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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Humanity Even for Nonhumans"

And Also: Drowning in the Desert: A JAG's Search for Justice in the Desert by [Captain] Vivian H. Gembara (co-written with her sister, a journalist) is an engaging account of her struggles to help the military "return with honor." The best she could, in the tradition of her father, special forces. I'd add that things like this underline that you can understand both sides, including all the pressures involved, but still fall on a certain side. Such as here, where overturning the conviction is no easy call, but the principle at stake makes Stevens' dissent (note he announced it from the bench) compelling.

Among the many causes reformers in the 19th Century promoted -- along with anti-slavery, health reform, women's rights, marriage equality (men/women), and so forth -- was animal welfare. This was not a new thing. One of the earliest laws -- in colonial Massachusetts -- respected the well being of animals. This had backing in the Bible, even when Genesis noted God gave dominion to man over the earth, this implied some sort of due care. After all, God has dominion over the universe, and He is said to be righteous to all of His creation.

This doesn't only apply to treatment of animals -- the ethicist Peter Singer grew into his animal rights stance applying general principles, and his writings up to the present day reflect the point. Respect for life has ripples. It grows out of many things, including our respect that animals have some interests, and can be harmed. We care for certain animals more than others -- be they cute or whatever -- but just as we can spread our care for humans outside of our immediate orbit, we have shown a growing respect for animals.

And, just as respect for humans need not all make us saints, respect for animals need not make us all vegans. There is more than enough more we can do, and continue doing, to help animals before that point. Not I dishonor vegans at all; the diversity of food alone is worthy of interest. There is an annoying lack of convenience foods at times, but the same thing might be said about eating healthy. And, in both cases, the diversity is generally present, particularly areas with significant ethnic populations or those concerned with healthy diets.

Nicholas Kristof's column, "Humanity Even for Nonhumans" inspired this entry.