“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The ends and means of animal rights.

The argument about ends justifying means goes back at least as far as Machiavelli. What interests me more is not whether or not ends justify means but the thought that perhaps means can justify ends. I frequently come across actions, means, that are inspiring, exciting, or just good fun but that are aiming toward ends that may leave me completely cold. Nowhere is this more true than in the, to my mind, murky world of animal rights. Not that I approve of all the things that animal rightists do, far from it, there is after all nothing particularly good about random anonymous attacks on people who are unfortunate enough to work for companies who happen to be associated with some other company that the activists disapprove of, but the inventiveness and disregard for the law has to be admired. It's just a shame that all that effort is not aimed at fighting for human rights.
Don't get me wrong, I like animals. There have been individual animals that I have been really fond of. We are animal free now but over the years have had the usual dogs and cats and have kept poultry, pigs and goats. I won't even begin to go into the various bizarre pets I kept as a kid and today leaning on a fence and contemplating livestock remains a favourite pastime. I'm sure that you get my drift by now - I'm OK with animals. It's just that I don't confuse them with people, or think that they have rights in the same way that people do.
One of the many things about New Labour that had me spitting feathers was the fact that they moved heaven and earth to ban hunting but did nothing to repeal the anti- working class and anti- trade union legislation that was a legacy of Thatcher. More parliamentary time was devoted to debating foxhunting than was spent considering whether or not to invade Iraq for God's sake. Vivisection, that other great animal rights battleground, is no doubt unpleasant. We would all rather not know about it. But we all quite like the benefits of it none the less.
The reality is that like all creatures, we interact with and have a relationship with, other species, and I think that that relationship will always involve suffering. Animal welfare (as opposed to animal rights) is about keeping that suffering to a minimum and that seems to me thoroughlly laudable both for the benefit of animals and for our own happiness. Animal rights? Love the bottle and the balaclavas but the ends I fear are nothing but a pile of the proverbial.

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