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Old 12-01-2007, 10:49 PM
Howard Treesong Howard Treesong is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Default Re: Ask Howard Treesong About Law or Lawyering

Morally, I'm 100% with you. The guys that did this are total scum. But I don't think animals have rights per se; I think they are property -- and the rights violation here is to the property of the animal's owner.

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So if these guys had bought the dog from a pet store and therefore had full property rights to the dog and then done this you would be OK with that?

I'm not particularly animal-righty, but I think that forbidding cruelty to animals is perhaps a necessary fence at the top of a slippery slope.

If it's OK to set fire to a dog, why not a baby? They have less cognitive function than a dog. If you allow potential value to say that a baby is more valuable of protection than a dog, what about a mentally handicapped person?

Also, if someone can have unrestricted rights over a dog, why not a person?

I may sound like I'm trying to browbeat you with argumentative questions but I am genuinely curious to hear your answers as you seem more intelligent and well adjusted than most people who espouse these views.

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Sure. I'm willing to draw distinctions based on the notion that humans are qualitatively different from every other species based on their ability to reason and to express conscious choices; to actually express freedom in a meaningful way. It seems to me that usually get into trouble on line-drawing issues where it's difficult to determine which situation is which; here, that's easy. Don't get me wrong -- the guys that did this are sick amoral freaks for whom I have not one molecule of respect, and in that sense I'm certainly not "OK" with it. But I don't think animals have rights per se -- in part because an assertion of rights involves expression of conscious choices in all kinds of complex ways that animals cannot duplicate. True, some humans are more limited than the most advanced animals, but in those circumstances, we appoint guardians for the humans.

In the argumentative vein, women have been known to screw male horses, no? Can you imagine that the horse enjoys it? I can. That conduct is clearly illegal. How is that the right rule under the scheme you posit?

If you wanted to establish massive penalties for violating a pet owner's property rights in these circumstances, I'm fine with that -- but I think the basis for it is the rights of the owner, not of the animal itself. As a society, we've set up laws to permit ourselves to protect different sorts of property in different ways, and we can treat animals differently under that regime.

I just don't see the distinction in the other direction: if I'm not permitted to kill my dog, how can I be permitted to slaughter a pig by hanging him up by the heels and slitting his throat? I don't think as a society that our rights to eat bacon should give way to the rights of the pig -- and that's where the line is in the other direction.

This is not a big issue for me, by the way. It's not as though I'm racing around the country trying to repeal animal-rights laws. About all I do is push back at the anti-fur nuts who give me lip when they realize that my leather jacket is fur-lined.
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