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Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Animal Suffering Doesn't Matter

Or more to the point, why morality must be based on human values.  Roger Scruton:

Perhaps the most disturbing feature of Linzey’s position is his endorsement of the British government’s argument for the ban on fur-farming. This ban was justified on the grounds that the rearing of captive animals for a “luxury” product is an offence against “public morality”. It is true that the law must, at some level, respond to genuine moral concerns, and cannot be simply out of line with the ordinary conscience. But what exactly is public morality, and who is to define it? 

What happened to Mill’s famous argument in On Liberty that the coercion of the criminal law can be justified only in order to prevent us from harming others, and never in order to force our compliance to a moral code? What happened to the Wolfenden Report, disapproving the judgment, in DPP v. Shaw, which held that it is a crime to offend “public morals”? What happened to the argument for the decriminalization of homosexuality, despite widespread moral disapproval? What happened to the sovereignty of the individual, which British law has, over the centuries, striven to define and protect, and which Linzey is covertly relying on in urging us to treat animals as individuals, entitled to a life and and fulfilment of their own? And why is it so sinful to breed animals for their outer layers, and not for the stuff inside? 

The MP who introduced the Bill to ban fur-farming often wears woollen cardigans and leather shoes. But this, it seems, is an offence only against the private morality of those who stick to animal-friendly but environmentally destructive materials such as nylon and plastic. The sad thing is that Linzey either doesn’t see, or doesn’t care, where the use of this kind of argument is leading. He is right to want to protect animals from people. But people also need to be protected from people, not least from the prigs and puritans who dislike their way of life. The liberal thinking that was until recently enshrined in our law was the most successful means ever devised to achieve this.

Posted by Richard Anderson on January 11, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

"The liberal thinking that was until recently enshrined in our law was the most successful means ever devised to achieve this."

That seems likely a pretty disingenuous perspective; at least in the context of Canada and Britain there has never been less tolerance for "morality in government" than there is today. Even over the past decade it's easy to track the progress of expansion of non-economic civil liberty [i]especially with respect to issues previously criminalized or regulated based on moral concerns[/i]. So, we see an end to laws against sodomy, laws restricting the legitimacy of same-sex unions, the end of overt religion in government (ie. Sunday closures), and so on.

To me the idea that there was some time when classical liberalism reigned supreme rings pretty false. There has never been such a time, so lets not pretend to mourn it.

Posted by: i saw dasein | 2010-01-11 8:34:32 AM


To me the idea that there was some time when classical liberalism reigned supreme rings pretty false. There has never been such a time, so lets not pretend to mourn it.

Posted by: i saw dasein | 2010-01-11 8:34:32 AM

You are probably right about this. But we are getting further from it daily it seems.

Posted by: TM | 2010-01-11 9:38:35 AM


i saw dasein is probably right. I see, however, no reason to strive for something because it has never truly been achieved.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-01-11 9:43:13 AM


"I see, however, no reason NOT to strive for something ..."

Posted by: Charles | 2010-01-11 12:23:16 PM



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