This Inside-Out China blog posting pours scorn on the notion of animal rights much to the delight of Jason Soon at Catallaxy. The Chinese sometimes have an insensitive way of dealing with animals but I am not surprised that libertarians oppose criticisms of people’s rights to do with non-human life what they like. It accords with their ‘anything goes’ philosophy – to do otherwise would be interfering with their precious individual rights and to offer what are essentially paternalistically imposed moral restrictions on such rights. Libertarians see themselves as having the right to bear arms and to kill and maim provided they do not offend Pigou – who only considered human suffering in his analysis of external costs. Who could criticise?
But yes obviously I do criticise. I am not a vegetarian but a carnivore. However I resolutely oppose cruelty to animals and find despicable the killing of sentient beings for sport and the casual disregard of animal suffering and death. I assert the almost universally agreed on proposition that animals do have rights. That this is the case is obvious – even libertarians will dislike the callous cruelty displayed in the Chinese clip. Thus by consensus animals do have rights – the question is where to draw the line on such rights. My line is somewhere short of giving animals the same rights as humans but certainly to give them more rights than displayed by the Chinese sadists in the clip or those assigned by the nitwits at the Inside-out China blog.
When we kill animals for their food or other products it should be a painless death and animal lives should not be a monotone stream of suffering. In fact, for me, things go well beyond this – to the extent that animals derive pleasure from their existence – evidence convinces me they are capable of such enjoyment – I am happier, so as an economist I am interested in promoting as far as it is possible a joyous life for animals as well as humans. Animal utilities enter into my social welfare function.
In my view there is value to the notion of animal rights. The libertarian opponents of animal rights are ‘barking out’ an ideology that reflects their defective reason, their callous disregard for non-human suffering and their posturing to defend foolish values that promotes laissez faire in clearly inappropriate situations.
BTW look at the discussion that follows the post mentioned at Catallaxy. This site was once one of the better blogs in Australia. What has happened?
Update: For those of you too lazy to read the Inside-Out China blog article I refer to I excerpt some bits:
‘Western folk, to a greater or lesser degree, believe animals have rights. ….They empathize with animals. They value animals as contributing something to our environment greater than their immediate utility to humans. I don’t. I feel the same way about gorillas as most Westerners feel about chickens. Dolphins? Yum. Dogs? Can’t eat my fill. And don’t even get me started on minke whales, the cockroaches of the ocean.
…… there was far too much human suffering going on for me to give up any of my concern or empathy for animals…… Who cares about cattle when real people, human beings, are dying like cattle?
….If Western people want non-Westerners to be nicer to animals, they should support things that create and spread wealth—for example, free trade and globalization. …. Once China’s per-capita GDP gets high enough, Chinese, like WASPS, may love animals, too’. (my bold)
In short who cares about animals – they have no legitimate rights once it is acknowledged that ‘we’ humans are suffering. If you want us to stop being cruel improve our well-being. This is the article that commenter libertarian Jason Soon says he recommended because it was ‘well-written’. Note the view of minke whales and animals generally. This argument is not the reason libertarians defend the right to have guns and to hunt and kill animals for sport. That’s just good old-fashioned ‘doin’ your own thing’ and who could be paternalistic enough to want to deny that? Me, for one. (121)