Thursday, April 9, 2009

Animal Welfare Opposed to Disability Rights

Nicholas Kristof writes in today's New York Times about the recently passed animal welfare law in California, giving much credit to the utilitarian ethicist Peter Singer.

Deep in the essay, Kristof quotes Singer ...
I asked Mr. Singer how he would weigh human lives against animal lives, and he said that he wouldn’t favor executing a human to save any number of animals. But he added that he would be troubled by the idea of keeping one human alive by torturing 10,000 hogs to death.
... but if you've read any of Singer's utilitarian ideas, you'll find his regard for animal welfare does not extend to all aspects of the human animal's welfare.

I posted a comment to that effect ...
April 09, 2009 9:58 am
That Singer meditates on the welfare of animals is good, but the man also has advocate the euthanization of babies born disabled " ..."killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living." The late Harriet McBryde Johnson wrote elegantly in the New York Times about Singer's ugly anti-disability position. And yes, I am a person with a disability, and I despair of utilitarian philosophers like Singer. Can I support his animal welfare positions, see "shades of gray" as friend suggests. I am not sure, although I choose to be a vegetarian.
... but it was apparently "moderated out" of the discussion.


Stephen Drake said...

So much for open, honest and respectful discourse, eh?

Although, honestly, I'm surprised it got moderated out. I've left some highly critical comments at the NY Times in the past and they got through.

Keep watching - it's possible they let a batch through at a time after screening them for spam and messages that wildly violate the guidelines.

Mike said...

Dear Gary:

Read your comment posted on Kristoff's blog. I had NO idea Singer said that about the disabled. I can't believe it. It's horrible.

Being the son of Holocaust survivors (my parents are German Jews), I am more than aware of the cruelty perpetrated by the Nazis not only on Jews, but on the disabled (and others as well).

I once saw a film snippet that was part of a documentary about the cruelty of Dr. Mengele, the infamous medical doctor who experimented on people at the camps. In this clip, "doctors" were holding up a retarted litle boy by the ears, and laughing whilst doing. The boy was screaming in agony. That poor little boy was tortured and no doubt murdered soon thereafter.

Singer's "beliefs" if true are an abomination. Disabled people come into the world as does every human, with the right to fulfill their lives and realize their dreams; and I believe to teach us the meaning of kindness.

Gary - I also put a post up on Kristoff's blog. It's item #38 - about the inhumane treatment of shelter animals.

I have another website, - a spiritual/human potential/humanitarian site. If, upon viewing it, you'd like to contribute an article, I would certainly consider posting it.

I loved your piece in The Washington Post. Congratulations.

I happen to be a media relations (publicity) specialist ( If you'd like a suggestion or two about what other media you can approach, let me know.

And we have something in common: we're both devotees of Bach and Mozart!

Blessings to you, brother,
Mike Schwager