By David Cantor,
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc. (RPA)
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and
oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the break of
– Thomas Jefferson
The struggle for basic rights of all animals – rights like those established in the Constitution’s rights Amendments, which all animals need to lead fulfilling lives – extends the struggle of John Locke, Isaac Newton, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Lucy Stone and others. Their media were the spoken and written word – conversation, lectures, speeches, sermons, pamphlets, books, letters, articles. So those are the media Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA) uses.
Rights are a verbal construct. Rights are not feelings, lifestyles, or shopping choices promoted by visual images and celebrities. Rights must be articulated in words. They can only be understood, respected, and enforced through verbal communication.
That is why popular animal advocacy, with its emphasis on mass media, visuals, shopping choices, lifestyle, and pop-culture publicity methods, has not made progress toward establishing rights of all animals despite raising awareness of horrendous suffering that humans inflict on nonhuman animals. And it is why Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA) relies on the spoken and written word – especially public and private lectures, meetings, correspondence, factsheets, newsletters, brochures, fliers, letters-to-the-editor, op-ed pieces, emails, and websites.
Education the Objective, Not Popularity
Many people assume the objective of animal-rights activities must be to build popular support for “the movement” or an organization’s work for the cause as quickly as possible. That reflects common sense, but it ignores how basic rights came to exist in the first place.
Popular outrage rebels against atrocities, and people make personal choices accordingly. But jurists, legislators,scholars, and informed advocates formulate precise concepts, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to establish justice and equality and to protect autonomy and wellbeing – so far only for humans and, sadly, nonliving corporations. Hence prohibitions against tyranny and injustice in the Bill of Rights and other rights Amendments – rights that mere laws, policies, or practices are not permitted to violate. Rights are unalienable guarantees – not to be overruled by majority opinion, officials’ private interests, or other sources of tyranny.
RPA Rights-Education Events
Human rights, women’s rights, civil rights – these concepts took centuries of gradual enlightenment to establish in human minds and institutions. If not for the printing press and increasingly literate populaces able to gather in cities and towns, the vast majority of human beings might still consider unfettered tyranny natural, right, and the only imaginable way of life – even though it subverts our species’ biological nature. Rights enforce justice – the closest condition to the natural order that humans can achieve – not kindness, a natural human trait overwhelmed by mass societies, institutions, and industries. Rights help maintain order by affording rights-holders the opportunity of a fulfilling life, thereby preventing organized rebellion and minimizing disruptive individual acts of violence.
This past fall and winter, RPA founder David Cantor gave lectures designed to show participants how establishing unalienable basic autonomy, ecology, and dignity rights of all animals – guarantees that no nonhuman being on Earth currently possesses – will improve human wellbeing and help solve the big human problems. That is the political (policy) argument for animal rights, as distinct from the ethical argument: that because nonhuman animals experience their lives – do not merely exist like a rock – they are entitled to equal consideration and treatment and require rights to safeguard those entitlements.
Without grasping the far-reaching benefits to humans, the
vast majority of people, misinformed by news, popular animal advocacy, and
other institutions, assume animal rights diminishes humans’ quality of life
– takes away this or that cherished food, research endeavor, recreation
opportunity, amusement, or manufactured product. Nothing could be further
from the truth. The human plight will worsen inexorably until justice is
established for all animals. And rights are the only way.
The political argument for animal rights parallels the case made by leaders of human-rights organizations that defending human rights anywhere benefits all humans everywhere. Emphasizing the political argument is both crucial and practical. Public and official sentiment rarely mobilizes behind any political proposal, whether modest like making automobiles less unsafe or radical like rights of all animals, based on morality alone. Practical consequences are key.
A typical RPA lecture providing the political argument for
animal rights is titled Basic Rights of All Animals: Solve Human Problems by
Ending Injustice against Nonhumans. A typical description reads,
Thousands of dedicated citizens and officials work daily to improve human wellbeing – health, justice, equality, an end to war, restraints on pollution, conservation. But what do we see? Ever more human disease, endless war, rampant human disruption of the natural world, global economic disaster a routine news item, everything fun, no one happy. Could civilization’s millennia-long assault on nonhuman animals and the natural world be the root of human suffering and violence? If so, can we change course? Hear a surprising and thorough analysis. Start considering practical long-term solutions.
Each lecture explains to participants the scientific basis of human rights and how it applies to nonhuman animals. Human rights do not exist merely to prevent cruelty or the worst suffering but to guarantee one animal species – humans – the political (policy) circumstances in which they are most likely to lead a fulfilling life.
By guaranteeing much more than just a prohibition on torture or punishment without a trial by jury, the total configuration of rights affords a much greater likelihood that government will refrain from torture than merely prohibiting torture ever could. By creating circumstances in which a large proportion of the populace can, or believes it can, find fulfillment through personal, social, and political endeavor, the totality of the Constitution’s rights Amendments makes a stable society with a large proportion of relatively comfortable humans more feasible than under abjectly tyrannical systems that many humans still endure.
As for humans, so for nonhumans: Justice and a fulfilling
life are impossible without rights on a planet dominated by human mass
societies, with tyranny over humans still widespread and nonliving
corporate, industrial, and financial interests perpetually undermining
humans’ and nonhuman animals’ wellbeing.
More Promising than Popular Advocacy
Popular animal advocacy’s focus on regulating the suffering and deprivation human beings are permitted to inflict on nonhuman animals makes no significant headway toward rights of nonhumans and their anticipated benefits to humans, because it does not address the root cause of other animals’ suffering: injustice.
Popular advocacy invokes cruelty as the cause of nonhuman animals’ agony when humans use them for food, clothing, medicine, teaching, entertainment, companionship, and other purposes. But cruelty involves intent to cause pain and suffering. That only describes the sociopathic behavior of the very few. Most humans naturally abhor cruelty without prompting by organized advocacy.
Popular advocacy invokes “voting with your wallet” as the “solution” to most “cruelty” – shopping “cruelty-free” and donating to organizations that “fight cruelty” and “help animals.” Elaborate public-relations endeavors create an illusion of change by linking humans’ natural compassion to “making a difference.” None of this addresses tyranny and injustice, whose remedy is rights.
This helps explain why the plight of nonhuman animals has steadily worsened during the decades when “animal rights” has been used to refer to anything anyone does to help nonhuman animals. Helping others is inherently good, but it does not promote rights. The human plight likewise continues to worsen, since human suffering is rooted in our species’ thousands of years of infringements on nonhuman animals, including using and owning them and ever more powerfully disrupting their world.