Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Animal Ethics from the Right #2 - Roger Scruton

British philosopher Roger Scruton is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and is the author of books including The Meaning of Conservatism and A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism, among many others.

In his book Animal Rights and Wrongs, Scruton applies a fairly complex set of criterion to moral decisionmaking and consequently reaches uncommon conclusions.  He opposes zoos and factory farms and is skeptical of vivisection, yet has a somewhat mixed view of bullfighting, views hunting, particularly hunting with hounds, as favorable when conducted with the proper attitude, and staunchly defends the rearing and slaughter of animals for food outside of factory systems.

In her book, Ethics, Humans, and Other Animals, Rosalind Hursthouse points to considerations that go unaddressed in Scruton's work.  She very lightly implies that he may that this may be a consequence of Scruton, an avid fox hunter, seeking to rationalize his hobby.

A well-cited section of Scruton's Wikipedia page supports Hursthouse's implication that Scruton may not be above constructing arguments in service to an ulterior motive of self interest.
"In January 2002 The Guardian reported that an October 2001 e-mail from Scruton to an executive at Japan Tobacco International (JTI) showed him requesting £5,500 ($7,800) a month to place pro-smoking articles in several newspapers. He requested an increase of £1,000 over his existing monthly fee of £4,500 ($6,400), and discussed his aim of getting opinion pieces published every two months in several newspapers—including The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Financial Times—on "major topics of current concern" to the tobacco industry. Scruton objected to The Guardian's use of a leaked email, which he said had been stolen, and said he had never concealed his connection with JTI, which had started three years earlier. He told the newspaper the new proposal was never acted upon.[37]
As a result of the article, The Financial Times ended Scruton's contract as a columnist on country life.[38] The Wall Street Journal, for whom Scruton had written since 1996, suspended his contributions for having failed to disclose his relationship with JTI.[39] The British Medical Journal (BMJ) criticized him for having failed to declare the relationship when he wrote a 65-page pamphlet, "WHO, What and Why" (2000), for the Institute of Economic Affairs, a British think tank, about the World Health Organization's (WHO) campaign against smoking; according to The New York Times, Scruton did not tell the Institute for Economic Affairs that he was receiving an income from JTI.[39] In the pamphlet Scruton criticized the WHO for focusing on tobacco instead of vaccination campaigns and diseases.[40] He wrote an editorial along similar lines for The Wall Street Journal, and his arguments were picked up by The Times and The Scotsman in what the BMJ[41]" said appeared to be a pro-tobacco campaign. Scruton told the BMJ that he had written the pamphlet because of his long-standing concerns about legislative powers being transferred to transnational institutions, not with the aim of exonerating tobacco; he acknowledged that, with hindsight, he should have declared an interest."

The complete text of Scruton's Animal Rights and Wrongs is available free online here.

Scruton's website can be visited here

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