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Minding Animals Conference Utrecht July 3 – 6

This was my first conference and I found it such a stimulating and thought provoking experience that I know i will be attending many more of such events! But of course it helps that animal studies is a field I am passionate about.  It was nice to be around so many like-minded vegan and vegetarian folk too.  Felt like a big international community although of course we are still just a tiny percentage of the larger world population who go on eating intensively farmed animals regardless of the cruelty and suffering involved.

Found these quotes in my old “word a day” folder that I think are appropriate at this juncture

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. -Alexander Solzhenitsyn, novelist, Nobel laureate (1918-2008)

Yep, its easier to just carry on doing what most other people do, then to make a choice that if enough people made, would greatly reduce the suffering of millions of animals, would greatly reduce global health problems-namely heart disease and obesity, would greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and would greatly reduce the destruction of our forests. And the most common reason for eating animals is simply that they taste good.

On a more positive note, I would like to mention my favorite speaker, a Canadian political philosopher called Will Kymlicka. There were so many philosophical and ethical presentations that discussed the problem of animal exploitation and the need for animal rights but mostly through an essentially anthropocentric or at least humanist perspective, but Kymlicka cuts through all this and suggests that other animals should be included as citizens of a shared political community regardless of what we think about them.  He asks the simple question, what kind of co-operative agency do animals want to engage in with us? Now I know you might be thinking that animals can’t express what they want but neither can babies or seriously intellectually retarded people but we certainly include them in our political communities and naturally they have rights! Point being that just because animals don’t use human language doesn’t mean we cannot know what they want, and importantly what they don’t want.

Here’s a link to his book on the subject, “Zoopolis” with a synopsis that describes his philosophy in relation to animals.

But I will be writing more about Kymlicka’s ideas and those of others philosophers in relation to the question of the animal over the next few weeks so will leave it at that for now. Need to read the book first.

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