Hawaii councilwoman withdraws animals initiative

HILO, Hawaii — A Big Island councilwoman introduced a resolution this week to recognize animals as “sentient beings,” but quickly withdrew it because of a lack of support.

Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara says she wanted to “set the tone” for how the county deals with animal welfare, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

Other council members say they support humane treatment of animals but were uncomfortable with language in the measure giving animals rights.

Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, who is a veterinarian, says the county would be getting itself into a “quagmire” if it gives animals the proposed rights.

O’Hara told the Tribune-Herald that the measure was in part intended to influence the county’s next animal control contract. O’Hara said she will change the wording based on feedback from her colleagues.

  1. Ken Conklin October 21, 2018 8:28 am Reply

    There is a continuum of levels of sentience ranging from humans all the way down to rocks. There is a hierarchy within that continuum — creatures with higher sentience have dominion over creatures with lower sentience, and can use them as food or as slaves or as pets. It’s the natural order and provides the rationale for moral rights and responsibilities among the creatures. It’s pono to ascribe a level of sentience to any individual creature according to the level of the species of which it is a member, although individuals within a species might have somewhat higher or lower sentience than the general level of its species; thus, there could be an individual chimpanzee or whale who deserves more rights than an individual human who was born with severe cognitive disabilities or has suffered irreparable damage. One outward manifestation of sentience is the extent to which an individual recognizes the sentience of other creatures and treats them with the respect to which their sentience entitles them. Cruelty is evidence that the individual who displays it has lower sentience than would normally be ascribed to his species; thus that individual forfeits some of the respect and deference that would normally be shown to his species.

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