Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
26 July 2007

Animals must be eaten and not heard…..

Many humans (myself included) have profoundly hypocritical views of animals and this is reflected in our law. We profess to love animals, keep some of them as pets, and generally fawn over the furry cute ones, yet most of us have no problem in letting them be killed and slaughtered and then eating them.

We also eat the very same animals that our law forbids us to have sex with.

It might be that some animals prefer being eaten than being made love to, but we would not know because we cannot ask them. Those animals we already had killed (cowardly by workers at an abattoir) and are now busy cooking for dinner are uniquely incapable of letting us know how they feel.

I was reminded of this when I read in the newspaper yesterday that:

Animal lovers are reeling with shock after a man who decapitated his four-month-old husky with a chain saw got off with a slap on the wrist.

Phillip Matthysen was yesterday fined R10,000 or one year in prison, suspended for five years, for animal cruelty.

He took a petrol-driven chain saw to the puppy’s neck at his Mpumalanga smallholding in February after the dog had killed his parrot.
Mr. Matthysen’s love for his parrot was obviously rather extreme and his actions distasteful (no pun intended). But if we follow the logic of our culture the problem is not that he cut off the puppy’s head, but that he did not proceed to slaughter the puppy and prepare it for dinner.

Some would argue that I am being facetious and that there is a huge difference between the puppy, which was kept as a pet, and lambs and calves and pigs which are slaughtered at an abattoir. I would imagine the only difference is that the puppy seems more worthy of protection because it is our puppy, while we never really came to know the calf or the pig or the chicken we are eating. Now, if the pig happened to be the main character from that movie Babe, we would never even think of eating it.

I, for one, would never kill and/or eat Babe, but I have no problem killing an ant or a mosquito and I really have no problem with eating a pig as long as I do not know the pig personally. Most humans would agree with me.

Some would say that we demean ourselves as humans if we mistreat animals and that those pigs and chickens and calves sent to the abattoir are killed “humanely” and they are therefore not comparable to the poor puppy who had his head chopped off by the one person he thought he could trust.

I would say, sure, we demean ourselves if we mistreat animals but please let us not kid ourselves and pretend that animals killed at abattoirs before they are put in neat little plastic packages and sold at Pick & Pay are not mistreated. Apart from the mistreatment involved in the actual killing, most animals raised on commercial farms are disgustingly maltreated. The only reason why we think their raising and killing is not demeaning to us, is because we make sure we never have to know about it or see it.

We make ourselves feel better (I know I do) by looking at that evil Mr. Matthyssen and thinking that we would never do such an evil thing. What we do not dare admit to ourselves, is that we do not have to do it because we pay other people to kill the animals we would like to eat.

That is why the outrage at the sentence handed down against Mr. Matthysen smells like rank hypocrisy to me. By showing how cross we are with him, we do not have to take responsibility for our own complicity in the mass slaughter of sentient beings while making ourselves feel good about ourselves.

My solution is not elegant, but at least it has the virtue of being fairly honest: I will always try to treat pets (if not rodents, mosquito’s and flees) with respect and love but will never complain about other people mistreating animals. I will eat meat but will try and remember that another human being had killed the animal I am eating. And lastly, I won’t have sex with animals – I would not want to spoil them for the pot.

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