Ethics Quote of the Week

“In confronting their summary disposal, we see how cruelty thrives in the guise of compassion. The possibility of such collective social derangement makes intellectually coherent actions that are incompatible with moral integrity.”

——-Colin Dayan in his searing essay for  the March-April “Boston Review”, about the disturbing societal implications of pit bull extermination facilitated by the collaboration of law enforcement agencies, animal protection organizations, the media and the courts.

“The seizures, detentions, and exterminations of pit bulls—sanctioned by laws in many states—expose the statutory logic for making preemptive justice constitutionally permissible,” Dayan writes.  “Canine profiling supplies the terms for inclusion and ostracism, and even the suspension of due process rights. No criminal conviction of the owner is required for state seizure and destruction of property. In other words, the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which prohibit the government from depriving anyone of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” can be suspended for the public good without evidence, without trial, by classification alone.”

His thorough and troubling article echoes and expands on the themes touched upon in the Ethics Alarms posts, “Pit Bulls and Bigotry” and its follow-up, in response to writer Charles Leerhsen’s columns in “The Daily Beast” urging the extermination of pit bulls because his own dog was viciously attacked by one. I would describe the most important theme this way: our culture risks its moral and ethical integrity when it finds reasons to reject core values like kindness, justice, fairness, and equity.

“Today pit bulls, tomorrow human beings” is unlikely, but it should be impossible. It can only be impossible if we agree that both halves of the sentence are offensive to humanity.

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