Thread: Animal Cruelty
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Old May 16th, 2013 (06:27 AM). Edited May 16th, 2013 by EGKangaroo.
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I agree, really. I did say earlier in this thread that I do support medicinal experimentation on animals because it greatly reduces suffering in the human population. While I love animals and wish to extend similar empathy towards them as I do to humans, I also have to make moral choices, and those choices are going to be hard. There are going to have to be trade-offs and prioritising of whose suffering is greater or lesser, and in most cases that means the closer they are to your ego, the better. We build a group of "us" that can only exist with a self in the middle. That's the sole thing that turns a them into an us in the first place. Makes linguistic sense, and it also makes psychological sense. We put layers upon layers of close individuals that we consider an us and helping anyone who is part of an us makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, which is the chemicals that are released upon empathy which I cannot name because biochemistry is not my forte.

The human species are unique, in that they're the only species that understand their entire species as an "us". Most animals do not possess these traits. They think mostly of "us" as their mob, herd, pack, whatever. Humans still have it too. We still have our herds of nations and they all more or less want to act in their own diplomatic interests, and kinda recognise that co-operation gets them the things they want so they don't go blowing each other up at the risk of thermonuclear war. It's scaring to be all alone as the only species on the planet to really be this aware of our speciesdom, because there's nothing else we can compare ourselves to and we must work our way out ourselves. And perhaps we all remain egocentric, because we sure as hell always include ourselves, and thus our own species in the us-group, and all must benefit us. But we're also aware we're part of a genus, a family, an order, a class, a phylum, a kingdom. Would the next step be that we should recognise our genusdom? A question that seems irrelevant now, but would probably be raised if the Neanderthals still existed, among other species that used to exist in the homo genus. All hail the homokind though, right? And we're slowly coming to an understanding that Chimpanzees are more like us than we think, and we want to pull them on a more and more equal footing with us.

In the words of Carl Sagan: "Humans — who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals — have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and 'animals' is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them — without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us."
(You seem to agree on the fact animals can suffer as well, so the last couple of sentences are the most relevant here.)

We create layers upon layers of orders in priority in who deserves empathy more when a dilemma arises. Of course, a fly gets some empathy in the end. Most people will find it pointless to kill one that just happens to be standing on the wall. Human priority may take way when we're in a car and we run over countless of insects. There's no possible way to get around when we have to be careful not to hit any bug that happens to be on the road or happens to fly right into the windshield. Humans definitely take priority, but that does not mean other animals are automatically a 'them' in all cases. Even for humankind we see this kind of layering. If you have money to spend on paying the medical costs and saving one of your family members from a rare disease, you'd do that rather than give the money to someone else. Even if the latter would have more of a benefit to humankind than the former.

The layers of priority don't necessarily have to follow the exact distance in biological relation, obviously. What I try to make my moral decisions by, sometimes out of pragmatism, is to ask the question Jeremy Bentham asked: The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

For that reason, we feel little empathy to animals like insects, which have a fairly underdeveloped central nervous system, and certainly don't feel empathy for most uni-cellulars like amoeba, or plants, sponges, coral, whatever, for they do not have a central nervous system at all. For now, that is reason enough to contend that amoeba, plants, etc. cannot suffer. Science has not discovered any other way that suffering can exist without consciousness, or a central nervous system. A lot of pescetarians also defend themselves that fish are less able to suffer than most other foods so it's morally less questionable to eat fish. Whether that's true or not is debatable, to be honest, but I've heard many fish species do exhibit higher intelligence than we take for granted.

But, yeah, I think I owe you a few objective arguments as well. You said it wouldn't matter for humankind so much if Giraffes die out. But have you considered the money nations in Africa make on tourism? Could you imagine the damage a serious decrease in biodiversity would have to the tourism in those nations? It could be quite substantial. And think of all the zoos that lose revenue. Heck, if Australia were to have their macropods go extinct I'd imagine them losing within the hundreds of millions in tourism revenue.
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