Dominion and vegetarianism

I have decided to become a vegetarian. It may seem to be a major change but it is something which I have thought about many times over the past few years as I moved to establish a consistent philosophical position. I was finally forced to make a decision after reading Matthew Scully’s Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

The book is interesting and very well-written, the author having worked as a speech writer for the ex-president of the US George W Bush, but was quite a change as he generally writes from a religious point of view. when the majority of what you read is written by atheists having someone seriously quoting the Bible can be quite jarring (although not nearly as bad as when, misled by its title, I read through a book written by, and presumably for, Jehovah’s Witnesses). That said most of the book is presented in a secular manner and appealing more to emotions and the idea of mercy than to either religion or secular philosophy, the latter of which would have greatly benefited it. Continue reading


BBC morality survey

The BBC is running a survey entitled Test Your Morality. It’s purpose is to look at a new theory of morality, the ‘Human Superorganism Theory,’ which says that people behave as if they were part of a larger organism when they are organised into groups. Our morality is then based on the expectation of being punished by the rest of society and differences in morality are due to different ‘tuning’ of our moral sense depending on our role in the superorganism.

They want as many people as possible, from all over the world, to take the test and if you have some time it’s not much of a problem. It does take a while though and you do have to register on the BBC website. Continue reading

Moving away from retributive justice

There are two articles dealing with this topic recently, or at least that I am aware of. One is a look at how incorrect brain functioning can contribute to criminality and the other is a criticism of a paper on free will. The take-home message is this: our actions are determined by the physical workings of our brains.

This causes a problem for free will in that it can’t be free. If we accept that our actions are determined by our brain and our brain functions according to physics and chemistry, the direction in which all evidence points, then we can’t really choose, at least we can only make one choice no matter how it feels to us. This is because everything that happens in our brain depends on the state it was in the moment before and so on. There is no way to make a choice that wasn’t already predetermined. In short there is no free will. Continue reading

More on pets: part 2

Following on from “Take care of your pets” and “More on pets: part 1“.

Looking at the evidence for sterilisation we can’t really claim that it is more harmful to sterilise a cat than not. However the situation for dogs should give us pause when we consider how things may change as more information comes to light. So does this then mean that we should just sterilise freely? Not quite, there are other things that need to be taken into account, such as whether we should be considering such a path at all.

Sterilisation, whether good or not, is still a major procedure and one that has real impacts. A question that we should then ask ourselves is whether it is something that we have the right to do. Are we able to impose decisions that are for the best in situations where an individual won’t make that decision themselves? Continue reading

More on pets: part 1

Previously I posted my letter about cat sterilisation, specifically saying that it wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Of course that sounds radical as nearly everyone would say you should have your cat sterilised, indeed that was the very message of the piece to which I was replying and a message endorsed by the respected SPCA. So I’m taking this opportunity, with considerably more space, to further expand on the reasons for writing what I did.

I’ll admit there was a slight problem in my reply, that being that I was not familiar with the literature on cat sterilisation. However cats are not the only animals that are sterilised and I was basing my letter on Laura J. Sanborn’s article, The Long Term Health Effects of Spay/Neuter in Dogs, which I had previously encountered. The article which I read came up with these, shocking to me at the time conclusions. Continue reading

Take care of your pets

This is a letter I got published in the Claremont/Rondebosch People’s Post on 1 November 2011. It’s just a short comment (350 word limit) on an article on the SPCA and having cats sterilised. With no hyperlinks and limited space to try get a number of points across it is perhaps not a great piece so I may just write a follow up to further flesh out the points and provide better reasons.


It is a shame that there are suffering kittens around but I can’t help finding it a very uncomfortable proposition to sterilise all cats. Sterilisation is not risk-free, despite what brochures may lead you to believe, and there are consequences from both the surgery and the subsequent hormonal changes. This means that sterilisation may not be in the cat’s best interest, particularly for pet cats. Continue reading