Field of Science

Mistreating animals for pleasure

For the record, you and I can't be friends if you crush animals for pleasure. It's Julia Galef on Rationally Speaking discussing what the difference is between taking pleasure in acts of violence against animals, and taking pleasure in eating animals that have suffered at the hands of humans with the intent of slaughtering them.
The closest thing that I can find to a morally relevant distinction between industrial farming, dogfighting, and crush videos is this: While it’s true that all three acts cause animal suffering in order to give people pleasure, the nature of that tradeoff differs. The consumers of crush videos and dogfighting are taking pleasure in the suffering itself, whereas the consumers of industrially-farmed meat are taking pleasure in the meat that was produced by the suffering. From a purely harm-based perspective, the moral calculus is the same: the animal suffers so that you can experience pleasure. But the degree of directness of that tradeoff makes a difference in how we perceive your character. Someone whose motive is “I enjoy seeing another creature suffer” seems more evil than someone whose motive is “I want a tasty meal,” even if both people cause the same amount of suffering.
I think Julia's right that the difference to many people will be that the animal suffering of pigs, cows, chicken, etc., is a by-product, and not the main point. But I also think that difference a distraction.

Personally, I'd really very much like if we all ate less meat, and paid more for that meat, with the result that no animals were treated cruelly.

So, we can continue to be friends even if you eat meat of animals who suffered for that, but if you in any way promote suffering of animals because you or someone else take pleasure in that suffering, then you can fuck the right off.


  1. Holy shit, I had never heard of crush videos until now, I wish I hadn't, and I'm glad I only read the first sentence or two of the Wikipedia article.

    This may be morally or ethically suspect, but I would even make a distinction between dogfighting and crush videos. Before I proceed, let me say that I categorically condemn dogfighting, and that I have a particular emotional stake in it as I am the owner of two pit bull mixes(*). That said, at least with dogfighting there is a competitive aspect. As much as it disgusts me, I can understand a certain amoral appeal.

    Crush videos are not just amoral, they are anti-moral, if that makes any sense. Dogfighting is evil sport. Crush videos are just evil evil. Blech... fucking sickening...

    (*) The stigma attached to pit bulls really pisses me off. The thing about pit bulls, they have been bred so that they will complete the task, whatever the task may be, and no matter how much it might cause them pain. This is clear to me as an owner, particularly our younger one who I think is almost pure pit. She is soooo sensitive, but at the same time if there is something she wants, or -- and this is the key part -- something she knows I want her to do and that she wants to do, she will follow it through, consequences be damned. She's both the most trainable and the most misbehaved dog I've had, for exactly that reason.

    And THAT'S why they are so favored as fighting dogs... not because they are inherently violent, but because whatever you have trained them to do, they will see the task through to the end -- no matter how unpleasant or painful it becomes for them. This understanding makes me especially angry about dogfighting, because it seems such a brutal betrayal of this innate trainability and persistence. It's not just locking two violent thugs in a cage; it's taking a dedicated, loyal servant and training her to act like a violent thug -- but only at your command, and with peril of needless death.

    I felt it was important to say all this to make it clear that I am not minimizing the evil of dogfighting. Rather, I am emphasizing the horror of these so-called crush videos. Holy shit, thanks a lot for infecting my nightmares... :p

  2. I didn't know that about pit bills. Interesting.

  3. I'm as appalled by the matters discussed here as anyone. I hadn't heard of these "crush videos", and instead of trying to find out about them on Wiki, I'd rather make a meta comment. I applaud James Sweet for doing what few people appear to be able to do: to walk away from sensorial stimuli (such as information) when you deem them to be inappropriate. Few people seem to be able to do it. Most watch and watch and watch (and perhaps later complain). But a modern human has a choice: they can choose not to infect their brain with that they deem to be material unsuitable for their own balanced self. Why can't more people be that rational? As for me, I'm not going to even go to Wiki to read those first two sentences. Bjorn's and James's opinions are enough for me to decide that I don't need to know more about this subject.



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