Animal Writes
7 October 2001 Issue
The Nashville Network Warps Ahead to the Twentieth Century

by Park [email protected] 

As someone who lived the first three decades of his life in Knoxville, Tennessee, I was happy to see the Star Trek Next Generation marathon on TNN this week, and to learn that ST Next Gen will be a regular program on this station. It was a welcome change from the usual offensive and embarrassing TNN fare of wrestling, hunting and fishing. A show about a future generation of more intelligent humans is greatly appreciated.

The several Star Trek television series have always featured stories dealing with the issues of vegetarianism and the concept of rights extended to other beings. I grew up on the original Star Trek and I suspect that Spock, the vegetarian Vulcan science officer, might have been an important influence. It seems logical.

This morning I watched one of the best episodes of ST Next Gen which explored the idea of rights of sentient beings. It was the episode which debated the fate of the android character, Commander Data, whether he was a sentient being capable of determining his own fate, or property, a machine owned by the Federation of Planets. A central issue was slavery and the exploitation of other species by man. In defending Data's rights, Captain Jean Luc Picard pointed out that the word "machine" should not be used to denigrate beings of artificial intelligence, because humans are just another type of machine, running on electro-chemical reactions.

Of all the definitions I have seen of humans, and how we differ from other species, I enjoy this idea put forward by Star Trek....that we are a species capable of recognizing the rights, desires, and the freedoms possessed by other creatures.

Although the production designers of Star Trek never made a big deal about it, all the Federation officers and crew were vegetarians who ate meals from food synthesizers. The meat entrees were from replicated molecules and not from factory farms. There was no barn in the aft section of the starship. And I am left thinking...If in some bright, imagined future, we can view alien species as having basic rights, that implies that somewhere along the way we have granted basic rights to animals.

And that's why I am a fan of star trek, because it presents a future I wish could come true.

Let's hope that the people who usually watch The Nashville Network will learn from this program and come to appreciate the Federation's Prime Directive of noninterference with other species and cultures.

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