Animal "Cruelty"

Cheers guys, you’ve given me quite a bit to think about - I’ll think about it over the next few days…

That’s not a given IMO. Why should we be hold to some ethical obligation towards animals (as opposed to humans) any more than tigers are? I’m definitely someone animal rights extremists would call a “specist”. I don’t think I’ve much, if any, moral obligations regarding animals.

Your statement is quiter arbitrary,IMO. OK…all moral statements are essentially arbitrary…I mostly wanted to mention that you can’t assume everybody will agree with you on this being unethical “prima facie”.

Indeed. However, there has been a significant change during the most recent generations. Previously, meat mostly came from species that can feed themselves on soils unsuitable for agriculture (sheeps, pigs, etc…). Cows (or horses, but these aren’t often eaten, anyway) requiring more fertile soils that could be used more efficiently by growing corn, their meat was (when it didn’t came from oxes too old to work) more of a luxury.
However, currently, cows are indeed raised in massive numbers on land that could be put to better use by using it for agriculture, if producing as much food as possible on as little land as possible were the objective.

Let’s play the analogy game!

Smacking children isn’t strictly necessary to rear them, indeed some people find it distasteful and forswear smacking in any circumstances (see were I’m going with this). But would you argue if a parent occasionally gave their kid a swat on the bum if they were doing something dangerous or were otherwise uncontrollable they’d be hypocritical to condemn some savage bastard who beat his black and blue just for kicks?

Some tangible good comes from raising animals for food, not enough IMO but I respect people who disagree. However simple sadistic pleasure is never enough to justify any harm to anything. This is so self-evident to me I can’t really explain it much better.

My point is that very few people divide entities into two groups --those to whom we owe moral obligations, and those to whom we do not–based on whether those entities are capable of reciprocating. If you make the division based on whether the entity can reciprocate, then you believe that human infants, the severely mentally disabled, and the comatose are in the second group.

Pointing out that tigers don’t respect other animals, so humans needn’t either, implies that we needn’t respect infants, etc.

I’d prefer on this occasion not to get into the potentiality argument, so if folks are considering it, I’ll just say that I’ve considered it and believe it is untenable, and searching on Animal Rights threads will get folks my side of that argument if they’re interested.


I don’t think it’s that odd, though, to have different ethical standards for Tigers than other humans for the sorts of reasons you seem to dismiss altogether.

I would argue simply that for some human beings we make exceptions because they’re human beings (infants do grow up, after all, into adults, and the comatose sometimes recover, whereas tigers will only ever grow up or wake up to be tigers). Yes, it’s somewhat arbitrary, but so is the legal drinking age. We’re forced into such a position by the need to set certain boundaries, even in the absense of absolute clarity, all the time. It’s very difficult to rank mentally disabled humans, based upon their relative cognitive deficits, for instance, such that we can clearly delineate who it would be ethical to exterminate. But, at the same time, the deliberate killing (I won’t hide behind terms like euthanasia) of a person in an irreversible vegitative state is an option I think reasonable and moral people can and do disagree upon. I’ve even seen on the Dope a desire on the part of many individuals to have the ability to work together with a physician to kill themselves before they reach such a state, because they find the prospect abhorrent. Some even might say absolutist ethics applied to all human life (forget about animals) is the source of considerable human suffering, which could be alleviated if we would simply abandon the arbitrary notion that all human life is the same.

This is the potentiality argument that I mentioned. While it’s certainly not an argument that I dismiss out of hand, it’s also not one that I find convincing. However, I’ve argued against it many times before on these boards, and I’m really supposed to be doing my homework right now, so I’d rather just acknowledge the existence of the potentiality argument and either let someone else argue against it or just move on. As long as we can all recognize that it’s more complicated than saying, “Well, tigers don’t care about animal rights, so why should we?” I’m satisfied.


It has nothing to do with reciprocating. It’s only based on them being humans. I might extend the courtesy to our cousins the great apes, because I find them too human-like to be, say, butchered.

The problem is that the line, as you draw it, is every bit as arbitrary as if I extended rights only to people who speak English, or people with freckles, or beings who are bipedal (thus adult humans and chickens both qualify, whereas infant humans and squids do not). If you’re cool with arbitrariness, well, that’s your monkey; I prefer a system that is less arbitrary.


It’s too bad you’re so busy, because that’s an interesting point of debate.

The great apes aren’t just similar to us in appearance. They’re very similar to us is virtually every measurable way, compared to, say, bovines. For that reason, it’s entirely appropriate to be concerned that bonbos raised on a farm for meat might have a very different existential experience than cows. They might, for instance, develop and awareness of their fate, or, at least, experience deep depression caused by the chronic loss of members of their social group who wound up ahead of them on the block. Of course, we can’t ask cows to be sure, but there’s little evidence to suggest that a cow raised in a humane environment, with plenty of land to wander and grass to ruminate on, is anything but content. Nor do cows seem the least but troubled by the omenous signs around them of their ultimate demise. They just don’t appear to care, and it’s quite possible they lack the ability to care. They respond to immediate danger, but otherwise just don’t think about death or fear it. They don’t seem to mourn the loss of members of the herd, even their grown offspring. They’re just not social animals in the way apes are. To me, lumping apes and bovines together simply because they’re mammals seems more arbitrary than drawing distinctions.

I apologize; I misread clairobscur as referring to simian appearance, not behavior. If you’re lumping based on behavior, I think that’s perfectly legitimate.


Yes, if you kill someone, it doesn’t matter to the dead person if you did so on purpose, or as a result of an accident. He’s still dead.

However, the people left behind will judge the morality of what you did, and society does care how/why you killed the guy: by accident or on purpose.

Because if we agree that, once someone is dead, it doesn’t matter, morally, why you killed him, then we would have to say that, morally, killing an animal for food and killing an animal just for the fun of watching it die are morally equivalent, since, hey, the animal is still dead either way.

And from your posts above you clearly don’t agree with that.

I would still like to see some numbers to be convinced that more mice are killed by plowing fields than the number of cows we kill each year for burgers.

I’ve never heard of the great massacre of mice taking place in the fields of the world.

I don’t understand why you need A or C in there. Why not just:

A. I believe that x is ethical
B. If x is ethical, then y is ethical
C. Therefore y is ethical.

I don’t. My view is that you share responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of your decisions. That means that if you take an act, and someone is harmed through means that you couldn’t have foreseen, you’re off the hook. However, if you take an act that results in foreseeable harm, it doesn’t matter whether that harm was the aim of your act or a byproduct of your act: you share responsibility for it.

I have no cites that more mice are killed through plowing than cows killed through slaughterhouses. I therefore included lots of weasel words in that paragraph :).


Yours is equally arbitrary. Is killing a spider unethical? What about a tree? A harmless bacteria? If you don’t think so, it means you’re drawing an arbitrary line, probably on the basis of these beings “intelligence”, “self-awareness” or something like that. So, if you think you can draw the line below say, the level of intelligence of a mouse, I can as well draw it at the level of intelligence of a chimp.
Anyway, I certainly agree that being more worried about apes is perfectly arbitrary. It’s based mostly on guts feelings. And I’m pretty certain, despite it being intelectualized in seemingly rational arguments, that people worried about cruelty to animals actually react to their gut feelings too. The “cute factor” is way too obvious. Killing dog = evil, eating cow = OK is a pretty common stance and, as the OP stated, it’s perfectly self-contradictory (except if you don’t have another source of food).

(As an aside, I’m wondering if you could be prosecuted for killing a pet if you then eat it? Not prosecuted on the basis of some health and food regulation, but for cruelty to animals).

Actually, even our moral concern for other humans is pretty arbitrary ( comatose or members of Mensa, 95 yo or in the womb, with or without freckles). Morality is always arbitrary (even thought where you draw the line might be unequivocal, say in my case human/non-humans, or born/unborn, etc… stating that “thou shall not kill” is in itself arbitrary, from a purely intellectual or rationnal point of view).

I’m pretty sure, in at least some states and municipalities, that you can eat dogs, and even raise them for that purpose.


I’m also pretty sure that anyone can kill their own pet if they do it in a humane way. Shooting the Old Grey Mare cause she ain’t what she used to be kind of thing.

Since very few people in he U.S. have a taste for mutt, the issue of caninophagy hardly ever seems to come up except where there is a large population of recent Asian immigrants, esp. SE Asians and Koreans. Those folks seem to give it up pretty quickly after settling here because of the stigma.

Both, actually. They’re so similar to us in their appearance that it would be difficult to forget that they’re very similar to us in their behavior too. I recently ate pifg’s feet, for instance…try to put a chimp’s hand in my plate instead :eek: . It would really be the ultimate step before eating you.
They’re sort of remote relative, barely non-humans (what would be the status of “Lucy” had its specie survived, for instance?). I arbitrarily lump them in the arbitrary “nearly-human” category, which is quite distant in my mind from the “other animals” category.
I’m going to avoid discussing aliens paying us a visit or sudden evidences showing that dolphins are actually highly intelligent and self-aware.

But you have not addressed why you think it is OK to kill an animal for fun. Your comment boils down to “it is OK to kill an animal for fun because it is fun”.