[Marxism] A socialist analysis of the value of the animalliberation movement

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Thu Jun 12 03:51:07 MDT 2008

> This book may be of interest:
> Beyond Animal Rights: A Feminist Caring Ethic for the Treatment of
> Animals (Paperback)
> by Josephine Donovan (Editor), Carol J. Adams (Editor)
> >From Publishers Weekly:
> "Feminists have criticized contemporary animal advocacy theory for
> its reliance on natural rights doctrine and utilitarianism, which,
> they claim, have a masculine bias (rights and rules) that denies the
> morality of responsibility (caring). In eight scholarly essays,
> writers explore the ethics of care as applied to animals. To Deane
> Curtin, eco-feminism is the position that there are important
> connections between the domination of women and the domination of
> nature. Brian Luke finds that justice-based arguments for animal
> liberation have failed. On the treatment of companion and domestic
> animals, Rita Manning says the appropriate moral attitude is
> humility and care. Kenneth Shapiro profiles an animal rights
> activist; Josephine Donovan discusses sympathy as a basis for
> ethical treatment of animals; and Carol Adams looks beyond animal
> rights. Readers versed in feminist literature may find this volume a
> valuable addition to the genre."

Interesting, but it hardly addresses the issue.

If right/rules/utilitarianism represent a male bias, all we have is a
Humean constant conjuncture that we know explains nothing. All it does
is to give us some confidence in our predictions. Not only that, but
since I happen to be male, does this justify my abuse of animals
because such behavior is part of my male nature? I hope
not. Essentialist arguments are readily found wanting and usually have
ideological ends.

As for a morality of responsibility, that begs the question. The
original notion of caring (manifesting caritas), was that god is love
and we express our relation to god in our relations with others. But
a) surely that rationale applied only to fellow humans, b) surely
today we need a naturalistic justification for not abusing animals. We
should act morally, of course, but with today's anomie, we need to
lend rational support for our moral values, especially if we are
urging others to adopt them.

I don't see any connection between the domination of nature and that
of women unless they are both instances of a dominating spirit, which
remains unexplained. If domination is part of human nature, then why
complain about the inevitable? If domination is contingent, then we
need to explain under what conditions we choose to dominate so that it
does not occur.

Also, just what is meant by the word "domination"? Is it merely the
exercise of power (as the farmer dominates the soil or as in
demo"cracy"), is it the exercise of power that is arbitrary or
insolent (which seems implied when we speak of men dominating
women). Domination of nature may employ the first connotation;
domination of women the second. If I kick my dog, that seems arbitrary
or insolent; if a laboratory rat dies in our search for a cure for
cancer, we are arbitrarily privileging human needs over those of the
animal kingdom, or is it comparable to the relation of the farmer to
the soil? What is missing is an argument as to why this is wrong or
unwise. I would not care for an argument that implies democracy is
unjust because it means rule (domination) by the people over the
social whole.

An appropriate moral attitude of humility and care seems easily
defensible in the human world, but in our relation to animals? Why
should I humble myself before a cockroach? I'm more likely to
exterminate it than care for it. Ah, but a cockroach is not a
laboratory rat. But why? Why are mammals privileged over insects? If
that hierarchy makes sense, why not then privilege humans over rats?

And as for sympathy, that begs the question as well. Sympathy is to
feel what others are feeling. I'm not sure I feel what a horse is
feeling, and I sure don't feel what a cockroach is feeling. If an
argument can be made that humans are not an island unto themselves,
but part of the main (the biosphere), it sure isn't being made
here. If ethics is to extended to other levels of being, surely that
must be accompanied with a rationale. Is it unethical to smash a rock,
to pollute the seas, to step on a bug, to abuse a dog? Perhaps, but

The cited book may answer some of these questions, but one can't know
that, and what we have here, taken as presented, are dangerously
ill-informed and thoughtless platitudes. That is a shame, for I agree
that our relation with our world is problematic, but nothing will be
done about it until people start thinking seriously rather than mouth
feel-good inanities.

Please excuse my ire, but when there is tragedy or great harm, it
demands of us a serious response, which so far has not been offered.

Haines Brown

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