Saturday, July 4, 2009
Wobbly Times number 10
Animal rights is a human concept. Humans are animals too. Humans create contemporary conceptual systems of morality which reflect their own sense of decency and they do this within already constructed systems of morality which have come to them historically through the cultures in which they have been born. Inevitably, there are clashes between people creating new conceptual systems of morality and those for whom the old systems seem quite adequate. Animal rights represent such a clash of moral conceptualisation.
Some in the animal rights movement contend that non-human animals also have the conceptual tools to become moral. They point to an animal's ability to mourn, for instance. But, mourning, I would argue, is more a recognition by an animal of an emotional lack, a hole in one's life left by the death of a significant other. This recognition is not based on a moral system of concepts. Other animals don't write TEN COMMANDMENTS or respect eating codes like those followed and thought up by the Jains in India or vegetarians in general. If a non-human animal is a vegetarian it is not the result of that animal following a moral or culturally based culinary code of conduct.
Most people today are not animal rights advocates. To many of those who are animal rights advocates, it seems that most humans are 'speciesists', a pejorative term aimed at people who are perceived as being not as morally advanced as those in the animal rights movement at best and immoral or evil at worst. This stance leads to a kind of sectarianism which can be observed between peoples of varying religious doctrines. As with all sectarianism, the people of one ideological persuasion see people of another ideological persuasion as inferior and sometimes, outright 'evil'. Evil is a pejorative term which is often used to describe people who are under the influence of another ideological tradition. Of course, 'evil' must be stamped out, condemned and avoided at all costs, lest one become corrupted. Corruption is a term most often used by people who are immersed in an Idealist philosophical perspective. Idealists put form before content. The material world is usually seen as a corruption of the form of perfection, the Ideal. For the most part, animal rights ideologists are Idealists.
Animal rights advocates don't see animals, other than humans, as being evil. Why are other animals not capable of being evil? Many animals kill other animals and eat them. If human animals eat other animals they are considered to be violating the AR code of conduct. The implicit conclusion one must come to is that animal rights advocates really don't believe that non-human animals are capable of creating moral codes to live by. Thus, other animals are exempt from moral condemnation.
The historical evolution of moral codes shows that advances in ethics become possible when advances in the social relations of production come about. Where once, human beings viewed cannibalism as natural, even demanded by their religious moral codes, it is now considered 'evil' and 'backward', practiced by deranged, psycho killers who put ads in Berlin newspapers for masochist volunteers, volunteers to become food. The same is true for chattel slavery. Where once an intellectual, a philosopher, as advanced in his thinking as Aristotle, could argue the case for slavery, it is now considered an 'evil' which is universally condemned by all civilised cultures.
Perhaps, as humans are able to change the mode of production from one based on the exploitation of humans by humans into one which is based on the condition of political equality between humans who administer the means of production for their own use and need, the moral codes which could evolve out of that condition could very well include the notion of not consuming, caging or otherwise exploiting animals. Until then though, the animal rights movement seems condemned to pursue the path which all of their Idealist brethren and sisters have done throughout history, the path of cajoling their 'less morally enlightened' fellows from the monasteries and nunneries of their own moral high ground.