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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I was recently involved in an online debate with someone on Facebook that centered primarily on animal rights, animals’ ability to feel pain, to suffer, etc.  My challenger was obviously very intelligent and well-educated.  But he was lacking in some common sense and observational skills as far as I’m concerned.

Here are a few highlights from our debate:

My challenger believes that animals are resources like minerals, agriculture and forestry.  I believe that animals are here to exist in their own right - to live their lives, just as we are here to live ours.

My challenger is bothered that “because we have good intentions that we tell others how to live their lives.”  He went on to use prohibition, mandatory seat-belt and helmet laws as examples.  Then he went on further to illustrate his point using Eugenic theory and the German extermination of millions of Jews as examples.  My argument is that prohibition and mandatory seat-belt use don’t contribute to the subjugation of others.  When the choices we make based on our beliefs involve victims, then we have a responsibility to speak up.  It’s precisely because others did not speak up that contributed to the holocaust, slavery, etc.  My point was that your rights end where another's begin.  The victims, be they human or animal, are left out of the debate.  And therein lies the problem.  When you choose not to wear a seat-belt, you risk more serious injury to YOURSELF.  When you choose to eat meat, wear fur, etc, you contribute to infringing on the rights of another living being.

Of course, no debate on animal rights would be complete without the requisite discussion on “what about plants?”  “They have feelings too.”  My challenger did not disappoint in bringing up this argument.  He wrote, based on my statement that “life is life”, “then a rutabaga has feelings, too.”  He suggested that I was asking him to die, since, if life is life, “there will be nothing to eat but Soylent Green.”  Give me a break.  From what we know at this point, I argued, plants don’t have feelings.  We know that animals do.  They feel pain, they suffer and they nurture, feel joy and sadness and want to live as much as we do.  If we find out that plants hold those same qualities, then I may need to re-evaluate my eating habits.  For now, I wrote, I choose to eat in a manner that causes the least amount of suffering.  To use the argument that plants MAY have feelings as an excuse to slaughter animals that DO, is really stretching it.

Of course he had more to say in that regard.  He wrote” that we ‘feel’ animals suffer.”  “We do not ‘know’.”   He made exceptions for gorillas and some primates that are able to use sign language.  According to his reasoning, if you step on your dog’s paw and he cries out, because the dog can’t tell us it hurts, we can’t be sure it was painful.  I’m sorry, but even a child would know it caused the dog pain.  Over-thinking and over-analyzing the obvious seems like a waste of time to me.  What would it take for him to be convinced that animals feel pain?  Would they need to speak to him in a language that he understands?  That will never convenient for him.

In my opinion he was diverting attention from the issue at hand to justify his actions.  He who consciously exploits animals trying to find fault with someone who consciously does not is an exercise in excuses.  He never gave a valid “reason” in my opinion.  Making choices that reflect non-violence don’t require excuses.  And that feels pretty darn good to me.

3:56 pm est

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Christine Scalfo

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