Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness
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Establishing the Rights of Animals in Law and Human Consciousness

Comments by David Cantor - 8 Jun 2006

Dear Frank & Mary,

Thanks for your additional thoughts!

<< So, the question is, how do we reach more people who will listen and make positive changes? >>

Based on understanding why welfare cannot lead to rights and ever more animals will suffer as long as the animals lack legal rights, I think the question really is, How can we advance animal rights? Animal welfare can be said to produce positive changes -- for a very few animals while the billions continue enduring injustice. So can eating plants only. So just getting people to make positive changes won't lead to rights. People need to understand rights and that rights are the goal -- initially, basic legal rights, then secondary rights the implement and give meaning to basic rights.

Countless positive changes occurred for humans before they had rights. Those positive changes gave no protection against tyranny. As long as the human population continued to grow, ever more human suffering would have been endured if rights had not been established as the basic paradigm for human affairs. If we make don't make rights the focus of animal advocacy, it seems to me we invoke a double standard thereby rejecting interspecies equality, and perhaps we also deny the importance of rights in our lives. Yet with only positive changes and no rights, I have no doubt we'd either be imprisoned for the work we're freely doing or there never would have been a shred of a chance we'd even have imagined doing this work because oppression would be so severe and thorough -- just as there was no animal rights movement under Saddam Hussein.

I think you're right and wise to educate teenagers. But I think it's crucial that they understand rights is the goal and only pursuing rights can lead to rights. Positive means countless things to different people. I've seen many people refuse to support animal rights because "as long as I'm doing something positive, that's what really counts." That can even mean experimenting on nonhuman animals because "fighting disease is positive." It can mean, as one student at University of Vermont told me, serving the flesh industry as a veterinarian. Based on what I told him, he told me he's reconsidering that path.

Best,

David C.

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