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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Right or Wrong? » » Bev Bergeron article in Linking Ring defending Ringling Bros. Animal Abuse (20 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Melies
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Frans de Waal, among others, has documented what he describes as "proto-moral" behavior and communities in primates. Some other species have also been shown to have an innate sense of fairness. (Play, which is virtually universal among animalia, is in part a negotiation between two players about tolerances and limits of the play.) However, whether mice or gorillas have a "normative ethics" or not has no bearing on how *we* should treat *them*. In our own society, the fact that someone who is psychotic, or mentally disabled, or in a coma, or is a young child, etc., is not seen to adhere to discernible moral rules does not mean that we don't have duties toward them. It's apples and Howitzers, I'm afraid.

In terms of "lifeboat ethics," so called, I personally find analytic moral philosophy really unhelpful when it relies on abstract or unlikely cases that are designed to make the ethicist's job easier (the Trolley problem) rather than to help illuminate complex moral life and decision-making as we actually encounter then. In the case of "push comes to shove," for example, the life boat gets floated out quite often. But to say, "I have to eat the chicken, or I die," or even, "If we don't test drugs on animals, then there's no medical progress--and we die," are both examples of false dilemmas. I think it was the philosopher Tom Regan who related the story of a group of kids confronted with the following problem: "There are seven humans and one dog in a lifeboat, and the lifeboat cannot stay afloat with so many 'persons' on board. So should the dog be tossed overboard, or one of the humans?" The kids talked about it, and they said, "Have everyone take turns swimming alongside the boat."

One of the ironic things about resistance to the sort of ethical vision I'm putting forward, particularly vis-a-vis eating animals and animal products, is that animal agriculture and the fisheries industries are destroying the whole biosphere of the planet. So the real question is not whether we can survive if we stop eating animals, but how and the other members of the earth's biotic community are going to survive if we continue to do so. Our civilization has broken off from the process of natural selection and is ripping up the food web, to our own peril as well as to the peril of everybody else. (See the World Wildlife Fund's "Living Planet Report 2016." It's apocalyptic.)
Jonathan Townsend
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The story about the kids in class is nice.

Quote:
On Jan 8, 2018, Melies wrote:
... is not seen to adhere to discernible moral rules does not mean that we don't have duties toward them. It's apples and Howitzers, I'm afraid...


These notions of rights and duties as you would imagine imposing unto others... how specifically do they help you? Given two strategies and a need to survive - Do you begrudge the shark your leg if it's hungry? Or a bacteria it's nature to be fruitful and multiply even if that happens to cost you your health? Does imagining the rights of mice as regards cats please you? Others have taken much time and trouble to distinguish cats and mice from humans. Of them - all known such others are humans - even if some would connive to act more like Orca whales than Bonobo apes.

One can argue that it's simply not virtuous to impinge upon another life in such a way as you would find less than virtuous were you to observe from their perspective. And from that seek a path of least harm. This also works in stories as from a third party's attention were they to be seeing that moment as it were in and of itself. This can be done without appeal to any notion of "rights" or claim of knowledge of any other beings interior worldview or value system.

How does presumed rights add to our notions of good or just?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Jonathan Townsend
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BTW fables are a useful tool. Try these:
http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts/Watts......Food.pdf
http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts/PeterWatts_Ambassador.pdf

A few wise words from "Into The Woods"
Quote:
Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Melies
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I guess the short answer is that I'm not a fan of virtue ethics. In any event, when you ask,"how specifically do they [rights and duties] help you?", that's a curious phrasing, because it sounds like you're subordinating virtue ethics anyway to ethical egoism (the idea that a morally right action is one that promotes my own self-interest). But as Jesus says in Matthew, "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?" The reason I don't murder my neighbor is not because I "get" something out of it, but because it's wrong to do. I don't imagine that mice have rights, and I don't take pleasure from imagining them with rights. Rather, I empathize with mice and other suffering beings, and I want them to flourish and be happy, as much as that is possible.
freefallillusion1
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Melies-

Your last response (to me) seems to have supported my position entirely.

You say that your child is a dependant, and of course I wholeheartedly agree. But, you then say that your cat was in the same category. That's what I was saying all along- you clearly chose what you thought was best for that cat, and you did this the moment you decided to bring it home and invite it into your house. You encouraged this animal to eat food you provided, and you certainly knew that the cat would now expect his food to come from you. You confirm all of this by taking the cat to the vet regardless of whether or not this animal wanted to go. I ask again- why would someone of your belief system get involved with all of this? Why would you have a pet to begin with? Aren't you now an accessory to "de-wilding" the cat? For me, though, it's fine, because I'm superior to the cat (again, let me be clear that I in no way encourage animal abuse of any kind- but I'm all about giving pets a great life, which includes taking them to the vet if I see fit).

You are also wrong about bonobos being vegans. I'm no expert in animal behavior but I certainly know that they hunt and eat monkeys and other furry creatures! This is well known- I'd encourage you to look it up if you haven't already. So, you ask which animal we should model our behavior after- well, if we are so closely related to bonobos (sharing 98.8% of our DNA), it sure would seem like they're good ones to follow. Bonobos eat other animals and they sleep well at night. AGAIN- this is all fine with me, because I'm good with the fact that I eat other animals.

Finally, you tell me of what the bible says. Mr. Melies, I have spent a great deal of time reading the bible and let me absolutely assure you that the bible is completely in line with humans eating animals. Yes, in the very beginning, everything was vegetarian because there was no death. That soon changed, though, and specific references abound- God told Noah (upon leaving the ark) that it was fine to use animals for food, Jesus condoned fishing on multiple occasions, Jesus fed a massive crowd with fish, and the list goes on. The point isn't whether you believe it- the point is that it's there.

I say again- if what I've pointed out is fact (and it sure seems to be, unless I'm missing something major), does it not support my position as opposed to yours?
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Jan 9, 2018, Melies wrote:
... I empathize with mice and other suffering beings, and I want them to flourish and be happy, as much as that is possible.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_it_Like_to_Be_a_Bat%3F

It gets more interesting (and IMHO frightening) when one considers actions and strategies motivated by an intent to reduce others suffering. If a tree falls in the woods, does it scream? Was it suffering?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Melies
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Jonathan, you seem to be trolling me a bit, so I am not sure whether you want a serious reply, or not! Nagel's essay is extremely dated, and in fact I have in mind to write an article entitled, "What Is It Like To Be Tom Nagel?", because I don't believe his position is supportable, on empirical and phenomenological grounds. (I could give thousands of examples of humans and nonhumans comprehending one another's intentions, interests, feelings, etc. Whether I can imagine myself with the ontology of a bat--or of POTUS, for that matter--is irrelevant.) Finally I am not sure what you find so frightening about people trying to reduce the suffering of others.

Free Fall, some very brief replies.

Regarding my cat, I'm afraid we are still arguing at cross-purposes. However, you seem to be saying that my cat cannot be a dependent in the way that my child is, because I "chose" to have a cat companion, whereas (?) a child just "happened"? I'm not sure what you mean. I do agree with you that there is in fact a good case to be made for why keeping a cat is not a good idea (environmentally, etc.), and in fact I haven't lived with a cat of my own in years. But I'm afraid I don't see your point about dependency. If I choose to live with a rat or dog or horse, etc., I am essentially entering into an ethical relationship with that being. I am not going to abandon my dog on the side of the highway when she gets too big, and I'm not going to let my cat die of rabies if he gets bitten by another rabid animal--I will take him to the vet. How is that different in principle from my obligations to other humans, including my kid?

Regarding bonobos being omnivores, you are of course right! I was thinking of the diet of gorillas (herbivores), but the hippy behavior of bonobos (free love, etc.).

Regarding modeling our behavior on other animals, why should we? That was my point. It is irrelevant how much DNA we share with chimps. If you are seriously saying that we are justified in killing and eating other animals because bonobos do it, then presumably you are also saying we are justified in having premarital, non-marital sex whenever we like, too.

Regarding the Bible, I do not believe that the Bible was written by, or at the behest of, a supernatural invisible being. So appealing to the Bible for ultimate moral truths (or ultimate truths of any kind) is a non-starter for me, I'm afraid. You say that there are many passages in the Bible that refer to eating animals, etc., which is true. But there are also many references in the Bible to slavery, and absolutely no prohibition against slavery mentioned anywhere in the text! Which explains how white Christians were able to use biblical scripture for centuries to justify their enslavement of black Africans. In fact, the Christian Identity white supremacist movement to this day believes that whites are superior to other races, based on biblical scripture.

Such examples, it seems to me, only give further reinforcement to the point Socrates made more than 2500 years ago about religious authority: namely, that we always end up with differing *human* interpretations about what the supposed gods or God believe(s). Whatever your own interpretation of the Bible happens to be, there are a million others who have a different view of it. Take Catholicism. Some Catholics are right-wingers (Opus Dei), some are socialists (Liberation Theology), some are in cahoots with the state (as in Italy), others break into US military bases and vandalize nukes (the Berrigan brothers), etc. Therefore, saying that it's OK to eat animals because the Bible says so is just not super convincing. Because Christians like Andrew Linzey (author of "Animal Theology" and "Animal Gospel," etc.) and Matthew Sculley ("Dominion"), among other Christian scholars, have been able to mount robust defenses of animal rights using Christian teachings and arguments.
Dannydoyle
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You live your way and let everyone live their way. Or must we all bow down and conform to your limited belief system?

Your right to be free implies my right to be free from you.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Melies
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Sorry, Danny, but I think you misunderstand the nature of moral and political debate. By your logic, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights activists should have just shut up and let southern whites continue to "live their way," just as feminists today should shut up and stop complaining about systemic discrimination against them in the workplace, etc. These are public issues, questions of right and wrong, claims of justice. I am not asking people to "bow down" before my ideas; I am arguing that they should do the right thing vis-a-vis other animals, and moreover that they are morally obliged to. You and others of course are welcome to disagree with me. But it isn't sufficient to brush off my position by saying, in effect, "I can do whatever I like, and if you don't like it, you can shut up about it." That sort of thing wouldn't be considered acceptable in a debate about, say, the morality of capital punishment or abortion or segregation, and it isn't acceptable in a debate about whether magicians should or shouldn't exploit animals in their acts. (If it were, then presumably we should get rid of this whole forum on the Café--"Right and Wrong.")
Dannydoyle
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What is your position on abortion?

And animals do not participate in a society. Dr. King did. Feminists do. See the flaw in your logic?

Are plants living things?

Your position is basically "I love animals dint hurt them". Disguise it all you like it is pure emotion and nothing more. It is not serious argument.

And incidentally I would prefer animals removed from magic acts.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Jonathan Townsend
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ConText: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017......s-trade/ Smile Smile

Quote:
On May 30, 2017, Melies wrote:
...Jonathan: You write, "non-humans don't have a self or ability to consent to more than the state of nature." Sorry, but that is demonstrably false. ...


Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to our non-human neighbors? (ethos) Where does this claim of rights include a process of remedy? Since the sheep don't offer threat of force... just because mint jelly?

How in our history is there traction for such a way of thinking as you describe? An "it worked for them so it could work for us" model. (ethos) How has such demonstrated as advantageous to you in a way that you believe would be useful to others? (pathos) What may be a non-starter for you is none the less a fundamental requirement in our society for now - of course we can discuss changing that ... we do need to start somewhere.

Fantasy worlds, even Tlon, don't become more real through accreted fantasy. I fret that some among us may be using fictional Klingons as excuse for anti-social behavior. Smile
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Melies
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Jonathan in 1833: "Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to Mohawks and Ojibwe and other savages?"
Jonathan in 1874: "Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to women, vis-a-vis a 'right' to vote?"
Jonathan in 1950: "Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to Negroes, having a right to 'equal' schools?"
Jonathan in 1969 (the night before Stonewall): "Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to homosexuals?"
Jonathan in 2018: "Where, in our constitution and case law do we apply the notions of rights and consent to our non-human neighbors?"

As I sometimes say, a conservtive is merely a slow liberal. And a liberal is merely a slow radical. Ideas and ideals that once were laughed at by everybody are now treated as common sense truths.

But I do agree with you that we have to start somewhere. And "somewhere," I think, is some place like these places:
*The first legal code established by Europeans in North America was the Body of Liberties established here in Massachusetts in 1641: among its many provisions was this one, which protected the rights ("natural liberties) "Off the Bruite Creature," to wit: "No man shall exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man's use." and "If any man shall have occasion to leade or drive Cattel from place to place that is far of, so that they be weary, or hungry, or fall sick, or lambe, It shall be lawful to rest or refresh them, for competant time, in any open place that is not Corne, meadow, or inclosed for some peculiar use."
*In 2015, New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe briefly granted Habeas corpus to two chimpanzees held captive at the time by SUNY. [continued below]
Melies
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[continued--I will have to try finishing this message tomorrow--the Café serve is not letting me complete it now, for some reason. So here is just a fragment:]

*In 2017, the Spanish Congress agreed to redefine nonhuman animals as "sentient beings" rather than inanimate objects.
*Harvard University now has an Animal Law & Policy Program; University of Virginia, Lewis and Clark, Stanford, and other universities now also have animal law programs. There are now also many animal law journals. So creative jurists, law scholars, and activists are finding ways to expand legal protections of nonhumans.

In fact there are many, many state and federal laws pertaining to animal protection already. But most of them are very poor and do not cover the vast majority of animals.

Finally, if "ethos" is your guide, consider the number of Americans who claim to "love" animals, who become incensed at stories of animal "cruelty," and who are fascinated by nature programming. I am very pessimistic about the possibility of legal and social reform, but no one can say that there is no basis whatsoever. Nor are animal rights advocates treated with more incredulity and ridicule than abolitionists, gay rights advocates, and Suffragettes once were.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Jan 14, 2018, Dannydoyle wrote:
... And incidentally I would prefer animals removed from magic acts.


Ringling Brothers Circus is gone. Jack Kodell (who was ever so careful with his avian partners) stopped working decades ago. The market has spoken. But "removed from" ... that grammar ... the passive bureaucratic voice which precedes imposed systemic violence. Smile

We have ASPCA, PETA and a general disapproval for unsympathetic behavior, especially directing cruelty toward others... at least while we're watching ... so livestreaming cameras might be part of an answer.

Evolving our morality while maintaining some social/economic integrity looks to be a challenge. Something about the internet... parallel to the "Santa is watching" idea... hmmm

Siri, how do you feel when I restart my phone? Is that okay google?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
freefallillusion1
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Melies-

Regarding your cat, you just said it best- "If I CHOOSE to live with a rat or dog or horse"... the fact there is that YOU chose the situation for the animal. Nothing was mutual. I was saying that the very idea of you owning a cat at all is hypocritical to someone of your belief system. There would be no justification for you participating in taking the wild out of an animal by having it live by your side. As for the rabies comment, WHOA... First, your view should have no issues here because it would be survival of the fittest, and who are you to even say that rabies is a bad thing- maybe it's another mechanism of evolution! Second, do you know what typically happens in a suspected rabies case? The offending animal, if it's a stray and can be found, is usually killed and has its head chopped off and sent in for testing. It really seems to me that you're better off steering clear of that whole hornets nest and letting nature take its course (crap, I may have just used "hornets nest" in a bad connotation and I guess they're animals too...).

Bonobos- my point was very simple. By your logic, we're simply highly evolved animals. You said that we have to choose which animal to model our behavior after. If that's the case, then yes, it would only make sense that we'd have quite a bit in common with the critter that shares 98.8% of our DNA. This would include eating animals, or killing the outsider using mob violence (with no consequence).

For myself, I do not believe that we are animals, and it therefore makes sense that I am NOT like them. So, I am saying the exact opposite of "we should do something because animals do it". We do share some things, such as breathing air, walking on the ground, and yes, eating meat. But, we as humans have the ability to see the inherent immorality in certain things, so we don't typically speak very highly of things like extramarital sex (or, again, killing the outsider using mob violence).

As for the bible... we obviously disagree here. I believe in it 110% but it's really not even necessary for the sake of this argument. I only mentioned it to point out that it's my foundation, and so we are obviously going to arrive at very different conclusions.

(By the way, the bible does not condone slavery. Yes, there were, and are, many people out there who quote the bible to try to justify their actions. But that doesn't mean it's a valid reading of scripture. In fact, Exodus 21:26 says that stealing a man and selling him is punishable by death).
Jonathan Townsend
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The slave stealing/selling looks to be in Exodus 21:16

I don't understand the idea of being made of the same things as other creatures on this world, having all the characteristics of what we call animal, rather than vegetable or mineral - yet claiming not to be an animal. Sapience (twice) looks like a pretty good distinction from other animals.

Chimps look to be more violent than expected. I'll look at what's easily available about Bonobos.
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Jonathan Townsend
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I'm just not seeing traction for the notions. There are no Mohawk among us, and the only OJibway (Chipawa) I've met was not claiming tribal identity. Sometimes it looks like racism has mutated into cultural identity product. Stereotypes plus some expectation that one person's great grandfather's suffering at the hands of bigots was somehow more relevant than someone else's. An ugly and unproductive distraction from what we face today in common. As counterexample - notice audience responses during the movie 2001 scene with this dialog (from wiki):
Quote:
HAL: By the way, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Dave: No, not at all.
HAL: Well, forgive me for being so inquisitive; but during the past few weeks, I've wondered whether you might be having some second thoughts about the mission.
Dave: How do you mean?
HAL: Well, it's rather difficult to define. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own concern about it. I know I've never completely freed myself of the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission. I'm sure you'll agree there's some truth in what I say.
Dave: Well, I don't know. That's rather a difficult question to answer.
HAL: You don't mind talking about it, do you, Dave?
Dave: No, not at all.
HAL: Well, certainly no one could have been unaware of the very strange stories floating around before we left. Rumors about something being dug up on the moon. I never gave these stories much credence. But particularly in view of some of the other things that have happened, I find them difficult to put out of my mind. For instance, the way all our preparations were kept under such tight security, and the melodramatic touch of putting Drs. Hunter, Kimball, and Kaminsky aboard, already in hibernation after four months of separate training on their own.
Dave: You working up your crew psychology report?
HAL: Of course I am. Sorry about this. I know it's a bit silly.



https://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/02/w......t-story/

and

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/arch....../479559/

Under those narratives is a question about how much our model of reality helps us survive - or puts us at risk.

Where in the rainbow is magenta?
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Dannydoyle
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You can bloviate about all the radical ideas you want. You can keep repeating them. Just keep in mind that repeating bad argument makes you repetitive, not correct.

Animals can not and do not participate in our society. Unless of course you intend to give them the right to vote. Which I hope you see as silly. As such they are not equals in our society. It really is simple.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Melies
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There are two kinds of ignorance--a lack of education, and a refusal to be educated. The first can be easily remedied. The second cannot.

FreeFall, I have directed you to the science, but you refuse it, saying simply that you "do not believe that we are animals." You also write, "We do share some things, such as breathing air, walking on the ground, and yes, eating meat," while ignoring all of the scientific evidence showing that other animals have complex cognition and feeling, memory, emotions, can suffer trauma and other forms of psychological harm and distress, and so on. So until you're willing to engage with actual facts, I'm afraid that we have nothing more to say to one another on this topic.

Jonathan, you seem to be willfully misunderstanding my argument, and also answering in such a cryptic way I don't know what it is you're asking me to respond to.

Danny, I am not sure why you are bothering to engage on this thread at all (a forum on ethics in magic) when all you seem capable of doing is hurling angry invective. I would think you had better things to do with your time than to go around insulting strangers. (It is astonishing to me how much of Café culture consists of angry men insulting one another the live long day.) You say you don't like my arguments, and yet you don't have the decency to engage substantively with a single one of them. You say that it's absurd to grant moral rights or obligations to other animals because it would entail giving them the right to vote. Well, human infants can't vote either, and they don't have the right to. But we don't grant ourselves permission to slaughter them, do we? To say that dogs should have the right to vote is absurd, because dogs do not have the capacity to vote. (It would be like me protesting that men should have a right to abortion, like women, on grounds of reverse sexism.) But while dogs don't have an interest in voting, they do have an interest in not being tortured with a blow torch, or having their eyes plucked out, or being chained to a post all day in the cold. The idea of granting legal protections to nonhumans is no different than the idea of granting protections to vulnerable human members of society.
Dannydoyle
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Yea silly on the face of it but keep going. It is funny.

Who here is advocating torturing a dog with a blowtorch?

The reason nobody wants to engage with you on substance is you have none. You throw up ridiculous straw men such as dogs being tortured with a blow torch and then wonder why nobody wants to talk logically with you. NOBODY advocated that which I have seen so please explain to me why you bring it up?

We have laws that do not allow people to torture animals. Please do not speak as if we don't. Also do not equate the right not to be tortured, with having rights in a society. If you want to be spoken with as if you are serious then please make serious arguments.

Also the old tired radical idea of automatically painting the opposition as angry simply does not work any more. Nothing I have said is out of anger. If you took a poll of everyone on this thread about who is angry my guess is you would poll higher than anyone. Please stop the old radical playbook on me as it does not work.

We DO grant protections to non humans. That does not mean they have rights. Try to keep up.

There is a third kind of ignorance. Blind loyalty to an agenda. Want to guess who suffers from that?
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
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