A Classic of “Moral Schizophrenia”

A central theme of my work for the past decade or so has been the exploration of our cognitive confusion—our “moral schizophrenia”—when it comes to nonhuman animals. Recently, I commented on how entertainer Ellen Degeneres sobbed on her television show about a dog that she adopted and gave away while, at the same time, promoted her dead-animal luncheon menu on her website. Football player Michael Vick was excoriated for his involvement with dog fighting by a public that thinks nothing about eating nonhumans tortured every bit as much as one of Vick’s dogs.

Many of us share our homes with nonhumans whom we love and regard as members of our family while, at the same time, we eat other nonhumans who are not different in any morally relevant way from those we love and whose personhood we recognize.

An absolutely stunning example of “moral schizophrenia” was reported on Friday, October 26, by the BBC. A white stag, apparently about nine years old, was shot by poachers on the border between Devon and Cornwall.

The reaction: the killing of the stag was “disgusting.”

And who was disgusted?

The “[f]armers and gamekeepers [who] had kept quiet about the stag’s whereabouts for years in an attempt to protect him.”

Pat Carey, “whose job is to cull red deer in the area,” described the animal as “sacred” and the killing as “beyond words.” Mr. Carey remarked that “[i]t’s got to be a heartless person to be able to look at that beautiful creature through the telescopic sight of a high-powered rifle and just end its life.”

It is remarkable in many respects that Mr. Carey does not regard himself as “heartless” when he looks at a red deer “through the telescopic sight of a high-powered rifle and just ends its life.”

As I sit writing this, I am looking from my office window into the woods that surround our house. I can see two deer—twin does born on our property this spring—nibbling at the bushes. It is hunting season here and there are many people in this area who kill the deer, mostly with bow and arrow.

I know some of these hunters and they would not hesitate to spend hours trying to rescue a deer “out of season” from some hazard. But they have no problem with shooting an arrow, that has four razor points that open on contact and literally “lock” onto the organs or muscle of the victim, into that same deer a month later, when it is legal to kill her.

As Mr. Carey says, it’s “beyond words.”

Gary L. Francione
© 2007 Gary L. Francione