Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The People vs. the Pig

One of the great wonders of the Internet is that you can find archived material from many parts of the world dating many years back. Something interesting I came across today is a transcript of the TV program "The Animal Attraction", aired on ABC TV in Australia on February 24, 2001.

Its fourth program - Animals on trial: The People vs. the Pig "takes us over to the dark side. Our relationships with other animals are not all sweetness and light. And over the centuries, we've come up with some truly bizarre attempts to justify our actions." This episode explores "the ethical complexity of our dependence on animals. We find out why animals were put on trial in the middle ages, what witchcraft had to do with pet ownership, and how pet keeping transformed our society."

The program gives an overview of the problematic relation between humans and animals in history, and how humans have dealed with the moral problem in relying on domesticated animals for their survival.

Jonica Newby: Our empathy problem magnified a thousand fold when we were joined by domestic animals and our entire economy became based on exploiting them.

James Serpell: We have to maintain a degree of separation, emotional separation, if you like, from these animals. We have to avoid getting too close, literally, too intimate, too involved, too knowledgable about the nature of that animal and its psychology and its feelings.


Jonica Newby: Humans face a dilemma that's not been faced by any other animal in the history of our world. Many animals are carnivores. But we're the only ones with the brainpower to sympathise with our victims. And to cope with being a sentient carnivore, we’ve resorted to all sorts of strategies. Where possible, we avoid responsibility for killing. Even abattoir workers subconsciously shift the blame.


James Serpell: We have this association in our minds of pigs being filthy creatures but, of course, how could they not really be filthy in the kinds of conditions we keep them in. So, there’s a great deal of misrepresentation going on there which, I think, just makes people feel better about the notion that pigs can be killed, you know, because pigs aren’t really worthy of moral concern.

Read the full transcript.

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