Two moral conundrums

Moral conundrum #1.

This is something I recall reading some time ago. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the source, so I can’t make proper attribution. Nevertheless, I think it is worth repeating.

Suppose a child and his or her dog are trapped in a burning building. I am prepared to perform a rescue, but I will only be able to save one of the two - the child or the dog.

Now here is the moral question. Animal rights activists often claim that animals have rights, like those of humans. One was quoted as saying that he saw no difference between a child and an ant. Again, I can’t provide attribution, and may be misquoting a bit, but I think the gist of the quote is correct. In a different context, you can see this reflected in the push to give animals rights equal to those of humans by turning “ownership” into “guardianship.” The two are very different concepts, both intellectually and in the legal sense. We have guardianship of our children, but ownership of our animals. Promoting guardianship of animals is another of attempting to endow them rights similar to those of humans. Should animals be treated humanely and with compassion? Absolutely, in my view, but that is a different issue than one of rights.

Back to the child, dog, and burning building. If the dog and child have equal rights, should I expect the same reaction if I choose to save the dog, and not the child? Would a staunch AR activist applaud me as loudly if it were their child, and my dog? If there is no difference, why shouldn’t I expect the same reception upon emerging from the building with the dog in my arms?

Moral conundrum #2.

If animals have rights similar to those of humans, shouldn’t those activists who take animals from shelters, then destroy them, be charged with murder? They are fond of saying “meat is murder. ” So why is killing a dog not murder if killing a cow is? Or does a cow have more “rights” than a dog?

Bill