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Author Topic:   When does killing an animal constitute murder?
Member (Idle past 4868 days)
Posts: 400
From: Colorado, USA
Joined: 02-16-2009

Message 1 of 2 (594747)
12-05-2010 4:12 AM

One of the worst crimes recognized by (most) justice systems is the intentional killing of a human being (barring warfare and other common exceptions). The gravity of this crime is easy to understand, as we can all appreciate the richness of experience, and the full potential of human lives allowed to continue as long as nature allows. There is of course more to it than that, but essentially a reasonably long and fulfilled life is something that most of us want, and so our ability to empathize instills us with a moral obligation to protect our own and others' right to live.
But this empathy only truly extends to members of our own species. Straggler recently opened a topic about whether other animals are capable of beliefs in the supernatural. He brings up the example of elephants: intelligent, self-aware creatures, capable (by all appearances) even of mourning their dead. (For more on that, see: Wikipedia on Elephant Intelligence)
Of course, elephants are not the only animals that rival us in intelligence. Cetaceans and our fellow Great Apes have also been shown to possess advanced cognitive abilities and self-awareness. Other notable examples of animal intelligence include some bird genera, canines, felines, and (to some extent) cephalopods.
But (and correct me if I'm wrong) under no jurisdiction is the slaughter of a gorilla legally considered murder. Animal cruelty perhaps, but nowhere near as serious as the killing of another human. Why is this? Considering how gorillas share nearly all of our DNA, and their intelligence and level of self-awareness rival our own, why do we consider cruelty to gorillas to fall under the same legal category as cruelty to cows? After all, gorillas are more similar to humans than either are to cows.
Or to look at it from an evolutionary perspective: If someone were to go back 50,000 years and kill a cro-magnon, any jury would find him just as guilty of murder as if he'd have killed a contemporary. But suppose he went back 100,000 years, or 500,000, or 1,000,000 years? Or 6,000,000 years? At what point should he be tried for "animal cruelty" instead of murder?
So I guess my question is: Given that all life is related and that the traits that we consider "human" are shared by many other animals to varying degrees,
Do you believe there is a sharp moral distinction between the killing of one subset of animals and all other animals, and where do you place it?
ABE: Just to emphasize an important point: The topic of this thread is really about personal morality, not the legal definition of murder. I'm more interested in your own thoughts on the matter than what the law says.
Edited by Meldinoor, : No reason given.
Edited by Meldinoor, : Typo, must be sleepy -.-

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Message 2 of 2 (594752)
12-05-2010 6:03 AM

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