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Bigfoot: To Kill Or To Film

- C H A P T E R   O N E -

Love Thy Animal

 
The argument on the question of ends and means began not in the 1970s over Bigfoot but back in the 1950s over the Yeti. Loren Coleman, in a book devoted to Tom Slick, a Texas millionaire who mounted two Himalayan expeditions searching for the yeti, has this to say on the issue:
On March 18 and 19 (1957), the Nepalese government forbade all foreign mountaineers from killing, injuring, or capturing a yeti. ... Tom Slick's expeditions, of course, helped open up the whole debate on the ethics of killing zoological specimens. During the pre-Slick years, the giant panda, for example, was routinely killed and mounted for museums around the world before anyone stopped to consider what effect this action would have on the breeding population. Pandas were killed first to provide evidence that they even existed, then as prized natural history exhibits, and finally captured alive as animals of choice for zoological gardens. Today the giant panda is a symbol of endangered species, and no one would even consider killing one for a museum or any other scientific purpose.

Slick entered the field of cryptozoology when the rules were just beginning to be redefined. His goal, as he saw it, was to collect a specimen, alive or dead, to prove to the scientific world that the yeti existed. By the late 1950s, the era of hunting and collecting was beginning to end. Slick's thoughts on killing began to change, to reflect the times, and to mirror his own notions on the creatures' right to survive. ... Slick received a good deal of bad press about his very "Texan" approach to the yeti hunt, especially from British writers in England and India. (Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti, 1989, pp. 59, 60)

If Tom Slick's thoughts on killing began to change back in the 1950s, then the thoughts of John Green and Grover Krantz haven't changed a wee bit over the past decades and present a magnificent relic of the pre-Slick era. Before dealing with this relic in detail, I would like to bring to the reader's attention certain views from the opposite camp. First, the final passage in an article by zoologist Edward W. Cronin, Jr., who returned from a two-year scientific expedition into Nepal convinced that the yeti exists:
Even though I am intrigued with the yeti, both for its scientific importance and for what it says about our own interests and biases, I would be deeply saddened to have it discovered. ... If the yeti is an old form that we have driven into the mountains, now we would be driving it into the zoos. We would gain another possession, another ragged exhibit in the concrete world of the zoological park, another Latin name to enter on our scientific ledgers. But what about the wild creature that now roams free of man in the forests of the Himalayas? Every time man asserts his mastery over nature, he gains something in knowledge, but loses something in spirit. ("The Yeti", The Atlantic, November 1973, p. 53)
This passage is remarkable not so much for its message as for coming from a scientist. If anthropologist Krantz seeks to discover a hominoid by any means, then zoologist Cronin "would be deeply saddened" by the discovery even with the best of means. Cronin is not the only scientist to think so. Apparently, the latter extreme is an inevitable reaction to the former extreme. An ever growing number of laymen and academics are getting weary of man's treatment of animals. One manifestation of these feelings and views is the emergence of the animal-rights movement, which boasts of a solid theoretical foundation provided by philosopher Peter Singer's 1975 book, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. The books message is very relevant to the theme under discussions here and prompts me to give some crucial quotes from this subversive work:
The core of this book is the claim that to discriminate against beings solely on account of their species is a form of prejudice, immoral and indefensible in the same way that discrimination on the basis of race is immoral and indefensible. (p. 270)

Speciesism — the word is not an attractive one, but I can think of no better term — is a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species. (p. 3)

The distinction between humans and other animals is not a sharp division but rather a continuum along which we move gradually and with overlaps between the species, from simple capacities for enjoyment and satisfaction to more complex ones. (p. 266)

Once we ask why it should be that all humans — including infants, mental defectives, criminal psychopaths — Hitler, Stalin, and the rest — have some kind of dignity or worth that no elephant, pig or chimpanzee can ever achieve, we see that this question is as difficult to answer as our original request for some relevant fact that justifies the inequality of humans and other animals. (pp. 267,268)

If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose? (p. 7)

With the most intensive care possible, there are retarded infants who can never achieve the intelligence level of a dog. (p. 20)

The author quotes English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, (1748 -1832):
... a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month old. The question is not, Can they reason? or Can they talk? but Can they suffer? (p. 8)

The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all... A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. (p. 9)

The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment; it requires equal consideration. Equal consideration for different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights. (p. 3). (Aside: This passage reminds me of another philosopher's dictum: "From each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs." - D.B.)

I conclude, then, that a rejection of speciesism does not imply that all lives are of equal worth. (p. 23)

If we love rocks, trees, plants, larks, and oxen equally, we may lose sight of the essential difference between them, most importantly, the difference in degree of sentience. (p. 215)

Animal Liberation will require greater altruism on the part of human beings than any other liberation movement. One reason for it is that, "The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation." (pp. 272, 273).

"Animal Liberation is Human Liberation too." (p. XIV)

The book's jacket carries these words by Brigid Brophy: "As human animals, we must stop hunting, hurting, enslaving, and eating our fellows. We are not the only species with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Peter Singer puts the case comprehensively and convincingly. Don't read him if you want to go on being a tyrant and a hypocrite."

Peter Singer's book was not yet published when I challenged John Green over the rights of Bigfoot, and the book had not yet come my way when I argued the matter with Grover Krantz. In fact, it was only a short time ago that I heard of and read about Animal Liberation. It was then that I realized my efforts to uphold a fair deal for hominoids is just one aspect and an illustration of a wider movement inspired by a book of philosophy. According to Singer:

Philosophy ought to question the basic assumptions of the age. Thinking through, critically and carefully, what most of us take for granted is, I believe, the chief task of philosophy, and the task that makes philosophy a worthwhile activity. (p. 263)
Singer questions the basic assumption of the age and what most of us take for granted. He is, therefore, a true philosopher. Thank goodness mankind is still capable of giving birth to this kind of animal.

Foreword | Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Bibliography