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Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat
October 5, 2010 8:46 PM   Subscribe

What is the proper punishment for nearly murdering a cat for no reason? Does a man once engaged in dogfighting deserve a second chance? What is the moral way to treat the animals that become your meat? Questions of the human relationship to the animal are a touchy subject. Hal Herzog has written a new book titled Some We Love, Some We hate, Some We Eat which examines this relationship. An interview is located here, in which he discusses the grey areas of the human-animal interaction.

Discovered via The Browser

To pull one quote from the article that I found especially interesting:

So is the solution just to come to terms with the disconnect between loving our cat and treating it like a family member and enjoying our fried chicken?

I think that's the human condition. I think this humanization of pets is really fascinating. I developed a tongue-in-cheek scale that I called "feeding kittens or boa constrictors" scale. I asked people, "Would it be OK to feed snakes versus cats certain types of food?" One was mice: Would it be OK to feed a mouse to a boa constrictor? Is it OK to feed a mouse to a cat?

Almost everyone said it was not OK to feed a mouse to a cat. I interviewed a student who had cats. I said, "Would you ever feed a dead mouse to your cat? You can buy them at the pet store." She said, "No!" She was horrified. And I asked why. She had this great quote. She said, "If my cat ate mice, it wouldn't be like me."
posted by codacorolla (70 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just put it on hold at the library, thanks!
posted by Corduroy at 8:57 PM on October 5, 2010


Almost everyone said it was not OK to feed a mouse to a cat.

Classic urban bias. Ask the same question to people living in a major agricultural area and see what kind of answers you get.
posted by melissam at 9:10 PM on October 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


If they cuddle with me, I won't eat them.

Aside from that, the only interesting point that came up in the interview (your last link) wasn't explored in any depth: the history of our relationship to critters.

That's what's fascinating: the pre-historical relationship to animals as things-to-be-feared vs things-to-eat; evolving through cooperative relationships (dogs, horses, cats) etc. Plus how culinary options lead to greater ethical discretion (if there were dogs everywhere and nothing else to eat, hey hotdogs for everyone).

But although your post is framed around Herzog, I don't find enough in any of your links, without ordering his book, to engage with here.
posted by yesster at 9:13 PM on October 5, 2010


I find it sort of offensive when people seem to think that eating something apparently can't be done in a loving way that's in accord with the universe. They, it seems, are morally superior to lions and tigers and other predators on such a grand scale that they wouldn't deign to see themselves on the same level.

This isn't an idle point. Being an omnivore demands some moral consideration and constraint. I don't doubt that almost all of our current practices as far as meat-eating is concerned are flawed, and as a result I don't really eat much meat; I eat meat once a week, and I only buy from a local butcher who sources meat from farms whose practices I can accept.

But that doesn't mean that this morally-superior 'why do you keep some as pets and eat others?' nonsense is rational in any way. You ought to go out and meet the kind of people who actually raise their own meat and kill it themselves. Ask them if killing is something they do lightly. I have a feeling you'd get some interesting answers.

It looks like there are some interesting things in Dr Herzog's book. It's a shame he had to spoil it by giving it such an awful and morally simplistic title.
posted by koeselitz at 9:26 PM on October 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


lol why would you buy a mouse - if the little bastards are too dumb to catch one themselves, they certainly wouldn't know what to do with a dead one.
posted by smoke at 9:32 PM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


But although your post is framed around Herzog, I don't find enough in any of your links, without ordering his book, to engage with here.

In retrospect there is more that I could've added to the FPP. I don't like doing link deluge, and I usually try to have a main focus (the interview, in this case, which I found interesting enough on its own). To add a little more content:

Harold Herzog is an author and professor at Western Carolina University. His faculty website has a list of web accessible articles that contain similar, although academic, writing about human/animal interaction.

Broadly this field would be called Anthrozoology, and there is a representitive organization linked there.
posted by codacorolla at 9:39 PM on October 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


If a mod wouldn't mind adding that to the FPP after the pull-quote, it would be greatly appreciated.
posted by codacorolla at 9:40 PM on October 5, 2010


"Classic urban bias"

Um - there are plenty of people who are quite pleased with their cats for catching mice that infest large apartment buildings in the big city. I suspect that you could get a general response of "Ew, let my cat eat a mouse? Bleh!" in all areas - urban, suburban, and rural, depending on the sample.
posted by HopperFan at 9:49 PM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of an interaction I was told about recently:

Kid: I want a guinea pig.
Parent: Why?
Kid: They're cool.
Parent: You know, in some parts of the world, they eat guinea pigs.
Kid: I want two guinea pigs.
Parent: Why?
Kid: We'll eat one, and keep the other as a pet.
Parent: ...
posted by sanko at 10:12 PM on October 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


I think for most people to get upset there has to be a perception of needless cruelty towards an animal. It's why we'll eat beef but veal is considered icky by many, or why we're fine with turkey or goose, but foie gras is icky. We are also less likely to tolerate cruelty to an animal that we perceive to have a value other than as a food.

It's not a particularly ethically defensible position, nor is it consistent. But it seems to be how people react.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:24 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it sort of offensive when people seem to think that eating something apparently can't be done in a loving way that's in accord with the universe. They, it seems, are morally superior to lions and tigers and other predators on such a grand scale that they wouldn't deign to see themselves on the same level.

This feels strawman-y to me. The value that you appear to be describing is a value of "what is natural must be moral." You likely prioritize that value differently than someone who chooses vegetarianism. One of my strong values (of many relevant ones) that led me towards vegetarianism was the value to "minimize harm." I prioritize this moral above "naturalness" for myself. I feel very fortunate to live in a time and place where we have technologies, resources and vocabulary where I can exercise this value to a very high degree with a lot of ease. In fact, I'm blessed to live in a time and place where I can be healthier, have a significantly smaller carbon footprint and financially better off for it. That's the truth for me, at least, and I hope it's not smug to explain my own experience. I do believe that I am more moral now than I was before, because I am living my life more closely in accordance with my values.

Another one of those relevant values was that I would walk by neighborhood chicken coops and think they were cute and interesting like my cat and when I saw them escaped from their cages, I would call the owners the same way I would call the owner of a lost dog. That mental dissonance wasn't a big deal, but it factored in. So, yes, for some people the moral comparison between pets and livestock is relevant. I can certainly think of several vegetarians I know who grew up knowing animals by name who were later slaughtered for food and who, as children, realized that that wasn't right.

Until the first lion publishes their first philosophy book, I think speaking about the morals of lions is pretty silly. We are different than animals in many ways, especially because we have the power to consciously change our natures and the power to teach and debate through language and culture.
posted by Skwirl at 10:57 PM on October 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Um - there are plenty of people who are quite pleased with their cats for catching mice that infest large apartment buildings in the big city. I suspect that you could get a general response of "Ew, let my cat eat a mouse? Bleh!" in all areas - urban, suburban, and rural, depending on the sample.

I know that when I lived in Florida, I would pick my cat up and place him in front of big scary cockroaches and encourage him to each them. Unfortunately, he'd usually just bat them around a bit and then leave them headless and still twitching under some furniture.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:09 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Uggh, I could never eat a mouse raw. Their little feet are probably real cold going down."
posted by ryanrs at 11:09 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ask the same question to people living in a major agricultural area and see what kind of answers you get.

Some friends of mine raise chickens for eggs. When I first visited their farm, I noticed a lot of live-capture mouse traps. I remember thinking to myself, "ffs, these hippies are never going to make it as farmers." My faith was restored when I saw them pitching the live mice into the flock of chickens.
posted by ryanrs at 11:31 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I eat meat once a week, and I only buy from a local butcher who sources meat from farms whose practices I can accept.

I'm with you, brother. We eat meat once a year, starting at the full harvest moon, when I slaughter the sow we have raised almost as a family member. All year, she sleeps in her own bedroom and eats in our kitchen and bathes in our family bath. Then one October night we smother her gently with a pillow she has rested her head on many a night, and then we cut and we tear and we pull her to pieces and we eat and we drink of her until the full beaver moon. This year, her name was Ashley and I'm having a slice of her thigh on a sandwich as I type.
posted by pracowity at 11:38 PM on October 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pracowity, I find your practices barbaric, wasteful, and cruel. What kind of asshole butchers one hog a year, but doesn't cure the hams? Shameful!
posted by ryanrs at 12:07 AM on October 6, 2010


I suspect that you could get a general response of "Ew, let my cat eat a mouse? Bleh!" in all areas - urban, suburban, and rural, depending on the sample.

'Depending on the sample' is the key phrase here. What does this even mean? If you sample the right people you can always get the results you want.
posted by seagull.apollo at 12:12 AM on October 6, 2010


We eat every piece, drink every drop. Curing is for doctors.
posted by pracowity at 12:14 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skwirl's comment was great until he started talking about right and wrong.
posted by seagull.apollo at 12:22 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


That the ways we treat other species are seemingly illogical and contradictory should not be cause for wonder. We don't even treat other members of our species consistently.

You give your family everything, even the most expensive and unnecessary things, while equally human humans are dying horribly right now of things you could have fixed with the change in your pocket. Those other humans just don't matter to you except in an abstract way that hardly affects your behavior. They live and die while you compare shoe prices and styles.

There is a unique emotional distance between you and every other being that determines how you will treat it. How much is it like you -- can you empathize with it, imagine yourself being in its circumstances and feeling what it feels? Does it like you -- is there seeming reciprocation of positive feelings? Is it physically close, a complete sensory experience, or is it just dots on a screen or characters on a page? Do you have a shared history with this other being? Do you feel uniquely responsible for its welfare -- is it a warm, friendly being standing in front of you and looking you in the eye with seeming recognition? -- or do you feel like just one of an army of people who will collectively determine its fate pretty much regardless of what you do?
posted by pracowity at 2:12 AM on October 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


I got my mother-in-law two kittens because of her mouse problem. Once they got old enough to do the job, they cleaned the place out of the foolish few who had stuck around, and got high praise for the half-eaten corpses they batted around the kitchen (including a medium-sized rat).

However, I don't think I would buy them a mouse to eat. There would be an air of deliberate cruelty to doing that. I know that the animals that go into their cat food, as well as my food, aren't treated very well, but that cruelty is impersonal. As Grimgrin mentioned above, I won't eat veal because that practice is just too far over the line.

And if the cats want mice, they're going to have to do the work themselves.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:00 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I love all of the spiders in our garden, I never break a web if I can avoid it, and I wish them all happy hunting, but I don't throw victims into their webs. It's the difference between observing Nature, red in tooth and claw, and joining in the biting and the scratching.
posted by pracowity at 3:44 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Jimmy Havok, what do you think of people who have snakes as pets whom they feed live mice? are you superior in any way to him/her?
posted by Student of Man at 5:06 AM on October 6, 2010


"Would you ever feed a dead mouse to your cat?"

I have done this, inadvertently. I used to have a mouse problem in my house. Almost a year ago, I adopted my cat Trilby. A month or so later, I found a dead mouse in the trap in the pantry closet. I showed the trap and mouse to Trilby as a way of educating him as to his responsibilities. Mistake! He took one look at that luscious little corpse and SNAP! He had the mouse and mousetrap in his jaws.

I didn't want him to actually eat it, because he could get worms from it, so I tried to pull the trap away, and picked him up and shook him lightly. He wasn't giving it up. All I succeeded in doing was getting the trap away from him. Trilby ran away from me down the hall and was going to go upstairs before, with visions of me finding a half-eaten, half-maggotty mouse in my bed dancing in my head, I headed him off. He went back to the kitchen and took refuge under the kitchen table, and he made what was probably supposed to be growling noises. Trilby's deaf, so his vocalizations are kind of messed up, and it sounded more like he was meditating or humming. This, by the way, is one of only two times he's ever growled at me — the other time was the day he took a chicken drumstick out of the compost bucket and I took it away from him (I was going to bury the bones in the garden).

I didn't know what else to do so I just let him alone, and after about two minutes of being left in peace he started to eat the mouse. While I ate my breakfast I heard tiny bones breaking and splintering, and it took Trilby less than thirty seconds to scarf down that mouse — the entire thing, from whiskers to tail. Then he scampered out from under the table and tried to get my breakfast. Uh, no, champ, I think you've had yours.

I grew up on a farm and have no problem with the fact that we eat some animals and pet others. Animals have different attributes, and so we treat them differently. For that matter, even the dogs and cats on a farm are working animals on a farm. They catch vermin, and the dog can also serve as a guard dog and/or herder. Even now that I live in a city, I got Trilby in large part because I had a job for him to do. People like to try to forget about the laws of nature, because they aren't pretty, but they are there all the same. And it is simply impossible for the human race to exist without ever killing other species.
posted by orange swan at 5:11 AM on October 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


are you superior in any way to him/her?

Even the billy goats gruff wouldn't go for that one.

Snip, snap, snout.
This tale's told out.

posted by pracowity at 5:36 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Until the first lion publishes their first philosophy book

willful misreading

"You ought to go out and meet the kind of people who actually raise their own meat and kill it themselves"

I'm guessing you never have, because it doesn't bother them one bit. And they DO do it as lightly as you think.

"Animals have different attributes, and so we treat them differently"

That's deep, that's deep. And we humans are the sole arbiters of what is endearing and what is fit to eat!

Meanwhile, in another Metafilter bluster-fest, some pseudo-intellectual would quip absolutely "I can't believe someone could treat another living being this way".

I am intolerant of those who assume that their tastes impart civility and enlightenment while at the same time acknowledging the inconsistencies in how we treat animals.
Yet, they absolutely assume the way they see us and the animals is the only correct way. And use this for social hegemony in over-punishing people who fight dogs or look in disdain at those who fight chickens.

posted by Student of Man at 5:59 AM on October 6, 2010


Until the first lion publishes their first philosophy book, I think speaking about the morals of lions is pretty silly.

If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.
posted by mr vino at 6:46 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you eat meat, there is no excuse for not offering your corpse as food to the ecosystem (via an abbey burial).
posted by lahersedor at 6:49 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here in Missouri, Proposition B is in the news.
posted by metagnathous at 7:13 AM on October 6, 2010


"They, it seems, are morally superior to lions and tigers and other predators on such a grand scale that they wouldn't deign to see themselves on the same level."


Um, you know what? Yes we are morally superior to lions and tigers on a grand scale. What do male lions do to the off-spring of competitors? Male tigers will fight each other (possibly to death) over an ovulating female and the male takes no part in rearing cubs. etc. etc.

It's absurd to suggest that we have no moral obligations beyond behaving as if we are wild animals.
posted by oddman at 7:32 AM on October 6, 2010


lahersedor, I think people who choose to have their bodies buried should opt for that sort of burial even if they don't eat meat.
posted by oddman at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Trilby's deaf, so his vocalizations are kind of messed up, and it sounded more like he was meditating or humming."

Maybe he was saying grace?
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2010


Would you ever feed a dead mouse to your cat?

I wouldn't feed a mouse to my cat if there was an alternative, but I used to feed live pinkies to my anole. That is until one night I waved that pinkie in her face, then dropped it in her pen. I turned out the lights, hopped into bed and, I was peacefully drifting off to sleep when I hear "eee eee eee" followed by silence. I found her a home shortly after that, I didn't have the stomach (never did really I used to try to keep those baby mice alive before I'd have to face the grim reality) for it.

I'm going to have to read the book, but after the bit in the interview where he compares college students to prisoners? Eh, only difference between populations is, one group got caught doing something wrong. Not all psychopaths who abused animals as kids go on to be like Keith Jesperson.
posted by squeak at 7:55 AM on October 6, 2010


Would it be OK to feed snakes versus cats certain types of food?" One was mice: Would it be OK to feed a mouse to a boa constrictor? Is it OK to feed a mouse to a cat?

Is it okay to do it is different from would you do it. I think it's okay to feed mice to snakes or to cats, but I would only do the former (if I had a snake, which I do not). Snakes have no other reasonable food options. Cats do.

One of the neighbour cats who hangs out a lot catches a number of mice in our yard, and whenever he does some of our cats (one who hunts, one who doesn't) rush to him and watch him kill and eat the mice, like it's live theatre. It's very odd. They don't try to get the mouse, and he's unconcerned by their presence.
posted by jeather at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I coulda sworn this was a double ... oh yeah, late homunculus comment in the cat-lady thread.

Here's the Salon interview link if you don't want to click twice: Our conflicted relationship with animals.

...

Ah, that's the same interview as the B&N one in the FPP. Why not use the original Salon article?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2010


I fail to see the disconnect - We treat humans the same way (though not many cultures still eat them).

As for our squeamishness with sources of food (both our own, and our pets'), I just don't get that: Life feeds on life feeds on life - This. Is. Necessary.

Cats eat mice, we eat cows. Personally, I find it rather more disturbing when opportunistic omnivores who chose to forgo meat (human vegetarians) try to force a similar diet on their obligate carnivore pets (cats). And I say that as a vegetarian, who has no internal conflict about feeding his cats meat.
posted by pla at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz, some morals actually are superior.
posted by joeclark at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2010


You know, there are some people I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. There are other people I'd risk my life for.

I have a similarly wide range of feelings about and attitudes to different animals. I like cats because they're cool as hell and they feel nice. I like chickens because they're tasty.
posted by Decani at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2010


I've been considering giving live mice to my cats, to try and raise their quality of life... they live in a small apartment in a urban area where they would probably get injured if left outside. I'd like to fulfill their hunt and kill-everything-smaller-than-me instincts, and right now they only get the occasional bug.

The torture is what stops me... a snake would make it quite quick. My cats would drag the torture out for hours.
posted by triolus at 11:32 AM on October 6, 2010


We are all animals. The main difference between us and the other animals, that I can see, is that we actually have some choice and control over how cruel we allow ourselves to be. All other differences are more matter of degree than of actual substance.
posted by apis mellifera at 12:58 PM on October 6, 2010


Personally, once I've bonded with a type of creature, it becomes hard for me imagine killing/eating it. Now, I've never been truly hungry in my life, and I certainly consider that starving might make me change my tune.

I ate squirrel stew once as a teenager and liked it. (Tastes like chicken!)

Then my boyfriend's kid sister brought home a limp little baby gray squirrel that had fallen from a tree in the middle of the road. We expected him to die, but instead he thrived. We named him Chutney. He slept in a tube sock in a large glass cage. In the morning, I would put my arm in the tank and he would run excitedly up my arm and perch on my shoulder. We would cuddle and nuzzle and look into each other's eyes, and I felt the same kind of recognition I've felt with cats or dogs. He was a neat, intelligent, friendly little guy.

Haven't eaten squirrel since then :)
'Course, I haven't eaten much meat at all in the last 20 years.
I don't think I have any business eating an animal I wouldn't be willing to kill myself.
posted by apis mellifera at 1:17 PM on October 6, 2010


Um, excuse me, but "murdering" a cat? Murdering??? Sorry, but as much as I love cats (and I do), there's no such thing as murdering a cat.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's remarkable to watch a cat chasing a mouse. The particular cat was an orange marmalade tom, with a magnificent long fluffy tail; it swanked around, ignoring the human guests at this house in the country, mewed for food while the humans were eating dinner, etc.

Then a mouse darted out from under the sofa. At once the cat was fully alert and moved with blinding speed. Its raison d'etre had been activated. It was a predator. Unfortunately, I think the mouse got away.

Perhaps the people who think it would be icky to let their cat eat a mouse (let alone catch a live one) are uncomfortable with the fact that their soft, fluffy, adorable pet is an obligate carnivore and a predator. You can't feed cats a vegetarian diet (or, if you do, it would have to be very highly engineered).
posted by bad grammar at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2010


joeclark: “Koeselitz, some morals actually are superior.”

I agree, and I regret my earlier comment, mostly because I feel like I didn't express myself very well there. More to the point:

I've watched horses being put down for humane – for kind – reasons. I do agree with those who assert that there's a whole complicated world of interaction between humans and animals, and always has been; I believe in that world, and I think aiming at an extreme divide between humans and animals (via, for example, a veganism that rejects any interaction it deems 'slavery') is probably too simplistic and reductionist. And, yes: I believe it's possible to raise an animal, care for it, help it thrive, and then kill it and eat it, all in a spirit of love, compassion, and ethical responsibility. I believe that's possible because I've watched people do it. And I appreciate the understandable annoyance those people feel when other people imply this interesting dichotomy between "loving" something and "eating" something.
posted by koeselitz at 6:37 PM on October 6, 2010


[The other cats] don't try to get the mouse, and he's unconcerned by their presence.

Cats are innately polite. They won't try to take another cat's food. That's why they don't like to be fed by hand, they feel like it's your food, and it would be impolite to take it.

There are, of course, exceptions.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:37 PM on October 6, 2010


bad grammar: “You can't feed cats a vegetarian diet (or, if you do, it would have to be very highly engineered).”

Somebody else will probably find it, but there was a comment here a while ago about just how true this is; a vet was saying that 99% of cats she'd seen that were overweight had that problem because they were fed nothing but the cheap dry food, which is often largely (vegetarian) carbohydrates. She pointed out that if you start feeding a cat "wet food" – which is, of course, meat – they get a good deal healthier.
posted by koeselitz at 6:40 PM on October 6, 2010


Crabby Appleton : Um, excuse me, but "murdering" a cat? Murdering??? Sorry, but as much as I love cats (and I do), there's no such thing as murdering a cat.

Not to turn this into a semantics debate, but not all definitions of "murder" require a human as the victim. Google even lists two non-human version first:

Kill intentionally and with premeditation; "The mafia boss ordered his enemies murdered"
Mangle: alter so as to make unrecognizable; "The tourists murdered the French language"
Unlawful premeditated killing of a human being by a human being

So if discussing actual charges in a legal case, you have it correct. If talking about the common, rather than legal meaning (and The Blue ain't a courtroom with Judge Cortex presiding), you most certainly can kill a non-human with malice aforethought.
posted by pla at 8:14 AM on October 7, 2010


Nope. Show me one legitimate example of the usage of "murder" referring to an animal. The only ones you'll find will be from PETA wackos or broad-spectrum ignoramuses.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 6:42 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also known as the "no true Scotsman" argument.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:26 PM on October 7, 2010


Sorry, Jimmy, but I have to say this: "no true Scotsman" is a legitimate form of argument. There is such a thing as a coherent definition of what a Scotsman is.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 PM on October 7, 2010


(And I say that even though I think I disagree with Crabby.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:54 PM on October 7, 2010


There is such a thing as a coherent definition of what a Scotsman is.

True Scotsmen are limited to those who would never do things I disapprove of.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2010


Nope. Show me one legitimate example of the usage of "murder" referring to an animal.

As you consider all uses of it illegitimate, you have made that condition impossible to satisfy. Jimmy H has it right here.


The only ones you'll find will be from PETA wackos or broad-spectrum ignoramuses.

So which do you consider the FP author?
Or more interesting, which do you consider the OED editors?
posted by pla at 4:34 AM on October 8, 2010


Did someone cite an OED definition? I didn't notice it, if they did.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:41 PM on October 8, 2010


Well the meanings of words evolve over time don't they? Why shouldn't we accept that the moral concept of murder has come to include animal victims? (If you prefer, we can say that it's beginning to include non-humans.) You can't just win the debate by selective prescriptivism.

Here's an example of how even the legal definition can be broadened: Assume that we meet a race of conscious aliens. Isn't it obvious that they would count as murder subjects?
posted by oddman at 9:56 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assume that we meet a race of conscious aliens. Isn't it obvious that they would count as murder subjects?

Isn't it also obvious that it would depend greatly on what they looked like and how they behaved?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:46 AM on October 11, 2010


Why shouldn't we accept that the moral concept of murder has come to include animal victims?

Because it hasn't. And God help us if it ever does.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:53 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh sorry Crabby, I didn't realize you'd been appointed Arbiter of the Engligh Language. My mistake, your infallibleness, carry on.
posted by oddman at 7:15 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is already a perfectly good word for killing animals: Slaughter.

As in bring your daughter.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:23 AM on October 12, 2010


Nope. Show me one legitimate example of the usage of "murder" referring to an animal.

That one's easy.

"We have seen your national sport. And it's not very kind."

- Meat is Murder
posted by mrgrimm at 7:27 AM on October 12, 2010


"Nope. Show me one legitimate example of the usage of "murder" referring to an animal."

Alright, I'll bite:

"In the middle of the summer the animals were alarmed to hear that three hens had come forward and confessed that, inspired by Snowball, they had entered into a plot to murder Napoleon. They were executed immediately, and fresh precautions for Napoleon's safety were taken."

-- "Animal Farm" George Orwell. Napoleon is, of course, a pig.
posted by oddman at 1:54 PM on October 12, 2010


I'm gurprised at you, oddman. I've alwayg been Arbiter of the Engligh Language.

Also, Napoleon was a pig who could talk. In a case like that, I'm willing to cut Orwell a little slack.

mrgrimm, I guess you're right. I stand corrected.

OK, bored now. oddman, pla, Jimmy Havok, y'all have fun hastening the collapse of Western Civilization.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2010


y'all have fun hastening the collapse of Western Civilization.

Western civilization...yes, it's a fine idea. But if depends on refusing to recognize that beings other than humans have any right to existence, it isn't very civil.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:26 PM on October 12, 2010


Crabby Appleton : OK, bored now. oddman, pla, Jimmy Havok, y'all have fun hastening the collapse of Western Civilization.

Aww, I didn't know you cared... Such flattery!

If only I could, Crabby, if only I could. "Civilization" has hurt the evolutionary progress of humanity more than any other occurrence in all of our history.

Now if only we had a tidy way of calling the whole thing off without leaving the planet nothing more than a smoking radioactive crater. Though I suppose some might call going all the way back to "algae" the safest course - Too much shared DNA with even, for example, other mammals - They would likely end up doing the same when they rose to take our place. ;)
posted by pla at 8:27 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Crabby, you admit that if a non-human animal is sufficiently human-like then they can count as murder victims. Great? Language use surely isn't the best criterion for establishing their human-like status. If it were many young humans wouldn't be very human-like would they?

So, what could count? Perhaps being self-interested would be a good way to go. Which is to say any being which expresses preferences and aversions is sufficiently human-like so as to merit having their preferences taken seriously. That seems like a reasonable claim doesn't it?

So, do pigs, cows, dogs, et al. have preferences? They certainly seem to.

So, QED.

(Also it's funny Western Civ hinges on the definition of a single word! It's a good thing it wasn't one of the nearly countless English words that have changed in meaning over the last few centuries. We've dodged a bullet so far.)

OR

No, Crabby, don't go. Now that you're just about to eat crow, it's simply unsporting for you to leave.
posted by oddman at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


oddman, you're funny. Eat crow?

So Crabby, you admit that if a non-human animal is sufficiently human-like then they can count as murder victims.

I'm not admitting anything. My remark about Napoleon the Pig was making fun of your irrelevant citation of Animal Farm. Clearly an allegory using anthropomorphized animals to comment on political systems has nothing useful to say about actual animals.

Also it's funny Western Civ hinges on the definition of a single word!

No. Learn to read. I never said that. But corruption of the language does play a part in the collapse. Since you like Orwell, try reading 1984, particularly the parts about Newspeak.

pla said: "Civilization" has hurt the evolutionary progress of humanity more than any other occurrence in all of our history.

pla, you're just yanking my chain, right? You don't really believe this horseshit, do you?

But if depends on refusing to recognize that beings other than humans have any right to existence, it isn't very civil.

Havok, "civil" has to do with relations between human beings; it isn't applicable to questions of animal rights.

Arguing with simpletons is tiring, and I'm not getting paid to do it, so adios. It's been, well, I won't say enlightening—more like bizarre and saddening.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:37 PM on October 14, 2010


Whoops, I forgot to mention that I read mrgrimm's "Meat is Murder" citation as being tongue-in-cheek, and my "I stand corrected" comment in response was intended ironically.

But I didn't actually follow the link (didn't want to make noise in the library) so I don't know. If it was intended seriously, mrgrimm, I apologize. And I enjoyed your performance in the last Fantastic Four movie.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:04 PM on October 14, 2010


Whoops, I forgot to mention that I read mrgrimm's "Meat is Murder" citation as being tongue-in-cheek

Considering my post above that one, you are most likely correct. Still a great song and performance, though. Viva Morrissey!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:27 PM on October 14, 2010


You are unpossible. Your positions disembiggen us all.
posted by oddman at 8:16 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't have a cow, man!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:09 PM on October 18, 2010


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