onsdag, september 08, 2010

Lättsamt djurförtryck i Svenska Dagbladet (plus liten historielektion)

Min före detta kollega och nuvarande granne Peter Nilsson skriver idag om på Djurens Rätts blogg om den pinsamma vegofobin på Svenska Dagbladets ledarblogg.

"Easygoing speciesism" brukar sociologen Roger Yates kalla detta. På svenska kanske vi skulle kunna kalla det "lättsamt djurförtryck". Alltså när människor systematiskt utsätter djur för lidande och död, men formulerar det som något lustigt som vi ska skratta åt.

Nå, Peter säger väl egentligen allt som behöver sägas om den intellektuella slappheten i SvD-inlägget. Men för att inte borgarbloggarna helt ska få brallorna nerdragna av Högdalens Finest så tänkte jag att de skulle få lite hjälp med några argument hämtade från högsta politiska ort, nämligen från riksdagsdebatterna på 1880-talet där man drabbade samman om främst djurförsöksfrågan.

Nedanstående är ett utdrag ur min kommande avhandling om djurförtryckspolitiken i Sverige. Citaten är betydligt roligare att läsa på gammelsvenska, men det får bli nästa bok. För tillfället får ni hålla till godo med mina preliminära engelska översättningar. Vegofobin kommer starkt mot slutet.

Nature red in tooth and claw: Human dominion and nature’s own vivisection

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law —
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed.
— Alfred Lord Tennyson,
In Memorium A.H.H., canto LVI (1850)

We have already seen how the theme of human dominion over the natural creation influenced the animal protection debates in the 1840s and 1850s. This theme recurred in the vivisection debates, and was often expressed by vivisection’s defenders as well as its critics. The difference was that the defenders more often articulated the dominion of man as the outcome of natural struggle for existence, an articulation which easily lent itself to the legitimation of vivisection. The critics on the other hand, often clung to the Biblical idea that there was a divine covenant between humans and the natural world which placed moral restraints on human action. Typically, on the latter account, humans were allowed to use animals for food and labor, but not to hurt them unnecessarily. As John Berg in the first chamber put it in 1881, the message of holy writ was that 'slaughter and eat—you may, but not torment' (Berg FC 1881:28, p. 12).*

The defenders of vivisection did not reject traditional morality, but they often interpreted it in a naturalistic fashion where competition and survival of the strongest were foregrounded. Professor Axel Key, for example, stated in 1884 that

life is hard and the struggle for existence is tough. One animal lives off the other. We humans too, are forced to this. We take the right to use animals for our own individual benefit, for utility, for pleasure, yes, to satisfy our fancies [through wearing furs, for instance], and how much pain do we not inflict on them, in so many varying ways. But above the right to use them for the sake of the individual must be the right to use them for a great majority, yes in the interest of the whole society, for all humanity.
(Key SC 1884:42, p. 37)

Interestingly, assertions like this were often intermingled and hedged by expressions of regret. This brutal state of things was not articulated as desirable, and human participation in it constituted a moral problem—especially from a Christian standpoint. If humans had merely chosen to act this way, there would be something reprehensible about it. So the problem had to be framed as somehow being beyond human control. One solution to this dilemma was to underscore that humans were in fact forced to exploit the natural world. As a member of the second chamber put it in 1888, it was ‘a necessity for humankind, as well as her right, to subordinate the creation. Do we not see daily, how man is compelled to cruelly destroy animals to protect his own life and his existence?’ (Wretlind SC 1888:26, p. 33)

By this introduction of natural coercion humanity could be absolved from at least some of its sins: ‘It is no doubt saddening that our existence includes something called cruelty; but unfortunately it permeates the entire world we live in. I only need to mention the familiar scientific law of the struggle for existence.’ (Baron von Kræmer 1884:34, p. 29) Nature simply was what it was, and ultimately its iron laws had to be accepted: ‘We live in the world of suffering, and nature herself is the most terrifying surgeon of all, for with few exceptions every freely living animal is doomed to die either by starvation, or by the fangs and claws of the predator.’ (Nyström SC 1888:26, p. 17) On this account, predation was articulated as nature’s own vivisection (Ibid.). Comparisons like these attempted at the same time to naturalize the cultural phenomenon of vivisection, and to diminish the normative significance of human choice in relation to the overwhelming cruelty of the natural world order.

This articulation of the natural order also involved a clear notion of hierarchy between life-forms:

In all areas there are lower and higher interests which assert themselves. Throughout the entire world order we see as an all-pervading law that the lower must yield to the higher serve the higher and its purpose. … [M]an is placed on earth not only to be the highest creation and being, but also to cultivate the land, to make it obedient, to let the whole of creation serve her interests’
(Mr. Wretlind SC 1888:26, p. 33)

Even though the ‘lower organic creation’ held the capacities for ‘life, sensitivity and consciousness,’ it had been ‘placed on earth to be subservient to us and serve our interests’ (Ibid.) And this was so by necessity. If the ethical message of the Bible was interpreted as ‘thou shalt not cause the animals suffering,’ this would render hunting, fishing, slaughter, castration, etc. immoral, which in turn would ‘make man’s existence impossible’ (Nyström SC 1888:26, p. 48).

While ultimately regrettable from a moral standpoint, upsetting this natural order of things was not an option. Investing too much emotion in animals would lead to absurd conclusions, the defenders of vivisection held. As Ahlin in the second chamber argued in 1881, there was now a growing ‘fondness towards animals, which sometimes is in danger of turning into great sentimentality. I want to recall here the well-known vegetarianism.’ (Ahlin SC 1881:35, p. 40) Participating in the cruelties of nature was a necessity for anyone who wanted ‘game and fish or animal food in general, and would not restrict oneself to live only off vegetables, like a familiar sect in East India; one which—for this very reason, it is assumed—has degenerated both in terms of physical and mental powers.’ (Baron von Kræmer 1884:34, p. 29) Vegetarianism was thus known as a concept, but the term itself was only mentioned once in the vivisection debates. In fact, the idea of a vegetable diet was only mobilized in the debates by the defenders of vivisection, never by the critics. And when it was used it was framed as either the product of misplaced sentimentality or as an artifact of exotic religion. In both cases it was assumed that vegetarianism would lead to absurdities, like making humans defenseless against nature. For instance, one speaker claimed that in Buddhism, a righteous believer did not even ‘dare to kill the lizards crawling over him, even in his own bed’ (Wretlind SC 1888:26, p. 33). Similarly, the Hindu set up ‘special food stations for vermin’ (Gustav von Düben quoted by Beck-Friis FC 1881:28, p. 10-11, emphasis original), and went ‘so far in misplaced compassion, that he establishes hospitals for aged cows … and work the oxen until they drop and get eaten alive by predators’ (Wretlind SC 1888:26, p. 33). These foreign absurdities, some politicians warned, were now about to be imported into Sweden by the animal protection organizations.

*) Referenserna syftar på riksdagens första (FC) och andra kammare (SC).

1 kommentar:

Jon W sa...

En del ologiska resonemang och åberopande av bibeln som slutgiltig auktoritet, men också flera förnuftiga argument som den radikala djurrättsrörelsen ännu idag 150 år senare inte har några bra svar på.