"for well or ill, our society as a whole is overwhelmingly carnivorous."
That argument isn't very persuasive. A few centuries ago, society overwhelmingly approved of slavery. Was slavery morally justified then? I don't think it was.
Korean society (among others) approves of eating dogs. Is it moral to do so in Korea? I'm not a moral relativist. I believe it's wrong to bring unnecessary harm to sentient beings, no matter where you are located.
"the logic of equating a cow in an abattoir to a dog slaughtered on film evades me."
If you worked directly with farm animals, perhaps the logic wouldn't evade you. See, for example, this interesting article, titled, "The secret life of moody cows":
"ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.
Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future...
The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock. [...]"
I've been doing animal rescue for the past ten years, and I've worked face-to-face (literally) with both cows and dogs. I see no rational reason why cows should be less deserving of our compassion than dogs. I would no more eat a farm animal than I would eat a domestic pet. Kindness, respect, and compassion should not be limited to companion animals.
With regard to Otterness, I'm not so much defending him as asking his detractors to take a hard look at themselves, and at society-at-large. How much of a problem do we have with "artists" killing animals? And how does the size of that problem compare to the other ways in which we abuse and exploit animals? And if we're going to educate the public about ways in which we can all help animals, should we focus on small problems, or big ones?
Is it worse to kill a defenseless animal in the name of art than it is to kill a different defenseless animal because it tastes good?
I don't think that we as animal-lovers should make a big issue out of the Tom Otterness sculptures. True, Otterness did a horrible thing, but he did it once, many years ago, and has since expressed remorse. We should keep our sights on the big picture. (Frankly, I’m far more upset that there are no decent vegan options available at Max at the Gallery.)
Here are some real problems that currently affect animals: We have a huge problem with pet overpopulation, particularly with cats. Breeders and pet stores sell the products of puppy mills. Local governments are passing breed-specific legislation, banning pit bulls and other so-called "vicious" breeds. Low-life thugs use dogs and roosters for fighting. And, of course, all of those problems pale in comparison to the single biggest problem facing animals: animal agriculture. Around nine BILLION animals are slaughtered each year in the US. These animals, while they are being raised, are generally treated quite horribly, and they also release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute more to global warming than does the transportation industry. And the manure causes environmental devastation on a more-local level.
These are all big problems that deserve our attention. Tom Otterness is inconsequential to me, and we should save our moral outrage for other, more important issues. I’m not in favor of (or opposed to) forgiving him. Forgiveness isn’t ours to give. His sins should be a matter for him and his conscience.
Anyone who wants to help animals should adopt from an animal shelter. If you can’t adopt, do foster care or volunteer in other ways. And, above all, go vegan. You can save roughly a hundred animals a year just by not eating them. Veganism is good for your health, good for the environment, and good for the animals.
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