Ear cropping and tail docking—is it right? If you think that the safest is to base your moral stances on factual events, you are walking on moving sands (and, probably, committing a fallacious appeal to nature).
Let’s say someone asks you, “Why do you believe tail docking to be wrong?” If you answer, “Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their tails to communicate,” you are getting into trouble.
Say again, the same person asks you, “Why do you believe ear cropping to be wrong?” You cannot answer, “Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their ears to communicate,” for upright ears allow the dogs to display more and easier detectable expressions than drop ears (though no study has proven that cropped ears are better to communicate than uncropped).
That is the hidden danger we run when using matters of fact to validate our moral statements: we may easily fall into inconsistent argumentation. Even though seemingly that does not bother some, it certainly bothers me and other fellow thinkers with a certain degree of intellectual integrity.
You could avoid this problem by answering, ”Because I don’t like to cut off parts of an animal.” That would do it because nobody can argue with what you like or don’t like. Even if you neuter your male dog (which means cutting off the testicles of the animal), you are still off the hook because you can say, “I did it, and I don’t like it.”
There is no logical contradiction in doing something without liking it. It is only logically contradictory if you infer the premise, “we only do what we like.” “I don’t like diets and I’m on a diet” is perfectly all right. You may have a goal, which requires you to do things you don’t like.
Another aspect of this hidden danger of basing your morality on facts is that if science uncovers some new fact relevant to your morality, you’ll be compelled to change it. One moment right, the next wrong applies to scientific theory, but not necessarily to morality.
For example, if I use the seemingly good argument, “for me, it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain and distress to any living creature, independently of species,” my morality is at the mercy of scientific discovery.
Thus, the only way I can make my moral rule stick appears to be the subjective argument: for me, it is wrong to cut off parts of an animal’s body because I don’t like it. And if science uncovers some painless, undistressing procedures of docking and cropping, so be it. I still don’t like it and won’t do it. Period.
Featured image: Cutting off parts of the body of an animal for our vanity is and will always be wrong for me independently of what science may discover.
Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.