Whale Rights - Commentary on a review in Philosopher Magazine
By Carol Roper
Rights for Whales, by Paola Cavalieri|
(excerpt) ... at present, most nations in the world are opposed to whale hunting, millions of people regard the killing of whales as inconsistent with current moral ideals, and a multifarious group of committed individuals wages a continuing war against whale hunters from a small number of countries. Is this new perspective justified?
I was delighted to read Paola Cavalieri's review, and have, for some time, supported the idea of "respect" (i.e. leaving alone and not killing for any purposes) for whales, dolphins, great apes, etc. I understand, regrettably, that there remains a question about whether or not whaling itself is morally, as well as economically, justifiable. I believe it is not.
Beyond this, however, I come to my own moral dilemma... not should we 'respect' other species, but at what level of life does it become acceptably moral to ignore this 'respect' for life?
Meat is frequently on my menu, so I can't claim to possess the higher moral ground of a vegetarian, nor, as an atheist, can I grab hold of the Christian rationalization that animals are here for us to exploit. As a photographer and artist, I am puzzled at the need to hunt and then kill the prey we can only have grown to appreciate by pursuing. I remain troubled by the slaughter of domesticated animals, and more so by the conditions under which they live. Not troubled enough to stop eating meats, but I'm stuck with a nagging sense that something is not quite 'right'.
These days, I sit outside in my rocker on the porch, and watch the ever-present squirrels devastate my birdseed supply, dig up my potted plants and eat my flowers. Baffles, greased poles, cayenne pepper and two dogs - nothing discourages these pests. My husband and I contemplated more evil techniques - a slingshot, something rigged up to electric-shock them away, relocation traps (utterly useless as we live in a small town and removal of our squirrels would simply give next door's brood a broader range).
Ultimately, however, we gave up, and instead trained the binoculars onto the squirrels, enjoying them rather than hating them. Two days ago, I sat for half an hour observing a plump, pregnant mother squirrel gorging herself on sprouted sunflowers growing where she or another squirrel had spilt them from the feeder above. I could see her nipples pushing through her soft white underbelly fur. She was simply beautiful, and I suppose there's some primal, magical and emotional connection between females of any species and motherhood. I could only wish her well.
So, I've dealt with my squirrel demon. Insects indoors, well... I'm not yet that evolved.
But back to the philosophy of animal rights... while holding the belief that nothing we do on earth is in any way relevant to the universe(s), what we do is extremely important to our species achievement, and thus, to elevate our self-satisfaction and our psychological quality of life. I believe that the more we can see ourselves as part of the whole, the more satisfying our own existence will be - as individuals and as a species. This will mean change, it is inevitable. There's no need for the cosmic, the mystical, the religious experience - existence holds, in itself, all these things and more, and it is simply our ability to discern these 'truths' and formulate these concepts, that so distinguishes us to ourselves. Whales - and ants (outside only, I'm afraid) - are all part of our growing awareness that the answer to the proverbial question is that we are not alone, not even here on earth!
Carol Roper is an artist, writer & designer, wife and mother of two, and a fervent advocate of TRUE equal rights for all.
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