Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

A Baby Seal Walks Into a Club… ~ Tim Gier

A Baby Seal Walks Into a Club ...

In my most recent previous post, I explored some examples of how one might decide whether
their actions were consistent with their principles. For example, I suggested :

If stealing involves disrespecting the rights of others, and if you can, without serious detriment, reasonably abstain from stealing, then you ought not to steal.

The general principle that one ought to respect the rights of others is, I think, uncontroversial. That one ought not to steal is also uncontroversial. The act of not stealing supports and is in accordance
with the principle of respecting the rights of others.

The point of that post was not, however, to state the obvious, that stealing is wrong, but to examine why most people do not think that using animals for their own purposes is wrong. In that post I talked
about dairy. In this one, I will also talk about baby seals.

If clubbing baby seals to death involves using animals, and if you can, without serious detriment, reasonably abstain from clubbing baby seals to death, then you ought not to club baby seals to death.

Unlike my previous example of drinking milk (If drinking milk involves using animals, and if you can, without serious detriment, reasonably abstain from drinking milk, then you ought not to drink milk),
which I think most people would disagree with, I think that most people
would agree that we can all reasonably abstain from clubbing baby seals
to death.

Why do we view those two types of animal use differently?

Why are we conditioned to think about the use of cows as not morally wrong in the same way that we do think about the death of baby seals? Are cows less morally significant than baby seals? Do baby seals have
some special value or meaning in our lives that cows don’t? Have we
convinced ourselves that dairy cows live idyllically – peacefully
donating their milk to us in life and grazing in bovine heaven in death?

The process that treats cows as living milk production facilities is no paradise, and the practices that support it are a living hell for the cows and their offspring. As we must realize, we are using cows for own
purposes when we confine them, impregnate them, and milk them until
they can be milked no more. We take their calves away from them, turning
the female ones into more milk dispensers and raising the males for
slaughter to satisfy our taste for veal. Gary Francione says that “there is as much (if not more) suffering in a
glass of milk as in a pound of steak.” Why do we not care?

Clubbing baby seals to death involves animal use. Drinking milk involves animal use. We think that one is horrific while the other is perfectly acceptable.

The truth is, very few people ever see a baby seal walk into a club. No joke, most of us are far removed from seals of any kind, baby or otherwise, and those we do encounter are usually protected and in zoos.
As I said in the last post, the more trivial the detriment that falls to
you as a result of abstaining from animal use, the more you should
avoid animal use. Not only does abstaining from clubbing baby seals to
death not cause us any serious detriment, for almost every one of us, it
causes us no detriment at all, not even a trivial one. It is easy to
avoid something when doing so costs us nothing at all.

So, we decry the clubbing of baby seals, pat ourselves on our backs for “caring about animals,” and yet we make no meaningful changes in our lives or in the lives of the billions of animals our actions do impact
on daily.

It’s a neat trick that we all have accomplished. Morality without a cost, support for a principle without any action, making things better while allowing them to get worse.

If you drink milk, or eat cheese, ice cream or any other milk derived foodstuff, you are directly contributing to a far greater horror than what seal hunting is. If you think that clubbing baby seals is wrong,
and that you want no part of it, then you should absolutely give up
dairy products.

By all means, abstain from clubbing baby seals to death. But why not actually do something that matters too?

Go vegan. It’s better for your health. It’s better for the environment. But most importantly, it’s the morally right thing to do.

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