BOOKS: Animal Welfare & Human Values

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1993:

Animal Welfare & Human Values by Rod Preece and Lorna
Chamberlain. Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L
3C5), 1993. 334 pages, hardcover, $45.00 U.S.
Early in Animal Welfare & Human
Values, authors Preece and Chamberlain
acknowledge that, “Sometimes the philo-
sophical complexities (of constructing argu-
ments against cruelty) are greater than the
difficulties of making judgements them-
selves.” They then quote Lord Chief Justice
Mansfield, the 18th century head of the
English judiciary, who advised fellow
judges to, “Consider what justice requires
and decide accordingly. But never give
your reasons; for your judgement will prob-
ably be right, but your reasons will certain-
ly be wrong.”

Why then write yet another
learned tome on the philosophical rationale
for animal protection? Respond the authors,
“Tempted as one may be to forget the rea-
sons and rely on the judgements, that is
only fruitful once a degree of consensus has
been reached on what interests (and in what
proportions) are entitled to consideration
––and to date there is no consensus.”
Preece and Chamberlain attempt to
advance the development of an intellectual
consensus in favor of animal protection
much as many others have before them, by
outlining the objections most of us have to
animal use and abuse in hunting and trap-
ping, entertainment, biomedical research,
and agriculture, together with closely rea-
soned arguments for their reform or aboli-
tion. Preece and Chamberlain acknowledge
the efforts of their predecessors, but suggest
consensus has not been achieved because
previous arguments were flawed by parti-
sanship. Presumably they believe their own
arguments are less flawed because they
come out on the side of “animal welfare,”
as a practical objective, rather than “animal
rights.” Overlooked is that opponents of
animal protection tar animal welfarists with
the animal rights brush in public debate, not
because they don’t know one from the oth-
ers, but because they do––and they want to
frighten the uncommitted into rejecting any
change in the status quo. Much of what
Preece and Chamberlain have to say is
accordingly beside the point. No matter
how good their case, opponents of animal
protection won’t be moved; uncommitted
people aren’t likely to care enough to read
their book; and those who will read it are
already persuaded.
Although Animal Welfare &
Human Values does not offer enough origi-
nal insight to warrant the hefty price for any
but the most dedicated scholar, it does
include occasional provocative discussion.
For instance, Preese and Chamberlain point
out that abolishing pound seizure, a long-
time goal of many activists, may actually
increase animal suffering––even if random-
source (Class B) dealers, bunching, and pet
theft to supply biomedical research could be
simultaneously halted. “Since, customarily
at least, animals are only released from
pounds after they have been scheduled for
euthanasia,” they write, “if they are not
then released a purpose-bred animal will
have to be used instead. Either way, one

will be used for research and may suffer but
if the pound animal is not used then both the
purpose-bred and the pound animal will die,
one of them needlessly.”
What if, instead of categorically
refusing to sell animals for any biomedical
use, shelters could set the sale price (tradi-
tionally set by law), and could review the
procedures for which the animals would be
used? Flexible pricing could put the Class
B dealers and many of the purpose-breeders
out of business, while humane society
review of experiments could put an end to
those that cause significant suffering for
dogs and cats.
Preese and Chamberlain have
opened a debate here that could fill a few
books by itself. While it might make the
animal protection community uncomfort-
able, the authors compensate a few chapters
later by setting forth another argument that
will equally irk the fur trade, and could be
used against much other animal abuse as
well. “It is significant,” they write, “that
the economic loss is deemed important
when we consider the fur industry but is
never suggested as a relevant factor when,
say, we hear indignant voices raised against
the pornography industry. Such voices
rightly tell us that the moral issue is too
great to allow economic considerations to
outweigh it. Much of Canada is an ideal
place to grow marijuana and the cash crop
income would presumably exceed $600 mil-
lion a year (the maximum value of fur
exports to Canada during the past decade) if
it were legal.”
Though the literary and historical
scholarship Preece and Chamberlain put
into Animal Welfare & Human Values is
substantial, they seem oddly unfamiliar
with the present quantification of animal-
related issues despite their background as
chair and vice-chair of the Ontario SPCA.
On page 126, for instance, and also on
pages 144-145, they lament an alleged lack
of verifiable information on the economics
of the fur trade. They also cite a variety of
purportedly conflicting statistics with no
apparent awareness that they come from
different years during the past decade,
when fur sales, prices, trapping activity,
and trapper income first hit all-time highs,
then fell to their lowest levels since 1953.
The facts they complain they don’t have are
right in front of them; they just don’t know
what they’re looking at, even though the
explanations are readily available from
multiple sources in both animal protection
and the fur trade itself. When they can’t
resolve such simple conflicts, one’s faith in
their ability to resolve the major conflicts
involving animal welfare and human values
must be rather slim.
––Merritt Clifton
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