Animalomachean Ethics — a cynical but perhaps realistic enough dialogue

A – To make progress in my career I need to sacrifice dozens of little mammals, eventually…

B – Like what? Cats!?!!

A – Noooo, just dirty rats. Nobody likes rats, right? (at least in our cultural operating system).

B – Aha… ok, and I am sure you do it for a good reason, don’t you?

A – Sure, sure: to be able to cure your grandfather if he gets ill, amongst other things.

B – I see, so what you do is really to help humanity, the Universe and everything?

A – Exactly! Well, kind of…

B – And if I told you that perhaps rats are like cats.

A – ¿Same same but different?

B – I mean, why don’t we organize an AR event on that. Let us all discuss, put our narratives together and shed some light onto the matter!

A – Well, first we need something worth saying, no?

B – Or we can all voice our opinions and then let a few experts tell us what is accepted and what is not. They spend hours in meetings and belong to informed committees. Most likely they have thought about all this before, and even better than us.

A – But I do not even know who are “they”?

B – Our human representatives, not the rats! Jaja.

A – What a weird sense of humor…

B – I think an AR event on this topic would not take place. Institutions don’t like that noise.

A – I see what you mean: it would be more like a fARt event.

B – Exactly. And nobody likes that kind of smell.

A – Yes, we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot. I have enough problems in my life already.

B – So, back to your science. Here you have a simple gedanken experiment: after all these years of struggle to become a specialist in rodent neurophysiology, would you leave that behind if you realized that animal rights should be expanded?

A – And what about my right to have a job and continue doing what I do?!

B – Don’t get defensive, man. I mean, if we are to discuss this seriously and not like a TV debate program, it is worth realizing our priorities first. To be clear about what is rational and what is not, what is conscious and what is not, in what we argue. Are certain animal rights above or below your rights as a scientist?

A – Look, I am a vegetarian.

B – And so?

A – My latest paper required nearly a hundred animals killed for a good reason, but you could eat less beef and save some bigger mammals from being grown just to be eaten.

B – But farmers need jobs too

A – And so?

B – Same same but different, again…

A – Perhaps cultivating “first-person experience” would be a way out of the problem?

B – You mean polluting objectivity with feelings and these sort of things? New Age stuff… buff…

A – Well, not quite. But we could try it out and see what happens.

B – I am busy now.

A – Look, brains are computers and animals are machines. End of the problem!

B – But, not so long ago, blacks were slaves and beating your wife was a right (if she misbehaved, of course…)

A – Well, that is just the stupid people of the past. We now know much better.

B – But those primates are definitely not happy (I mean them, not us). And the rodents are probably also not happy, but…

A – Look: my mice is the lowest species where I can do mice research. I wish it wasn’t.

B – I wonder what do mice and flies really have in common?

A – They both live in labs.

B – ¡¿?!

A – If only humans have consciousness (Damasio the Great defined it as knowing that we know) and animals are just automatons, then no worries.

B – I am confused about all these arguments and counter-arguments.

A – Yes, man, all this conversation and it is getting late… I am hungry. Shall we postpone this discussion after you eat your steak and I finish my surgery?

B – Sure.

A – Good.

B – Ciao.

A – Ciao.

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