Sunday, May 1, 2011

Equal Consideration

Revised: Jan 8, 2014; 13:24 GMT

An important exchange on the subject of human-animal relations occurred on the pages of Slate magazine in 2001, when Peter Singer and Richard Posner engaged in a lively debate.

The animal rights movement is often considered a corollary of the women's rights and human rights movements. A subset of these movements was the acknowledgement of victim's rights.

Now that animal rights are (in varying degrees) established, it is time to raise the issue of victim's rights in canine-on-canine attacks.

Much has changed since the 2001 debate. The escalating number of canine on canine attacks suggests that it is incumbent on us, as human guardians, to establish a corollary system of justice and victim's rights, to protect our animal companions.

The letter below is an invitation to a tenth anniversary, return engagement of the first debate.

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Dear Mr Posner, Dear Mr Singer,

A premise of the exchange in Slate magazine is that humans, inadvertently or by intention, are liable to cause pain to animals. Or that we may cause pain by omission, by neglect or by a failure of compassion when it would alleviate the animal's pain had we acted.

We will abandon the premise of human cruelty for our current discussion and discuss an issue that was left untouched ten years ago. Let us assume that animals are deserving of equal consideration. Furthermore, we accept that we are caretakers or guardians, and not owners of pets.

The question before us now is this: how should a human, who has the power and, as caretaker, the obligation to intervene, act when one dog causes pain to another dog? Or even worse, kills another dog?

This debate will not consider dog fights, which are engineered by humans for their own pleasure and are considered a crime in nearly all states. We are considering only those dogs which, without provocation, attack and kill another dog.

This issue is germane given the numbers of dogs that are killed annually by other dogs. The attacking dogs are very often released back to their owners/caretakers without prejudice, while the human companion of the victim dog is left without recourse.

There are also near daily cases of dogs attacking horses, llamas, other livestock, and of course, humans. A number of these attacks result in death. Are the attacking dogs guilty of a crime? -- or are they absolved of guilt (and punishment) by virtue of being a dog?

If we are committed to equal consideration of interests, is it not a corollary that canine on canine (or canine on human) aggression should also be considered a crime, and punished as such?

Thank you gentlemen. In 2001 we began with Mr Singer; Judge Posner, you'll go first please.

The Editors

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Philosopher Forums: Posner vs. Singer

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Information on euthanasia rates is from Pit bulls and Political Recklessness, by Merritt Clifton. Shelter intake and euthanasia rates are published annually in the July/August edition of Animal People.