Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dolphin slaughter in Japan

I am not a vegetarian although I have sympathies with the animal rights movement. Animals have rights that should be protected by humans. This is a plausible ethical position. That almost all humans recognize such rights is implied by the near universal aversion civilized people feel regarding deliberate cruelty to animals. This suggests that animals have at least some rights - the only arguable question is the extent of such rights. Exercising this logic suggests if we are going to kill animals for food then the killing should, at least, avoid unnecessary suffering. That is not a sufficient condition to guarantee legitimate animal rights but it is necessary.

Unnecessary suffering is not avoided in the case of the tragic slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Please take a look. You might also want to look at this whaling clip - killing whales too is not only about limiting their conservation - it is also about inflicting unnecessary suffering.

J.M. Coetzee compares the treatment of animals in a slaughterhouse to the holocaust. This view causes distress to people who lost relatives at the hands of the Nazis, or just to those who appreciate the scale of the Nazi evil. But aspects of Coetzee’s argument make sense.

‘In the 20th Century, a group of powerful and bloody-minded men in Germany hit on the idea of adapting the methods of the industrial stockyard, as pioneered and perfected in Chicago, to the slaughter – or what they preferred to call the processing of human beings.

Of course we cried out in horror when we found out what they had been up to. What a terrible crime to treat human beings like cattle – if we had only known beforehand. But our cry should more accurately have been: What a terrible crime to treat human beings like units in an industrial process. And that cry should have had a postscript: What a terrible crime – come to think of it, a crime against nature – to treat any living being like a unit in an industrial process.’
Coetzee states that children offered the brightest hope, he wrote: ‘It takes but one glance into a slaughterhouse to turn a child into a lifelong vegetarian.’ He claims that our hypocrisy in relation to the slaughter of animals is revealed by our attempts to hide the reality of slaughtering animals out-of –sight.
‘Therefore they arrange their lives in such a way that they need be reminded of farms and abattoirs as little as possible, and they do their best to ensure their children are kept in the dark too, because children have tender hearts and are easily moved’.
Coetzee seems to be wrong at least about some Japanese and their children. The sight of a Japanese school kid walking with indifference past an animal writhing in agony in the video is distressing as is the attitude of workers who, while hacking into live dolphins obviously writhing in pain, seem unconcerned that school kids are viewing what is going on.

If you feel like attaching your signature to a petition to the Japanese Prime Minister regarding the dolphin slaughter do so here. You might be able to help shame the Japanese Government into stopping such practices although I have no idea how you change the cultural attitudes of people who see such behavior as reasonable and benign.


conrad said...


I don't agree with animal cruelty either, but its worthwhile noting that a lot of this is completely hypocritical. If you want to stop animal cruelty, then the best place to target are farms and things that cause environmental destruction. For instance, I find it hard to see why killing dolphins is worse than pig-farming. I also find it hard to see why dying of starvation thanks to environment destruction is worse than, say, being killed by a fisherman. The fact that some of these are acceptable and others are not is not based at all on logical grounds.

rabee said...

For reason's I don't fully understand Australian live exports to countries that lack animal welfare standards concern me a lot more than Japanese fishermen.

hc said...

Conrad, Of course preventing one injustice makes the world a better place even if injustices remain.

Rabee, I have the same view. The reason I feel bad is that these practices are readily stopped by threatening export bans unless animal welfare standards are enforced.

BTW the live sheep trade remains a barbarous aspect of our trade with the Middle East. The following was taken in 2006. I thought that after the extensive publicity in the past that things had changed - they apparently have not.

Tanya said...

I agree re farming ... add to pig farming, feedlots for beef cattle. Seeing a feedlot in central NSW was enough to convince me that intensive livestock-raising should be banned. The stench even five miles away was enough to make anyone ill. It's not enough to kill "humanely."

hc said...

Tanya, I was meticulous in saying that humane killing was a necessary condition for reasonable practise not a sufficient one.

Coetzee in his original paper was concerned primarily with factory farming.

Tanya said...

Harry, sure, it's clear what you were doing. I meant to express agreement and then some.

Sam Ward said...

Tanya tries to help Harry out but ends up bringing up the point that Harry misses...

We don't hide abbatoirs, feedlots and intensive farms because we are collectively ashamed of them Harry. We hide them because they stink. They breed flies. Living near to one would be a recurring nightmare.

And my parents never tried to hide from us the reality of animal slaughter - we were shown how to slaughter various different types of animals before our teens.

This hasn't made anyone in our family into vegetarians, so your theory on that one is bullshit too.

Some people who have always acquired everything they've eaten from a shop find it shocking to begin with, but that's only because they've left a sheltered life.

Humans have a natural affinity for some animals, especially those that display some human-like behaviour. That doesn't mean animals have any rights.

Nobody seems too concerned about the suffering inflicted on parasitic worms when you give your dog (or your child) a worming tablet.

Don't worms have rights too, Harry? Or only animals with large eyeballs?

The only difference between us and the Japanese is that they don't see whales or dolphins any differently to how we see fish and cattle. In fact there's very little evidence (despite 30 years of Greenpeace propaganda) to suggest whales are any more intelligent than cattle.

hc said...

I was waiting for Yobbo's response but was disappointed that it showed an unusual lack of clarity.

My premise Yobbo was that it was wrong to cause unnecessary suffering. I bolstered this premise with my assertion that animals have some rights.

I think this last claim is not arguable. If you were killing a sheep on your property and you sought to maximise its agony by stretching out its death over several days by slowly torturing it would your parents have approved? My guess is not. The slaughter you were taught was intended to be quick and not abusive. Most humans relate to this - they don't like inflicting pain on animals which suggests they believe that, irrespective of the sadist pleasures a torturer gains, animals have some rights. The question then is where you draw the line on these rights.

I don't accept the speciesist argument that animals have equal rights to humans. My post was concerned with the idea that if we do kill them for food this should be done so as to inflict minimum suffering.

Sam Ward said...

Harry, I was replying to this:

Coetzee states that children offered the brightest hope, he wrote: ‘It takes but one glance into a slaughterhouse to turn a child into a lifelong vegetarian.’ He claims that our hypocrisy in relation to the slaughter of animals is revealed by our attempts to hide the reality of slaughtering animals out-of –sight.

My comment was just making the obvious point that animals are slaughtered out of sight because its gross. The same reason sewage plants are.

Coetzee might as well say anyone who takes a shit but doesn't like to eat shit is a hypocrite too.

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