The weird world of assigning rights to all and sundry

Apparently the the new norm in the world is ‘weird’, where the most bizarre philosophy can be given credibility by government legislators. Witness the story out of Switzerland wherein an ethics panel, convened by the Swiss government has “opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong”.

How did this current bit of insanity come about?

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring “account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms.” No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain.

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.”

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer’s herd–the report doesn’t say). But then, while walking home, he he casually “decapitates” some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can’t agree why. The report states opaquely:

At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves.

Now I have always though of the Swiss as being practical, common sense people. But the ‘plant’s rights’ story is hardly more puzzling than this story about animal rights legislation apparently passed by the government.

Under a new Swiss law enshrining rights for animals, dog owners will require a qualification, anglers will take lessons in compassion and horses will go only in twos.

From guinea-pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a “social species” will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind.

The new regulation stipulates that aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light. Goldfish are considered social animals, or Gruppentiere in German.

The creator of this animal Utopia is the Swiss federal parliament, the Bundesrat, which adopted a law this week extending to four legs the kind of rights usually reserved for two. The law, which comes into force from September 1, is particularly strict over dogs: prospective owners will have to pay for and complete a two-part course — a theory section on the needs and wishes of the animal, and a practice section, where students will be instructed in how to walk their dog and react to various situations that might arise during the process. The details of the courses are yet to be fixed, but they are likely to comprise about five theory lessons and at least five sessions “in the field”.

The law extends to unlikely regions of the animal kingdom.

Anglers will also be required to complete a course on catching fish humanely, with the Government citing studies indicating that fish can suffer too.

The regulations will affect farmers, who will no longer be allowed to tether horses, sheep and goats, nor keep pigs and cows in areas with hard floors.

The legislation even mentions the appropriate keeping of rhinoceroses, although it was not clear immediately how many, if any, were being kept as pets in Switzerland.

Is someone tampering with the country’s drinking water?

What is rather frightening about all this is that if the Swiss can contemplate such laws can other Western countries be far behind? Animal rights/anti-use groups will certainly be using Switzerland as a model to follow.

It really does play right into the hands of the more extreme groups and individuals whose end game is not animal welfare or even animal rights, except as it relates to their philosophy that no-one should ‘use’ or ‘own’ animals. If you can make the ownership and care of animals so costly and so inconvenient you can discourage farmers from keeping livestock and individuals from having pets. You won’t get rid of it completely but in the long-term you can curtail it and activists will take every little bit they can – one step at a time.

You don’t think so? Look carefully at the firearm ownership laws currently in place in Canada, how they are administered and additional laws and regulations proposed on an ongoing basis. It works on the same principle.

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