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August 02, 2006

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LAK

Professor Sunstein, I love ya to death, but compassion for 50,000 dogs is simply displaced or misplaced compassion that should be directed first at the millions of people who live in abject poverty in China and elsewhere. I believe the UN has stated that 6 million children die each year from malnutrition, a far more horrific death of actual self conscious human beings.

I suppose talking about animal welfare is fine and all, but not in the absence of discussing the injustices that human beings suffer every day. In law school I went to a number of discussions about animal welfare, and very few about the global distribution of wealth and the problems of abject poverty.

Frederick Hamilton

Of course the massacre of 50,000 dogs is abhorrent. To give some slack to the Chinese, they are Communist and how they treat their dogs pales in comparison to how many Chinese died at the hands of Chairman Mao. Or their treatment of female babies today. Or their treatment of political dissidents. Or their treatment of Christians. Or their treatment of Tibetans. Ad infinitum.

But how does the equation go....liberal to socialist to communist. Hard to find a card carrying Democrat who touts the New York Times line that doesn't have a soft spot in his heart for Uncle Joe, Chairman Mao or healthy/deceased Fidel.

Matthew Larsen

LAK: compassion for 50,000 dogs is simply displaced or misplaced compassion

This is unsurprising from someone so blinded by scientism that he thinks human beings are nothing more than "cells" because his friend who is a geneticist at the University of Bath says so.

Guy

What's the replacement value of the dogs in China? Likely not more than $50-- $2,500,000 in total. Depending on how you want to value the lives potentially saved that doesn't seem like an extraordinary sacrifice. With the population living in close quarters and (maybe) a lack of rabbies shots maybe this was the best option.

LAK

And it is likely that these dogs were feral, so rounding them up and housing them for testing them was probably not possible.

Matthew, the Hitler youth rally is down the street, I'm afraid you're in the wrong place.

LAK

I should have said "most" of the dogs were likely feral. Killing people's dogs on the spot when being walked is patently absurd and cruel, both to dog and owner. There really was no reason why they couldn't have allowed owners to get tests to prove their dogs were not infected. China is a strange strange place.

James

Priorities aside, surely the method by which they were killed matters a lot. Beating them to death seems gratuitously cruel, as opposed to euthanizing them, or at least shooting them in the head. My family euthanized our dog when we thought she was suffering, and I would argue that this sort of thing is ethical.

This also brings up the decision not to allow families rescued from New Orleans to bring their pets along, presumably on the grounds that scarce resources should be allocated to rescuing humans. Heartbreaking perhaps, but I would probably have made the same decision.

Finally, again putting human suffering to one side, doesn't this pale in comparison to the slaughterhouses in the US? Dogs have a lot of personality, but do they suffer more than cows or chickens or whatever? If anything, I would imagine this Chinese initiative saved more lives than are saved by the miserable rearing and messy killing of 50,000 cows, but I realize the comparison isn't an easy one.

Kimball Corson

What would the Vietnamese think?

curtisstrong

Interesting...

I'm actually in China right now with my wife teaching English, and this kind of thing wouldn't surprise anyone who's ever been here before. That said, there are just so many things that people that have never been here don't understand about the Chinese.

The philosophies and the ways of life are not just different, they're different-planet different, and animal rights are one of the things that very very few people would care about. Their excuse would likely be "China is a developing country," and leave it at that.

Not that that makes it acceptable to us. Killing dogs in the street IS wrong, especially given the circumstances. But China is not going to change to live up to U.S. standards...we need to understand that. The situation is not one where the government is "oppressing" everyone like we would see it. People have normal lives, and they are happy. They agree by in large (with some exceptions of not having a free press) with the communist government, and get fairly hostile whenever the U.S. says anything critical about China.

Anyway, China has the problems that it does because of the way they approach things, but this is no different from the U.S. A good example is Frederick Hamilton's post earlier suggesting that simply because a society is liberal, that it will soon become communist. The attitudes (like that one) makes it difficult to talk about, and advocate for, things like universal health coverage, because conservatives simply scream "Communist!" and people with preconceived notions of the issue close their minds, without actually thinking seriously about the problems that exist and how to correct them.

Likewise in China. You can't really say that the U.S. is a good place without getting blasted by people talking about the war in Iraq and how much the U.S. spends on its military. You can't suggest that Chairman Mao caused millions of deaths without being told that he "saved" China from the Japanese, and made China a better place. You can't tell people that the reason their infrastructure is messed up is because they haven't organized the economy in a way where everyone can benefit from it...the equivalent of the "communist" cry would be the "we're a developing country" cry.

Anyway, the point of all this, is that yes, absolutely, China has issues...serious ones at that. But they're necessarily always visible to the Chinese from a surface level--only in situations that happen every once in a while, like this one. We should take a lesson from this and realize that attrocities happen in the U.S. too--Abu Ghraib, drive-by shootings, lynch mobs, highest percentage of population in the world locked up in prisons...etc. I know that no one is suggesting we don't have our own problems, but I think there IS something to learn about ourselves (and how to SOLVE those problems) when we see the follies of others

The Law Fairy

I think we should take Professor Sunstein's comment at face value -- killing 50,000 dogs is a tragedy. Any actual, legitimate disagreement on that point?

Frederick Hamilton

I was just trying to make the point that liberals seem to love to be apologetic for some horrific behavior by totalitarian Communist regimes because it is being done "for the People". China is a very inhumane place on many levels. And sorry, it may seem they are on a different planet, but they really are on planet Earth. Their humanity is part of our humanity.

Some day the Chinese will be free. It will happen. When that day comes and the Chinese citizenry can keep the fruits of their labor to themselves, the economic world as we know it will be very different. 1 and 1/2 billion Asian hard working peoples willing to go toe to toe with the rest of the World economically will be fun to watch. I hope I get to watch it.

But, no I stand by what I said. There is a mind set that wants to forgive Stalin, Mao, Castro et al from Duranty at the NYTimes to the rest of liberal America. Nothing to do with national health care. That issue will live or die depending on the merits and the circumstances. To big an issue to chew on here.

There are too many innocent souls sacrificed by the Chinese government over the past 60 years to give them much humanitarian slack. Sorry. Explain away the female babies being killed as one example. No, a humanitarian conscience requires some serious condemnation of China.

Matthew Larsen

LAK,
1. You have just violated Godwin's Law. Obviously, having compassion for 50,000 slaughtered dogs does not make me a Nazi.
2. Your compassion for dogs is equivalent to your compassion for fetuses and embryos -- nonexistent. In other words, you really don't care how developed the organism is or how long it has been alive. You think that if some humans benefit from the death of other life, go for it. If anyone's belief system mirrors that of the Nazis, it is yours.

LAK

Thanks Matthew!

I'm going out on a limb here. You're no U of C law student.
I have plenty of compassion for dogs, and fetuses. I just have a lot, lot more living human beings. I am a humanist and can't understand how people like you cry about mindless embryos or dogs but then cheer GWB when he is responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of innocent *actual* humans. Warmongering corporate whores sure are profound hypocrites, aren't they?

Now keep your ingnorant god fear to posts about god fear, mmmmkay? Thanks.

Guy

"killing 50,000 dogs is a tragedy. Any actual, legitimate disagreement on that point?"

I don't see it that way. Dogs are a form of property and their destruction is a taking of such. To the extent the owners are not compensated I feel a tinge unhappy (not too bad because the circumstances suggests it was a public necessity and preventing that is in some sense compensation).

If the method of death was cruel that would reflect badly on the character of the killer and warrant punishment. Even though they are property we may rationally punish for acts against their property to prevent the acquiring of a 'taste' for violence or cruelty.

In the abstract, though, the death of these dogs is neither more troublesome than the slaughter of cows and chickens for food, or the spraying of insecticide to kill mosquitos.

LAK

"killing 50,000 dogs is a tragedy. Any actual, legitimate disagreement on that point"

Yes. But I don't buy the property argument. Pun? Pun.

1. The means by which they killed the dogs: tragic. Cultural difference or relativism considered, unnecessary brutality is always wrong, no matter what culture you find yourself in, and no matter how desensitized one culture or person is to it. Someone may be less culpable in participating in it, but that doesn't make the act any less wrong.

2. The killing of the dogs itself. Sad and unfortuneate. Not tragic. My guess is we in the US kill many times that number each year, just more humanely. That is sad to me too. But death is a part of life, and early death flows from overpopualtion and species imbalance.

The real problem is human overpopulation, certainly in china, but here too. Feral cats and dogs are a big problem that is a function of human activity. They threaten many species in developed areas, spread disease and cause them and us all pain sorrow when we have to put innocent life downdown. But worse, human overpopulation results in millions of human deaths each year from the foulest of circumstances and diseases. So many die and so many suffer and live in poverty, I have a hard time ethically justifying even theorizing about animal rights when our theories have been so inadequate and failed actual human beings like you and me who not only can suffer, but are aware of their suffering. The left is being fractured by various interests to the detriment of the poor in this world, I guess is my overall point.

The Law Fairy

"The real problem is human overpopulation, certainly in china, but here too."

No one's saying it isn't, but there's no hard and fast rule that says that every post about tragedy has to address every single tragedy that there is in the whole world. That would get tiring and probably minimize the impact of any particular point. Sunstein felt compelled, on this particular occasion, to write about this particular tragedy. I don't see how this can at all suggest he cares less about overpopulation, or the slaughter of Chinese female infants, etc., etc., etc.

As to dogs being property, that's all about a point of view. It may be partly cultural, but typically, in most cultures, dogs are a different sort of animal than cattle. They may be used in different ways, e.g., shepherding, due to their greater intelligence. And, as much as it may be a cultural thing, dogs make better companions than many humans I've known. I know I would cry a lot more if my dog died than if I read about random person X being killed in a car accident. That doesn't make me cruel or heartless -- it's just an expression of what strikes me at the moment as tragic, or sad.

How else to describe stealing dogs from children walking them, to beat them to a bloody pulp right in front of those children, than tragic? Think about the human element here -- if a government official had come up to you as a child and beaten your dog right in front of you, what might that do to your development? It's certainly not going to make you a more compassionate or trusting person.

Slaghtering, on the spot, 50,000 dogs just because a *few* people have died of rabies, without bothering even to test any or determine the situs of the infection? Irresponsible, inhumane, possibly even unsanitary. And, yes, tragic.

Matthew Larsen

LAK: "I am a humanist and can't understand how people like you cry about mindless embryos or dogs but then cheer GWB when he is responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of innocent *actual* humans. Warmongering corporate whores sure are profound hypocrites, aren't they? Now keep your ingnorant god fear to posts about god fear, mmmmkay? Thanks."

1. I am an atheist. I don't attire my atheism in lies by calling it "humanism".

2. Atheism does not necessarily entail scientism or crude utilitarianism. You fall prey to both evils, and your "humanism" is no excuse.

3. I do not support the War in Iraq. I did not vote for Bush (either one). I have never met a "warmongering corporate whore," but perhaps that is because, unlike you, I do not carouse in brothels.

4. On a previous post, you noted that killing embryos is okay because they are nothing more than undifferentiated cells. But dogs are comprised of differentiated cells. It seems that by your standard, killing dogs would be wrong, but killing embryos would be right. Why has your standard suddenly changed?

5. It seems now your standard is that embryos are mindless. Fine. Are dogs mindless? One could say that dogs do have minds, which again means that on your standard, killing embryos is okay but killing dogs is not. But let's say that dogs are mindless too and mindlessness is the (new) test. That would mean that fetuses at a stage of development at which they can dream should not be killed. Why, then, do you not oppose most abortions?

6. This has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with your assertion that you are a "humanist" who has no concept of "human dignity" and law school graduate with no concept of "integrity of argument".

LAK

Matthew, you are not intelligent enough to be worthy of response, nor do I think you are honest in your beliefs. However, to clarify for your sake, as you are worthy of pity: In pointing out lack of cellular differentiation I was implicitly pointing to lack of mind. Consciousness, mind and developed human capabilities are what matters to me, first and foremost(whcih requires celluar differentiation. And I'm all for protecting potential and future life too. That is why I believe in environmental conservation and not running huge deficits to fund an out of control war machine. You need better than 4th grade reading comprehension and need to read all the posts if you are going to drag that discussion into this one.

You speak of fetuses and embryos as if they aren't attacched to a living woman. I think abortion is awful, and would never want to have one or be a part of one. I support bans on third trimester abortions unless the mother's health is at stake. I value life, but the rights of a woman to do as she pleases with her body are conspicuously absent from all your calculus, and they aren't in mind, and if you could read you might have picked up on that. You seem to suggest I enjoy destroying embryos. Wrong there too, but am more than happy to do so if it will cure the suffering and disease of already living, conscious people.

I don't know what scientism is. Will someone explain that word? I just like having electricity and being able to take antibiotics should I scrape my knee. I LOVE high resolution digitial surround sound. Y'all should check out
"Surrond." Bjork just rereleased all her albums in 5.1 Dolby Digital mix (although not high res)

Does one have to be a scientist to believe we can split atoms? Or that nuclear weapons exits? I'm actually the mystic religious freak in my circle of science friends, talking about the elegant and orderly univserse all the time.

It sound like you could use getting laid brother. If you can't do it with looks and charm, and clearly you can't do it with intelligence, I wouldn't preclude brothels.

Matthew Larsen

LAK: In pointing out lack of cellular differentiation I was implicitly pointing to lack of mind.

This does not answer the question whether you think dogs have minds, and if they do, why destroying them is okay. This post i snot about embryos or fetuses, or women, but dogs. I recognize that humanism has historically been opposed by feminists precisely for its unthinking misogyny, but, though both possess differentiated cells, you ought not compare women to dogs.

LAK: [I] am more than happy to [destroy embryos] if it will cure the suffering and disease of already living, conscious people.

You are also willing to destroy 50,000 animals with minds because there is a speculative possibility that some unknown number of humans might possibly get rabies. This is what I call crude utilitarianism.

LAK: I don't know what scientism is. Will someone explain that word?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism

"Scientism is the use of scientific or pseudoscientific language."[4]
Scientism is the contention that the social sciences should be held to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences. [5]
Scientism is the belief that the social sciences are not science because they commonly do not hold to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences.[6]
Scientism was a common ideology in the 19th and 20th centuries which places its trust only in scientific progress. See also positivism and social positivism.
Scientism is a belief that scientific knowledge is the foundation of all knowledge and that, consequently, scientific argument should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of knowledge, particularly those which are not yet well described or justified from within the rational framework, or whose description fails to present itself in the course of a debate against a scientific argument. It can be contrasted by doctrines like historicism, which hold that there are certain "unknowable" truths. [7] This viewpoint is typified by comments such as "Scientific research has demonstrated that substance x causes cancer in humans."
As a form of dogma: "In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth."[8]

LAK

Destorying dogs willy nilly is not ok. When did I suggest otherwise? You need to work on your reading skills. I just recognized the necessity and that our country does it all the time. When we pick up feral dogs in our country, we destroy 95% of them too. Sad but necessary. I love Bob Barker!

I'm no follower of scientism. I'd be the first to tell you the knowledge we can gain from scientific inquiry will never even come close to approaching the answer to the question of why we're here. Did you not catch my love of Einsetein? Did you not catch the fact that physics is incorporating fundamental uncertainty ito its models? Go away. I only want to spar with intelligent people.

Matthew Larsen

LAK: Destorying dogs willy nilly is not ok. When did I suggest otherwise?

LAK: compassion for 50,000 dogs is simply displaced or misplaced compassion

LAK

Finish the quote, a-hole. actually you don't have to. Your own attempt at attributing beliefs to me failed on its face. Now seriously, I think you are in the wrong place. Go try to put words in another idiot's mouth. The Harvard law blog is a good place to start. Or the RNC.


Matthew Larsen

LAK,
Your "humanist" argument is that killing animals with minds is okay if there is some possibility, no matter how remote, that a "human" might benefit. But your definition of "human" clearly excludes some forms of life others consider human. Your only reason for this question-begging definition is the "differentiation of cells" and yet you claim you are not a follower of scientism. Your repeated ad hominems do not change the absurdity of your position.

Lastly, I did not quote you out of context or in bad faith. The Law Fairy wrote, "I think we should take Professor Sunstein's comment at face value -- killing 50,000 dogs is a tragedy. Any actual, legitimate disagreement on that point?" In reply, you wrote:

LAK: The killing of the dogs itself. Sad and unfortuneate. Not tragic.

LAK

????????? God I hope you are not a U of C graduate.

Matthew Larsen

U of C law grad or not, you're the only human here who disagrees that the massacre of 50,000 dogs is a tragedy.

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