I have no issue with hunting those species of whale and dolphin that are not endangered for meat. I love horses but I have managed to get past the fact that some people eat them, I wouldn’t, but hey we eat cows and meat is meat. If you are not a vegetarian then eating one animal is no different to eating another animal getting hung up on the aesthetics of some animals is irrational.
However, I had my position somewhat challenged today.
My 8 year old daughter has for a long time wanted a pet guinea pig. As our rabbit died of old age recently we had an empty cage, so I took her to the pet shop a couple of weeks ago and we bought two guinea pigs “Abe” and “Pamarello.” Ever since, she dotes and and delights on the guinea pigs and when she is not feeding them treats and changing their water she is drawing pictures and writing stories about them. Today she got on Google images and typed in “guinea pigs” so she could create a file of guinea pig pictures.
We have google set to “strict safe search” and we run Blue Coat K9 Web Protection. I knew it wasn’t fool proof but to date nothing “bad” has gotten through, if anything it is ridiculously over-sensitive and blocks sites and images we have no issue with. Anyway, you have probably worked out where this is leading, check out the first pic that came up on her search – roasted guinea pig complete with two roast spuds.
Needless to say you can imagine her reaction. Matt found her crying and upset. She was worried her guinea pigs were not ok, she was greatly disturbed and took some calming down.
When I came home from work and heard about this all my sentiments about meat being meat went out the window. Parental protection kicked in to full mode. I too became angry that people ate guinea pigs and that they would put pictures like that on the net and that our filters had failed to screen that picture out and that we had been in the practice of allowing our kids to google pictures.
As I have thought about it since I have considered changing the passwords so that our kids can only run google image searchs with us present but then that wouldn’t have changed anything in this instance as we probably would have run the search with her next to us and it was the first image.
My thoughts went on to the fact that the person who posted that picture would probably speak to their freedom to put pictures on their site and my objection to it being unjustified on the basis of their right to free speech. The old slogan, ‘don’t like it? don’t look’ came to mind.
But I couldn’t get past the fact that there was still something wrong here. We have done what we can to ensure our kids are not exposed to things they are not ready to handle (obviously there comes an age where children have to understand that people eat animals that are the same species as their pets) yet this image came into our home.
So what is the solution? Censorship of the offending site? Changing passwords? Using the off switch? I am not happy with any of those. As a libertarian, I am uncomfortable with censorship. Further, I want my kids to learn how to use a computer and how to find information on topics they are interested in. However, as a parent I want to ensure they are protected.
Putting aside the legal questions, this incident does highlight the moral point, which is sometimes articulated poorly with slogans such as “with freedom of speech comes responsibility”. The point is that just as I must respect the fact that other people have a right to express their opinion, I too have a right to not listen if I do not wish to and others need to respect that. If I decide I do not want to hear something, I shouldn’t be forced to extremes to have that right respected, especially if they do not have to run to extremes to exercise their right. In this instance I had said no on behalf of my daughter and my anger is about the fact that my choice to not have my sensitive, gentle, animal-loving 8 year old exposed to something upsetting was not respected.
Of course the owner of the offending site never envisaged upsetting my daughter and is not culpable for what happened but rights can be inadvertently and non-culpably violated (the insanity defence is an example). There really isn’t a good solution to the problem of the clash between the freedom to speak and the freedom to not hear – I have no idea how to solve it without raising other problems – but the problem does exist and this of course is one of the places I part ways with (big L) Libertarians.