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Dolphin slaughter in Japan

I am not a vegetarian although I have sympathies with the animal rights movement. Animals have rights that should be protected by humans. This is a plausible ethical position. That almost all humans recognize such rights is implied by the near universal aversion civilized people feel regarding deliberate cruelty to animals. This suggests that animals have at least some rights – the only arguable question is the extent of such rights. Exercising this logic suggests if we are going to kill animals for food then the killing should, at least, avoid unnecessary suffering. That is not a sufficient condition to guarantee legitimate animal rights but it is necessary.

Unnecessary suffering is not avoided in the case of the tragic slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Please take a look. You might also want to look at this whaling clip – killing whales too is not only about limiting their conservation – it is also about inflicting unnecessary suffering.

J.M. Coetzee compares the treatment of animals in a slaughterhouse to the holocaust. This view causes distress to people who lost relatives at the hands of the Nazis, or just to those who appreciate the scale of the Nazi evil. But aspects of Coetzee’s argument make sense.

‘In the 20th Century, a group of powerful and bloody-minded men in Germany hit on the idea of adapting the methods of the industrial stockyard, as pioneered and perfected in Chicago, to the slaughter – or what they preferred to call the processing of human beings.

Of course we cried out in horror when we found out what they had been up to. What a terrible crime to treat human beings like cattle – if we had only known beforehand. But our cry should more accurately have been: What a terrible crime to treat human beings like units in an industrial process. And that cry should have had a postscript: What a terrible crime – come to think of it, a crime against nature – to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process.’

Coetzee states that children offered the brightest hope, he wrote: ‘It takes but one glance into a slaughterhouse to turn a child into a lifelong vegetarian.’ He claims that our hypocrisy in relation to the slaughter of animals is revealed by our attempts to hide the reality of slaughtering animals out-of –sight.

‘Therefore they arrange their lives in such a way that they need be reminded of farms and abattoirs as little as possible, and they do their best to ensure their children are kept in the dark too, because children have tender hearts and are easily moved’.

Coetzee seems to be wrong at least about some Japanese and their children. The sight of a Japanese school kid walking with indifference past an animal writhing in agony in the video is distressing as is the attitude of workers who, while hacking into live dolphins obviously writhing in pain, seem unconcerned that school kids are viewing what is going on.

If you feel like attaching your signature to a petition to the Japanese Prime Minister regarding the dolphin slaughter do so here. You might be able to help shame the Japanese Government into stopping such practices although I have no idea how you change the cultural attitudes of people who see such behavior as reasonable and benign.

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