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I'm very comfortable with this in the general case; I feel guilty eating bacon because pigs seem pretty smart. Still, rights always come paired up with responsibilities. Do we then try dolphins for rape or murder?

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.




Western legal systems tend to only recognizes two types of entities, persons and property. Those entities to which personhood is extended have rights, all else does not.

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.


> 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).

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.


If this was the case, then we would be as tolerant toward the house cat who plays with the bird before killing it without eating it as we would be toward a human who acted likewise.

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.


>If this was the case, then we would be as tolerant toward the house cat who plays with the bird before killing it without eating it as we would be toward a human who acted likewise.

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.


Killing the cat would change it's ways.


Slight tangent:

> 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.


>"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.


> No it isn't,

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.


>Yes, really, it is.

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.


> There is nothing to support the notion that playing with prey reduces injuries to the predator.

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.

Here's one:

(http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bne/102/5/760/)

> 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.


[deleted]


>All cats play with prey

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.


If we did it purely out of consideration for the well being of animals, then would would apply laws consistently. We punish animal abuse when it happens to dogs, because people get upset about dogs being hurt. We ignore animal abuse when it happens to pigs, because we eat pigs and don't want to have to deal with the ethical dilemma posed by recognizing that they have feelings. The laws are most definitely designed around what is distressing to people in society, not around what is best for the well being of the animals.


Agreed that laws should be consistent but this isn't just a problem with animal cruelty laws.

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.


You are reading your own extra motivation into what I said. I stated that your premise ("cruelty to animals is punished purely because of ethical considerations for the animal's well being") is false. I provided evidence to support this. That is all. I did not make a moral or ethical statement. I am not suggesting or proposing anything. Simply pointing out that our protection of non-human animals is in fact based on concern for humans, not for the animals in question.


Fair enough; I didn't intend to put words in your mouth. I was responding to what you said about "ignoring animal abuse when it happens to pigs" and just providing a counterpoint to that: that not everybody is ignoring it, and that there's no reason why we should ignore it either (because it's not an "ethical dilemma" -- a "dilemma" presupposes we can't both reduce the suffering of pigs and continue to eat them, except this isn't actually the case because we can do both). I appreciate the point you're trying to make though, that laws are made not just based on ethical considerations, but also based on how people feel about these things.


I realize not everyone ignores it, but I was speaking to the question of law. It is perfectly legal to do things to a pig that will land you in jail if you do them to a dog. And then there's plenty of things that are not legal to do to a pig, that you can do anyways because the law isn't enforced.

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.


Weird, it's like the law is some sort of bizarre compromise of thousands of points of view, and not an infallible and consistent moral guide. I wonder how that happened.


What is with the totally misplaced and unnecessary snark? I was not criticizing the law, I was pointing out what purpose it is meant to serve (people).


I would just focus a little more on the notion that cruelty to animals is usually a clear indicator of a lack of empathy, which is dangerous to the rest of society when persistently manifest in individuals.

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.


A 10 month old has no responsibilities. Certainly, though, she has rights.


A rather limited set of rights to be sure. Children, unless emancipated, lack a great deal of the rights that adults enjoy.

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.


Short of new mutations, no dolphin has ever, is, or will ever be a fully functioning member of society.

Rules of thumb regarding treatment of immature or disabled humans is not at all appropriate.


Fully functioning in society seems to be setting the bar too high; we don't consider that a prerequisite for rights in humans by any reasonable interpretation.

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.


we don't consider that a prerequisite for rights in humans by any reasonable interpretation.

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.


>"but it IS a requirement for members of a species in general."

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.


>It's not a requirement for any individual, but it IS a requirement for members of a species in general.

How can you possibly make that sort of generalization when there is only one species that is commonly accepted as having rights?


No, it is not a requirement, that is what the discussion is about. If it were a requirement, we wouldn't be trying to decide if it should be a requirement or not. Using a sample size of one to prove a point is absurd.


I'm not saying it's a proof by statistics. It's a requirement in order for the system to maintain logical consistency.

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.


Reductio ad absurdum isn't helping your case. You haven't made an argument, just assertions. Why would giving some rights to a non-human animal break "logical consistency"? Just saying it does is meaningless, provide an argument.


Do a grep through this thread for my userid. I've made my argument in several places. Basically, acquiring human status requires interactive and consensual participation in a relationship/society.

Exhibiting some rudimentary social behaviors doesn't qualify as accepting the responsibilities along with the rights accorded with status.


Yes, and lots of people pointed out how that argument is just a red herring. You didn't come back with an actual argument, so pointing back to the fallacious one doesn't accomplish anything.


>a fully functioning member of society

What does that even mean?


I don't know, but I do know that if we all accepted that as a standard we would be in a much worse off place as a society since most times I hear the phrase "fully functioning member of society" the implied alternative is usually "penniless hippy".


Not sure where to start. How about if you imagine that a member of Society defined here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society

Participates in one.


If "participates" in society is sufficient for "fully functioning member of society", then at a minimum, trained dolphins who perform in shows are fully functioning members of society. They have complex interactions with their trainers, including fairly high level communication, and they perform work in exchange for goods (fish).


For that matter, you could make a strong case for dogs as well. How many thousands work for us?


What you are suggesting basically just amounts to "dolphins cannot be a part of society because currently society only includes humans, and dolphins are different than humans."

We are proposing a re-definition.


What you are suggesting ...

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.


What I would like to see is a special legal status/recognition given to dolphins. My motivation for wanting to see this done is that I think it would provide a sort of precedence for extending traditionally human rights to things that are not traditionally seen as equals of humans. I think there is a possibility that doing so may become necessary in the future, when "machines" and intelligence begin to blur.


Black people aren't functioning members of our society either, said Jefferson Davis.

Poor people don't contribute to our fiber of society in a way that can't be replaced by machines, said Mitt Romney.


She has rights because she is human. Her parents and other members of society vouch for her right to a position in society and accept the responsibility of her membership. The practice is so ingrained and a part of the fabric of our society that it's just accepted implicitly.

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 always wondered where the assertion of "no rights without responsibilities" came from. Any ideas?


While theorizing tests of animal psyche and self-awareness might be helpful to the purpose, but what we humans forget is the preciseness of agent Smith's evaluation of us:

"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." [1]

There is no chance any animal/fish is going to survive the brunt of us 9 billion in next fifty years.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM1-DQ2Wo_w


So tired of this meme. Humans are like a virus in the way that every species on the planet is like a virus. Look no further than invasive species to see that any form of life given the ability to expand it's population will do exactly that. The majority of species reach what we view as 'an equilibrium' because they run into the constraints of their environment on a scale small enough for us to make note of, but humans do the exact same thing; only our scale is the entire planet and we haven't run into the constraints yet. The moment humans were intelligent enough to form agriculture is the moment humans inherited this planet.


I totally agree with you here. Just saying that probably treating dolphins as people might not help (or be enough), considering that the size of planet would remain constant but we'll double our density soon.


>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.


We can see a 100 ft. wave coming at our rowboat, and some of us are trying to paddle with our hands, and some of us are trying to design a better rowboat (predicting that there is enough time to design/build this before the wave hits), while others are arguing that the wave doesn't exist or will dissipate before it reaches us. I don't have a whole lot of faith.


For one picture I see in future is us inhabiting an exo-planet; and Elon Musk et al showing us that direction and so on...

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.


> There is no chance any animal/fish is going to survive the brunt of us 9 billion in next fifty years

I'll take that bet.


"Maybe we'd be better off saying certain categories of animals deserve a higher level of ethical and legal consideration."

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.


Nobody said anything about equal rights, just rights. That's why they want to encourage discussion, to figure out what rights they would be given.


Surely this is mainly due to the language barriers though? If we could fully communicate, what then?


Not sure what fully communicate would mean? Do you suppose that dolphins have some untapped literary and rhetoric ability that once man figures out how to decode, we will be exposed to the a whole host of new great works?




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