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Animal Scam: A Critique
by: Vasu Murti email@example.com
Speaking at Black Oak Books in Berkeley, CA, in 1992, Ingrid Newkirk, the Executive Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), remarked that anti-animal rights organizations such as Putting People First are simply repeating tired old prejudices against animals to justify the status quo; leaving no hope for a better tomorrow. Kathleen Marquardt, founder of Putting People First, begins her attack on animal rights in Animal Scam: the Beastly Abuse of Human Rights by describing acts of vandalism on a research lab caused by the Animal Liberation Front ("ALF terrorists" as she refers to them).
Marquardt is making an emotional appeal to mass hysteria, which will not stand under scrutiny of reason. Liberation movements throughout history have had components that engage in civil disobedience or even violate the law. During the 19th century, for example, there were abolitionists who took to extreme measures to voice their discontent with the status quo on human slavery. Did their actions make the crusade against human slavery any less moral? Today there are abortion opponents who firebomb abortion clinics or even kill physicians who perform abortionsdo they represent the millions of taxpaying, voting, and otherwise law abiding citizens opposed to abortion on demand?
Marquardt begins her attack on animal rights as a secular, moral philosophy by claiming that it is anti-human. She quotes a 1989 statement by Dr. Tom Regan, the foremost intellectual leader of the animal rights movement and author of The Case for Animal Rights (a landmark in moral philosophycomparable to Rawls A Theory of Justice). When asked if he were aboard a lifeboat with a baby and a dog, and the boat capsized, which would he rescue, the baby or the dog? Regan replied, "If it were a retarded baby and a bright dog, Id save the dog."
If this sounds "anti-human," it is merely because the status quo is anti-animal, or speciesist. Why do only humans have rights? Why do we protect mentally handicapped children while experimenting upon chimpanzees (who, by the way, share 98-99 percent of our DNA)? Isnt this discrimination?
On what basis have we arbitrarily decreed that only humans can have rights and other animals cannot? Is it because most members of the human species possess a higher level of intelligence than most animals? Then why do we protect mentally defective humans? Isnt this a personal, or rather, an anthropomorphic prejudice?
In his book, Christianity and the Rights of Animals, the Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican priest, writes:
"It does seem somewhat disingenuous for Christians to speak so solidly for human rights and then query the appropriateness of rights language when it comes to animals. The most consistent position is that of Raymond Frey, who opposes all claims for rights from a philosophical perspective, or that of Christians who consistently refrain from all such language."
According to Reverend Linzey:
"Raymond Frey, that dedicated opponent of rights theory, has sadly to conclude that we cannot, without the appeal to benefit, justify (painful) animal experiments without justifying (painful) human experiments.
"Frey accepts this even though he justifies experimentation on animals. Again, The case for anti-vivisectionism, I think, is far stronger than most people allow, he writes. Alas, Frey does not seem to regard it as sufficiently strong to oppose experiments on animals or humans."
"Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles," writes pro-life activist Karen Swallow Prior, "there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement. Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings. Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passerby to Get a life!
"Animal rights activists, like me, place a higher value on life than on personal comfort and convenience and, in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rights and responsibilities, choose to err on the side of compassion and non-violence."
Movements with a Similar Agenda
1) The right-to-life ethic sounds egalitarian in terms of human rights: all humans have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to deny rights to a particular class of humans on an arbitrary criteria such as race, gender, class, handicap, viability, developmental status, IQ, etc. is discrimination. Right-to-lifers refer to such discrimination as a "quality of life" standard.
2) The animal rights movement puts forth an equally egalitarian ethic: all animals have aright to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This challenges the traditional right-to-life ethic of membership in the human race as a criterion for personhood as just another form of discrimination: All ethical systems impose a "quality of life" standard.
3) Both movements consider their cause a form of secular social progress, like the abolition of human slavery or the emancipation of women. Both movements compare themselves to the abolitionists who sought to end human slavery.
4) Both movements see themselves extending human rights to a disenfranchised class of beings.
5) Both movements claim to be speaking on behalf of a minority group unable to defend themselves from oppression.
6) Both movements compare the mass destruction of the human unborn and the mass killing of animals to the Nazi Holocaust.
7) Recognizing the rights of another class of beings limits our freedoms and our choices, and requires a change in our personal lifestyle. The abolition of human slavery is a good example of this.
8) Both movements appear to be imposing their own personal moral convictions upon the rest of our secular society.
9) Both movements have components that engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, and both have their militant factions. Both have picketed the homes of physicians who either experiment upon animals or perform abortions.
10) Both movements are usually depicted in the popular news media as extremists, fanatics, terrorists, etc. who violate the law. But both movements also have their intelligensia: moral philosophers, physicians, clergymen, legal counsel, etc.
11) Both movements cite studies that violence towards an oppressed class of beings paves the way for worse forms of violence in societythis is known as the "slippery slope."
The term was coined by British writer Malcolm Muggeridge, a "pro-life vegetarian."
12) Both movements speak of respecting life and of compassion.
"Animal rights is against all animal use," warns Marquardt, "even to save lives." Yes. In 1988, the Los Angeles Times reported on medical data gathered by Nazi scientists experimenting upon concentration camp prisoners. Such data might now save human lives, but it was obtained through unethical means. At a rally in San Francisco, CA, protesting animal experimentation, former Alameda County Supervisor John George pointed out that black Americans were the first laboratory animals in America.
Similarly, in an article appearing in the August 1988 issue of Harpers entitled "Just Like Us?", the following discussion on animals and their rights took place between bioethicist Art Caplan and law professor Gary Francione:
Gary, I want to press you further. A baby needs a heart, and some scientist believes the miniature swines heart will do it.
Would I take a healthy pig, remove its heart, and put it into the child? No.
I am stymied by your absolutist position that makes it impossible even to consider the pig as a donor.
What if the donor were a severely retarded child instead of a pig? Assume I have a three year old prodigy who is a mathematical wizard. The child has a bad heart. The only way to save this prodigy is to take the heart out of another child. Should we consider a child from a low socioeconomic background who has limited mental abilities?
Mankind has rejected the philosophy that one group of humans may advance or even prosper at the suffering and expense of another group of humans. The animal rights movement takes this egalitarian philosophy one step further by insisting that humans need not advance or even prosper at the suffering and expense of animals.
"...no hunting, fishing, or trapping," warns Marquardt. "No livestock farming or ranching. No use of animals in science or education...No beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, or even honey. No leather shoes, fur collars, wool sweaters, down jackets or comforters or even silk."
Yes. Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. The "staggering" implications of the animal rights position may appear incomprehensible to Marquardt and other defenders of the status quo, just as the abolition of human slavery must have appeared incomprehensible to our forefathers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Social progress means change. The invention of the automobile, for example, meant an end to horse-drawn carriages, and brought about radical changes in the workforce and in the American way of life.
This is the 21st century. People used to mistakenly think humans were omnivores; they know now that, in reality, we resemble the other primates (frugivores), and possess a set of completely herbivorous teeth. People used to worry if one could be healthy on a vegetarian diet; they know now that its healthier to be a vegetarian and that all kinds of delicious meatless alternatives are readily available. Paul McCartney and the B-52s promote vegetarianism at rock concerts.
And science and technology now provide us with alternatives to animal research and testing. These include cell cultures; bacterial cultures and protozoan studies; tissue cultures; organ cultures; radioimmunoassay; quantum pharmacology; clinical and epidemiological surveys; gas chromotography and mass spectrometry; mathematical computer or mechanical models; the use of human placenta; and the study of human volunteers.
Ms. Marquardt warns her readers of a future in which the animals are liberated:
"No zoos, aquariums, circuses, rodeos, horse racing, carriage rides, or animal actors in films. No butter, cheese, yogurt...No meat-byproducts in your dog and cat foodnot that it makes any difference, because there would be no pets.
"And more: Candles, crayons, gelatin, marshmallows, drywall, home insulation, linoleum, soap, glue, brake fluid...all would be forbidden under an animal rights regime."
Yes. But most of these changes are not likely to occur overnight. America kills over six billion animals each year. Animal byproducts can be found in the tire tread on our automobiles and in the freon in our refrigerators. At this early a stage in human history, therefore, its impossible for everyone to lead a completely cruelty-free lifestyle. Yet by becoming a vegetarian out of ethical concern for animals, one ceases to contribute to roughly 90 percent of all animal cruelty, abuse and killing in the United States.
Ms. Marquardts dire warnings and alarm about what "would be forbidden under an animal rights regime" indicate that she tends to think in terms of paranoia, rather than optimism (e.g., the civil rights movement, feminism, the depiction of a vegetarian future given to us by Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc.). Far from seeing the possibility of animal liberation as a threat to the status quo, she should rather welcome the fact that human civilization has progressed to the point where we need not treat animals as objects of human consumption or exploitation.
Ms. Marquardts statement that "there would be no pets" should animals be liberated is subject to dispute. Domestication of animals is artificial, and some animal rights activists do oppose pet ownership in theory. Columnist Colman McCarthy writes against pet ownership. Similarly, in The Animals Voice Magazine (Vol. 7, #1), Maureen D. Koplow of Deptford, New Jersey, observes:
"Wild canines and felines are natures creation...They live, reproduce and even die without human assistance. Domestic dogs and cats are a product of human intervention, created to satisfy human desires. They have no natural niche. They breed prolifically and create a surplus. Most could not survive without human intervention.
"Our ancestors bred dogs to herd cattle and sheep, chase wolves and bears, tree raccoons and dig out badgers, outrun foxes and deer, fight bulls and each other, retrieve ducks and point out pheasantsactivities antithetical to the animal rights position. Cats were worshipped as deities, burned as witches, used as rodent control; kept as pampered toys on satin cushions. Rarely have they been recognized as independent beings with needs and desires of their own."
Noting the philosophical distinction between animal welfare (the belief that humans may own animals as property and use them for human ends such as labor, milk, nonfertile eggs, wool, or companionship, as long as they are accorded respect and ethical treatment) versus animal rights (the secular moral philosophy that animals exist for their own reasons and were not made for humans any more than blacks were made for whites or women for men), and the real-world politics of compromise, Ms. Koplow observes:
"Lets really admit the truth about spaying and neutering dogs and cats. Pragmatically, its the only possible way to control companion animal overpopulation. But it is an animal welfare solution. No true believer in animal rights can condone this gross interference in one of the most primal aspects of any animals essence.
"Are we humans arrogant enough to believe that our sexuality is the only kind that matters? Would we accept for ourselves a life of safety from venereal disease, unwanted pregnancy or even a broken heart? We could achieve all that simply by having our reproductive systems removed before puberty. Any volunteers?
"The human condition is completely intertwined with our sexuality, from paintings to sculpture, love songs, to romance novels, religious rites to recreational pursuits. Other animals share our passions, if not our culture. Anyone who has seen dogs cluster around a female in heat or heard cats sing their mating songs knows the intensity of their desires. Anyone who has watched a cat nurture her kittens or a dog nuzzle her pups must acknowledge their devotion.
"And yet we blithely insist that surgical intervention to prevent surplus puppies and kittens is benign. This form of prevention may not be as unacceptable as killing unwanted offspring, but maybe we advocates of castration and ovario-hysterectomy should admit that we are acting expediently, not honorably.
As an animal rightster, I say it is time for dogs and cats to become extinct. Humans must give up the concept of pets. Require permits to house animals, with training to ensure the knowledge necessary to keep them happy and healthy...Forbid buying or selling of animals..."
Until the middle of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for parents or guardians to sterilize any mentally handicapped humans in their custody, in order to prevent them from reproducing. Ms. Koplows logic is sound.
The editors of The Animals Voice Magazine responded to Ms. Koplow with the following: "Although we agree with the ideology and understand all too well how humans are not worthy of animals trust, we believe that to actively fight for the extinction of domesticated animals is a position long before its time...actively carrying the 'render dogs and cats extinct' banner is detrimental to the positions and goals of the animal rights movement in this lifetimeour lifetimes."
It is necessary to understand that animal welfare and animal rights are not necessarily synonymous, because similar animal welfare principles are involved in the issues of domesticating animals for companionship and raising animals for food. There are those who argue that it is "natural" for humans to prey upon other animals for "food." Anatomically, humans possess a set of strictly herbivorous teeth and resemble the other primates (frugivores), whose diet is mostly vegetarian. Predator and prey, hunting, infanticide, cannibalism and rape all occur in nature.
Through civilization and technology, however, we humans have effectively removed ourselves from the wild. In this sense, animal rightslike the problem of insects encroaching upon human territory, or rattlesnakes and coyotes in suburban sprawlis partly an environmental ethics issue.
Keith Akers responds to the "preying upon other animals is natural" argument in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983):
"The main problem with this argument is that it does not justify the practice of meat-eating or animal husbandry as we know it today; it justifies hunting. The distinction between hunting and animal husbandry...is obvious to an ecologist. If one defends killing on the grounds that it occurs in nature, then one is defending the practice as it occurs in nature."
Raising tame or domesticated animals for food does not occur in nature. One could argue, therefore, that if "preying" upon these animals for "food" in this manner is "natural," then the humane and ethical treatment of these animals is equally natural. Agriculture, cookery, transportation, refrigeration, etc. do not occur in nature, either.
In carrying the campaign against "cruelty to animals" to its logical conclusion, animal rights would return most sentient species to the wild, outside human civilization. Animal activists could, however, reconcile the secular moral philosophy of animal rights with the human desire to enjoy relationships with other animals by concluding that any and all domesticated animals, incapable of surviving in the wild without human intervention, are part of our society and must therefore be accorded rights and ethical treatment. Any and all animals coexisting with humans must possess the same kind of constitutional rights we now extend to human children or the mentally handicapped.
This is analogous to our protection of children, who are dependent upon their parents up to a certain age, or the right-to-life argument that the unborn child must be given protection because it is dependent upon its mother and cannot survive on its own.
(The secular moral philosophy of animal rights and the human desire to enjoy relationships with animals [pets] are therefore not necessarily mutually exclusive.)
A philosophical distinction between animal welfare and animal rights must be made, because not all vegetarians are motivated by the ideology of animal rights. Keith Akers notes that:
"People will adopt a vegetarian diet for any number of reasons: because they want to get closer to God; because they want to lose weight; because they dont like the taste of meat; or because everyone else in their commune is a vegetarian...
"The kinds of vegetarians usually distinguished are the lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat dairy products and eggs in addition to plant foods; the total vegetarians (sometimes known as pure vegetarians), who eat plant foods but no animal foods; the vegans, who abstain from animal food and animal products of any kind whatsoever (like leather, wool, etc.) and the fruitarians, who live on fruits, nuts, and seeds."
Keith Akers writes that when he asked Dr. Nathan Pritikin, author of The Pritikin Plan if one could argue, on nutritional grounds, that a vegetarian diet really is the natural diet of humanitythat is, the diet on which humans would be most healthyPritikin replied: "Which vegetarian diet? As far as I know there are 200 different kinds of vegetarians. Identify yourself."
Nor are all ethical vegetarians guided by the secular moral philosophy of animal rights. Organizations like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), like the back to nature movement or the Amish, advocate "simple living and high thinking," and preach ethical vegetarianism and a high degree of animal welfare towards domesticated animals such as cattle, in the same context as chanting the holy names of God on beads of prayer, worshipping images of the incarnations of God, sexual chastity, abstinence from gambling, and abstinence from drugs, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
"There is a very strong case for vegetarianism as compared with teetolalism. Drinking one glass of beer cannot by any philosophy be drunkenness; but killing one animal can, by this philosophy, be murder."
"Make no mistake about it," warns Ms. Marquardt, "animal rights means no milk for our children, no insulin for diabetics, and no guide dogs for the blind. No rat traps could mean the return of the bubonic plague. No pest control means widespread malaria..."
In A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers discusses the economic inefficiency of livestock agriculture, and the problem of topsoil erosion caused by overgrazing. He says:
"Even if we grant grazing a role in a resource-efficient, ecologically stable agriculture, milk should be the end result, not beef. Milk provides over 50 percent of the protein and nearly four times the calories of beef, per unit of forage resources from grazing.
"When only forage is available, then egg, broiler and pork production are eliminated and only milk, beef, and lamb production are viable systems, state David and Marcia Pimentel, scientists and authors of Food, Energy and Society. Of these three, milk production is the most efficient.
"An ecologically stable, resource-efficient system of grazing animals for human food could not be anything faintly resembling todays livestock agriculture," concludes Akers. "It would be a smaller, decentralized, less intensive system of animal husbandry devoted to milk production."
Thus, under animal rights, there might be Amish-like cultures and agrarian villages like those in ISKCON, in which humans coexist in a symbiotic relationship with cattle and their children are raised on cows milk. In the secular world, however, there are (no pun intended) no sacred cows, and switching mental gears between the sacred and the secular is comparable to going from Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford in "Witness" to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"No insulin for diabetics," warns Ms. Marquardt. Insulin can now be synthesized by artificial means. However, even if this were not the case, would it be ethical for diabetic humans to exploit non-diabetic humans to save their own lives? "No guide dogs for the blind." The issue of pet ownership has been dealt with in this critique. And a society that can provide wheelchair access to the handicapped or close-captioned television for the hearing-impaired is quite capable of providing for the blind.
"No rat traps could mean the return of the bubonic plague. No pest control means widespread malaria..." As Rosemary Bottcher might observe, Western civilization regards killing as a "useful social tool" to every kind of problem. A society that spends time and energy on new technologies to kill rodents and insects is equally capable of developing nonviolent alternatives.
In his Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Diet for a New America, for example, John Robbins writes that organic farming and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are getting more attention today. These utilize natural insect controls, such as predatory insects, weather, crop rotation, pest resistant varieties, soil tillage, insect traps, and other environmentally safe practices.
A task force of scientists and economists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture back in 1979, came to "...positive conclusions on the importance of organic farming and its potential contributions to agriculture and society." Until the end of the Second World War, American farmers produced bountiful harvests without relying on pesticides. There is no reason why America cannot do so again.
Feminists, civil libertarians and free love advocates during the 19th and early 20th centuries all opposed abortion as an injustice against women, rather than as a means to their emancipation. Many early American feministsSusan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Amelia Bloomersupported "womens rights and vegetarianism."
On the history of the vegetarian movement, Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook writes that "Many intellectuals, such as George Bernard Shaw, Henry Salt, Leo Tolstoy, and Mahatma Gandhi, became well-known advocates of a vegetarian diet." Akers notes that "Animal rights groups are not, strictly speaking, a splinter group of the vegetarian movement at allsince their organizational origins were from the animal welfare organizations."
Animal rights and animal welfare organizations may differ in political philosophy, though taking the interests and well-being of animals into consideration. Marquardt quotes Gary Francione as having admitted: "The theory of animal rights simply is not consistent with the theory of animal welfare...Animal rights means dramatic social changes for humans and non-humans alike..."
Marquardt quotes Gary Francione and Dr. Tom Regan as having stated: "Not only are the philosophies of animal rights and animal welfare separated by irreconcilable differences...the enactment of animal welfare measures actually impedes the achievement of animal rights." They conclude that: "welfare reforms, by their very nature, can only serve to retard the pace at which animal rights goals are achieved."
There are activists, such as the late Henry Spira of Animal Rights International (ARI) in New York, who do consider animal welfare and reform to be a step towards animal rights. In a pamphlet entitled The Philosophy of Animal Rights, however, Dr. Tom Regan argues: "...when an injustice is absolute, one must oppose it absolutely. It was not reformed slavery that justice demanded, not reformed child labor, not reformed subjugation of women. In each of these cases, abolition was the only answer. Merely to reform absolute injustice is to prolong injustice."
Marquardt tries to divorce animal rights from animal welfare by portraying animal rights activists as cold and insensitive when compared to traditional animal welfare people who demonstrate their love for animals by eating them. "The animal rights movement is not motivated by the values shared by proponents of animal welfare," insists Marquardt. "As Peter Singer writes of himself and his wife:
"We were not especially interested in animals. Neither of us had ever been inordinately fond of dogs, cats, or horses in the way that many people are. We didnt love animals.
"This attitude is hard for those of us who do love animals (earlier in Animal Scam, Marquardt identifies herself and her husband as hunters, fishers and flesh-eaters) to understand. What are these people really after?"
What Marquardt fails to tell us is that Peter Singer goes on to explain:
"We didnt love animals. We simply wanted them treated as the independent sentient beings that they are, and not as a means to human ends...This book (Animal Liberation) is not about pets. It is not likely to be comfortable reading for those who think that love for animals involves no more than stroking a cat or feeding the birds in the garden.
"It is intended rather for people who are concerned about ending oppression and exploitation wherever they occur, and in seeing that the basic moral principle of equal consideration of interests is not arbitrarily restricted to members of our own species.
"No one, except a racist concerned to smear his opponents as nigger-lovers, would suggest that in order to be concerned about equality for mistreated racial minorities you have to love those minorities, or regard them as cute and cuddly. So why make this assumption about people who work for improvements in the conditions of animals?
"The portrayal of those who protest against cruelty to animals as sentimental, emotional animal-lovers has had the effect of excluding the entire issue of our treatment of nonhumans from serious political and moral discussion.
"This book makes no sentimental appeals for sympathy toward cute animals. I am no more outraged by the slaughter of horses or dogs for meat than I am by the slaughter of pigs for this purpose. When the United States Defense Department finds that its use of beagles to test lethal gases has evoked a howl of protest and offers to use rats instead, I am not appeased.
"This book is an attempt to think through, carefully and consistently, the question of how we ought to treat nonhuman animals. In the process it exposes the prejudices that lie behind our present attitudes and behavior...It is an appeal to basic moral principles which we all accept, and the application of these principles is demanded by reason, not emotion."
In speciesist language, Ms. Marquardt insists, "Animal rights promotes the idea that people should have no more rights than animals." To paraphrase Mary Meehan, one might turn this argument on its head: rewording it to read that rather than restricting human rights, animals are entitled to the same fundamental rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the right not to be harmed, etc.) to which humans are entitled.
"Why do people even think about rights?" asks Marquardt. "Because rights is a concept, and man is the only species on earth with the intellect to grasp concepts.
"The most important concepts people think about concern morality and ethics, questions of right and wrong. Our unique ability to ask ethical questions and make moral choices (rather than be ruled by instinct) makes us moral agents.
"Rights are the boundaries between moral agents. In order to possess rights, we must accept responsibilities to respect others rights. We are justified in demanding our rights so long as we do not violate the rights of another moral agent."
Keith Akers, in A Vegetarian Sourcebook, refers to this kind of reasoning "as a sort of reverse social contract theory. Animals are different from people; there is an unbridgeable gulf between humans and animals which relieves us of the responsibility of treating animals in the same way we would treat humans.
"(18th century English philosopher) David Hume argues that because of our great superiority to animals, we cannot regard them as deserving of any kind of justice: Our intercourse with them could not be called society, which supposes a degree of equality; but absolute command on the one side, and servile obedience on the other. Whatever we covet, they must instantly resign: Our permission is the only tenure, by which they hold their possessions...This is plainly the situation of men, with regard to animals...
"Society and justice, for Hume, presuppose equality. The problem with this theory is that it justifies too much. Hume himself admits in the next paragraph that civilized Europeans have sometimes, due to their great superiority, thrown off all restraints of justice in dealing with barbarous Indians; and that men, in some societies, have reduced women to a similar slavery. Thus, Humes arguments appear to justify not only colonialism and sexual discrimination, but probably also racism, infanticide, and basically anything one can get away with."
According to Akers:
"Thomas Aquinas provides a different version of the unbridgeable gulf theory. This time it is the human possession of reason, rather than superior force, that makes us so different from animals. Aquinas states that we have no obligations to animals because we can only have obligations to those with whom we can have fellowship. Animals, not being rational, cannot share in our fellowship; we do not have any duties of charity to animals.
"There are two possible responses to this: that the ability to feel pain, rather than the ability to reason, is what is ethically relevant; or that animals are not all that different from humans, being more rational than is commonly supposed.
"Both of these objections are expressed briefly and succinctly by Jeremy Bentham: a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
"The problem," concludes Akers, "is that none of the differences between humans and animals seem to be ethically significant. Animals are as intelligent and communicative as small children or even some mentally defective adult humans. If we do not eat small children and mentally defective humans, then what basis do we have for eating animals?"
Kathleen Marquardt observes that:
"Rights are a serious business. They are the linchpin of a free society. Without them, people would not be able to go about their business free from arbitrary interference by government. Rights offer a people freedom to convince others of different points of view without having to resort to violence and the resulting breakdown of civilization.
"The animal rights movement," claims Marquardt, "would allow people no more rights than rats or cockroaches." Speciesism (or human chauvanism) again. Far from restricting human rights, animal rights would instead extend to animals the same fundamental rights and freedoms humans enjoy.
"The real agenda of this movement," claims Marquardt, "is not to give rights to animals, but to take rights from peopleto dictate our food, clothing, work, recreation, and whether we will discover new medications or die." Identical assertions could have been made about the abolition of human slavery, the crusade to end child labor, the liberation of concentration camp prisoners from Nazi physicians or an end to the experimentation upon black humans by white humans.
Marquardt writes that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) "now encourages vegetarianism, the banning of fur, and the eventual end to all animal research, not just cruel animal research." Marquardt writes that the Humane Society now supports vegetarianism.
According to Marquardt, "The typical animal rights activist is a white woman making about $30,000 a year. She is most likely a schoolteacher, nurse, or government worker. She usually has a college degree or even an advanced degree, is in her thirties or forties, and lives in a city."
Marquardt cites studies indicating that animal rights activists tend to identify with liberal causes such as feminism and environmentalism. "Every year," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey, "I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or are on the verge of doing so." It is not surprising, therefore, that Marquardt reports that "Most activists share a bias against Western civilization and its Judeo-Christian foundations."
According to Marquardt, the "political clout" of the animal rights movement "is surprisingly bipartisan. But most of the leading politicians working with the animal rights movement are liberal Democrats." Marquardt makes mention of Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Nevada Congressman Jim Bilbray, Charlie Rose of North Carolina, Tom Lantos and Gerry Studds.
Marquardt admits, however, that "some Republicans are animal rightists, too. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas often supports animal rights causesexcept, of course, those pertaining to cattle, a major business in Kansas. Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire was a founder of the Congressional Friends of Animals. Bob Dornan of California, one of the most conservative House members, is an animal rights advocatehe cosponsored legislation banning the use of animals in testing cosmetics and received a PETA award. And Manhattan Congressman Bill Green promoted legislation that would have shut down over 90 million acres of federal land to hunting, fishing, and trapping."
Marquardt states further that "Although hes not an elected official, a conservative political figure who, surprisingly, is on the other side is G. Gordon Liddy, author Will and a key figure in the 1972 Watergate uproar. When I went on Liddys radio show, he and PETAs Ingrid Newkirk greeted each other with hugs and kisses and lots of warm words.
"With allies in both political parties and across the ideological spectrum," concludes Marquardt, "the animal rights movement has been able to score some great successes, regardless of which party controls the White House or Capitol Hill."
According to Kathleen Marquardt, "We value the life of any human beinglet alone that of a loved onemore than that of a dog, pig, or baboon." Isnt this merely an anthropomorphic prejudice? Membership in the human species as a criterion for personhood is comparable to racism or sexismdiscrimination.
Suzanne E. Roy, public affairs director of In Defense of Animals, wrote in to the New York Times to condemn animal-human transplants, along with genetic engineering techniques that use animal cells to produce cancer-fighting monoclonal antibodies: "The animal kingdom will become nothing more than spare parts supply houses and drug-producing factories for humankind."
Marquardt tries to justify this kind of animal exploitation by appealing to the status quo: "But if were already raising animals for chopped liver, why shouldnt a dying man use the liver whole? Man has always raised animals to enhance the quality of life; now we can raise them to save lives."
Responding to this kind of status quo thinking, Isaac Bashevis Singer once observed:
"People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times."
Marquardt quotes Ingrid Newkirk as saying, "Pet ownership is an absolutely abysmal situation brought about by human manipulation." According to Marquardt, "If she has her way, she told Harpers in August 1988, eventually companion animals (pets) would be phased out."
Again, one can reconcile the secular moral philosophy of animal rights with the human desire to enjoy relationships with other animals by concluding that any and all domesticated animals incapable of surviving in the wild are part of human civilization and therefore must be accorded certain kinds of rights and ethical treatment. In establishing agriculture, cities, and civilization, we humans have effectively removed ourselves from nature. Our relationship with other specieswild and domesticatedis, in this sense, partly an environmental ethics issue.
Perhaps thinking along these lines, Keith Akers addresses the moral question of killing insects in A Vegetarian Sourcebook: "What about insects? While there may be reason to kill insects, there is no reason to kill them for food. One distinguishes between the way meat animals are killed for food and the way insects are killed.
"Insects are killed only when they intrude upon human territory, posing a threat to the comfort, health, or well-being of humans. There is a huge difference between ridding oneself of intruders and going out of ones way to find and kill something which would otherwise be harmless."
According to Akers:
"These questions may have a certain fascination for philosophers, but most vegetarians are not bothered by them. For any vegetarian who is not a biological pacifist, there would not seem to be any particular difficulty in distinguishing ethically between insects and plants on the one hand, and animals and humans on the other."
According to Kathleen Marquardt, animal rights activists are unsympathetic to the plight of animal dependent cultures. "In Canada," writes Marquardt, "more than half the trappers are Native Americans. Indigenous Survival International reports that the attack on trapping has slashed the income of Native American tribes such as Aleuts, Inuits, and Metis by more than 60 percent, causing a wave of unemployment, alcoholism, and suicide.
"According to the Toronto Star, a severe downturn in trapping has led to increasing suicides among aboriginal people. In one small trapping community, twenty of the sixty teenagers attempted suicide, and nine succeeded."
Marquardt quotes Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals as having voiced outrage in 1987 because the American Aleuts were still permitted to hunt seals for food: "Theyre playing politics, knuckling under to the goddamn Aleuts," she said. "The Aleuts dont need to eat those seals."
When Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops in Northern Canada expressed their "solidarity with the aboriginal peoples of the North who are engaged in a struggle to save fur-trapping as a way of life," the Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican priest and the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations, responded:
"The issue is not of course whether a particular way of life depends upon fur-trapping but whether fur-trapping can be justified from the outset...It is not difficult to understand why bishops as pastoral leaders should be concerned for the welfare of the peoples they apparently represent. Unemployment, a sense of the hopelessness and suicidal tendencies are matters of concern to pastors especially.
"But the Christian concern demonstrated by these bishops does not appear to extend to fur-bearing animals at all. They clearly dont see it as part of their responsibility to the Christian gospel to ask whether ways of life which necessarily involve suffering to other forms of life are in fact worth defending in the first place.
"Since it is well known that Christian missionaries all over the world have disrupted the natural life of indigenous peoples, we may fail to see how it is that defending the social and cultural values of traditional life is now to be regarded as a self-evident Christian concern. Of course the bishops may reply that they are simply trying to pay back indigenous culture something of what imposed Christian culture once took from them.
"The anti-fur campaign, argue the bishops, violates the dignity of aboriginal peoples and some of their deeply felt cultural and spiritual traditions. One cannot help but wonder whether some sense of guilt is being rationalized here for all the previous disruption that Christian missionaries have caused.
"And yet it may be argued that humans have a right to their culture and their way of life," observed Reverend Linzey. "What would we be, it may be questioned, without our land and history and way of life? In general, culture is valuable. But it is also the case that there can be evil cultures, or at least cherished traditions which perpetuate injustice or tyranny.
"The Greeks, for example, despite all their outstanding contributions to learning, did not appear to recognize the immorality of slavery. There can be elements within every culture that are simply not worth defending, not only slavery, but also infanticide and human sacrifice...In short: human traditions and ways of life may be generally worth defending, but not at any cost and certainly not when they depend upon the suffering of thousands, if not millions, of wild animals every year.
"Our hope for the indigenous peoples of the North," concluded Reverend Linzey, "is that they may live in peace with wild animals (as arguably many of them once did) but, if they cannot, perhaps it is better that the animals be left free to live according to their own way of life."
Kathleen Marquardt unsuccessfully tries to equate animal rights with Nazism in Animal Scam. She claims that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, and that he suffered from depression, mood swings, irritability, and agitation, all of which are symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency, and that animal products are the only dietary source of vitamin B-12. According to Carol Orsag, in Irving Wallace and David Wallechinskys The Peoples Almanac (1975), however, Adolf Hitler consumed animal products in the form of eggs and dairy products, and enjoyed eggs "prepared 101 different ways by the best chef in Germany." He "became vegetarian because of stomach problems" rather than out of compassion for animals, and "was criticized for eating pigs knuckles."
In a 1996 article, "Nazis and Animals: Debunking the Myths," Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights states that Hitler "had a special fondness for sausages and caviar, and sometimes ham," as well as "liver dumplings." Kalechofsky states further that the Nazis experimented on animals as well as humans in the concentration camps:
"The evidence of Nazi experiments on animals is overwhelming. In The Dark Face of Science, author John Vyvyan summed it up correctly: The experiments made on prisoners were many and diverse, but they had one thing in common: all were in continuation of, or complementary to, experiments on animals. In every instance, this antecedent scientific literature is mentioned in the evidence, and at Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, human and animal experiments were carried out simultaneously as parts of a single programme."
According to Marquardt: "Having equated animals with man, the Nazis proceeded to treat men as animals." Marquardt wants to have it both ways. She wants to show that the Nazis "respect for life" somehow led to a devaluation of human life. But would not a genuine reverence for lifeelevating animal rights to the level of human rightshave had the opposite effect? Compassion for every living creature? There is no evidence that vegetarianism (for health or ethics) will make people saints or give them Gandhian compassion, but neither is there any evidence that it will make people Nazis.
History reveals to us the truth about the Nazis:
"The beast of prey is the highest form of active life," wrote Nazi philosopher Oswald Spengler in 1931. "It represents a mode of living which requires the extreme degree of the necessity of fighting, conquering, annihilating, self-assertion. The human race ranks highly because it belongs to the class of beasts of prey. Therefore we find in man the tactics of life proper to a bold, cunning beast of prey. He lives engaged in aggression, killing, annihilation. He wants to be master in as much as he exists."
It is not a mere coincidence that the acronym for the Animal Rights Connection (ARC) in San Francisco, CA is identical to that of the Association for Retarded Citizens. Nor is it coincidental that the acronym for Animal Rights International (ARI) in New York is also the Hebrew title of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), the Jewish vegetarian mystichis contemporaries considered him the Messiah.
The ethical basis for vegetarianism and animal rights is secular and nonsectarian. The religious basis for vegetarianism in the Western religions, however, has its origin both in the Bible and the Jewish tradition. The largest number of religious vegetarians outside India can be found in Israel. In his book Judaism and Vegetarianism, Dr. Richard H. Schwartz notes that Gods blessings to man throughout the Bible are almost entirely vegetarian: products of the soil, seeds, sun and rain.
Philip L. Pick, founder of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, writes: "The practice of vegetarianism is implicit in the teachings of Judaism and is evident from the oft-repeated phrase in Genesis to man and all creatures wherein there is a living soul. This indicates a common life and a shared destiny and the principle is exemplified throughout biblical writings.
"Nowhere is it stated that abundance of flesh shall be the reward for observing the Law; rather, there are promises of fruits of the vine and pomegranates, wheat, barley and oil, and peace when each man shall sit under the shade of his own fig tree, not, let it be noted, under the shadow of his own slaughterhouse."
In their book, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, Dennis Prager and Rabbi Telushkin explain to Jews and non-Jews alike: "Keeping kosher is Judaisms compromise with its ideal vegetarianism. Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food."
Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, became a vegetarian in 1962. He once asked, "How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?"
Hitlers so-called "vegetarianism" did not prevent Isaac Bashevis Singer from comparing humanitys mass killing of 20 billion animals every year to the Nazi Holocaust. In 1987 he wrote, "This is my protest against the conduct of the world. To be a vegetarian is to disagreeto disagree with the course of things today. Nuclear power, starvation, crueltywe must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think its a strong one."
Isaac Bashevis Singer has also expressed the view that unnecessary violence against animals by human beings will only lead to further violence in human society: "I personally believe that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a la Hitler and concentration camps a la Stalinall such deeds are done in the name of social justice. There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."
The late Rabbi Isaac ha-Levi Herzog once made the prediction that "Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...Mans carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders ...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching."
Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, lost three of his four grandparents in the Nazis concentration camps. Animal rights activists may find the fact that the religious basis for animal welfare and ethical vegetarianism in the contemporary Western religious traditions is strongest in Judaism helpful in defending themselves from accusations of "Nazism," but disadvantageous because then Christians will tend to think in terms of "dietary laws" rather than in terms of animals and their right to life and liberty.
The fact that protection of all sentient species may not be a part of the present-day Judeo-Christian ethic does not make it invalid. Human slavery was once considered an acceptable part of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Professor Henry Bigelow observed: "There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection in the name of science as they do now to burning at the stake in the name of religion."
Harming or killing other animals for food, "sport," or clothing, or even owning other animals as property must become as unthinkable to us humans as owning other human beings as property, regardless of ones religion or belief in a god or gods. The animal rights movement is not a "front" for a religious minority attempting to impose its "dietary laws" upon the rest of secular American society. Is the right-to-life movement, however, a "front" for Catholic, Fundamentalist, or "born-again" Christianity?
Persons using secular arguments to defend the unborn must not then turn to unprovable religious beliefs to deny animals their rights. In the secular, political arena, ones religious identity must be completely irrelevant.
In her essay "Life and Peace," for example, Juli Loesch describes her
attendance at a Holly Near concert to benefit a local antinuclear group. She encounters
literature tables for Native American folkways, Save the Whales, Ban the Bomb. Peace.
"Abortion?" she writes. "It was as if Id been handed a flowered note that contained a death threat. My hands went cold. I went back to my seat, my heart clogged. The irony was that Id come to oppose abortion as a direct result of my own antinuclear activism."
Loesch writes that when she spoke out against abortion at an antinuclear gathering, she:
"...tried to present a meticulous secular case against abortion. I marshalled all the scientific evidence...I followed it up with the most basic principle found in every human ethical system...do not do to others what you would not like done to you.
"This was rewarded by a brief silence, which was broken by a single question:
Are you a Catholic?
Am I a Catholic? That has nothing to do with...
So you are a Catholic?
Well, then. Youre imposing your religious beliefs...
"And, therefore, I suppose, I lose."
On the other hand, Juli Loesch has stated elsewhere:
"Each woman has the right (to contraception)...But once a woman has conceived, she can no longer choose whether or not to become a mother. Biologically, she is already a mother...the womans rights are then limited, as every right is limited, by the existence of another human being who also has rights."
Juli Loesch Wiley has thus, on numerous occasions, acknowledged both her Catholic identity, as well as her ability to think independently of Scripture, church doctrines, creeds and beliefs (e.g., the Catholic proscription of contraception) in the secular political arena. Perhaps in the future well see Catholics for Animal Rights.
Animal rights, as a secular, moral philosophy, may appear to be at odds with traditional religious thinking (e.g., human dominion over other animals), but this is equally true of democracy and representative government in place of the divine right of kings, the separation of church and state, the abolition of human slavery, the emancipation of women, birth control, lesbian and gay rights, and perhaps every kind of social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment.
Some of the greatest figures in human history have been in favor of ethical vegetarianism and animal rights. These include: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Alice Walker, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Browning, Percy Shelley, Voltaire, Thomas Hardy, Rachel Carson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Victor Hugo, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pythagoras, Susan B. Anthony, Albert Schweitzer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gertrude Stein, Frederick Douglass, Francis Bacon, William Wordsworth, the Buddha, Mark Twain, and Henry David Thoreau.
Abraham Lincoln once said: "I care not for a mans religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it." Some of the most distinguished figures in the history of Christianity have also been vegetarian: St. James the Just, St. Matthew, Clemens Prudentius, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, Aegidius, St. Benedict, Boniface, St. Richard of Wyche, St. Thomas More, St. Filippo Neri, St. Columban, John Wray, Thomas Tryon, John Wesley, Joshua Evans, William Metcalfe, General William Booth, Ellen White, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, and Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore.
In his 1975 book Animal Liberation, Peter Singer writes:
"A liberation movement is a demand for an end to prejudice and discrimination based upon an arbitrary characteristic like race or sex. The classic instance is the Black Liberation movement. The immediate appeal of this movement, and its initial, if limited, success, made it a model for other oppressed groups. We soon became familiar with Gay Liberation and movements on behalf of American Indians and Spanish-speaking Americans. When a majority groupwomenbegan their campaign some thought we had come to the end of the road."
Singer notes that "In comparison with other liberation movements, Animal Liberation has a lot of handicaps. First and most obvious is the fact that the exploited group cannot themselves make an organized protest against the treatment they receive (though they can and do protest to the best of their abilities individually).
"We have to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. You can appreciate how serious this handicap is by asking yourself how long blacks would have had to wait for equal rights if they had not been able to stand up for themselves and demand it. The less able a group is to stand up and organize against oppression, the more easily it is oppressed."
In Animal Liberation, Singer optimistically observes: "The environmental movement...has led people to think about our relations with other animals that seemed impossible only a decade ago. To date, environmentalists have been more concerned with wildlife and endangered species than with animals in general, but it is not too big a jump from the thought that it is wrong to treat whales as giant vessels filled with oil and blubber to the thought that it is wrong to treat pigs as machines for converting grains to flesh."
Singer admits that "Animal Liberation may sound more like a parody of other liberation movements that a serious objective." He notes that when Mary Wollstonecraft, a forerunner of todays feminists, published A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, "her views were widely regarded as absurd."
Thomas Taylor, a distinguished Cambridge philosopher, tried to refute Mary Wollstonecraft by demonstrating that if women could be given liberation, then animals could be given liberation, too. And since this is "absurd" it must be equally "absurd" to give women liberation. Southern slaveholders may have used this line of reasoning in resisting abolition. We find an identical line of thought in contemporary American society when it comes to extending human rights to the unborn:
"Abortion and slavery? Not even close. A fetus isnt human. If you believe its wrong to eat meat, should your morality be imposed upon everyone else?"
What if both practices (killing animals and killing unborn humans) are equally reprehensible? What if (like the movements in the 18th and 19th centuries to emancipate women and free the slaves) we are really talking about two very similar moral campaigns animal rights and prenatal rights?
This is the 21st century. People used to mistakenly think humans were omnivores; they know now that, in reality, we resemble the other primates (frugivores), and possess a set of completely herbivorous teeth. People used to worry if one could be healthy on a vegetarian diet; they know now that its healthier to be a vegetarian and that all kinds of delicious meatless alternatives are readily available. Celebrities like Paul McCartney and musical groups like the B-52s promote vegetarianism at rock concerts. Other celebrities, like Sara Gilbert of "Roseanne" fame, wear "Meat Stinks" T-shirts on television. And science and technology now provide us with alternatives to animal research and testing.
In secular circles, the animal rights movement is taken more seriously than the right-to-life movement. In an article on animal rights entitled "Just Like Us?" appearing in the August 1988 issue of Harpers, bioethicist Art Caplan was willing to seriously discuss the rights of animals, but warned:
"...if you cheapen the currency of rights language, youve got to worry that rights may not be taken seriously. Soon you will have people arguing that trees have rights and that embryos have rights..."
Peter Singer concludes in Animal Liberation that "by ceasing to rear and kill animals for food, we can make extra food available for humans that, properly distributed, it would eliminate starvation and malnutrition from this planet. Animal Liberation is Human Liberation, too."
Kathleen Marquardts Animal Scam is a must-read for animal activists in order to better understand the tactics and mentality of the other side. She has not succeeded in her efforts to discredit the animal rights movement. No serious student of animal liberation, however, can ignore her work.
The contents of this critique are public property meant to generate serious discussion on animals and their rights among supporters and opponents of animal liberation alike.
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The calf photo on this pages is from Farm Sanctuary with our thanks.
All of the beliefs and ideas presented by the writers of the reviewed publications may not necessarily represent all those held by The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation, but since they do seek to make this a kinder and more compassionate world, they have been included.
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