Mike Kueber's Blog

September 28, 2011

Animals have feelings, too.

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 5:38 am
Tags: , ,

Many years ago, the Kueber boys earned spending money during the long winter months in North Dakota by trapping muskrats.  We would set traps in the muskrat huts, and then check the traps daily.  When we were lucky enough to catch a muskrat in our trap, we would use a hammer to hit the muskrat in the head to kill it, and then put it in a pile to await its eventual sale.

In hindsight, the killing of the muskrats seems almost barbaric, but at that time, we had no empathy for the animal.  Man was at the top of the food chain, and that was all that mattered.

Earlier this week, however, I read a Room-For-Debate article in the NY Times that touched on the subject of animal rights – i.e., the difference between banning the sale of fur and allowing the sale of leather.   The article focused on the killing of animals and provided six different viewpoints:

  1. If we accept animals as sentient beings, how can we personally justify their exploitation, including their killing, for food, clothing, entertainment, science or any other reason?
  2. Most of us accept that imposing “unnecessary” pain, suffering and death on animals is wrong. Whatever “necessity” means in this context, it implies that it is wrong to impose suffering or death for reasons of pleasure, amusement, or convenience. But those are the only justifications we have for imposing suffering and death on over 56 billion animals (not counting fish) we kill annually worldwide for food. No one maintains we need to eat animal products for optimal health, and there is a growing consensus that animal agriculture is an ecological disaster.  We eat animals because they taste good. And if that’s O.K., what’s wrong with wearing fur? We need as a society to think seriously about our institutionalized animal use.  Efforts like the West Hollywood fur ‘ban’ will not get us any closer to that goal.
  3. Using animals, including their fur or organs, to improve, even entertain, people is justified given the relatively greater importance of people versus other animals. There is a hierarchy in nature, and denying it is not warranted.
  4. In truth, there is little distinction between wearing fur and wearing leather.  Both involve animals being treated inhumanely, dying in a not particularly pleasant way, and then being turned into a product. But that doesn’t mean the vote in West Hollywood to ban the sale of fur products is an empty gesture. It highlights the fact that cruelty is taking place, and for those who are passionate about animal rights, it is a small step in the right direction.
  5. It is unlikely that the West Hollywood law will suffer a similar fate. If the law is challenged, judges will probably conclude that there is at least some “rational basis” for it, such as the need to protect fur-bearing animals from overhunting. Nor will it matter that the law bans the sale of fur clothing, but permits the sale of leather items. Such distinctions are also subject only to minimal scrutiny. Nonetheless, the debate over this case and others like it could help increase public awareness of the need to enforce constitutional protections for economic liberty.
  6. West Hollywood’s ban on sales of fur is a move in the right direction. However, we must work to ban the sales of leather and hides, too. So yes, there is some hypocrisy in the ban, but it’s better than no ban at all.

Only two of the arguments (#3 and #5) suggest that animals can be killed to service the desires of human beings.  The others posit than such killing is unethical.

Call me barbaric, but I think there is a food chain and that animals are destined to eat and be eaten.  If cattle were not destined to be food, they
would have no reason to live.