Ethics and the San Francisco Pet Ban Proposal

San Francisco is considering accessing its inner PETA by enacting a ban on a the sales of any pet with fur, hair or feathers, meaning that little Scotty will have to make do with a boa constrictor, an iguana or a guppy if he wants a non-human companion to cheer him through grade school. The measure began as a ban on pet store sales to stick it to unscrupulous puppy mills, then gradually morphed into a nearly China-like proposal  to ban almost all pets. True, the city’s proposal would still allow the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters, but don’t bet on that being the final result. PETA-ism, once it gains a foothold, won’t be satisfied until we are all tofu-sated and pet-free.

A Los Angeles Times story on the public debate over the ban concentrated on the business angle, for pets are big business. This is, however, an effort by the city government to set ethical values and standards, a legitimate government role when  necessary and reasonable. Protecting innocent and vulnerable animals is an important government function; the question is whether it is necessary to protect animals from those who love them as well as those who abuse them.

Well, why not? There are slippery slopes all over this issue, in all directions. Laws ban the sale of exotic animals like tigers, wolves and chimps in many jurisdictions, because keeping them in private captivity is viewed as inherently cruel. Hmmmm…more cruel than keeping Shamu in that small tank? More cruel than keeping a polar bear in a Washington D.C. zoo? The logic for banning birds and small mammals as pets is pretty much the same: it’s inherently cruel. Does the life of a hamster deserve as much protection as the life of a leopard? Why stop at hamsters, then?

Are ant farms cruel? ( I know what happened to mine, and I don’t want to talk about it…) Continue reading

When a Crime Is More Unethical Than Illegal

“It’s just a dog folks!!! Why not go after people that brutally slaughter cows, chicken and pork. Oh wait, you eat those animals so that justifies killing them. This country’s priority is screwed up. He got what he deserved, fine, buy the couple another dog and perform community service. Now leave him alone.”

This was the reaction of a Washington Post reader to the widespread out rage over the cruel act of David M. Beers, a Marine Corps veteran who expressed his anger with a Maryland couple by taking their 4-pound pet Chihuahua and hurling her off a bridge to her death. A judge has sentenced him to four months in jail, and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 300 hours of community service, and pay $318 restitution to Caisha and Timothy Wantz, who had just had a heated dispute with Beers before he took their pet.

The sentence is appropriately stiff, and yet inadequate too. Continue reading

Silliest Animal Ethics Argument Not Made by PETA

Read it here, on the Discovery website: an article by Jennifer Viegas, illustrated by a photograph of Galapagos tortoises engaged in sex: “Do Nature Films Deny Animals Their Privacy?”

This better not be a late April Fool’s hoax.

I will retract the accusation that the article is silly if it turns out that Jennifer is, in fact, a Galapagos tortoise herself.