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Private Property vs Animal Cruelty - Where's the Line?

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I'm currently conflicted over a situation involving my neighbor. He owns a dog, which I believe to be unduly kept. On one hand, I understand that his dog is considered to be property; on the other, I believe the dog is suffering greatly. It is kept in an extremely small cage and fed sporadically. I have witnessed him "beat" it many times (I understand the use of negative reinforcement in training, I use the term "beat" to mean repetitive kicking, etc).

Am I justified in "stealing" my neighbors dog, or is it his right to decide how to treat it? If it's his right - is there a line, or is it unconditional?

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Although I have not explored the issue in depth, I believe there are rational standards in the care of an animal. Also, I believe most jurisdictions have laws against animal abuse. Call up the city animal shelter or a private organization such as the Humane Society or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and find out how to get an "animal cop" to investigate your neighbor and remove his dog, if necessary. That is the approach I would take rather than kidnapping the dog. If you kidnap the dog, you could be arrested for theft of your neighbor's property, since the dog is his property. Repetitive kicking is intolerable treatment of an animal. Also, I suggest videotaping or taking pictures of his behavior. Proof of his abuse of the animal will be essential if you want to legally remove the dog from him.

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I believe there are rational standards in the care of an animal.

Perhaps so, but it's not sufficient for something to be irrational or immoral for it to be illegal. An action must violate rights for the law to be justified in stepping in. And animals don't have rights. By inventing imaginary "animal rights" you only encourage violating your own rights. The SPCA is case in point.

Have you tried talking to your neighbor? If you really care about this dog, you could volunteer to walk it. Perhaps that would be a better first step than resorting to guns.

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I probably will talk to my neighbor, just wanted to see what others had to say. I have a hard time convincing myself that animals have NO rights - that would seem to endorse a wide variety of things presently illegal (such as staging fights to the death). It just seems like there should be some line that exists, such as someone stringing an animal up and slowly blow torching them to death.

Edit: Bear in mind this is pertaining to animals that are abused/killed for no particular reason (as opposed to food, clothing, etc). We're not putting an animal "ahead" of a man in any significant regard that I can think of.

Edited by goldmonkee
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GoldMonkee,

I agree with the others that animals have no rights, and that animal abuse laws should not exist. If those laws did not exist, then it would be very possible that any reputable seller of animals would require you to sign a contract stating that you would not abuse the animal. In fact, I believe some shelters and pet stores do make customers sign such a contract now. In this case, the animal abuser would be in breach of contract, and the animal could be taken away from him. As usual, the existence of unjust laws clouds the issue.

--Dan Edge

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If this person beats his animal for no other reason than to gain pleasure from the animal's pain, or to relief his own mental pain by transferring it onto the animal, you are dealing with someone who has serious mental problems. You should try talking to this person, and if that doesn't work avoid contact, and alert your neighbors to his actions.

That doesn't mean you have the right to take away his property. A dog has no more meaning than a punching bag. You wouldn't call the cops on a guy beating up his punching bag, would you?

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Wouldn't a person who abuses animals pose an objective threat to humans?

Even if certain, that still does not mean that the animal being abused has rights. The most that might be concluded from utterly psychotic and vicious behaviour towards an animal is grounds for putting the SOB in a mental institution (and throwing away the key if necessary), but not prison or any other instrument of the legal justice system.

--

I go so far in my dislike of cruelty as to condemn hunting and fishing, and I cannot abide trophying - but none of that means I would support laws against them, no matter what those laws may be.

It is not out of concern for the animal that I hold this. I happily eat meat and fish, enjoy a good barbeque as every Australian does, and have absolutely no moral qualms laying down rat poison and snail bait etc. As it happens, at work there was a rat that had eaten some poison and was slowly dying. In neither pity nor glee, I ended it by breaking its neck quickly and cleanly and throwing the body in the bin. I had no issues with this at all, and actually got annoyed with coworkers who stood around doing nothing other than watching the thing trying to crawl away. If rational human self interest require the act of killing, then kill - and there are neither any ground whatever for feeling bad about this nor justification for someone else to so much as look askance. It doesn't end there, either. As well as not having problems with killing animals to serve human rational self-interests, I even have no problems whatsoever about animal testing of purely cosmetic products such as make-up, never mind less 'frivolous' things like transgenic animals for transplant needs. When killing or pain-causing actions are required, then they should be cold and calculating just as say smelting iron or operating a IC fab machine are.

Animals do not have rights. No if, no buts, no maybes - NO RIGHTS AT ALL. The problem with animal cruelty is not that animals are being killed or just hurt - if killing or lots of hurting is what is required to pursue rational self-interest then so be it. The problem is that of someone is taking pleasure in the infliction of that hurt or death.

JJM

Edited by John McVey
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The most that might be concluded from utterly psychotic and vicious behaviour towards an animal is grounds for putting the SOB in a mental institution (and throwing away the key if necessary), but not prison or any other instrument of the legal justice system.

Wha? So he's an SOB because he's mentally ill?

Edited to expand quote.

Edited by Nate
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I go so far in my dislike of cruelty as to condemn hunting and fishing, and I cannot abide trophying - but none of that means I would support laws against them, no matter what those laws may be.
I don't see the connection, and I'm not clear how you to reconcile that condemnation with a willingness to eat meat. If you're saying that you couldn't personally kill a cow but would happily eat an already killed cow, then I can see that. But then shouldn't you condemn a cow killer the same as you condemn the hunter? In what way am I being more cruel (by taking a fish from the water and whacking its bitty fish brain) that the commercial fisherman who dumps a load of fish in the hold to die... well, some time later, after it's been out of water long enough. Or, do you condemn the meat producers though you enjoy their products?
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I don't see the connection, and I'm not clear how you to reconcile that condemnation with a willingness to eat meat. If you're saying that you couldn't personally kill a cow but would happily eat an already killed cow, then I can see that. But then shouldn't you condemn a cow killer the same as you condemn the hunter? In what way am I being more cruel (by taking a fish from the water and whacking its bitty fish brain) that the commercial fisherman who dumps a load of fish in the hold to die... well, some time later, after it's been out of water long enough. Or, do you condemn the meat producers though you enjoy their products?

You didn't see it because you missed it B)

I did not say killing was wrong, and nor did I say that taking pleasure is wrong. I said that taking pleasure in killing is wrong, because of what this represents. I have no problems with the slaughtering industry, and happily consider a knocker's job as perfectly honest labour. Similarly, I have no problems with professional fishermen, and I have no hang-ups with a practice that leads to fish suffocating painfully if that practice is the most efficient way of running a fishing operation. Let me further add that I also have no problems with those men who use to go around clubbing baby seals to get their fur. It is not what happens to the animal that I have the problem with but of motivation for what is done to it. What I object to is people out to get that gleeful "Gotcha!" feeling and demonstrations of superiority by killing things. This, I submit, represents an evil, of however small an example it may be in any case.

Consider the distinction between my putting down snail bait on the one hand and some kid having fun stomping on snails after a rain storm on the other. Arguably, what I do causes the snails more pain than the quick death under the foot of the 10yo brat, but I am not the one expressing an instance of worship of death and destruction. Going back to the seal-clubbers, were I the foreman of a team I'd heartily congratulate a man who treated his job as a job and did it efficiently and professionally, whereas if there were another man on my team who delighted in the killing then I would get rid of him ASAP.

If rational human self interest require the act of killing, then kill - and there are neither any ground whatever for feeling bad about this nor justification for someone else to so much as look askance. ... When killing or pain-causing actions are required, they should be cold and calculating

JJM

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I said that taking pleasure in killing is wrong, because of what this represents.

...

What I object to is people out to get that gleeful "Gotcha!" feeling and demonstrations of superiority by killing things.

I think that an unqualified condemnation of hunting and fishing is unjustified, but I would agree that if a hunter or fisherman engages in his sport only for the "pleasure" of killing an animal, that would warrant condemnation. There are other purposes to hunting and fishing, which are sports that require (or should require) some skill. So I think your condemnation of hunting and fishing should be restricted to those who engage in the activities solely for the killing act, and I would agree with you on that point. I might assume that your acceptance of hunting and fishing is not restricted to just profession or sport hide- and food-gathering. On the other hand, since you cannot abide trophying (harvesting a lion and displaying some or all of the body parts), I'm not so sure that you tolerate hunting as a recreational activity. You wouldn't be mistakenly assuming that people who hunt for sport only derive pleasure from taking a life, would you?
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Perhaps so, but it's not sufficient for something to be irrational or immoral for it to be illegal. An action must violate rights for the law to be justified in stepping in. And animals don't have rights. By inventing imaginary "animal rights" you only encourage violating your own rights. The SPCA is case in point.

Point taken on the SPCA. I have met shelter volunteers myself, and there is no way that people like that should be deputized police to round up other people's animals.

I also agree that animals (other than the human animal) have no rights. Nevertheless, someone who senselessly tortures animals is immoral on some level. I am in agreement with poster John McVey and support all forms of harvesting of animals for all the human values that we can get from them: food, fur, medical research, etc.

As a neighbor, I know that I would feel assaulted if an insane neighbor senselessly and barbarically tortured a dog next door to me (admittedly, I am exaggerating the facts somewhat from those presented by Goldmonkee). Am I not harmed by the sounds and sights of that animal torture so that I could get legal redress against it? Is this somewhat akin to someone assaulting me in another manner, say by having public orgies on their front yard or by publicly engaging in S&M torture? Yes, the behaviors are completely different, but if public orgies on front yards are legally impermissible because they assault me, would dog torture fall in the same category?

I have to admit, personally I would be far more upset to hear and see a dog being senselessly tortured than I would an orgy. Certainly if I had children I would be appalled to have them see either activity.

Can anyone recommend what they think is the best Objectivist writing on the topic of animal cruelty?

Edited by Galileo Blogs
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I'm not so sure that you tolerate hunting as a recreational activity. You wouldn't be mistakenly assuming that people who hunt for sport only derive pleasure from taking a life, would you?

My apologies, I should have qualified the original statement against hunting and fishing with 'recreational.' I have no objection to professional shooters working for bounties and the like, either. I do recognise that there are other reasons why people want to hunt and fish as well as have fun, but nevertheless I still object to recreational hunting and fishing as past-times. There are other ways of exercising the skills just as (or even more) effectively and at the same or lower cost that don't involve killing - it has been on my mind to try target shooting and clay-pigeon for some time, now, for example. The camping and hiking etc need not involve killing. It really needs to be asked, if someone does not need the food nor any other animal product, and there are other ways of exercising the skills that are not at all a sacrifice, why the desire to hunt?

JJM

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Am I not harmed by the sounds and sights of that animal torture so that I could get legal redress against it?

How are you being harmed?

You are opening the door to such a subjective set of problems of people being "harmed" by things that offend them.

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Killing cows for a living is quite different from someone who tortures animals for fun.
In terms of the question whether an act constitutes a threat, it is in no relevant way different. You may be revulsed by cruelty to animals, but it is not a threat to humans.
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Perhaps so, but it's not sufficient for something to be irrational or immoral for it to be illegal. An action must violate rights for the law to be justified in stepping in. And animals don't have rights. By inventing imaginary "animal rights" you only encourage violating your own rights.

That pretty much says it all. If you were to summon the law against a man who has violated nobody's rights, you would in fact be guilty of a much greater immorality than the man who doesn't know how to treat his dog.

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There are other ways of exercising the skills just as (or even more) effectively and at the same or lower cost that don't involve killing

Not really, no. How would you go fishing without fish? How would you hunt without something to hunt? You could shoot at targets, you could sneak up on deer without shooting, you could practice casting, and you could sit in a boat and relax, but none of these things by themselves is hunting or fishing. Unfortunately, I think you have an incorrect concept of "killing" which includes hunting and rights-violation in the same category, whereas they are not at all the same thing. Yes, a hunter can be a creep but that does not make all hunters creeps. Just because someone takes pleasure in hunting does not mean he is a death-worshiper; most hunters take pleasure in the life-affirming skills involved in successfully hunting animals. Just like you no doubt take pleasure in the fact that you keep your garden safe from snails - by killing them. It is an affirmation of your power over nature - the power of your mind. And if that involves killing mindless things that have no rights, then you should not despair.

Remember the distinction between power over nature - which is good, and power over men - which is bad. Yes, both involve "killing," but they are very, very different things. Yes, I understand someone can be sick and use the former, good thing, as a kind of sick "practice" for the latter (in his mind). But that is a sick, sick individual and it is improper to paint other, rational men with the same brush. And until you have good reason to suspect that someone has bad motivations in hunting, then you are not justified in condemning him or his hobby.

Edited by Inspector
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I wanted to thank everyone for the replies, some good arguments put up. I find thinking about it from a "freedom" standpoint is easier for me than that of property. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - that kind of thing.

GoldMonkee,

I agree with the others that animals have no rights, and that animal abuse laws should not exist. If those laws did not exist, then it would be very possible that any reputable seller of animals would require you to sign a contract stating that you would not abuse the animal. In fact, I believe some shelters and pet stores do make customers sign such a contract now. In this case, the animal abuser would be in breach of contract, and the animal could be taken away from him. As usual, the existence of unjust laws clouds the issue.

--Dan Edge

I really liked this answer. Too bad more things aren't handled in such a way.

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