For all creatures great and small

July 26, 1996

As one of those theologians of whom Roger Scruton disapproves, I do not expect a sympathetic hearing. Yet the tragic fallaciousness of what he expounds cries for another voice to be heard. How convenient to reason that "Animals can be eaten, worn and hunted", do not need to be given rights and are not members of the moral community. Enlightenment "man" can now sleep untroubled. The mores of the hunting, fishing, shooting class have now been given a philosophic pat on the back. Deep ecology, ecofeminism and inclusive theologies of creation are relegated to the lunatic green edge.

I readily admit that the issues of vegetarianism, the pain of animals and the justification of any form of killing are complex. The scriptures - of all faith communities - do not provide ready-made solutions which speak to this complexity. But when Professor Scruton offers a simplistic guideline like, "I have a duty to my dog that I do not have to yours; when both dogs are threatened, it is mine and not yours that I first must save", surely alarm bells must ring? Suppose I am blind, and my dog is my link with society? Or I am an elderly lady, whose dog is my only friend? Have I not a superior claim? Surely context must always play a role in moral choices?

Yet this argument does not touch the heart of the issue. Professor Scruton firmly sets himself within what has been called the great hierarchy, the way is open to order all forms of life to our advantage. We are always in control. But how can we be so sure that the view of creation where all living things are organically interrelated, to be valued and respected for their own sakes, is not, in the end, the world view which will save the planet from destruction? Is the real argument, not whether animals have rights, but what responsibilities humans have, who are in this unique position to ensure that they enjoy a place in the sun, the place which an organic view of interdependent communities of life wants to give them?

By all means let us be post-enlightenment rational beings but let us extend this rationality beyond homo sapiens to include all created living organisms.

MARY GREY La Sainte Union College, Southampton

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