Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The limitations of animals rights

One issue is that animals range along a psychological continuum. A chicken isn't a dog. Some people even fret over boiling lobsters, as if they can register pain the way higher animals do. But that sidesteps the question of which animals are capable of suffering. Once again, biological organisms range along a continuum of sentience. Bacteria, microbes, earthworms, cockroaches, clams, caterpillars, snakes... Short of panpsychism, we need to draw some distinctions.

Chickens are pretty dumb? In fact, domestication intentionally breeds mother wit out of wild animals to make them more docile. 

In addition to the distinction between lower and higher animals, we also need to draw some distinction between the psychology of social animals and solitary animals. Dogs descend from social animals (presumably wolves). Also, predator species tend to be smarter than prey species. And we've bred dogs to be more compatible with humans. So there's a bonding experience. 

Take blood sports. Although cockfights are degenerate, I don't think they should be illegal. Not all wrongdoing should be illegal. By contrast, dogs deserve a lot better. That doesn't mean imprisonment, but fines to deter the practice. 

A limitation with debates over animals rights is that such debates reflect a human view of animals. Advocates vicariously assume a human viewpoint on behalf of animals. But lower animals have no viewpoint while higher animals, even if they have a viewpoint, lack a human viewpoint. Among terrestrial creatures, only humans have the critical detachment to objectify our situation. To view ourselves from the perspective of an outside observer. And there's the danger of projecting our privileged viewpoint onto animals that do not and cannot share our outlook. 

At best, we could extrapolate from adults who care for humans who lack that capacity (e.g. kids before the age of reason, the developmentally disabled, the senile). And that would only be applicable to some higher animals and/or social animals. And even that's not on a par with human rights. 

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