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Roderick

Legal rights for dolphins and whales

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http://www.wired.com...etacean-rights/

This article on Wired (through The Mary Sue) speaks of a process underway to obtain legal rights for dolphins and whales (in the US) as the world's first 'non-human persons'. Other animal species up for debate are, obviously, chimpansees and other races of monkey/ape.

I think this is terrific if it could come true. It's long been an established scientific fact that these animals in particular (and many other animals in general) have complex inner feelings, a good or great degree of self-consciousness and are capable of communication and developing relationships. The question posed here is how do we classify a person? Is it purely a matter of chromosomes, or are intangible notions such as the above list the important thing?

It reminds me of the debate that used to exist centuries ago about the 'soul' and whether (black) slaves had one, and therefore should be treated as people. The notion then seemed just as absurd to most as acknowledging dolphins and whales as 'people' now, but the difference is much smaller than you'd think. When it comes down to it, it's all elitist, speciesist snobbery.

(Concurrently and as an aside; these thoughts were what made me gave up on eating meat a year ago: I refuse to eat creatures capable of higher thought and the ability to form complicated relationships, which includes mammals and birds. I still eat fish, and if I had a taste for them would eat insects and worms, since I consider those, perhaps slightly capriciously but with some science behind it, as a lower form of existence. I'm not claiming to be morally completely pure here, but there is a method to the madness.)

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This is awesome, good luck to them. Whales and dolphins are smart as fuck. They can be trained to understand sign language, can transfer the idea of a body part on a human corresponding to their body part i.e your hand is the same thing as my flipper etc. And whale song, come on. What beautiful creatures.

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Dolphins are evil. They rape females and infants, and also kill members of other species just for the hell of it. Intelligent, crazy, assholes.

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After hearing many reports the past few years about performing dolphins in captivity and not even seeing the documentary, The Cove, I'm convinced these animals should be left alone in the wild. I feel like if any animal is intelligent enough to realize their captivity and have biological needs to have large amounts of open space, we need to leave them out of zoos and funparks unless there is endangerment to their habitat.

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I actually have nothing against this, but I don't think it is far-fetched to imagine that if this works, it won't be long before more and more animals get these rights. Decades down the line, even cows! Where will I get my meat? I know that I can survive without meat, but I don't want to!

It's also really weird to imagine a world in which meat is outlawed. It's such a huge part of human society!

How weird.

More relevant: I always used to like dolphins. My favorite animal when I was a kid! I've since learned they are, in fact, wild animals. Crazy, wild animals!

EDIT:

Wait, if they're going to be classified as persons, does that mean they're subject to the restrictions on bestiality? A ban on wholphins everywhere!

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monkey/ape

Dude.

insects and worms

DUDE.

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I don't really understand what you're getting at, Ben.

In any case, Twig, I think it would be entirely reasonable, and desirable, for more animals to be included down the line. If eating meat should be abolished in due course, I think that would benefit us as a species in a million different ways both biological, cultural and spiritual. Again, you and a lot of others might see that as totally crazy and super unnatural, but there are many instances of culture changing in a profound way unthinkable to people at the time.

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Except meat is goddamn delicious and I'd rather set myself on fire than to never eat meat again, my taste receptors simply adore the taste of dead animal flesh; I can't help it!

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I'm not going to argue either way because I don't really give a fuck. No one will touch my meat until the day I die! Wait...

I'm just saying it'd be weird. The very idea of living in a world where meat is banned is just so utterly bizarre! This was the first thing I saw this morning after sitting at my computer. It was a weird way to wake up!

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All I'm getting from this is that there is such a thing as a False Killer Whale, and that's more than I need to know.

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I have a hard time rationalizing my eating of meat, aside from that I'm kind of weak in that regard. I've never been able to come up with an ethical defence for it, but continue to eat meat anyway. I've at least migrated over to free range, organic, etc etc, in the hopes that if I'm eating animals that were at least treated well and supporting said treatment, I'm at least not doing nothing. I'm also ok with being consumed myself after my death, should it one day be considered halfway acceptable by society, because I figure that to not be would be hugely hypocritical. If they want to start giving animals rights, I'm all for it.

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You have... a hard time... rationalizing eating... meat.

OirCO.gif

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Why is that head explode-y? I can't come up with any kind of real ethical justification for it (beyond things like shrimp, anyway, which barely have any kind of nervous system), but enjoy the taste and continue eating it mostly because I always have. I have no real objection to giving it up, only the fact that I really like the taste. Conversely, I can think of all sorts of arguments for why I shouldn't eat meat, but seem to conveniently forget them around meal time. I consider this a moral failing on my part, but have adjusted my habits (see the above free range and so forth) so that I can live with it, at least for now. One day, that may no longer be good enough and I'll go full veg(or at least pisc)atarian. That day has not yet arrived, but hell I may like myself better when it does.

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What do morals have to do with eating meat? Cows, pigs, chickens and horses are not sentient, who gives even the slightest shit? That's completely insane.

E: I'm sorry, look, it probably seems perfectly sane to people not to eat meat because of how the animals have been treated or whatever your particular hangup but no amount of discourse or information about how they torture the cow for twenty consecutive moons before roasting it in a light hollandaise sauce as the boy who raised it watches is going to change my mind that you are insane.

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It's a matter of what you want to consider "sentience," as far as I'm concerned, and I'm never fussed by anyone as long as they're consistent in their application of whatever rule they want to go with. Some human beings with particular mental disorders are less capable of what is commonly considered thought than an adult pig, as are pretty much all infants. If you have no objection to eating them as well, then fine, we're done here. I have no problem with you. As I said, I'm cool with being eaten myself when I'm done with my body. If your rationale for why we shouldn't eat something boils down to "it's human" (fine, I guess, as it is at least a set boundary, but as I see it there are groups of humans that I could make a more convincing case for eating than some animals) or "it has a soul" (I don't think anything does, so try another tactic if you want to convince me) then I really do think you need to take a step back. Sentience has no deliniated boundaries. Is it self awareness? Is it the construction of a personal narrative, or can that self awareness be moment-to-moment? Saying something "is sentient" without at least providing YOUR definition of sentience is completely useless. And I'm reasonably confident that there are some people, who we consider people, who would probably not fit into your definition of sentience.

Again, I do eat meat. I do have a lot of questions surrounding the practice that I do not feel I've personally resolved to my satisfaction though.

EDIT: removed a sentence because I hate "slippery slope" arguments and didn't want to be accused of making one. I think it was irrelevant to the overall point anyway.

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You don't kill and eat people. That's it. Even the dumbest, most flammably idiotic person is off limits. If you find yourself a day from starvation with a bunch of fresh corpses around, fine. My definition of sentience would clinically disqualify certain mentally handicapped people from the "Don't eat" side of the chart, but they're still human, and that's what counts.

I'll put it this way, I thank whatever omniscient beings may or may not exist that whatever ancestors we had didn't suddenly moralize over killing the local apex predator. My argument is basically a "Top of the food chain, fuck 'em" argument, yes, as well as a cultural taboo one.

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Orvidos, do you really think cows have no sentience? If we follow the dictionary's description of sentience as the capacity for sensation or feeling, then you should learn that especially cows, pigs and other mammals that are extremely close to us on the evolutionary scale have it. Both physically (they have a complex nervous system) and 'culturally'. You need only hang around with a cow (or any mammal for that matter) for a day to see this for yourself: they have character, they have moods, they have complex relationships with each other, they feel pain, they feel fear, sorrow, anxiety, tranquility, playfulness. And not just basic emotions too: I've experienced rabbits fake being offended and sulk to gain emotional leverage over others or their keepers. To claim that these animals do not possess sentience is naive.

Now, you might be able to claim they are not self aware, which is quite a different thing. You might have somewhat more of a point there, but like Miffy said, there are really no hard boundaries to that. The article I linked to is a sure sign that science is only just figuring out what goes on in the inner lives of animals, sparking very real and very legitimate questions about whether we should give legal rights to whales, dolphins and chimps. Not owning up to the existence of this science and treating animals like objects (who cares if we kill them and eat them?) is like denying evolution: you're sticking your head in the sand for your own convenience.

As for the topic of eating meat: morality has everything to with that. There are many instances in both the animal and human kingdom of cannibalism. If it's natural to them, why not do it yourself? You say 'humans are off-limits', which is in itself a purely moral decision. That's where the line lies for you. This line can shift in either direction to envelop more species or even less. Pescetarians like myself have chosen that the line lies with fish, vegetarians choose not to eat any animals and vegans have decided even animal products are a no-go.

The argument that eating meat is OK because our ancestors did it is poppycock. Eating meat was necessary for survival back then, and is necessary for survival for many animals today. For (most) modern humans, however, eating meat is a luxury and easily done away with because the tradition is superceded by philosophical, scientific and moral insight. We now have the choice of eating meat or not, and the nasty thing about having a choice is that it always goes along with the obligation to make it consciously. That means understanding what the choice is, what the moral implications are and squaring it with yourself.

Miffy; if I'm reading this correctly, you are halfway decided that you'll be a pescetarian or vegetarian in the future and you're just waiting for some fresh day where you'll wake up and get a sign from the clouds. Why not just say 'fuck it' right now and follow up? For the record; I'm not proselytising here. People may eat what they want. I just get the feeling you need a nudge towards what you've already thought of yourself. I stopped eating meat just out of the blue one evening and never looked back. I liked meat just fine before, but I never miss it now. It hasn't been a struggle at all, it's just flipping a switch and you start viewing meats as 'inedibles'.

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And what is your definition of sentience, Orv?

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NOTE: Rodi's post went up while I was writing this:

I'm sure there's a point to be made regarding the fact that you distinguish humans so readily from other animals in your first paragraph and then use a "we beat all the other animals!" food chain argument in the second, but I doubt you'd be swayed and the nature of internet arguing means that doubtless at least one of us has already accidentally grossly misinterpreted something anyway. If you want to boil it down to a competitive evolutionary thing though, I'd think (hope?) that a victor who at least treats those defeated with respect would be superior to one who slaughters indiscriminately and claims "we won, fuck 'em."

As an aside, it's been astonishing to me how many threads on this forum lately have had people saying pretty much exactly the things that I used to say a few years ago before school started forcing me to read dissenting articles. Unfortunately, my own ability to explain what I found compelling enough about the arguments to incorporate parts of them into my views is lacking and I seem to end up fumbling my way through mis-representing key points. I should probably stay out of these things.

At any rate, as you say "they're still human, and that's what counts." If that counts for you, I'm cool with that. Personally, I don't see why it should count over other criteria (believing in many cases that this is a secular adoption of the "it has a soul" argument, which I think is nonsense) and this is why I struggle with justifying my eating meat, but that's not something that a few posts at one thirty in the morning is going to change either of our minds on. I certainly have the same gut reaction as you on the people front, but I don't like to trust my gut without anything else to back it up and have never seen anything compelling enough to do so in this matter. If you have what you consider to be good enough reason for this to be your criteria, as I said above, at least it's a definite boundary (as opposed to sentience, the invocation of which always riles up my arguin' blood). Beyond that, arguing that we shouldn't eat people is not the same as arguing that we should eat meat. That's the other side of why I struggle, as there are at least a few animals I would say are completely off limits as they are just as, if not more, capable than some people. Either they're all fair game or none of them are. To me, arguing against eating people is arguing against eating those animals as well. Please note: I am not trying to argue against you here. This is merely me expanding on why I believe the way that I do for the sake of clarity. I say we accept this point of divergence and call a truce, yes?

Rodi: I lean towards piscetarianism in most of my life right now anyway, but it's something of a gradual transition. I only eat meat (hell, including fish) a couple of times a week, but it is still something I look forward to. The way you describe your own transition, you just didn't care about it and so you gave it up. I'm quite envious, actually. My partner was the same way. She didn't like eating meat as a child so as soon as she started buying her own groceries she was instantly a vegetarian. I absolutely love the taste and, as I've said, am somewhat weak on this front. I mediate it by keeping my meat meals as cruelty-free as possible, but giving it up entirely just isn't something I'm ready for at this point. I'm trying to slowly wean myself from it, but for now the situation is something I'm ok with.

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And what is your definition of sentience, Orv?

Anything that can read Idle Banter without sticking its foot/frond/tentacle/paw/hoof/anemone/antennae in its mouth on a regular basis. We're all weevils as far as I'm concerned.

(This is where I stop having opinions on anything other than games, and consider that a Ban Me If.)

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Anything that can read Idle Banter without sticking its foot in its mouth on a regular basis. We're all weevils as far as I'm concerned.

Hear, hear. Hopefully at least you don't think I'm insane for being troubled by this now. That was my main goal in responding in the first place.

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Ha, ok fine. Can we assume Orv meant "post" rather than read? You really want to nitpick that much?

Seriously though, good catch. Got a legitimate laugh from me.

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