Every now and again, a story will surface that gets me thinking. And the BBC published just such a story here. It is about AR activists targeting lobster fishermen.
Activists' 'war' to save lobsters: Lobster fishermen are on alert after animal rights activists threatened to wage a "war" against them.
An anonymous email from the Lobster Liberation Front claims responsibility for a recent campaign of vandalism against a Dorset lobster fisherman.
No, this is not a put-on. It's deadly serious.
Jonathan Lander, 41, has twice had his boat wrecked and lobsters set free.
The warning, posted on an animal rights website, says: "The war against the lobster industry has begun. We will attack anywhere, at any time."
[ . . . ]
Mr Lander, a single parent whose family has fished the waters off Purbeck in Dorset for five generations, has been singled out by a group of activists.
In June, his boat was broken into and seriously damaged at Chapman's Pool and 30 lobsters were set loose from their pots.
The same night, vandals splashed red paint over the house in the nearby village of Worth Matravers where he lives with his sons, aged nine and 11.
Just weeks earlier, the same boat, boathouse and some 50 lobster pots were vandalised.
The Lobster Liberation Front has said it carried out both attacks and warned of more serious damage if Mr Lander carries on fishing.
Its email on the Southern Animal Rights Coalition website says: "On 23 May buccaneers from the Lobster Liberation Front attacked a boathouse belonging to Jonathan Lander.
"Jonathan foolishly ignored the first warning, so a second, and final warning has been given.
"If this is ignored then the real damage must begin.
"No animal should be sacrificed for human greed, let alone boiled alive."
It adds: "This attack against Jonathan Lander was merely a skirmish.
"The war against the lobster industry has begun. We will attack anywhere, at any time, and pots will be smashed, boats sunk, and sea life liberated.
"We are ready, are you?"
Mr Lander told BBC News Online: "I'm shocked that they can do that to anyone making a living - we're only catching food.
"I've got nothing else I can do apart from go on the dole. We've all got bills and loans - what do you do?
"I'm a single parent and probably the easiest target in the whole wide world to hit because I'm not at the boat that often.
"I have got nothing to say to the Lobster Liberation Front."
Pc Jonathan Maunder, from Swanage police, said: "We are aware of the claims of the Lobster Liberation Front and further investigations are currently taking place.
"If anyone - particularly fishermen - sees anything suspicious or anyone acting suspiciously, I ask them to contact us as soon as possible in confidence." . . .
There is something weirdly comical about a group calling itself the "Lobster Liberation Front," and I suppose it would be easy to laugh this off because of it's silliness - indeed, it literally begs for parody.
But before you do, consider that the terrorized Mr. Lander isn't laughing. And it really isn't all that important whether Mr. Lander's tormentors are Animal Rights Activists, or a bunch of local thugs who have an ax to grind against him, and who think it might be a hoot (and good cover) to deflect attention away from them and onto AR extremists.
With apologies to Mr. Lander, and without trivializing at all what he's going through, this event does raise an interesting philosophical point - indeed, an apparent contradiction.
Regardless of whether or not AR activists did the vandalism deed, they would nevertheless support the idea that lobsters have the capacity to experience pain and discomfort, and as all sentient beings do, the extremists would argue, lobsters have the right to live their lives free of human "exploitation."
Now - how can AR people be so sure, on the one hand, that scientists cannot extrapolate from the physiology of non-human mammals to humans ("experiments with animals give misleading results"), but on the other hand be reasonably confident that it is possible to extrapolate from the pain and discomfort a human can feel to what a lobster feels?
What evidence do we have that lobsters suffer? Sure - they might reflexively withdraw from certain stimuli, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are in pain (an unexpected noise, or an unexpected visual event, can trigger a withdrawal reflex in humans, but neither is necessarily accompanied by pain or discomfort).
Doesn't that seem a tad contradictory?
(I'll have more to say on "pain and discomfort" as it relates to Animal Rights in a few days ...)