Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New: "Animal Rights Made Simple"

This notice is an interlude in my ongoing series on the crises in animal ethics. Today I am posting for the first time on this website a two-page essay, "Animal Rights Made Simple," in PDF format. I will offer a word of explanation. Clarity is my first rule of style, otherwise communication becomes self-defeating, and the message is lost. At the same time, academic writing with clarity as a guiding principle is not always accessible to everyone, especially if the material is developed with rigour. Rigorous perspectives consider all objections, contrary theories, and elaborate one's own view thoroughly. Not everyone has the staying-power for such work, for different reasons. However, I believe that a case for animal rights can be made convincingly in relatively simple terms. I am still a theorist, and what I am doing here is simplifying a system of ideas. This is not an exercise in rhetoric, where animal suffering is detailed and an attempt is made to inflame people to action on the basis of sheer outrage. That said, animal oppression is grossly outrageous! Given, however, my logical approach, even animal rights made simple is still only the case for those who are able to think logically. Having done my share of high school teaching, I mourn that most students are not trained in this way. It could be otherwise, though. The basic ideas in my best caring theory are VERY clear and simple, and add up to equally clear animal rights conclusions. Although to some extent I deal in abstractions, it would be a mistake to think of, say, ruling out bad things when possible as a "mere abstraction." On the contrary, it is a sweeping generalization that makes reference to any number of concrete instances in which animals are subject to, for example, suffering in often intense and various ways. It ranges from the suffocation of the fish out of water to the docking of a pig's tail, with literally endless examples to add even in terms of detailing general KINDS of suffering... If someone fails to see the concrete because the abstract is used, that is simply a failure of understanding of what is referred to, and perhaps a failure of imagination to see beyond the mere idea to the realities encompassed by the idea. So this brochure I see as perhaps being useful on college and university campuses, internet discussion forums, or as a tool to have at information tablings or street education efforts, since occasionally very thoughtful people appear who wish to think critically about animal protection issues. It is not something that will reach everyone. However, that is not an "elitist" assumption. If people in our society were better educated, everything in "Animal Rights Made Simple" would be dirt-simple to most everyone. It is rather because society is elitist that logical appeals only reach relatively few people. Instead, arguments are often thrown out the window and atrocity images and quick statistics are used instead, recognizing that media "sound bites" and "flashing images" have a very limited attention span on the receiving end. It would be elitist to give up on the importance of logic and to cynically assume that any brochure cannot reflect a more-or-less complete argument (for the purposes of a brochure, anyway). I hope that people will find "Animal Rights Made Simple" to be of use, then, in their outreach to thinking people who are also compassionate.

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