Morten Kelder Skouboe

Student of Medicine,


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At what point do animal rights begin or cease to exist?

So I just saw this talk by Bart Knols about how he has invented ways to stop malaria, a horrible infectious disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people in the third world every year. After going through the stage of complete agreement with his idea, I started wondering: Is killing mosquitos to stop malaria unethical or a necessary evil means to an end?

In my opinion, killing animals to save people is justifiable, but I do not want to kill animals just because they might carry a disease. E.g. in some parts of the world, dogs are killed in the streets for fear of rabies which I understand on a logical basis but I would still on an ethical basis prefer to vaccinate out of the problem instead. Given the chance, would you wipe out all of the malaria carrying mosquitos or would you rather wait for a proper vaccine (risking millions of lives)? If you chose the former: how about african sleeping sickness which is transferred by the tse-tse fly - kill that fly too? Rats with plague? When would you draw a line and say "I can't kill this particular animal"?

If I may start by throwing out my bluntly phrased opinion: Carriers of life threatening disease should be killed and kept under strict control until a good vaccine has been developed for that disease because I see human life as having greater value than animal life.

  • Dec 30 2012: When the chips are all down animal rights cease to exist. Scare someone enough and they will beg you to "Kill it! Kill it!"
  • Dec 28 2012: As one species among many, I doubt that humans can possibly find an objective basis for animal rights.

    Personally, I kill all spiders and mosquitoes that invade my home, and I intend to continue doing so. Any species that shows an inclination to bite me is fair game. I certainly do not intend to wipe out entire species, but in the case of the Tse-tse fly (and species that form a similar threat) I think it could be justified.
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    Dec 28 2012: Survival is survival, ultimately.
    Its about taking advantage of the situation or eliminating something that can't be taken advantage of or ignored.
    A pathogen and/or its carrier is a threat to our survival and therefore should be eliminated.

    Animals themselves don't have rights, much like ourselves (Outside of an artificial societal model)
    so I would say that the perceived morality of the situation is largely limited to our own opinions, not something shared by nature or the species we anticipate to kill.
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    Dec 28 2012: I personally don't believe we have the right to wipe out other forms of life just because they "might" harm us. I live in Africa and at times have lived in malaria danger zones and the vast majority of mosquito's are mostly harmless. I see no reason why we are more important than any animals and I definitely do not see us as important enough to justify extinguishing hundreds of harmless animals to save one or two lives. If it was a life for a life it might be a different story but it isn't

    We might not be able to relate to insects like the mosquito's like we do with other mammals but on a purely intellectual level they should be treated with as much reverence as other mammals. Animal lovers cry out for the death of cows but completely ignore the destruction of an entire ant colony. I know it sounds ridiculous and I cant even take the idea seriously half the time and I cannot empathize with bugs but it is the truth.

    I realize this is not exactly the issue at hand but if you assume that human life is more important than other forms of life (which I'm not sure I agree with) then you also need to weigh the negative impact killing those animals will have on the environment and in turn on human life.
  • Dec 28 2012: No one disagrees with you. If a vrus is alive, we have a precident.
  • Dec 28 2012: Fundamentally, you have the right to survive and no other right. If faced with personal extinction, you have the right to kill anything or anybody. Other than that, rights are a negotiated part of the current civilization you exist in.
    What was considered to be your "rights" has changed markedly over the various civilizations that man has created.
    When it comes to animal rights, currently we see them as more important than any previous civilization with some exceptions (like Inuit for example) because we see all living things as part of a natural web of life that supports our existance. To drive any species to extinction is to threaten our own extinction in some smaller way.
    That being the case, I don't see mosquitoes as being an endangered species and unless our technology improves vastly or we develop some mind numbingly stupid approch like a retrovirus attack, then they are not in much danger of being snuffed out.
    Your declaration that human life has a greater value than all others is undefendable and probably wrong. We're just the same as any other living thing unless you have some insight that escapes me?
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      Dec 28 2012: I like your post, and I did frame my opinion in a very provoking way but I just did not want to be misunderstood.

      What I see as the big difference is that we as humans would automatically feel closer to others of the same species as we. I do not say that if we had some divine value of how much a life is worth, humans would be more worth than animals all the time. However I still think that if we took an arbitrary human and him/her against an arbitrary animal anyone would more easily bond to the human.

      The overall question I would like to be debated is whether there is some evolutionary/biological level where we would give animals or other life forms "rights"? It is not hard to damn creeps like rats, mosquitos and flies, but how about dogs, monkeys or dolphins? What if either of them were the cause of hiv? You seem to think that our right to survive overrules other beings' - but would there be a point where we would start treating sick animals as patients that needed to be cured rather than vessels for disease that needed to be destroyed? Would we at some point value an animal's survival as equal to a man's or woman's? My debate is on the philosophical and hypothetical level, not as much on the practical one.
      • Dec 28 2012: If you thing that people naturally bond with people over animals you have clearly not come in contact with the full range of possible personalities.
        There are horders who value possessions over contact with people and collectors who value their collections over most other things. And of course there are the crazy cat people.
        I can't see an evolutionary imperative that would have us grant rights to an animal. That is not how evolution works. We have a working arrangment with many animals, dogs, cormorants, falcons, etc. but always as a tool and not an equal
        That is what you are really asking here I think. Is there a reason that we would see animals as equals. Dispite the fact that we are animals, we are not wired to think that way.
        I still return to the fundamental right. Everyone has the right to try to survive. After that, its all social engineering that we apply to ourselves outside of evolution