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On Class B Dealers and Being Judgmental

First, and especially if you live in Michigan (and please forward to anyone who does), tell everyone to contact Montcalm County Commissioners regarding not renewing its contract with R&R Research.

Montcalm County has forged a deal with the devil to alleviate the expenses associated with the euthanasia and dump fees from its animal pound. In a cost-reduction effort by the county, and in exchange for the privilege to cherry pick among the facility’s still-breathing pets, R&R Research euthanizes the rest (by Co2-barrel gassing), removes all carcasses from the building, and pays all related disposal fees.

R&R is a USDA class B dealer licensed to sell “random source” animals to various research facilities. So while you and I have to pay the full adoption fee to spring a pet (and yes, that includes rescues, too – no discount for you!), R&R gets them for free-and makes a nice, tidy profit to boot.

I don't know if it means anything coming from me, but I'm sure going to e-mail the commissioners and tell them that the country is watching. Monday, January 26 is the date the contract will go to council for renewal (or not).

About Being Judgmental, I don't know about you, but I get that all the time. I'm being judgmental because I believe that killing sentient beings when you don't need to is wrong. It's not against our law, and it is morally acceptable within our culture (though there are rules about which animals are for petting and which are for eating), therefore it's morally acceptable (again, as long as you're not eating an animal who is on the list of taboo-animals-for-consumption, like, say, Golden Retrievers or whales).

How much sense does that make, by the way?

A couple of days ago, in response to hunter Mike Spies, Dan wrote (among other things, and if you have a couple of minutes the exchanges on the Cass Sunstein entry are fantastic. I had little patience for it all, which is quite obvious, but Dan and Bea and Roger made great points):

When one asserts the claim, “One ought not to judge”, such a claim is itself a judgment, and also requires a judgment as to when the claim has been violated. The claim itself is therefore logically self-contradictory and untenable. Because your brand of radical moral relativity entails such a ‘non-judgmental’ position, it is also self-contradictory and untenable.

I’ll use your judgment of me and my culture and tradition to provide a real-life example. You claim that ‘morals’ (what I call norms or customs) are derived from culture, and therefore when one judges another culture’s activities, including their ‘morals’ (norms/customs), one is judging a culture. You further claim that judging culture, including ‘morals’, norms, and customs is wrong. The Western culture, of which I am a member, is a culture whose norms and customs include judging everything under the sun. It is one of our sacred cultural traditions. So if one of your most cherished ethical claims is that one should not judge cultures, norms and traditions, who are you to judge our Western culture? It’s it blatant hypocrisy, contradictory to your own moral code, for you to judge our judging?

Further, as a practical matter, ignoring the fact that your position is self-defeating, if everybody suddenly stopped judging at any given historical moment ‘t’, it is difficult to see how anything, ethically or otherwise, could possibly have changed since moment t. Judging, ethically or otherwise, is an inherent part of human culture, without which culture would be dead and stagnant. So not only is a ban on judgment nonsensical in a self-defeating way, but it is also devastating to culture itself.

Anthropologists should reserve the expression of judgment in the field when they are studying a different culture so as not to change the very culture they are studying, but when that reservation of judgment is held as the ultimate good outside of fieldwork in anthropology, it becomes both nonsensical and pathological.


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Thank you for highlighting the discussion on judgment, Mary.

    Given our arbitrary moral split between dogs and cats versus almost all other sentient nonhumans, I'm a little surprised that there aren't recent laws banning dogs and cats from Class B dealer profit opportunities. Although, giving it a little more thought, why should I expect any consistency within inconsistency?

    January 23, 2009
  2. Whenever someone calls me judgmental I interpret it the same way I'd interpret "but animals eat other animals" or "what about the plants?" or "I like meat" or any other excuse. That's all it is, an excuse. They don't like what you've got so say so they try to shut you up. They try to justify their bad habits to themselves. They grasp at straws and use anything they can think of to attack.

    Sometimes, the words don't matter at all. Because ultimately, they don't want to have this 'debate.' They don't want to think about it at all. They don't want to listen to the animals' screams, the scientists warnings, or their own moral intuition. They just want to shut you up.

    January 23, 2009
  3. Angus #

    Cass Sunstein's approach (thank you, Bea, for the link to his paper) appears to be more utilitarian than anything, though unfortunately not strictly utilitarian (if one is going to go that route), since for him human interests seem to be given greater weight than non-human interests. But he does at least take the ethics of (non-human) animals seriously. He is the co-editor, with Martha Nussbaum, of Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions. I think that Nussbaum's own neo-Aristotelian "capabilities approach" is a major contribution to animal ethics — human animals and non-human animals. Nussbaum's position is more radical than Sunstein's and in principle ascribes to every sentient creature the right to exercise her/his natural, species-particular powers in pursuit of her/his own flourishing — and the right to continue living as long as life is worth living. Disappointingly, Nussbaum waffles around on the issue of meat-eating and, inconsistently with her own principles, seems to backtrack to a utilitarian (Sunsteinian?) stance involving balancing human and animal welfare. There's an excellent and extended critique of her inconsistency by Anders Schinkel: "Martha Nussbaum on Animal Rights", Ethics & the Environment 13, no. 1: 41-69. (You can get it on the web if you have institutional access or a subscription.)

    Aristotle, and Darwin in a different way, provides an objective basis for ethics by grounding them in the notion of flourishing according to one's species nature. Nussbaum makes the point that even if an animal, say a dog, has become habituated to living in a confined space, so that he is not conscious of his deprivation and does not consciously suffer, he is still denied the opportunity to flourish as a dog. That's wrong and a denial of justice.

    And to think that Obama is only two degrees from such ideas…

    January 23, 2009
  4. Hi Dan… Recently there was legislation "The Pet Protection Act". It was supposed to ban the sale of dog/cats from classB dealers to medical researchers. It was part of the 2008 Farm Bill but was removed. Now sent to Congress, to be further studied, investigated, examined, deliberated… blah,blah,blah:

    But there are 17 states where releasing shelter animals for experiment is illegal:
    Sorry Mary – Florida's not on it 🙁

    Being consistent to my "judgemental" *duty* : I think it's distressing that this shelter wants to give discounts to dealers. That shelters, dealers and "labs" exist at all, is more woeful still.

    And I do believe that being judgemental is a duty… I think it's a responsibility that we have not only to ourselves (for survival & cognitive health) but also to each other. Could you imagine a world where no one *judged* or expressed their beliefs of what was right/wrong, good/bad, ethical/immoral? We'd either have dictatorship or anarchy. The social fabric hinges on what judgements we make about what. And we all do make those judgements.

    But I think what most people want is judgements/opinions that they disagree with not be voiced. If controversy arises due to differing beliefs (like which animals to (or not to) eat) arise… The preferred protocol is silence. I have no respect for people who shirk from doing the thinking/talking it takes to make a better world and society. Their absence of thought, (and willingness to argue thier position), always play into the hands of evil… never into the good.

    January 23, 2009
  5. Dan #

    Thanks for that info on class B dealers, Bea.

    You're right that judgment is not only permissible, but is often required, and that those who are intolerant of judgment usually just want to stop discussion and thought.

    January 24, 2009

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