Animal Welfare: A Good Cause Gone Bad

Very few things burn me more than cruelty to animals. Every time I see a story in the news regarding the mistreatment of horses, dogs or other domestic or wild animals, it produces a visceral reaction in me not unlike an urge to violence. Images of half-starved farm animals, or domestic pets in horribly overcrowded and squalid conditions, are finely calculated to get the Ozboy blood boiling. Give me five minutes alone with the bastard, is what my gut says. Or, let’s chain him up by the neck in a paddock for a week with no food or water, and see how he likes it. I’m fairly certain most of you have similar reactions to watching such stories.

With biodiversity now in the mainstream media as the likely successor to Global Warming, the rise in prominence of animal advocacy organizations bears some scrutiny. So I thought I would take a brief look at the history of animal welfare movements, how they have morphed into animal rights, and in the process been corrupted; in many cases by some very familiar suspects.

Animal Welfare organizations internationally actually begin with a long and honourable history. In England, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed in 1824 by several prominent citizens, including MPs such as abolitionist William Wilberforce. Its founders’ purpose was primarily to improve the treatment of working animals such as pit ponies. Their efforts resulted in the passing of the Cruelty To Animals Act 1835; following Queen Victoria’s issuing of a Royal Warrant, they became known as the RSPCA and gave rise to sister organisations in Northern Ireland (1836), Scotland (1839), the United States (1866), Australia (1871) and New Zealand (1882).

These societies have overwhelmingly remained faithful to their original charter, and today finance and run animal shelters, perform rescue operations and enforce local Cruelty to Animals laws. Such is the high regard in which they are held by the public that, in the case of Australia, RSPCA inspectors are accorded the legal standing of special constables, giving them powers of search and arrest. My own chief criticism of our local RSPCA is that they are underfunded and undermanned; I have personally had cause to report a couple of situations to them, and have seen first-hand how thinly they are spread.

Animal welfare groups received a boost from an unexpected quarter when, in 1933, the National Socialist government in Germany under the vegetarian Hitler passed Tierschutzgesetz, the world’s strictest animal law code. Vivisiction in Prussia was outlawed, the penalty being deportation to the concentration camps, while wolves, eagles and even pigs were accorded a legal status below Aryans but above Jews, who shared co-equal status with rats. This law was followed up in 1934 by the Reichsjagdgesetz, proscribing hunting, and in 1935 by Naturschutzgesetz (Law on Nature Protection), word-for-word vestiges of which remain today in the EU statute books. The link between animal welfare, environmental activism and totalitarianism was thus established.

Göring with wascally wabbits, locking in the critter constituency. Seig Heil!

The emergence of 1960’s Western counter-culture and revolutionary groups led to a further departure from the original premise; that is, that animals are capable of suffering in various degrees, and for humans to unneccessarily cause animal suffering, by commission or omission, demeans us. Beginning in the 1970s by a collection of academics known as the Oxford Group, a new notion arose that animals themselves had rights, and that human beings as their oppressors had the obligation to uphold those rights. In 1975, Australian bioethecist Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, regarded by some (but not all) animal rights advocates as the bible of their movement. Singer draws a moral equivalence between humans and animals, coining the term speciesism to denote discrimination between the two. Singer rejects the philosophical notion of inalienable rights for both animals and humans and, employing a teleological approach that draws a moral judgement of acts (our treatment of animals in particular) by their consequences. Having dealt already on this forum with the philosophy of rights, we can dismiss such a notion by merely observing that animals as a class are incapable of assuming responsibilities beyond the instinctual, or of making moral choices, rendering otiose any claim on their behalf of rights. I will be returning to the good Professor Singer in an upcoming LibertyGibbert article dealing with abortion.

Common sense however, not being the strong point of 1960s revolutionaries, did not stop them from forming various activist or even terrorist organisations, whose philosophies bore a close resemblance to the nihilism of the Flower Power era. The year after the publication of Animal Liberation, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF, pictured above) was formed in Britain. Like Singer himself, the ALF supported only non-violent means of protest, but after a few years, the latent impulse for violence of many of its members proved too strong to resist; the breakaway group Animal Rights Militia (ARM), which over recent decades has carried out a program of letter bombs, car bombs, food poisoning, grave robbing and other activities. The United States Office of Homeland Security has identified both groups as terrorist organisations.

I guess I must be a “speciesist”, because I definitely do draw a philosophical distinction between humans and animals, even the higher ones; to regard humans as merely one more species of animal is to cascade a string of contradictions; far from elevating animals, it de-humanizes us—literally. The reductio ad absurdum of this line of thinking was (almost) reached in 2008, when the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal on behalf of one Matthew Haisl Pan, to grant him a court-appointed guardian and accord basic rights such as life, freedom of movement and welfare. The appellant, being unable to read, write or even speak, and with no prospect of ever being able to do so (Mr Pan being, in fact, a chimpanzee), belonged to an animal shelter in Austria facing bankruptcy. That hasn’t stopped efforts by activists to have him legally declared a human (he now has his own Facebook page – so I guess it’s official). Wouldn’t it be simpler to have the activists declared to be chimps?

On that subject, for sheer treacly sententiousness, try this advertisement for the Humane Society International, which has received saturation airplay on Australian television for over a year:

In the end, animal welfare is important, but human welfare is even more important. A few examples will serve to illustrate:

It is not cruel when I quickly and humanely end the life of pests that threaten my crops. In fact, I’m licensed to do so, although I have gone to great lengths (electric fences and so on) to ensure that these days it almost never comes to that. I also have no compunctions about blasting away any copperhead or tiger snakes I see in my backyard during their breeding season; frankly, my family’s safety is more important to me than the lives of any animals, no matter how endangered (these aren’t). When I come across them in the bush, however, I leave them be; after all, they’re not hurting me, and they’re great at keeping down vermin.

Funny though, for all the good snakes do out in the environment, somehow you never see ALF or PETA on the warpath for their welfare. I guess it’s the misfortune of snakes not to be as cute and cuddly as baby fur seals or orang-utans, and to be demonized (literally) in the Bible: the Jews of the animal kingdom.

Nor is it cruel to raise animals for food, although I believe it is a moral imperative to raise those animals in as close to a natural environment as is safe for them; give them a really good life; and when the time comes for them to be slaughtered, it is done quickly, painlessly and without their knowing that death is imminent. Believe me, meat definitely tastes better this way. I realise this sounds like it pertains only to organically raised meat, but even on industrial-scale production, it remains a guiding principle. I’ve always been impressed by the work of the “cow whisperer”, autistic savant Dr. Temple Grandin, in re-designing stock marshalling infrastructure in slaughterhouses to reduce animal stress.

Mulesing of sheep is another issue animal activists have latched onto, and in some ways is the most misguided. For those of you unaware of the practice, mulesing is an animal husbandry technique involving the removal of the sagging flesh around a sheep’s rump and genitals. It is commonly performed without anaesthetic, resulting in pain for some days until new tighter, bare skin redevelops. If not performed, droppings accrete in the wool about the breech, harbouring maggot eggs and risking the onset of flystrike. I’m sorely tempted to show you a picture of flystrike, or ovine vulval myiasis, but it really is too ghastly, even for this site. The maggots breed underneath the skin and literally eat the host from inside out. Euthanasia in these cases is generally the only practical solution. Serenely unaware of this side of the story, and viewing the practice as too much for their delicate, urban sensibilities, PETA routinely calls for a ban on the use of all mulesed Australian wool (representing about a quarter of the world’s annual clip), staging protests outside New York fashion retail outlets. This is one case where science may ultimately come to the rescue, the CSIRO currently working on developing a strain of bare-breech merino which, if successful, will gradually replace the current strains in Australian flocks over a period of years and render mulesing unnecessary.

Since I began researching this thread a few months ago, things have progressed somewhat. I thought that having a chimp legally declared a human being was the height of absurdity; I was wrong, of course. In April this year, a group of British activists, in a burst of self-righteous fervour, are attempting to stamp out the use of words like pets, on the pretext that it is demeaning to them, and replacing them with terms like companion animals, their owners and masters becoming mere human carers. Newspeak for the masses.

This follows calls by University of Western Sydney academic John Hadley to grant property rights to animals, and assign them—I’m not making this up—human advocates or “guardians”, to speak on their behalf. To quote Dr Hadley,

Ideally, guardians would be registered with an independent tribunal and be qualified to make environmentally and ethically-informed decisions.

I don’t think you have to read too far between the lines to see what is really meant by that. You can read Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt’s withering analysis here.

The protection and welfare of animals is the responsibility of us all. Not because we are upholding any rights held by animals, or discharging any responsibilities towards them. No, it behoves us to care for animals because, when we fail to do so, it diminishes us, and erodes any moral authority we may have to point to others who deny such rights even to the human members of their own societies.

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32 Responses to Animal Welfare: A Good Cause Gone Bad

  1. Kitler says:

    Well good luck on stamping out the use of the word Pet in the Northeast where it is used as a term of affection meaning pet lamb or petal. Anyone trying will receive a good kicking much deserved.
    PETA when given animals to look after very quickly have them killed sorry euthanized that is really what they think of animals, bastards.
    As for ALF and ARM I would gladly have them used in place of animals for scientific research on the grounds floppsy bunny matters more than them.
    Also Oz I’m also a fan of Temple Grandin you should watch the movie of her life and I’m sure you have watched some of her lectures she is extremely practical when it comes to animal welfare because it makes the meat taste better and wastage hence profit is kept to a minimum. Sometimes animal welfare means more money in the farmers and slaughter houses pockets while at the same time very little suffering.
    So for all you bunny fans…

  2. Luton Ian says:

    Hi Oz and Crown.

    I’m tempted to let the missus know about this thread, it is her great passion, but the consequences might be messy to clean up if someone winds her up.

    There is an interesting dichotomy in the “4 animals” camp, between “rightists” and “welfarists”.

    I’ll try to sketch my impression of their positions, hopefully without creating two too blatant straw persons.

    Rightists regard the welfarists as sell outs, happy for say battery farming or fur farming to continue, if conditions are improved. Academic welfarists are seen as the ones who would determine what length of what type of string to hang in a battery cage for the hens to peck as “enrichment”…

    Within academic welfare, we still have use one of De Carte’s fallacies, that animals are automata, incapable of emotion or feeling pain – the “Behaviourist” school of psychology (one of its leading members touched up Temple Grandin’s leg when she was about 14 – giving you an idea of his level of ethics…). They regard rightists as misguided or dangerous.

    Here’s an interesting one:

    Are animal rights and human rights a zero sum?

    Is supporting one, negating the other?

  3. fenbeagle says:

    …..Is supporting one, negating the other?

    I would say no

    (In principle)…..But yes, if it means you cannot kill the tiger that’s bearing down on you, but must instead use reasonable force only. to detain the tiger in its efforts. Bringing the tiger to court for damages, if it exceeds its rights.
    …Although in my case, I’m not too confident about being able to kill a tiger either.

  4. Kitler says:

    fenbeagle little women in Indian villages have been known to kill Tigers with whats on hand when they have attacked her children is she guilty of murder?

  5. fenbeagle says:

    Yes, incredible isn’t it, and difficult to imagine in our modern world of health and safety regulations, and animal rights.

    Murder is a crime against humans, not animals.

  6. Amanda says:

    Fen: As a matter of principle and law that may be true, but if someone wilfully killed my dog, in my heart I would consider it murder. To me she is a person, with needs, emotions, and the simple capacity to love (as infant human beings, our capacity to love is simple, also, and in many ways she is more advanced than infant humans). Only a person could be a member of my family, and she is.

  7. Amanda says:

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to have the activists declared to be chimps?

    Very droll, Oz. Yes, indeed.

  8. fenbeagle says:

    Yes. That is true also.

  9. Dr. Dave says:


    I concur. Anyone who killed one of my dogs would find himself in a very dangerous situation. I’m not talking about car accidents, but killing by means of poison or shooting. I would view it as murder and this would be very dangerous, indeed, for the perpetrator. I like my dogs better than I like most humans. Unlike the Queen’s subjects in Oz, I don’t need a license to own a (variety of) handgun(s), a pump shotgun or a semi-auto rifle.

    Without getting all Biblical, mankind really is at the top of the food chain. Cultures all have their own mores about what is OK to eat. There are folks who eat camel, donkey, horse, monkey, dog and cat. I won’t judge them but I ain’t one of them. In moral terms I’m no better. I readily eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, venison, elk and most kinds of fish. I’ve tried goat, black bear, rattlesnake and a variety of game birds. I’ve never tried mutton…or kangaroo, possum, rabbit, squirrel, snails, alligator or armadillo.

    I don’t hunt. I’m not opposed to hunting. There’s just nothing I want to kill that I want to eat. I prefer venison that someone else shot, gutted and dragged out of the woods and paid to have butchered.

  10. Amanda says:

    Hi Dave,

    Yeah, I hear you. I’m not seriously tempted by the moral comfort of vegetarianism but somehow feel better about eating fish and birds (even though I love birds and would happily keep ducks as pets). I eat turkey bacon etc. (easier to cook, less fattening, and… it’s a bird). Mainly I eat other kinds of meat at restaurants, which is not that often.

    The thing is, a lot of animals aren’t vegetarians, either. And it tends to be the case that the higher-functioning brains, having greater fuel demands you might say — being more sophisticated equipment — have developed when the creatures in question ate more meat (and greater varieties thereof). Opportunistic feeders have the best chances of survival, are more adaptable, and have spread through more of the globe than the picky eaters and especially the picky vegetarians (e.g. red squirrels and giant pandas). We can decide now not to eat animals, but we’re fighting against an inclination to do so (and a physical capacity to do so) that arose and grew over millions of years.

    The bond between humans and dogs is amazing, isn’t it? Some people are just as passionate about their cats, of course. I can see that. I nearly had a cat (we rescued him on a mountain), but my dog wouldn’t allow it!

  11. Dr. Dave says:


    I grew up only having cats as pets (although for a brief while in between cats I had hamsters and a Belgian Hare). I always wanted a dog. Finally, for my 31st birthday my (now) ex-wife gave me a Golden Retriever puppy…my precious Ellie. I’m on my 5th and 6th Golden today. When we got divorced I kept two of the three Goldens and one cat. My ex kept one Golden, one cat and the thoroughbred mare…oh…and the big house in the country. The cat I kept, Loretta, was rescued from the Animal shelter when (we think) she about a year old. I had her for 17 years! She got sickly and skinny and I often thought about having her put down but then she would rally and get better. I also felt it would be faithless to have her euthanized after I had spared her from that fate. One day, at age 18, she just turned up missing. My guess is that an owl or a coyote got her. When she went outside she always stayed very close to the house and the dogs usually kept the coyotes away. But we have great horned owl here. Circle of life…

    That said, the little woman and I (mostly her) slaughter “innocents” with impunity. Gophers, rabbits and squirrels can and do wreak havoc on our gardens. My GF has gained fame throughout the neighborhood as an expert gopher trapper/killer. Last year she bagged over 30 of them. This year she already has 6…one just this morning, which made her day. We have no tolerance for cute little bunnies. When they wiped out her lilies and other tender new growth I was compelled to go out and procure a high velocity, scoped pellet rifle. I was a little shocked to see such bloodlust develop in this animal loving woman. She loves all creatures great or small…except gophers, rabbits, squirrels and aphids. We had to dope the scope on the pellet rifle yesterday because there is a squirrel she wants to kill in a big way.

    Odd…we go out of our way to leave snakes, lizards and spiders alone, but think nothing about nailing cute little bunnies and squirrels. Those less cuddly critters don’t destroy flowers, vegetables or landscaping. We’re totally into recycling, too. Dead gophers, rabbits, squirrels and mice are placed on the “alter” out back behind the compost. Within hours the ravens, coyotes or owls have removed them to somewhere where they might be more easily digested.

  12. Luton Ian says:

    I spoke to one of my pals who lives in an area with lots of grouse moors. The game keepers around there trap all of the stoats, weasels and foxes, so my pal is swamped with rats and rabbits, which now have no natural predators.

    He says that the grass is only just starting to grow there after the winter, and already the mixi is spreading in the bunnies – he wouldn’t normally see it until late summer, when the population density gets up a bit, and the weather gets cool enough for them to start cuddling up and sharing fleas.

    I think his rats will be getting blue coloured treats to taste.

    I used to have a rat which did great work in the compost bin, he never came in the house or caused any problems, so I never bothered him either, and he kept the compost aerated.

    We’ve just replaced some wiring in our roof that was chewed through by rats, so don’t get me started about them!

    Any pests I am compelled to destroy are left overnight in one of my bottom paddocks. The next morning, they’re gone; Tasmanian devils eat everything, fur, bones, guts, the lot. As I see it, I’m taking one species in plague proportions and feeding it to another species that’s on the official endangered list. I’d say I’m doing more for the environment than any PETA activist.

    I should have also pointed out at the top that I know a number of people who are vegetarians for health and a variety of other reasons. They don’t preach, and I respect their choice and their reasons for it – Oz

  13. Kitler says:

    We are going to have a big problem with flies and mosquito’s this year thanks to the flooding the mass extermination wagons are out and about trying to eliminate them.
    Will PETA be protesting naked as they are bitten to death by mosquito’s and horseflies?

  14. meltemian says:

    Animal welfare’s a touchy subject round here today, we’ve just had our first litter of kittens abandoned by a couple on a motorbike. The Greeks don’t believe in having their animals neutered (it’s unnatural apparently and having their male dogs done is an affront to any male Greek’s machismo!) The result is they abandon them all over the place hoping someone else will sort them out. Every one of my neighbours has acquired abandoned cats and dogs. We’ve been lumbered with a dog and three cats and the feral cat who adopted us on a live-out basis has just presented us with four kittens. They’re all off to the vets for neutering ASAP including the mother!!
    Sorry I’ve been missing for a while – visitors who needed constant entertaining. They left this morning and my niece and husband arrive tonight but they can look after themselves. I’m off to change the beds now.

  15. Luton Ian says:

    Hi Mel,

    My good lady is always taking animal things in. The Irish are a bit like their fellow PIIGS in the eastern Med. Irish males are very fragile, especially about neutering (I think it’s all to do with the damage Irish mammies inflict on them).

    They’re so bad that the local SPCA employs a cat catcher to trap feral mogs for neutering and re release.

    By contrast, one of my English friends reckoned that his little queen cat was by far the most proffitable animal on his farm – the English have been so good at neutering that you can actually exchange money for shittens, everywhere else they seem to be in overproduction.

    I still maintain that if cats had scales or slime instead of fur, they’d’ve been eradicated centuries ago.

    A continental vet who I know, says that silicone prosthetic bollocks are available for “dangerous” dog breeds which have to be neuterd by law some places – it is claimed that it stops the dog’s self esteem being damaged – Yeah?, the owner’s fragile ego wouldn’t have anything to do with it? of course not …

  16. Stop Global Dumbing Now says:

    G’Day all,
    I started to comment yesterday but went off in to a rant about the WWF, NWS and Humane Society. There was a related thread on SDA yesterday too that fed my frustration. I figured I’d better calm down first.

    I think most people consider themselves animal lovers. I certainly do. I think Luton’s wife and I would get along well. When I was a kid the local pet store gave me several 3 legged hamsters or gerbils because they knew I would give a “defective” animal a good home. (A three legged gerbil can climb and run in a wheel every bit as well as one with all its limbs.)

    We all have to find compromises to the “morality” of loving animals and the reality of life. We have to in order to eat meat, keep pets, and set mouse traps or even swat mosquitoes. Animals are not our equals (at least intellectually). They have no real sense of right and wrong as we do. My dog will not hesitate to counter surf in the kitchen, especially when food is not put away immediately (bassets are very good at this in spite of short legs). She knows that when she gets caught she’ll be in trouble, but does it anyway. She doesn’t understand that it’s wrong or why it’s wrong, just that it makes us mad. She can’t associate eating an entire loaf of bread with getting sick. She is unable to take the kind of responsibility for rights that humans do. Although much more capable of doing so, Mr. Pan can’t even take that responsibility.

    If we remove human emotions from this, laws regarding the treatment of animals can be reduced to how that animal’s treatment effects humans. Farm animals must be kept healthy and in clean, spacious environments because it effects the quality and safety of the meat, eggs, milk etc. that humans consume. Companion animals (this is a distinction made by the USDA to determine which animals fall under their jurisdiction. Horses BTW are “companions”) should be treated well and kept under control to prevent them from becoming dangerous. People should be prosecuted or sent for psychiatric treatment for mistreating or killing (non-pest, non-dangerous) animals because most criminals start with animals and if it happens to be someone else’ pet it’s a violation of property rights.
    The law needs to keep the emotions separate. We are free to love our pets like our family, but we must be careful to realize that they are our responsibility because they can’t be responsible for themselves in our world. We also have to realize that not everybody is going to take the exact same view that you, I or the activists take.

    I know about the testicle prosthesis for dogs. All my fixed dogs didn’t seem to know the difference.

    I’ll check back later.
    Goodnight all

  17. izen says:

    Our emotional response and ‘fellow feeling’ for animals is largely anthropomorphic projection triggered by the mirror neuron system.
    An aspect of human neurology I find fascinating, but is probably not quite as riveting to anyone else here…

    Of more general interest perhaps is the psychological makeup of the fanatical ‘Animal Rights’ enthusiast. I have met a few, in fact I have an aunt who regards cats as much more deserving of moral consideration than people…

    The underlying charateristic of the ALF/PETO types is the adoption of an absolute ethical principle, the high moral ground of – “It is wrong to harm/mistreat animals.”
    Usually this brooks NO compromise. There are NO shades of grey, the harming of animals is an absolute and incontestable total evil and no counter-argument or contect dependent moderation of the position is possible. In fact so hard line is the position taken that even the suggestion that it is open to negotiation is regarded as morally reprehensible.

    I think the attraction of holding an absolute position for many people is the ability to inhabit the moral high ground. In fact they often inhabit the summit of Everest as far as they are concerned, the moral principle they adhere to grants them a simple and unassailable belief that is impervious to contradiction and immune to ambiguity.

    The tendency for many people to believe that the opinion they hold is absolutely right is probably a flaw in human sentience, and linked with the religious/spiritual traits that some people exhibit. It is not entierly confined to the ‘Animal Rights’ extremists, the religious examples are obvious – (the rapture did not happen last Saturday!) and some ‘warmists’ and ‘deniers’ are much closer than they think in the structure of their belief systems if not the content!

    The political tendency is also common, left and right are often guilty of this Platonic absolutism, and libertarians are not immune.
    There is an American politician, Republican with claims to ‘Libertarian’ principles that he voted for continuing tax subsidies to the oil companies despite the budget deficit, but presumably on the absolute principle that all government is bad wants the department of Education to be abolished.

    It takes a pretty firm adherence to ideological principle in the face of reality to have ‘support exxon NOT education’ as your political position!

  18. Kitler says:

    Izen while you may feel subsidies to oil companies are wrong and I think any subsidies distort the market place, do you support GE which has used the tax system to pay no tax and sometimes actually gets money from the government as a tax rebate. Do you feel GE is different because they support Obama and this is good corporate citizenship and the fact they bribe I mean contribute heavily to his campaign funds?

  19. fenbeagle says:

    izen…Was it blowy up there on Everest, while you were writing that?

  20. Amanda says:

    Kitler: *I* feel that GE is different because I’m invested in it. (joke – although I am)

    Fenbeagle: A doggy with a sharp nose.

    Izen: If what I feel for my dog really involves nothing but anthropomorphic projection, then I’m afraid that most of what I feel for human beings involves such projection, as well. So where does that lead us?

    I think you need to be wary (as we all do) of interpreting phenomena without sufficient consideration of how the participants themselves experience it. In other words, if one wanted to understand the significance or the power of religion, one would need to know what religious people claimed on behalf of their religion and then seriously investigate that. Let’s take a really simple claim: a pious man tells you ‘I love God’. If you wanted to understand him better, it wouldn’t be enough to say that he *can’t* love god because god doesn’t exist. Instead you would have to investigate what he means by loving, what he feels when loving, what that love gives him, etc. You might uncover contradictions or inexplicable mysteries or absurdities (for all I know) — but perhaps also, even while rejecting the pious man’s claims, you might learn something new about love.

  21. Amanda says:

    I really meant ‘for example’ rather than ‘in other words’.

  22. Amanda says:

    SGDN: Interesting post. Sorry to hear that your darling bassett can’t associate sickness with overindulging in bread. My boxer, as a puppy, learned that number one, acorns and twigs are not edible and that furthermore they are in a whole category of ‘not edible’ because they make you sick. She even turned her nose up at some fake ‘chocolate’ doggy coins my mum bought for her this Christmas, since she could tell they were rubbish — and they were: we read the ingredients list and threw them out. Only finest pizza, roast chicken and kibble for my girl.

    Secondly, she learned early on that making eyes like a poor waif orphan’s while being utterly silent is the way to get treats, which is why she never begs at the table or whines for food. Unnecessary and indeed, counter-productive. She would never bother to ‘counter surf’ because that’s like climbing the mountain and she knows how to work the chairlift. All this goes to prove that my dog is brilliant!

  23. Kitler says:

    fenbeagle now you know there are palm trees on the top of Everest these days Izen will be very cozy.

  24. Dr. Dave says:

    I suspect izen confuses psychological responses with neurological processes. I know a bit about both but I understand neurology much better. I agree with Amanda. My anthropomorphic response to my dogs is probably little different than my anthropomorphic response to most humans. I deal with humans day in and day out. Most are disgusting. My ex-wife had a wonderful insight a few years after we divorced. She said that the folks you know at work and consider “friends” aren’t really friends…they’re co-workers. In any other situation most of them would never be your “friends”. After I thought about it a while I realized she was absolutely right. Most of my true “friends” were my friends long before I became “Dr. Dave” (or their boss or co-worker) or became my friends irrespective of me being “Dr. Dave”. The exceptions are fewer and farther between than one might imagine. As another friend told me, if you ever want to test the theory, ask to borrow money.

    I’m convinced dogs have the capacity to show genuine love…unconditional love. Damn few humans have this capacity. This, on my part, is a psychological, not a neurological response. I believe dogs love…I cannot prove it.

    But when we move to more objective matters, like is treatment A better or equal to treatment B, or is any treatment at all superior to placebo, I can be objective and free from psychological biases. What does an analysis of the data tell us? This is true for damn near everything from “climate change” to “endangered species”. Of course I believe that catastrophic anthropogenic global climate change is utter hooey because there is no empiric evidence to support such a claim. At the same time I don’t see where the USA’s ESA has prevented a single case of extinction.

  25. fenbeagle says:

    Dr Dave …..I believe dogs love…I cannot prove it.

    I think you are right. I cannot prove it either. Although I cannot prove love either. apart from my own feelings, and the outward behavior of others….. Including dogs.

    You don’t have to prove it, Fen… love is real, in a way that atoms and neurons aren’t – Oz

  26. izen says:

    @- Amanda, Dr Dave

    I agree that ‘anthropomorphic projection’ derived from the mirror neuron system is the basis of our responses and relationships to other people as well as animals. I was not intending to denigrate such feelings, just a passing comment on the roots of those feelings. I would agree that pets, especially dogs, are capable of unconditional love and devotion, pure and unalloyed with all the complexity and partiality that is a consequence of human sentience.

    The subjective effect of belief systems is not something I am trying to diminish or dismiss, the ‘love of God’ declared by religious believers may be irrational by objective standards, but it is part of a mental state that moulds and shapes religious people into particulary good members of their community. If their religion does not emphasise too strongly the righteousness of their belief and the error of any who do not share it, they are also usually good members of any society.

    @- Fenbeagle
    Its the altitude sickness that gets you….-grin-

  27. Amanda says:

    Izen: Well answered.

  28. Amanda says:

    I’ve just read instructions (in the course of doing research) on how to ‘field dress’ (i.e. gut) a rabbit. It’s disgusting. How anyone could do that and then go and eat it, so long as other options were available, is hard to fathom. My reaction would probably be the same even if I had not kept rabbits as pets (I had Bobby while at university). To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten rabbit and never will.

    Rabbits are more aware than most people think. The more I learn about an animal (of virtually any species), the more I respect it as something other than a robot with an appetite and survival instinct.

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