Rather than saying certain categories of animals should have the same rights as humans, maybe we'd be better off saying certain categories of animals deserve a higher level of ethical and legal consideration.
We punish those who are cruel to animals, not because we attribute personhood to them, but because of the impact animal cruelty has upon persons collectively (society at large). Criminalization of animal cruelty is no more based on the rights of animals than the criminalization of throwing litter from a car is based on the rights of curbs.
On the other hand, ethical considerations are not dependent upon legislation. One may choose to forgo killing a cockroach based upon inherent respect for it as a living creature.
Are you sure this is correct? I'm fairly sure cruelty to animals is punished purely because of ethical considerations for the animal's well being.
The well being of an animal is no better after a slow cruel death than a quick painless one. When well being comes into play we tend to prohibit killing specifically and instrumental uses in general, as is the case with humans.
The free range chicken on your plate is no less dead than one raised under factory conditions which make us feel better about ourselves. Neither has any more being to which degrees of wellness may be applied.
I don't think that's fair. It's more that we recognise the futility in punishing a house cat, which is incapable of changing its ways nor of comprehending the pain it inflicts.
> the house cat who plays with the bird before killing it without eating it
Small birds have sharp beaks and claws. Mice have sharp teeth and claws.
Cats have a hunting instinct. Wild cats survive by hunting. To hunt and eat prey a cat needs working jaws.
The sharp teeth / beak / claws of prey only needs to puncture the skin of a cat's jaw once to cause infection which would leave that cat at serious risk of death, if not from infection then from lack of food because of reduced hunting.
"Playing" with the prey is a good way to weaken the prey before the killing bite is inflicted.
No it isn't, it extends the amount of time the prey is alive and capable of causing harm, and the amount of contact between predator and prey. Domestic animals play with prey because they still have deeply ingrained hunting instinct, but have no actual need to hunt. This is why they will hunt a laser pointer just as intently as a mouse. They aren't after food, just reacting to instinct.
Yes, really, it is.
> it extends the amount of time the prey is alive and capable of causing harm, and the amount of contact between predator and prey.
No. It keeps the cat's jaw (which is the part that delivers the killing bite, and which is the part that does the eating) away from the beak and teeth and claws, while the paws do batting and patting. It increases the chance of getting a kill, which is what gives the cat food after the hunt.
> Domestic animals play with prey because they still have deeply ingrained hunting instinct, but have no actual need to hunt.
That does not explain why feral cats, cats that need to hunt to survive, play with prey.
> This is why they will hunt a laser pointer just as intently as a mouse. They aren't after food, just reacting to instinct.
Chasing a laser point just demonstrates the hunting instinct. We both agree that cats still have a strong hunting instinct. Hunting a laser pointer is chasing prey, it is not playing with prey.
Your premise is not supported by evidence. One "researcher" made this claim, and provided no evidence to support it. There is nothing to support the notion that playing with prey reduces injuries to the predator.
>It keeps the cat's jaw (which is the part that delivers the killing bite, and which is the part that does the eating) away from the beak and teeth and claws, while the paws do batting and patting.
Paws are able to be bitten, scratched and infected just as easily as faces. The consequences of paw and leg injuries are in fact more dangerous than injuries to the face. It is hard to hunt when you can't run. There is no benefit to prolonging the exposure to danger by keeping the prey alive.
>It increases the chance of getting a kill, which is what gives the cat food after the hunt
A quick bite to the neck is the best chance of killing. Letting the prey struggle and escape to be re-caught is lowering the chances of getting food, not raising it. You are claiming the opposite of reality.
>That does not explain why feral cats, cats that need to hunt to survive, play with prey.
Yes it does. They only do so when they are teaching young to hunt. They do not play with their prey when they are engaged in the process of "acquire food to prevent death".
>Hunting a laser pointer is chasing prey, it is not playing with prey.
It is engaging in instinctive hunting behaviour for no benefit. Just like catching a mouse, playing with it, then wandering off.
All cats play with prey. Thus, it is evolved behaviour. It has some benefit, otherwise cats would just use the killing bite straight away.
> Paws are able to be bitten [...] there is no benefit to prolonging the exposure to danger by keeping the prey alive.
Cats have 4 paws. It's possible for a 3 legged cat to survive. Hard, but possible. The cat prolongs the exposure to danger of redundant limbs in order to protect the jaw.
> A quick bite to the neck is the best chance of killing. Letting the prey struggle and escape to be re-caught is lowering the chances of getting food, not raising it. You are claiming the opposite of reality.
A bite to the neck is the method of killing. Small animals are quick, thus the cat plays with the prey to weaken the animal so that when the cat applies the killing bite the small animal is less likely to escape.
> They only do so when they are teaching young to hunt. They do not play with their prey when they are engaged in the process of "acquire food to prevent death".
This is incorrect.
EDIT: You are incorrect about only one research suggesting that play with prey is a defensive part of hunting behaviour.
Trivial www searching find many different researchers suggesting this.
> In this article, we show that feline predation involves a continuous gradient of activation between defense and attack and that predatory "play" results from an interaction of the two. [...] In such shifts, no sharp demarcation between play and predation was evident. [...] These results suggest that play with prey is a misnomer for predatory behavior that fails to escalate along the gradient between defense and attack. Movement notation analysis revealed that playful movements are adaptive in that they protect the cat from injury.
Really? Did you have some evidence to support that claim? I can't find anything to support that notion at all. In fact, all I found indicates that wild big cats only play with prey in captivity, and when teaching their young to hunt. Wild cats hunting do exactly what you claim they don't do: they go straight for the kill.
>Cats have 4 paws. It's possible for a 3 legged cat to survive. Hard, but possible.
That does not address the issue at all. A cat with 4 healthy legs and an infected cheek is in a far better position to survive than one with a healthy cheek and an infected foot. There is no benefit to risking limbs over face, especially not risking limbs repeatedly for extended periods of time. And this all makes the completely unfounded assumption that "playing with prey" doesn't involve putting the face in danger, which is nonsense. Watch a cat play with a mouse, it will grab it with its mouth repeatedly during the process.
>This is incorrect.
Stating that doesn't make it so.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be humane to animals, even ones that are ultimately killed for their meat (such as pigs). It's possible for an animal to live a perfectly content life and then be killed quickly and with as little pain as possible. And that's what a lot of people are campaigning for.
Reducing animal cruelty is not at odds with breeding livestock for food. We can have both. And to not support one because you want the other is disingenuous.
It does pose an ethical dilemma. Of course we can reduce the suffering of pigs. Yet we choose not to. We choose not to, because we like cheap pork. This presents us with an ethical dilemma if we actually think about the issue. Most people make a significant effort to avoid thinking about the issue, because they do not want to consider the ethical dilemma of "if I eat this bacon I cause suffering vs if I don't eat this bacon I won't taste bacon". Treating pigs humanely would require a massive increase in pork prices, which would reduce the amount of pork related pleasure people can have, thus a dilemma of its own. Treating pigs as we treat dogs would involve not killing them for food, totally removing the pork pleasure, and again poses a dilemma.
It isn't the general presence of animal suffering in the world that is a problem, it is the intentional infliction of suffering that is the problem, because it means the one doing the infliction is skirting close to the outer edge of empathy.
Perhaps this is the best way to legally consider dolphins. They have approximately the same rights as human children, until any one of them decides to ask for more.
Rules of thumb regarding treatment of immature or disabled humans is not at all appropriate.
Now, will dolphins ever communicate their desire to achieve greater legal consideration? Not unless we put some more effort into researching communication with dolphins (and even then, I strongly suspect not). Not really a problem though I think.
You miss my point. It's not a requirement for any individual, but it IS a requirement for members of a species in general. Most humans are functioning members of society. The ones that aren't, whether it's temporary or permanent are protected implicitly and explicitly through social contract and the laws we've created.
No dolphin will ever be a functioning member of our society, thus dolphins are not part of society, thus dolphins do not take on the responsibilities of being in a relationship with humans, thus dolphins are not entitled to parallel status.
Is it? Considering we have never before in recorded history extended such consideration to another species, it seems unlikely that there are existing standards we can look to.
There are many things you can observe "most" humans doing, but that does not mean those things are all prerequisites for special legal and ethical consideration.
How can you possibly make that sort of generalization when there is only one species that is commonly accepted as having rights?
We can do whatever we want. We can give citizenship rights to gummy bears because they look like real bears and bears have two arms and two legs just like people. It would be illogical and counterproductive to any real advancement for society, though.
Exhibiting some rudimentary social behaviors doesn't qualify as accepting the responsibilities along with the rights accorded with status.
What does that even mean?
Participates in one.
We are proposing a re-definition.
That's not in the least what I'm suggesting.
Dolphins cannot participate in our society by agreement. They don't understand what participating is. They're captured or born in captivity and then trained to perform a few tricks. They are beautiful and fascinating, but they have no contributions to make to the fiber of our society that can't be made by other animals, machines, or even simple objects.
They are able to do nothing further. Giving them a new status is just semantics. They are fundamentally not functioning members of our society. Not individually. Not as a species.
Poor people don't contribute to our fiber of society in a way that can't be replaced by machines, said Mitt Romney.
It has nothing to do with how capable she is of accepting responsibilities in her current state.
Non-humans have no such implicit acceptance of responsibilities and inclusion within the framework of human society by humans.
"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure." 
There is no chance any animal/fish is going to survive the brunt of us 9 billion in next fifty years.
I won't be so sure considering that unlike a Virus we are aware of the damage we are causing and are already trying to mitigate it.
In this dynamic, we as a virus race will choose the easiest way out even at the cost of all the species of this planet. 9 billion of us will, mark my words, only kill, eat or ridicule whatever that is left of the ecosystem today.
I am actually afraid about cannibalism picking up too in distant hungry countries which are already off balance today. It's pretty grim.
Dolphins will continue to be enslaved, slaughtered or even ridiculed for any "equal treatment" justified exactly the way this thread shows. Ground reality will of course be worse.
To which I do agree with your statement that "we are aware" and that there is an exit for us even though some will definitely try to mitigate, protect and stay behind.
I'll take that bet.
Ethicists use the term animal welfare (as opposed to animal rights) for this reason. No one at least at this point thinks that animals should be allowed to vote, which is what equal rights for animals would imply.