Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Prof. Oscar Horta's Live ARZone Guest Chat ~ Part 2

Transcript of Prof. Oscar Horta’s ARZone Guest Chat

19 March 2011 at:

6pm US Eastern

10pm GMT and

20 March 2011 at:

8am Australian Esatern Standard Time

 

Part 2

(Part 1 ~ http://arzone.ning.com/profiles/blogs/transcript-of-prof-oscar-1)

 

The first question of Oscar’s open session will be from Gabriel Garmendia, please go ahead Gabriel

 

Gabriel Garmendia

Hey, Oscar! It is a bit long, then it will be in parts. I don’t know if I’ll make myself clear, but my question is about the extinction issue.

 

 [i] One of the main focuses of animal activists groups around the world is to deal with the annihilation of several species, an event which happens in an alarming rate.

 

 [ii] (Here, I’m talking only on sentient species).

 

 [iii] What do you think about this topic? Is it possible to defend the interests of endangered species without creating a speciesist hierarchy between them and the non-endangered species?

 

 [iiii] You spoke earlier about a kind of “positive discrimination” (Forgive me about the expression). Could it be accepted here as a possibility?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Gabriel!

 

My answer is: I don't think so

 

I can't see any way in which we can accept from a nonspeciesist viewpoint that the interests of one individual are more important than the interests of another one simply because one of them belongs to a certain species. there is a name for it and it's ... you guessed right: speciesism!

 

Species as such don't have interests. Those individuals who belong to them have them. in order to have interests one needs to be sentient.

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

Thanks!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you Gabriel!

 

Roger Yates:

Next question comes from Arild Tornes.....

 

Arild Tornes:

Which creatures do you believe is sentient, is it an all or nothing issue, or does sentience appear in degrees among different creatures?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Arild

 

That's a most interesting one! And it's one that we should all do research on. In order to be sentient you need to be aware of the experiences you have.

 

Being sentient means having experiences. In order to have experiences you need to have an apparatus that can process information in such a way that the info confirms the experience

 (the info that comes from your eyes, for instance, or that you process when you have a thought). That entails being aware of what happens to you. In the world we live in, those mechanisms actually exist they are called central nervous systems without them you can't have experiences because if you don't have one, you just can't process the information which you need to process in order to have experiences

 

Now, we don't know how complex a central nervour system needs to be in order to be able to process this info although there's some actual info that moves from sensors to motor cells that info is not processed as to give rise to an experience. This is also the reason why plants and other living entities aren't sentient. It's not that they lack a cns. They lack any other structure that could do the job that a cns does, btw, it would be evolutionarily absurd if they had it, because it would be of no use for them, since they can't move. And sentiency is all about moving towards what is good for the transmission of your genes and away from what is bad for that.

 

Arlid Tornes:

thank you!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you Arild!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thank you Oscar, Roger Yates would like to ask you a question now, thanks, Roger.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks

 

Roger Yates:

Some activities of a number of social movements include a challenge to dominant forms of language. The classic example is the early feminist movement’s attack on the notions of “history” (reclassifying it as “his story”) and “mainstream” (“malestream”). In the animal movement Joan Dunayer has done more than most to create an antispeciesist challenge to dominant speciesist language, especially in her book, Animal Equality: Language and Liberation. However, animal advocates continue to use speciesist language - often referring to nonhuman individuals as “it” for example, or using the term “animals” to mean only other-than-human-animals. Do you have any ideas about the apparent reluctance there is in the “movement” in taking up the linguistic challenge to speciesist language and, thereby, “ripen up” people to new ideas?

 

Oscar Horta:

ok, thanks Roger

 

Roger Yates:

phew

 

Oscar Horta:

Well, I agree with you and with Dunayer on this. Of course there are many words and expressions that are hard to challenge. but we should try to make the effort.

 

Even if I'm repeating myself, I'd like to say that, in my view, this comes together with the apparent lack of importance that for many activists the idea of speciesism has. We should be very much more concerned with challenging the different ways in which speciesism manifests than we are now. That's basically what I'd say regarding this.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thank you, Oscar. Sharon Núñez would like to ask the next question. Thanks, Sharon, when you're ready.

 

Sharon Núñez:

yes! Hi Oscar!!

 

Oscar Horta:

Hi Sharon!

 

Cool to have you here.

 

Sharon Núñez:

It's a strategical question. On the one hand you comment "It’s essential to note, however, that particular campaigns may be used for different purposes." defending I imagine SIC, but then you say "investigations have been often used in order to defend that the places in which they are exploited must be closed down, this in my humble opinion is not the best idea.", but these campaigns seem to have a lot of benefits that classic veganism promotion doesn't (involving a lot of people passionate about the campaign, getting media attention…) Why don't you think that doing a campaign to close down a specific place where animals are exploited can also serve objectives than will help us question speciesism and promote veganism in the long run?

 

Why do you seem to conclude that cant' be positive in this case?

 

Oscar Horta:

Yep, thanks for this question!

 

It'll help me to clarify my previous point, which was probably written too hastily. I meant this. The same campaign can have different effects. In this way, it can be used for different purposes. An investigation of how animals are exploited in a certain farm, for instance, can be used to carry out a campaign aimed at closing down that farm.

 

Now, if you close down a farm here now, and maybe another one in a couple of years well, you'll probably save a number of  lives in the short term actually i think you will achieve this but, as a strategy aimed at achieving a significant change through the years...

 

I think it won't work because we just can't close one by one all the places in which nonhuman animals are exploited. However, the same campaign can achieve other results too! it may be useful to make people see the reality of the lives of animals It may arise people's sympathy for them and it may help us to question speciesism.

 

So my main point is that if we just cared about closing an actual place now, and another one next year, and so on we won't be able to achieve our purposes. But we can do something that may end up closing down one place and use it for a very different purpose.

 

So, as I said when I wrote that, my concern is not with particular protests, but rather with the main strategies within which they are embedded. You know that some investigations have been presented by saying: "look how bad animals are in this place, they don't follow the legal regulations for this kind of places, etc.", You can use the same footage to say: "these are the animals we use: we can end this by going vegan". Same kind of campaign, different strategy.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Oscar. The next question comes from Gianella de la Asuncion...

 

Oscar Horta:

Cool

 

Gianella de la Asuncion:

Hi Oscar! Some years ago you were a conscientious objector for the animals. Could you explain a bit more how this was?

 

Oscar Horta:

Hey Giane, thanks for this question.

 

That was some time ago. During the 90s there was this big movement in Spain against the compulsory military service. But many people rejected doing it because they thought that that wasn’t really a way of fighting for rejecting what the military service actually means, that it was a way of accepting it, rather than challenging it. (BTW, in Spain, the term “conscientious objector” is used to mean those who rfeuse to do this social service, those who refuse to do it were called “insumisos”). I don't know how to translate this.

 

Anyhow, they were sent to trial and many of them were incarcerated, so after I became a vegan, and started to learn about speciesism, I thought that I should do the same, but not out of a pacifist position, but because the army is an institution that is totally involved in the massive killing of animals.

 

As you know, countless nonhuman animals die in military experiments, and they are routinarely used as weapons. Moreover, wars kill far more nonhuman animals than humans. This is often forgotten. But that's the truth!

 

So in 1997, when I was meant to join the army, I refused to do it. Then I went to trial in 2000. It went quite well, we did a big campaign so it was a good opportunity to talk about respect for animals and speciesism. It was kind of a new thing. And though the  attorney wanted me to go to jail,  I was only sentenced to public disqualification for 4 years (that means you can’t work for something public or get any benefit or payment from the state).

 

I recall that at the trial I had an argument with the judge because I wanted to read some pages from the book Animal Liberation in which some military experiments are described and he didn’t want me too. Then in 2002 the compulsory military service was abolished in Spain and there was an amnesty for us.  In some way this is a pity, since the army keeps killing animals and we’ve lost a chance for doing more campaigns regarding this. I’m sure that if the military service remained compulsory there would be many more people now who would refuse to join the army for reasons having to do with animal rights and speciesism

 

Gianella de la Asunción:

Thanks!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar. The next question comes from Luciano Cunha. Thanks, Luciano..

 

Luciano Carlos Cunha:

My question is about the intervention in the wild to alleviate the natural suffering. Most of the arguments against the intervention seems  to rely on a distinction between action and omission (killing and letting die). These arguments assumes that  we have only negative duties, or that the negative duties are ever stronger than the positive duties. In your view, relying on this distinction is justified or not, and for what reasons?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Luciano.

 

I wonder if you'll ever make an easy question! I personally reject that distinction. But I think that even those who accept it can have a reason to care for those animals living in nature. The reason is that intervention in nature is not a new concept. We are intervening in nature all the time! So the question is not whether we are going to intervene in nature or not, rather the question is: What is the way in which we are going to intervene in nature? So given that we are already intervening, we are already acting. So the issue is not about whether we have reasons not to act even if we don't have reasons to assist. The question is that we should act differently.

 

Jason Ward:

Next up with a question is Paola Capponi- when you're ready Paola please go ahead

 

Paola Capponi:

Thanks Jason. Hi Oscar!

 

Oscar Horta:

Hi Paola!

 

Paola Capponi:

I had a rough time trying to formulate this question, so I hope it's understandable... :-)

 

Oscar Horta:

Sure it will!

 

Paola Capponi:

I just wanted to ask what is your view on reinsertion of non-humans that are exploited by humans, into "the wild" or any other environment where they are "free" (a sanctuary, for instance). Some people, for example, argue that freeing predators (f.e., minks) would mean that other non-humans will suffer; then setting them free in a place where they could kill others is speciesist. Others say that those minks (in our example) are anyway being fed with the bodies of other non-humans, then there would be no moral difference. Others say there would, because "in the wild" those being hunted have a chance to escape, but in a farm, those being "the food" didn't have one.

 

Well... you get the point.

 

Oscar Horta:

Yep.

 

Paola Capponi:

Now, when comparing it to a human prisoner, there seems not to be a consideration of whether his/her liberation would have an influence in others (which of course will); instead, the position is to set them free no matter what.

 

Could you give your opinion on this issue? || Just to clarify: this, unlike a similar example given before in the enterview, refers to animals being held specificly to exploit them (hens, minks, etc). Thanks a lot!

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, thanks!

 

Right, this is a tricky issue too.

 

Paola Capponi:

:)

 

Oscar Horta:

Tim said maybe someone could ask me about my favorite color to give me a break!

 

Paola Capponi:

:-)))

 

Oscar Horta:

No, seriously, I'm very glad you're all asking these excellent and challenging questions!

 

As regards this one, many people think that the answer to this question is straightforward. I think that this isn't quite the case.

 

Alicia Sangineti:

or to ask about what your zodiac sign!

 

Oscar Horta:

lol

 

I woudn't answer that one, sorry about that!

 

Paola Capponi:

Sure, agreed

 

Oscar Horta:

Anyhow... :-)

 

Dominique:

:-)

 

Oscar Horta:

I liked it the way Paola phrased her question

 

No, I meant I wouldn't answer the one about the zodiac sign haha

 

Paola Capponi:

I know, I meant that I agree that there is not a straightforward answer :-)

 

Oscar Horta:

k.

 

Well, I said I like the way Paola put her question because she said "suppose that in farms they are eating animals, so by freeing them no more animals will be killed". Of course this is a controversial point, but it's an interesting condition, which is very useful to examine this.

 

The reason why that is so is that by phrasing her question in this way, we are recognizing that there is something problematic in the fact that the animals we may free will kill other animals.

 

Fifi Leigh:

or other animals might kill them

 

Oscar Horta:

Even if when we examine this problem we get to the conclusion that it's worth liberating these animales in the wild, that is an issue we should never set aside.

 

Well, that's true too, although if they remained in the farms they would have been killed anyway by the farmers. Also, let me add that the way in which we might act in the case of a human prisoner shouldn't be so clear either. This is interesting because when one considers the many problems and dilemmas that arise when we need to take into account the interests of many different nonhuman animals, our intuitions regarding how to behave towards humans have to be considered together with that.

 

There's much more that we could say about this because this isn't just a moral issue. It's also a strategical one. We must be aware of the message that our actions convey to the public

 

So if the public asks us "Do you think that liberating animals is justifiable?" we may not have all the time to explain all the moral considerations we may take into account when we debate on this issue here.

 

These are the main ideas I think we should consider in this case. Again, my main point is that there isn't something magical in the fact of the killing of some animal happening in the wild. So I'd take into account all animal deaths equally to consider this case.

 

paola capponi:

Thank you Oscar.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Oscar! Eugene Farberov would like to ask the next question. When you're ready please go ahead, Eugene.

 

Eugene Farberov:

hi Oscar, thanks for the thoughtful responses. Intervention in nature may lead some to make the conclusion that since our primary goal is elimination of suffering, wouldn't it be the ethical to want to destroy all wildlife (to end all suffering)? what are the arguments against this? (sorry if you covered this in earlier discussion that i may have missed). 

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Eugene! Again, that's a tricky one

 

They're becoming trickier and trickier!

 

Eugene Faberov:

(sorry hehe :-))

 

Oscar Horta:

I don't know what you'll ask me next!

 

Well, your question might sound absurd at first. But when one thinks about it... it's actually a very hard one!

 

I guess that the only response that question may have is that living is something good because having positive experiences is better than having no experiences at all. However, it's true that our life may be filled with suffering, and that can be worse than ceasing to exist. That's why euthanasia exists.

 

So this really is a problem.

 

Eugene Farberov:

(but that argument would justify factory farming, wouldnt it? since it could be argued factory farmed animals may exprience positive expreince at some point)

 

Oscar Horta:

You're absolutely right!

 

Eugene Farberov:

we can come back to that one...i have another question if you dont mind?

 

Oscar Horta:

That makes it even more important to think on ways in which we may relieve all the huge suffering that occurs in nature I have no problem with answering another question, go ahead

 

A trickier one, yeah!

 

Eugene Farberov:

how do you respond to proponents of eating hunted meat on grounds that hunting controls populations and thus prevents greater suffering (due to starvation, etc).

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks.

 

There are two important things to say to this respect. Firstly: the only way in which animal suffering and death can ever be reduced is by spreading the idea that we should care about it. In as much as most people are speciesist, there's going to be no way in which we can make any significant progress with that. This affects, of course, both those animals that are exploited by humans and those who suffer in nature. Because hunting conveys the meme that humans can use nonhuman animals for their own purposes in ways that harm them very seriously, it clearly hampers our efforts to spread the antispeciesist meme.

 

Secondly: that claim is wrong. I'll explain now why. The reason why there's so much suffering in nature is one I mentioned before. I'll try to explain it here in more detail. All their offspring except a handful of individuals die soon after coming to existence. They have little or no enjoyment in their lives, and their deaths are terrible. Oh, I missed one line of what I was writing. I wanted to say that most animals have lots of offspring and that all of them except a handful of individuals die soon after coming to existence. They have little or no enjoyment in their lives, and their deaths are terrible. This is so because most animals follow what is called an "r-selection strategy" for reproduction. They lay thousands or millions of eggs. On average, only one or two survives, for instance, cods may lay up to 9000000 eggs

 

Eugene Farberov:

agreed.

 

Oscar Horta:

if more than a couple of them survived, they would soon populate the Earth! So it doesn't matter whether you kill the adults, the wheel goes on and on. In fact, hunters don't do this cus they want to reduce animal suffering. They do it for their own sake, of course!

 

Eugene Farberov:

yes, but justify by saying they reduce population, which is sometimes hard to repsond to. done

 

Oscar Horta:

even if they do reduce the population by killing some individuals they don't reduce the total number of individuals that die. That was what I was trying to explain above. Doing that would require a different kind of intervention.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thank you, Oscar! Arild Tornes would like to ask you another question next. Thanks, Arild.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks for this one, Eugene! It's a very interesting one!

 

Eugene Farberov:

thank you!

 

Arlid Tornes:

Can you give some concrete tips for how the animal rights/advocacy movement might become better at combating speciesism?

 

Oscar Horta:

Good one too. Well, there is a quite obvious thing to start with.

 

Make it visible. Many AR organizations never ever even use the word "speciesism". So we should definitely start doing it. We shouldn't be afraid just because the public don't know about it. They don't know the word because we haven't done the work that is necessary to let them know it. The sooner we start doing it, the better.

 

Plus, many organizations defend that we shouldn't use animals by using arguments that have nothing to do with speciesism. In fact, many of them use arguments that have to do with other completely different issues. They promote veganism for health reasons, they oppose vivisection for biomedical reasons. All this should change if we want to make speciesism visible, I think.

 

Moreover, many organizations argue that we should stop using nonhuman animals for reasons that have to do with them, but which don't challenge speciesism.

 

For instance, they say we should be compassionate towards them, that they are being held in terrible conditions, etc., but they never say that there is no reason why it would be justified to discriminate against other animals. The arguments should be clear for any activists, I think.

When it comes to respecting someone, it is completely irrelevant whether that being can speak, whether she can think in the same way we do, or whether we have some kind of special relation with her. Because that isn't what determines whether she can be harmed or benefited by our actions. The relevant point is whether she can feel suffering or/and joy. Furthermore, if that was the case, many humans should be discriminated against too. Because there are many humans who cant talk or cant think as other humans do, and many have no one who cares for them. So if the arguments that are used to discriminate against animals were accepted, we should also discriminate against humans. These are some general arguments that are seldom used.

 

I dont understand why not. Because debating these points, debating these issues is what will eventually lead society to a change. Of course there are other arguments involved and there are many other ways to question speciesism

 

My main point is we should be focused on challenging it.

 

Arlid Tornes:

thank you :)

 

Oscar Horta: 

Thanks, Arild!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Oscar! Al Nowatzki would like to ask a question now. If there are any further questions for Oscar please feel free to let us know. Thanks, Al, when you're ready.

 

Al Nowatzki:

Thank you Carolyn, and thanks Oscar for your illuminating answers.

 

I've been in and out of the chat, getting my kids to bed, so I apologize if my question has been covered already.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you! No problem, please ask me about my favorite color...

 

Al Nowatzki:

What is your favorite color?

 

Arlid Tornes:

ok, what is it?

 

Oscar Horta:

Oh, well, I don't know

Never thought about it. That's a tricky one!

 

Al Nowatzki:

OK. Just kidding. My real question is:

 

You said previously in this chat (and elsewhere), "We are intervening in nature all the time! So the question is not whether we are going to intervene in nature or not, rather the question is: What is the way in which we are going to intervene in nature?"

 

Oscar Horta:

Yes.

 

Al Nowatzki:

Do you think another option could be to stop intervening (as much as is possible)? Why must it follow from our current intervention that we keep intervening?

 

Oscar Horta:

Good one.

 

Al Nowatzki:

I understand your argument for intervening, I guess I'm just saying that just because we intervene it now, does it necessarily mean we have to keep doing it?

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, well, the problem is that there's no way to stop intervening unless we all disappear. Agriculture means intervention. VERY significant intervention in building too, producing all kind of goods too. So we can't stop intervening as long as we are around.

 

However, I think we can figure out a different way of intervening. Notice also that our intervention is, as I say, just massive. We engineer enviroments in such a huge way this means that we certainly can intervene in nature, and that it would be perfectly feasible to do it in ways that were positive for animals if we really wanted to. What's quite amazing is that whenever people (even vegan people) consider ways of intervening in nature for our own sake, such as agriculture, house building, etc, they never come out with the argument that intervening in nature violates some kind of natural rule or something like that. however, they do use this argument whenever intervention is considered in order to improve the lives of animals how can this be? Sounds like a bit... biased towards humans, doesn't it?

 

Al Nowatzki:

Thanks!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Oscar. Estela would like to ask the next question, thanks, Estela.

 

Estela:

Thanks. Hello Oscar. You need a break, so ..my questions are easier!! :

 

Oscar Horta:

Hi Estela!

 

Oscar Horta:

haha

 

Estela:

I totally agree with you when you say that we need to educate people about antispeciesism. My questions are from a strategical (and educator) point of view:

 

1. at what age do you think we should (being realistic, and specially under the actual Spanish education system) start educating about antispecism?

 

2. do you think we should talk about veganism with the kids (5-10 years old) in their Schools (as somebody, from an AR group, strongly suggested me few months ago) instead of teaching them to cultivate and embrace empathy towards all living beings?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Well, education is something that you don't do only at school. So from the very moment we are babies and start to look around at the world we are in our values are introduced into our minds, speciesism crawls into our brains from that very moment. So in an ideal society, nonspeciesism should be present in our social systems in such a way that kids would get it from the beginning.

 

Moreover, in a nonspeciesist society the concept of nonspeciesism wouldnt exist just as in our society we don't have the concept of nonjohnism that is, discrimination against those whose name is John. However your question seems to be directed to what we can do now.

 

Estela:

yeap! that´s right!

 

Oscar Horta:

I think the sooner we can start to educate kids the better. However, we have to notice that even if we give lectures at schools and all that, that will be just a tiny part of the kids' education. Plus, I think it's great to teach kids that animals shouldn't be eaten or used, however, if the parents aren't vegan that's going to be tough. Giving lectures at secondary schools is easier in this respect. Anyhow, I think that, currently, this is a strategical problem rather than a pedagogical one. I mean, even if we reach the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to start educating children since they are 3, would we be able to do it? Given our resources, we need to make a decision about how to use them, so it may turn out that we sould focus on older kids such as teenagers.

 

Oscar Horta:

Anyway, you know a lot about these issues Estela, so maybe another day you may be the one we ask questions about this! ;-)

 

Estela:

ja, ja, ja... Thanks Oscar, thanks everyone!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar. The Irish Animal Education Trust is doing great work in this area in Ireland. Arild Tornes would like to ask you another question now, which will be the last for tonight, unless anyone has any further questions.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Please go ahead, Arild.

 

Arlid Tornes:

can you brief tell us about what academic or activist antispeciesist work you are working on right now?

 

Oscar Horta:

I guess you don't want a detailed answer ha ha :-) Well, I'm quite busy with my academic work. This semester I'm teaching two obligatory subjects to undergrads, I always mention the issue of speciesism. In previous years I've been teaching some semester-long courses that were all focused on speciesism and the moral consideration of animals. Each year , aprox. 2 or 3 students become seriously concerned with the issue and others are touched.

 

Apart from this, I'm currently writing tons of articles on this and two books I hope I will be able to complete before I die!

 

Arlid Tornes:

Great. Anything in english?

 

Oscar Horta:

One of them has to do with all the arguments for and against speciesism, and the other one is something like a general presentation of what animal ethics is about. I'm trying to write as much as I can in English. A problem with this is that I'm not a native English speaker so if anyone in the public volunteers for proofreading, hey! I'd appreciate it hahaha

 

Apart from this, I'm currently involved in an animal rights organization which works in Spain, that is called Equanimal.

 

Arlid Tornes:

what do they do?

 

Oscar Horta:

And I also support other organizations

 

Well, now more of Equanimal's work is turning into spreading veganism, which is something I strongly support. It also carries out other campaigns, such as protests against hunting.

 

facebook.com/equanimal.org

 

It's in spanish, apart from this I also think that there are other great organizations working in the Spanish speaking countries. Some of whose activists are here tonight! Such as Especismo Cero or Animal Equality. And others I mentioned before such as EligeVeganismo or DefensAnimal.

 

I would like to see a more developed movement in which all the organizations were quite focused on veganism and speciesism. I think that at least in the Spanish speaking world that's happening, so I'm glad about it. I think the way these organizations work is great.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

The link to the Irish Animal Education Trust, for those interested is: http://irishanimaleducationtrust.com/

 

Arlid Tornes:

thank you very much. it' encouraging.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar. Tim Gier would like to ask another question. The floor is yours, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks! Tom Regan has written: “For example, we can pass legislation that prohibits debeaking or face branding of cattle, legislation designed to respect an animal’s right to bodily integrity within a system of exploitation even while we cannot thereby end that system of exploitation.”

Do you agree with him about that?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Tim.

 

That approach was much discussed during the end of the 90s particularly after Rain without Thunder was published. I mentioned at the beginning that one approach against the use of nonhuman animals focused in changes in the law. There are two ways in which this can be done. First, by introducing regulations in the ways in which nonhuman animals are used. This is a strategy that so called "animal welfarism" has traditionally followed though it has been used to further other purposes. I think we can call that strategy "regulationism". (I think it's wrong to call it welfarism, because "welfarism" is the name of the movement rather than a strategy, and so called "welfarism" also followed other strategies, such as, for instance public education).

 

Ok, regulationism has been often questioned on the basis that many people may think that those defending regulationism are actually claiming that the practice they want to regulate is morally ok. Now, the other strategy that one can implement if one focuses on the law is trying to achieve incremental prohibitions of practices involving the use of nonhuman animals. Their supporters may claim that this strategy avoids the objection presented above.

 

That might be true in many cases. Though we can think, of course, that many people may also have the impression that what we are aiming to do is to have THAT particular practice prohibited. This can be clearly seen in the case of bullfighting. Many people from the public think that those who oppose are only opposing bullfighting, not the use of animals in general. Again, I think that in order to examine this issue, we should have an approach similar to the one I proposed in order to examine certain campaigns that can be used to different strategies.

 

I think that these campaigns, if properly carried out, may be a way to get new activists involved and to reach the general public through media appearances, etc. If our purpose is to question speciesism, we might use them as a tool for it.

 

However, I disagree with the idea that we can end the use of nonhuman animals by progressively, incrementally prohibiting one by one all the particular practices involving the use of nonhuman animals. This is interesting because it means that if we are to get involved in these campaigns at all we need to know how to do it.

 

Let me put a couple of examples having to do with bullfighting

 

Last year, during the discussion at the Catalonian parliament about whether bullfighting should be banned there there was some public outrage because one speaker made a comparison between bullfighting and the sexual mutilation of girls. I thought that was excellent, because that meant that the campaign made it possible that there was a debate having to do with the question of whether it's justified to discriminate against nonhumans. However, those who were promoting the prohibition didn't like it at all because such debate hampered their campaign I couldn't disagree more with them on this point that debate should be what the whole campaign was all about!!!

 

 (Equally, I think something similar can happen in other campaigns, I recall reading a leaflet against a lab which was intended to close down, saying "why this particular lab is different")

 

Anyhow, to summarize I don't think that incremental prohibitions are per se the way in which the use of nonhuman animals can end I do think that in some cases they can be carried out with the aim of questioning speciesism either directly or indirectly, for instance, through getting more activists involved.

 

Personally I’d never tell a group of local antispeciesist activists to organize street demos against bullfighting to change people’s minds about it. But I may see the ways in which we can use the fact that there is a big struggle against bullfights in order to advance our more general case.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Oscar!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Oscar, I appreciate your detailed response!

 

Eugene Farberov:

so the aim should be advance the understanding that speciesm and exploitation is wrong, instead of focusing on individual instances of violation which may move attention away from the main issue of speciesism?

 

Oscar Horta:

Mmmm...

 

I don't know if I'd put it like that though I think I agree, so i guess I should say "DONE"

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar!

 

Eugene Farberov:

thanks!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

I'm really enjoying your interesting questions!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Leah McKelvie would like to ask another question, Oscar

 

Oscar Horta:

That's fantastic!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Please go ahead, Leah, when you're ready

 

Leah:

Thanks, Carolyn. Are philosophers in general starting to give anthropocentrism and the moral status of nonhuman animals more serious consideration?

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Leah!

 

Oscar Horta:

The  answer is "Yes." Even though they are doing it slowly, however, they are doing it faster than the rest of society, I think. In the English speaking world, the issue is kind of respected currently and in other countries this is happening as well. Now, you can't really build a curriculum. If you just do animal ethics you also have to be competent in other issues or you won't get a job however, the idea that eating animals is morally problematic is starting to enter the mainstream, in the English speaking countries at least.

 

I have to say, however, that if you take a look at the attention that the issue has had in the academic world for the last decades in the English speaking world there was a boom in the late 70s and the early 80s and then the issue became bigger and bigger until aprox. the mid 90s then there was a stop it seems that during the last years there's been a revival but for ten years or so there was little advance, in particular if you compare it with what happened in the 80s it's small but it's growing,

 

Finally, a problem for all this is that there aren't philosophers that are regarded as important in the philosophical community doing animal ethics nowadays. Yeah, Singer is probably the most famous philosopher alive. But he writes books more than academic papers on specific issues of moral philosophy

 

David DeGrazia and Jeff McMahan are probably the animal ethicists that are more involved in the philosophical community, though they don't write a lot on animal ethics

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar. Sergio Tarrero would like to ask another question now, go ahead, Sergio.

 

Sergio Tarrero:

Using new and advanced technologies, such as biotechnologies, we are already enhancing some physical and cognitive attributes of some human beings. Sometimes it is meant to restore normal function due to some handicap or accident but we are now going further, and soon we will have the freedom to dramatically enhance ourselves. I know you are against animal experimentation, but... what do you think of the idea of animal enhancement?

 

Would you like to see a non-human primate enhaced to the point that she can communicate with us using a human language? (although not necessarily by speaking)

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks Sergio.

 

As you can imagine, I'd love to have a chat with a primate or another animal. However, I don't want to enhance animals just in order to satisfy our curiosity.

 

However, I'd be happy to support enhancement applied to humans and animals in order to make us all happier if that is possible in any way. (Dave Pearce is very interested in this, as you may know) BTW, there's an extremely interesting novel by Clifford Simak called City in which he considers what happens when dogs are enhanced. I recommend it to you all! Interestingly, the same arguments against enhancement are also presented against intervention to help animals in nature. All this idea that our nature is sacred, that we should fear unexpected consequences, and all that.

 

Regarding this, I think that the lessons we may learn are similar ones. I think we should be very cautious, but I think we should reject the argument that says that nature is sacred. We shouldn't be sacrificed for the sake of the purity of nature, neither should other animals. Of course, having said this, I'd also like to point out that I don't support animal experimentation, since, as an egalitarian, I don't want the victims to suffer for the sake of the benefits other may get from it, regardless of whether they are humans or nonhumans.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Oscar.

 

Sergio Tarrero:

Thanks.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Kate would like to ask another question, and will do so as she juggles the transcript and typing in the question. Thanks, Kate!

 

Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ:

Hola Oscar. A question if I may. Given that plants are insentient and that insects are sentient would you advocate that we kill carnivorous plants? Thanks.:-)

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you Kate! That's a very good point!

 

Well, other things being equal, if destroying the carnivorous plants doesn't harm other animals more than it harms the bulk of the insects that are killed by them (which is a very reasonable assumption) yes, I agree that we should do that!

 

As I said before, I'd favor doing some research to prevent any unexpected consequence from occurring. But if that's not the case, yes, exterminate carnivorous plants.

 

Tim Gier:

Oscar, can you briefly explain the differences between egalitarianism and utilitarianism?

 

Oscar Horta:

Sure

 

Thanks Tim!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you!

 

Oscar Horta:

I think I did it above, but I'll try to explain it a bit more here.

 

If you're a utilitarian you just care for maximizing the total amount of existing value which individuals can receive. (depending on your view, you may consider it to be pleasurable mental states or preferences satisfaction). So if some group suffers so that others get a huge reward... well, that's justified! Egalitarianism disagrees with this.

 

According to egalitarianism equality is also important. So we have to be more concerned for those who are doing worse than for those who are doing better.

 

So consider the next example.

 

Suppose we could somehow make an estimation of how happy can individuals be. Imagine that we can follow two different things.

 

One means that a group of individuals will be extremely happy, but another group of the same number of individuals will suffer significantly.

 

The other one means that all of them will be sort of ok. If we could measure somehow their happiness, if we follow the first policy the first group's happiness would rate 20 and the second group's10. If we follow the second policy, both groups would have a happiness of 14. Utilitarians would defend the first policy. Egalitarians would oppose it. They would defend the second one.

 

They oppose sacrificing minorities for the sake of majorities, which utilitarians may accept.

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you for the explanation Oscar!

 

Oscar Horta:

You're very welcome!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Oscar!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

At this point, I would like to thank Oscar most sincerely for being our guest today and responding to some amazing questions, with some equally amazing answers.

 

Oscar Horta:

Oh, it's been a great pleasure! I'm really thankful for this opportunity!

 

Thanks ARZone!!! :-D

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Oscar- you ROCKED!!!

 

Sergio Tarrero:

Well done! Applause!

 

Oscar Horta:

You all rocked haha!!!

 

Leah:

Applause!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hah, Oscar. We do all rock!

 

Oscar Horta:

I applaud y'all!

 

Tim Gier:

This has been great! Thank you Prof. Horta.

 

Alicia Sangineti:

Thank you all for such interesting questions and answers!! Thank you very very much Oscar. It was excelent. A hug to you

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!!

 

Oh, and BTW, sorry for my linguistic mistakes!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks Oscar. Excellent chat and wonderful information!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thank you!

 

If anyone wants to go on debating with me, feel free to get in touch!

 

Tim Gier:

If we have further questions which we post as comments to the transcript, would you be able to answer them there for us at some later time?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

And please also feel free to leave comments and ask questions on the transcript when it is published in a few hours.

 

Estela:

Thank you Oscar and everyone!!! hugs.

 

Oscar Horta:

Absolutely!

 

Tim Gier:

Excellent. Thanks for spending so much time here tonight.

 

Oscar Horta:

Let me thank again all the ARZone team, you're amazing!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

It was our pleasure, Oscar!

 

Kate✯GO VEGAN+NOBODY GETS HURT Ⓥ:

Thank you Oscar! You're amazing! :-D

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks. Oh, if anyone wants to discuss the issues any longer, you can get in touch with me here at ARZone, at facebook.com/masalladelaespecie, by email at OHorta(a)dilemata.net or at my blog http://masalladelaespecie.wordpress.com

 

 

Part 1 of Prof. Horta's ARZone Transcript may be found here:  http://arzone.ning.com/profiles/blogs/transcript-of-prof-oscar-1

 

 

***********

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after chats by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

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Comment by Brandon Becker on April 8, 2011 at 23:19
Check out "Animal Rights and Politics" from Responsible Policies for Animals:
http://www.rpaforall.org/rights.html#politics

We must not let industry continue to monopolize the political system by having policymakers only hear their voices. The least we can do is educate the influential on veganism, anti-speciesism, and animal rights.
Comment by red dog on April 8, 2011 at 17:36
While I tend to agree with Roger as a general matter, I'm open to the possibility that there could be exceptions. I'm thinking of Nathan Winograd's model legislation regulating animal control organizations--he makes a strong case for it, even though it doesn't go nearly far enough. Is this a case where some change is better than none at all? Could there be others?
Comment by Tim Gier on April 8, 2011 at 12:10

Hi Roger, 


First, and obviously I think, we need more vegans in the world, no-one should disagree with that.

Next, how do we go about getting them?

I suppose that we can talk about vegan education as if we know what that is, and what its constitutive parts look like, but I am afraid that I have little idea what 'vegan education' really means, or whether it means the same thing to all people in any context.

Why wouldn't a well organized grassroots political campaign for some legal/political measure consistent with abolitionist goals be properly considered part of vegan education? It seems to me that if vegan education can consist of a handful of advocates tabling all day at a festival or fair aimed at changing the hearts and minds of a few passers-by, then it surely can consist of political campaign aimed at changing the laws such that they recognize and protect other animals, especially since such a campaign would have to involve protracted efforts to get influential people to at least listen to the moral argument for animal rights.

Comment by red dog on March 23, 2011 at 11:43
Thank you, ARZone, for another informative chat that raises important issues. I'm not familiar with Professor Horta's work yet but I can see that it's worth looking into. I wish I had more time to comment in detail on some of the issues that came up in the chat, but unfortunately I'll have to come back to the discussion later.
Comment by arcadio buendia on March 20, 2011 at 20:35
Thanks so much Óscar and everyone at AR-Zone. Óscar you are so good at explaining things in such a clear an understandable way. =)

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