Doug from California submitted this comment yesterday that, due to its length and complexity, I choose to respond to further down:
"If I understand the material, the introduction of morality as the foil for some self-described ARers is rooted in recognition of sentience. Lots of variations, but sentience generally refers to the capacity of living being to perceive, be self aware, feel, and pain is at the fore of that element.
Recognizing sentience in animals is probably responsible for changing the view of animals as mere property no more significant than some inanimate thing. A good evolution in human thinking. At some point that thinking changed again and attempts to grade animals'sentience were made and resulted in differential regard for animals based on the degree to which they exhibited human-like traits. Great apes, famously, and dolphins do that can be accorded higher worth. That slope, however, got slippery in a hurry (turns out that crows can make and use tools, elephants and geese mourn, endless examples, grow by the day) and the thinkers have concluded that gradations in sentience require drawing really blurry lines (are clams, for example, or worms sentient?); so their determination is to avoid the question and hold up sentience at all (which usually means going vegan) as a reason by itself to render use of a sentient animal immoral, irrespective of abuse or the manner of treatment. Servitude for a sentient animal is wrong, to these self-described ARers. Stated another way, there is moral equivalence in their heads among: dog or cock fighting, factory farming, working animals such as plow/carriage horses or bomb sniffing dogs, and indeed caring for your pet dog. (Where are your readers on this list?)
The protagonists of this view actually equate animal use with slavery in antebellum America, a comparison I find personally offensive, indeed absurd.
A couple of things about the antagonists view that don't hold up:
First, while holding up all sentient animals as human equivalents, in a strange twist of irony, they deny the capacity in these animals for love, devotion, self sacrifice for protection - in general, they fail to recognize these animals' capacity to enter to a mutually beneficial, reciprocal "useful" relationship. I'm very confident, positive even, that the animals in my life (horses that jump in competition with my then 75 pound daughter, dogs that greet me at night, protect my place all the time and sleep on the couch) are happy to be here and to be with me and my family.
Second, the antagonists do not include in the elements of sentience the capacity to dream; aspire to be something different from what you are. It is that omission that annoys me about the human slavery play. I'm pretty sure my dogs don't lament not being selected to ride on the Budweiser wagon or in a firetruck. Equally, I doubt that wolves in Yellowstone sometimes decide they'd rather be an elk and go vegetarian. Human beings, whether tragically committed to slavery or privileged in contrast, often do have aspirations like or even wildly different than that. The gradation in sentience is real, however denied for to make the argument hang together in logical fashion but despite common sense observation. The hallmark of civilizations (and I include animals packs, herds, flocks...in that) is determining and implementing the highest use for the individuals involved, maximizing their chances and pushing through together.
I also agree with your observation that demonizing the middle of the bell curve of "AR" people is a mistake. Further to you metaphor, no one ever bought a running $200 shoe because the salesman said "hey, you immoral fatso; you're eating more than your share of food and stressing the health care system."
Doug from the Gold Country, California
Reply: Thank you, Doug for your comment. It is obvious you have spent much time in reflection and thought.