Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, February 26, 2015

H1 - Sarah Anderson, Evan Conley, and Bryce Marrion - Animal Cruelty

Our group can post summaries of our presentations here.


  1. Descartes is famously attributed to having said that animals are incapable of feeling pain. Because of this, he saw no moral qualm with the brutal torture of animals that is often inflicted by humans. Later, it was argued that, though animals are capable of feeling pain, they cannot experience pain nearly to the degree that humans can, as human consciousness allows humans to experience psychological pain, which can be more devastating that physical pain. Descartes’ assertion can be easily disproven through simple experiments and observations. Many animals express pain through howls and wails, and many also develop avoidance methods to keep from experiencing pain. The latter argument, however, is more difficult to accurately answer. Though animals may not be able to experience the type of psychological pain that humans can go through, that does not imply that animals are incapable of experiencing any time of pain besides physical. Though it may not necessarily hold true for all living things, (such as plants, or simple organisms) it is possible to determine that many animals are capable of having feelings that are more than just responses to immediate stimulus. For example, many animals have been documented as grieving after the loss of a mate or offspring. A dog can show that it is happy when its owner returns home from work, or that it’s afraid when a vacuum cleaner is running, and so on. In some cases, particularly in those involving loss, the psychological effects of events on an animal can be observed. However, because animals lack the necessary language skills to communicate these types of psychological pain, many humans have been quick to assume that an absence of their observation implies an absence of the phenomena. This however, is not the case.
    Even if it is accepted that animals are capable of feeling physical and/or psychological pain, it can still be argued that, because humans are more powerful, and can use logic and reasoning that is assumed to be absent in all other creatures, it is not immoral to enslave “lower” species for the benefit of our own. While this argument should not be cast aside, as the survival and thriving of our own species is something important to humans, this does not excuse the brutal and inhumane slaughter of millions of animals each day simply to satisfy human taste buds. It is argued that it is okay for humans to treat animals in this way because, as creatures with consciousness, we rank higher than animals. While I do not necessarily disagree that humans are superior in power and intelligence to most animals, I would ask that, because we are gifted with this consciousness, would it not be better for us to use it to shape a world not so filled with suffering? Is superior intelligence an excuse for unrestrained cruelty towards any creature we deem lesser than ourselves? While the path that has led to the current mechanized method of breeding and slaughtering animals may have been necessary at one time, are we not now more aware and able to find alternative methods to the cruel ones currently in place? Finally, will it take humanity crossing the point of no return in our destruction of our planet and its resources before we as one people realize the mistakes we’ve made?

  2. Every day, billions of people around the world consume meat. None more, however, than the people of the United States. We continually eat meat at an unsustainable rate, without thought about the worldly detriment that it’s causing. The extremely low energy efficiency of producing meat instead of simply growing crops and eating those puts us earthlings in a tight spot for the future. The world is already experiencing a food shortage, yet we can’t seem to take the hint. The main reason is, most likely, that we haven’t had to feel the consequences of the shortage. But it tastes good right?
    Regardless of the economic ramifications of meat production, it is important to mention the suffering that animals are forced to go through for the sake of unnecessary human benefit. Firstly, we should take a serious look at where our pets come from.
    Most of the dogs in pet stores are birthed in ‘puppy mills’. These breading houses are designed to pump out the maximum number of dogs possible and at the lowest cost. This means extreme overcrowding and no veterinary attention. When the mother dogs are unable to reproduce, they are euthanized. Personally, I don’t think owning pets is a bad thing if their treated properly. It’s the matter of where they come from which is the issue. Make sure your pets come from a humane place!
    Next is the clothing industry. How many of you wear leather? Ever thought of where it came from? The reality of leather production is that the skins do not come from the cows slaughtered for beef production. The majority of leather comes from India. Ironically, cow slaughter is illegal in there! Because of this fact, they are forced to march for miles to a place where killing them is legal. On this death march, they aren’t given any food or water. When the cows collapse, the herders either break the cows’ tails or rub chili pepper in their eyes to get them up and moving.
    Another perplexing part of the industrialization of animals is their involvement in entertainment. Firstly, circuses are major contributors to animal cruelty. The exotic animals involved in this industry are kept in small cages and transported around the country. They have no other animals of their species around and are beaten into submission in order for them to perform their unnatural actions in the ring. Zoos are also inhumane. We keep animals which naturally live within thousands of square miles within tiny cages for the sake of ‘education’; how can we learn about animals when they’re in cages? Lastly is bullfighting. This one just makes no sense whatsoever. We physically debilitate bulls before they ‘fight’ the matador, and then he takes swords and stabs them into its back until it collapses. Then it is killed in front of thousands of screaming people. Awesome!
    Next, and perhaps the most macabre, is the scientific study of animals. We deliberately infect, burn, dehydrate and inflict trauma on animals every day. Over 100 million animals die for the sake of ‘science’. One case of animal testing, which is particularly disturbing, is how we simulate car crashes on baboons. Their heads are strapped into helmets which accelerate their heads to up to 1000g’s. This is performed over and over on the same baboon!
    By far the most extended case of animal cruelty happens in the meat industry. We raise animals of all sorts in cramped and squalid conditions, with no sun light. Then, we lead them off to slaughter where they are hung by their hooves. They then have their throats cut and they are left to respirate their own blood and die. As a people we need to sort out what’s really important. My section of our report is pathos. That is, what we feel. I’d like to invoke the principles of emotivism and show the class what really goes on behind the scenes. Hopefully what you see will make you think twice!

  3. The question I seek to address is the position of non-human animals relative to humans—their standing when it comes to consideration. When granting or denying moral consideration, we want to know if the entity has a self-interest. For instance, if I hit a nail with a hammer, neither object has a nervous system to feel the impact; neither experiences any sort of discomfort at being used for my purpose; neither experiences anything at all. Therefore, it’s not wrong of me withhold consideration for those inanimate object. If I hit a lion, however, it will retaliate, demonstrating that it does have a desire to protect itself—it’s interested in its own welfare. Evan established that most animals are sentient beings and, according to most, that should guarantee them human consideration, but the question remain—how much consideration? Some stop here and answer that all sentient beings deserve the same consideration; these are supporters of animal rights. Others take the categorization of living beings a step further, answering that consideration should depend on an organism’s degree of sentience along with its ability to reason. These are supporters of animal welfare.
    Animal rights supporters believe that humans’ use of animals is wrong, to the point that animals should have rights as humans do. Humans can’t legally be owned—neither should animals. It’s cannibalistic to eat humans—eating animals should be viewed as a similar evil. You wouldn’t buy products made from human skin or hair, so products made of animal leather, wool, or silk should also be off-limits. For animal rights supporters, animal rights means veganism, which supports a different interpretation of anti-speciesism than the one given by Nigel Warburton in Philosophy: the basics. Warburton claims that most anti-speciesists see anti-speciesism as a rejection of the idea that non-human animals’ lives are unimportant rather than a rejection of the idea that human lives are more important, but the applied definition, according to most animal rights groups, is an acceptance of the idea that all animals (humans included) are on a level and should be granted equal rights.
    Animal welfare supporters differ because they reject animal rights supporters’ version of anti-speciesism. Speciesism is a vague and potentially invalid term because, unlike sexism and racism, to which it is often compared, it pits humanity against… all other species? all other animal species? and humanity is perpetually the perpetrator while the other species are perpetually the victims. Racism and sexism are both between specific groups, and both sides are capable of discriminating. And though “discrimination” has gained a negative connotation, it originally meant to observe differences and distinguish accurately. Animal welfare supporters uphold that humanity does distinguish itself from other species, so it can fairly use them, but it cannot abuse them. Animals, being sentient, even having some ability to reason, are deserving of humane conditions throughout their lives and deaths.
    Both of these approaches have pros and cons, and both offer moral consideration for animals. Protection for animal welfare could be implemented more realistically, though it wouldn’t guarantee absolutely that animals would not be abused, and though giving animals rights and letting them live free of human influence would ensure that we don’t mistreat them, it’s not practical because of the demand for animal products.