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Part II- Humans and Animals: Defining Justice

This is part II in a short series on humans using animals for consumption.

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

On social media, there are often pictures of gruesome images with recently killed rhinos, elephants, lions, primates, etc. With these images typically comes a plethora of heated comments and arguments, opinions about the well-being of the animals, threats against the lives of the humans responsible, and haughty judgments from a First World nation to that of those of a Third World nation.

Animal rights activists, especially the radicals, scream about the “morality” of such an act as killing a rhino for its horn, or killing elephants for their tusks. The pictures that anger them the most are of Westerners who paid to kill animals for trophies. These animal advocate extremists will go at no length to find out who the Westerner, or specifically the American, is and then to threaten the big-game hunter’s life. In 2015, in Zimbabwe, Dr. Walter Palmer of the US killed “Cecil” the lion, and once his picture caught on the web the extreme harassment and threats began. He had to close his dentist office for a while as the threats against his life persisted. The activists felt ‘Justice’ was necessary for the death of the lion.

However, from a philosophical understanding of jurisprudence and the origins of Justice, it is not possible for nonpersons to partake in Justice as it is only a compromise between people as an intraspecies agreement as opposed to interspecies. The Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume believed animals could also be rational, perhaps to a lesser degree than humans, but are still incapable of being a part of the legal and ‘Just’ parts of human society.

In contrast, the leading vegan and vegetarian philosopher of modern day, Dr. Peter Singer, argues that bestiality is permissible so long as it does not harm the animal, but animals outside of humans should be treated the same when it comes to limiting pain. Throughout Singer’s work he explicitly claims humans are not equal to other animals, but we humans should not partake in “speciesism,” and we should all adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle because he believes human suffering to be equal to that of animal suffering.

I do agree that animals feel pain and pleasure, although I would argue that it is not to the same degree as humans. While the varying degrees do not determine equality or inequality under the law, it does argue there is a fundamental and natural difference between humans and other animals. This also does not provide enough reason that humans ‘should’ change and limit or eliminate animal use and consumption.

Often in philosophy, law, and even in daily life, people use the word “should” as meaning ‘ought’ or ‘obligation,’ yet conflate the two unbeknownst to them. It is typical for us to read past such a word as ‘should,’ and think nothing of the use or mention. If the word was meant as ‘ought,’ then it is a moral personal choice to make; if the word is meant to be interchangeable with ‘obligation,’ then Singer is either suggesting a deity will punish those that do not oblige his vegetarian or vegan code of ethics, or a legal system will punish. An ‘obligation’ would indicate there is a backlash from one’s actions.

Perhaps, being a secular utilitarian, he equates humans to other animals and believes it is not in humans’ best interest to use animals for human consumption, and the ‘obligation’ arises from the possible negative consequences as “punishment” for consuming animals. A natural consequence would not be ‘Justice,’ as it must be intentional at bare minimum.

Certainly then, the only form of ‘Justice’ possible is an objective one; and as controversial as it may be, it is equality under the law for humans and humans alone. If ‘Justice’ sprung forth as a natural ideology of protection for the division of individuals, it is still only a human idea. To take this human idea and force it upon animals as a means of thinking it benefits the animal, we can easily come up with plenty more that we can force upon animals such as obeying all laws, animals respecting other animals, social norms, customs, paying taxes, not using the restroom in public, wearing clothes, respecting property rights, and so forth. No matter the case, ‘Justice’ is established for humans in general, and animals are unable to reciprocate the necessary parts ‘Justice’ requires to maintain.

This is where some will respond that the same can be said for infants, elderly, and mentally disabled. However, infants have the potential capacity to become full-fledged persons while their being and assets may be held in trust by their guardians; the elderly were full-fledged persons and while they are of mental capacity they determine who shall handle their assets and life, etc.; and the mentally disabled are continually held in trust by their guardians acting in responsibility of their well-being.

Furthermore, ‘Justice’ is based on property rights. As the philosopher John Locke suggested, we have property intrinsically within ourselves as our Life and well-being, property in our Liberty and actions, and property extrinsically from ourselves as in goods or things in the world. Animals do not possess these things, and we cannot force that upon them. Even if they did have these things, there was never a means to negotiate a contract with animals from our species to other animal species.

Simply put, those that scream for ‘Justice’ for other species outside of humans are either misunderstanding the very concept of ‘Justice,’ or they are intentionally misapplying it and are advocating for the subjective and varying concept of “social justice.” Perfectly stated by lauded economist F.A. Hayek, Justice is an attribute of individual action. I can be Just or unjust towards my fellow man; But the conception of a ‘social justice’- to expect from an impersonal process, which nobody can control- to bring about a ‘Just’ result is not only a meaningless conception, it’s completely impossible.”

Hayek’s work on the topic of ‘Justice’ suggests that if one puts a word in front of the word ‘Justice’ then it is no longer ‘Justice.’ Justice does not require anything else with it, it is either equality under the law for everyone, or subjective infringements will begin to deteriorate the entire process.

Nevertheless, organizations like PETA, have continually asked for so-called “Justice” for animals killed in hunting. For example, with the case of Cecil being killed by Walter Palmer, PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk released a public statement on July 28, 2015, in regards to Palmer, “…he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged…” Yet, no one has done anything in regards to the legal and moral issues of threatening the life of the man.

Set aside the concept that these animal rights activists believe humans to be equal to other animals, and that they desire some imaginary system of ‘Justice’ that also incorporates equal animal rights, the point is that we do have a ‘Justice’ system and it was originally created by people, for people. So, to threaten a fellow person’s life automatically negates ‘Justice,’ and removes the unbiased impersonal third-party, i.e. the governing body to judge the case as to negate prejudice. Extrajudicial actions, such as summary executions, are what was seen in the Jim Crow South of instant punishment without fair and equal trials via lynching.

What these activist groups do not seem to realize is that their concept of ‘Justice’ as seen through the monster of “social justice,” is nothing new. For some reason, there is a common misconception that Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are only left-leaning individuals, when in fact they can be right-leaning as well.

Politics aside, “social justice” does more to harm the fabric of society and ‘Justice,’ itself, from the left and the right. Written in 1940, in his work Interventionism, An Economic Analysis, Ludwig von Mises wrote, “The ‘progressives’ who today masquerade as ‘liberals’ may rant against ‘fascism’; yet it is their policy that paves the way for Hitlerism.” Indeed, it was on these social and subjective agendas that Hitler, who became mostly vegetarian by the end of his life, rose to power, verifying that “social justice” can equally be found on the political right or left. And as cliché as it may be to bring up Hitler anymore, his being a vegetarian at least indicates just because someone is a vegan or vegetarian, it does not make them a better person.


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1 comment on “Part II- Humans and Animals: Defining Justice

  1. Pingback: Slavery, Thomas Jefferson, and Frederick Douglass the Libertarian - 71 Republic

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