Thursday, January 17, 2019

The political correctness of animalists

John Maxwell Coetzee
In an article in the Spanish major newspaper La Vanguardia, the writer Quim Monzó recalls a campaign organized by the City Council of a Catalonian village to move people to collect canine excrements, with a poster where a pig-like dog appeared to tell its master: "I am your dog. Don’t make me look like a pig. Collect my excrements." The poster provoked numerous complaints from local animalists, who considered it an insult to pigs. Quim Monzó adds the following comment:
As expected... we are now hearing the slogan that the time has come to eliminate all phrases that trivialize the suffering of animals. [The animalist association] proposes that we stop using expressions like "kill two birds with one stone" or "be treated as a guinea pig”... We must not say "take the bull by the horns". There is also an English expression "bring home the bacon," which should not be used either.
Monzó has given his article a significant title: Idiots, idiots everywhere.
I would not dare to call animalists idiots, but I must accuse them of irrationality. Do they really believe that some pig was offended by the campaign for the collection of canine excrement, or that whenever we say don’t be a pig (or any of its synonyms) to rebuke a dirty person? I am afraid that pigs are not even aware of our use of language. The only ones who bother about this are animalists, and until proven otherwise, we must assume that they are human beings.
Of course, at least part of the animalists think that human beings are just animals, with no special rights, apart from those held (for instance) by cockroaches. I have talked about this in one of the most visited posts in this blog. In fact, the very existence of animalists is one of the proofs that man is a unique species. Do you happen to know of any other species who feels responsible or proposes to speak with political correctness about members of a different species?
When we behave irrationally, we are more irrational than irrational animals.
John Maxwell Coetzee is a South African born winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature, vegetarian by conviction, who has embraced in his books the defense of the rights of animals. His novel The Lives of Animals is very well written and tries to be impartial. The main character, Elizabeth Costello, who defends in public what is obviously the position of the author, is contradicted by those who do not share her ideas, and sometimes cannot find an answer to their arguments.
When I read the book, it seemed to me that Costello (and therefore Coetzee) relied more on feelings than on reason. She appealed too much to all those poor animals that suffer and are sacrificed to serve as food. While reading the book, I could not help but wonder if Coetzee (or all those animalists around us who cannot polish Coetzee’s shoes) will one day come up with the idea of forbidding carnivorous animals to kill and eat their usual prey. Will lions be forced to become vegetarian? No, they just want to compel our own species.
Thank goodness, for it has been done before: well-intentioned people, of little biological knowledge, advocated during the nineteenth century and part of the twentieth the extermination of vermin, as they called the carnivores. The result was an ecological chaos in all the places where this was put in practice. In fact, carnivores are the best friends of herbivores, as they help them to control the growth of their population, which in their absence would quickly lead to the depletion of their vegetable diet and to their own extinction.
Samuel Butler
Samuel Butler was an English writer who in 1872 published a novel significantly titled Erewhon. Observe that this word, read the other way around, becomes Nowhere, which means the same as Utopia. But as it is written in reverse, the novel speaks about a reversed utopia, that is, a dystopia (a word that in Butler's time had not yet been invented). Rather than representing a perfect society, it describes an imperfect society, so as to criticize the defects of Butler’s own society.
In Erewhon one day a preacher of animalism defends the rights of animals, and achieves the promulgation of a law that forbids eating animals that have not died of natural death. Immediately there is a crowd of citizens who go to the judges with a dead sheep and say: Your Honor, I’ve come to ask you to declare that this animal died of natural causes, so that we can eat it. A stone hit it on the head and it died. Tired of this Kafkaesque situation, a philosopher comes up with the solution: he preaches the rights of plants, which are also living beings, and demands a law declaring that only plants that have died a natural death should be consumed. Reacting against this absurdity, the citizens of Erewhon come to their senses and abolish the law against the consumption of animals.
I suggest modern animalists should read Erewhon, to find out how far their proposals could take them.

The same post in Spanish
Thematic Thread on Politics and Economy: Previous Next
Manuel Alfonseca

No comments:

Post a Comment