A reader pointed out to me that my argument on animal rights vs. slavery:
This is not to imply that I agree with this assessment, but then again, the average US citizen of a Southern state in the early 19th century presumably had few qualms with slavery either. Opinion can change quickly. Outside a few pockets such as the Netherlands or the SF Bay Area, someone who supported gay civil unions, but not gay marriage, would have been seen as a hardcore progressive in 1999; in 2019, most of the US would consider that same person regressive, if not a moral troglodyte. Alternatively, consider the trend in support for interracial marriage: 1959 – only 4%; early 2010s – high 80%’s. Your grandfather who stormed the beaches of Normandy to “punch Nazis” was himself a fascist (by the standards of modern liberal discourse).
One of my favorite rhetorical devices to use on those who cast moral aspersions on the actions of historical figures involves a thought experiment about the consumption of meat, or more precisely, eating animals slaughtered for the sole purpose of becoming our dinner. It doesn’t seem inconceivable to me that in the future, the thought of engaging in such behavior comes to be seen as being as morally abhorrent as slavery seems to us today. Should they, and nearly everyone else they know, be at risk of being written off by posterity as perpetrators of turpitude for something that wasn’t even controversial in the early 21st century society in which they lived?
That such a shift sounds somewhere between far-fetched and inconceivable to a contemporary audience, of course, is exactly the point, just as the abolition of slavery would’ve sounded to 2nd century Romans and their contemporaries or the idea of amnesty for the resisting residents of Jerusalem following the first crusade’s successful siege of the city would’ve sounded to the crusaders and their contemporaries, including the saracens they put to the sword.
That also seems like a very legitimate point.