Feral cats with Rabies

Eric Chiamulera
On December 1, 2011, the Westchester County Department of Health issued a rabies alert to residents of New Rochelle, N.Y., who may have come into contact with a rabid cat. The cat, a red tabby, had been observed acting aggressively towards other animals and people. There are reports that the red tabby cat may have come into contact with a colony of feral cats in New Rochelle. Similarly, Westchester health officials had to issue a rabies warning to Ossining residents when a rabid calico kitten, who had been in contact with other feral cats, had attacked an adult cat before being captured. This problem of feral cats being exposed to rabies is occurring in other parts of the country as well. For instance on November 23, 2011, city officials in Fort Worth, Texas warned residents that a woman was attacked by a rabid feral cat.

One question arising from the problem of rabid feral cats is whether it is ethical for cat owners to allow their pet cats out of the house when there is a chance that these pets might contact rabies.  It has been argued that cats have an instinctive need to hunt, climb, hide when they sense danger, and feel in control of their activities. When these needs are not satisfied they can suffer stress.  Is it better for pet cats to naturally act out their instinctual behaviors outside and risk the danger of becoming infected with rabies, or would it be best if their owners kept them indoors and provided for their behavioral needs in other ways? Since a rabid pet cat would pose a danger to its owner, is it ethical for owners to keep their cats indoors in order to protect themselves? Is it ever ethical for a human to own a non-human animal? I don’t have the answer to most of these questions. I would simply argue that due to the dangers to both the cat and its owner of letting a cat outside, if someone decides to own a cat they should keep it indoors and do their best to provide for the cat’s behavioral needs.

55 Responses

  1. The real question here is where the rabies came from in the first place and were these cats actually tested positive for rabies; cats, including ferals are not common carriers of rabies and would likely have been infected by another animal in the wild such as a raccoon or skunk; it shoiuld also be noted that in managed feral colonies following TNR protocols, all feral cats are vaccinated against rabies and identified with ear-tipping and/or microchipping

  2. It looks like that squirrel in the picture is getting ready to exact revenge upon that cat for killing his brother…

  3. While I’m a proponent of keeping cats indoors, I think it’s important to put the rabies threat—to either pet cats or humans—into perspective. (Readers may be interested in my post from September 24, in which I address this issue in greater detail (http://www.voxfelina.com/2011/09/american-bird-conservancy-misrepresents-rabies-threat/).

    The risk of rabies contracted from free-roaming cats is grossly exaggerated by the American Bird Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, and others opposed to trap-neuter-return—part of their long-standing campaign of scare-mongering. In fact, their “concern” has nothing to do with public health or the health of our pets, and everything to do with shaping public policy by way of good old fear and ignorance.

    In a September 21 media release (http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/110921.html), for example, ABC argued, “Feral cat colonies bring together a series of high risk elements that result in a ‘perfect storm’ of rabies exposure.”

    “Unfortunately,” continues Steve Holmer, ABC’s senior policy analyst, “these cats are often not vaccinated against rabies. Even when they are vaccinated when first trapped, re-trapping cats to revaccinate can be problematic as the cats become wary of the traps. There is also typically not the funding or infrastructure among the colony feeders to repeatedly re-trap cats to administer vaccines.”

    But Holmer’s concern for boosters is largely unjustified, as July Levy, Maddie’s Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine—and one of this country’s foremost experts on feral cats—suggests: “Even a single dose of rabies vaccination provides years of protection against rabies infection.” (http://www.alleycat.org/Page.aspx?pid=686)

    And, when it comes right down to it, initial vaccinations are probably unnecessary, too, in much of the country. According to a 2009 rabies surveillance report of CDC data, “Most (81.0 percent) of the 300 cases of rabies involving cats were reported from states where raccoon rabies is enzootic with two states (Pennsylvania and Virginia) accounting for nearly a third of all rabid cats reported during 2009” (Blanton, Palmer, & Rupprecht, 2010).

    TWS plays up the “concern” over vaccinations as well, in their Problems with Trap-Neuter-Release “fact” sheet:

    “It appears that the majority of TNR cats are not vaccinated, creating a major public health concern. Jessup (2004) cites the actions of Maddie’s fund, a pet rescue organization, which paid members of the California Association of Veterinary Medicine to neuter or spay feral cats, but did not require them to vaccinate or otherwise treat the cats. Ultimately, over 90,000 cats were released without rabies vaccinations” (n.a., 2011).

    In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that in California, there have been no reported cases of rabies involving cats in 2008 (Blanton, Robertson, Palmer, & Rupprecht, 2009), 2009 (Blanton et al., 2010), and 2010 (Blanton, Palmer, Dyer, & Rupprecht, 2011)—this, despite extensive testing. (I haven’t looked at data going back any further.)

    Now, if ABC and TWS are truly concerned about the public health threat posed by feral cats, why misrepresent the facts? Why mislead the public? Because their “concerns” have nothing whatsoever to do public health. Or science, for that matter. It’s just another feeble attempt to gain support for their long-standing witch-hunt against free-roaming cats.

    And, all too often, the mainstream media buys into the scare-mongering. Please don’t make the same mistake.

    Peter J. Wolf
    http://www.voxfelina.com

    Literature Cited
    • Blanton, J. D., Palmer, D., Dyer, J., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2011). Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2010. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 239(6), 773–783.
    • Blanton, J. D., Palmer, D., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2010). Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2009. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 237(6), 646–657.
    • Blanton, J. D., Robertson, K., Palmer, D., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2009). Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2008. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 235(6), 676–689.
    • Jessup, D. A. (2004). The welfare of feral cats and wildlife. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(9), 1377-1383.
    • n.a. (2011). Problems with Trap-Neuter-Release. Bethesda, MD: The Wildlife Society.

  4. Peter Wolf’s excellent comment sets the record straight. The rabies threat is extravagantly exaggerated and often used to scapegoat ferals by various groups with an anti-cat agendae. Note to Mr. Chiamulera regarding the last sentence of your blog entry: A cat is not an “it.” “It” is a pronoun referring to a lifeless thing. And you’ve got the whole “ownership” thing backwards. We don’t “own” cats; if anything, they “own” us.

  5. The greatest concerns regarding feral cats are their effects on native wildlife, especially birds, and property destruction.

    Verne, I write for a living; “it” is perfectly acceptable in reference to an animal.

  6. Funny, HAL, I write for a living too, and I find it perfectly unacceptable to use “it” in reference to an animal. See also: http://prime.peta.org/2010/02/pro-animal-pronouns
    In fact, I wrote a law review article on feral cats, and debunked many of the myths associated with fear-mongering and ferals, including the false claims that ferals are responsible for wildlife or property (?!) destruction. You can find it here:
    http://radnorcats.com/app/download/4867663904/Verne_R_Smith_The_Law_and_Feral_Cats.pdf

  7. Verne,
    Not everybody asribes to PETA’s philosophy, or feels compelled to write according to their sentiments. According to every professional standard I know, “it” is perfectly functional and acceptable as a pronoun in reference to an animal.

    Feral cats can and to damage native wildlife. And they can and do tear up people’s property. People generally don’t “fear” feral cats — though they are sometimes annoyed by them.

    All that said, I agree the rabies threat has been blown out of proportion.

    TNR seems to be an effective way of controlling feral cat populations, depending upon the area and circumstances.

    In my particular area, feral cats aren’t much of a concern. Coyotes or other predators tend to gobble them up.

  8. HAL, I’m curious what you mean when you write, “The greatest concerns regarding feral cats are their effects on native wildlife, especially birds, and property destruction.”

    Having spent the past two years poring over literally hundreds of studies, reports, and news stories, I can tell you: the “concerns” regarding predation, especially of birds, are only slightly more credible than those regarding rabies. And, again, it’s TNR opponents—especially the American Bird Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—who continue to sell this to the public.

    By contrast, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/birddeclines.aspx) has this to say: “It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.”

  9. Peter,

    I’ll admit I’m not particularly well-versed in the subject. But, I’m also dubious to claims that organizations such as those you mentioned are just making the whole thing up, either.

    Also, I would caution you, a single study in England does not a universal truth make. Of course, that cuts both ways — all ways, really.

    What might hold true in England might not at all reflect what’s going on in Vermont, which in turn will not at all accurately reflect what happens in Orange County, which in turn would be totally irrelevant to what happens here in Wyoming. And to slice it even further, what happens in a particular town or subdivision setting here in Wyoming would be completely out of context on the adjoining National Forest land.

    My point is, there are too many variables in any location to declare universal truths. So, for example, in a subdivision neighborhood in my Wyoming town, feral cats could be a horrible problem — tearing up property, killing birds and squirrels, and keeping people awake with their yowling and fighting.

    Farther out, on National Forest, the coyotes, foxes and wolves would see to it that a feral cat wouldn’t last five minutes.

    But, then again, in a place like Ohio countryside, bereft of those predators, feral cats might be doing damage on a vast scale.

    So, to sum it up, I think you might be missing the forest for the trees. Again, I have a hard time believing that such organizations as the USFWS are just pulling things out of their backsides because they hate cats.

    No one set of circumstances, nor any one solution, will be universally applicable when it comes to feral cats.

  10. The PETA article I referenced (http://prime.peta.org/2010/02/pro-animal-pronouns)
    does not espouse any PETA-specific philosophy. It is cogent to this discussion because it articulates the proposition, which I believe is irrefutable, that language has been used for centuries to subjugate, enslave, and oppress various classifications of sentient beings: African-American slaves, women, and children in particular. Furthermore, language continues to be used as a tool used to subjugate, enslave and oppress sentient beings to this day, and clearly does so in the case of non-human animals. A primary example is the use of “it” to refer to a sentient non-human animal. Referring to an animal as “it” relegates that animal to “legal thinghood,” reduces the animal to the status of property, mere chattel, and triggers all of the uses — and abuses — that such status permits. Referring to an animal as “it” may be viewed by some as “perfectly acceptable” usage in a purely technical sense, but in my view this usage is morally indefensible. In a morally defensible lexicon, “it” is a pronoun limited solely to references to an inanimate object, a lifeless thing; animals, whether human or non-human, are properly referenced as “he” or “she” in a morally defensible lexicon.

    Assertions about feral cats “destroying property” or “destroying wildlife” are frequently bantered about, but for every such assertion there is plenty of evidence supporting an opposite conclusion. My research clearly establishes that feral cats have little if any causal relationship with any property destruction or the depletion of any wildlife species, native or non-native. (In fact it is bizarre to claim that feral cats “destroy property.” Never understood that one.) The real drivers of property destruction and wildlife depletion are 1) habitat destruction and deforestation, and 2) climate change, and these are caused by us humans. Blaming feral cats for these problems doesn’t get us one step closer to a solution, and in fact, puts us several steps further behind.

  11. Verne, I’ll take your second assertion first.
    It’s not a zero-sum, “either-or” situation. It’s not “deny climate change and urban sprawl, and put all the blame on feral cats.”

    Rather, it’s recognizing feral cats as one of a myriad of potential problems caused by our interaction with the world around us.

    It’s simply beyond the pale to suggest that a large population of a non-native, feral animal, especially an incredibly skilled predator species, would NOT have some sort of negative effect on the ecosystem. Of course they will have an effect. We can debate the levels of that effect, depending upon location, the nature of the ecosystem there, the number of cats, what other creatures they are targeting as prey, and any number of other variables.

    But, again, it’s a little dubious to assume that groups such as USFWS and the Audubon Society are just making up unsubstantiated tripe in order to make a convenient boogeyman out of cats.

    I’ve seen this before with other issues — animal rights tries to force the “facts” to match its ideology — regardless of any evidence to the contrary. And when evidence is given to the contrary, from very reputable sources, such as USFWS and various conservation organizations, then all that is left are straw-man attacks against the sources.

    Some here have claimed to have “researched” the issue. But, from what angle, and what pre-concived notions. Again, I’ve heard over and over, directly, from unbiased experts in wildlife conservation and related fields, that feral cats can do tremendous damage.

    As to your first assertion, it rest boldly upon the assumption that everybody — or even anybody else — buys in to the morality to which you subscribe. That being, an animal carries the same moral weight and consideration as a human being. Therefore, you can equate the so-called “oppression” of animals with the commercial human trafficking and forced labor until death of an entire group of human beings.

    In other words, through rhetoric and ideology, you cleverly try to lump anybody who disagrees with you in with a racist, slave owner, misogynist, etc.

    Nice try, but objectively, it does not work. Your moral code is not objective. Objectively, owning a dog, hunting for deer or raising cattle is completely different as owning a slave or murdering other human beings.

    No, animals are not plants. I’m certain plants have a much higher level of awareness than many give them credit for — and are capable of feeling at least some semblance of pain and fear. Everything on this earth — including the earth itself, as a unified organic system — is infused with the spirit of creation and life. Even the very rocks and soil. Of this, I have no doubt.

    Still, clearly, an animal can suffer pain and terror in a way a plant cannot. Therefore, our ethical, moral approach toward animals and how we might sometimes use or take from them for our own benefit, requires a more complex and exacting code than how we deal with plants in that same regard.

    However, again, to put animals on the same moral level as human beings is just as non-sensical as putting plants on the same moral level as animals.

    Therefore, again, your assertion fails, because your moral code is subjective, and not accepted by all. Nor should all others feel obligated to accept it. It works for you, and that’s fine.

    I will continue to follow the accepted rules, and use “it” (as well as he and she, depending upon the context and sentence structure) as a pronoun for animals.

    If that offends the sensibilities of your moral code, that is your problem, not mine.

  12. The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it.

  13. Verne,
    Thanks for that, but I’m not much for sermons. Otherwise, I would not have quit attending church.

    As I’ve said, if your moral code works for you, that’s fine. It neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg for you to think that way, and to fashion your diet and lifestyle accordingly.

    Just don’t expect it to gain much traction against the crucible of rational and objective judgement.

    It is my observation and firm opinion that the ascendency of human beings over animals is almost painfully obvious to any keen and honest observer.

    I’ll note, just because an argument or justification is valid, or invalid, in one circumstance, does not make it so in another. Therefore, saying -the same justifications were used for slavery – is a also nice try to rhetorically drive things the direction you wish them to go. But it ultimately fails, because the underlying premise is a classic apples-to-oranges comparison.

    Furthermore, I’ll note, ironically, nature and animals do not observe the very moral code you insist we should observe, because we supposedly have no ascendency over animals.

    An animal does what is best for it, it’s offspring and for its own kind. No regard or consideration is given whatsoever to the welfare or suffering of others, or to what effects its actions might have on the surrounding ecosystem.

    This is most especially true for wild and feral animals.

    So, in another stroke of irony, it is precisely when we think and behave like animals that we take the worst toll upon animals and the ecosystem.

  14. HAL, I have no idea what you are talking about in your latest post. It literally makes no sense. Is it supposed to be a response to my earlier post? Because it contains nothing that could be considered by any sane or reasonable person as a response to my earlier post. So please take the time to read my earlier post. I’d be happy to engage in a dialog about it, but have no idea how to respond to nonsense:

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it.

  15. Bless your enlightened eyes, egalitarian mind, and empathetic heart, Verne R. Smith.

  16. Verne,

    I understand quite clearly where you are coming from. I simply disagree because I find no rational justification for those ideas. Hence, I embrace and practice animal welfare — not animal rights. I do so because rational thought and reason are of paramount importance to me. If an idea cannot pass that crucible, I reject it.

    I repeat, not only is your primary argument here essentially rhetorical, it also fails because the underlying premise is flawed. You can’t build a solid argument upon a blatant false comparison.

    If it assuages your sense of moral outrage to suppose those who disagree with you are thinking and acting like slave traders and Nazis, that’s your prerogative, and more power to you.

    However, don’t expect those ideas to be taken seriously against sober, rational and objective consideration. Resorting to comparing others to Nazis fairly screams of running out of good points to make – or of never having had any in the first place.

  17. Thankfully, we have found the arbiter of all that is moral, right, and true in the universe, and that person, it would appear, is HAL 9000, the self-declared dictator of everything “sober, rational, and objective” in the universe — that is, everything in HAL 9000’s itty-bitty universe, anyway, which consists solely of himself. Like all the other self-proclaimed moral arbiters who insist that anything that conflicts with their worldview is “flawed,” or “subjective,” their conclusory thought process, briefly summarized, goes like this: FACT: I am right. CONCLUSION: Everyone else is wrong. What’s missing? Any semblance of logic and analysis. What is fascinating to me about this mindset is that these individuals simply cannot debate a point on the merits. It’s like watching FOX News: the commentators simply make up facts to suit their conclusion, fail to present arguments to support their thesis, and then declare themselves victorious in the debate. In their solipsistic view of the world, of course, they are correct: but again, this world exists only in their own mind. So HAL 9000, the challenge still stands; I would be happy to debate on the thesis of my position. If you want to call names and present your own summary conclusion without analysis or reasoned argument, well, stop wasting time and send your resume to Fox News. I’m certain they could use you.
    Until then, my invitation stands, and the following argument remains unrebutted:

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  18. Verne,

    Your assertions are couched in a zero-sum worldview, not mine. Pummeling away at strawmen and resorting to sarcasm and ad-homs do not sound arguments make.

    I have clearly demonstrated why your arguments — which are really just a series of rhetorical assertions and an attempt to poison the well — fail.

    Not everybody else, and indeed, nobody else, is compelled to adhere to your moral code, no matter how stridently you wish it to be so. You are more than welcome to embrace that moral code, and to fashion your diet and lifestyle accordingly.

    However, for the last time, don’t expect your attempts to evangelize the rest of us to your point of view to gain much traction. There is no sound, or rational, reason to regard animals as “persons” — either in the philosophical sense, or as a matter of law.

    All the generally common goals of animal welfare, respect for animals, ecological preservation, the humane treatment of animals and the meeting of all their basic needs can be met without accepting an idea that has no basis in objective reality.

    Because that idea has no basis in reality, your assertions then rest upon a blatant false comparison, and your argument therefore fails.

  19. HAL, your continued failure to articulate any reason why animals should NOT be treated as a “person” under the law leads me to conclude you don’t have any reasons. I on the other hand have articluated the several ways the law has denied “personhood” in the past to other classifications of sentient beings, the rejection of those arguments, and rationally and logically conclude that for the same reasons those same arguments can, should, and one day will be rejected in the case of non-human animals. You have set forth no rationale or argument to support your own conclusory opinions. Your personal opinion, sincere though it may be, is not persuasive. Go into court and argue your “opinion” and see how far it gets you. My argument is on the other hand persuasive, well-supported, and logical and is precisely the reason that non-human animals are already well on their way to achieving “personhood.” Just a matter of time, HAL, just a matter of time.

  20. Verne,

    Once again, you’re offering little more than rhetoric and pontification of your moral code, and making huge leaps of logic to justify it.

    The proposed principle of relative moral equality between humans and animals has been roundly and completely rejected and debunked — from both theistic and atheistic points of view.

    Even most hard atheists, of the school of thought that regard humans as nothing more than another animal species, won’t make the leap you’re asking them to — in other words, to give animals equal ethical/moral consideration, and “personhood” under the law.

    Animals use/consume other animals all the time. Animals put their species before others. There’s no overt harm, intrinsic wrong, wanton evil or violation of the laws of nature in it. Any atheist can tell you that.

    Granted, I’m coming from a theistic point of view, and hold that human ascendency over animals — both intellectually and spiritually — is self-evident. But main point still stands, your main premise has already been soundly rejected on both sides of the atheist/theist fence — and for good reason.

    Trying to apply human standards to the animal world is completely non-sensical. As I noted previously, it’s ironic that animals and nature themselves have no regard whatsoever for the very moral code you insist we follow — based upon your assumption we’re essentially of no more worth than animals. That’s self-contradictory on its face.

    There’s simply no good, rational reason to accept your beliefs. And that’s what they are, beliefs — being as fervently preached as any religious fundamentalist would.

    You keep insisting their can’t be any justice until animals are regarded as “persons.”

    And a fundamentalist might keep insisting I’ll go to Hell if I don’t accept his theology. Well, what if I don’t accept, and see no rational reason to accept, that a literal Hell even exists in the first place? Do you see how that works?

    Saying it’s somehow wrong that the law has denied “personhood” to animals is like trying to argue it’s unfair that riding lawnmowers aren’t allowed in the Indy 500. It’s completely irrelevant. You’re asking people to accept as objective truth something that exists only in your sentimentality. Rational people simply aren’t going to accept that a dog’s fate should carry the same moral/ethical and legal weight as that of them or their children.

    Furthermore, as I explained already, there’s no need for it. Animal welfare, respect for nature and kindness to animal can all be achieved without regarding them as “persons.”

  21. HAL, you continue to confuse your own personal opinion (which is meaningless to everyone but you) and a thesis supported by reasoned argument. There is nothing “self-evident” about the so-called “moral ascendancy” of humans over non-humans. Indeed, I have proven a contrary conclusion. There is nothing “self-evident” about the justice of continuing to deny personhood to non-animals. I have proven that as well. I’ve invited you to rebut my arguments with arguments of your own, but all you provide are personal opinions, unsupported by fact or reason. Of course your opinons are “self- evident” to yourself, as everyone else’s are, but again, no one cares. Perhaps in your own morally indefensible universe, your assertions are “self-evident,’ but they certainly aren’t to me, and to thousands of others who have made the same arguments I have made here,using logic and historical antecedents, to construct a compelling argument that personhood for non-human animals is moral, just, and inevitable. Try fashioning a compelling argument based on something other than your own fatuous opinions and possibly you could persuade someone other than yourself that your opinions actually have merit. Until then, you’re preaching to a very small choir — yourself.

  22. Verne, you’re pummeling away at straw men again. You accuse me of giving only my “personal opinion,” and then continue to preach your ideology as if it were objective fact.

    As I have demonstrated, even those who might disagree with me on such profound questions — as whether there is a God, or are humans only an animal, and nothing more — would still find huge gaps of logic and reasoning, not to mention self-contradiction, in your core assertions.

    I realize perhaps I’ve been making this to complicated.

    Let’s try this:

    Africans are people. Women are people. Gays are people. Jews, Gypsies, the mentally disadvantaged and others targeted for extermination by the Third Reich were people.

    They, along with any other group ever forced to endure second-class or “less-than” status before the law, are people. Therefore, it is/was objectively unjust to not give them full personhood. All people are, or at least should be, of equal intrinsic value, and of equal standing before the law.

    Dogs, cats, cows, birds, deer, horses, etc. are not people. Even if one takes the point of view that people are a species of animal — and nothing more — those other species still are not people.

    It is complete nonsense to suggest a parakeet and woman should have equal standing before the law. And the fact that women have (and in many cases still have) an unjust inequality before the law will not make that any less nonsensical, no matter how hard you wish for it.

    Therefore, your argument falls apart, because it rests upon a false comparison that no reasonable person would accept.

    Furthermore, and perhaps even more to the point — you’ve put the cart before the horse. You’ve rested your entire argument on the a-prioi assumption that “animal” and “person” are, or even should be, interchangeable — either in the philosophical sense, or in the language of the law.

    And that assumption is, clearly, false and irrational — and therefore untenable.

  23. HAL, again you don’t have your facts straight. In this case, you are confusing the legal concept of “personhood” with zoological classifications of animals. You correctly point out that various classifications of hon-human animals are not “people.” But that’s irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the legal concept of “personhood.” Corporations and ships are not “people” either; but under well- established business and maritime law, corporations and ships are in fact legal “persons” with all the attendant rights and privileges that accrue to legal personhood. “Personhood” is a status conferred by law; it is a mutable and flexible concept. Just as ships and corporations have been given personhood by legislative and judicial fiat, so too, I argue, non-human animals should and one day will be granted some form of “personhood” as well. In many ways, they already are; courts around the world have tacitly acknowledged in a number of different legal contexts that the inflexible laws of inanimate objects (i.e. “property law”) should not be applied to non-human animals. This is just the beginning of the paradigm shift I describe that will result, inevitably, in legal personhood for non-human animals. So again, I invite you to rebut my argument that logic and the law dictates the conclusion that non-human animals may be accorded rights as legal “persons.” In your opinion, I’m wrong. I get that. But your opinions don’t matter to anyone. They are utterly unconvincing, absent any support by facts and precedent, logic and reason. Come on, I know you can do it:

    * * *
    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  24. Verne, I’ve rebutted your arguments time and again.

    Even those entities holding “personhood” before the law are human institutions. At least by proxy, they represent people.

    Animals are not people. There is no rational reason to give animals individual “personhood” before the law. That you think that is inevitable is irrelevant. It’s extremely doubtful your ideas will gain any traction outside those who share your ideology.

    I might see that animals as a group might get greater legal status, through, say, improvements in animal cruelty laws. But again, to suggest a horse or a pig would get legal “personhood” before the courts is ludicrous.

    It seems that, even according to your own arguments, the best you can hope for is that animals can gain some sort of legal status as a piece of property, like a ship. But then, nobody expects the ships best interests to be represented in court, only the interests of people who have a vested interest in it.

    You can post your pontification about how ideas contrary to yours are tantamount to past justifications of slavery and genocide. But I’ve already pointed out the fatal flaw in that essentially rhetorical tactic.

    Your whole premise rests upon the a priori assumption that “animal” and “person” are interchangeable, legally, or otherwise.

  25. Once again HAL 9000 your specious arguments lack any validity or basis in reason or law. You simply label my arguments “ludicrous” without any facts, rationale, or basis whatsover, other than your own holier-than-thou, tattered and tired, fatuous opinions. Again and again, you have utterly failed to rebut my argument that entire classifications of sentient beings were once denied personhood before the courts of this country. Again and again, you have utterly failed to rebut my argument that personhood is a legal doctrine, changeable at the will of the legislature and the courts, and that this doctrine has in fact been changed several times in the past. Again and again, you have utterly failed to rebut my argument that no legal rationale exists to prevent the legislatures and the courts from changing its definition of personhood again to accommodate the interests of non-human animals. Again and again, you have failed to rebut my argument that the courts and legislatures of this country are already in the midst of a paradigm shift that is tacitly moving animals away from the legal status of “property.” Again and again, you simply label my arguments, all of which sound solidly in logic and established legal doctrine, with condescendingly derogatory labels. Children, of course, often do this: frustrated and unable to respond, they resort to name-calling. But no worries, HAL 9000, I now know that’s all you’ve got. And if you must know, these childish tactics are extremely comforting to me. Because if you represent all that stands in the way of legal personhood for non-human animals — heck, we’re almost there!

  26. IMHO, Peter Wolf wipes the floor with ABC and other declared enemies of feral cats. TNR is the best and only morally permissible policy.

    I also agree that cats kept as ‘pets’ shouldn’t be let out. If the only relevant factor were the cat’s well-being, forceful arguments could be made on both sides; a short, fulfilling life may be worth more than a long, comparatively dreary one.

    But the interests of wildlife have to be considered. Not wildlife in the aggregate, but individual wild animals. Most guardians presumably feed their wards. Cats who are let out are thus merely recreational hunters. A bird’s intererst in not being mauled outweighs my weel-fed cat’s pleasure in mauling him. I’ve seen what a fearsome hunter my little kitty is, and for me, that settles it.

    On Verne Smith vs Hal, I side with the former, not only because I find Verne’s views morally congenial, but because they, unlike Hal’s, are actually based on a strong prima facie argument.

    HAL, an assertion is not its own proof. Calling one’s convictions ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ does little to elevate them. You’ve stated your beliefs, and you’ve stated your belief in your beliefs, but you’ ve neglected to offer anything resembling a reason to support them.

    Verne eloquently outlines how various groups were oppressed in the past based on arbitrary dichotomies. Because of the efforts of the dissidents who led liberation movements, we now think that once universally accepted moral distinctions founded on racial and gender groupings are both vicious and inane.

    The logic of equality has its own momentum. If it is wrong to deny equal consideration on grounds of race and gender , why is it any more defensible to deny equal consideration based on species memberrship? The temptation for speciesists is to point to the superior cognition of the average human as a non-trivial, non-arbitrary bulwark of discirmination. But you’ve effectively argued against yourself and forestalled this defense by including mentally impaired humans in your list of ‘persons’. The question, posed by Peter Singer about 40 years ago, and never convincingly answered by animal exploiters, can thus be more pointedly phrased as follows: Why must personhood be granted to mentally deficient human animals but not to the nonhuman animals who surpass them intellectually? Could it be that the the criterion of intelligence is only a pretense, and a pretty threadbare one at that, to disgiuse what is a tawdry supremacist prejudice?

    There may be ways of defeating this line of reasoning , but your comments fail to so much as grapple with it. Instead, you refer repeatedly to some alleged consensus that exists among ‘reasonable’ people. This consensus, I’m happy to say, is very slowly crumbling. Note, also, that the popularity of an opinion does nothing to validate it. On the contrary, if an ideological norm is venerated by the the mass mind–a sluggish, repellent specimen– it should for that reason alone be subjected to relentless questioning. Such questioning, and the glorious subversion of ‘self-evident’ truths to which it has sometimes led, have been the main source of whatever moral progress is discernible on the annals of our sorry history.

    Pointing to the amorality of nonhumans as a way of denying them a significant moral status is, if you’ll forgive me, more than a little vacuous. Just substitute ‘morality’ for ‘cognition’ and you’ll quickly see why this approach takes you nowhere.

    I’m also with Verne on the ‘it’ question. Language and perception are indissolubly tied. We always insult those we oppress. The prejudices fossilized in current usage should be identified and avoided by those interested in promoting justice.

  27. Verne,

    You’re refusing to see it.

    Not one of your assertions holds true — because they all rest upon the aforementioned a priori assumption, which has no basis in objective reality.

    Your argument has been soundly refuted. All you’ve been doing, for quite some time, is preaching your ideology.

    Therefore, not being one for sermons, I think I’m done with this discussion.

  28. Joe,

    No matter how eloquently one puts it, preaching an ideology is just that.

    The irony of you attempting to lecture me about my “beliefs” is ironic to the point of being darkly hysterical.

    Yours IS an ideology of beliefs, as hell-bent on trying to lay claim to a moral monopoly and objective “rightness” as any fervently-preached, “this is the only way” religious doctrine.

    Lacking any real arguments of substance, you use that same a priori assumption to launch a line of “logic” by which you can lump those who disagree with you in with racists or other bigots. It’s a desperate, last-ditch effort, basically trying to shame people into being evangelized to your point of view.
    It failed when Singer attempted it. It fails now, and it will always fail.

    A mentally challenged person is a person. A cat or a rat is not. End of discussion, argument destroyed. All the sanctimonious, apples-to-oranges comparisons to slavery, misogyny, the Third Reich or any other dark episode in human history won’t change that.

    Outside of fringe ideology you share with Verne there is no rational, logical or objectively sane reason to give animals equal moral status with human beings.

    What’s more — there simply isn’t any need for it. Kindness to animals, a respectful relationship with nature and sound ecology are/can be achieved without making the fundamental break from reality you so fervently insist everybody should make.

    Even if, say, cattle ranching gradually fades and most of the world’s population becomes vegetarian — which I’m sure is inevitable some time during the future — there will be no need to see animals as “persons.”

    Furthermore, don’t expect language to be changed to suit your ideology. “It” is an acceptable pronoun for an animal.

    As I said before, it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg for you to hold your beliefs. It that’s what makes you tick, have at it, and more power to you.

    Just don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  29. All this philosophical bantering aside, I think there’s strong evidence for TNR being a viable method for feral cat control.

    I don’t know if it’s been used or proposed here in my area. I’ll have to check into that.

    I also agree that the rabies thing is little more than a red herring.

  30. HAL 9000, to repeat, simply labeling something doesn’t make it so. Your solipsistic view of the world simply has no bearing in objective reality. All you have done throughout this discussion is place prejorative labels on well-reasoned arguments that you don’t agree with. No one cares about your opinions if they are not backed up with any kind of logic or reasoned argument, and yours are not. They are simply that: subjective opinions lacking any substantive argument with which to evaluate their merit. As such, your unfounded opinions are nothing more than superficial fluff, easily dispensed with. You don’t like my conclusion that the personhood of non-human animals is inevitable, but this conclusion is founded on sound logic, based on established legal precedent, and grounded in solid argument. In response, all you’ve been able to do is to sling mud, cast aspersions, ranting petulantly and pedantically along; but again, this is just childish name-calling, laughable really. I enjoy our discussion greatly because it’s helped me sharpen my arguments and reaffirmed my faith that the quest for animal rights is true, just, and moral, and will in due course vanquish the opposition — that is, if you are any representation of the opposition. And I’m pretty sure you are. An opposition that, like the owners of slaves, will soon to be a relic of the past.

  31. Verne,
    The irony is, everything you’re complaining about here is exactly what you’re doing.

    I have done nothing but offer solid, reasonable counterpoints to your attempts at rhetorical indictment. You are the one slinging ad-homs, flailing away at straw men and stating opinion as if it were fact.

    You are blatantly putting the cart before the horse. In that regard, you are very much like an religious evangelical — quoting verses from the KJV Bible as if they were undisputed, literal and historic fact — and then shouting, “well, that’s just your personal opinion” at anybody who disagrees.

    The problem is he — whoops — forgot to objectively prove the King James Bible is the exact, literal and inerrant Word of God, BEFORE he started preaching it as undisputed fact.

    That is exactly what you’ve done here.

    Either you’re deliberately ignoring it, or you simply just do not get it: Unless and until you can prove an objective moral equality and equality of value in human affairs of people and animals, everything else you’ve been arguing all along is nothing more than unsubstantiated opinion cast in the guise of sanctimonious ideology.

    Once again, both atheists and theists have taken that underlying claim — the one upon which your entire doctrine rests — contemplated it, and torn it to shreds.

    Humankind’s treatment of and behavior toward animals is a moral, ethical and philosophical issue that has spawned a broad spectrum of viewpoints. Truth tends to gravitate toward what is often called accurately, “the reasonable middle.” In this case, that would be the broad and flexible philosophy of animal welfare.

    You can keep envisioning a future in which a majority of anybody — much less the courts and legal system — will accept your ideology, and all your foes will be laid low.

    And, the evangelical can keep hoping for that day when J.C. will come literally in the flesh and literally riding on a cloud, vindicate all his ideas, and drop-kick the opposition into Hell.

    And you can both continue to regard me as a bad person and part of the problem because I disagree.

    I wish both of you well. But, in neither case am I holding my breath.

  32. Amazingly, HAL 9000, you have outdone even yourself in your last post. I cannot for the life of me unravel the meaning of the bizzare theological metaphors you’ve spun there. Suffice it to say that my argument remains unrebutted. Not once have you actually addressed in any intellectually meaningful way the the components of my thesis and support for it that I’ve constructed. Instead, you simply belittle it with childish witticisms and deem yourself a wise man, when in fact, as Joe points out, you are more than a little vacuous. Just for once put your mind to actually constructing an argument supported by facts and reason that might actually persuade anyone but yourself. If you want to see how it’s done, read the following:

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  33. HAL,

    How, precisely, do you define ‘person’? If your definition of ‘person’ is any member of the biologoical category homo sapiens, then of course you’re right, a mentally impaired human is a person. But this definition. while serviceable to dogmatists, is so screamingly question-begging as to be of little use for serious discussion. The question remains: Why grant an exorbitantly privileged status to one group of animals simply because they fall under a biological designation? Surly a biological label can no more convincingly be used to determine the moral entitlements of sentient beings than can racial, cultural or gender labels. The first question, by revealing the bankruptcy of using mere species to establish moral status, quickly provokes a second one: if belonging to a species doesn’t by itself underpin moral worth, then what magically ennobling quality do we featherless bipieds possess that allows us to call oursleves ‘persons’ with ‘rights’ while denying those properties to our fellow animals?

    Please remeber, when answering, that you must contend with the argument from marginal cases. When you’ve found the quality you’re looking for, you must turn it into an impartial admission’s test, and only allow those into your exculsive club of personhood who are anointed with the magic quality. The ball is in your court, HAL. So far, not even the rough contours of an anwer in your comments. And please, no bending the rules once you’ve developed them.

    Yet again, I note more in sorrow than anger that you haven’t even attempted a refutation of the views you don’t like. You have, with almost admirable constancy, repeated your opinions as if they were self-authenticating and could be established by fiat. In my part of the country, that’s not how we engage in a thing called debate.

    On usage, I am reminded of a comment by Montesquieu, explaining with savage irony why slaves couldn’t be regarded as ‘men’. “For,” says the Enlightenment sage, “if they are men, it is clear that we [the slaveholders] can’t be Christians.” In other words, if we didn’t first belittle them, we would have to face the fact that we, their ‘owners’, are rank scoundrels. Which elicits 2 obvious comments. First, similar linguistic startegems are deployed against nonhumans today: those whom we exploit, we must denigrate. It’s far easier to exploit an ‘it’ than a ‘him’ or ‘her’, as even the most remorseless exploiters doesn’t wish to think badly of themsleves. Employing the ‘wrong’ pronouns would cause more cracks to appear in the noxious ideoligical consensus which you seem to regard as authoritiative.

    Second, the gender-biased language M used was unchallenged in the 18th century, but gives off a bad odor today. Montesquieu, in so many ways a liberating voice, inadvertently exemplifies the kind of belittlelment he satirizes. We no longer speak of ‘men’ to mean ‘human’ because decades of activisim have taught us how terribly words matter. The struggle for justice always requires a determined effort to reform language. Every ‘it’ further rivets the chains on the tormented and tortured bodies of our nonhuman victims.

  34. Joe,

    Once more, all you’ve done is rest all your assertions upon an a priori assumption. And you’ve used that to attempt to rhetorically drive the discussion in the direction you wish to go.

    You challenges have been answered, and your arguments rebutted. I’m growing very weary of being asked to do something I’ve already done numerous times.

    If that pisses you off or saddens you, or anybody else who holds your ideology, that’s not my problem. Any more than it’s my problem if an evangelical gets exasperated with me because I won’t give the answer he wants when he keeps repeating, “But it must be true, because it’s in the Bible.”

    I bring that example up, again, because I’m seeing a remarkably similar thought process here, having debated evangelical fundamentalists at length on matters of religion — with similarly baffling results.

    The attempts to cast things in the context of slavery, misogyny or other forms of injustice in human history are not only rhetorical and essentially an attempt at poisoning the well, they also have been fully demolished.

    They scream of desperation and an almost childish need to hold a monopoly on the truth. (“If I can “prove” owning a cat is just like owning a black person or “owning” a wife was — how can anybody disagree with me?”)

    Well, everybody can disagree with you, and virtually everybody does.

    For a very simple reason: Blacks and women are people. Cats are not.

    Underlying premise rendered irrelevant. Argument demolished. Discussion over. Move past it, please.

    As for the “what is a person” question — you obviously have you opinion. But don’t expect to get away with raising the bar according only to your opinion as a justification to pepper me with more rhetorical questions to which I have already provided the answers.

    As I’ve noted before, even most atheists, who see people as ultimately nothing more than an animal species, can see how utterly ridiculous it would be to elevate animals to human status before the law.

    Following that logic you propose through to its conclusion, splattering a fly on your windshield should be tantamount to involuntary manslaughter.

    If you wish to regard people as merely another species, then quit complaining about people acting the way all animals do, and insisting they embrace a moral code no other creature upon earth would even give a second of regard to.

    Most atheists I know don’t do that — and can clearly see, the sound, logical reasons why people should, well, put people first.

    Coyotes don’t regard feral cats as coyotes, or see any reason to give them “coyote-hood.” Coyotes don’t graciously make room to “share” with feral cats. A coyote will kill a cat without a second of hesitation beforehand, or a moment of regret afterward.

    Nature will not suffer, nor will animals waste their time on, soft sentiments or rigid moral codes.

    Those others you so fervently hold up as your should-be equals kill, maim, terrorize, oppress, minimize and exploit one another every second of every day.

    “Wrong” or “injustice” in killing, exploiting or trying to dominate others are human concepts.

    In that regard we can, and should, display a measure of mercy, kindness and magnanimity toward the animal world.

    Hence, animal welfare.

  35. Verne, one more reply to you. I’m about done slamming my head in to your wall.

    Let’s apply the logic being used here to a couple of scenarios, and analyze the results.

    1: People have a brain, senses and a nervous system.
    Therefore, people can experience pain, sadness or joy.
    People should be allowed joy, and protected from needless pain and sadness.
    In the past, some people regarded black people as “legal property” of white people.
    That was an injustice and we corrected it.

    Cats have a brain, senses and a nervous system.
    Cats therefore can experience pain, sadness or joy.
    Cats should be allowed joy, and protected from needless pain and sadness.
    Therefore, regarding a cat as “property” is just like slavery, and needs to be corrected.

    2: Cars have four wheels and an engine that makes them go.
    Cars should be driven, and not left to needlessly sit and rust.
    In the past, some biased people said only white cars, and not black cars, should be allowed in the race.
    That was wrong, and we corrected it.

    Riding lawnmowers have four wheels and an engine that makes them go.
    Lawnmowers should be driven, and not left to needlessly sit and rust.
    Therefore, it is wrong to not also allow riding lawnmowers in the race, and we should correct that.

    The flaw in this logic, as demonstrated in both instances, is that a huge leap of assumption has been made.

    In each case, the third object of concern shares some similar qualities with the first two. But, in both cases, that does not make them the same, or even remotely comparable in the relevant context.

    Hence, a flawed assumption that rests upon a false comparison.

    While it was wrong to admit cars into a race only on the basis of color, a riding lawnmower is still not a car. And giving it equal status in a race for cars would be ludicrous.

    Likewise, It was wrong to treat people differently according to skin pigmentation.
    But that does not make cat a person. And it would be ludicrous to regard a cat as a “person” in a legal system set up for human affairs.

    Now, that does not mean lawnmowers should be abandoned to rust.
    Nor does it justify being cruel to cats.

    Furthermore, it’s not inevitable that all lawnmowers will simply rust away if they are not allowed into the car race. They can still be driven.
    It’s not inevitable that all cats will be tormented and subject to wanton cruelty if they aren’t given “personhood” in human courts.
    They can still be treated well by kind people, and protected from cruel people.

    Again, it’s a matter of context.

    We can improve the state of lawnmowers within a relevant context, and perhaps do more to protect them from rusting.

    Likewise, in the relevant context, perhaps we need to do more to protect cats from cruelty.
    Stricter animal cruelty laws, and better education for current or prospective cat owners are but two examples of what surely is a very long list of options that exist within the relevant context.

    Or in other words, legitimate concerns can be addressed, without trying to force the objects of concern into a ludicrous context.

  36. Congratulations, HAL 9000, you’ve learned a brand new word, “a priori,” which is magical to you, I see, because you think by invoking this magic phrase repeatedly it resolves your wholesale failure to rebut the argument that legal personhood for non-human animals is logical, reasonable, and inevitable. Not so fast. Magical words don’t work in the real world. Not once in this ongoing discussion have you raised even a semblance of a logical, reasoned, and sensible argument to counter my thesis and support for the proposition that the personhood of non-human animals is a process that is on-going as we speak, has in fact been tacitly endorsed by the legislative acts and court decisions of this nation and around the world, and will one day, not too far in the future by all bright indicators — and yes, HAL 9000, you have helped our cause immeasurably, thanks so very much! — not too far in the future will become a political and legal reality. Obstinately and resolutely you have refused to engage the issue on the merits, throwing up smokescreens and inscrutable, even bizzare, arguments meaningful only to yourself and the solipsistic universe you appear to inhabit, ignoring the challenge that Joe and myself have generously offered you to even once make an argument that withstands any reasonable scrutiny. Your hubris and arrogance continue to astound and encourage the many readers of this blog and, for that, I can only encourage you to continue supporting our cause. Until then, please take another look at the Argument for Non-human Animal Personhood you have encouraged me to draft, borrowed from and influenced by the wisdom and scholarship of the great animal rights thinkers — chief among them Tom Regan, Gary Francione, and Peter Singer. While for comic relief we do appreciate your continued hyperbolic tantrums here, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to elevate the discourse and engage in a discussion on the merits of the:

    ARGUMENT FOR NON-HUMAN ANIMAL PERSONHOOD

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  37. Verne,

    Are you remotely capable of a basic level of comprehension?

    Your argument has been demolished, time and again.
    Any comparison, whatsoever, to episodes of inequity and injustice in human history fails, utterly, because of one simple, undeniable fact:
    Disenfranchised humans are people. Animals are not.

    Past that, your “argument” is really just a sermon of your ideology. It’s a thinly-veiled, yet vain, attempt to try to cast anybody who disagrees with you in with racists and Nazis. In other words, it’s nothing more than a sweeping ad hom and transparent attempt to poison the well.
    Why you keep posting it baffles me.

    Not to mention, it’s insulting to survivors of the Holocaust and veterans of the Civil Rights movement on a level you apparently have no grasp on.

    Bringing up the Nazis and invoking MLK to promote the idea that a pig should be, legally and morally, regarded as important as a child? That’s as pathetic as it is patently offensive.

    Don’t “thank” me, for anything. All you’ve done is continually shoot yourself in the foot, and provide further proof why animal rights extremism is widely regarded as a weird sideshow.

    You are correct that animals are gaining, and probably will continue to gain, an elevated level of regard and legal protection. In other words, animal welfare will continue to gain ground.

    But when you look forward to the day when society and the entire legal system will regard a pig as having equal value to a person with Down’s Syndrome just because some delusional ideologue like Singer has the unmitigated gall to suggest it should — well, like I said, I’m not holding my breath.

  38. HAL,

    More evasions, more psuedo-reasoning that doesn’t reach the threshold of an argument, more of the rampant apriorism of which you accuse me.

    So far, you been to be unable or unwilling to grapple the central issue: what’s so special about being a human? Why does species membership in and of itself confer exalted status? Saying that humans should be granted a uniquely lofty station because they belong a species group is as unconvincing as making the same claim for race or gender. That’s really pretty simple. Until you try to produce a semi-plausible answer, you’re not even a participant in this debate. Your answer must be expansive enough to include marginal humans. And here’s a hint: repeatedly calling a view ridiculous doesn’t make it so, but it does seem to make dogmatists feel good about themselves. You have far more in common with the religious wingnuts you like to ridicule than you seem to realize.

    The lawnmower analogy (again, forgive me, I’m too tired to be tactful) is surpassingly fatuous. The lawnmower has clear deficiencies which make it ineligible for racing: it lacks speed and safety features. Thus, there are perfectly rational, IDENTIFIABLE reasons for excluding it. If a lawnmower met all the relevant requirements for racing as to speed and safety, it should be allowed to race. What you have conspicuously failed to do, despite all my gentle coaxing, is point to the similar, MORALLY RELEVANT deficiency in nonhuman animals that makes them qualitatively inferior to human animals. The existence of humans who have a lower intelligence than nonhumans makes it difficult to adduce intelligence as a defensible basis for discrimination. Ditto with the faculty of moral reasoning.

    In your zeal for detracting, you appear to have overlooked the kernel of truth in your touching lawnmower parable. 2 things can be analogous without being identical. To say there is an analogy between human and nonhuman oppression doesn’t entail the conclusion that they are in every respect alike, or even that they represent the same degree of evil. They are, however, structurally comparable, as are the silly justifications used by their respective apologists.

    Animal welfare is an utter failure, even on its own terms. If you want proof, just reread some of the posts that appear on this site. After 200 years of welfare, we kill and torment more animals in more horrible ways that ever before. The lot of animals won’t improve as long as we hold the appalling view that they are exploitable resources–that they are, in other words, ‘its’.

    I won’t bother replying again unless you produce something that vaguely resembles a substantive rebuttal. Crying “I’m right because I’m right which proves I’m right,” though endearing in its way, isn’t enough to sustain a debate.

  39. Joe,

    I think human ascendency over animals is so painfully evident, even asking such questions as you have is laughable.

    And for you to turn around and try to insist I’m the one saying I’m right… because I’m right is outright hysterical.

    I’ve countered every point you’ve made — handily.

    I simply have not played by your rules. In other words, I’ve recognized and disarmed your rhetorical traps. And, I’ve not given you the answers you want.

    Look, this isn’t my first trip around the block. Having a keen interest in animal/environmental issues, and holding the position I hold, I’ve been debating ARAs for a long time. You’ve brought up no point I’ve not shot down — or seen shot down by others — literally hundreds of times over.

    But, let’s continue then…

    The flaw I see in your thinking is, you’re supposing that any attempt to debunk your core assertions MUST be couched in some notion of human “superiority.”

    Yes, I think a human being, while biologically essentially an animal, has qualities and capacities that make him or her vastly superior to animals.

    But that is completely beside the point of why animal rights ultimately fails. Even most atheist I’ve encountered — who think humans are nothing more than our biology, and not particularly special among animals — don’t agree with your ideology.

    And here’s why.

    Every species of animals puts its own kind first, and lives first and primarily by the standards of its own kind. Every animal exploits opportunity, regardless of how it will affect others.

    If humans are a mere animal, then there is absolutely no wrong in us doing exactly what all animals do.

    If we possess or keep as “property” other animals for our own ends, well, that is simply us exploiting an opportunity, because we have the means and capacity to do so.

    From the outside, it’s seems silly for animal rights to say, “you’re not better than an animal,” and then turn around and say, essentially, “quit acting like an animal.”

    An elk does not try to treat a wolf in an elk context, nor vise versa. Elk do not expect wolves to live by their standards, or vise versa.
    No creature does that. So, why should we treat another species in our context, within the context of a system that was set up and designed for us?

    Courts of law are a human invention, for human affairs. It therefore makes no more sense for us to include animals in them than it would for an elk to ask a wolf to take grazing lessons with the elk calves.

    As for Singer’s question, regarding a mentally challenged person. The answer is, essentially, so what?

    That person is still a person. A pig is still a pig. We put our own kind first. Every species does.

    So what?

    If you want to try crying “speciesism” (which is really just an essentially meaningless, rhetorical term), then you had better talk to all the other animals first. They wrote the book on that game long before any of us even showed up on this ball of rock.

    So, the answer is, there doesn’t even have to be anything “special” about being human in order to justify not allowing other species equal status at our table, so to speak. It’s our table. Our table need not be regarded as any more “lofty” than any other in order to be ours.

    And again, many an atheist could tell you just that. He could look you right in the eye and say,

    “Yes, my children and I are animals. But I’ll be damned if any other animal will enjoy equal status and equal importance with my children in our society and courts.”

    Now, we’ve got a complex enough intelligence to recognize right and wrong. To have this thing called “morals.” So, we can, and should, apply that in our behavior toward other animals. Even if other animals have no such thing as “morals,” and won’t return the favor.

    But, morals also tend to be broad and relative.

    So, while we might pretty much all agree it’s wrong to kick a dog, some of us might not see anything wrong with exploit the opportunity of protein-rich cow flesh, and raise and kill some cows for steak.

    Some of us might say, no, that is wrong too, and eat only vegetables.

    As for animal welfare “not working,” I beg to differ. Steps are being made, all the time, to improve the lot of animals in our possession and care.

    There are exceptions. Mass agriculture, or “factory”-style keeping and slaughter of animals is perhaps the most glaring exception to that. But I think its days are numbered. It’s bad for human health, and the environment.

    .

  40. HAL 9000, thanks again for your laughably pathetic reply to Joe’s recent post. Your paucity of thought, reason, and intellect just simply has in stitches here! We so much enjoy your specious arguments; they are textbook cases in how NOT to support a thesis successfully. Your observations that “we put our own kind first” and “courts of law are a human invention, for human affairs” — thus excluding any cause of action on or behalf of animals — had us gasping for air, we were laughing so hard. Your pedantic, paternalistic, sophomoric, and specious opinions are so delicously defective that we hardly know where to begin to point out their weaknesses, so let’s just begin again, at the beginning. Ok now, repeat after me slowly: “Personhood” has nothing to do with “people”. Try it again: “Personhood” has nothing to do with “people.” Legislatures and judges decide who is a “person.” Personhood is a malleable and mutable concept. Legislatures and the court have expanded the concept far beyond the species homo sapiens. Thusly, personhood has nothing to do with the zoological classification of the “person.” Thusly, ships and corporations are “persons.” Thusly, constitutional scholars unanimously agree that nothing in Art. III of the U.S. Constitution precludes a finding that non-human animals have constitutional standing as plaintiffs in federal courts. Thusly, many cases have been heard in federal courts with non-human animals standing as plaintiffs. Now I know this may be difficult for you to accept, HAL 9000, but those are what are called “facts.” And from these “facts,” we draw the following conclusion. (Now, be sure in your next post NOT to ignore the FACTS, ok?) All right then, here is the conclusion: Courts and legislatures around this country and all over the world are grappling with a paradigm shift that is dramatically redefining the rights of non-human animals, and the duties and obligations of humans. Which leads me to this:

    ARGUMENT FOR NON-HUMAN ANIMAL PERSONHOOD

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  41. HAL,

    You may think you’ve debated proponents of AR in th past, but you haven’t. Nothing you’ve written here indicates that you understand what constitutes a debate.

    ‘Laughable’: Well, human ascendancy is the topic being discussed. Calling your opponents view laghable without so much as trying to adduce reasons is another way of admitting that you’re unable to debate the issue. Really, what it means is that you think that your guiding premise is sacrosanct and should be immune from questioning. You’ve often referred to religious fanatics in an awkward attempt to claim the mantle of open-mindedness, without noticing that your comments reveal a relentless apriorism that is the hallmark of all varieties of bigotry..

    ‘Other species…’ What are you talking about? Nonhumans are not moral agents. They are part of a vast collection of purely amoral biological phenomena collectively known as nature. What they do or don’t do is of no interest to humans trying to develop sound moral principles. If you wish to use nonhumans as a model for human behavior, you have to abandon the idea of morality altogether. That means rejecting quaint notions such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Elks, God bless them, don’t give a damn about anything other than following their instincts. They don’t particularly care about other elks either, with the exception of their dependent offspring and occasional instances of reciprocal altruism. Are you proposing that humans too adopt an attitiude of unbridled selfishness? This is becoming curiouser and curiouser…

    When atheists call humans animals, they are emphasizing that there is no ontological difference between us and the rest of the animal world. They are not asserting that normal adult humans don’t have a faculty of moral reasoning, or that we should try to act like other animals. If they were, that would mean that all atheists are in effect moral nihlists. You may be shocked to learn that they are not.

    ‘Theists/ atheists’ What most people think, whatever their attitude to religion, doesn’t concern me in the least. There’s nothing sacred about the vox populi. Moral principles should be debated on their own terms; the appeal to public opinion has no moral weight, and is the reflex of minds that venerate conventinal wisdom. For all that, it may interest you to learn that Richard Dawkins can be found interviewing Peter Singer on youtube. Dawkins is perhaps the world’s most famous atheist. In the interview, he concedes that Singer is right in his view of nonhumans and that vegetarianism is basically morally obligatory. I encourage you to watch it.

    ‘Person’; Now this is sliding into comedy. One thinks of the Christians who couldn’t bring themsleves to look through Galileo’s telescope for fear of what it might reveal. Singer does not say anyhting about mentally retarded ‘persons’, but he does write extensively about mentally retarded humans. His whole point is that some humans who suffer from severe mental retardation are not persons, because to the non-prejudiced mind, personhood arises from the presence of a set of mental faculties, not mere species memebership.

    Singer, about whom I have some reservations, does shed much light on the reasoning that underlies many of our moral beliefs. The reasoning that undermines racial and other intra-human prejudices rests on the equality principle, according to which there should be no moral differences (ie no difference in moral consdieration) without RELEVANT natural differences. The only way to attack racial oppression effectively is to pose the question: What deficiency do members of the oppressed group exhibit which makes oppression justifiable? The same question can and must be asked about nonhuman oppression. If you hate the question, it’s probably because it exposes the bankrupcy of your speciestist value system by reminding you that your views resemble those of people you despise. And please, let’s hear no more about cars and rusty lawnmowers.

    ‘Welfare’; Did you call factory farming an exception? As it consists of billions of animals improsoned in a nighmare wolrd of pain and deprivation, I’d call that an exception that swallows the rule, wouldn’t you?We do many other terrible things to animals; no need to run through the list.

    In sum, the only think you’ ve demostrated thus far is your inability to produce a single argument worthy of the name.

  42. Joe,

    All you did there was basically agree with my key premise.
    Animals are amoral. Human morality isn’t even on their radar, and never will be.

    Yep, that was my point. Thanks for grasping it.

    It’s mind boggling that you spent all that time and eloquent writing to basically agree with me, while chastising me for how stupid and poorly argued my case was.

    Wow…. really?

    Singer can mull all he wants about the mentally retarded. They are still people, in the sense of being our kind. Therefore, they will get more regard from us than other kinds.

    Even a severely mentally deficient person is still a person — one of our kind. In that regard, we — as a collective — are not going to split hairs or play favorites.

    Now, when it comes to matters of legal responsibility and privilege, of course, it makes sense that the parameters for a child, a mentally retarded person and an adult will be different. But that still does not mean there’s any good reason to even put animals into the mix.

    As every creature does, we put our kind first. Mentally retarded humans are still our kind. Cats and pigs are not. If Singer doesn’t get that, or doesn’t like it, he can go kick rocks.

    “Speciestist” isn’t a term with any meaning in objective reality. It’s an invented term, which animal rights loves to banter about in an attempt at rhetorical indictment — to poison the well by casting all who disagree in with racists or other bigots before the discussion even starts.
    Quaint, yes. But also desperate and pathetic.

    So once again, an you really need to grasp this, any comparison, whatsoever, to examples of inter-human oppression and injustice are completely irrelevant. There is no need to address your rhetorical questions in that regard.

    If you want to give reasons why you think we aren’t kind enough to animals, then give them. I’m all about respect for and kindness toward animals.

    But, if you veer off into more talk about “slavery,” all you’re doing is making yourself look like a zealot and a fool.

    Oh, I understand animal rights all to well, and once again, you’ve laid bare its fatal flaws.

    I’ve made very good arguments, and your pontifications here have done nothing to debunk them. You can mock all you want. But I honestly don’t think any sober observer outside this particular echo chamber would not have any trouble discerning upon which side of this discussion reason has prevailed.

    Yes, we do many terrible things to animals. In the process, we end up doing terrible things to the environment and ourselves.

    And many things need to change. I don’t deny that. But animal rights still fails miserably, because it is essentially nonsense.

  43. Verne,

    Please do me, and yourself, a favor, and refrain from juvenile ad homs. It’s not helping you, it’s just making you look increasingly desperate.

    I fully grasp the points you are trying to make about legal terms and their function before the court.

    As I already pointed out to you, even non-human entities represented in courts are represented relevant to how they affect the humans with a vested interest in them. Therefore, they still represent humans, if only by proxy.

    That is not, even remotely, the same thing as a pig, or a group of pigs, having the same standing before a court of law, as a “person” or “persons.”

    Yes, animals are getting — and probably will continue to get — greater legal consideration, through such things as more comprehensive animal cruelty laws. Some of that might indeed come in the form of giving them some form of “personhood,” but only insofar as they represent legitimate human interests — again, if only by proxy.

    What you seem to be arguing for is a legal shift that would cause a pig farmer to come under charges for “enslaving a group of persons,” or me, as a deer hunter, being legally charged for “murdering a person.”

    That is — excuse the pun — a whole other animal.

    Please re-read your own argument for giving animals legal personhood. Even though you wrote it yourself, you continually and famously apparently fail to grasp that it relies upon concepts that go way beyond the strict legal definition of “personhood.”

    It hinges upon animals being regarded as “people,” not only in the legal sense, but the literal, philosophical sense as well.

    Hence, your a priori flaw. You must prove, objectively, that cats, pigs, horses, dogs, deer, etc. are people too, before you can even make the suggestion that they are being denied their “rights” (whatever that means) in the same way various disenfranchised groups of humans have during various dark chapters of human history.

    Until you can do that, yours is not even an “argument.”
    It is a sermon, nothing more.

    I’ll tell you what I just told Joe. If you have rational arguments for why we are not kind enough to animals, please give them.

    But comparing animals, directly, to slaves or Jews under Hitler’s Third Reich is not only a false comparison, it’s pathetic on your part, not to mention — incredibly and deeply insulting toward those people who actually lived through or fought to end those horrors.

    In other words, come up with something that might actually carry weight outside your ideology and this here echo chamber.

  44. HAL 9000, your self-righteous pontifications and puerile natterings demonstrate the point that you lack even the slightest glimmer of an idea about what animal rights or animal welfare actually means. Your unwillingness, or perhaps inability, to grasp even the most fundamental concepts or to understand the most elementary forms of reasoning associated with either animal rights or welfare do, however, provide deep insights into the psyche of the uninformed and unaware. For that, I thank you again, because you are performing a great service to myself and the millions of other advocates working to articulate and implement policy promoting rights for animals. You and your type highlight both an obstacle to the achievement of animal rights and a way around that obstacle. Not because of the so-called “arguments” you’ve made on this blog — because they aren’t arguments at all, lacking any basis as they do in fact, reason or logic — but because you obstinately refuse to set aside your ingrained prejudices, and admit, even for a second, that your claimed “moral superiority” lacks any objective basis in truth, reason, or justice. This parochial worldview is nothing new; as I’ve pointed out, “moral superiority” has always been the refuge of the oppressor throughout history, and used repeatedly by other oppressors to justify, for example, slavery and the subjugation of women and children. But again I thank you for reminding us how this same claimed “moral superiority” always serves as the downfall of the oppressor. Because you and all the other oppressors always forget one thing: the courts of this country don’t respond to your subjective and substanceless opinions and baseless prejudices. In the end, the courts of this country respond to objective reason and justice. And that’s precisely why animal rights advocates will inevitably secure rights for animals and vanquish the speciesists. We have reason and justice on our side. You, just like all the other oppressors before you, do not. And you, just like all the other oppressors before you, don’t even see it coming, even though it’s already happening as we speak. Just a matter of time, HAL 9000, just a matter of time.

  45. So Verne, lacking any substantive reply, you’ve nothing left to do but rant and preach at me.

    I think we’ve carried this about as far as it can go.

    I’m glad we agree (at least I think we do) that TNR is a good program, and the rabies “threat” from feral cats is a grossly exaggerated red herring.

    Now, there are new posts on this blog to read, ponder, discuss and perhaps debate.

  46. HAL 9000, I’m encouraged you have looked into the facts about TNR, and agree that the rabies “threat” from feral cats is grossly exaggerated. And I agree, many new posts to ponder. Animal Blawg does a great job of highlighting the exploitation and oppression of non-human animals — which will never end until non-human animals secure the rights they require to protect their autonomy. To that end, as I described in my previous post, this discussion has contributed greatly to the advancement of the cause of animal rights and putting an end to the scourge of speciesism.

  47. HAL,

    Once again, for what may be the 19th time, you’ve signally failed to demonstrate why the human-nonhuman dichotomy is less arbitrary than divisions based on other categories such as race and gender. With breathtaking aplomb, you ignore the very essence of the discussion and proceed to declare with a great fanfare of trumpets that you’ve vindicated your position by baldly re-stating it. Each restatement, alas, is as transparently question-begging as the last.

    Saying that we, like nonhumans, must simply ‘favor our own kind’ is a three-fold absurdity. First, to repeat, nonhumans couldn’t give a brass farthing about their own ‘kind’. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that they’ve very unlikely to think in terms of ‘kind’ and species’. Generally, they care for their young; some demonstrate herd instincts; a few also show an instinctive, empathic proto-morality founded on sociality and dircted towards a few individuals they know well. That’s it. Second ( and this follows inescapably from the first observation) we, unlike nonhumans, have pretensions to being moral creatures; unless we wish to adopt the law of jungle, it makes little sense to pattern our behavior on theirs.

    To ensure that our claim to morality is not a fraud, we have to follow these things called moral principles. and we must do so impartially. This is the 3rd point. Regardlessof how other species behave, ‘favoring one’s own kind’ is the diametric opposite of a moral principle; it is the bald assertion of in-group prejudice. As such, is it structurally analogous to other forms of in-group prejudice.

    Let me try to break it down further, real slow like. Your ideology, speciesism, like its analogues, racism and sexism, excludes from serious moral consideration those who fall outside artificially drawn boundaries. For you, ‘one’s one kind’ means ‘species’. For others, especially in th past, it has meant race, gender, or other taxonomic markers.

    Clearly, there are NATURAL differences between species, by which are meant differences in characteristics. There are also natural differences between races and genders. In fact, there are an endless number of natural differences within each of these groupings as well, but most of these tend to go unnoticed by most bigots. The job of the emancipationist is to remind the bigot that there is no morally siginficant difference between the markers he fetishises (like skin color) and those he ignores (like height or hair color-more on this below).

    Let’s go back a little further to foundations to avoid more (deliberate?) misunderstandings. The antidote to all forms of prejudicial thinking can be termed the fundamental equality principle. It states that there must be no moral difference without a corresponding and relevant natural difference. The key word here is relevant. Please reread the last sentence at least 10 times. Relevant. That, in case you missed it, it re-le-vant. The accent falls on the first syllable, making this what the rhythmically-minded would call a dactyl.

    Thus, the way to defeat racism is to invoke the equality principle and to underscore that skin color is no more relevant in determining moral considerabilty than other physical traits such as hair color. In fact, in a justly famous passage, Montesquieu does precisely that. The way to defeat speciesism is to point out that the cluster of natural differences which differentiate species are no relevant in determining moral considerabilty than skin color. If you disagree with this, the burden is on you to demonstrate exactly why, to enumerate the traits which you think bolster your case, and to construct a rational argument which establishes in what way the traits you use as markers are (you guessed it) morally releveant Your demonstration must also rely on traits which pass the test of ‘marginal human cases’ I’ve outlined already. And, please note, it must rely on reasoning, not appeals to public opinion or dominant customs. Neither must it take the form of declaring that there is nothing to demonstrate because you’re sure, really, really, really sure that you’re right and I’m ‘laughably’ wrong. Recourse to any of these tacitcs was once a the favored strategy of racial bigots; they disqualify you from meaningfully taking part in the AR debate.

    I used the word ‘fetishise’ advisedly a few sentences ago. I mean it in the Marxist sense (although I am not a Marxist). To fetishise

    I think the problem is that you can’t break out of conceptual prison formed by your ideoligocal presuppositions. I’m prepared to believe that you’ve made a good fiath effort to understand the AR posotion, but its simple, unanswerable logic has clearly escped you. This is an intersting instance of what Marx would call fetishism: mistaking a self-serving, socially constrcvued confection for an unalterable ‘reality’ grounded

  48. Sorry, I guess I went on for too long. I wasn’t able to acces and edit the last paragraph. Anyway, the sense is clear enough. As Marx uses the term, to fetishise is to mistake a socially constructed concept, espcailly one relating to oppression, for an immutable truth etched on sacred tablets. For the racist, the tablet reads ‘race’, for you and other speciesists, it reads ‘species’. Liberation happens when one realizes the tablet is made of pasteboard and commits it to the flames.

  49. Joe,

    I think you’re splitting hairs to try to defend what is essentially an untenable position.
    Perhaps the oddest thing here is, I get exactly what you’re talking about — and have all along.

    The part you’re not getting is this. The differences I’m pointing out — the reason yours will always be a “apples to oranges” fallacy — are perfectly natural, and quite real.

    You keep trying to run away from that reality, so you can continue to cling to your faux moral outrage over those who disagree with you being “bigots.”

    As I’ve said all along — nice try. But it won’t hold up.

    “Kind” is, in the sense I’m using it, simply the most convenient word.
    The basic drives you seem to be mentioning — of self, offpsring and species preservation — are essentially precisely what I’m talking about. That being, animals favoring their own kind.

    Now, for the sake of clarity, I will note the difference I see between humans and animals far transcends only the biophysical differences of species, or mere complexity. I think humans have a spiritual capacity and potential that is completely apart from our (essentially animal) biology, and divides us sharply from animals.

    That being said, my point all along has been, that need not even be brought up in order to debunk animal rights philosophy.
    One can simplify it down to the simplest level of biology and the function of nature. That being, there is no wrong, or violation of nature and the greater good, for any creature to put its own kind first. Therefore, the arguments you and Singer try to put forth are simply rendered irrelevant.

    Let’s take one of your points in that last point to illustrate what I’m talking about:

    “Let me try to break it down further, real slow like. Your ideology, speciesism, like its analogues, racism and sexism, excludes from serious moral consideration those who fall outside artificially drawn boundaries. For you, ‘one’s one kind’ means ‘species’. For others, especially in the past, it has meant race, gender, or other taxonomic markers.”

    The glaring, fatal problem with your thinking is that you’re trying to compare apples (the false ‘barriers”between groups of humans,) with oranges (the very REAL barrier between people and animal, or kinds of animals.)

    The barrier of kind, as I’ve described it, is not a social construct, or illusion, as is, for example, the barrier of so-called “race.”
    It’s an integral part of the way the world works.

    In other words, unless and until one can accept the a priori, that, in essence, “cats are people too,” (or, people are cats) your entire assertion is rhetorical and basically nonsensical.

    So, once again, you’re putting the cart before the horse, and “speciesism” is simply a hollow term. Because, cat are not people too. And they never will be.

    Legally owning a cat is not like legally owning another human being. It never was, and never will be.

    Yes, as creatures of higher intelligence, we have an obligation to observe morals. And it only stands to reason that some of those morals should extend to animals.

    Hence, we are morally obligated to be kind to animals. They have to voice, they are innocent, and are often helpless.

    In light of that, some things — such as perhaps vegitariansim — can be logically argued for.

    But what you’re proposing is basically taking sound ideas and pushing them so far out of context, they become absurd.

    Giving a cat and a child, even a mentally retarded child, equal consideration before a court of law would be absurd.

  50. HAL 9000, good to see you back. While you go hollering down a dark dead-end road leading nowhere, it is comforting to know that your myopic view of the world proves, yet again, that we animal rights advocates will unquestionably prevail in our argument that personhood for non-human animals is right, just, and inevitable. As Joe eloquently proves, your vain speciesist defenses — based solely on nothing more than a long-discredited “moral supremacy” claim — are doomed to fail. Just as all the other oppressors before you — who used similar arguments to justify their oppression of other sentient beings — your “moral supremacy” claim too will inevitably fail. Using precedent, logic, and reason, the courts and legislatures of this country, and other countries around the world, will reject your efforts to justify the unjust, and condemn them to the dustheap of history. Indeed it is already happening: as we speak, by legislative act and court decision, non-human animals have already moved into a status far removed from mere “chattel” or property. While your atavistic screeds continue to give us much amusement, we are now even more encouraged that your profound misunderstanding of the concept of “personhood” poses even greater opportunities for us to advance the argument for animal rights, far beyond the status quo.

    Oh yes, and in case you forgot, I’m still waiting to see a well-reasoned response, supported by fact and logic, to the following:

    ARGUMENT FOR NON-HUMAN ANIMAL PERSONHOOD

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  51. Verne, I’ve told you already — that’s not an argument, it’s a sermon, it’s basically just one long statement of your opinion.

  52. Wrong again, HAL 9000, it’s a well-reasoned argument, supported by fact, precedent, and logic, with a conclusion ineluctably drawn from history and supporting evidence. But since you’ve proven repeatedly and clearly that that you are unable or unwilling to tell the difference between a well-reasoned argument and a vacuous, self-justifying opinion — and the latter is all that you’ve been able to serve up during this discussion — I am not surprised by your latest failure. But hey, let me know if you ever want to check your speciesism at the door and engage in a serious debate on the merits of the argument that personhood for non-human animals and societal rejection of speciesism is inevitable. See, I deal in logical conclusions based on factual precedent and reason that support a just result — and history proves that this always wins in the end. Reactionary denials from oppressors, rooted in fear of the loss of the oppressor status, are simply part of the process. Indeed, they actually serve as additional proof of the inevitable success of my argument.

  53. Verne,
    “Speciesism” isn’t real. It’s an invented, rhetorical concept, meant to try forcing an agenda through shame.

    And yes, your “argument” is a sermon — nothing more.

  54. HAL 9000, don’t be a sore loser just because I have repeatedly destroyed your illogical and morally indefensible positions regarding non-human animals. Of course I understand your denial and anger; the fear of losing your ability to oppress non-human animals must be a terrible thing. But it’s all part of the inevitable process, as I have repeatedly shown, that begins and ends with the achievement of personhood for non-human animals, and the concomitant loss of your oppressor status. Both of these processes are already ongoing as we speak. In an event, anytime you wish to debate the following argument on the merits, I’ll be here.

    ARGUMENT FOR NON-HUMAN ANIMAL PERSONHOOD

    The justifications used to oppress and subjugate African slaves, women, and children in the U.S. and the Jews under the Nazi’s are identical to the arguments and justifications used to enslave and oppress animals today. In each case, the legal system was used to justify the treatment of the subjugated class as inferior and classify them as a form of “property,” thus denying them status and rights as “persons” under the law. The law was manipulated to justify the conclusion that the majority class had the right of property to “own” the oppressed minority, and stare decisis ensured that this right was held inviolate for centuries. Likewise, the same religious justifications are employed; today, we see this in the case of non-human animals when humans claim a right to oppress non-human animals because the non-human animals lack a “soul” or are somehow subordinate to the so-called “moral superiority” of humans. How ludicrous to even suggest that! How moral is it for humans to kill non-human animals for sport? No other animal is so wantonly depraved. In any event, all of these arguments and justifications failed over time, of course, as the oppressed minorities found their voice and advocates challenged the time-worn platitudes and successfully changed the legal precedents that faciliated the oppressive mechanisms. These same tattered old arguments are still wheeled out again and again — even here, on this blog — but just as they were in the past, advocates will in time ensure they are discredited and rejected as well, and animals will inevitably acquire rights that will mandate respect for the autonomy of non-human animals. Of course, not everyone will be happy with the inevitable result: they will continue to decry their inability to oppress, like it was some inalienable right they possessed. But, in the words of MLK, “the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.” And animals will one day have justice, despite the preciously clever arguments and claimed moral superiority of those who seek to deny it

  55. HAL,

    Didn’t realize you’d responded.

    You have not demonstrated, you have not even gestured towards demonstrating, WHY any MORAL arbiter should accept your claim that there is a MORALLY RELEVANT difference between the categories of race and species. But you have, not for the first time –and I fear, in light of your self-appointed but perhaps ill-chosen avocation as an anti-AR polemicist, not for the last — DECREED that the criterion of species is somehow– mysteriously, miraculously, ineffably, wondrously, ‘naturally’– self-legitimating and ethically substantial. The odd thing is that you fail to recognize the flagrantly aprioristic, comically circular pattern of your pronouncements.

    ‘False’ vs ‘real’ barriers. A perfect example of the incapacity of the bigoted mind to catch itself in the act of fetishizing its own constructs. It really looks as if you’re not able to step outside of your ideological prejudices long enough to understand that what you adore as something intrinsic to the some essential, ‘objective’ reality is just a paltry value judgment. There are,in fact, very real, very discernible, very provable differences between people of different races and genders, just as there are between species, just as there are between me (I weigh about 180lbs) and my neighbour(he tends to hover at around 150lbs) The whole crux, which you’ve repeatedly failed to address. is that the decision to attach moral weight on some differences and not others–the decision, in other words, to turn some differences but not others into ‘barriers’– must be rationally defended if it is not to be arbitrary and senseless.

    The best you can do seems to be to appeal, in a wholly-minded sort of way, to ‘nature’. I’ve already dissected this odd assertion. By nature you seen to conflate 2 things: the behavior of other species, and our ‘natural inclinations’. But other species are AMORAL. So are many of our ‘natural inclinations’; nothing has been more ‘natural’ for men, from the dawn of pre-histroy, to use brute strength –another gift of ‘nature’ — to exploit and harm women. If it comes to that, nothing would is more ‘natural’ for me, as a naturally selfish biological organism, to advance my own interests and satify my wishes at the expense of others, even others of my own species. What, exactly, would you say to me I choose to mug a helpess old man because I happened to fancy his umbrella and knew I could get away with it? That ‘nature’ forbids it? Morality is precisely that process through which we overcome our vicious natural inclinations by adhering to notions of justice, which, if they mean anything at all, require us to be disinterested.

    So, in your nebulous thought-world, only humans can be persons because it has been decreed that the notion of ‘person’ must be defined so as to apply only to humans. Species membership is in itself a sound basis for the granting or withholding of moral entitlements because, again by decree, it is self-evidently just and right that we should revere the concept of species. (Verily, verily I say unto you, behold the elks in the fields. What they do so shall you do also. And blessed are those who, not finding adequate models in real elks, conjure up imaginary ones to copy instead. ) Rooting moral entitlements in species is fundamentally less arbitrary than the now discredited practice of rooting them in other natural distinctions such as race or gender because the species classifiaction is so intrinsically meaningful. (Why? Well, because those who disagree are just being ‘absurd’ and one need not give them any very rational grounds for supporting this naked proclaimation of in-group bigotry.) And so the dogmas continue, in dready procession, impervious, like all dogmas, to the force reason and argumentation. All of which calls to mind Lewis Carroll’s captain. Like you, he’s a hunter, and also like you, he announces magisterially: ‘What I tell you three times is true!’

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