Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our abstract notion of justice

Following this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days a Wyoming Tribune-Eagle headline announced “6 Animals Die at CFD.” What if…just what if the headline had read “6 Cowboys Die at CFD?”

Unlike many humans, King Solomon believed animals share the same place in God’s kingdom as do we. “For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals,” he wrote in Ecclesiastes 19, although he went on to assign us all the same vain end, “for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

The question was raised on, “Do animals have souls like human beings?” The answer? “Animals have souls--and so do plants. Does this answer sound like something out of the New Age movement? Don't worry--it isn't. Rest assured we're not saying animals and plants have souls like ours.”

That answer doesn’t give me any “rest assured.” The answer-person reasons, “Since animals and plants are living things, they have souls, but not in the sense in which human beings have souls. Our souls are rational--theirs aren't--and ours are rational because they're spiritual, not material.” The explanation relies on this distinction, “They (animals) can't, for instance, conceive of the abstract notion of justice. Animals and plants also lack a moral sense.”
Oh really? Remember the video that went viral showing one dog pulling another to safety after it had been hit by a truck on a busy freeway in Chile? Cars and trucks full of soulful humans drove by the injured dog, ignoring its plight. But it was a fellow animal who had enough of that “abstract sense of justice” to risk its own life to pull an injured comrade across several lanes of oncoming traffic to save its life.
If you missed it, see: Watching the video makes one question just who has “a moral sense.”
I was once in Moshe, Tanzania. Driving through the city we saw a Hindu Temple and talked about how beautiful it was. One of the Africans in the back seat leaned over and whispered, “They think God is cow.”
That’s not a completely accurate interpretation of Hindu doctrine but seems closer to a better guess than the one provided by Although, even if you’re working from the understanding that it’s humans and not animals that have an “abstract sense of justice” it would seem that harming animals for human entertainment would violate our “moral sense.”
Catholics are not alone in propagating a Christian world-view relegating animals to lesser status. The idea that animals exists for our pleasure and have no moral soul accompanies a prevalent western theology often leading people of faith to accept little responsibility for the natural environment.
Eastern religions take a different view. India, for example, a largely Hindu nation, has officially given “non-human person” recognition to dolphins. Under law, the dolphins now have the right to life and liberty and dolphin parks across the country are being closed.
There’s a lot of money at stake in deciding whether animals are full members of God’s creation. Unless they have second-class status, we can’t justify our rodeos, zoos, and Sea Worlds. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. alone reported net income of $77.4 million for 2012, a 305 percent increase over 2011. That gives their shareholders 77.4 million reasons to trap baby Orcas, wrench them from their mothers and put them in confinement for the remainder of their lives.
According to the Wyoming Business Report, CFD visitors from outside Laramie County “funneled $25 million into the local economy” in 2012. Dominion over animals is indeed profitable for many human-creatures.
Still, despite the economics of domination, it would seem that the least humans could do with their "superior souls" and “abstract sense of justice” is to fully protect the animals under their care from death in a rodeo arena.

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