Philospot

Here is Fiske-Harrison's response to my review of his book in the TLS. This is a letter he wrote to the TLS, published on 30th September.

 

Sir, – It seems the TLS has chosen a reviewer for my book, Into the Arena (September 16), who not only dislikes its subject, bullfighting (Mark Rowlands is a proponent of vegetarianism and once tried to make his pet wolf into one, as described in The Philosopher and the Wolf), but also its author (I reviewed his book elsewhere, unfavourably, and he has published his views on this). Overlooking his personal tone, I will focus some of his errors of fact and logic.

First, Álvaro Múnera was not a “prominent bullfighter”; he never even achieved the rank of matador, retiring while still a novillero,'novice bullfighter'. Múnera himself said in an interview on Radio Netherlands International that he became an anti-bullfight lobbyist because a friend’s aunt told him he was evil for killing bulls, just as he said he became a novice because his father told him to. So I do not find it “startling arrogance” to describe him in his own terms. And the former matador Eduardo Dávila Miura was not “at this time, giving lessons for a modest E35 an hour” but for E1,000 an hour, the fractional price being an exceptional offer to a friend of friends.

Rowlands also misleadingly edits a sentence by the taurine author Barnaby Conrad, so that the hundreds of deaths of bullfighters in the arena - and one in six of the three hundred or so major matadors - in the past three centuries, becomes a mere “fifty-two matador deaths in the arena since 1700”.

Moving from facts to reasoning: having accepted that “the lives of fighting cattle are better than beef cattle, and death in the ring is no worse than death in the slaughterhouse”, he then claims that I am trying to justify one wrong by pointing out another. I never argued this. My thesis is that we are dishonest about our true views on the moral status of animals and that the evidence of this is our complicity with the meat industry, most of the output of which is of nutritionally negative value. And when I point out the veganism and anti-pet owning stance of the animal rights campaigner Jordi Casamitjana, I am offering it as evidence of the endpoint of the road these two polemicists would have us go down with them.

Rowlands also notably ignores my argument that if you ban bullfighting then the ranches will become farms for the meat industry, thus actually diminishing animal welfare in Europe (to say nothing of the environmental cost as wilderness is converted to pasture).

Finally, I am well aware that many animal rights philosophers try to evade the consequence of their theories which necessitate intervention in animals’ natural lives, especially predation. Rowlands himself argued in Animal Rights that since predation reduces starvation and disease in prey species, we have no duty to prevent it. However, as there are more humane culling methods than “death-by-predator”, this is simply wrong. In Rowlands’s schema, we have a duty to intervene in the lives of wild animals – tofu for wolves, protective fencing for elk – and in their deaths (lethal injection).

It is ironic that a corollary of Rowlands’s philosophy is that he should be in favour of bullfighting, not against it. His ethical system relies on a Rawlsian “original position” according to which we should make the world into the best it could be for all, given that we don’t know who we will be when we are put in it; for Rowlands – but not Rawls – this includes being incarnated as animals. After research, I can say it is better to be a toro bravo than a meat cow in a factory farm in the United States or a buffalo on the African plains subject to disease, the elements, and a terrible death. A truth known to the 20,000 Spaniards, but not the handful of protesters they filed past, while leaving the Plaza de Toros in Barcelona last Sunday as its gates closed forever after ninety-seven years.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

My response will follow shortly.

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