Stop the bloody wailing

Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times (£) seems to be accusing Mark Pritchard MP of inconsistency at best or hypocrisy at worst. I have not read Lawson’s article but here’s ConHome’s Lawson quote:

“I quote from The Sunday Telegraph of May 8, 2005: “The Tory MP who unseated Peter Bradley, the anti-hunting campaigner, in the Wrekin led tributes last night to the silent army of hunt supporters whose efforts helped the Conservatives … Mr Pritchard said yesterday … ‘I am very grateful … the pro-hunting campaigners certainly assisted me.’” Mr Pritchard, then, appears to believe it is fine to kill wild animals for sport, but wicked to keep them alive for the circus. Only in the House of Commons.”

There are hypocrites aplenty in the HoC – it purports to be representative of the nation, after all – but I see no reason to include Mr Pritchard among them for I see no conflict between his support for hunting and his disapproval of the use of animals in circuses. The former is defensible while the latter is not.

Homo sapiens is a predatory omnivore, a hunter before he was a gather and both before he thought of animal husbandry or vegetarianism. We may, licitly and in keeping with the nature of our species and the natural order, hunt and kill prey animals for food and kill species whose activities threaten our own species by, for example, making us ill or interrupting (directly or indirectly) our food supply and so threatening our survival. In so doing we neither abuse the prey animal nor alter its position in the natural order. It and we are in competition – to the death if necessary – and hunting offers no offence to nature which is a permanently competitive struggle between species for advantages which will promote their own survival.

That humans have developed alternative food sources to predation is irrelevant because it is fortuitous. If some apocalyptic circumstance should ever rule out these alternatives, the most assiduous of sabs would immediately revert to humanity’s earliest behaviour: hunting. The philosophical justification of hunting stands.

Sentimental objections to hunting are understandable but sleb hand-wringing and saddo squee-ing over funneh pics of kittehs (themselves ferocious predators) do not alter the fact that non-human predators kill without regard for the suffering of their prey and that’s that. In fact, Nature is such an animal lover’s nightmare that most animal lovers dare not examine the facts too closely. Saint David Attenborough says he has witnessed predation of terrible, sick-making ferocity which could never been shown on TV. A a big cat will claw down a large, gentle, doe-eyed prey animal and immediately start eating it whether the victim is conscious or unconscious, alive or dead, oblivious of its screams. The unpalatable fact is that the suffering of the lion’s victim would occur which ever predator attacked it. That the predator may occasionally be Homo sapiens is either irrelevant or ipso facto a bonus, given that squeamishness generally prevents us from causing the kind of pain inflicted blindly by less sensitive – or cerebral –predators.

A propos, hunting with dogs is the least merciless way of dealing with that particular competitive-with-humans predator. Yes, it is. Whether or not the hunter enjoys the hunt is risibly irrelevant both philosophically and in moral terms, and hunting abolitionists who rely on the ‘for fun’ objection are nothing more than class warriors in sheeps’ clothing.

Utilitarian objections to hunting a species to extinction are legitimate where to do so would deprive Homo sapiens of a food source, because it is against our species’ interest. (Over biological time, though, species have come and gone and always will. Homo sapiens has had nothing to do with 99.999999… per cent of it and anyway, extinction qua extinction has no moral dimension.) Control of excessive hunting, including over-fishing, is legitimate. Whining that whales, a prey animal, are passive and beautiful and therefore must not be killed is jejune and insufficient to the case. Whenever such protestations are heard, one should expect to find the grossly ignorant, sentimental nutjobs or watermelons. Sometimes they’re the same people.

Opposition to hunting usually arises (there are a very few honourable exceptions) from ignorance, sentimentality, publicity-seeking or political rabble-rousing based on one of the above. The hunter is not wicked, no matter how wittily Oscar Wilde fancied-up his own distaste for this  particular example of humanity’s natural inclinations.

As for circus animals, while the philosophical justification of hunting is robust, human behaviour is illegitimate which insults animals by disregarding their nature, by exploiting them to no high moral end or treating them in such a way as to disregard their innate dignity and their place in the natural order. Imprisoning animals for the primary purpose of exhibiting them solely for entertainment (as opposed to scientific work intended ultimately to benefit their species and/or ours) and to that trivial end both depriving them of a natural life and forcing unnatural behaviour upon them, falls into this category. It should attract opprobrium, as it does from Mark Pritchard MP.

So Mr Pritchard is right. Mr Lawson is an ass, although that is no reason to abuse him. On the other hand…

The author of this post (which may appear elsewhere) is an animal lover, cat owner and fan of icanhascheezburger.


7 comments for “Stop the bloody wailing

  1. Lord T
    June 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Interesting take. Well argued.

    What are your feelings about small pet animals such as cats, birds, fish, hamsters etc. which are kept for mans pleasure only? Note the obvious exclusion for working dogs.

  2. June 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Is it, in fact, for pleasure only?

    Little furry pets for children… there is arguably an educational purpose here which one could defend on a utilitarian basis, at more than one level. Early training in responsible husbandry… growth in emotional intelligence… learning to prioritise the needs of animals over one’s selfish whims… 

    As for the use of animals as, e.g. companions for the lonely and vulnerable, I see this as legitimate, again on utilitarian grounds, enhancing the psychological health of the pet owner.

    In general, it’s too late to go back and un-domesticate species which we have domesticated. Domestic cats and dogs more or less chose to live with us and it works pretty well for them and us. There are some species which probably would not exist unless we continued to breed and maintain them for, e.g. food – cows and pigs, for instance. Having placed these beasts in this relation to ourselves, pragmatism says (to me) that we should continue as we are. Scruton is a good read on this.

  3. June 28, 2011 at 5:54 am

    “…and hunting abolitionists who rely on the ‘for fun’ objection are nothing more than class warriors in sheeps’ clothing.”

    It’s always puzzled me how the hunt saboteurs never turn their attentions to the organised dogfighting rings…

  4. Edgar
    June 28, 2011 at 6:36 am

    The ad hominems against those you perceive as your antagonists undermine your argument.

    • June 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

      I do not agree that an a propos aside weakens a central argument – it is, in fact, irrelevant although I admit it lowers the tone – but, for the sake of argument, the same would surely apply to those who describe as ‘toffs’ people who hunt (foxes with hounds) which is simply prejudice and no more legitimate as reasoned argument than proposing to ban dogs fighting in pits because of a snobbish disdain for the dog owners. If that is their *only* argument, they have no case but are merely mud-slinging.

  5. June 28, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Gee, really don’t know what to think on that one. What about bullfighting?

    • June 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

      It is difficult to defend although many do, arguing from the principle of liberty for the community in question and I would concur, although with reservations. In short, I see a conflict here which I cannot easily resolve but then I am used to that: most questions have no simple answer if one is concerned about liberty. Ah, if only I were of the authoritarian disposition, life would be so much easier.

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