Apr 25, 2006

Seal Hunt Article

As most of you know, I write a regular column in the Toronto Star. It's always interesting for me to see which topics generate the most public feedback. My latest screed was on the seal hunt and animal issues generally. It got lots of feeback, almost all positive.

Anything to do with animals always seems to stir things up. The one I did on the spring-bear hunt was another one which got lots of comment, although that was split pro and con.

The next most active response was to my article on the gay marriage issue.

If the Star ever needs a big boost to circulation, I'll do one on homosexual bears.

1 comment:

e.m. said...

Two comments:

1. While I agree that the current paradigm of "animal welfare" is based on an absurd standard of photogenic "cuteness" establishing a kind of reverse logic to the food chain, sadly, this is much the same as the logic of charity applied to "human welfare". I comment on this as your article makes the equation of the similarity of animal and human in other respects than this. There is already an implicit criterion of "cuteness" when concern about human welfare is directed primarily or exclusively toward "Women and children"; most education and relief projects are looking for "cute" and presumably passive child subjects to exercise their charitable instincts upon. Is a middle-aged rice farmer less worthy of literacy and education than a beaming child? Is a man with a military record less worthy of humanitarian aid than a woman or child? Many humanitarian operations are looking for the baby seals of the human welfare game: beaming children with big eyes, who presumably draw donations when on-camera. War vets and grisled rice-farmers are apparently less telegenic.

2. Although Th. Buddhism does treat humans "as a type of animal", this equivlance has a major moral limit: only humans are capable of "uprooting desire". In layma's terms: there is no such thing as a vegetarian lion or an ascetic moose. Although the traditional Cartesian obsessions (reason, emotion, soul, etc.) do not differentiate animals from people from the Buddhist vantage, there is a more important criterion in the suttas, viz., that humans alone can go beyond desire, abnegate desire, etc. Contrary to some Modern Western authors, Thereavada Buddhism is very much an anthropocentric religion.

Existence as an animal is, let us recall, compared to that of a blind turtle swimming in the ocean --and it is a moral blindness that is implied. Unlike Christiantiy, there is no expectation that "the lion shall lay down with the lamb".

My excessively long-winded comments are inspired by the wait to dowload these new Pali recordings, they may interest you, Bhante:
http://www.brelief.org/reports/chant.html