[Vision2020] Animal Rights, Pigs & "Pigs On The Wing

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Fri Sep 8 10:55:41 PDT 2006

Joe et. al.

Your questions could open a semester seminar on Ethics.
Amazing how these simple questions are not easy to answer...and how little
interest they have for most people.  But I'll offer a few comments.

I was not trying to outline a system of ethics in my post on animal rights.
I took it as given that causing "pain" in another living being is something
most compassionate people would seek to avoid if possible, whether or not
the animal has "intrinsic value," however that is defined.  Even the profit
motive oriented hunter hunting a species to extinction might still try to
avoid inflicting unnecessary pain in his prey.  I suppose then this might
imply some sort of "moral obligation," to avoid inflicting "pain," if
avoidable.  And I might try and define any animal that can feel "pain" as an
animal that has "intrinsic value," but another way to look at this is that
there is "intrinsic value in avoiding inflicting pain when possible,"
without defining the animal that feels the pain as an animal with intrinsic
value.  This covers the example of the hunter hunting an animal to
extinction (no intrinsic value there!) while still following the moral
principle of avoiding inflicting pain. To have a moral principle to avoid
inflicting pain may not sufficiently address the moral issues involved with
species extinction.  We need life forms to have intrinsic value to
argue against species extinction as a moral principle.  Often the
environmental movement will argue for the present or future utility of
species to serve human needs as an argument against extinction, but then we
hear the counter argument that it does not matter to human well being if
such and such a species goes extinct.  There is a very broad argument that
can be raised about the intrinsic value of species in general that has been
made very compellingly by others more knowledgeable than I:

Link to book titled "Biophilia" by Edward O. Wilson:


I suspect the potential for or the exercise of "reason" is a quality many
would associate with being necessary to be a "person," to distinguish
persons from non-persons, not "pain."  This is obvious, I think, and is the
most common view, defined different ways.  Pain may be felt by primitive
organisms with little "reasoning" ability. But most would not consider a
baby seal about to be clubbed to death a "person," even if they do feel pain
as they are clubbed, given seals limited reasoning ability, along with
numerous other qualities absent that we associate with being human.
Different definitions of a "person" will give different results.

You often hear that "reason" distinguishes humans from other animals in some
sharp fashion, but this is certainly false.  Animals do "reason" in some
manner, and it may be hard to draw a sharp line in the animal kingdom
between reasoning and non-reasoning animals.  So are some animals to some
degree "persons?"  This becomes a legal debate, ultimately.  We accord legal
rights to some impaired human beings who may have mental capacities below
that of some animals.

We've all heard about primates and dolphins intelligence, and we think our
cats and dogs have some "smarts."  Some birds exhibit remarkable capacities
(talking parrots that can mimic sounds and give "appropriate" responses to
stimuli that suggest they "understand") that are amazing some scientists,
given the birds small brain size.  Anyway, we are still learning about
animal intelligence, and what we thought previously were "dumb" animals, are
turning out to have a lot more "intelligence" than was thought.

If we are going to consider degrees of "reason," as well as "pain,"
as qualities and experiences that we use to ethically regulate how we treat
other animals, pigs should be given the same consideration as cats or dogs,
with all three animals having reasoning capacity above that of cows or
chickens.  But the pigs are not furry and cuddly, and they do not have the
same behavioral patterns that endear cats and dogs to humans, so pigs get
the overcrowded cesspools of feed lots for a life before they are
slaughtered in modern industrial systems:


 Hogs are confined by the thousands in industrial barns
which force them to spend their lives in tight metal
pens, often standing painfully on slated concrete
floors, breathing almost poisonous levels of ammonia
and hydrogen sulfide from the manure stored under
their pens. Hogs are sentient, social creatures that can
be debilitated by stress when deprived of outlets for
their nature behavior. Antibiotics and other artificial
inputs are given, in part, to overcome the physical
symptoms of this stress.
Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett

On 9/7/06, Joe Campbell <joekc at adelphia.net> wrote:
> Here is a set of philosophical questions, related to this discussion:
> What kinds of things have intrinsic value (that is, a value in and of
> itself, rather than because of its associations with others): Humans,
> animals, plants, nature?
> What makes it the case that something has intrinsic value? It was
> mentioned (by Ted, I think -- though it might have just been in passing, so
> I'm not saying that it is his view) that something has intrinsic value if it
> has the ability to feel pain. Is this the only kind of quality that matters?
> What are some other, relevant qualities?
> Often philosophers distinguish between persons and non-persons. Is this a
> relevant distinction? Which is a better way of distinguishing between
> persons:
> a) persons have the ability to reason and non-persons do not, or
> b) persons have the capacity to feel pain and non-persons do not?
> Are there things (nature, say) which have intrinsic value yet do not even
> have the ability to feel pain?
> What are our moral obligations toward humans? toward persons? toward
> things with intrinsic value?
> --
> Joe Campbell
> ---- Ted Moffett <starbliss at gmail.com> wrote:
> =============
> Megan et. al.
> Thanks for your reply...
> I couldn't resist the "connection" between discussing animals rights and
> my
> concerns for pigs, and the album "Animals" with "Pigs on the wing."   I'm
> not sure the album has much directly to do with animals rights, except in
> some sort of round about way, like saying the "pigs" in power mentioned in
> the lyrics support cruel aspects of the animal food industry (or animal
> experimentation, like for cosmetics) for the big profits they can make,
> which is probably true.
> But when the animal rights subject is broadened to include the right of a
> species to exist, and the fact that current human conduct is inducing
> extinctions of species at rates likely to increase with dramatic human
> induced climate change and other factors, then the subject of how those in
> power (pigs on the wing) are approaching environmental and ecological
> issues, becomes directly relevant to a broad view of "animal rights." And
> thus human rights, given that the world's ecosystems can only take so much
> damage or fast human induced change before dramatically impacting human
> well
> being on a mass scale.
> Many life forms do need "a shelter from pigs on the wing," including many
> abused and oppressed human animals!
> Ted Moffett
> On 9/6/06, Megan Prusynski <megan at meganpru.com> wrote:
> >
> >  Ted, I just wanted to thank you for your long & well-thought out
> > response. It's always interesting to hear others' perspectives on animal
> > rights issues and you bring up some great points. Ultimately the
> decision of
> > where to draw the line in terms of sentience and what to eat is really
> up to
> > the individual. We gotta eat something! :) It's a difficult line to draw
> and
> > it has always baffled me how some animals are considered ok to eat in
> our
> > culture and some are not. Like the other issues you pointed out, it's a
> > slippery slope. I just try my best to educate people about where their
> food
> > comes from so that they can make informed decisions, and this is also a
> > large part of PETA's mission.
> >
> >
> > Thanks for the Pink Floyd lyrics, too. I have never really studied them
> > before but Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands and the songs you
> mention
> > are indeed pertinent to this discussion.
> >
> >
> > I don't have much to add, just wanted to thank you for your insightful
> > post. :)
> >
> >
> > ~megan
> >
> >
> >
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