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Chad Love: Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights

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May 22, 2009

Chad Love: Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights

By Chad Love

Chances are you've never heard of Peter Singer.  He doesn't throw red paint on fur-wearing celebrities, he doesn't dress up in animal costumes and I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to be eaten with a side of cole slaw after he dies
 
But in 1975 Singer, a philosopher and bioethics professor at   Princeton University, published Animal Liberation, which despite  its title is a book I highly recommend every thinking hunter read.  
 
Why? Because hunting is more than a sport. It is a belief   system, and the best way to strengthen your belief system is to  constantly  and rigorously challenge it with opposing ideas. Singer's  ideas on animal  rights are reasoned and thought-provoking arguments  worthy of  debate.
 
Here's a New York Times Nicholas Kristof column in which Singer is asked about the recent passage of factory-farm  animal rights  legislation in California. 
 
From  the story:
In recent years, the issue has entered the  mainstream,  but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the  suffering  of animals, the question remains where to draw lines. I eagerly  pushed  Mr. Singer to find his boundaries. “Do you have any compunctions  about  swatting a cockroach?” I asked him. “Not much,” he replied, citing   reasons to doubt that insects are capable of much suffering. Mr. Singer  is  somewhat unsure about shellfish, although he mostly gives them the  benefit  of the doubt and tends to avoid eating them. Free-range eggs  don’t seem  offensive to him, but there is the awkwardness that even  wholesome  egg-laying operations depend on the slaughtering of males,  since a male  chick is executed for every female allowed to survive and  lay  eggs.

The key phrase in that story, and the issue that  separates  Singer from the knee-jerk morality of many animal-rights  believers, is the  question of where to draw the line. Singer's  philosophy isn't rooted in  absolutes. There is a nuance absent in the  ranting of kooks like Ingrid  Newkirk. As an example,  here's his  response (in a different interview)  to a question about  hunting.
 
Basketball player Stephon  Marbury was widely criticized for telling reporters, "We don't say  anything  about people who shoot deer or shoot other animals. You know,  from what I  hear, dog fighting is a sport." Do you think his comparison  was  valid?

(Singer) Well, the  aim of a hunter is to kill the  animal with as little pain as  possible--or it should be. That's the ethic that you get in sport  hunting, at least. I'm not condoning or supporting sport hunting but there is a distinction in that the good hunter will shoot  the animal in a vital place where it will drop dead immediately. It won't suffer. It  seems pretty clear that the dogs that didn't fight well that Michael  Vick and his associates killed were not killed instantly at all. They  were drowned, for example. Drowning is obviously a much more  distressing  death than being shot with a bullet through the brain or in the   heart.

So my question  is this: Where do you as a hunter draw the line between animal welfare and  animal rights?

Comments (17)

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from 60256 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I completely agree with his last statement. You have to look at it that way.

Nate

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from Sharkfin wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I agree that there is a huge difference and everything needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis. In hunting, even archery hunting the animal is dispatched as quickly as possible. Now I'm not saying that there are not exceptions, accidents, bad shots that probably should not have been made to begin with. But forcing animals of any kind to battle for one's enjoyment is a deliberate action with full knowledge that there will be injuries that will cause pain. I don't know for sure but I would imagine that the people that promote these fights don't want them to end quickly. I remember seeing some of Mike Tyson's fights that ended very quickly and the crowd was disapointed. They want to see a battle. They want it to be a good fight that goes the distance. Human fighters today enter the ring by choice. They themselves might want a quick fight but the crowd wants it to go on for a while. Do people that watch animals fight want the same thing? That is a desire to see those animals suffer for some time. When I shoot any animal with my gun or my bow I want that animal to expire immediately. I don't want it to suffer for two reasons. One is out of respect for the animal. The other is selfish, I don't want the guilt of knowing that I caused an animal to suffer needlessly and I don't want to track the animal far.

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from 60256 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Actually i have a very low tolerance for animal welfare. We kill the mice in our house, the rabbits in our yard, but we would never dogfight. That is the stupidest thing ever.
Your comment about the sport of hunting being a belief system, I don't know if I believe that. I can't figure it out without thinking it through, though. My dad has taught me that we hunt for the love of it, but it is also a means of feeding the family. I think that hunting could be called a means of survival instead of belief system. Some people would say that you would have to believe that hunting is that kind of a means, which would make it a belief.
Looking at it that way, I would have to say that it is a means of survival instead of belief.

Nate

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from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

If you kill something to feed your family you are a hunter. If you kill something not to eat but to mount on your wall you are a trophy hunter. If you kill something that is in someway disturbing your homestead you are a homeowner. If you kill something that is killing off you livestock you are a rancher. If you pay to watch and bet on animals forced to fight you are a peice of s*%#. That is as simple as I can lump it all together.

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from ejunk wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

like nate, I'm not so sure about your assertation that hunting is "a belief system." I think hunters and outdoorsman consturct an ethical framework for themselves (myself included, for sure), but "belief system" seems to imply something beyond that.

yrs-
Evan!

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from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Animals have no rights of any kind at all. Their treatment is a matter of personal ethics or possibly even morality. Weighed in the context of the natural world, of which humans are a part no matter how artificially enclosed we are much of the time, one comes up with a couple of observations that seem relevant:

1. In the natural world, animals kill other animals to eat. If this were some great offense against nature or anything else, natural selection would not have produced this behavioral outcome.

2. In the natural world, animals that kill other animals may cause their prey to suffer horribly. They don't kill animals, however, overtly to inflict suffering. They tend to kill out of need.

3. Hunters likewise don't set out to inflict suffering on prey. And we're engaging in an activity that is our heritage from natural selection. We "fit right in" with the other top predators of the world.

4. Unlike animals, hunters in the US at least are aware of the bigger picture. We limit our own behavior, tending neither to kill too many prey and also avoiding the young prey when we can; other animals tend to prefer to take young prey because the effort and risk is lowest when taking juveniles and infants. So we are, in a very real sense, the most ecologically friendly predators that have ever existed.

I don't think that there are any "animal rights activists" who are as ethical and careful about how they center themselves in their environments as hunters are, on the whole. IMO we're collectively a class act that most of the time rises above the standards set by people who don't hunt.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

As long as the killing is humane and the animal is used as food I won't listen to an opinion against hunting.
Pets are not to be abused neglected or tortured. They are not even in the same conversation as game animals or farm animals raised for slaughter.

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from ken.mcloud wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

First off - I second everything Mr. Deihl said ... with the possible exception of some points in #4... but that's besides the point.

Here are my two of my thoughts on the issue:

1) Does anyone else think its a little presumptuous for any human being to sit there and pass judgment about what beings do and do not suffer? Seriously, how do you know that that cockroach didn't suffer when you squashed it? or for that matter that the arugula in your salad didn't suffer when it was harvested?

I'm not saying that they do, I'm saying that there is no way for you and I to know. He points out how the cockroach's nervous system is too primitive to feel pain, but is suffering strictly limited to the sensation that we humans call pain? I'm quite sure that Mr. Cheney and company could cause someone to suffer without firing a single pain neuron.

Heck, is it even tied to a physical nervous system? There are some very interesting case studies that show that people are capable of having thoughts, feeling sensations, and forming memories even when their higher nervous system is completely shut down. So who can say for sure that the sensation of suffering can be tied in any way to what we determine to be a "higher nervous system"?

IMO, this is a major flaw in the reasoning of almost all vegetarians. How do they know their salad didn't "suffer"?

2)As to whether or not hunting is a belief system-> I'm gonna say that it is. Not in the religious sense like Christianity is a belief system, but more in a practical sense, like adherence to the rule of law belief system.

Most suburbanites have no connection to their food, they know that a cow died for their big mac but they aren't really aware of what that means. They have never watched an animal die so that they could eat. They have never used a knife to cut muscle away from bone and then put it on the grill. They don't know the sights, sounds, and smells that go along with all that. Hunters are intimately aware of things, not just the fact that they happen, but what they actually mean. Feel free to disagree with me but I think that this changes your base "belief system" it alters the lens that you look at the world and more importantly, your food through.

Its kind of like how non-veterans "know" that war is a violent and horrible thing, but they aren't really aware of it in the same way that veterans are.

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from Hunter Savage wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

first hunting is not a sport or a belief in my eyes it is a way of life period .
but as an ethical hunter one should hold certain beliefs to hart . the same as he would do to be a good person in life. and even though i dont think any animal truly has any rights fair and decent treatment should be held for all animals be them game, pet, or food

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I know that this idea might not go well with others but I believe that there is no use in arguing in what you believe in because you are just waisting energy... most opposition are either too stupid or hard headed to actually accept and listen to your arguements and change their point of view. More likely than none, the arguement is ended with both people sticking to their beliefs and a sore throat or loss of voice from screaming so much. Either that or maybe I have been arguing with some really incompetent people.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

ken. mcloud,
I'm glad you mentioned point #1. How can vegetarians or vegans talk about feeling pain. Don't know your age, but back in the 80's I believe, 'talking to your plants' was all the rage. For some reason this got a lot of people eating only plants! Little ironic.

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from Ed J wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

FloridaHunter1226
Arguing with really incompetent people or a braying contest with a jacka$$ ?

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from peter wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

i guess that guy isnt a complete idiot

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from chuckles wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I look at it like this. All life is sacred and I mean all life. Every time I end a life to support my own I accept the burden of that exchange and that helps me stay focused on the importance of living life to the fullest.
For me, hunting and fishing is a more honest and direct way to partake of this exchange and that is why I prefer to eat meat that I have brought to the table. Don’t get me wrong, I eat at restaurants and buy meat at the store like many people. The constraints of my life often lead me to do so.
So for me hunting is definitely part of a belief system. It is a reflection of how I fit into the world as a human being and as an omnivorous predator. That being said, because I believe life is sacred I do my best to harvest animals cleanly and with as little suffering as possible.
The extensions of this argument are the scale upon which each person draws the line. Everyone has to draw it for themselves but many of us have common levels at which we stop. More people condemn dog fighting than condemn catch and release fishing but the argument can be made that each causes suffering for pleasure. I would never go to a dogfight but I just spent the day hammering bass and northerns, none of which I kept. And it was fun.
Last weekend in Colorado I spent a day shooting gophers with my friend because the rancher likes the grass to grow for his cows. He also lets us hunt elk there. And it was fun.
So I guess in the end I am like many of us. I try to do the best I can for my family, my friends and myself. I take a tremendous amount of pleasure in my outdoor pursuits and I do have a sliding scale of respect for the rest of the inhabitants of my world. I slap mosquitoes without thinking, I catch and release & kill and grill, I pick up spiders and put them outside, I would never torture a dog, I cut down trees and shoot gophers to help out people who let me hunt their ground. I do everything in my power to harvest animals cleanly with gun and bow, including letting them walk if the shot isn’t right.
In summary, I don’t believe in a right to life as everything is born to die. I do try to cause as little suffering as possible but I do acknowledge that many of my pursuits involve potential or real damage and loss of life. I guess it’s a line but sometimes it zigzags

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from Del in KS wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

If those Peta types would just take this thing a step farther and stop murdering plants this animal rights problem would take care of itself in a month or so.

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from shane wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

If you aren't making quick, one shot kills, you are fired.

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from shane wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Cats - they torture their prey. Wolves eat things alive sometimes. How does this fit in to all this?

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from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

If you kill something to feed your family you are a hunter. If you kill something not to eat but to mount on your wall you are a trophy hunter. If you kill something that is in someway disturbing your homestead you are a homeowner. If you kill something that is killing off you livestock you are a rancher. If you pay to watch and bet on animals forced to fight you are a peice of s*%#. That is as simple as I can lump it all together.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken.mcloud wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

First off - I second everything Mr. Deihl said ... with the possible exception of some points in #4... but that's besides the point.

Here are my two of my thoughts on the issue:

1) Does anyone else think its a little presumptuous for any human being to sit there and pass judgment about what beings do and do not suffer? Seriously, how do you know that that cockroach didn't suffer when you squashed it? or for that matter that the arugula in your salad didn't suffer when it was harvested?

I'm not saying that they do, I'm saying that there is no way for you and I to know. He points out how the cockroach's nervous system is too primitive to feel pain, but is suffering strictly limited to the sensation that we humans call pain? I'm quite sure that Mr. Cheney and company could cause someone to suffer without firing a single pain neuron.

Heck, is it even tied to a physical nervous system? There are some very interesting case studies that show that people are capable of having thoughts, feeling sensations, and forming memories even when their higher nervous system is completely shut down. So who can say for sure that the sensation of suffering can be tied in any way to what we determine to be a "higher nervous system"?

IMO, this is a major flaw in the reasoning of almost all vegetarians. How do they know their salad didn't "suffer"?

2)As to whether or not hunting is a belief system-> I'm gonna say that it is. Not in the religious sense like Christianity is a belief system, but more in a practical sense, like adherence to the rule of law belief system.

Most suburbanites have no connection to their food, they know that a cow died for their big mac but they aren't really aware of what that means. They have never watched an animal die so that they could eat. They have never used a knife to cut muscle away from bone and then put it on the grill. They don't know the sights, sounds, and smells that go along with all that. Hunters are intimately aware of things, not just the fact that they happen, but what they actually mean. Feel free to disagree with me but I think that this changes your base "belief system" it alters the lens that you look at the world and more importantly, your food through.

Its kind of like how non-veterans "know" that war is a violent and horrible thing, but they aren't really aware of it in the same way that veterans are.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Animals have no rights of any kind at all. Their treatment is a matter of personal ethics or possibly even morality. Weighed in the context of the natural world, of which humans are a part no matter how artificially enclosed we are much of the time, one comes up with a couple of observations that seem relevant:

1. In the natural world, animals kill other animals to eat. If this were some great offense against nature or anything else, natural selection would not have produced this behavioral outcome.

2. In the natural world, animals that kill other animals may cause their prey to suffer horribly. They don't kill animals, however, overtly to inflict suffering. They tend to kill out of need.

3. Hunters likewise don't set out to inflict suffering on prey. And we're engaging in an activity that is our heritage from natural selection. We "fit right in" with the other top predators of the world.

4. Unlike animals, hunters in the US at least are aware of the bigger picture. We limit our own behavior, tending neither to kill too many prey and also avoiding the young prey when we can; other animals tend to prefer to take young prey because the effort and risk is lowest when taking juveniles and infants. So we are, in a very real sense, the most ecologically friendly predators that have ever existed.

I don't think that there are any "animal rights activists" who are as ethical and careful about how they center themselves in their environments as hunters are, on the whole. IMO we're collectively a class act that most of the time rises above the standards set by people who don't hunt.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

As long as the killing is humane and the animal is used as food I won't listen to an opinion against hunting.
Pets are not to be abused neglected or tortured. They are not even in the same conversation as game animals or farm animals raised for slaughter.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I know that this idea might not go well with others but I believe that there is no use in arguing in what you believe in because you are just waisting energy... most opposition are either too stupid or hard headed to actually accept and listen to your arguements and change their point of view. More likely than none, the arguement is ended with both people sticking to their beliefs and a sore throat or loss of voice from screaming so much. Either that or maybe I have been arguing with some really incompetent people.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

ken. mcloud,
I'm glad you mentioned point #1. How can vegetarians or vegans talk about feeling pain. Don't know your age, but back in the 80's I believe, 'talking to your plants' was all the rage. For some reason this got a lot of people eating only plants! Little ironic.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I look at it like this. All life is sacred and I mean all life. Every time I end a life to support my own I accept the burden of that exchange and that helps me stay focused on the importance of living life to the fullest.
For me, hunting and fishing is a more honest and direct way to partake of this exchange and that is why I prefer to eat meat that I have brought to the table. Don’t get me wrong, I eat at restaurants and buy meat at the store like many people. The constraints of my life often lead me to do so.
So for me hunting is definitely part of a belief system. It is a reflection of how I fit into the world as a human being and as an omnivorous predator. That being said, because I believe life is sacred I do my best to harvest animals cleanly and with as little suffering as possible.
The extensions of this argument are the scale upon which each person draws the line. Everyone has to draw it for themselves but many of us have common levels at which we stop. More people condemn dog fighting than condemn catch and release fishing but the argument can be made that each causes suffering for pleasure. I would never go to a dogfight but I just spent the day hammering bass and northerns, none of which I kept. And it was fun.
Last weekend in Colorado I spent a day shooting gophers with my friend because the rancher likes the grass to grow for his cows. He also lets us hunt elk there. And it was fun.
So I guess in the end I am like many of us. I try to do the best I can for my family, my friends and myself. I take a tremendous amount of pleasure in my outdoor pursuits and I do have a sliding scale of respect for the rest of the inhabitants of my world. I slap mosquitoes without thinking, I catch and release & kill and grill, I pick up spiders and put them outside, I would never torture a dog, I cut down trees and shoot gophers to help out people who let me hunt their ground. I do everything in my power to harvest animals cleanly with gun and bow, including letting them walk if the shot isn’t right.
In summary, I don’t believe in a right to life as everything is born to die. I do try to cause as little suffering as possible but I do acknowledge that many of my pursuits involve potential or real damage and loss of life. I guess it’s a line but sometimes it zigzags

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I completely agree with his last statement. You have to look at it that way.

Nate

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sharkfin wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

I agree that there is a huge difference and everything needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis. In hunting, even archery hunting the animal is dispatched as quickly as possible. Now I'm not saying that there are not exceptions, accidents, bad shots that probably should not have been made to begin with. But forcing animals of any kind to battle for one's enjoyment is a deliberate action with full knowledge that there will be injuries that will cause pain. I don't know for sure but I would imagine that the people that promote these fights don't want them to end quickly. I remember seeing some of Mike Tyson's fights that ended very quickly and the crowd was disapointed. They want to see a battle. They want it to be a good fight that goes the distance. Human fighters today enter the ring by choice. They themselves might want a quick fight but the crowd wants it to go on for a while. Do people that watch animals fight want the same thing? That is a desire to see those animals suffer for some time. When I shoot any animal with my gun or my bow I want that animal to expire immediately. I don't want it to suffer for two reasons. One is out of respect for the animal. The other is selfish, I don't want the guilt of knowing that I caused an animal to suffer needlessly and I don't want to track the animal far.

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from 60256 wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Actually i have a very low tolerance for animal welfare. We kill the mice in our house, the rabbits in our yard, but we would never dogfight. That is the stupidest thing ever.
Your comment about the sport of hunting being a belief system, I don't know if I believe that. I can't figure it out without thinking it through, though. My dad has taught me that we hunt for the love of it, but it is also a means of feeding the family. I think that hunting could be called a means of survival instead of belief system. Some people would say that you would have to believe that hunting is that kind of a means, which would make it a belief.
Looking at it that way, I would have to say that it is a means of survival instead of belief.

Nate

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from ejunk wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

like nate, I'm not so sure about your assertation that hunting is "a belief system." I think hunters and outdoorsman consturct an ethical framework for themselves (myself included, for sure), but "belief system" seems to imply something beyond that.

yrs-
Evan!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunter Savage wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

first hunting is not a sport or a belief in my eyes it is a way of life period .
but as an ethical hunter one should hold certain beliefs to hart . the same as he would do to be a good person in life. and even though i dont think any animal truly has any rights fair and decent treatment should be held for all animals be them game, pet, or food

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ed J wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

FloridaHunter1226
Arguing with really incompetent people or a braying contest with a jacka$$ ?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from peter wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

i guess that guy isnt a complete idiot

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

If those Peta types would just take this thing a step farther and stop murdering plants this animal rights problem would take care of itself in a month or so.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

If you aren't making quick, one shot kills, you are fired.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Cats - they torture their prey. Wolves eat things alive sometimes. How does this fit in to all this?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

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