Animal Rights:

A History

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

The Deeper Minds Of All Ages Have Had Pity For Animals
Friedrich Nietzsche

Related links: Animal Rights and Why they Matter

 

Home

About think Differently About Sheep

Sentient Sheep

Sheep in religion and mythology

Sheep in Art

Sheep Breeds

Help Our Sheep

Vegetarianism/veganism

Animal Rights

Factory Farming

Animal Rights and Why they Matter

Sentience in Farm Animals

Farm Animal Facts

Why Animals matter:
A Religious and Philosophical perspective

Vegan Rambles

Photograph Gallery

Articles

Animals in art

Art Gallery

Clip art

Quotations

Graphic Quotations

Portrait Gallery: Animals do Not all Look the Same

Links

Useful Links: Action You Can Take

Contact

A Memorial to Sooty

A Memorial to Joey

A Memorial To Patch

 

This page is part of the section: Animal Rights:A History

Jean-Jacques Rousseau - 1712-1778

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a foremost Franco-Swiss philosopher of the Enlightenment, a writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy heavily influenced both the French and American Revolutions and the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.

Rousseau in the Discourse on Inequality argued that animals should be part of natural law, not because they are rational but because they are sentient. He argued that sensitivity, the capacity to experience pleasure and suffering, entitles rights. Animals being sensitive

experience pain and suffering and therefore as a consequence they should have rights

In proceeding thus, we shall not be obliged to make man a philosopher before he is a man. His duties toward others are not dictated to him only by the later lessons of wisdom; and, so long as he does not resist the internal impulse of compassion, he will never hurt any other man, nor even any sentient being, except on those lawful occasions on which his own preservation is concerned and he is obliged to give himself the preference. By this method also we put an end to the time-honoured disputes concerning the participation of animals in natural law: for it is clear that, being destitute of intelligence and liberty, they cannot recognise that law; as they partake, however, in some measure of our nature, in consequence of the sensibility with which they are endowed, they ought to partake of natural right; so that mankind is subjected to a kind of obligation even toward the brutes. It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former.

Every animal has ideas, since it has senses; it even combines those ideas in a certain degree; and it is only in degree that man differs, in this respect, from the brute. Some philosophers have even maintained that there is a greater difference between one man and another than between some men and some beasts.

Compassion, which is a disposition suitable to creatures so weak and subject to so many evils as we certainly are: by so much the more universal and useful to mankind, as it comes before any kind of reflection; and at the same time so natural, that the very brutes themselves sometimes give evident proofs of it. Not to mention the tenderness of mothers for their offspring and the perils they encounter to save them from danger, it is well known that horses show a reluctance to trample on living bodies. One animal never passes by the dead body of another of its species: there are even some which give their fellows a sort of burial; while the mournful lowings of the cattle when they enter the slaughter-house show the impressions made on them by the horrible spectacle which meets them.

The above are extracts from The Social Contract :and Discourses Jean-Jacques Rousseau published 1762

From Rousseau's Emile, or On Education, Émile, or On Education - a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man - we find the following comments concerning a child's natural disinclination to eat meat and the admonition not to interfere with this natural propensity for the consumption of meat makes a man more cruel.

The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character. For however one tries to explain the practice, it is certain that great meat-eaters are usually more cruel and ferocious than other men. This has been recognised at all times and in all places. The English are noted for their cruelty while the Gaures are the gentlest of men. All savages are cruel, and it is not their customs that tend in this direction; their cruelty is the result of their food. They go to war as to the chase, and treat men as they would treat bears. Indeed in England butchers are not allowed to give evidence in a court of law, no more can surgeons. Great criminals prepare themselves for murder by drinking blood. Homer makes his flesh-eating Cyclops a terrible man, while his Lotus-eaters are so delightful that those who went to trade with them forgot even their own country to dwell among them.

Rousseau continues with numerous quotations from Plutarch's essays on the Eating of Flesh for example:

"But you, oh, cruel men! Who forces you to shed blood? Behold the wealth of good things about you, the fruits yielded by the earth, the wealth of field and vineyard; the animals give their milk for your drink and their fleece for your clothing. What more do you ask? What madness compels you to commit such murders, when you have already more than you can eat or drink? Why do you slander our mother earth and accuse her of denying you food? Why do you sin against Ceres, the inventor of the sacred laws, and against the gracious Bacchus, the comforter of man, as if their lavish gifts were not enough to preserve mankind? Have you the heart to mingle their sweet fruits with the bones upon your table, to eat with the milk the blood of the beasts which gave it? The lions and panthers, wild beasts as you call them, are driven to follow their natural instinct, and they kill other beasts that they may live. But, a hundredfold fiercer than they, you fight against your instincts without cause, and abandon yourselves to the most cruel pleasures. The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous boasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service."

before concluding with:

In conclusion, whatever food you give your children, provided you accustom them to nothing but plain and simple dishes, let them eat and run and play as much as they want. You may be sure they will never eat too much and will never have indigestion. But if you keep them hungry half their time, when they do contrive to evade your vigilance they will take advantage of it as far as they can; they will eat till they are sick, they will gorge themselves till they can eat no more. Our appetite is only excessive because we try to impose on it rules other than those of nature, opposing, controlling, prescribing, adding, or substracting. The scales are always in our hands, but the scales are the measure of our whims, not of our stomachs. I return to my usual illustration; among peasants the cupboard and the apple-loft are always left open, and neither children and grown men know what indigestion is.

Credits

Photograph of painting of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Original imagine and licensing details

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Jacques_Rousseau (painted_portrait).jpg

 

important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

Copyright, accreditations and other matters, please read