Monday, December 10, 2012

But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

Jessica Pierce:

What's surprising, though, is that close to 80,000 people have "liked" Ms. Apple's Facebook posting of her letter, and the vast majority of fans have supported her decision. Such expressions of support are unusual. People with strong bonds to animals often feel that the larger society in which they live assigns relatively little moral value to pets and other animals. The death of a pet is often dismissed as unimportant. And unlike Ms. Apple, most of us generally are not able to miss work because our animal is ill or dying.

The singer's decision and the reaction to it represent an emerging cultural shift, one noted by the sociologist Hal Herzog in his book "Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat." More Americans now see themselves as living in a multispecies family.

It may not be reflected in animals' legal status, but I'd argue such sentiment isn't unusual per se. It's not difficult to find people who are similarly devoted to their animals. However, it's also easy to find things like this tweet I saw the other day:



Leaving aside whether there's actually anything specifically Myrrhkin about that, whatever moral force this quip may have is predicated on the supposedly outrageous, hypocritical irony of animals receiving empathy and living in comfort while humans do without, as if it's a moral failing for animals to get anything more than the crumbs and scraps after we seven billion naked apes have sated ourselves. It's a common trope; no doubt, you've seen some lazy article or another bemoaning how "People spent X-million on veterinary care last year while Y-million number of people live below the poverty line!" It's also an arbitrary distinction. There is no inherent reason why the boundary marking off homo sapiens should be privileged above any other moral consideration. Truthfully, I feel that animals better represent the quality we call "innocence" than humans do. I favor my dogs as loved ones, as individuals, over a generic abstraction called "humanity".