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Question About Animal Cruelty

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(Mod's note: This thread was created by merging a few similar thread. There is also a separate thread on eating meat.)

The dog lover's category started me thinking on a question that I haven't heard answered to my satisfaction.

From what I understand, Peikoff once asked Rand if it was acceptible to cruelly harm animals for no purpose, and whether it was morally actionable (prohibitable by law). She said "of course not" or something of that nature, but again according ot Peikoff, provided no reasoning to back it up.

Though this isn't the forum for the political question, it is for the ethical question by itself (I think), so I'd like to combine them both here. Is it morally wrong to harm animals for a purpose that doesn't increase or benefit the life of individual man? And if so, is it morally actionable?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Morally reprehensible, but not actionable by law, unless the perpetrator harms an animal belonging to another -- then it's actionable as a property crime. Animals have no rights, even though many of us care for them a lot and don't enjoy seeing them harmed.

Why morally reprehensible? Because it shows disregard/hatred for life -- something we share with animals. Kant believed that one who was cruel to animals was more likely to be cruel to human beings, and, while I am no psychologist, I tend to believe this. I train my dog in agility and obedience. In obedience, I attend a group class, and I sometimes see others, even the instructors, giving overly harsh "corrections" to their dogs. And even this disturbs me. I will raise a voice at a dog, or give a scruff shake, but this is something to use sparingly and wisely, if the goal is to teach the dog and improve the relationship, vs. shut the dog down.

Sorry for going off-topic a bit. Although I guess this last bit is part of the argument for the idea that it is not in one's own selfish interest to be cruel to one's own animal -- that it gets you no closer to achieving any rational goal.

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It certainly isn't reasonable to harm an animal for no reason ;)

And the question of if it is "morally actionable" can be answered like this: Is it Your animal? if so, yes (your right to property).

If not, why does it matter to you? do you lose anything?

The case of wild animals is determined by whose property it is and if they care.

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It certainly isn't reasonable to harm an animal for no reason ;)

And as it isnt reasonable to harm an animal for no reason (for the 'pleasure' of inflicting pain on the beast), it is "morally actionable" even if the animal is not your own. The infliction of such harm informs you about the character of such an individual - what he considers good and bad for humans - what he considers right and wrong for man. Given such an action, one would properly refuse to interact with such an individual - so as not to sanction such behavior, and out of fear of what other actions he may take or harm he may inflict 'for no reason.'

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ALP

"Kant believed that one who was cruel to animals was more likely to be cruel to human beings, and, while I am no psychologist, I tend to believe this"

FYI cruelty to Animals is one of the best predictors of Antisocial Personality Disorder is cruelty to animals at a young age.

B) Good call, ALP maybe you should become a psychologist.... Albert Ellis may not have been an "objectivist" but he came pretty damn close ;)

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Why don't you abuse your dog?

Nobody would ever know. You don't have to feel bad about it.

So why don't you do it?

Because you LIKE your dog, because you're too egoistical to lower yourself by sacrificing your value for the sake of brutality.

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I believe Animal Cruelty is merely the reflection of what's inside of the animal violator’s mind. Such a person must be cruel even when they’re not damaging animals for any reason other then some sadistic pleasure.

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Okay, so if animals do not have rights, does that mean that it's morally okay to torture them?

What would torture give you? How would this advance your life? Only a sick, demented individual would promote the "torture" of an animal, especially if he/she recieved "pleasure" from it.

Although animals do not have "rights" (as we have them), we are still guardians to some extent. Beyond which what we need for our existance (and florishment) for food, work, etc. we should respect animal life since it is part of nature.

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What would torture give you?  How would this advance your life?  Only a sick, demented individual would promote the "torture" of an animal, especially if he/she received "pleasure" from it.

Demented individuals exist. As an Objectivist, are you able to say that the government should have the power to enforce a prohibition against malicious, purposeless animal torture?

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I just don't see how it can be argued that animal torture is wrong, unless you admit that animals have rights. I, personally, believe that animals do have rights...just rights that are different from ours. If man's rights are derived from his rational nature, then animal rights are derived from their ability to feel physical pain.

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You're confusing the moral and the political:

Moral (Is it right to torture an animal)

Political (Is it lawful to torture an animal)

It's also completely legal to sit on your butt and drink beer until you throw up, but how moral is it?

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Moose, you have a confused understanding of what rights are, especially in their relation to moral principles. I suggest reading "Man's Rights" in "Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal" and Chapter 10 of "Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand."

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In Objectivist morality, one has a duty not to violate the rights of humans, right? But if only humans have rights, then one has no duty not to harm animals (unless they're owned by humans), right? So it follows that there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture, right?

But that's a pretty hard pill to swallow isn't it?

Moose proposes a cogent solution: "If man's rights are derived from his rational nature, then animal rights are derived from their ability to feel physical pain."

But as that is formulated, it allows one to kill animals as long as they do not suffer from the killing. That seems reasonable, especially if animals are killed for food. But would one want to also morally disallow gratuitiously killing animals, even if it were painless for them?

If one disallowed gratuitous killing even if it were painless for the animal, then, since pain is not felt by less sentient creatures, why not disallow gratuiously killing any creature at all?

Also, animals can feel distress, especially primates. Is it morally okay to perniciously tease animals, or to unnecessarily frighten them, to constrict them in ways that make them suffer, or otherwise subject them to privations?

Edited by LauricAcid

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In Objectivist morality, one has a duty not to violate the rights of humans, right? But if only humans have rights, then one has no duty not to harm animals (unless they're owned by humans), right? So it follows that there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture, right?

No. Morally, there is no "duty" to anyone or anything except for yourself. The reason why you should not initiate force against men is because it will not benefit you, and the reason why you shouldn't torture an animal is because it will not benefit you.

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In Objectivist morality, one has a duty not to violate the rights of humans, right?

Wrong. Violating others' rights is irrational and unselfish, but there is no duty to refrain from it.

But if only humans have rights, then one has no duty not to harm animals (unless they're owned by humans), right?

One has no duties. So, no duty not to harm animals.

So it follows that there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture, right?

No, it does not follow.

But that's a pretty hard pill to swallow isn't it?

Whether pills are hard to swallow - whether some position is a bit PC and tends to generate negative emotion at first - is irrelevant.

Moose proposes a cogent solution: "If man's rights are derived from his rational nature, then animal rights are derived from their ability to feel physical pain."

Why do you think that is either a solution or cogent? Rights have everything to do with reason, and nothing to do with sensory stimuli.

But as that is formulated, it allows one to kill animals as long as they do not suffer from the killing.

As that is formulated, it makes no sense.

That seems reasonable, especially if animals are killed for food. But would one want to also morally disallow gratuitiously killing animals, even if it were painless for them?

Is Objectivism supposed to be some sort of Bible, with Ayn Rand preaching the commandments and the willing servants obeying them? Is that how you see it?

If one disallowed gratuitous killing even if it were painless for the animal, then, since pain is not felt by less sentient creatures, why not disallow gratuiously killing any creature at all?

There is no disallowing.

Also, animals can feel distress, especially primates.

Not relevant.

Is it morally okay to perniciously tease animals, or to unnecessarily frighten them, to constrict them in ways that make them suffer, or otherwise subject them to privations?

This is, in fact, the same question as the original question.

The answer is always, judge the action as it compares to your own personal standard of value. I cannot answer this for you, Lauric, until you state your standard of value.

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It's contextual. It would be immoral an animal, but not illegal (in a proper society) to torture an animal on a whim. But if you had a purpose (I don't know, say, see how it reacts to stress) it would be perfectly moral to "torture it". Of course, in the moral case, if you had injured it during the torture experiment to a degree in which it won't recover properly, you should kill it like you would a lame horse.

Edited by Rational_One

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I asked, "In Objectivist morality, one has a duty not to violate the rights of humans, right?" And I got two answers:

(1) "No. Morally, there is no "duty" to anyone or anything except for yourself." [ex_banana-eater]

(2) "Wrong. Violating others' rights is irrational and unselfish, but there is no duty to refrain from it." [y_feldblum]

Either Objectivism is inconsistent, or it's open-ended as to whether one has a duty to oneself, or one of the above is inconsistent with Objectivism.

Also, (1) seems to respond as if I had mentioned a duty to others, which I did not.

Anyway, aside from whether 'moral' implies 'duty' (even duty to self), Objectivsm holds that it is not moral to violate the rights of others. And animals have no rights. Therefore, any immorality from torturing animals would have to be that torturing animals is not selfish, not an immorality of violating rights. Is that correct? That retains the meaning of my original questions but without 'duty'.

I had written:

So it follows that there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture, right?

No, it does not follow.

It follows from the premises. You just disagree with the premises. Moreover, if you believe there are no duties and if you belive there should not be laws against animal torture, then you must believe there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture. So even if you think that conclusion does not follow from the premises, the conclusion is still true in your view.

[...] whether some position is a bit PC and tends to generate negative emotion at first - is irrelevant.

PC has nothing to do with it. But, it's true that if you don't believe that a moral theory needs to address things that nearly all people find morally repugnant, then you have no need for your moral theory to take account of such things.

Why do you think that is either a solution or cogent? Rights have everything to do with reason, and nothing to do with sensory stimuli.

Because it accounts for what was discussed above. If one doesn't feel that needs to be accounted for, then no solution is needed. But since there are people who do believe it needs to be accounted for, Moose's proposal does offer a solution. It's cogent since it gets to the essence of the contrast between reason and pain.

Is Objectivism supposed to be some sort of Bible, with Ayn Rand preaching the commandments and the willing servants obeying them? Is that how you see it?

I've posted nothing that implies anything like that.

This is, in fact, the same question as the original question.

No it's not. The original concerned physical pain only.

The answer is always, judge the action as it compares to your own personal standard of value. I cannot answer this for you, Lauric, until you state your standard of value.

I'm not asking for personal moral guidance from you.

Edited by LauricAcid

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I asked, "In Objectivist morality, one has a duty not to violate the rights of humans, right?" And I got two answers:

(1) "No. Morally, there is no "duty" to anyone or anything except for yourself." [ex_banana-eater]

(2) "Wrong. Violating others' rights is irrational and unselfish, but there is no duty to refrain from it." [y_feldblum]

Either Objectivism is inconsistent, or it's open-ended as to whether one has a duty to oneself, or one of the above is inconsistent with Objectivism.

Also, (1) seems to respond as if I had mentioned a duty to others, which I did not.

Both answers are corrects and say essentially the same thing.

Anyway, aside from whether 'moral' implies 'duty' (even duty to self), Objectivsm holds that it is not moral to violate the rights of others. And animals have no rights. Therefore, any immorality from torturing animals would have to be that torturing animals is not selfish, not an immorality of violating rights. Is that correct? That retains the meaning of my original questions but without 'duty'.

On Objectivist ethics, egoism is moral and altruism is immoral. Respecting others' right is moral because it is selfish, not because anybody is under a gategorical imperative to do so.

It follows from the premises. You just disagree with the premises. Moreover, if you believe there are no duties and if you belive there should not be laws against animal torture, then you must believe there is no duty not to torture animals and there should be no laws against animal torture. So even if you think that conclusion does not follow from the premises, the conclusion is still true in your view.

Do you really think playing word games is going to get you anywhere? It's not relevant to this point whether some unrelated argument you made is valid. I'm neither going to confirm nor deny the validity or truth of your unrelated argument. I'm going to ignore it.

PC has nothing to do with it. But, it's true that if you don't believe that a moral theory needs to address things that nearly all people find morally repugnant, then you have no need for your moral theory to take account of such things.

Ethics - Ayn Rand's, anyway - addresses all of human action. However, lots of people feeling one way about something is not relevant.

Because it accounts for what was discussed above.

It's arbitrary. The arbitrary can account for nothing.

If one doesn't feel that needs to be accounted for, then no solution is needed. But since there are people who do believe it needs to be accounted for, Moose's proposal does offer a solution. It's cogent since it gets to the essence of the contrast between reason and pain.

We need to account for lots of people feeling one way about something?

I've posted nothing that implies anything like that.

Your every single sentence reeks of the implication.

No it's not. The original concerned physical pain only.

I'm not even going to pretend I care.

I'm not asking for personal moral guidance from you.

I was not offering it. I was pointing out that to seek moral guidance - from oneself -, one must have clearly identified one's own standard of value. Have you?

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Animals do not have rights. Rights are derived from man's rational faculty, his ability to use reason. Animals have no such faculty. They have no rights.

Men are not duty-bound to animals in any way. We may torture them if we wish, but one would have to ask what value you could gain from it. If you gain a value (like scientific knowledge or whatever) it would not be immoral. Each case is contextual.

Objectivism is neither open-ended or inconsistent. Neither statements you quoted from ex-banana-eater and y_feldblum contradicted each other.

If you define duty as 'moral obligation' then the only duty you have is to yourself. You have a moral obligation to sustain your own life by your own effort. If you define duty as 'an action required of you for no reason' (as most of us understand the term used today) you have no duties whatsoever.

The problem I think you are having here is differentiating between have and should.

You have to sustain your life by some means. You should sustain your life through your own work and effort, but that is a choice you have to make. You can be a producer or a leech. Objectivism holds that the only moral way to live is by your own effort.

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Both answers are corrects and say essentially the same thing.

No they don't. (1) says one has duties to oneself and (2) says one has no duties.

Both answers are corrects and say essentially the same thing.

On Objectivist ethics, egoism is moral and altruism is immoral. Respecting others' right is moral because it is selfish, not because anybody is under a gategorical imperative to do so.

Who said anything about a categorical imperative?

It's not relevant to this point whether some unrelated argument you made is valid.

You cared enough to claim that it was not.

We need to account for lots of people feeling one way about something

I make no claim about your needs.

Your every single sentence reeks of the implication.

A non sequitur drawn through your nose.

I was not offering it.

So your "I cannot answer this for you, Lauric, until you state your standard of value" is vacuous utterance.

Have you?

It's not the question of this thread.

Edited by LauricAcid

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Okay, so if animals do not have rights, does that mean that it's morally okay to torture them?

In the usual sense in which this is meant, the answer is NO it is not moral to torture animals. However, this does not come from the idea of rights.

More broadly, morality is not based on rights. Rights are based on morality. Objectivism does not say: "We have rights, therefore this is moral/immoral." Rather, it says: "This is moral. Therefore, when we deal with others, we have rights."

PS: When you say "torture", I assume you do not mean activities like scientific experiments, but rather a wanton infliction of pain, almost "for the heck of it".

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