Quicklinks: Animals, animals and torture

Here’s a rather nice story about a dog who was born with deformed legs that can now run on 3D-printed legs. I can see all sorts of great things from that technology in the future.

While the US recently declared that a chimpanzee can not be considered a legal person and so not gain various rights that would come with, a court in Argentina has declared that an orangutan can have a legal right to freedom. This is similar to India’s decision last year to recognise dolphins as non-human persons.

A recent poll in the US confirmed an earlier poll result the more religious a person is, the more likely they are to support torture. Those with no religion was the only group where more than half of respondents were opposed to the CIA’s use of torture. Interesting when considering whether religion is a source of morality or not.


Writers’ Workshop in Stellenbosch

Mont Fleur

Mont Fleur

Near the end of last month, I went to Stellenbosch with some other members of the Division of Human Genetics to attend a writers’ workshop. I’ve already dealt with the academic portion of workshop in a post on the Human Genetics website, so this one will focus more on the casual aspects and some thoughts stemming from it. While we were there, we stayed at the Mont Fleur conference venue which is amazing. The staff are polite and helpful, the accommodation is clean and spacious and the food is unbelievable. All that in an incredibly beautiful setting. Continue reading

India recognises dolphins as non-human persons

Dolphins (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dolphins are one of a number of particularly special animals that are widely recognised to be highly intelligent. This makes them an ideal starting point to assign moral rights and personhood to non-humans. Rather than individuals with inherent value, most animals are currently seen as property and the effort to elevate their status has a lot of hard work ahead of it. That’s not to say that no one is trying, people are, although not always successfully. Continue reading

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

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

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