This op-ed piece, written by one Crispin Sartwell, who, according to the article teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. recently ran in The Salt Lake Tribune. This piece is a prime example of the kind of bizarre, hyper-egalitarian, New Age reasoning that is found in the AR movement. Quite frankly, only a philosophy professor could spew forth this kind of stupidity IMHO ( the idea he seems to agree with that dogfighting and child pornography are on the same moral plane is exceptionally inane ). There are so many problems with Mr. Sartwell's views that it's almost hard to know where to start. In a nutshell, Sartwell claims that is irrational and morally inconsistent that we condemn dogfighting, but continue to eat cows. However, Sartwell fails to make a convincing case to support this view, because he leaves out several important factors, and this makes for gaping holes in his reasoning.
Sartwell implies that we should not be making any moral distinctions in our views between dogs and cows, and that failure to do so is irrational. But this just doesn't wash. A rational person recognizes that different things that may be similar in some ways, serve different purposes. For example, a screwdriver and a chainsaw are both tools, but they serve very different purposes. A 747 and an F-16 are both aircraft, but serve very different purposes. Likewise, dogs and cows are both animals that have been domesticated by mankind for thousands of years, but again, serve very different purposes. Dogs were domesticated for the purpose of companionship, and to assist us in various tasks ranging from hunting to herding to search and rescue to assisting the disabled. Cows were domesticated for the purpose of feeding mankind, who by nature have evolved to be biological omnivores, through both meat and milk. It is a clear, entirely rational distinction that Sartwell doesn't even bother to explore. He also conveniently neglects to mention the cultural factor in this. In some cultures, such as in parts of Asia, dogs are in fact considered a food animal just as cattle are in European and North American culture.
Secondly, Sartwell fails to take into consideration the factor of gratuitous cruelty and bloodlust that are a part of dogfighting. Dogfighting serves no other purpose other than to satisfy the lust for blood, suffering, and violence of its human participants. It is complete sadism and gratuitous cruelty, and that is a big part of the reason most people find it so morally repugnant. The same cannot be said for raising and slaughtering cows for food. Cows are raised for the purpose of feeding people , not for the purpose of gratuitous cruelty and indulging in unadulterated sadism. There are admittedly parts of raising and killing animals for food that most of us know are not pleasant, but it is not on the same moral plane as dogfighting because of the differing motivations and purposes of the two. That distinction should be clear to rational people, but apparently it isn't to Mr. Sartwell.
Mr. Sartwell's column is typical of the kind of strange thinking that predominates the modern animal rights movement. It is a kind of irrational black-and-white, moral absolutist reasoning that doesn't take all factors into rational consideration, and doesn't think about the fact that most of life, including our relationship with animals, is made up of moral gray areas, and is not as black and white as they think it is. It reminds one very much of the kind of thinking found in religious fundamentalism. To say that since dogfighting is wrong, then eating cows must also be equally wrong, may be the thought that emanates from pretentious, disconnected philosophy professors in their ivory towers, but the real world just isn't that cut and dry.