Nicky Garratt's Blog

The Comparative Continuum

By Nicky Garratt
May 8th, 2012

I spoke to my mother last year via Skype. She really is a caring soul, but displays that same insane conditioning I either don’t understand or have somehow escaped. The conversation went like this:

M: I saw this awful thing on the TV and it’s really been bothering me.

N: What was it?

M: A closed circuit TV camera caught a woman, and she was nicely dressed by the way . . . well, she was walking next to a wall and stopped to stroke a cat. Then she grabbed it and threw it in a dumpster and closed the lid. I can’t stop thinking about it.

N: What’s for dinner?

M: Roast lamb.

These logical cul-de-sacs make my head spin, but I do firmly believe that to live on this planet, some sense of compromise will prevail. At some point we all find equilibrium between our ideology and practicality, between cost and virtue, between action and inaction, between self-preservation and altruism, between acceptance and boycott. This is a scale which we constantly face is not one continuum, but many twisted, as it were, into a rope.

So how do we navigate this imperfect universe? I will offer this idea by way of some questions for vegans and vegetarians.

Would you, assuming you had the money, pay $1,000 to operate on your dog if you knew he would get two more years of quality life?

What about $10,000 for one year?

How about $15,000 for an extra week?

Welcome to the continuum. We all find a place on this scale where we are comfortable. I, for instance, do not wear leather, but some vegetarians do. I do swat a mosquito, particularly if I’m in Pakistan or India, when one is in my room. Is that equivalent to killing an elephant or a shrew? To me not, but to some Hindu sects it is. For me, the life of the elephant, primate, whale, horse, etc. are firmly on the right-hand side of this continuum, whereas insects, viruses, bacteria and such are decidedly to the left. I also believe it is sometimes disingenuous to boost clean hands while the “pest” controls of one’s municipality are making certain problems mute. That is, by sanitation measures or pesticides on our food crops, (and yes, that does include “organic”). As life is ever less conscious and more instinctive, it slides further towards a point where the distinction between life and non-life is negligible. This is not an argument based on intelligence, rather one based on the definition of life itself, and moreover ability to suffer. Whether one acknowledges it or not you are forced to face these dilemmas.

It may be that some can carve a higher moral standpoint than I from within this noise at the far reaches of the definition of life, suffering, consciousness etc; but keep going and everyone will end up throwing up their hands in defeat at some point. Even so, while I wouldn’t extend to ants the reverence I would to kangaroos, I wouldn’t arbitrarily annihilate them either.

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