Tuesday, May 30, 2006


That was an interesting discussion on Yakety Yak about animal rights. I missed the first 5 minutes or so because I was fiddling with my RealPlayer and wondering why it wouldn't tune in. Thanks Calsifer for sending in my blog entry. It was strange that they read it just before I went on air.

It was quite interesting that people were saying that animal rights activists if left to go to the extreme would change the world and not allow other people to eat meat, or have pets, or a whole range of other things. In every realm of human activity, there will be extremists. There are people who believe that to protect an unborn baby, it's permissible to kill other people or blow up a clinic. There are people who believe that to protect the purity of one race, it is fine to exterminate another. Some others think that in the name of religion, it's acceptable to kill. There are people who have subverted every human activity to extreme ends, including religion, ethnicity and just about anything you can think of.

It also predisposes that people would impose their beliefs on others and not take into account what they feel at all.

So why judge people by the worst? We can always look into the abyss of the soul and see the worst that humans are capable of - or we can try and find the positive and try to be more like that.

The same best impulses that drive what is purest about humans are the same that we should extend towards animals - compassion, empathy and an awareness of another's suffering. If we can find it in ourselves to extend it to those who are most helpless, whether they be human or animal, then it speaks volumes of our humanity.


Blogger calsifer said...

I like your clarity of thought, Dawn.

Too bad the general public insists on painting people who do care about what we're inflicting on animals in the same light as terrorists, when there's so much else that's really 'wrong' with how we humans do and accept things in this world.

Re: If we can find it in ourselves to extend it to those who are most helpless, whether they be human or animal, then it speaks volumes of our humanity.

True. Sadly, the same when we can't too, which is still the reality now. Oh well, at least we're trying.

Thanks for blogging about it. =)

30/5/06 1:56 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I agree with what Louis said on the programme - that it's really about giving people all the information to make an informed decision. Most people don't know all the facts about animal welfare - and why should they? They do have many other pressing concerns in their daily lives.

I do believe that given the full facts, the vast majority of people will react in a manner that is humane and kind. I do not believe that most people set out to deliberately inflict suffering. This is why, bringing it back to TNRM, most people do feel that killing a cat is cruel. Many people do not know there is an alternative and are more than willing to try the alternative out when you explain that it will solve the problem in an effective and humane manner.

On our part, we have to try and explain TNRM to people who may not have all the facts. We must not assume that anyone else who doesn't feel the same way we do is an animal hater.

30/5/06 2:14 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Yeah, of course. I agree it's true for the majority of people.

The thing is that, many people also do not like to hear negative or unpleasant things, and would rather choose to believe a happier, but untrue, alternative.

Eg the urban myth that authorities react to cat complaints by sending cats into sanctuary.

We came across someone holding stubbornly to it while out feeding once. He claimed people who say the cats die are lying. He also claimed to have the 'inside' scoop and says he guarantees it's true cats caught are rescued.

Worse, he's going around helping to perpetuate the myth!

Couldn't get him to see or talk sense at all.

We lost a lot of 'blood' that day.

30/5/06 2:24 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Poor things - I do agree. Some people wilfully don't want to know because then they might feel bad.

30/5/06 2:27 PM  
Blogger vegancat said...

I wonder how some people can justify their speculation that the "lack of intelligence" is an excuse to "misuse" animals.
The problem is the misuse of intelligence without connection to the heart. How can a person with sufficient cognitive function not be moved by the cries of animals?
Sometimes when I drove a cat in a carrier or trap to the vet for sterilization and I saw and heard the frantic desperation to "escape", images of the countless cats trapped and sent to their death came to mind...the immense amount of fear! Emotional fear is far worse than the final physical pain of being killed.
And the intelligence in my heart said..this is morally wrong and I will do what I can to stop the un-necessary suffering. If "intelligence" as defined by a human is a criteria to "do as we like" with "un-intelligible" beings, then do we also take away the rights of human beings born retarded (some far worse than animals, so to speak) and what about people inflicted with dementia or other serious brain disorders that reduce them to vegetable state. Do we then kill these "dumb" beings as we would kill animals?

30/5/06 6:16 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Good point Vegancat - and who says that animals are dumb anyway? For example, they have found that primates have performed with the intelligence of a three to four year old in certain tests.

30/5/06 6:51 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Yeah, and dolphins at certain research facilities have actually gotten to that same point as primates learning ASL (American Sign Langugage). Like the great apes, they are able to utilise human language rules, correctly I might add, when communicating with their trainers! Also, they've been determined to have their own identifying unique sonic and/or bubble sequence, ie they have names, like humans.

If that's not cognitive, what is?

So whoever says animals don't have rights because they can't think... either need re-evaluate their thinking or strike off langugage as a hallmark of a thinking being herewith.

30/5/06 7:47 PM  
Blogger vegancat said...

The word "dumb" was used by me because of a society in India called something like my dear dumb friends but I can't seem to find it now from a search. Of course the word "dumb" is used without the connotation of being mentally dull but the inability to vocalize for oneself. I would frown if someone refer to hearing impaired as dumb and mute :)
I did try to pick up Sign Language from the SAD sometime back and I can vouch that it needs pretty good "intelligent" power of memory to learn! So primates and dolphins who can sign are certainly more "intelligent" than many human beings, so maybe they can think of "culling" the human species......and the way some of us litter ...just show we are real "pests"....just to go any part of Singapore, esp. the MRT stations and tell me who is the "most" species!

30/5/06 11:32 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Yes I did get that :) There's also a dumb friends society in the US.

31/5/06 12:11 AM  
Anonymous yskat said...

The idea of "intelligence" is a construct anyway - not an absolute "truth". Recent scholarship has pointed out that our modern understanding of what constitutes "intelligence" has roots in European Enlightenment. This understanding privelges certain things, such as logical thinking and speech, and marginalises others, like playing tug-of-war with your fingers. There is therefore nothing "natural" about "intelligence" at all, its existence merely allows certain groups of living things (e.g. ivy league educated politicians) to be considered more superior than the other (e.g. beggers, earthworms, etc). Since the 1920s, a body of scholarship emerged that allows us to question the meaning of "humanity" and thus that of "intelligence". I encourage those who are interested in human-animal relationship to read the writings of Bataille, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, not because they deal directly with animal issues, but because they question our understanding of "humanity" as a privileged category.

31/5/06 10:56 AM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Yeah, good point, Vegancat.

I get the feelnig though, when people use the word dumb on animals, it often employ the duble-fold meanings of mute and non-intelligence.

v interesting. Would you mind to share the full names of these scholars/authors? And some suggested titles suitalbe for a layman? Thanks!

31/5/06 12:14 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks Yskat!

Calsifer, if you'd like some work specifically on animal rights, you might want to try Steven Wise's "Rattling the Cage". He also wrote a followup which I haven't started reading yet. For a short introduction, I like the "A Very Short Introduction to Animal Rights" which is part of the "A very short introduction" series which I like!

31/5/06 12:26 PM  
Anonymous yskat said...

Dear Calsifer: their full names are Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida & Gilles Deleuze. They are generally considered to be the "heavy weights" of modern thought. Their essays and speeches cover a great many things and have been used by other people to make all kinds of arguments. I am not an expert on any one of these writers and only read what I need to. I personally find Foucault most accessible. Many consider him a "high priest" of humanities & social sciences while others are horrified by that thought. He is arguably most well known for his theories on power & knowledge, which you can read in vol. 3 (power) of "essential works of Foucault 1954-1984" edited by James D. Faubion, translated by Robert Hurley & others. Bataille was a significant influence on Foucault. I like his collection of essays in "Against Architecture: the writings of Georges Bataille" edited by Denis Hollier. You can find both books in the national library.

Warning: these essays are very heavy going and for the most part say nothing at all about non-human animals. But I find that some of the things said in there offer us ways to think about our relationship with the environment & animals in fairly fundamental ways.

31/5/06 5:19 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Thanks, Dawn and yskat,

I think I'll try Steven Wise then, I don't think i'm ready right now for Michel Foucault and gang. I'd never get past the fist chappie of writings by the looks of it. But thank you, yskat for taking the time to respond.

Oh, I think Michael Scully and Peter Singer are two easy-to-get bio-ethics writers. Some of their writings are online, just google.. or yahoo.

31/5/06 8:20 PM  

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