Sunday 2 March 2014

Darwinian Tapestry

The Khmer Rouge of the Carmarthenshire hedgerow resting this morning

Just heard philosopher Roger Scruton on the radio (A Point of View) giving us a lecture about the hypocrisy of "protecting" wild animals and worrying about their welfare very selectively. He's an interesting thinker prepared to challenge orthodoxy when he isn't promoting fogeyish conservatism.

So we kill rats gleefully with warfarin - a horrible death - while wringing our hands about badgers (perceived very inaccurately to be benign - actually they are one of the grumpiest animals you can encounter).

He also takes us to task for indulging domestic animals like cats which massacre the local bird and small mammal population.

Indeed they do, including the rats, also a small mammal and part of God's Creation (as people used to say) or at any rate part of the rich Darwinian tapestry of evolved fauna.

But I plead not guilty to the charge of hypocrisy. We are entitled to make up our own rules as we go along because the concept of "animal rights" is utterly meaningless as the smallest effort of thought demonstrates. In reality our rules about the treatment of animals (most of which I support) are products of culture and taboo not morality.

Those who get confused about these matters run the risk of compromising the unqualified sanctity or, in more secular terms, the unique value of human life.

Such thinking, which sees humankind as of no special importance in the "grandeur of the natural world", sounds clever and contemporary but it can also lead down a slippery slope which in not so distant historical times has seen vulnerable members of society, including people with a mental illness, subject to euthanasia and worse.