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.