Saturday, April 17, 2010

My friend Tim Gier wrote the following blog post in his - add this immediately to RSS feed blog called 
Saving the World

And then, I took that post and sort of morphed it as if he were interviewing me, which was not his intent, but it kinda worked out well. However, it is imperative that he get credit where credit is due. Therefore:

TG's Question: If you accept that you have a moral obligation to animals, and that obligation requires you to treat them as persons and not things, does that obligation also require you to try to convince others to also stop using animals?

SW: Yes.

TG: My first thought is that it does. It seems only right, after all, that if animals deserve to be left alone then you should help them get their just deserts. The longer I think about it though, the less that the idea makes sense.

Part of the problem is one of words. For example, when tragedy struck Haiti earlier this year, I’m sure that a great number of people said to themselves “I should donate to the relief effort.” In saying that, people were expressing a preference, or a feeling about what they thought would be a good action. They were not expressing a command to themselves, or acknowledging an obligation they had to actually donate. Each of them recognized that while it might be good to donate, they were not obligated to do so. No-one would compel them to and they would suffer no repercussions if they chose not to. So the words we choose create the impression of obligation where obligation itself does not exist. Just saying that we “should” do something doesn’t mean that we’re obligated to do it. So, by that reasoning at least, while it would perhaps be a good thing if you were try to convince others not to treat animals as property, you are not obligated to.

SW: Haiti is a Single Issue Campaign. I'm opposed, on principle, to SIC's. Any/Every time an individual group of animals - be they human persons or non human persons is *used* to generate income for a charity (not for profit notwithstanding) it smacks of lack of transparency and hypocrisy. It's self serving to promote the agenda of the "charity" and as such, I loathe the implications that someone, somewhere is taking a 6 figure income, supplemented by another nearly the same, sans one zero, to self promote, grandstand, and otherwise chest thump their way through life on the backs of those they claim to champion.

Yes, I am obligated to convince others to not treat animals as property. It is the moral imperative, the baseline, the moral right thing to do. Animals are the same as me, except they don't have a voice. I do. To not use my voice to change the very basic view of animals as property (a misguided notion) to animals as non human persons is a lapse in my moral fabric. Again, conjuring images of Haiti and the animals? I harken back to Katrina when HSUS promised to reunite companions with their counterparts. Did it happen? Not so much.

TG's Question: Is there another reason that would obligate you to try to convince others to stop using animals? Perhaps it is the case that since human beings have created the problem relative to the misuse of animals, we are all obligated to work to solve the problem.

SW: It is irrelevant for me who "caused" the problem. I can, and will do all I can to solve the problem. The problem is that animals are viewed as property, and should be viewed as Non human persons.

TG: You did not personally create the systems that misuse animals.

SW: But I woke up. I peeled back the curtain. And now I know how to ameliorate the damages, and that is to educate those that still perceive chickens as less thans. Chickens  have worth just by virtue of being a chicken. Chickens have value well beyond producing easy to obtain protein for breakfast sarnies and binder in baked goods.

TG: If you are currently abstaining from all uses of animals, then you are not now contributing to the continued misuse of animals. You cannot be required to ameliorate the harms that are caused by others, when you have had no part in their perpetuation.

SW: Just because I have gotten past the point of being responsible for a toddler does not negate my responsibility to my grandchildren.

TW: Otherwise, for example, it could just as easily be said that since you had a home mortgage once that benefited you greatly, and even though you no longer have any mortgage at all, because you are part of a system that still uses mortgages, you are obligated to personally assist any current mortgage holders who are in crisis. That makes no sense.

SW: Can I address this tomorrow?

1 comment:

Tim Gier said...


This is great! You have created a conversation where I had only an essay. I can't wait to see where the second half takes you (& me!).