and more logical alternatives.

My only consolation however, is imagining what will happen when the new super-intelligent cows start to dominate.

Dominate what? Super intelligent humans? Computers? Pray tell me, how are these superintelligent cows going to drive pickup trucks and shoot shotguns to eliminate us? Oh, yeah, they'll give themselves hands. Oh, hell, if they can do that, they can give themselves new stomachs so they can eat meat and keep other cows as food ...

Actually, it would be better if we could somehow contrive a way for human neurons to survive on their own as one-celled, self-replicating organisims. That way, they could combine with each other, cows, humans and machines in which ever way they felt was best and create/amplify intelligences that would solve problems efficiently. Why put a group of thinking cells in something as clumsy as a cow, when it could be in something that could act upon its environment with useful physical tools?

Now, there's an idea worthy of real ethical confusion. Who would people be in such a world? Where would one begin and the other end? Could they combine? If you give 10% of your free neurons to someone else, are you still you? If the neurons in a cow decide they'd be better off sharing your brain space, are you a cow or you?

How about a world where we eat Big Macs to get new auxiliary brains?
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Baal (none / 0) (#63)
by marx on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 03:54:37 PM EST

Actually, no, it's a prohibition against a ritual that was done in the worship of other gods in the area.

Here is one source:

"Thou shalt not boil a kid in his mother's milk." (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 14:11) According to Rabbi Kook, this practice is forbidden because it reflects both the moral wrong of denying a calf the natural enjoyment of its mother's breast as well as the "hard and cruel" practice of eating animal flesh. The very same concern for the relationship between the mother and the offspring is expressed in Leviticus 22:28; a cow and its calves or an ewe and its lambs cannot be killed on the same day.

And here is another, which explains your confusion with the ritual:

For Israelites, however, animals and humankind were created on the same "day"; therefore animals are humanoid in some respect; therefore to cook the offspring of an animal in the milk meant to sustain it is heartless and callous. No less a figure than Solzhenitsyn has said that a society which is indifferent to the plight of animals is a society soon indifferent to the plight of humans. There's yet another reason for the prohibition. In ancient times, boiling a kid in its mother's milk was a religious act practised by the devotees of the cult of Baal. Specifically, to boil a kid in its mother's milk was to invoke the Baal deity, together with the disgraces and degradations that Baal-worship entailed.

So the ritual involved boiling the goat in its mother's milk precisely because it was a symbol of heartlessness, and thus it was explicitly forbidden.

Nothing but rhetoric and sophistry. What is wrong with double standards? Surely you would like us to be able to tell shit from shinola. Or are you arguing we should treat them equally?

This is what I meant with the "axioms" part of my introduction. If you think double standards are good, then arguing further is pointless. You then accept racism, sexism, and every type of discrimination. This is not enough common ground to base a productive discussion on. I see that further down you distance yourself from these things, but this is even worse, since then you're inconsistent.

In your example, you seem to be confused with the meaning of "double standard". Telling shit from shinola is easy, you simply apply a criterion. You describe that for something to be called "shinola", it must have certain verifiable properties. A double standard would be if your friend came to you with some shit, and you proclaimed it to be shinola, since you changed the criterion because he was your friend.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

A confession of discrimination & a solemn prom (none / 0) (#66)
by pyramid termite on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 08:59:12 PM EST

In ancient times, boiling a kid in its mother's milk was a religious act practised by the devotees of the cult of Baal. Specifically, to boil a kid in its mother's milk was to invoke the Baal deity, together with the disgraces and degradations that Baal-worship entailed.

So, after arguing that this prohibition was done out of kindness, you turn around and admit I had a point. Actually, there were several deities that were worshipped in that manner; considering that in the same Old Testement you quote, that stoning to death was also a feature of the law, and that all sorts of atrocities and genocidal incidents are justified, I'm afraid that kindness was not all that important to the people who wrote it.

This is what I meant with the "axioms" part of my introduction. If you think double standards are good, then arguing further is pointless.

Let's see - we have two different classes of things - animals and people. Seeing as they are demonstratably different, then different standards apply. That would mean two standards, or one double standard. It's not the phrase I would have used if I was writing from your position but I can't be responsible for your imprecision in language, or your belief that the statement "you think double standards are good" is any kind of answer to the issues I've raised.

You then accept racism, sexism, and every type of discrimination.

I accept many kinds of discrimination. If you'd actually look the word up in a dictionary sometime, you'd discover that you do, too. Perhaps.

In your example, you seem to be confused with the meaning of "double standard".

I'm quite confused with the meaning of much you've written. Sorry about that. But, to address what you feel is the most important issue between us, judging from the great length you devoted to it, I assure you I have no desire to seethe a kid in his mother's milk or anything else.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Idiot (1.00 / 1) (#67)
by marx on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 05:33:30 AM EST

Seeing as they are demonstratably different, then different standards apply.

I think the whole point of the article was to show that the classes are not different where it matters, i.e. where the criteria are defined.

Black people and white people are demonstrably different. Does that mean we can apply different standards?

I accept many kinds of discrimination. If you'd actually look the word up in a dictionary sometime, you'd discover that you do, too. Perhaps.

Here is the definition of "discriminate" from Webster:

transitive senses
1 a : to mark or perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features of b : DISTINGUISH, DIFFERENTIATE (discriminate hundreds of colors)
2 : to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences; especially : to distinguish from another like object intransitive senses
1 a : to make a distinction (discriminate among historical sources) b : to use good judgment
2 : to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit (discriminate in favor of your friends) (discriminate against a certain nationality)

My phrase "Animals are clearly discriminated against purely based on species" uses the intransitive sense, and can only be definition 2. You've tried to be a smartass and purposefully tried to misinterpret it. In this case though, there is no room for interpretation.

So I've wasted my time arguing with some kind of idiot language troll. Thanks.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Idiot? No, I'm alternatively minded (5.00 / 2) (#68)
by pyramid termite on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:24:12 AM EST

I think the whole point of the article was to show that the classes are not different where it matters, i.e. where the criteria are defined.

(sigh) I guess it's time to stop holding my tongue.

Who defines these criteria? You do. And then, instead of calling them assumptions, you call them axioms, (although you haven't even got the courtesy to actually list and state them plainly), and inform us that if we disagree with these "axioms" then there's no point in discussing them, as it would be on the level of arguing whether blue is better than red. In short, you want to define the argument artificially so that anyone who disagrees can be told that they're making an insignificant, useless argument.

One of these is to define an animal - that a bird, fish or insect isn't one, or that a human isn't "typically" one. (But I assume that some atypical humans may be animals, or we may not be humans in atypical circimstances.) So, we should be concerned about the beef in our supermarket, but not the chicken or the turkey. How relevant is that to the actual animal rights debate? You've already defined things in a way that isn't useful for the matter you're trying to discuss.

I'll pass over in silence whether vegans should be crazed, or philosophy professors should be dried up, or the idea that humans in history can be proved to be reasonably intelligent - (perhaps before then they were reasonably half-witted, or unreasonably intelligent). You tell us that the most famous Jewish law is about kids boiling in milk.

So much for the Ten Commandments.

You go on, and even imply that there's a rule against beating asses, when if you take the quote in context, it's an angel chiding Balaam for disciplining the donkey for actions that were caused by the angel. I will note that later, there doesn't seem to be any problem with a certain Samson using the jawbone of an ass to slay Philistines, unless you want to argue the jawbone was still attached.

Next, you quote selectively from the California penal code, conveniently omitting that it allows animals to be killed for food, which invalidates your argument that the code supports killing only for necessity - in arguing that Big Macs aren't necessary, you imply that no animal being killed is necessary. If that's your opinion, fine, but there's no implication in the code as to whether killing animals is necessary or not, so it doesn't support your position.

Then you go on to say that the abortion debate has given us a clear definiton as to what the "right to life" is. If that's so, why haven't we settled the question?

Then you compare a newborn infant to a full grown animal - or is it a newborn infant to a new born animal? You still haven't clarified this, and yes, it is important.

You conclude from this vague, ambiguous statement that animals are being "discriminated" against. This is pure rhetoric. Proof of that is every time I confront you with the actual meaning of the word, you instantly bring up the bugbear of racial discrimination and imply that I'm arguing in favor of that, too. The thought that one can discriminate among forms of discrimination hasn't yet occured to you, has it? Why should I have to defend myself against implications of racism when we're discussing animal rights? You're simply parroting political cant and hoping that your audience will have a knee jerk reaction and agree with you.

You go on to state that there's a clear biological difference between black and white people. There's not one shred of scientific evidence for that, and don't say "why, skin color, of course". There are Caucasians from India who are darker than some "black" people.

Then you say that species is an artificial biological classification. No. Can we breed with dogs? No. Cattle? No. Then, biologically, they can be said to belong to different species. That is objective truth.

Now, we come to the heart of the matter. You claim that no one species should consider itself first above what other species want. Why? Do lions, or ants, or dogs "think" that way? If it's wrong to use other species for food, why wouldn't it be wrong to use other species for genetic tinkering? Isn't eating plants instead of animals a form of "discrimination"? Why should plants have less "rights" than animals?

Now on to your last post -

My phrase "Animals are clearly discriminated against purely based on species" uses the intransitive sense, and can only be definition 2. You've tried to be a smartass and purposefully tried to misinterpret it. In this case though, there is no room for interpretation.

Why? Because the word says what you want it to mean and only that? I'm not misinterpreting it, I'm flat out disagreeing that when you state something is discrimination, that means that it's wrong. Again, you're using policital cant instead of an actual argument.

So I've wasted my time arguing with some kind of idiot language troll. Thanks.

Actually, you've yet to answer my basic arguments at all. No, I'm an idiot language troll, who, by some kind of weird luck, has written a critique of your essay that would be very similar to what you'd have recieved from an editor or an English teacher had you turned it in to them. I was going to pass over most of this in silence, but if you're going to be mean and call names, I'm going to give you both barrels. You're a sloppy writer and a sloppy thinker. You make the mistake of making assumptions and calling them axioms, you quote selectively from your sources, you subsitute rhetoric for actual logical argument, and you don't have a good enough command of language to get away with it.

And that, is all I really have to say. Try to remember that in between my mild flames, there's actually a good deal of constructive criticism here, if you'd care to take it.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
One mistake I made (none / 0) (#69)
by pyramid termite on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 09:38:09 AM EST

I'm afraid that I misread your statement about animals - you did define a bird as a animal. Sorry about that. However, your definition does not include lobsters, which are boiled alive when cooked. Again, your definition is lacking.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Ponderings... (none / 0) (#57)
by concept on Sat Feb 23, 2002 at 08:35:46 AM EST

AAPN : asian animal protection network

(I'm a vegitarian in China at the moment, and some of the comments on that site refer to places I've conciously boycotted visiting.)

Also, heaps of people eat dog around some parts of China ..

I saw a funny vegitarian sign the other day, "DONT EAT YOUR FRIENDS".

As far as I'm concerned, there's a double standard in animal-rights supporters eating meat!

double standards work for animals, too (none / 0) (#70)
by Shpongle Spore on Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 07:00:43 PM EST

Here's a thought for anyone suggesting that animals be given full human rights: give humans full animal rights as well. If you're going to tell me it's wrong for me to go kill a deer and demand that I be punished if I do, shouldn't you be throwing wolves in jail, too? Surely if a deer has a right not to be killed by a bullet it also has a right not to be killed by teeth and claws.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are

Double Standards in Animal Rights | 73 comments (68 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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