Stockholm Syndrome

Have Australians become victims of Stockholm Syndrome toward their own government?

Yesterday, John Howard described smokers as ‘pariahs’. There was barely a whimper from the 1 in 4 Australians who like a smoko.

When proposals were outlined to ban smoking in cars carrying children, almost no-one was heard shouting,  ‘i’ll decide who smokes in my car, thankyou very much’.

When Manly Council announced plans to ban smoking throughout the Manly area, including outdoors (!), hordes of angry smokers did not descend onto the Corso demanding their right to pursue their chosen legal activity in an area where no-one would be affected. In fact, everyone just meekly nodded and shrugged their shoulders apologetically.

Now that a 250 peer-reviewed study has claimed that ‘individuals can no longer be held responsible for their obesity’, how long will it be before ‘fat bastard taxes’ are introduced in Australia plus junk food advertising bans plus junk-free eating areas serving carrots and lentils only.

I eagerly await the next directive from Stockholm Central.  Some suggestions;

i) Mandatory bed times for children under the age of ten of 8pm.
ii) Mandatory twice weekly visit to the gym (membership subsidised by govt)
iii)  A ban on sun cream sales of anything less than Factor 50.
iv) Speed limits to be reduced by 10kph if children are present in the car.
v) Mandatory helmets to be worn for coastal walking.
vi) Ban on children under the age of twelve being left unsupervised by an adult at any time.

vii) A ban on drinking alcohol while operating a BBQ.

As a relative newcomer to these shores, would someone help me understand why your government treats you all like naughty schoolchildren? And second, why do Australians stand for this shit?

89 thoughts on “Stockholm Syndrome

  1. BUT BUT BUT Smokers are EVIL!!! Everybody knows that!! Even if there is no proof of passive smoking ever harming anyone, isn’t it good that govmints care enough to try to dictate to people what they can do!?!
    I think we’ve become inured over time. We had a long government-funded anti-smoking campaign, so all these laws are not sudden, but have had the ground carefully prepared. If the government prepares the ground for a long time, then there’s usually little resistance.

  2. What I find interesting about that is what Alan Jones has said about Illegal Drugs: But conservative Sydney radio host Alan Jones said yesterday that drug use in the community was widespread and the Government was “not winning” the fight. He questioned whether drugs should be decriminalised. “We legalise alcohol, which is a drug. Is our strategy (on other drugs) wrong? We spend a fortune on what we are doing now and we are simply not winning … We are going to have to listen to the other side.”

  3. But Sir David said it was clear that government needed to involve itself, as on this occasion, the market was failing to do the job.

    Wow, that free market is a real bastard, people just seem to do whatever they like unless it is controlled. Hillary blames it for the abortion rate, now its making people fat.

    Pommy, how can you moot a fat bastard tax, apart from the danger of the government thinking it a good idea, it opens the dangerous can of worms of actual individual responsibility. What do you think we have a government for, if not to protect us from ourselves.

  4. As far as I can tell the answer to “Do Australians have stockholm syndrome towards the government” YES.

    When I read the tabloid Advertiser newspaper (Sth Australia’s paper) libertarian ideas are not getting voiced to to wider community. The newspaper seems to be trying to ignore or ridicule libertarian ideas.

    Ben, in regards to drug decriminalisation, it’s encouraging to hear Alan Jone’s comments, but when he says “we are going to have to listen to the other side”. He probably means the left. And the general left wing approach to the drug issue also has many fundamental faults mainly because their policies of harm minimisation, and treatment involve a lot of government expenditure and do not focus on personal responsibility for one’s actions.

  5. As a relative newcomer to these shores, would someone help me understand why your government treats you all like naughty schoolchildren? And second, why do Australians stand for this shit?

    Coming from the UK pommy I would assume Oz is a comparative Liberal Utopia.

    Not many people think it’s odd that the government should prevent us from self harm. It’s as simple as that. Most people think it’s a good idea and only disapprove of the drug laws usually because they feel that drugs are not harmful; or at least would be less harmful if illegal.

    You would have to go a very long way to find a Man on the street who would actually oppose the compulsory seat belt law in this country.

  6. Ben, I am a libertarian, and I support the seat-belt law. The entity called the public owns the roads, and I accept community oversight in these cases. I object to interference in my private affairs, and the public should stay away from private areas- if I were foolish enough to smoke in my own home, then it would be my choice.

  7. Ben

    Yes, the UK is also a haven for those who would prefer the government do their thinking for them.

    However, it’s not seat belt laws that are the problem.

  8. Tim R. Said:

    “When I read the tabloid Advertiser newspaper (Sth Australia’s paper) libertarian ideas are not getting voiced to to wider community. The newspaper seems to be trying to ignore or ridicule libertarian ideas.”

    This contains much truthiness. Although to be honest, if The Advertiser started printing opinons resembling mine, I might start to worry about the quality of my ideas. .;)

  9. I agree that the government should be allowed to set the rules on their roads (including seat belt laws)… but then I also think that the government should privatise the roads (where possible). 🙂

    I hesitate to call the Australian need for government control a “disease”. I think it has more in common with a religion. People have faith in government, despite there being no evidence that the mythical “good politician” even exists. They then absolve themselves from having to think, as all they do is follow the good book to tell them how to live life.

  10. There was actually an interesting study I read about recently that said people that vote for conservative parties are actually biologically different to people that vote for progressive parties. And indeed in other areas of their lives the conservative voters are less likely to take risks.

    Fear is a powerful motivator and if people are scared of flying, then they’ll happily let the government regulate the air industry.

  11. Q. What do you call a good politician?

    A…. Don’t worry, nobody else knows, either!

    John, if all the roads were in private hands, then the owners would set the rules. Wouldn’t they want fewer fatalities? Don’t seat belts lessen fatalities? So you’d still end up with seat belt laws.
    And my version of libertarianism, which I’ll call Leonardarianism (in honour of the example of Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province) advocates private monarchies and public democracies. Private property should be private. Public property could be owned by an entity called the Local County, and people could join as shareholders and democratically vote on what to do with public land. The principle, and motto, would be ‘Let Owners Rule!’ I think that motto neatly sums up Anarcho-Capitalism.

  12. Private road owners would not be in a position to mandate seat belt if many models of car lacked seatbelts. And maybe many would lack seatbelts if it was not mandatory in at least some of the markets that the particular model of car was sold. So it seems to me that in practice seatbelts are either mandated by the government or left to the individual.

    If somebody seriously feels that seatbelts cause them an injustice then they would probably have more success by arguing that the penalty for not wearing a seatbelt should be reduced.

  13. Terje- almost all models of new car come with airbags despite no laws (that I know of) mandating them. I’d think that seatbelts would come as standard, too? Meaning a private road owner may well introduce seatbelt laws.

  14. I haven’t thought too hard about it, but I don’t see why children shouldn’t be able to sue their parents later in life for damages caused by smoking in cars (or other sorts of things that cause negative health outcomes) if they can prove that it affected their health negatively in the long term.

  15. Conrad — parents and children have an implicit contract that the child will obey the parents and the parents will look after the child. Because the contract is implicit I believe they should be able to revoke the contract at any time (ie children should be able to leave home when they want and the parents should be able to give the child up for adoption). But another consequence of this is that the children have to live with the rule “smoking allowed in cars”.

    Terje — I don’t understand why you think private land owners couldn’t enforce the seat-belt rule. If a car didn’t have seatbelts they could have the rule “OK, they can drive here” or “No, they can’t drive on my road”.

    Nicholas — I agree that some people would enforce seat-belt laws on their property. Probably speed limits too. They could even introduce a no-smoking law… but I think they would tend to have consumer friendly rules otherwise they would be discouraging people from using their roads (and therefore losing toll money).

  16. I don’t see the parent/child contract idea to be logically consistent. Children haven’t developed the reasoning skills to enter into a contract or to comprehend it’s implications.

    As harsh as it sounds, I actually think children should be considered more along the lines of the parent’s property with a number of laws to protect them based on common social standards. These laws are justified through the fact that childred will become beings of reason who will be responsible for themselves relatively quickly, the fact that the rest of us want the people who will be entering our society to have certain qualities i.e. healthy and of sound mind, and the fact that we are extending to upcoming adults the protections that we ourselves would have wanted as we developed to full adults.

    So using this logic I support the protection of children in cars from passive smoking. I think this one is really missing the point about the right to choose. The LDP should be targetting the right to smoke in a pub or restaurant with the owners permission. All LDP policies should maintain the high moral ground and be based firmly in the logic of consenting adults of sound mind.

  17. Mick

    You’re right about children having no capacity to make informed decisions. However, it is precisely the State’s increasing desire to force parents how to bring up their kids that this post is concerned with.

    Yes, it would be better for children to eat fresh fruit rather than ice cream. And yes, it would be better if parents didn’t smoke around their children. But the State has no right mandating how parents should raise their children. It should inform them of the best options and then leave it up the parents. Unless the child is in danger of being harmed, (and whilst regularly feeding them Big Macs and smoking in their presence is not quality parenting, it is not endangering the child), the govt must back off.

  18. Andrew.

    I wholeheartedly support the bill banning pet shops from selling pets. One of the biggest disappointments I have with Libertarians is their general stance on the status of Animals. If it will go some way to stopping the 60,000(!) pets that have to be destroyed each year then I’m all for it.

  19. Yeah, and then we can pass a law banning farmers from raising animals for slaughter. Because, Animal Rights, Man!

  20. I wouldn’t support that Tim. I would totally protest a ban on farmers raising animals for slaughter.

  21. I suppose I should be more constructive, not just sarcastic, but really… Animals don’t have rights to life or liberty, although there might arguably be some sort of right to pursue happiness within the bounds of being the property of someone who does have all those rights. If people want to “destroy” their pets, they have the right to. You presumably prefer that the pets had never existed.

    Because animals are alive and can feel pain, it can be argued that, all other things being equal, they have a right not to suffer unnecessarily. Animals are capable of making their preferences on this matter clear – pick up a stick and start whacking a sheep, for example, and see if it hangs around or runs away. But the sheep has no right to life, because it has no way of understanding the concept.

    If people get pleasure out of buying little kittens, then killing them when they older and buying another, there is no argument for the government to ban this. I’m fairly sure I won’t want those people for my friends, but that is no excuse for the government to gaol or shoot them. I find your argument deeply flawed.

  22. 24 I wouldn’t support that Tim. I would totally protest a ban on farmers raising animals for slaughter.

    Well, I can’t see the moral dividing line. Raising animals that will definitely be killed is fine, but to sell pets that *might* be killed is not? You’ll need to explain this to me more.

  23. Just to push that a bit further: If I rear and sell a dog to be eaten, that is all good, but if I sell it as a pet and someone later has it killed, well, that is BAD?

  24. It’s not really the raising them that’s the problem. Under the proposed bill you just need to see a breeder to purchase a dog.

    It’s the fact that they are mistreated by people who buy the animals without understanding the responsibility that comes with them. Not selling them in pet stores means less impulse buying of these animals. Someone who buys an animal on an impulse is more likely to neglect them than someone who went to the trouble of purchasing from a breeder or from the RSPCA.

    The animals that are destroyed have needlessly suffered as well as had their lives shortened. If you raise an animal to eat it at least there is utility in that. The suffering and shortening of the life of the animal is bad but at least there was a point to it.

  25. More on obesity from AFP: http://www.smh.com.au/news/health/society-promotes-obesity/2007/10/19/1192301001588.html
    Society is to blame for people being fat and the government apparently has not been doing enough to save us from ourselves.

    Oh and here’s an odd stat:
    Government-commissioned research suggested half of all Britons will be obese in 25 years if current trends are not halted; furthermore, 86 per cent of men will be overweight in 15 years and 70 per cent of women in 20, it suggested.

    Is there going to be a population surge of svelte hermaphrodites?

  26. Ben, you are arguing in a circle. The question is indeed whether there is a responsibility for no other reason than that you think there should be one, when you know full well that other people don’t agree.

    You want some animals to be treated to a certain standard, that’s your value, and that’s fine. Other people don’t agree, or may agree but to a different standard.

    But if it’s not okay to be violent to animals, I fail to see how being violent to human beings is in any better position.

    The fact is, the whole point about law is that it’s enforceable and enforced. That means that if you don’t obey, armed men will physically seize you and lock you up in a cage where you are at risk of being further violated. Is that an okay way of co-ordinating social action for no other reason than that I think something would be a good idea: it accords wiith my values? So if I’m a Catholic, I should be able to have you imprisoned for not complying with my religious opinions, and if I like animals I should be able to have you imprisoned and raped because *I* think you should buy them from a breeder, and so on? Has it ever occurred to you that other people have a right to live their lives free from your pious meddling? If you want other people to treat their animals to a certain standard, respect the human right to be free of violence, live in a accordance with our own values, and together with others who agree with your opinions, *buy the animals in question* and provide what standard you think appropriate.

    You have not established any ground for using violence or threats of violence to force other people to comply with your values. Your stance is despotic.

  27. Justin,

    Reading your diatribe against my Statist view made me think “Jesus, do I really sound like that?” and I made a mental note to apologize to my ALP supporting relatives.

    Yes it’s meddling I know and I’m not very comfy with it at all. I’d rather see people being held to account for mistreating or abandoning their pets.

    And yes it has occurred to me that people have a right to live their lives free of my pious meddling. It occurs to me a lot. I am very keen for a society free of mine and others pious meddling; pious meddling being by far my most loathed type of meddling indeed.

    I would agree with you right down the line on individual Liberty:
    Yes it’s no ones business but your own if you shoot up heroin in your own house.
    Yes it’s no ones business but your own if you own an arsenal of firearms that would put Sandline to shame.
    Yes it’s no ones business but your with what you do with your time/money/talent/energy/property.
    etc etc etc.

    Except when it comes to Animals (although I don’t really see it as an exception) Animals are considered property but there is a difference between living sentient property and any other type of property. The difference is the ability for the Animals to suffer. I think some consideration should be made because of this fact.

    Now as I admit above I’m not a fan of reducing freedom to reduce harm but 60,000 neglected pets a year seems like an awful lot to me. The regrettable downside is the loss in revenue to pet store owners which doesn’t sit well with me (although it sits better than mistreatment of 60K or so animals).

    If it’s really going to put Pet shops out of business then I’d say there needed to be a better solution but I doubt revenue from selling the animals is a large part of a given pet stores revenue; Most people buy from Breeders or from the RSPCA and go to the stores for accouterments.

    But I don’t know. I could be wrong. What do you think Justin? How much should Animals be protected from harm? Should they be protected under the law at all? And if not, why not? If so, to what extent? Do you think that animals should have the same freedom from harm under law that humans have? (with the obvious exclusion of killing them to eat them/wear them etc.)

  28. Thank you for having an inquiring mind.

    It seems that it’s not actually harm to animals that is the criterion from the animal rights point of view, since even killing them is okay, it’s the mindset of the relevant human they are concerned with. Certain human purposes are okay, even if they cause death or pain, and others are not. It reminds me a bit of the Puritans in Elizabethan times, who banned bear-baiting not because it caused the bear pain, but because it gave the humans pleasure.

    I understand that animals are important to you, and I love animals too. I don’t like to see animals suffer, or people being cruel to them either. People say animals can’t understand about life and all that – I have even heard people argue that they don’t feel pain – but I think those arguments are factually wrong, and even if they were factually right, that is not the issue.

    The other day I was driving along and I saw a big kangaroo on the road. His head was up, so he was alive, but his leg was broken. What to do? Do I leave him there, where he is in pain and distress, struggling to get away? Or do I run over his head and put him out of his misery? Not very nice choice. What did I do? Because I couldn’t stand running over him, I avoided him. I suppose, on thinking about it, that it is our own values that we are protecting in relation to animals.

    Much more animal suffering takes place in the natural world every day than in human hands. This does not justify the latter but my point is, the issue is not animal suffering per se, it is one group of humans wanting to use power to have the satisfaction of controlling another group of humans – that’s the issue.

    I recently bought a place and an old old dog came with it. This dog was in pain from severe arthritis, was stone deaf and almost blind, and could hardly walk. After a while, seeing he was in pain and couldn’t even walk without falling over a tussock, I gave him some food and put a bullet in his head. Now some might condone my actions on animal rights ground. But other might condemn them. They might say animal life is a high value in itself and so on. If they had political power I could be persecuted. But my point is, it’s not about values that are over and above or outside human values. It’s about human values.

    Let’s say animals are important to you, and for that you want to make an exception to the principle of liberty. But of course everyone else has values too, and they want their values enforced, against me and you too, even though we don’t agree with them. In fact placing a high value on animal life is only very recent, and I think we can safely assume that in the history of the world others have more passionately placed a value on religion, and nation, and every other kind of creed, than you do on animals. But even if you hold your views not with lesser but with equal passion, we are in no better position. Human freedom cannot be defended by expedience and a case-by-case, basis because of the readiness of everyone to subjugate everyone else. It can only be defended on principle.

    When we say ‘the pet-shop owners will just have to miss out on revenue’, we are assuming that that is the issue. But it’s not.

    Suppose ten men and one woman decide whether to have sex. Now the men vote for and the woman votes against. According to our current majoritarian ‘democratic’ political morality, that ends the issue, so long as it is the state and not a natural person who makes the decision. Through government, we have the ‘right’ to violate the lives, liberty and property of other people. Men have been conscripted and sent to their deaths, so there is no question that the state could enact and enforce and legitimise the lesser violation of rape. It’s arbitrary.

    But suppose the woman decides that she’s not going to ‘just have to’ have sex. Who will say she has a moral obligation to do so? Even if the law required it, we would say the law was wrong for obliging her, not that she was wrong for resisting. She resists. So they pull out a knife and threaten to stab her if she doesn’t agree. So she has sex, and they don’t stab her. Now in those circumstances, it is not true to represent the case as being one in which there was no violence. The threat of violence *is* violence.

    The men could cite scientific studies on how sex is good for your nerves, your eyes, your skin, for depression and anxiety, but that won’t answer will it? The real issue is violating someone in order to get them to do what you want.

    This person thinks God is important, that one Allah, this one nationality (I met a guy once who told me he would throw himself under a tank for Pakistan), or political opinion (I met a guy who suffered severe torture for an independent Kurdistan), or the Tamil race, or some other race, or this sexuality, or cows, this one animals in general, and another one wants to infringe personal liberty for native vegetation. Humans have an amazing ability to believe anything. Sentience is what matters to you, but it need not. You could defend animals on some other ground. It’s what humans think that matters here, and if sentience in animals matters, it’s only because a human thinks so. It’s arbitrary. A movement to defend plants – or rocks – could just as easily demand enforcement as based on any other value.

    No human being can claim to speak for a value that transcends human values and interests. Yet there seems to be an inbuilt chauvinism that is a part of the human hard-wiring to make such claims and to demand that others comply and obey. Literally hundreds of millions of people have been killed *just in the last hundred years* in the process of using force to back up these claims. The latest and fashionable claim on behalf of ‘animals’ is merely the latest claim on the state to enforce such values and in the history of ideas has more to do with the rise of the modern total state than it has with a particular realisation of the beauty and value of animals.

    From your point of view, you start with the value of animals, and then you figure out how that end can be protected. To take an extreme example, from the point of view of Islamists who blow up buses filled with civilians, it’s not so much about the civilians on the buses, it’s about the supreme being, than whom, by definition, no value can be higher. But it should be about the people who are violated!

    I am sick of politically sponsored violence in the name of higher causes based on arbitrary opinion.

    The only way out is a general principle of not using force against human beings, except to repel force: the principle of liberty.

    You say the pet-shop owner would ‘just have to’ bear the consequences, but what if his business is at the margin, as many are, and you send him broke? Most shop-keepers have mortgaged their home, so suppose he loses that? He infringed a law on selling animals intended to protect animals, but suppose in fact no animal was actually harmed. Now we have again this belief cropping up that it’s okay to violate people as long as you are full of your own opinions and use the state to do the violating.

    When we say the pet-shop owner will just have to bear the loss, what if he decides, on a principle as strongly held as yours, not to accept the demand to sacrifice his values for yours? What if he resists, and in the process is physically injured?

    And last but not least, why should it be the shop-keeper who pays the costs of your values?

    Why force and threats of force as a way of solving problems?

    Why don’t all those who are in favour of animal rights *pay * the shop-keepers what they require in order to treat animals to your standard? Say you want chickens to be in a certain size cage? Why threaten to lock farmers in a cage to force them to obey you? Why doesn’t everyone who holds that animals represent a higher value pay the costs of those values to the farmers to keep the animals to that standard? Why is that not a sufficient and fair answer?
    Moral standards change, and hopefully improve, with time, and concern for animals is a reflection of that rising moral standard. But history has shown that many laws to enforce morality are abusive. The sanctions to encourage compliance with moral standards in general should be those of society and opinion, not law. Only to prevent violence by human beings against human beings are we justified in using violence against human beings. Otherwise there is no reason why you should not be imprisoned because Catholics in their time have thought that any sexual activity you are ever likely to have engaged in is an offence against God that people should be persecuted for. The only thing stopping it happening is not any principle that animal rights activists defend, but only the want of numbers to pass the law.

    To answer your question, it can never be animals themselves that have rights in law: in practice, it would only ever be the right of some humans to use force against others. Though I love animals, I can’t see a way clear to an ethical justification for what is being tried-on, and from my discussions with animal rights advocates, they have not thought through the issues and mistakenly believe it is about the cuteness of animals, rather than recognising their own un-cute desire to bully and control other human beings by threatening to cage them.

    I see no way around it but to fall back to the defence of the value of human freedom and of private property, on which our freedom depends. These are issues for the sanctions of morality, and society, not law. While ever the animal rights advocates remain unwilling to pay the costs of their own values, and want to try to force others to obey their will, it should be recognised that their driving motivation is power, not animals.

  29. Many years ago children were considered to be property of the parent or guardian, to the point where a friend of my father was sold with the farm as a going concern, – probably in the mid 1920s. I did hear that at some stage some bright spark found a way around this by the acceptance of the logic that children were still animals and they created child welfare officers within the RSPCA. (I am not sure of the veracity of this.)

    I believe there is a case for ending animal cruelty, decency dictates it. The problem is defining just what animal cruelty is in this politically correct age.

  30. I totally agree Jim, it is a very hard line to tread.

    I mean, if we have no laws about animal cruelty then why is it illegal to be cruel to someone in a vegetative state?

    Surely an animal is more “alive” and “human” than a human vegetable? They are difficult ethical questions.

    But I like to eat meat, so I try not to think too much about it. Because I think there is a very real, logical case for the animal liberation side…

  31. And, when the animals are liberated, who will pay their way in society? Should they go out and get jobs? Or will they be queueing up for the welfare rolls as well?

    Like I said earlier, there is a case for non-cruelty to animals, being living, thinking things, but none for liberating them. They’re just not up to taking their equal places in our bold new world. Also, you can live next door to the wolves and lions and suchlike.

  32. I think state seatbelt laws are a violation of rights except for with children.
    I guess it’s fair enough for a private roads provider to enforce a seat belt law.

    I think Tim and Justin are right on the “should animals have rights” debate.
    Animals don’t have rights because they don’t have free will. Rights protections are designed to let someone with the capacity for descision making (volition), make their own decisions and act on them (unless their actions infringe on someone else’s rights). The reason we need rights arises from our capacity for volition. Animals don’t have the power of volition therefore shouldn’t be granted rights protections. Most animals are also not aware of their own self and have very limited or no capacity for concept formation. I’m sure some people would argue with these points, but my opinion is that it’s immoral, cruel and senseless to treat animals you own badly but it’s not the states or anyone elses place to control this.

    And how big is the problem of people been cruel to their own animals? I think it’s a rare event, perhaps more to do with mental illness of the person.

    This is not the same concept as with little children because children have the hardware necessary to develop volition and are in the process of developing it.

  33. Tim R: And how big is the problem of people been cruel to their own animals? I think it’s a rare event, perhaps more to do with mental illness of the person.
    The article I posted mentined 60,000 animals abandoned and needing to be destroyed each year.

    I don’t see why you feel volition is the only reason a being should be granted freedom from suffering. Should it be legal to be cruel to a Human with a severe mental disability which means they will never be able to think for themselves?

    I’m just talking about the right of an animal to be free from suffering. I’m not talking about giving them the vote. They suffer so why is that not enough to justify anti-cruelty laws?

  34. Ben, an increase in laws will lead to an increase in bureaucracy to interpret and then enforce the laws. All governments seems intent on maximizing their powers. Any excuse, such as anti-cruelty laws, will be used to increase the reach of the State. They won’t repeal old laws to make way for new laws- they’ll simply add to what is there. If you really want to help animals, you can join like-minded people, such as the PETA group. Whilst I don’t agree with them on many issues, a private pressure group is a morally-superior alternative to an increase in laws and the power of the state.

  35. Because it’s not the state’s job to ensure no one inflicts suffering on themselves or their animals or on their property. The state doesn’t have a say in issues of personal morality.

    Animals being tortured or mis-treated isn’t the same thing as them being abandoned or given to the RSPCA.
    They are humanely killed.
    But I agree that it’s irresponsible to dump animals and disturbing to hear the number is this high.
    This dumping should rightfully be a crime because you are forcibly placing the burden of dealing with these animals on other people.

    The “right” of a being to be free of suffering? There is no such thing.
    Humans don’t have this right so why should animals? eg/ A human may be born into poverty, and therefore suffer from say malnutrition, but he doesn’t have the right to other people’s food. I have suffering all the time, it’s a part of life.

    Ben, maybe you’d be pleased to hear that pet numbers in Australia have dropped significantly (from about 4 million to 2.5 million from memory) over the last decade or two. Not sure if the number of animals dumped is also reducing.

  36. I never said possessing volition means you have a right to avoid suffering.
    By rights, I take the general libertarian position summarized as: “The protection from initiary force”.
    Animals don’t have this protection from their owners.

    If the animals don’t belong to you, cruelty then becomes a crime.
    Dumping animals is also a crime.

  37. And, when the animals are liberated, who will pay their way in society? Should they go out and get jobs? Or will they be queueing up for the welfare rolls as well?

    They should have the right to self-determination. To organise as a nation with their own cultures, rules and laws. They should be free to live as they see best. Their freedom to live their life in a manner they choose should only be infringed upon when they take away the freedom of humans. Forcing animals (or Indigenous people) to assimilate would be unethical.

    While animals can feel pain they have a right to not be dealt with violently. While animals possess a will to live, they possess a right to life. While animals seek to engage in actions that are non-violent and non-coercive they should have a right to do so. Some great apes have higher cognitive power than human children, they DO have self-awareness and perceived volition should they have rights?

    But I’ll happily impose myself over another if they are especially tasty. It’s worked for this long.

  38. Just because an animal has nerve endings that result in pain sensations doesn’t mean the animal has a right to no pain from humans.

    They definitely don’t have a right to no pain from other animals. Lions eat out the nutritious and tasty internal organs from their incapacitated but still alive prey who must undoubtedly be in a world of pain and distress.

    All the animals we eat are not self aware.
    Animals operate via emotional response and postivie/negitive conditioning. They are not capable of advanced concept formation, because they don’t have language. They are definitely not capable of volition and right and wrong.

    My argument is that rights are derived from nature, from reality, not dreamt up because a majority of humans like the idea. I think of rights and morality as a science.
    If a being has the power of choice, he should have his ability for choice protected. From this observation of reality stems your need for protection against initiatory force. Not because you would feel pain if someone initiated force against you. But because you have rational thinking ability (which incidentally becomes your main mode of survival and is of vital importance).
    This is why education, health care and welfare etc are not natural rights. These pseudo rights are the result of well-meaning but ignorant populists and they infringe on the fundamental “non-initiation of force” right.

  39. It is always best and just to be a free thinking individual. To blindly conform is to avoid innovation. To innovate is to embrace the free thinking mind.

  40. I totally disagree on the origin of rights, Tim. I see humans as complex animals and nothing more.

    The concept of “free will” isn’t God-given but rather something that humans like to think they have. Evolutionarily a belief in free will, much like compassion have become traits that for whatever reason have helped us survive.

    I’m a determinist when asked the question. I don’t see humans as being superior to animals or advanced concepts humans are capable of being any reason for superior rights.

    I think humans like free will for whatever reason and that the only objective value free will has- is that it’s desired by the majority of humans. I’m a total moral subjectivist. Because I think it’s logically the most sound.

    But like all philosophy, it’s a matter of opinion and belief. I can’t even prove I’m not a brain in a vat, so how am I meant to prove that rights are totally subjective?

  41. I totally disagree on the origin of rights, Tim. I see humans as complex animals and nothing more.

    Humans are nothing but animals, but they are the animal that has the capacity to reason. This ability to make choices gives them free will.

    I don’t see humans as being superior to animals or advanced concepts humans are capable of being any reason for superior rights.

    If I’m not superor to one of the animals that I farm, where does my right to eat that animal come from. Or do I not have this right? Where do you think rights come from, Shem?

  42. Mick,

    What faculty to reason does a human have over a dog or say a Gorilla? Can you give an example of some sort of decision one of these intelligent animals cannot make that a Human could?

  43. It’s a shame to see Shem admitting to total lunacy, but the rest of us can get on with life.
    Humans are the only ones who can articulate the concept of rights, and then strive for that right, and use freedom of expression to persuade others to that idea. Do we ever see lions talking about rights, or not eating some beasts because they are rare and species ‘have a right’ to not be extinct? In what way can rights be separated from communication? If they were innate in all species, you wouldn’t need to discuss it! (In the same way that nobody needs to worry about conforming to the law of gravity- we just routinely obey it.)
    I do believe there is a spiritual realm, but that is because of the evidence. I am not a subjectivist. I do not need to prove that I am not just a brain in a vat- if you are serious about that idea, you should offer proof for it instead. Let’s forget Plato, and get on with the evidence!

  44. Awesome ad hominem Nicholas. You have to articulate your rights to deserve them? Well what of a human who is disabled to the point of not being in any way capable of articulating her rights?

    And you also haven’t explained why being able to express your rights is so important. As an example: Why is it more important to not torture someone because they can say, in language you understand, please do not torture me. Surely the fact that it hurts them is more important than them saying “Hey I have rights, don’t do that to me!” Why is that so key to you?

  45. Shem, just to clarify, I’m not saying rights are God given. That is not the only alternative to moral relativism.
    If you are a “total moral subjectivist” and you also think free will is an illusion, then logically on moral grounds you should support mob rule and force. Mob rule and force are not immoral if morals are subjective. Also, if we don’t have free will, what does it matter anyway if someone forces us to do something.
    You have no way to prove this is wrong except popular opinion. The same popular opinion that sees raped women get stoned to death in some Islamic countries. Is it wrong over there or only in our part of the world? Popular opinion is mob rule, collectivist and the opposite of individualist libertarianism.

    Back to the animal debate: Why is it not wrong for a lion to eat lion cubs (they do that occaisionally) but everyone in the world would know that it is wrong for a person to eat babies?
    Do you at least agree that animals are ammoral?
    Do you then take the ability to choose different courses of action as the precondition for right and wrong?

  46. Ben, I think you have refered to the mentally disabled scenario a few times.
    For, the purposes of human rights vs animal rights argument, I assume you’re refering to severely disabled people, one example would be someone in a coma.
    This person does not have a full set of natural rights as you are implying. They cannot have a right to privacy for example or they would die. They do not have the rights over their own body when in a coma, eg/ they cannot avoid treatment, they are forced to take it. They don’t have natural rights like an ordinary adult person should.
    They have rights before their injury, and after, if they recover. Otherwise, the rights situation is similar to children, ie: rights are limited.
    But we know that people have the hardware, grey matter, to develop free choice. It is a fact that a child will develop reasoning ability. It is a fact that a cow that we eat will never be capable of this.

  47. Ben, my attack was not Ad Hominem. By definition, Lunatics are irresponsible, and subject to whims (subjectivism). Shem claims to follow total subjectivism. (See #45). If he means it, and isn’t just stirring, then is he being rational?
    How did rights originate? Humans got together and discussed justice, and the right thing to do, and rights would have developed from these discussions within societies. Are we born knowing our rights? Or do we learn about them at school, and from our families and neighbours?
    That’s where I think rights came from. Where do you think they came from, Ben?

  48. The Coma scenario is a straw man. I am not talking about granting Animals the right to privacy or the right to profits from their labour until they ask for it. I’m talking about the right of animals not to be mistreated on the basis that they suffer.

    Take the example instead of someone with severe cerebral palsy who is completely unable to communicate. They will still suffer but they are unable to articulate this fact. I am simply arguing that animals should have the same right to be free from undue suffering even though they may be considered the property of a Human.

    That is the only thing I’m arguing against.

  49. Here’s another way of saying my point of view which is largely based in objectivist theory: See http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7987&news_iv_ctrl=1084

    “To ascribe rights to animals is to contradict the purpose and justification of rights–to protect the interests of humans. Rights are moral principles necessary for men to survive as human beings–to coexist peacefully, to produce and trade, to provide for their own lives, and to pursue their own happiness, all by the guidance of their rational minds.
    To attribute rights to nonrational, amoral creatures who can neither grasp nor live by them is to turn rights from a tool of human preservation to a tool of human extermination.”

    The last bit sounds alarmist but here’s an example illustrating what they mean: When a new pharmaceutical is developed, many tests are done on animals for efficacy (aka proof of concept), toxicity, dose response etc.
    My eg/ It is quite likely that clinically testing a drug on a primate’s brain (eg/ chimp) would be considered unethical and be banned in our society.
    So the drug cannot go to market resulting in no potential cure, or the drug must be subjected to inferior tests on say mice, thereby putting humans more at risk of unknown consequences and denying potential research data.
    What is effectively happening here, is that human well being is sacrificed for animal well being. Many people think this is OK, that’s why we have so many environmentalists, but I disagree with this.

  50. Ben, I have already stated that suffering is a natural part of life for any creature. And no one has the right to “no suffering”.

    My coma argument is not a straw man because a mildly mentally disabled person still has rational mental capacities and cannot be compared to an animal. Some cerebal palsy people have rational cognitive function.

    Anyway, what I’m pretty sure you’re concerned about, is animals should be legally protected from deliberate sadistic cruelty by their owners.

    It is known that serial killers and other highly violent sadists often torture animals, some even start when they are children.

    The only argument I can think of for granting pets protection from torture would arise from the fact that humans may at a later date, need protection from the torturer. Anyone that tortures animals for fun is majorly messed up and probably mentally ill. So torutre to animals is a good way to identify potentially violent people and so is possibly rightfully illegal, but I’m still not really sure.
    This argument is quite different to the, “if something suffer’s this is wrong” argument which in my mind has comparisons to the typical socialist cry of “inequality is wrong”.

  51. Ben, I have already stated that suffering is a natural part of life for any creature. And no one has the right to “no suffering”.
    Tim I am not arguing that any kind of animal including human should be free from suffering. Can I state that categorically right now. I am not talking about giving out welfare handouts to animals and giving them free health care. I am talking about protecting them from cruelty.

    Anyway, what I’m pretty sure you’re concerned about, is animals should be legally protected from deliberate sadistic cruelty by their owners.

    Spot on Tim. That is what I’m banging on about. The fact that you only see a benefit to making this illegal because it might prevent someone from hurting a human is simply abhorrent.

    My coma argument is not a straw man because a mildly mentally disabled person still has rational mental capacities and cannot be compared to an animal. Some cerebal palsy people have rational cognitive function.

    This is entirely speculative and is squirming out of the argument. It’s not based on intelligence as there are intellectual disabilities that would put an adult humans age beneath that of an adult Gorilla yet you would not send the relegate the Human to the level of rights you would give the Gorilla purely because the Human is Human.

    It’s not an argument about intelligence which is simply a convenient way to hide the fact that this is purely about the primacy of your own species. This flies in the face of reason and is a throwback to old Religious views about the Primacy of Man over beast.

  52. I am not “squirming out of the argument”. I attempted to tackle your argument which I consider largely insignificant in the context of a discussion on rights.
    Your mentally disabled argument is largely insignificant because the context of an animal rights argument has to compare humans (in general) vs animals (in general). The mentally disabled person that borders on gorilla intelligence is a rare event, and determining this intelligence level would indeed be speculative. It’s your argument, so if I’m speculating about intelligence levels in mentally disabled people then what are you doing?

    Even so, my point was that either the mentally disabled person has capacity for rational thought (hence not comparable to an animal), or they don’t (not granted the rights of a human, thus not a justification for animal rights).

    What about the “primacy” of yourself and your family. eg/ How would you feel if a promising treatment to cure your deadly disease was banned for “ethical” concerns on animal tests.
    By treating ourselves and our families as most important, then we treat our species as most important. ie: We kill animals for our own survival, food and clothing. So this primacy of species does exist.

    I’ve explained why dumping animals should be illegal. Treating other people’s animals or publicly owned animals badly without the owner’s consent should be illegal.
    Pets with owners who cannot look after them anymore are easily given away or in the worst case, humanely killed by the pound.

    So there’s only one real example of animal cruelty.
    The rare case of sadistic cruelty to one’s own pet.
    I’m saying that perhaps it could be illegal on the grounds that the torturer may be violent towards humans.

    So, does the serverely mentally disabled human who can still feel pain have the limited right to avoid torture from an unlikely sadistic carer?
    I’d say yes, because they are human. I also think it would be a good indicator of a violent person just like the animal case.

    You want animals to have the limited right of “no cruelty from their owners”, but I don’t see the need for this. And it’s this kind of reasoning that currently stops animal research. ie: I think this approach will lead to sacrificing human life for animal life.

  53. I am not talking about animal testing. I am talking about unwarranted cruelty. You claim the only reason to have laws against being cruel to an animal the perpetrator owns would be because it’s an indication that they may harm humans.

    This is akin to arresting someone for reading a particular book because statistics indicate that people who read that book tend to go out and commit a violent act. Or banning drinking because people can be more violent when they drink.

    I can gather from what you’ve said that, if someone being cruel to animals turned out to be little or no indication of future human cruelty you would not have a problem with it. With this in mind I could purchase a dog from a pet store then douse it with petrol and set it on fire for fun.

    You see no problem with this?

  54. Okay, a lot of arguments against what I said, but for a variety of reasons.

    I’ll take your questions, Nicholas-
    How did rights originate? Humans got together and discussed justice, and the right thing to do, and rights would have developed from these discussions within societies. Are we born knowing our rights? Or do we learn about them at school, and from our families and neighbours?

    From a subjectivist point of view, you are exactly “right” (bad pun). Rights are not innate- but rather contrived by humans based on what we feel and what we reason. There’s no rights beyond what we say is a right.

    Personally I think on a rational level if use “freedom” as the value that determines our rights, then that freedom should be extended to all beings whether or not they can understand the concept of a right.

    In other societies and at other times strength has been a greater social value than freedom, and in those times the strong dominated the weak in accordance with the rights given at the time. Similarly psychopaths don’t believe in rights for others and take a selfish, hedonistic approach to life, only believing in their own right to obtain what they wish. Perceived rights are individual, legal rights are decided by the lawmakers, where no thought exists no rights exist. As a society we determine our rights, based on things we value.

    If we value freedom, than that is a value we should strive to uphold above all else. Unless you say “human life” is the value we are trying to uphold above freedom in which case you have an argument. But by saying “human life” is our value, isn’t that just a short step from saying “white human life” is our value? Once upon a time black people were seen as incapable of the reasoning humans are. Our values are arbitrary and as such our rights are arbitrary (that is to say they are based on evolutionarily conditioned values over which we have no control).

    My argument is why do we value human life over animal life and is it logically legitimate to do so? Is it ethical to value ones own life over that of someone else? I don’t think these questions can be answered in absolute terms. But I personally, I do value the well-being of animals where it is possible to do so. Just as I try to value the well-being of other humans where it is possible to do so.

    I don’t value freedom where it leads to negative outcomes. That probably makes me different to some of the libertarians here.

  55. Animals do not have the right to be free from pain. Describing the infliction of pain on an animal for the purposes of torture or for the purpose of food or clothing production. The difference is entirely arbitrary and when the law can be subjective, then it is open to conflict and unintended consequences.

    If torture is illegal, what happens when someone animal rights supporter mounts a case against mulesing of sheep? How about the practice of castrating animals without anaesthetic? What about even shearing sheep? If there is no definite limit, say animals must not be assaulted or killed, then the law will be helpless to prevent arbitrary legal actions that were not intended by the original law.

    If perfect legislation were possible, the state would be our friend. Unfortunately it isn’t, and the state is not our friend.

    Talk of animal rights while advocating a non-vegan diet is nonsensical and hypocritical to boot.

  56. I’m looking for logical consistency to ethics and to the law Ben. It’s a difficult controversial topic with lots of disagreement and I’m happy to have disagreements and discussions.
    Personally I don’t think the “cruelty” factor covers it. Or the ends argument. ie: Cruelty is OK, but only if it’s for medical research.
    People will disagree on what’s needed or valuable research. That’s what is currently happening.

    I’m not convinced myself that my argument about animal torture being indicative of vioence towards humans is a good one or not. It’s just the best argument I can currently think of (in my mind) for banning torture to one’s own pet.

    If you bought a dog and set fire to it, I hope that you would be shunned and ostracized by the public, your friends, your family, your lover etc. I wouldn’t be friends with you if you did that. But I wouldn’t want criminal charges put against you.
    I would worry about your violent nature because you have indicated that you get pleasure from torture. Maybe you should be forced to undergo a psychological evaluation, but I’m not convinced myself of this, not sure.

    I have had pets all my life and I treat them very well, just so you know. I am a fascinated by animals, believe it or not and love nature documentaries.
    I think it’s immoral to treat animals badly but I don’t think it’s an issue for the state to control.
    I compare it to drugs, gambling, self harm or bad parenting etc. Things that are bad for you and others but not an infringement on another person’s rights and therefore not for the state to control.

  57. I personally believe in vegetable riights. What about the rights of all those carrots, ripped screaming (silently screaming) from mother earth, only to disappear down the ravening maw of some selfish human.

    Also, what about the ‘rights’ of my gut bacteria not to be dissolved in acid? Hmm?

    And if animals have a right not to be mistreated, it should be irrelevant who, or what, is doing the mistreating. We shoud send the army into the forests of the night to prevent the tiger from preying on those less fortunate – in fact privileged – than him, sorry, her. Tigress.

    The bullshit detector should be going right off.

    The rights of animals can only ever amount to a right of one human to harness the coercive power of the state against other humans.

  58. I like the current laws.

    Protecting certain animals is conducive to a better human society. We traditionally have had pet dogs and worked with horses etc. We have routinely eaten sheep and cattle. This has all enhanced human well being.

    Doesn’t that satisfy people like Ayn Rand or did she hate pets AND pop art? What a dessicated old bitch!

  59. What faculty to reason does a human have over a dog or say a Gorilla? Can you give an example of some sort of decision one of these intelligent animals cannot make that a Human could?

    Well Ben, I’m surprised you ask. Let’s take for example the functional application of the most basic mathematics, or perhaps the appreciation of beauty through high culture.

    However, the lack of these facets is not sufficient to exclude these animals full human rights. The fact that they utilise instinct and pack animal behaviour as their means of survival is. They are not capable of affording rights to other beings above that of a pack animal, and therefore cannot enter into an arrangement to afford temselves these rights from others.

  60. Justin,

    I personally believe in vegetable riights. What about the rights of all those carrots, ripped screaming (silently screaming) from mother earth, only to disappear down the ravening maw of some selfish human.

    Vegetables do not feel pain as they do not have a nervous system.

    And if animals have a right not to be mistreated, it should be irrelevant who, or what, is doing the mistreating. We shoud send the army into the forests of the night to prevent the tiger from preying on those less fortunate – in fact privileged – than him, sorry, her. Tigress.

    Maybe we should Justin. Why not start with our own backyard first?

    Mick,

    They are not capable of affording rights to other beings above that of a pack animal, and therefore cannot enter into an arrangement to afford temselves these rights from others.

    Children and the Mentally handicapped are unable to comprehend concepts of law and morality yet we do not exclude them from it’s protection.

    Most of the Western world already has laws protecting animals from cruelty which is great. It’s the Libertarian perspective which I find so odd considering how equitable it is in all other respects.

    Tim says that his own ethical instincts tell him that torturing animals for fun is wrong yet his Libertarian principles will not allow him to rule it out under law. My argument is that protecting animals from cruelty and liberty are not mutually exclusive and it’s only a Human bias handed down from Judeo-Christian belief that Man is second only to God in all things.

  61. Not only do vegies not have nervous systems, but fruit has been designed to be eaten- the eater gets vitamins, and the plant gets its’ seeds transported far away, where the eater will excrete them and thus provide baby trees with nutrition. Not to everyone’s tastes, but they seem happy.
    Animals do not trade amongst themselves. Perhaps rights should only be seriously considered for species that trade or can understand the concept of trade.
    As for Ben’s rant about Judeo-Christian beliefs, Hindus also believe that humans are higher on the scale of incarnation, and Muslims would agree with them all. Since Buddhists believe that one can only be enlightened by reading right literature, a human existence is a privilege with which you should expunge your own existence.
    As for your argument, if I buy an animal as property, is that antilibertarian? Life, Liberty and Property are the slogans of many libertarian arguments.

  62. Nicholas,

    I am aware that many religions believe in the primacy of humans above other animals. I was referring to the fact that Western Liberal ideals are biased in this case based on Judeo-Christian values.

    And no, buying an Animal as property is not antilibertarian. I wonder what aspect of my argument makes you think I would believe that?

  63. Shem, whilst rights are articulated within societies, they are not arbitrary. Some anthropologists studied as many societies as they could, in an attempt to see if there was such a thing as a basic human value, and all societies had laws against murder, for instance.
    I think that Isaac Newton came across the rationale for these beliefs- For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. ‘For every transaction, there should be an equal value in each direction.’, would be the libertarian interpretation. So rights are NOT whimsically invented, but are social observations, grounded in justice.
    And Ben, I asked about animals as property simply because I wondered about your beliefs in this regard. Some people take their regard for animals to the extreme of trying to outlaw all farming of any kind. PETA seem extremist in this regard.

  64. Children and the mentally handicapped are unable to comprehend concepts of law and morality yet we do not exclude them from it’s protection.

    We, as beings of reason in civil society, choose to extend them rights for our own benefit. The rights we obtain for ourselves from civil society are negative natural rights which are of a higher order than rights positively awarded to people like children and the mentally handicapped, as negative natural rights are the basis of civil soceity. The rights children and the mentally handicapped have are positively awarded by full members of society. Children and the mentally handicapped are not full members of society and this is clearly reflected in the fact that we don’t let them vote, or see it as OK to deny them freedom by putting them in mental institutions regardless of what they feel about it, or insisting they do what their parents or guardians tell them, or not let them make decisions by themselves, or not letting them drive cars or drink alcohol or smoke tobacco etc.

    The fact is these people benefit from civil society as it awards them rights well above what nature would give them, or even what tribal society would give them. Civil society is inheritently benevolent.

    (Please don’t get up me about using the term ‘not full members of society’ as in I have no problem with affording them rigths in support of civil society, and believe they should be looked after, and love children and couldn’t imagine seeing them hurt etc it’s just that as my example above suggests we do not afford these people full civil rights as they are not capable of living as full reasonable beings).

  65. So Mick,

    Why shouldn’t we afford some rights to animals on the same grounds that we afford some rights to Children and the mentally handicapped?

  66. We certainly could, if we chose, but can you make it an argument based on natural laws? Libertarians, following Isaac Newton, believe in an equal trade between all parties. What would animals contribute to society? (This ‘equal trade’ argument is why libertarians tend to favour the death penalty, as someone who dealt out unwanted death gets one’s own unwanted death as a just reward.)

  67. We could (and do), Ben, but there is no reason to afford any rights above those of extreme and unusual cruelty. And I’d argue that the logic behind even those rights is not completely watertight, more along the lines of being ‘decent and civilised’.

  68. Ben, this is pretty much from left-field, but I’ll add it anyway. There may come a time in the distant future when human kind may elevate their postion to a point where we will attempt to eliminate the human use of animals. We managed to elevate our position from one where the predominate paradigm is reason over physical force, so I think it is possible that in the distant future some sort of Buddhist type values will become the order of the say. I’ll have a guess that it will be around the time that we fully define our morality in the context of transhumanism.

    However, at this point of the human condition I don’t see any relevance in trying to utilise a value system that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that we are still very much part of nature and part of the food chain. Full animal rights are more of a religious decision, not one based in the reality of the human condition.

  69. Ben
    Your arguments are cogent; but I believe they are not sound.

    I know one of the defences of slavery was that these are dumb brutes who don’t have the sense to understand freedom, they are not capable of exercising choice, and so on.

    The arguments against animal rights have included that animals have no soul, and have no free will, which I think are unprovable one way or the other.

    The more modern version is that animals cannot make choices, and have no self-consciousness, which has been argued in this thread. However common experience tells us animals can make choices, and it has been proved that apes at least do have a consciousness of self. The difference between us and other animals, and indeed all other species, is likely to be a question of degree. True, our species has its own peculiar advantages and wonders, but then so do all other species.

    It may be said that to hold against animals that they cannot petition us in human language is obviously chauvinistic, since it’s not reasonable to expect them to communicate in this way.

    But the strength of the arguments for animal rights is also their weakness. There are a number of fundamental difficulties.

    To start with, similar arguments can equally validly be mounted for the rights of plants.

    You have said that plants, having no nervous system, cannot feel pain. But this may involve the same kind of chauvinism on a point of degree, as we reject in the arguments that animals don’t have self-consciousness and other ‘human’ traits. If the dividing line should not be drawn at human consciousness, why should it be drawn at nervous pain?

    I once saw a documentary in which a live cabbage was wired up with all sorts of electrodes. I forget what they measured – presumably some kind of electrical resistance. Then the guy hit it with a meat cleaver. This cabbage screamed. All the measures jumped off the graph. Then they came back down into a long kind of moaning, wailing and whimpering which went on for a long time. Of course its screams and moans weren’t audible. But it’s not reasonable to expect them to be, as it doesn’t have animal expression, just as animals don’t have human language. Still, is that any justification for chauvinism in discriminating against its obvious living drive not to be violated, and not to experience whatever trauma it obviously did experience? Doubtless further research would turn up many more cogent facts and arguments along this line.

    Similar arguments apply, at a similar remove from animals, as animals are from humans. It’s a matter of degree.

    The distinction between animals and plants is only good at the organism level. At the cellular level, of course, living things exist which have both chlorophyll and motive parts. The arguments for animals’ rights have started with the mammals and vertebrates. But this is of course mere chauvinism. A truly just, respectful and inclusive approach would not restrict consideration to our species, genus, and family. What about order, class, kingdom and phylum chauvinism? What about the human rights of insects, mosquitos, bacteria, and slime-moulds? The animal rights advocates must solve the reductio ad absurdum which their own line of argument sets in train. But where is the dividing line, as we are talking about violating human beings to achieve this end?

    The second fundamental problem is that, on any account, the concern is with the human’s mental state – intention – rather than animal death or suffering itself.

    The laws against cruelty were originally against the torturing kittens kind – cruelty to animals properly so called, where the intention is to cause gratuitous pain. But now it has been extended to farmers whose intention is to produce food economically, rather than to cause gratuitous pain.

    Do you distinguish between the two? If so, why? And if not, why not?

    The problem as I see it is that, wherever we place the dividing line, it is entirely arbitrary, and therefore ripe for abuse as between human and human. As you say, let’s start in our own backyard.

    On the one hand we don’t like to see cute kittens tortured, on the other hand, we eat animals and plants and are not about to stop. On the one hand, it’s supposed to be about high values, but on the other, it yet again shows the standard way of the statist: fake moral high from the satisfaction of bullying other people, and using other people’s money, to satisfy one’s own feeling or declaration of moral superiority regardless of the rationality or substance of the matter. It seems to me particularly hypocritical for the animal rights movement, who eat the food the farmers produce, to vilify this group and force them to pay for the values the activists assert knowing full well the farmers disagree.

    Would it be a fair compromise to ban gratuitous cruelty to animals, and for animal rights activists to be forced to pay the costs to farmers of treating animals at the standards the activists demand?

  70. As I posted previously, fruit is created to be eaten. Let’s get ahead of the moral curve, and eat only fruit! And if we could just compress the rind and coconut husks together, we could use them in place of timber! (and I’ve heard of an Australian lizard that loses its’ tail when being chased by predators, so we might still be able to harvest a moral meat source, if we can speed up the tail-growth gene!)

  71. Animals do not trade amongst themselves. Perhaps rights should only be seriously considered for species that trade or can understand the concept of trade.

    Great Apes are capable of primitive trade.

    Shem, whilst rights are articulated within societies, they are not arbitrary. Some anthropologists studied as many societies as they could, in an attempt to see if there was such a thing as a basic human value, and all societies had laws against murder, for instance.

    That comes down to an evolutionary imperative- a species where murder was a preconditioned tendency wouldn’t last long. Humans have survived because we don’t like murder. We’ve survived because we have a sense of community. We have the same evolutionary imperatives and behavioural instincts as most apes, really. At some stages in human history murder has been more acceptable, as long as it was done by those in power- much like a big ape can kill off his rivals.

    Values are based on evolutionarily conditioned instincts. That does give them a level of uniformity across humans but I’d hardly say it makes them objective.

  72. Thanks Justin,

    We can argue about weather or not a plant based life form reacting to “violence” committed to it is similar to an animals cry or a computer signaling a system error if you fancy. It is indeed up to speculation. The fact that most animals feel pain in exactly the same way that we do is not. It is fact. We can talk about saving the potato at a later date when it’s proven they have feelings too but the fact that some may dispute this doesn’t mean that Animals that definitively suffer should not be granted some protection under law.

    As for this:
    Would it be a fair compromise to ban gratuitous cruelty to animals, and for animal rights activists to be forced to pay the costs to farmers of treating animals at the standards the activists demand?

    Yes we’ll pay market price for the products. I’m sure farmed goods were cheaper before the Statists enacted the 13th amendment but America survived.

  73. Nicholas,

    You can get ahead of whatever curve you like, I’m going to go ahead and continue to eat the flesh of animals, particularly fillets of bovine flesh, properly hung for around 60 days, then merely introduced to the heat of my skillet such that you can can get the full sensation of the wonderful texture of the meat and the delicious juices keeping the steak plump and tender, served with a mild but tangy sauce made from a member of the capsicum family, a side of baby new tuber vegetables rubbed in mint and butter and some lovely steamed green leafed vegetable which is reasonably high in iron content.

    The only way you can stop me is over my cold dead body, and if you ever try to prevent me from my omnivore ways, the law of self-defence shall prevail.

  74. Shem
    a) Everyone paying market price for the cost of measures the animal rights activists had used force – the law – to impose would enable them to shaft everyone else to pay for their values. So why don’t you admit that you are not willing to pay the costs of your own values and want to force others to pay under compulsion for what you’re not willng to pay for voluntarily. Why don’t you come clean and admit it’s about power, not animals.

    b) The fact is, you don’t know what other humans, animals or plants feel, because it’s subjective. You have not answered the argument, and merely insisted that you are right without any more epistomological ground than anyone else.

  75. Justin,

    That was me what said those things.

    a) How would any new costs not be factored into the market price?

    b) What? I do know that animals have the same capacity for suffering due to physical pain that I do because they’re nervous system evolved along the same lines as mine. That isn’t subjective, that is a scientific fact. It may/may not be still up to speculation whether plants feel pain. My point is that the fact that plants are still up for debate is no reason not to afford animals rights under law to be free from undue cruelty.

  76. Brendan, if you wish to stay behind the moral curve, that is up to you. I am only surprised that you haven’t taken this thinking to the next level, and realised that you are surrounded by the ideal flesh of long pigs everywhere!
    Happy hunting!

  77. What about my assertion that the current set up is close to utilitarian and ethically correct – it enhances human welfare?

    If animals are objects the current system is quite utilitarian.

    But if animals have souls or consciousness and can be considered part of the “greatest number” then their greatest good is not being served to the greatest number. There is a net negative outcome.

    I never claimed to know the answers to this. When talking about ideas, I follow things through logical paths trying to stay consistent. Logically Singer’s Wager has merit.

    1) If animals don’t care if they die (don’t have the mental capacity to think about death):
    a) We do eat them and they don’t mind (neutral outcome)
    b) We don’t eat them and it doesn’t matter (neutral outcome)
    2) If animals don’t want to die:
    a) We eat them and it is a violation of their will and hence immoral (bad outcome)
    b) We don’t eat them and we haven’t violated their rights (neutral outcome)

    Based on that wager, because we cannot know if 1) or 2) is the case by picking a) and eating animals we have a chance of committing an immoral act. By not eating animals we don’t take that risk. Logically it is consistent.

    Of course, I’m not a vegetarian or vegan. I admit to hypocrisy, I think all humans are hypocrites if you watch them talk for long enough. We all commit immoral acts in pursuit of our own hedonistic pleasures and the line is drawn at different places for everyone.

    When I joined this discussion I said “I think there is a very real, logical case for the animal liberation side…” I wasn’t talking about policy or law. Just ethics, morals and logic. I, like Brendan, would only have my meat taken from me over my dead body. I like tofu, just not that much.

  78. Shem
    Did you know that one-quarter of male prisoners in NSW are raped in prison?

    Why should other people be violated and brutalised, or even threatened with it, to satisfy your arbitrary philosophical speculations?

    Why is it not a complete and fair solution for you, and everyone who agrees with you, to be imprisoned for failure to pay the costs which you say other people should be imprisoned for failing to pay? And please, no speaking down to the rest of the world about higher moral values knowable only in your pious opinion.

    By the way, you didn’t say: do you distinguish between gratuitous cruelty to animals, and farming which is intended to produce food economically? If so, why? And if not, why not?

  79. I was a vegetarian for about six years. It isn’t actually that difficult. The only thing that ever really concerned me in dietary terms was B12. The reasoning for becoming a vegetarian was a mixture of things (including animal welfare) but I was never hard core commited to it in any ideological sense (hey I grew up on a beef farm). I was mostly just testing a few limits to explore how flexible the mind can be.

  80. Sorry Ben, I meant to address you, not Shem.

    New costs would be factored into the market price, but the question is, why should those who don’t agree be forced to pay for them? Why should not the cost be borne entirely by those asserting them?

    There is no question in my mind that animals don’t want to die, and that they feel pain. But why should pain be the criterion? It is obviously chauvinistic, being biased in favour of animals as against plants, in exactly the same way that human consciousness is biased in favour of humans as against animals. Plants are alive and though they do not have nerves, they have a similar biochemical drive to be alive, wounds are injurious to them, there is reason to believe they ‘sense’ injury. There is no reason why they should not be included by exactly the same kind of extension as has already been applied to animals.

    Therefore according to the logic on offer, it should be a criminal offence *now* to be cruel to plants, but not only that – even merely raising them agronomically without consideration for their human rights is a reason for humans to be imprisoned and raped. That’s the absurd level at which the animal rights argument is being maintained. The end.

  81. Justin,

    Therefore according to the logic on offer, it should be a criminal offence *now* to be cruel to plants, but not only that – even merely raising them agronomically without consideration for their human rights is a reason for humans to be imprisoned and raped. That’s the absurd level at which the animal rights argument is being maintained. The end.

    I agree with you that the argument you have put forward is absurd. Let’s agree to ignore it and focus on ending animal cruelty.

    New costs would be factored into the market price, but the question is, why should those who don’t agree be forced to pay for them? Why should not the cost be borne entirely by those asserting them?

    What cruelty are you talking about in relation to Animal Husbandry? I was talking initially about cruelty to pets. Forcing hardship onto an animal for the purpose of making something useful for humans is another thing entirely. Please stop attacking me by refuting arguments I do not put forward.

  82. JUSTIN, JUST EAT FRUIT!!!
    Fruit is designed to be eaten!
    And raise those lizards with the detachable tails!
    No ethical worries!

Comments are closed.