RDN due on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live

I’ve been booked for the BBC TV’s Sunday ethics and religion show, and here are some sketches of what I hope to say…

There are three set piece questions and here they are, more or less:

(1) Should Galliano go to gaol?

RDN says no, of course not. Like Von Trier, he’s a motormouth whose celebration of Hitler has no meaning beyond – maybe – being an attempt to free-fall through the politically-incorrect. Anyone who takes this sort of thing seriously needs to get a life. These intemperate people are twerps, not thugs, and it seems very unlikely that the really vicious amongst us take their cue from such scions of the arts.

(2) Should women cover up?

I would almost prefer to see more burqa and less thong on our high street. And there is something in that poor Toronto policeman’s view that women ought to consider dressing modestly. They have of course a right to dress like sluts, and there’s no evidence that I know of that tarty dressing gets people raped. Still, whether in dress, drink or general deportment, women would be sensible to be, er, sensible.

(3) Should we bin the Human Rights Act because it allows the “wrong” immigrants to live here?

I say no, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Convention is a pretty good expression of civilised values. Our judges usually interpret it about right, which is hardly surprising since their grandfathers (as it were) more or less framed it.

(4) I was asked whether I’d had a “moral moment” during the week. I offered up six news-orientated thoughts:

Put the lost penguin out if its misery
Rescue  the just-discovered Amazonian tribe from its sad dentition and bigotry
Maintain the right of circus animals to enjoy their performance art
Enjoin strict diets on fat diabetics so they don’t need medication
Celebrate the right of schools not to teach the competing mumbo-jumbos of religions

I think the production team picked the circus issue. Below (in case you’re interested) are some leads.

An informed account, surprisingly sympathetic to keeping ciricus animals.
Animals in Circuses and Zoos: Chiron’s World? by Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington, 1990, OOP

And various useful documents which are much less antogonistic than one might suppose:

The most seriously argued case against circus animals:




michael le breton
every topic you talk about you speak a load of bilge/ grow up and start using whatever grey matter you might possibly possess
I do wish people such as yourself who have no expert credentials in animal welfare would keep their uniformed, ignorant opinions to yourself. The ONLY reseaon the DEFRA document appears to validate the welfare of circus animals is because key data was excluded from the report. A panel of six academics on the CWG reviewed the evidence submitted by circuses and animal protection organisations, but they did not meet as a group or visit any circuses. Moreover, the CWG had a restricted remit, to look only at transportation and housing needs. It did not assess the training of animals or the conditions and effects of their performances. As most sensible people know it is the training of these animal for their performance where most abuse happens. Being as the report does not assess the effects of performance or training on wild animals in circuses how does this report back up your ludicrous claim that circus animals rather enjoy performing? Please educate yourself properly before speaking on TV again where you just came across as a silly, ignorant, out of date, old man.
RDN’s reply
Dear Alison, I sort of take your point about CWG, but what they said about the stuff they did look at does stand. It's worth reading - it's very short. As for Kiley-Worthington's writing or the remarks of the Tory MP, Andrew Rosindel, in the HoC last week, both came from people who had troubled to spend time with circus animals. And both were quite nuanced.
Hello Richard My sister and I would like to know why you would prefer to see women moving towards a more covered-up state of dress, particularly when you admit yourself that you know of no evidence that suggests that there is a correlation between instances of rape and how little a victim chooses to wear? You also said in Sunday Morning Live that do not enjoy seeing "acres of blubber". I hate to jump to conclusions but I feel that this comment of yours was directed at women rather than women AND men. Could you explain yourself with regard to this comment? Also, you contradict yourself when you say that women should be free to dress as they please but that they should also cover up more as a "precaution". So, which is it? And, if it is the latter, why is the onus on women's behaviour when it is the man who does the attacking? Are you saying that you think a woman's dress provokes rape? You can't be saying that though, because you've aleady admitted in your post that you know of no evidence linking dress with the likelihood of being attacked - and you're correct here, Richard, because there is none. Do you understand that a sexual attack has nothing to do with the victim and everything to do with the perpetraror? Finally, I would like to let you in on a little secret: rape has absolutely nothing to do with sex. I know! It's weird isn't it!!? Please contact me if you would like me to explain this further. Best regards Jessica and Charlotte Macdonald.
RDN’s reply
Dear J and C, Thanks for that. Yes, I do think too many people of both sexes display too much flesh in the wrong places and at the wrong times - as a matter of my taste. And I do think the current trend for provocative clothing by women during the day (tight, short, skirts; cleavage etc) is weirdly unprofessional and unfeminist. And you're right, I did say that I don't think slutty dressing gets women raped. (Indeed, I can imagine modest shrinking violets being horribly exciting to some nasty men). And I do think it's unwise of parents to let young teenage girls dress tartily, not least because it promotes a trend, I think, whereby young girls wrongly think they are streetwise. Actually, I don't think all rapes are the same, and I don't think all rape victims are equally free of some responsibility for their predicament. And I do think that when some women bang on about their right to dress any way they please, they may need reminding that almost always when one claims a right, one is wise to consider one's responsibilities. In this case, I'd say young women might be wise to remember that they need to be sensible in matters of drink, drugs, dress and deportment - and be very careful with whom and where they let themselves go. I would say - and I didn't and should have - that my feeling about sluttiness in women's dress is that it is sometimes a joyful expression of freedom (the Slutwalks, the trend for Burlesque, Goths etc). But I do also feel that it is sometimes curiously a matter of women being disrespectful of themselves. So women have a perfect right to go about semi-naked, but I would prefer they had more sense of their own dignity. I hope that helps.
Dear Richard North, The stuff the CWG did look at does not stand at all. It was a rteport based on opinion not fact. None of them visited circuses in the writing of the report and the whole process was flawed and therefore invalid. Even the government does not speak of this report very much as it knows the whole report is worthless and totally lacking in rigour. Kiley Worthington's writing is from 1990 and irrelevent, the world and its standards has moved on. As for Rossindell again your research lets you down. He is being investigated for taking payment from the Great British Circus for writing an endorsement for one of their brouchures on House of Commons paper. If he is found to have taken payment then him speaking in parliament as he did last week would be a conflict of interest. Even if he did not take payment it is not acceptable for an MP to write endorsements for private companies. Mind you his speech to parliament was poor, and he deserved the ridicule he was subjected to. As was pointed out by other MPs, he wittered on and on about people not looking at facts and yet failed to produce any facts whatsoever during his speech. Instead he made the same kind of unverifiable, ludicrous kind of comment you yourself made about circus animals 'enjoying' themselves. If its all the same to you, I will stick to the facts and use opinions of actual experts to inform my view. The British Vetinarary Association are in favour of the ban and that is good enough for me. I would strongly recommend educating yourself further on this issue before speaking about it in public again. Alison
RDN’s reply
Dear Alison, Thanks for that. I should have stressed on TV (if I didn't) that my objection to bans (on fox-hunting, fur farms, deer-hunting, and probably circus animals, but also smoking etc) is partly that in general I prefer regulation to close-downs. Secondly, when we come to facts on animal behaviour and suffering, they are thin on the ground and these things often look very different to those with hands-on experience than to those who theorise. Thirdly, I very much dislike it when MPs have debates which use awful evidence and lots of populism. (1) If I understand it, the CWG did suppose that circuses need no more and no less welfare regulation than any other animal-users. That seems right: regulate, rather than ban. (2) Kiley Worthington's observations of real animals don't seem likely to age in some way. If people have changed their view of things, that's fine, up to a point. But it doesn't change my view that what matters is what we can supposed the animals to be experiencing. K-W seemed very interesting on that. (3) If Mr Rosindell's view turns out to be tainted as C4 News is exploring, so be it. I liked the way he had looked at the actual situation. (4) The BVA's support for the ban is not really based on evidence: they cited a rather vague ethical view (in my view not all that sound) rather than anything interestingly ethological (as to detail from their own experience and authorship).
Richard, I highly recommend this video of a discussion between Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer on matters of ethics and morality concerning animals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYYNY2oKVWU

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Publication date

24 June 2011