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 - 28 Jun 2006

Dear Frank & Mary,

Re: "If we assume, for the moment, that we can restructure existing organization to truly promote animal rights, what are a few of the things (briefly stated) that you would have them do?"

1. Insist on basic legal rights (not secondary rights without basic ones already in place) as the primary goal, with secondary rights and enforcement mechanisms to follow achievement of that goal.

2. Direct campaigns at publicly funded entities -- U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services, federal school lunch and breakfast programs, public school curricula and activities, agricultural extensions (these are linked to the land-grant universities, the targets of Responsible Policies for Animals' 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign but have some funding and activities distinct from the "animal science" programs and other parts of the curriculum), expenditures on foods and potentially inhumanely-made or -tested products at all levels of government, wildlife and environmental agencies, and more. Animal-exploiting and -abusing corporations and other private entities have much less public accountability. Successes regarding them, though initially encouraging, are very limited. Their public-relations operations and private-property rights ultimately put them beyond the movement's reach, because their activities are consistent with the existing human-supremacist & speciesist paradigm that most people want to perpetuate if they can rationalize doing so. Public entities should be held to Constitutional, legal, and political principles such as equal consideration for equal interests, due process, open records, open meetings, and reliance on evidence for decision-making.

3. Not promote "helping animals," "improving conditions" for exploited animals, or other welfarist measures as animal rights objectives or goals, since animal rights by definition means getting to where nonhuman animals don't need human help on a routine basis and no conditions will exist for exploited animals so they won't need improving.

4. Define as meaningful interim results and achievable objectives education as to what animal rights is and animal rights' enormous benefits to human beings. Not substituting benefits to humans for sentience as the argument for animal rights, but debunking claims that animal rights is anti-human and demonstrating that animal rights is what humans need most. As women's rights benefit men and civil rights benefit dominant as well as oppressed groups.

5. Explore and communicate about humans as deserving animal rights not currently existing or enforced and animal exploitation, oppression & abuse as original sources of similar mistreatment of humans.

6. Explore and educate about intricacies of how capitalism and politics work, to emphasize that animal rights is a matter of justice rather than personal traits such as compassion, caring, or empathy. Not to dismiss those traits as unimportant -- they're crucial to all interactions among human beings and between humans and other sentient beings -- but to heighten understanding of the important difference between the personal and the political, the incidental and the systemic, feelings and principles.

7. Accept the risk of being unpopular. Have faith that small numbers of people bring about fundamental change whereas large numbers of people usually only bring about minor changes. A small number created the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Constitution, and the United States; a large number made The Beatles more popular than the Beach Boys and can name the five members of the Simpsons family on TV but not the five guarantees under the First Amendment. A small number demonstrated that Earth orbits the sun and humans evolved from protozoa like the other animals; a large number say the sun goes down and humans are not animals.

The one principle behind all of those is to promote animal rights. I think it's so easy to revert to welfarism is that it's so easy to confuse rights with kindness, as if human rights were based on kindness. Many authors of the Constitution and proponents of the Bill of Rights were slave-owners and no kinder than other slave-owners or the blacksmiths or anyone else in their communities. As far as I know, they would never have heard "caring" used as an adjective to describe a human being. They understood political and social dynamics and shared a vision for replacing monarchy with a constitutional system. Animal rights advocates understand, in addition, neural, ethological, and ecological dynamics and share a vision for replacing human supremacy with respect for all sentient beings. We appear on various parts of the kindness continuum like all other humans.

I hope that helps. I deeply appreciate your interest in advancing animal rights. I look forward to discussing this further with you.

Best wishes,

David Cantor
Responsible Policies for Animals

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