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Objectivist view on Animal Abuse Laws

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What is Objectivist view on animal abuse and how those who have been found abusing animals (be it dogs, horses, whatever) should be handled? I can see an issue with animals having rights, but is there a another way for this to be legitimized? I can't see in my mind a free society where people are found to be nearly killing horses and a large variety of other animals in cruel and often utterly disgusting ways like I have seen on tv and then them being able to get away scott free.

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I think this is an important topic, and it will become more important every day as we see the rise of a group of people among us who think that routine animal sacrifice is a wonderful idea.

I scanned that other thread and found little that was clear and helpful other than just personal opinion. I see this page by Alex Epstein "Animal Rights' Movement Cruelty To Humans" which says "No sane person seeks to inflict needless pain on animals. Such practices, where they exist, should be condemned" and "The "animal rights" movement's emphasis on the senseless torture of animals--in the rare cases where it actually exists--is a red herring."

While Epstein acknowledges the proper position, I really have a problem with that second sentence -- concern over animal cruelty is not a "red herring."

I see this article at the atlassociety page which takes the position that "[T]he issues of gratuitous cruelty to animals and of vegetarianism are not fundamental philosophical issues." Seems that's the main comment I've seen before when this is discussed.

Maybe it's not a "fundamental philosophical issue," but a philosophy which has no guidance on an abomination like animal cruelty is a pretty weak thing. I suspect the true answer is that the ideas of Ayn Rand do lead to the proper condemnation of animal cruelty, but the definitive formulation of the argument has yet to be made.

Edited by CICEROSC

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...routine animal sacrifice ...

Maybe it's not a "fundamental philosophical issue," but a philosophy which has no guidance on an abomination like animal cruelty is a pretty weak thing. I suspect the true answer is that the ideas of Ayn Rand do lead to the proper condemnation of animal cruelty, but the definitive formulation of the argument has yet to be made.

Between the OP and your post, there are three separate issues raised:

1. animal cruelty laws

2. the morality of animal cruelty

3. what you call "the sacrifice of animals"

None of them are fundamental philosophical issues, but the philosophy of Objectivism can easily be applied to resolve them:

1. Animal cruelty laws violate property rights, because animals have no rights.

2. Animal cruelty, for its own sake, is immoral, because it is the act of proliferating psychological corruption.

3. The slaughter or any other use of animals for human benefit is not a sacrifice, and therefor proper, because animal life has no inherent value (because there's not such thing as inherent value).

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Indeed. Politically, “Animal Cruelty” does not exist because they do not have rights. Philosophically it speaks volumes about a person and more direct to the point, actually watching something suffer for pure enjoyment is a psychological confession in my mind.

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They are many properties in animals which we can value and even admire. Ayn Rand herself loved cats. She also mentioned that even animal life deserves some respect as a value-orientated process. It is an altruism which dehumanizes and causes cruelty because for an altruist to value means a sacrifice. Thus a false dichotomy-to sacrifice oneself to others or others (humans or animals) to oneself.

"The men who accept that dichotomy but choose its other side, the ultimate products of altruism's dehumanizing influence, are those psychopaths who do not challenge altruism's basic premise, but proclaim their rebellion against self-sacrifice by announcing that they are totally indifferent to anything living and would not lift a finger to help a man or a dog left mangled by a hit-and-run driver (who is usually one of their own kind)."

"The Ethics of Emergencies", from The Virtue of Selfishnes

By definition animals don't have rights, but nevertheless the cruelty to animals is deeply immoral. it undermines the Objectivist standard of value which is life itself.

Edited by Leonid

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I can't see in my mind a free society where people are found to be nearly killing horses and a large variety of other animals in cruel and often utterly disgusting ways like I have seen on tv and then them being able to get away scott free.

I think it's important to remember that Animal Planet and Nat Geo both play up the situations you encounter on shows like Animal Cops. These channels, the ASPCA, PETA, and the enviro movement itself really wants you to believe that we're all cruel or negligent caretakers for animals. It is important for them that you believe it so that you'll continue to watch their networks, and support animal rights organizations.

Also something important to note about those shows as I have seen them, it is rarely a successful happy person who has three dogs chained to spiked posts with no food and water in a 8x8 backyard. It is most often a house in the ghetto, with unemployed owners. For horses, a failing farm that is kept by someone who doesn't know horse care and will probably have to give up or change the property soon to get any money on it. So the case could be made that those enviro groups should advocate dropping welfare and boosting the free market so there are less poor uneducated people to mistreat the animals they own.

In fact in many laboratories for the medical industry the FDA requires animal testing even when it could be deemed unnecessary, and they have strict draconian rules on how the animal must be treated during testing. If the FDA wasn't around animal testing could be conducted on a per company basis and the treatment of their animals could be overseen by free market forces.

Laws against cruelty are a problem because punishment for such cases is either irrelevant or too harsh. You can throw a few guys who left their dogs alone during vacation in jail for a few years, but ultimately no objective system of law and punishment can be constructed which satisfies both reason and emotion in this case. I believe both Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff had said this before, that they wish some kind of special case could be formulated for animals but they could not think of one. Peikoff mentioned (I believe) prosecuting someone who is cruel to animals on the basis that they represent a threat to other humans around them, based on the pathology of someone who is capable of being that cruel to an animal.

Ultimately involving government in the fight to stop cruelty to animals only causes more harm to them.

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Satisfying both reason and emotion is a big problem here.

As someone who loves animals and has done quite a bit of volunteer work with abused and neglected animals I have a visceral response to seeing animals being caused suffering, wilfully, by horrible people. And I agree with Peikoff on the pathology issue.

Unfortunately, because it is best to err on the side of justice, it seems difficult to deal with people who harm animals for no legitimate reason.

I'm mostly in agreement with Jackethan here: "Laws against cruelty are a problem because punishment for such cases is either irrelevant or too harsh"

but would amend it to say that acts of animal cruelty commited against an animal owned by another could (and I believe should) be given harsher punishments than they currently are. Say, in a case where someone tortures and kills their neighbor's dog... I think a lengthy prison sentence would be just here. Because real emotional pain and suffering (and tangible property loss) has been inflicted by this act on the owner of the animal and the owner is a human who does have rights.

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For the sake of argument, Sapere, let's analyze.

(I'm not trying to debate here I'm being dialectic.)

If you replace animal with...a doll. Your dead daughter's doll that you're attached to, it gives you a tangible reminder of your dead daughter, your only connection to her left in the world. Your neighbor steals it, rips it apart, and burns it. Let's put a similar monetary value to the doll as a dog, maybe it had gemstone eyes so it was worth $100 to $1000 dollars. To keep up the analogy, maybe you spent years buying expensive cleaning stuff monthly to make sure the doll was in pristine condition, (similar to how you have to feed and groom a dog).

Should the court apply any special punishment beyond compensating the monetary worth of the doll? And if not, what makes dolls different from dogs in this case? If so, what makes them similar?

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Mm. Good analogy. Damn, I was getting to like that 'emotional pain' argument.

You're still left with the property value one, though.

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And if not, what makes dolls different from dogs in this case? If so, what makes them similar?

Dog is alive. It is feeling sentient conscious being.

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Dog is alive. It is feeling sentient conscious being.

Undeniable. The morality issue is pretty much done and dusted.

(I hope.)

But it's lending weight to the issue of criminality that the posters have

been exploring.

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Dog is alive. It is feeling sentient conscious being.

So is a cockroach. Anyone want to state that someone who kills a beloved cockroach ought to be faced with a jail sentence? No?

You can love your dog as if it were a child, that doesn't change the fact that it's an animal, has no rights, and is property.

Now, given that intentional cruelty to animals IS a sign of moral failing, I could see making a case that it is legitimate probable cause for searching your property for signs of illegal activity, and the resulting invasion/search/seizure of property ought to be quite satisfying emotionally to anyone affected by the animal cruelty. This would also be an effective means of public shaming/inconvenience that would work quite well as a deterrent without violating anyone's rights.

Edited by JMeganSnow

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So is a cockroach. Anyone want to state that someone who kills a beloved cockroach ought to be faced with a jail sentence? No?

Yes, me. Intentionally inflicting emotional pain on someone through illegal means should carry a larger sentence than inflicting mere property loss on them through the same exact means.

Not trying to defend Leonid though. This has nothing to do with whether anything is alive, sentient or just an object. It should be equally true whether the means was destroying a pet puppy, dead daughter's doll or a beloved cockroach (although I assume the malicious intent would be easier to prove with a puppy than a cockroach or an object, since it should be obvious that killing someone's puppy will hurt them on an emotional level).

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Dragon lady: "So is a cockroach. Anyone want to state that someone who kills a beloved cockroach ought to be faced with a jail sentence? No?"

No. Cockroach is not conscious. So are plants and sea urchins and other low forms of life. As for the legal question-I think that any case of severe unusual cruelty to the animals should be punished. Such a cruelty is a hallmark of psychopath who doesn't give a damn about any living thing-animal or human. What you'd do to a creature who put a kitten into the microwave oven and fried it alive? ( a real case)? Would you just give him a warning and let him be? In my view he is a danger to society and should be incarcerated if not in jail, then in psychiatric institution. Such a person in fact could be hardly called a human.

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Yes, me. Intentionally inflicting emotional pain on someone through illegal means should carry a larger sentence than inflicting mere property loss on them through the same exact means.

Absolutely not. No legal system with an interest in justice should take into account anyone's feelings about ANYTHING. That's what "hate speech" legislation is all about. Oh, it's perfectly fine to say it, as long as you don't "hate" someone, but if you're a "hater" then suddenly it's illegal.

Not to mention that anyone can claim emotional pain at any time and it cannot be proven or disproven.

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What you'd do to a creature who put a kitten into the microwave oven and fried it alive? ( a real case)? Would you just give him a warning and let him be? In my view he is a danger to society and should be incarcerated if not in jail, then in psychiatric institution. Such a person in fact could be hardly called a human.

Legally? There shouldn't be a punishment at all. I have no problem if the justice system wants to issue a warrant to search his belongings for evidence that he's extending his behavior to people who actually have rights, but that's not not punitive from a legal standpoint.

I like how these mushy-headed emotional arguments always assume that humans are eeevul, and the poor helpless cute fuzzy animals have to be protected. What happens when a 3-year-old gets mauled by a vicious dog?

Animals don't have rights because they are fundamentally incapable of respecting the concept of rights. I'll grant you that some people fail at this, too, which is why we need a criminal justice system at all, but because they possess the basic capability it must be assumed that they're innocent until proven guilty. Concepts like innocent and guilty don't apply to animals because they do not possess a conceptual consciousness--they do not possess the capacity to "know better".

Oh, and cockroaches totally are conscious. Try to step on one some time if you don't believe me. They damn well are aware of that boot coming down.

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Absolutely not. No legal system with an interest in justice should take into account anyone's feelings about ANYTHING.

No? So what are the criteria a legal system should consider, when establishing a penalty for a crime?

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If you replace animal with...a doll. Your dead daughter's doll that you're attached to, it gives you a tangible reminder of your dead daughter, your only connection to her left in the world. Your neighbor steals it, rips it apart, and burns it. Let's put a similar monetary value to the doll as a dog, maybe it had gemstone eyes so it was worth $100 to $1000 dollars. To keep up the analogy, maybe you spent years buying expensive cleaning stuff monthly to make sure the doll was in pristine condition, (similar to how you have to feed and groom a dog).

Should the court apply any special punishment beyond compensating the monetary worth of the doll? And if not, what makes dolls different from dogs in this case? If so, what makes them similar?

I understand your point.

And Dragon Lady's point as well, I should clarify that I don't mean "emotional pain" in the sense of "he hurt my feelings" but rather a tangible loss of a companionship that the owner of an animal purchases and works towards.

So let us analyse the difference. Mind you, I am basing this on the notion that the purpose of law is to make the victim whole. In the case of willfully and viciously killing someone's pet I am calling the pet's owner the victim. So assuming that the purpose is to make the victim whole:

Difference between a doll and a dog

1) a doll is a manufactured thing. While one could make a "one of a kind" doll it would be possible given time and resources to make an exact replica. A doll doesn't change (except wear and tear which is in the owner's control anyway) it doesn't grow, it doesn't learn.

a dog (lets leave cloning out as that is not mainstream at this time) is a creature that is born. If you lose one dog you can hire the breeder to produce another puppy from the exact same bloodlines but there really is no way to determine exactly how it will play out. A dog is formed by experiences, again, not possible to replicate.

2) a doll is a static thing- it sits there, it *is*

a dog has a relationship with its owner. Again, I can buy a new dog by the same dam and sire and treat it the same way, but there is no guarantee that it will be anything like the dog I lost.

3) your point about the sentimental value of a doll (belonged to the person's dead daughter) this is not what I am arguing by "emotional pain" as explained above. A sentimental feeling of attachment is not quantifiable- I wholly agree with Dragon Lady on this. Perhaps we need a better term that "emotional damage"? I don't know what that would be so please accept the explantion I've given. The sentimental value of the doll is not qualifiable and indeed can be lied about. I believe companionship value of a well bred, well trained working dog is quantifiable. My dogs are well trained. They guard my home. They understand what I want of them when I want it. In many ways they are tools that enhance my life. That is quantifiable.

I will use an example of my favorite dog to explain what I believe the value to be.

Let us say dog, advance ordered from one of the country's best breeders of her kind, comes from champion bloodlines and during the pre-pickup weaning period is raised in a specific environment in a specific way. There is a waiting period to get in line for a puppy here.

Lets say the price of the puppy is $2000 and she is 2 years old now.

$2000 plus $500 a year on vet bills.

2 years on training on a daily basis. Time is money. I own a business. My time is valuable. If I have to start from scratch I lost two years. That has a very real value to me.

I usually work 18+ hours a day. I deliberately arranged to have this puppy available at a time when I could spend 4 months of its formative period spending most of my time with it. That also was not only a tangible value but also something that I would not be able to repeat any time in the near future.

A combination of the careful choosing of breeder and the circumstances of the breeding/weaning and my altering of my lifestyle in the beginning *and* my ceaseless work with this dog has created a remarkable animal. My dog is of a breed that many find tempermentally problematic. Mine has none of these issues and people familiar with the breed are constantly remarking about how exceptional she is.

So... if some lunatic comes into my locked gated yard and kills her in cold blood.

Am I owed $2000?

Would $2000 make me whole?

I think objectively not.

I think that person not only maliciously and willfully destroyed my property but incidentally stole two years of my hard work, not to mention the 3 months of planning that went into acquiring her.

To respond to Dragon Lady's query about how I could justify this as being objectively different than a pet cockroach:

1) averaging out lifespan of species cockroachs live an average of 6 months- that means that the most tangible companionship I could be deprived of is 6 months total as opposed to 12-20 years for a dog

2) while roaches can be bred for certain qualities one could hardly argue life enhancememnt (exception-maybe a scientist who uses them in experiments? roach circus sideshow?) given by a cockroach. Mine dog guards my home. Well.

3) roaches have not been noticed to form attachments therefore a roach could be replaced without much difference with another roach. You replace my dog with another dog and it will not automatically listen to me, do my bidding, and protect my family, my home and my own person.

Edited by SapereAude

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Such a cruelty is a hallmark of psychopath who doesn't give a damn about any living thing-animal or human. What you'd do to a creature who put a kitten into the microwave oven and fried it alive? ( a real case)? Would you just give him a warning and let him be? In my view he is a danger to society and should be incarcerated if not in jail, then in psychiatric institution. Such a person in fact could be hardly called a human.

I agree with your feelings on the matter Leonid, but feelings cannot be a basis for law.

What you say here appeals to the emotions of any rational person... to witness such a dispicable and depraved thing would make any moral person want the individual removed from society.

But that is why objective law would be based a long term rational self interest.

A society that incarcerates people based on conjecture of what they might do is a tyranny.

It is well known and documented that psychopaths and sociopaths often hurt animals then move on to people. For that reason what Dragon Lady advocates makes the most sense based on what is proper, if not satisfying to those of us who love our pets.

If I saw someone wantonly abusing, to the point of maiming or death, an animal I don't know that I could stay uninvolved.

Objectively I could have a moral argument that I can interfere to ensure that the animal does not belong to someone who is not the person commiting the abuse.

Objectvism unfortunately has not come up with a justification to stop someone from abusing their own property.

So I do have to admit, if I saw someone tying fireworks to their own cat's tail, or hanging their own dog from a tree I would do whatever it took to stop them. And I know that I would be in the wrong for doing so and would have to accept the consequences of that.

I'm just not ready to be flawlessly rational I guess.

Edited: "Objectivism unfortunately has not come up with a justification to stop someone from abusing their own property." This is poorly worded and could easily be misconstrued. I'm in a bit of a rush and don't know how to better clarify right now.

Edited by SapereAude

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SapereAude,

We well know that occasions arise when doing the legal (under individual rights)thing

may not be the moral; in this case, I think it's the opposite way round.

The moral act would be to do as you would do - to save a (non-rights bearing) animal from its

malicious owner, by force, if necessary

Any objective court would not condone your action - but would also pass a sentence on you

that would amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist - I believe.

Morality transcends rights, and is derived from value of life. Rights are a social code,

not a guide to morality.

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I'd like to correct a semantic error. I don't think Sentient is the word we want to use for distinction in this case. I made this mistake in an argument about animal rights once already.

Sentient according to Merriam-Webster Online:

1: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions

2: aware (checked: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge

3: finely sensitive in perception or feeling

Sentience only means the ability to feel, not self awareness or consciousness as we define them.

So... if some lunatic comes into my locked gated yard and kills her in cold blood.

Am I owed $2000?

Would $2000 make me whole?

I think objectively not.

I think that person not only maliciously and willfully destroyed my property but incidentally stole two years of my hard work, not to mention the 3 months of planning that went into acquiring her.

You put together a really good case for receiving a legitimate financial compensation for the dog, but your case is still purely financial. You spent money to get the dog, you spent money (in the form of not working) to train the dog from youth. Most of the things you said are quantifiable and able to be verified by paper documentation and financial records. They are wholly different from an emotional attachment case. I believe courts rightly should award people compensation from the aggressor for breeding, training, feeding, taking time off, and medical care. It is the idea that you should be awarded more compensation based on the level of emotional investment you have made which is more difficult to objectively quantify and prove in court. Note, I don't believe it is impossible, I just haven't seen it done yet, neither had Rand or Peikoff. I believe it can be done, and I believe they both thought so too.

So I do have to admit, if I saw someone tying fireworks to their own cat's tail, or hanging their own dog from a tree I would do whatever it took to stop them. And I know that I would be in the wrong for doing so and would have to accept the consequences of that.

I'm just not ready to be flawlessly rational I guess.

I think a good case could be made for doing disturbing things in earshot/view of neighbors. At least, I've seen far more petty cases on television go to court, not even involving animals. Furthermore, in an Objectivist society a homeowner's association, township, or even city could have laws against animal abuse like that as an issue of disturbing peace of mind for locals. I think the more difficult issue to legislate is when someone, willfully or not, neglects an animal to the point of abuse. I think direct violence to an animal is easier to stop than the ones who simply bought a dog, found out it was too much work, and now just leave it in their yard, forgotten, giving water and food to it maybe on a monthly basis. In these cases, the person is not acting violently toward the animal and thus creating a ruckus to distract neighbors with. The animal is just slowly dying. I think these cases are more common than direct violence.

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You put together a really good case for receiving a legitimate financial compensation for the dog, but your case is still purely financial. You spent money to get the dog, you spent money (in the form of not working) to train the dog from youth. Most of the things you said are quantifiable and able to be verified by paper documentation and financial records. They are wholly different from an emotional attachment case. I believe courts rightly should award people compensation from the aggressor for breeding, training, feeding, taking time off, and medical care. It is the idea that you should be awarded more compensation based on the level of emotional investment you have made which is more difficult to objectively quantify and prove in court.

I think we agree more than we disagree, partly based on my inability to come up with the proper wording.

If you reference this of my post:

"I understand your point.

And Dragon Lady's point as well, I should clarify that I don't mean "emotional pain" in the sense of "he hurt my feelings" but rather a tangible loss of a companionship that the owner of an animal purchases and works towards."

My meaning here being that as far as my two years work investment in the animal goes I believe the compensation should go beyond what I can prove by my financial records.

For example, in those two years I obviously wasn't training the dog 24/7. Lets say I had 1 hour a day direct learning/training time with the animal. I believe compensation shouldn't reflect the value of my time by the hour, but rather the greater value that was created by the culmination of the years. Because I can't condense time. If I get compensated for my hourly input into the animal it will still take two years work to get a new animal to that level. That becomes harder to quantify, which is probably why I am having trouble coming up with a proper wording for it.

I think we're pretty much on the same page and I've just expressed myself poorly in this matter.

One thing I would disagree with is this:

"I think direct violence to an animal is easier to stop than the ones who simply bought a dog, found out it was too much work, and now just leave it in their yard, forgotten, giving water and food to it maybe on a monthly basis. In these cases, the person is not acting violently toward the animal and thus creating a ruckus to distract neighbors with. The animal is just slowly dying. I think these cases are more common than direct violence. "

I've had neighbors that have done this and have usually called the police. I agree with you that negligence is (and should be) harder to justify prosecuting than direct abuse. These animals don't tend to suffer quietly. They tend to bark, howl, scream and whine nonstop. On that basis, and perhaps that alone, one can justify punitive action for neglect- that the noise (and often smell) is offensive and disruptive to neighboring properties. But this is an issue of disturbing the peace, not one of violating an animals "rights" as many try to see it.

A further question-

In many cases when a person has habitually created a nuisance with misuse of something they will be denied the right to possess said thing.

Guns and weapons come to mind, as do vehicles. Someone who has multiple arrests based on drunken behavior will often have, as terms of their release, a restriction put on them that they may not enter, inhabit or frequent bars.

Could it be justified that someone who has had multiple violations involving animals would lose their right to possess animals?

I think it could.

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I think it all comes down to the very fact that an animal cannot own rights - which

means it deserves the best of men's benevolence and protection.

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I think it all comes down to the very fact that an animal cannot own rights - which

means it deserves the best of men's benevolence and protection.

For myself I agree with you and that is the way I personally conduct myself.

But in discussion of legal matters, crime and punishment I think we can all agree that it is a dangerous thing for the government to involve itself in who "deserves" what.

I think that the point where in dealing with animals one proves themselves to be a contemptible vile thug is reached much sooner than the point where one can be prosecuted for it.

Bearing in mind that the reasonable affection we have for our working and companion animals is one that many extremists would broadly apply to animals we use for clothing & food and in the most extreme cases even to insects any endeavor to restrict what may legally be done with animals must be approached with caution.

Edited by SapereAude

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