Charity Begins at Home?

Should we prefer those closer to us? Our fiercest critics claim that we should all drop any other consideration and deal exclusively with those around us and with ourselves. Is all this Animal Rights activity really necessary, they ask, in times of Emergency? This latter question will be answered further on, but first we must ask, just how valid is the basic premise, that we must give precedence to those closest to us (i.e. family etc.), then to people further from us, and only lastly to other creatures? The answer seems simple: It's obvious that one's family is more important than all the chickens in the entire world! (But - who's really closer to me - the dog who calls me to take him for a walk, or some Anonymous girl in Kamchatka? Not a simple question, and it will be left to another discussion). Let us distance ourselves momentarily from Life and Death issues and try to examine the question from a day-to-day perspective. For instance, is it justified to let my brother jump a queue to my office - simply because he's my brother? It would seem not. Though many people practice nepotism, that doesn't make such practice morally acceptable. The preferential treatment of relatives may, in fact, break the principle of Equal Rights, which would seem to be more important morally than nepotism. In other words, if the claim that one should give less attention to animals is based on the fact that animals are different and far removed from humans, such a claim is morally unconvincing.

Isn't it Natural to Prefer Those Closest to You?

Or, in other words: "Moral principles are all good and well, but we don't act according to such principles exclusively. We are emotional beings, and we can't act in defiance of our natural instincts." And what do our natural instincts decree? Why, that we prefer those closest to us, of course! But this claim, too, isn't very convincing. Nepotism remains nepotism, and when it clashes with the principle of Equal Rights - it becomes simply invalid, whether the motive is moral or emotional.


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