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 - 22 Aug 2006

Dear Frank & Mary,

I'm attaching a draft introduction -- see what you think. I'm not sure it's brief enough or right in other ways either. The bee comparison comes partly from an entire day, this past Sunday, of listening to people who are deeply concerned for animals and at the same time unable to see they're promoting the status quo by focusing on compassion, etc.

It's hard for me to understand! So I sympathize. I sit and see the pain on people's faces, and I wonder, Is holding onto the pain gratifying in some way, so that advancing rights is "too intellectual" or too separate from the individual ego?

I've proposed (by typing it in) adding "& Destruction" at the end of the name of the document -- to cover animals not so much used by people as harmed because of ecological destruction, as in the melting of ice sheets, spewing of mercury into the air, clear-cutting for agribusiness or subdivisions, etc.

Meanwhile, I've made headway on possibly meeting with a pretty-high-up federal official about government misrepresentations of animal rights.


[email protected]


Only basic legal rights such as hundreds of millions of human beings enjoy can provide a basis for protecting the vast majority of nonhuman animals from suffering and destruction at human hands: That is the premise of the animal rights movement.

The declared, organized animal rights movement began more than a quarter-century ago with recognition that the animal-welfare paradigm is so deeply and fundamentally flawed that no amount of animal-welfare activity or promotion of animal welfare or the human compassion on which it is based can ever make animal welfare capable of protecting the vast majority.

Concern for all animals’ wellbeing and distress at so little progress toward a paradigm shift from animal welfare to animal rights have led more and more advocates to examine their methods and consider how best to advance the cause of animal rights. Living within a given paradigm makes it extremely difficult even for the most intelligent people to think beyond that paradigm’s parameters. So living our entire lives within the animal-welfare paradigm makes comprehending the proposed animal-rights paradigm fully nearly impossible for most people.

Several experienced animal advocates who made each other’s acquaintance in 2006 found themselves in agreement that the animal rights movement had for too long been repeating similar teachings and activities despite their proven inability to advance the animal-rights paradigm. Wishing to help ensure the movement’s eventual success, they spent countless hours trying to discern the precise nature and causes of the problem and drafting a brief document summarizing their conclusions and proposing a way forward. They call this document A 12-Step Program To Recover from Animal Exploitation & Destruction – the 12 Points for short.

The 12 Points is not intended as the final word in animal advocacy, and the authors do not assume putting its points into practice will be easy or that doing so will provide a magic bullet for snuffing out the animal-welfare / animal-exploitation paradigm of the last century-plus and replacing it with paradise under a new animal-rights paradigm. Instead, they see the 12 Points as necessities, without which animal rights cannot be advanced.

They also see the 12 Points as a guide to avoiding the single biggest obstacle that has hampered the animal-rights movement to date: keeping within the animal-welfare paradigm by focusing on stopping cruelty, helping animals, promoting compassion, and punishing animal abusers. Within the animal-welfare paradigm – a human world that accepts human supremacy and human domination of other animals’ lives as a core value – advocating for nonhuman animals in those ways is the only option, since ending animal use and domination is inconceivable.

Advancing animal rights, however, requires advocating outside of the animal-welfare paradigm. That means understanding that stopping cruelty, helping animals, promoting compassion, and punishing animal abusers are not animal-rights objectives, goals, strategies, or tactics. That is because under the animal-rights paradigm the animal use that generates cruelty will not take place; nonhuman animals will live according to their natures and therefore outside of the realm of human society and a need of help from humans; rights are based on justice, not on compassion, compassion being incapable of affording meaningful protection for nonhuman animals (or for human beings); and under the animal-rights paradigm violating nonhuman animals’ rights sometimes will and sometimes will not resemble misconduct that is called “animal abuse” under the animal-welfare paradigm.

Articulating animal-rights objectives, goals, strategies and tactics in animal-welfare language cannot help but perpetuate the animal-welfare paradigm the animal-rights movement aims to eliminate. As a bee trapped inside an automobile is unable to escape no matter how many times he or she encounters glass with the utmost certainty of flying through the space outside, human beings trapped within the animal-welfare paradigm by animal-welfare language, sentiment, and logic cannot conceivably advance animal rights no matter how certain they are that they are doing so and no matter how much support they enjoy.

The authors consider A 12-Step Program To Recover from Animal Exploitation & Destruction to be an evolving document that they and others can improve on over time. Because time is a-wastin’, nonhuman animals are suffering in vast numbers at human hands (even thousands of miles from the nearest pair of hands), their plight is rapidly worsening, and only basic legal rights can provide a basis for changing the situation, the authors chose to publish the document in its present form rather than take more time revising it further.

The authors will welcome suggestions for improving the document as well as reports of advocates’ experience in working to implement the 12 Points. Meanwhile, the authors will be hard at work seeking to implement them themselves

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