Thursday, October 27, 2005


A bit of old news maybe but a petition worth signing all the same.

It's interesting that they refer to the animals used as bait as 'pets' though, wouldn't you say? Definitely an appeal to English cultural sensibilities there. And the fact that it is directed against the French also adds a certain spice, non?

But it does highlight just what it takes to interest the public in animal rights issues. Do I think animals have rights, by the way? Well, no, I don't actually. Rather that there are some rights over animals that we do not have but that's pure pedantry.

It did set me to thinking however, about the whole animal 'rights' debate and what a can of maggots it always turns out to open. Is agreement possible given the fact that whichever way you choose to look at it, the issue always raises more problems than it can ever hope to solve?

Most people, a staggering majority in fact, will find a kind of half-way position on the issue, neither wholly for nor wholly against and their standpoint will usually coincide with their own individual lifestyles.

If we start with the RSPCA name itself, there are two immediate problems of semantics...define 'cruelty' and also 'animal' please.

Let's take cruelty. Some would have it that it means the unnecessary inflicting of pain. Again, what is necessary? I need to fish, ergo spearing this larval insect is okay. The testing of some drugs and medication can still only be carried out on live animals...necessary for the greater good, justified solely by our need as a species? You cannot use this argument without elevating ourselves above all other life. Where you draw the line after this is pure sophistry. Most would draw it below standard abbatoir practice, that's for sure and tuck into their Fray Bentos pies with nary a thought.

Is it the ability, as some suggest, to anticipate pain that renders an animal capable of receiving cruelty? I'm not altogether sure of that. A baseball bat to the back of the head might be unexpected, but would it be any the less cruel for that?

And we really are stuck aren't we? Some also suggest that further research into the pain sensitivity of maggots etc is 'necessary' and yet, how can we do that without causing their wired up little bodies some degree of pain and measuring their responses?

You might well say that my banging on about larval insects and such seems to serve a rhetorical purpose only and you'd be right. But it does lead me on to the second problem definition, that of 'animal'.

Unless you are of the biblical view that man has dominion over all living things and also that this gives us the right to exploit anything which falls outside of the species sapiens in the genus Homo, you will probably have your own ideas as to which living things may be squished and which may not. And you would probably be surprised to find that on this point, there is a general consensus among the population of the UK.

Just ask yourselves this. What is the biggest animal onto which it would not be altogether kosher to inflict cruelty?

And the smallest?

Now think awhile and figure out what those two animals have in common.

If they both belong to the class mammalia, then you are representative of the great majority.

And why should this be? Look no further than Disney, I would suggest. All mammals are highly succeptible to anthropomorhism whereas it is extremely difficult for even the best animators to invest their renderings of reptiles and/or insects with any degree of cute.

In the same way as most evil villians in Hollywood speak with English accents (all the Romans in the Last Temptation of Christ being the best example of this), nearly all the villians in the cartoon world, the really evil ones mind, the pantomime baddies if you like...snakes nearly all.

We have a natural sympathy for animals like us...with warm blood, live birthing, cute little blinking eyes. I think one of the reasons that Alien was so successful was that the creature was just that, alien, unlike, other.

All else is culture. How anyone who eats meat can decry the asians for eating dog is beyond me...well, from a purely logical point of view, that is. Seen from a cultural perspective, ours places a much higher (more human?) value on dogs than pigs and it becomes understandable that there should be an almost visceral disgust at the very idea. Culture is deep and very self-reverential. At this level, logic flies out the window and the belief that our way is the right way takes over.

Where am I going with this?

I honestly don't know. As one quite capable of holding several equally strong and contradictory opinions simultaneously, I am much more interested in the arguments and points raised than I am in reaching any conclusions. As I see it, the two extremes are that we all turn vegan or act as something at the top of the food chain 'em all.

As neither of these are practical, or even desirable, a compromise is called for. Unfortunately, this is impractical due to the impossibility of ever getting more than two individuals to reach one.

Apart from agreeing that three points on Saturday would be absolutely aces that is. We’re playing Cardiff, I believe.

Altogether now.

“You only sing when you’re mining...”

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