Are We Really Just Animals?

The NZ ACT Party’s Hillary Calvert generated some controversy last week during a discussion about battery hen cages. From TVNZ

We care about people ahead of silly little chickens,” Calvert said.

Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) says the comments are “outlandish and offensive” and is demanding to know if the MP’s statements represent the views of the Act Party.

I don’t find Calvert’s comments inherently outlandish and offensive – in general I think the view that people are more important that animals is both true and widely accepted. However the context of the remarks seems to indicate that she doesn’t think animal welfare is important at all – a position that I think is harder to justify.

However what I found more interesting was the reaction of the Green Party’s Sue Kedgley (emphasis added) –

“I was profoundly offended by what Ms Calvert had to say. We are all animals. What right do we have to force animals to live in cages, just so we can have eggs?

Evidentely her concern goes beyond just the issue of people causing unnecessary discomfort to animals, but involves instead the whole idea that humans should have any rights to exploit animals for their own benefit at all – including presumably killing them for food – any more than we have a right to exploit other humans for our own benefit. In this view it seems that any kind of animal farming would rank alongside slavery.

Well, I don’t personally agree with that position, but I’m actually more struck by some other implications of the fundamental idea that “we are all animals”. It seems to me that if that were true, then there would be no reason at all for people to be upset with Rep. Anthony Weiner’s recent behavior in sending sexually explicit messages and pictures to women other than his wife. If he is just an animal, why should we be surprised, let alone shocked, at any kind of behavior that he demonstrates? It’s just behavior – not something one can attribute any kind of moral value to. For that matter, how can Sue Kedgley be offended by Hillary Calvert’s behavior – she is just an animal too. And animals don’t have much concern for the well-being of other species.

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3 Responses to Are We Really Just Animals?

  1. John de Melville says:

    I think the Green Party position on this is absolutely correct. To be human is to be humane. Killing animals to survive in nature is okay, because that is when humans are not humane. Tribal people kill to eat. They expend energy, thought, resources, and time and effort on the kill. But to kill in a mass produced manner, is unnatural. It is a consequence of our industrial world, with its reliance on fossil fuels to survive. Forcing poor birds to live in cages their whole existence just so some dumb human can have an egg at a very low cost is capitalism out of hand. The fact is we are all prepared to pay a bit more for a free range egg if we are humane, and thus truly human. Intelligence and emotional intelligence is what matters. People who are devoid of understanding these points are generally hard cases, who cannot show empathy with other species and thus cannot properly judge such matters objectively.

  2. John de Melville says:

    After all if you don’t understand intelligence and emotional intelligence they you can have little humanity in you. As for Calvert’s statement she is just stating an offhand remark. I’m sure that she is very humane and human, and understands both intelligence and emotional intelligence.

  3. John de Melville says:

    It is of course well known that Heinrich Himmler was a chicken farmer. Did he take his agricultural methods of dealing with animals to dealing with humans? I think so. And I think that voters who allow the farmers to get away with battery farming or mass production where it is clearly cruel and unusual, or unnatural to the state of health of the animal, must be very disconnected to where their food comes from. This brings me to the tragedy of the commons. We are all hard cases because we ‘know not what we do’. That’s my theory anyway.

    This also means we have to think about religion. The Bible is full of rubbish about humans having dominion over animals. This is clearly not true if evolution and natural selection are correct. Even the RC believe that the case for E&NS is okay.

    Personally I think that that God is the product of human souls… this would make a lot more sense that God being the Creator of the universe. In fact the universe probably needed very little energy to start up and is probably self perpetuating and almost infinite.

    As for people who think they are Christians I have only one thing for them: in the Bible Jesus clearly stated: ‘Sell all you have and follow me’. He also continually preached that ‘the higest should be as your slave’. Also that Lazarus the beggar would go to heaven whilst the rich man would go to hell. He also said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle [gate] than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. All the Christians I meet, and including myself, all have wealth and thus will never go to the Kingdom of Heaven. Find me a Christian and I’ll find you a hypocrite I think one of the French Philosophes once wrote. That’s as true today it was back in the 18th century. No-one can really be anything but a hypocritical follower of Christ.

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