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.
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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
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.
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.