Visiting Professor Discusses Animal Rights

Written by Jordan Corey

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Eastern Connecticut State University welcomed S.P. Morris, a professor at Miami University in Ohio, on Nov. 28 for the final University Hour event of the semester. Morris discussed his latest research surrounding the ethics of interspecies sport, prompting audience members to contemplate the value of non-human life.

Morris began by examining a “second world” humans have created — the world of gaming — where they engage in “voluntary attempts to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” He said that non-human animals are often brought into this second world.

“We make them objects in a game,” he said. “But they are not just objects, they are subjects as well.” Morris explored different ways in which animals are utilized for entertainment, including big-game hunting, whaling and bullfighting. In exploring the issue of ethics, he noted that identifying the motive behind these actions is significant. “This is not about sustenance. This is about culture.”

Morris added: “The human ability to think and reason remains unparalleled.” He raised questions about how much objectification should be considered too much, along with questions of consent when it comes to incorporating animals into sports and games. “Most things exist on a spectrum,” he said. “How do you decide? It depends.”

Morris argued that humans reach for cognitive dissonance — psychological stress experienced by someone who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values — and find it through pretending that animals are less of a subject of a life than they are. “Harm in the context of a game is always optional,” he concluded.