Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dirty Deeds Done With Dogs

In an attempt to stave off the apparent orgy of dog-fighting going on Scotland, new anti-animal fighting laws will be going into effect shortly. The new laws punishes anyone engaging in activities related to the fights (including distributing tapes of them) with severe penalties of up to 12,000 pounds and up to a year in prison.

I really don't have a problem with dog-fighting, and not just because I'm a cat person. My main source of skepticism comes from the supporters of bills like these who then gladly eat bacon, chicken and humanity's other "animal friends."

I don't know how a feel about animal torture in general; my heart says it's wrong but my head can't figure out a reason and having "bad feelings" isn't enough to infringe on another's liberties. I do know that with all the crazy injustices going on the world, focusing on a small part of the population watching dogs fight is an absurd waste of one's time. I guess perspective is the first thing you loose when you live in a prosperous society.


Anonymous said...

I think the issue is a bit deeper than you think. Pigs, cows, lamb, chicken, etc are considered to be food animals. They are born and bred to be eaten, not to be our "animal friends".

Dogs, however, were bred to be our companions, pets, hunters, and protectors. Having dogs fight each other solely for our own amusement runs counter to this original purpose. And because they are, culturally speaking, our companions we want to protect them from abuse. Is it an absurd waste or loss of perspective to want to prevent abuse of animals? In another post you said it was immoral to force one person to employ another. But corporations and businesses aren't people, so that morality shouldn't apply to them. So why is it more acceptable to force animals to do something that runs counter to their purpose than require a non-entity to employe a qualified person?

I should also point out torturing animals demonstrates a lack of empathy for others and is a common activity of people psychotic tendencies. It's a small step from hurting animals for fun to hurting people for fun. Respect for others is one of the foundations of civilization as a whole. It's part of why we're able to live with each other in groups. If you go out of your way to hurt animals or enjoy watching them get hurt, how much respect can you have for people?

On a related note, Discovery Channel did a show about how treating cattle in the slaughterhouse better lead to a more efficient (thus profitable) business.


David said...

I'm not really sure how you can say because an animal was bred for one thing, we should only use it for that thing and deviating from that path is immoral. Are thus many Asian cultures immoral because they eat dogs? Is any Western person who treats a pig like a pet also immoral because the pig was bred for food an little else?

But the key idea behind your question (So why is it more acceptable to force animals to do something that runs counter to their purpose than require a non-entity to employe a qualified person?) is that of human rights.

Legally a corporation is a person, but that's really a side bar. Note that even without that legal framework, a firm is still made up of people; it is not in any sense of the word a "non-entity."

So when I compare the rights of the two, I don't see a noncreature and living thing; I see a collection of people (the firm) and animals that lacks the ability to think beyond their instincts. The former has the capacity to be responsible for its actions and the latter does not. Thus one is free and the other does not (as Hayek notes, freedom and responsiblity are inherently linked; you can't have one without the other).

Woven into your reasoning is a theme I feel I must point out as very distrubing: that there are things in this world that are what they are and it would be wrong to change them. Such a rigid world view could well spell stagnation for a society if all citizens held it.

For example, in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes argues a key barrier China had in developing despite its technological headstart was a culture and/or government unwilling to let the citzenry take the next step or to change the status quo. A most telling example is when the people of Balkh (in central Asia) tried to resist the attack of a foreign invader. After the king took back the city, he scolded the citizenry for taking up arms. "War, he lectured, was not their affair; their duty was to pay and obey whoever ruled them." (p32)

Even though the scenarios are very different, the basic idea is the same: things are what they are and we shouldn't try to deviate from its original purpose. Just because dogs were bred for companionship originally doesn't mean that's all they should ever be.

ryan said...

Whether animal mistreatment is wrong depends on what the definition of "wrong" is. If your conception is to violate another's rights, then it's not wrong, whether one believes rights are natural (as John Locke argued) or the result of mutual contract (James Buchanan).

The most powerful arguments against mistreating animals tend to be either utilitarian, where animal pain and pleasure are included in the utility function (Peter Singer), or something like a "Ring of Gyges" argument -- animal torture is bad not because it harms them but because it harms us. It is better for you to be the sort of person who has pity on animals rather than the sort who tortures them (Matthew Scully); therefore, you should not torture them.

If I might presume, your intuition that animal torture (a) is wrong, and (b) should not be outlawed, seems to most closely match that last theory of morality.