Category Archives: Animals

Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

The Pope and "the Angel of Peace"...

The Pope and “the Angel of Peace”…

Sigh.

I apologize in advance to all the Catholics and others who will be offended by this post. I wish I didn’t have to write it. But I just read one too many “nyah, nyah, nyah conservatives and Republicans, you’re so big on waving God at us and now the Pope says you’re full of crap” Facebook posts from someone who would no more set foot in a church than Damien in “The Omen.”  The Pope is as fair game for criticism when he abuses his influence and power as Kylie Jenner, who was the subject of the previous post, and for similar reasons. To those who say that it is disrespectful for me to compare the Pope’s ethics to those of an ignorant 18-year-old minor celebrity drunk on her own fame, my answer is that the Pope needs to stop acting like one.

I’m going to try to avoid the mocking tone I used with Kylie, I really am.

With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility. What I see in this Pope is a very, very nice and well-meaning man who suddenly was given the power to have his every opinion on any subject immediately plastered all over newspapers across the world and recited by news readers as significant, and literally can’t stop himself. He told an Argentinian journalist last week that he just wants to be remembered as “good guy.”  Mission accomplished: I believe he is a good guy. He’s also an irresponsible guy, who knows or should know that his pronouncements will be exploited for political advantage by people and parties that could not care less about his Church, God and religion generally, but who will use his words  to persuade voters who feel the need to know no more about a subject that what the “Vicar of Christ” tells them.

It may be “good to be Pope,” to paraphrase Mel Brooks, and it’s also not “easy being Pope,” to paraphrase Kermit the Frog. I don’t care: he accepted the job, and with it the duty to do it responsibly. Being a responsible Pope means not shooting off your mouth about every topic that occurs to you. In that same interview, Pope Francis opined that humans care too much about pets. I get it: poverty is, by his own assessment, the single most important aspect of the Church’s mission, so it’s natural for the Pope to believe that the money spent on movies, cable TV, make-up, CDs, and Jack Russell terriers should all be given to the Clinton Foundation or his Church instead. That’s a facile opinion from someone who has a staff catering to his every whim, and who sits on billions in the Vatican Bank. Does the Pope understand loneliness? Does he have any compassion for those suffering from it? Does he understand the needs of my sister, divorced and with both children gone, and her desire to have some unconditional love in the house when she returns to an otherwise empty home,  love that  takes the form of a happy, loyal, Havanese? “Care for pets is like programmed love,” the Pope told the interviewer. “I can program the loving response of a dog or a cat, and I don’t need the experience of a human, reciprocal love.”

My response: “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and millions of people will assume you got this point of view straight from God.” Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Leadership, Love, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year”

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, every kitten looks like a nail..."

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, every kitten looks like a nail…”

The Ethics Quiz concerning the grandmother who disciplined the children under her charge by killing a cat and her kittens with a hammer prompted a superb thread with many able participants. It also explored many rich ethics topics—child abuse, animal abuse,  property, child-rearing, discipline, punishment, law vs. ethics, and more. The entire thread is well worth reading, and it also generated a Comment of the Day that summarized and expanded on the themes and issues discussed. texagg04 has provided several COTD, but I don’t know if any have been better than this one. As a bonus, tex’s comment has persuaded me that I need to add another rationalization to the list. That should be up later today.

Congratulations and thanks to all the Ethics Alarms readers who weighed in so thoughtfully on this story. Tex’s honor here is in part yours as well.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year:

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Worst Grandmother of the Year

hammer71-year-old Josephine Bell told police officers responding to a call at her home that she had warned her grandchildren that if they did not clean their rooms, she would take their pets away.  They didn’t, she said, so she killed the children’s cat and four kittens with a hammer. The oldest child found the dead cat in the freezer, and called the police.

Granny was charged with a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals, and is in custody at Madison County Jail on $15,000 bond.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

What should be society’s response to conduct like this, and what should happen to Bell?

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Of Course Declawing Cats Should Be Illegal. Do It, New York!

cat clawsA Washington Post article about a proposed bill in the New York legislator to make declawing cats illegal is headlined “Is Declawing Cruel To Cats?” A similar headline would be, “Is Pulling Their Teeth Out Cruel To Dogs?” Of course it’s cruel. Not only is the practice often painful for the animal, it takes away a cat’s primary means of self-defense. In some cases this literally drives cats crazy, making a secure, happy animal neurotic, fearful, and nasty.

Assembly Bill 1297 is the creation of New York state assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D), the same legislator who pushed through a law last year banning the tattooing or piercing of pets. She gets the ethical principle here: surgically altering animals for the owner’s amusement and convenience is wrong. “People often use their animals in very selfish ways,” she says. “This is mostly done because people care more about their furniture than about their cats.”

Exactly. If you don’t like cats, don’t get a cat. Declawing a cat is de-catting it. Maybe taking away a dog’s ability to bark is a better comparison.

To anticipate the inevitable questions: “Does this principle apply to neutering as well? ” and “Should it?” my answer today is “I have to think about it.”

Declawing, however, is an easy call.

Pass the law, New York.

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Filed under Animals

Atrocious People, Part I: The Dog Rescuer, Elantra Cunningham, And What To Do About Her

bad-apples1

Let me make the ultimate conclusion of this post immediate and prominent:

The dog rescuer, , is admirable and ethical in every way. , the irresponsible and ungrateful woman who placed the dog in peril and had Hammons arrested for rescuing it is unethical and shockingly lacking in civilized values.

Let us all henceforth regard them and treat them appropriately according to their conduct in this matter.

There.

Now the details.

22-year-old Elantra Cunningham, owner of both the dog and the car, insisted that a police officer arrest Hammons for trespass and destroying private property. “It was not an arrest made by the deputy’s own volition,” Chief Deputy Lee Weems explained. “The woman pressed charges for breaking out the window of the car, and the deputy did what he had to do.”

Animal control cited Elantra for leaving her dog in a hot vehicle. Hammons spent the night in jail.

Comments: Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Now THAT Was Moral Luck…

"What the HELL do those idiots think they are doing with that poor kid???"

“What the HELL do those idiots think they are doing with that poor kid???”

Moral luck is the daily phenomenon where the exact same irresponsible  act by an individual can be regarded as cause for condemnation or even criminal penalties, or be shrugged off as a forgivable error in judgment and inconsequential based on turns of fate that the individual has no control over at all. You will see few better examples than this ridiculous story out of Cleveland. Parents visiting the Cleveland zoo dangled their 2-year-old son over the railing of the zoo’s cheetah exhibit,  then dropped the child, apparently accidentally, into the enclosure.The cheetahs wisely decided that the offspring of idiots might not be safe to eat, and made no effort to harm him. The boy’s father rescued the boy by jumping into the exhibit area and taking his son to safety. The boy was injured slightly, but it is likely that the incident will be  treated as an accident, with no consequences for the parents. If, however, the cheetahs had attacked and killed the toddler, the parents would have been prosecuted, and condemned across social media as contenders for worst parents of the year.

It was all up to the cheetahs.

That’s moral luck.

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Filed under Animals, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

Ick, Not Ethics: The Incredible Head Transplant

OK, this looks unethical...

OK, this looks unethical…

I adore stories that clarify ethical distinctions, and this is the third one we’ve had recently. First we had the classic “Awww! Factor” case of the Down Syndrome cheerleader. Then, close on its heels, we got “Downton Abbey’s” finale, which illustrated the ethics fallacy of Consequentialism as deftly as any textbook.

Now we have the startling report of impending head transplants:

The world’s first attempt to transplant a human head will be launched this year at a surgical conference in the US. The move is a call to arms to get interested parties together to work towards the surgery.

The idea was first proposed in 2013 by Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy. He wants to use the surgery to extend the lives of people whose muscles and nerves have degenerated or whose organs are riddled with cancer. Now he claims the major hurdles, such as fusing the spinal cord and preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the head, are surmountable, and the surgery could be ready as early as 2017.

Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June.

Predictably, this news prompted a wave of “Futurama” jokes and bad puns. It also prompted dozens of hysterical stories online and in print pronouncing the yet-to-be performed operation as “a terrible idea” and obviously unethical. A Daily Beast “expert” with the trust-inspiring name “Docbastard” condemned the practice with this wisdom:

That’s the funny thing about ethics—it may be impossible to say why something is wrong, but can be easy to see that it isn’t.

Yeah, that is funny. It is also false, and incredibly stupid. If one cannot say “why” something is wrong–you know, things like interracial marriage, interracial adoption, homosexuality, gay marriage, plastic surgery, income tax, integration, eating meat on a Friday…gee, let’s see how far back into cultural history we need to go to get the list up to a thousand! My guess: no further than 1900, if that far—there’s an excellent chance that it only seems wrong because 1) nobody’s bothered to analyze it thoroughly and objectively, and 2) the Ick Factor, which is when we mistake strangeness, shock and surprise, all visceral, emotional reactions, for ethics.

Let’s actually think about the “Doc’s” provocative questions about the theoretical procedure that he seems to think clinch the argument that head transplants are “easy” to identify as unethical. He writes, Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Bioethics, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology