Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our furry friends

Personally I'm a cat person. Cats have a dignity that's completely alien to, for example, a dog whose whole sense of self seems to revolve around its pack leader. Cats are great, but dogs? They're bloody animals!

Anyway, having spent a chunk of the weekend re-proofing the proofed Green Euro-Manifesto (ooohhhhh!) I have to confess I read the section on animals peeping through my fingers as I hid behind the sofa. It's not my natural territory and I've always kept the arguments for animal rights at arms length, a current of thought that many of my fellow Greens are dead keen on.

Now, thankfully, it didn't offend my tender mainstream eyes. The section is even called Animal Protection rather than the ethically tangled Animal Rights so I didn't even have to worry about the deeper philosophical implications of the way we'd framed the issues.

Although I generally agreed with the policies outlined I suspect I'm probably approaching the issue in a different way than many Green Party members. For example, I'm opposed to fox hunting essentially on the basis that the ban annoys the rich rather than particular concern for The Fantastic Mr Fox who, after all, is a carnivore himself.

With these issues in my mind I noticed this story about the teenage Bull fighter, Jairo Miguel Sanchez (pictured), in Spain. He was gored and almost killed when he was 14 and is now back in the ring at 16. This has caused a bit of controversy in Spain (health and safety gone mad again) provoking this response;

"Bullfighting, like tennis, is best learned as a child," Jorge de Haro, president of the Mexican Association of Fighting-Bull Raisers once told reporters. "Bullfighting must be unconscious and a child isn't conscious of the danger or risk. The younger, the better."
I don't recall tennis involving the deliberate killing of a fine beast for the voyeuristic gratification of a large crowd - but perhaps that's something we should introduce. It may well improve the British showing at Wimbledon if there was more of an element of risk involved.

I asked my friend, who's from Brazil and quite green and progressive, whether Bull fighting was popular in Brazil. Her response was interesting in that she said that it's popular in the north (where she comes from) and, I think with a little pride, she said it was more dangerous than in Spain. "It's nice to watch, but not so nice to take part in. Lots of people are killed."

I can't say even I think that sounds "nice to watch", but maybe that's hypocritical on my part as I'm rather overfond of my bacon sarnies. So she may well be being more consistent than I am. I'm not anti-animal it's just I'm unashamedly anthropocentric and so tend to see animals in terms of our needs. So I don't like the idea of bull fighting - but this is probably based on the idea that it doesn't sound very nice rather than grounded in a firm ethical position.

I suppose I have a question rather than any answers; how central is the concept of animal rights / welfare to green thinking? It's certainly a key element in the ethics of many green activists, and was the route that they got involved in the first place, but is it an essential component or simply one branch of many in the green spectrum?


Aaron said...

Meh... annoyed that they dropped the 'rights' part.

Adrian Windisch said...

I saw bullfighting in Goa (India) many years ago, its different. They get two bulls to charge each other, not unlike in nature, but its still cruel. Of the 6 bouts I saw, in 4 cases the smaller bull looked at the bigger one and ran away, through the crowd in some cases.

PETA disapproves;

See it for yourself

John clinton said...

Really Cats are great!

Best Regards,
Make Friends, Make Money

Tom said...

The problem is the industrialisation of the process. Even if we take a completely non-ethical approach and forget the suffering of animals there are still huge practical issues. For example, problems associated with the huge amount of antibiotics used in factory farms and inappropriate cost cutting. We may be selfish enough not to care that each animal is kept in a box until big enough to slaughter but it's in our own interest to stop dead cows being fed to live cows, surely.

Businessmen can't be expected to behave ethically (partly because society is much more interested in cheap meat than animal welfare) however they do need to be forced to behave safely.