On 14th June one of Australia’s most famous ever citizens, the acclaimed philosopher Peter Singer, was due to deliver a speech at Sky City. I wouldn’t go as I find listening to speeches tiresome, but in this case it would be unnecessary anyway as I’m fully aware of Singer’s views and mostly agree with him. But were I to have a one-to-one there are two points I’d raise.
First, he constantly refers to morality and rights (animal rights, immoral behaviour etc.) as if they’re cast in stone absolutes. They’re not; both being personal judgements. But most of all I’d put this poser to him. The good Professor is best known for his vegan advocacy, on the grounds that eating animals is unnecessary and barbarous to fellow sentient beings. He’s right on that.
But here’s the interesting dilemma that arises. Take eating lambs. Evidently by their gambolling, and indeed like most young creatures, lambs enjoy their existence, albeit short-lived. Thus if the world adheres to the Professor’s advocacy, outside of zoos, they wouldn’t exist as we’d stop breeding them. So is it better for tens of millions of lambs to have happy 3 months or so existences, as opposed to none at all? Surely there’s only one answer.
Chickens pose a different issue. Chicken sold today is tender for one reason, namely terrible cruelty in their production. Crammed together for a few months miserable existence, this necessary to stunt their muscular development and thus ensure soft, almost pulpy meat, is simply outrageous. So too with much pork production while the process of catching fish involves terrible cruelty. It seems to me Professor Singer should concentrate on the cruelty element of meat production as there’s no logic in veganism on purported animal rights grounds.
Anyway, as it transpired Sky City have now ducked for cover following protests by the always present scourge on contemporary society of a faction opposed to one of Singer’s advocacies, and in typical cowardly New Zealand fashion, Sky cancelled the booking. To some extent I actually agree with the protesters point albeit they’ve plainly misunderstood his comments and in fairness to them they did not demand Sky City cancel the event.
What irritates me about this affair is the inability of some people to tolerate different viewpoints without feeling the need to make public protests. This behaviour is fascist in wanting to regiment thinking on all issues to one uniform view. The current fashion for public protests, street marches and the like is simply a substitution of noise for a reasoned debate. If half a million people march on Parliament insisting one and one make three, their numbers won’t make this true. But even were they to march protesting an initiative that flies in the face of public sentiment and common sense, such as say lowering the school leaving age to 14, that’s no way to make their case.
The virtues of a liberal society surely need no spelling out yet it’s now under attack as never before in the modern era. The Dominion Post wrote a first rate editorial, although in much stronger terms, along similar lines.