Sunday, 5 August 2007

Moral Schizophrenia and Complicity, by Karin Hilpisch

If there is anything to get things moving concerning speciesism, it is pointing out the bizarre division between animals who are institutionally used as companions and therefore granted a higher value in being kept alive than in being killed, and those whose value is realized in their being transformed into what is considered food as quickly as possible. A division which Gary Francione has defined as moral schizophrenia. The emotional surplus value that dogs and cats are accorded -- in the Western world -- causes them to be made objects of anitcruelty laws and protected from being used in ways which are regarded as illegitimate and morally reprehensible by the majority of society: dogfighting, for example.

What this form of animal exploitation has in common with bullfighting, hunting, fur-farming, circuses, and zoos, as well as with vivisection, is that it is practiced by relatively small groups in society, and that the number of animals affected amount to a fraction of those exploited by 99 percent of the population who consume meat, dairy, eggs.

Activism on behalf of animals that focuses on any issue other than food derived from animals IN GENERAL -- not on special prducts, supposedly produced more cruelly than others (foie gras, crated veal) -- serves political purposes (see Gary L. Francione. Introduction to Animal Rights, 2000: 163/164) and a collective psychological function that is inherent to speciesism: to give oneself an alibi, an indulgence for participating in the prevailing form of animal exploitation by diverting the attention to not generally accepted forms of it; to ease one's conscience about what is unjustifiable but pervasive by condemning, campaigning against, and banning what is not any more wrong but practiced by relatively few people. The latter stabilizes the former; by doing something "for the animals" -- who are not the subject matter of one’s own interests -- killing others by consuming their bodies and bodily secretions makes oneself feel much less uncomfortable.

Focusing on any issue other than food derived from animals helps to sustain moral schizophrenia -- the pschological basis of speciesism -- instead of challenging it; campaigning against animal fighting (as in the case of Michael Vick) is a meat eater's cause, furthered by vegans who engage in it -- who thereby become accomplices to the slaughterhouse.