Of Men and Mice
The Mice Plague and the Olympics
What has a mice plague got to do with the Olympics? Or more precisely what has the animal rights movement’s response to the mice plague got to do with a transgender athlete in the Olympics?
Both represent progressive social justice. But that term politicizes the issues. Rather, let us recognize that both represent compassion and concern, especially for the vulnerable. In one case it is the sentient small creatures who are being killed in huge numbers. In the other, a group of people who have often been discriminated against over a deeply personal and often quite troubling issue: their own sexuality.
In response to a devastating mice plague, in rural NSW, a spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said the mice were simply looking for food to survive. Their complaint was against the Government for failing to take preventative measures and then meeting that failure by using a cruel and environmentally damaging poison method to deal with the problem. While recognising that once the mice had reached the present plague proportion the community was going to kill the mice, the spokesperson said that as an animal rights organisation they could never sign off on killing as the means of control. Rather their general advice for rodent control was catch and release.
The acceptance in sporting contests of transgender people is a present debate within the Olympics. People hold fairly polarised views on the topic which has not made the issue any easier for those undergoing such a change. There is a great desire in our community to be kind and inclusive, especially to people who are struggling with their identity and making the difficult journey in transitioning genders. One important area of inclusiveness in our culture is sport. We wish to encourage maximum participation in sport. To achieve this inclusiveness, particularly public and publicised inclusiveness at the top sporting events makes the marginalised feel welcome. Exclusion from sport is seen as just another example of unfair and hurtful discrimination.
It is not my intention to enter into the debates about the most humane methods of killing mice or the effect of hormone therapy on sporting contests. “Humane killing’ is in one sense an oxymoron but yet minimising cruelty has been a long held moral value. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was established out of the Evangelical Awakening in the 18th and 19th century. Sporting contests inevitably discriminate between people of different physiological abilities. Where the difference is too large to make it a fair contest, weight, sex or age categories are introduced. Performance enhancing drugs are forbidden but what to do with performance de-enhancing drugs is raised by the participation of transwomen.
However, my aim is to consider the basis for our society’s confusion over such issues.
When the journalists highlighted the PETA sound-bite that mice should be ‘caught gently and released unharmed’, the community at large rightly rejected the idea as absurd. It sounded as if this was an inner-city thought bubble which had no idea of the destructive magnitude of the plague ruining the lives of the rural community. It carried the obvious difficulty of where would such a release happen?
Similarly, when the advocates of transgender inclusiveness talk of ‘chest feeding’, ‘birthing parent’ or ‘people who menstruate’, there is a communal eye roll. Nobody says much because whenever they say the obvious it is labelled as hate-speech and the speaker is banished by social media; condemned into the extreme naughty-corner of society. The treatment of such famous people as J.K.Rowling and Martina Navratilova has bullied many others into silence. The failure of the weightlifter in the Tokyo Olympics was something of a blessing, for a gold medal would have proved the opponents of transsexual participation correct and discounted the athlete’s success.
What is important to understand is how society has been led into countenancing what seems intuitively absurd. At first sight these seem to be quite different and separate issues, but the basis is the same.
PETA’s view of caring for mice stems from their rejection of prioritising humans over animals. They argue that the mice shouldn’t be robbed of their right to food and life “because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy.” This notion of human supremacy is the evil of ‘speciesism’. They follow Prof. Peter Singer into the labyrinth of finding some moral imperative for the animals called homo sapiens where somehow, we, who are just animals, have to deny any natural animal instinct to kill and eat in order to care and provide for other species.
The transgender community has followed the twin modern philosophies of individualism and feminism.
- In individualism: I, and I only, have the right to define my body and what I do with it.
- In feminism: the second-wave initiated the separation of gender from biology, that the third wave and queer theory completed. The binary view of humanity as two genders is now seen as a social/cultural construct that we can embrace, ignore or amend as we please.
The combination of these philosophies has resulted in individuals defining their own gender as they see fit, irrespective of their biological sex, and in doing so undermining the proper protection and provisions of women in a variety of settings e.g. sporting contests.
In both issues we see the roots of the intuitive absurdity of denying the reality of our existence as humans. We are superior to all other animals in the world and that superiority includes moral reasoning and constraint not shared by any other species. We are a binary species of males and females with bodies that differ with a consequent range of differing abilities and limitations. If both men and women are to enter into sporting contests, there is a need to make rules that account for the differences. My favourite Olympic events have been the mixed relays in the swimming and athletics, where we see the fun of being men and women competing fairly with each other.
Sadly, Western society without its Biblical foundations is left in muted silence in the face of silliness. Rejecting what we are, due to some ideology or simply what we want, is only going to lead to accepting absurdity. These distorted views of the created order are derived ultimately by the rejection of the Creator. Peter Singer does not believe in God and so cannot abide the idea that human responsibility comes from being created in the image of God. Feminism has given rise to the rejection of humanity created as male and female with its consequential differences built into the very nature of our biology.
One of the great benefits of becoming a Christian is to be able to turn back to our Creator and learn from him of our created nature, purpose, meaning and morality. This enables us to build our lives on the basis of reality and rejoice in the way God has created us; male and female in his image (Genesis 1:26-30).