Saturday, May 8, 2010

Animals and Rights

Been kind of obsessed with the politics of Animal Rights lately. I find myself thinking about it much more often than I’d like…but given the places and people I "hang out" with and listen to…. it’s inevitable.

The basis for much of my thinking about it is Vicki Hearne’s essay, “What’s Wrong with Animal Rights.” In it she posits that rights are about pursuits of happiness and that AR activists don’t have the slightest idea about what makes animals happy…. esp. dogs, she says, for whom happiness means meaningful work…not freedom from pain.

The primary fault I find in the AR movement is that there is scant understanding or recognition of the BOND between us and domestic animals and they would be fast to do away with the whole enterprise, claiming it equivalent to slavery. Purebred dogs are high on the list of things to do away with…. selective breeding seen as a kind of crime against nature. I shudder to think of a world without collies or Airedales or papillons.

On the other hand, the ANTI-AR movement has become just as strident…part of their agenda is to protect the rights of breeders, and more and more I see it as a Pro-Breeder movement…There are vast amounts of breeding practices and husbandry that I cannot get behind….

I grew up steeped in the idea that good breeders were hobby breeders who not only did NOT make a profit, but lost money on the venture because every cent was reabsorbed into the care and showing of their dogs…all of whom lived IN the house, had call names and relationships with people.

I see the Anti AR movement squaring up behind commercial breeders, even certain factory farming practices. Now whenever there is a raid on a substandard breeding facility –backyard breeding that often occurs exclusively in the basement---they rush in and “bet” that the AR movement is behind having sent in an activist posing as a buyer who saw toe nails too long and screamed neglect.

Really, I don’t feel comfortable in either position. I would fight for the rights of responsible breeders and caretakers, but not all breeders and caretakers are ethical. The question of whether animals have rights or not is a philosophical one that I’m not ready to give up yet. Just because the loudest proponents seem entirely off the mark, doesn’t mean that animals DON”T have rights…but what those are is hardly ever discussed in any interesting context….

Do they have a right to good care? For instance. And what is that?
What is our responsibility towards the animals in our care? Do we have the “right” to do whatever we SAY is good for them because we own them? What criteria are used in the formulations of these arguments?

Probably my hero in this realm is Temple Grandin (who I saw last weekend at the Dove Lewis conference). Her great achievement is the redesign of cattle yards and slaughterhouses so that the animals are not spooked or stressed, calm and cooperative with the understanding that calm cooperative animals are treated well and their last moments on earth are free from terror.

She is not advocating an end to meat eating, but humane practice in the getting of that resource.

1 comment:

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