Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Threat Animal Rights Poses to Non Animal Industries

What if individual animals could sue BP or other non animal using industries for damages? The result would choke the courts and ruin the economy. Here's my take on an article in the ABA Journal that discusses the issue.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Eating Meat Made Humans Exceptionally Smart

I have decided not to keep a separate animal rights blog--this one--as well as a general bioethics/human exceptionalism blog, which I call Secondhand Smoke. The reason is that I end up posting all animal rights entries there anyway. So, from this post onward, when I post an animal rights-related entry at SHS, I will merely link it here rather than repeat or abridge the whole thing.

An NPR report posits that eating meat made us the human beings we are today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Risking Aviation Safety–For Geese>

Now this really drives me nuts. There is certainly nothing wrong with having safe havens for wildlife. They are generally good things. But if our devotion to animals risks human life, we have gone way overboard. And that appears to be behind the so far unsuccessful efforts to limit the goose population in a wildlife preserve near JKF Airport in the wake of bird strike last year that landed a jet in the Hudson River. From the story:
A year and a half after Canada geese forced an airliner to splash down in the Hudson River, officials are rounding them up in almost every part of the city — but flocks are still free to take off around John F. Kennedy International Airport. The wild birds were at the center of a government vs. government battle on Tuesday. A National Park Service official told The Associated Press that, for now, his agency won’t touch the hundreds of birds living in a refuge near Kennedy airport’s runways. “Our mission is to protect and preserve wildlife — that’s a law — and it isn’t a given that the removal of the geese is necessary to protect the flying public,” said Dave Avrin, the official at the Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Are you kidding me? Hundreds of people were almost killed by these geese. Indeed, but for a valiant captain, that plane might have crashed in the middle of the city! If the owner of private property won’t let the government in to kill the geese, the apparent excuse here, get a court order! Good grief.

Priorities, people! Those geese are beautiful animals–but in this context they are just birds. The entire gaggle is not worth one human life. They have already taken down one plane. Can you imagine the uproar if they take down another?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy Lauded in Review

Well, this is a nice way to start the day. Someone sent me a good review on MercatorNet (Australia) of A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy. And how refreshing: The reviewer really got where I am coming from. Here are a few excerpts:

Our society rests upon the unspoken acceptance of a number of truths, like the rule of law, the authority of reason, or solidarity with our neighbours. One of these is so obvious that it used to need no defenders: human exceptionalism, the notion that humans are special and unique amongst living things. But today, animal rights activists are holding a big question mark over this hitherto undisputed truth.

Radical animal rights activists deny that there is anything special about human beings. Their campaign to grant animals rights is ultimately a campaign to revise Shakespeare’s assessment – “in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals” — and disrobe him of any unique significance. That is the argument of this important book. Wesley J. Smith distinguishes between animal welfare and the animal rights movement. The humane treatment of animals is something all of us should support. But animal rights is a worrying development. What looks like a noble and worthwhile crusade is at bottom really an anti-human ideology. It is in fact “a belief system, an ideology, even a quasi religion, which both implicitly and explicitly seeks to create a moral equivalence between the value of human lives and those of animals,” says Smith.

The review discusses some of the ideological bases I report on and notes:

Smith warns us of what sort of world we would live in if these radicals had their way: “Medical research would be materially impeded. There would be no more fishing fleets, cattle ranches, leather shoes, steak barbecues, animal parks, bomb-sniffing or Seeing Eye dogs, wool coats, fish farms, horseback riding, pet stores… Millions of people would be thrown out of work, our enjoyment of life would be substantially diminished. Our welfare and prosperity reduced.” Indeed, all domestication of animals would be taboo. There goes the family pet.

The review discusses some of the examples of animal rights activism in my book, such as Holocaust on Your Plate,” and PETA’s scurilous “comic books” depicting parents as animal killers:

It is not just intellectuals and academics who are pushing all this. Activist groups are targeting children and schools. They seek to convince young children that all domestication of animals is evil, and they must rise up and act now. There are even PETA comics. One produced in 2003 for its anti-fur campaign, “Your Mommy KILLS Animals!”, depicts an evil-looking mother knifing a rabbit to death, with gore splattered all over the page. These fear campaigns and propaganda exercises are found in schools all around North America.

The ultimate point of the book, as SHSers know, is defending human exceptionalism:

Rights can apply only to humans, because only humans possess moral autonomy. Seeking to include animals in the area of rights “would degrade the importance of rights altogether, just as wild inflation devalues money”. Given that Switzerland is now talking about “plant rights” it is time that we started thinking clearly and soberly about what rights really mean, and why humans are unique. At the same time we can and should ensure proper animal welfare. Smith gets this balance right. With so much irrationality and emotion being generated on this issue, his cool logic and common sense come as a welcome relief.

I tried. Thanks very much to Bill Muehlenberg, a lecturer in ethics and philosophy at several Melbourne theological colleges and a PhD candidate at Deakin University, for his obvious careful reading of my book and his thoughtful analysis.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ban Whaling Based on Animal Welfare, Not Personhood

The anti human exceptionalists are–rather desperately, it seems to me–ever pretending that animals are like “us,” even as they say there is nothing special about being human anyway. And now, the effort to stop whaling has scientists in high anthropomorphic gear about pods of whales being “tribes” and alleged cetacean personhood. Latest example, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier, who argues that we should “Save a Whale, Save a Soul:”

After two years of transcontinental haggling, the commission had been expected to replace today’s hunting ban with limited hunting quotas. Supporters of the policy change had argued that by specifying how many whales of a given species could be sustainably harvested over a 10-year period, and by tightening or eliminating current loopholes through which whaling nations like Japan and Norway kill the marine mammals for “scientific” purposes, the new measure would effectively reduce the number of whales slaughtered each year.

Yet many biologists who study whales and dolphins view such a compromise as deeply flawed, and instead urge that negotiators redouble efforts to abolish commercial whaling and dolphin hunting entirely. As these scientists see it, the evidence is high and mounting that the cetacean order includes species second only to humans in mental, social and behavioral complexity, and that maybe we shouldn’t talk about what we’re harvesting or harpooning, but whom.

To show you where Angier is coming from, I blogged about her writing over at Secondhand Smoke after she ridiculously opined that plants are the most ethical life form on the planet because they live without killing. I guess she forgot that ethics requires rational analysis and the intentional creation of moral codes, activities in which only humans are capable of engaging. Oh, and what about those cruel venus flytraps? They digest their prey alive!

Here’s the thing: We don’t need to go through the mental contortion of making whales people too in order to support an international treaty banning commercial whaling. Human exceptionalism supports it based on our duty not to treat animals cruelly or cause animal suffering for little human benefit. The need for whale meat is very low and the cruelty of the killing method very high. That being so, it doesn’t matter that a pod of killer whales once seemed to play with dead salmon (discussed in Angier’s piece). As a matter of applying basic animal welfare principles, the arguments in favor of a commercial ban are clear and convincing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Creating Sick Pigs to Help Make Humans Well

Animal research is crucial to the quest to find treatments for the worst human illnesses. Toward this end, UK scientists are genetically altering pigs so that they will be born with currently incurable human diseases so that they can be used in drug research looking for effective treatments. From the story:

SCOTTISH scientists are creating pigs that are genetically modified to suffer from incurable human diseases – so they can be used by drug companies to test new therapies. The team of researchers is trying to produce pigs which are diseased with the lethal lung condition cystic fibrosis and an eye disease that leads to blindness in humans, The Scotsman has learned. The highly controversial research is being carried out at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, famous for creating Dolly the cloned sheep. If the team is successful, the diseased animals would be used by drug companies to test potential new gene therapies for the conditions…In a frank interview with The Scotsman, Dr Bruce Whitelaw, head of developmental biology at the Roslin Institute, admitted he had struggled with the idea of creating diseased animals purely to try to benefit humans. “We are saying we will make these animals sick purely for our benefit,” he admitted. However, he believes his team has a “moral right” to give the technique a try.

It might even rise to the level of a duty. This is potentially important work that could–not will, but could–tremendously benefit humankind. But animal rights activists think it is immoral and, indeed, evil. And note the nuanced ethical analysis that went into the decision to create the sick pigs:

“I don’t think we should use this technology for something we can currently treat just so we can make the treatment slightly better, but we should use it for diseases that we don’t have treatments for,” he said…He continued to justify the work by adding: “If we believe we need to have therapies for these diseases – and currently society en masse believes that – then we surely have to have that tested in the best way we can before it goes into that patient. “Then the better the animal model – the more likely it’s going to tell you something about going into a human patient – the better. “And basically mice are mediocre at best and the majority of studies are done on mice.”

That seems the right approach to me, and I say it without joy or relish. But the potential benefit to find ways to treat incurable human diseases justifies the harm caused by manufacturing sick pigs–which would never be justified doing to human beings because of our higher moral value than animals and the mutually equal moral worth to each other.

I’ll let you read the usual animal rights nonsense spouted by opponents about how animal research is pointless because animals and humans would not react identically to the experimental treatments, for yourselves. That isn’t the point of basic research, which needs living human organisms for testing, and as the story points out, in this situation the pigs are closer to us than mice.

Here is the conundrum: New medicines at some point have to be tested on a living organism. That can be dangerous and, indeed, may fail. But if we don’t do it, medical advancements will slow to a crawl, at best. Thus, it is either risk mice–or as in this case, pigs–or endanger humans. So which matters more, us or animals? I vote, us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Animal Rights Protestors Meet Their Match

This undoubtedly isn’t true, nor do I really want it to be because it would involve assault. But still, the premise has definite appeal. From the “story:”

Johnstown, PA (GlossyNews) – Local and state police scoured the hills outside rural Johnstown, Pennsylvania, after reports of three animal rights activists going missing after attempting to protest the wearing of leather at a large motorcycle gang rally this weekend. Two others, previously reported missing, were discovered by fast food workers “duct taped inside several fast food restaurant dumpsters,” according to police officials.

“Something just went wrong,” said a still visibly shaken organizer of the protest. “Something just went horribly, horribly, wrong.” The organizer said a group of concerned animal rights activist groups, “growing tired of throwing fake blood and shouting profanities at older women wearing leather or fur coats,” decided to protest the annual motorcycle club event “in a hope to show them our outrage at their wanton use of leather in their clothing and motor bike seats.” “In fact,” said the organizer, “motorcycle gangs are one of the biggest abusers of wearing leather, and we decided it was high time that we let them know that we disagree with them using it…ergo, they should stop.”

Right. Fat chance.

This is clearly a satire. Not even animal rights activists are dumb enough to harass a motorcycle gang! But protesters who throw paint and engage in other such activities are bullies, so who can blame people for smiling at such a revenge fantasy?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Seal Sues

One of the biggest–yet little known–agenda items of the animal rights movement is what is known as animal standing, that is, granting animals the right to bring lawsuits (discussed in detail in my book and in this article on NRO). (Of course, the real litigants would be animal rights and environmental extremists looking to shut down human enterprise and animal industries in support of their ideology.)

It keeps being tried by animal rights and environmental radical lawyers, and keeps being turned down. But there is no downside. Bringers of these claims are never punished or sanctioned, and moreover, they know that all they need is one court, and these days, anything is possible in court.

There is now another of these animal standing cases now pending seeking a ruling that would grant a seal the right to sue. From the column by Christopher Stone, who claims to “represent” the seal:

It is not uncommon for a law professor to have a client on death row. Mine is a sea lion. He goes by C657, an identity branded into his flesh by the Army Corps of Engineers. C657 got onto the wrong side of the law by, allegedly, eating salmon at the base of the Bonneville Dam spillway in the Pacific Northwest. That, the National Marine Fisheries Service says, is a federal offense, punishable by rifle fire. We lost in the lower court, which ruled that sea lions had no standing. His case is before an Oregon appeals court. C657’s case involves much more than the fate of a single sea lion, and not merely because six similarly situated sea lions were shot in March when a stay of execution expired. The larger principle is the right of nonhumans to sue in their own names, with lawyers as their guardians. I believe the facts of C657’s case illustrate the merits of permitting some such suits.

The words we use matter. The seals weren’t “executed.” Execution under color of law is punishment for a crime. The seals did not commit a crime, and indeed are incapable of such because they are amoral. They were destroyed–that’s the proper term–to save the salmon run as part of ecological management. To state otherwise is to try to turn seals into persons and the equivalent of humans. Of course, that’s the reason Stone used the term.

Stone next tries to downplay the importance of the whole thing by stating that lawsuits brought by animals and nature–which he also supports–will rarely happen, so no big deal:

Granted, the idea of rights for nature invites many objections. Among them I would not the include that: The courts, besieged on every hand. Will crowd with suits by chunks of land. Lawyers value their time, and brooks have shallow pockets. Lawsuits on behalf of nonhumans are therefore unlikely to be frivolous.

Who is he kidding? HSUS has more than $200 million in assets and is chewing at the bit (pardon the pun) to bring animal lawsuits. PETA is rolling in dough. Rich bank rollers like Paul McCartney will happily donate to animal lawsuits. Such suits could quickly become an easy way of raising big money from regular donors and could become a racket with animal industries paying protection settlement money to keep out of court. Then there is the pro bono bar at the big corporate firms that induce liberal young lawyers to work for big corporations, in part by agreeing to let them assuage their consciences by bringing “cause” lawsuits. No, with more than 100 law schools churning out lawyers trained in animal law, there would be an atomic explosion of such cases, and with, it the destruction of many animal industries.

But the real purpose of the suit isn’t just to save the seal, but to destroy human exceptionalism. Stone concludes:

C657 (currently reprieved in a Texas aquarium) wants his day in court. More than that, C657 wants to contest humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet.

Please. C657 wants to do no such things. It is oblivious. No, Christopher Stone wants his ilk wish to “contest humankind’s self-appointed place atop the planet.” The seal is just the front for the real agenda.

When you think about it, this is all very odd. We dominate all other life forms. We manage species and environments. We are unquestionably atop the planet, to the point we are accused by the radical environmentalist crowd that we must sacrifice ourselves to save the planet from ourselves.

Stone may wish to pretend otherwise, but in his very attempt to destroy human exceptionalism, ironically, he is engaging in it. By urging self sacrifice for the sake of other species as a moral imperative, he seeks to force us to adopt a radical forbearance of which humans are uniquely capable. I mean our salmon industry is in real trouble, and one cause is the seals who eat countless millions of the fish before we can catch them. If we were like other species, we would try to kill our competitors or drive them away. But we protect them. Name one other known creature in the known universe that has ever done that but us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Animal Rights Terrorists--Not Religion--to Blame for Outsourcing Animal Research

I don’t mean for this to be pick on Peter Singer week, but blame him for being so wrong at every opportunity. Singer has a piece in the Guardian decrying the outsourcing of animal research to countries with weak welfare rules. Great! We are, for once, on the same page.

But Singer isn’t really after the outsourcing, but religion. From his piece:

Last week, the chief minister of Malacca, Mohamad Ali Rustam, was quoted in the Guardian as saying that God created monkeys and rats for experiments to benefit humans. Activists had been protesting against his approval of an Indian company’s proposal to build an animal research laboratory in his state. They said that Malaysia has no regulations to protect animals in laboratories. His answer was the reference to God’s purpose in creating animals. If it were not for the dire consequences for the animals who will suffer in the laboratory, the chief minister’s remark would be hilarious. Here is the head of a Malaysian state justifying the establishment of a scientific enterprise with a comment that flies in the face of everything science tells us. The belief that the animals exist because God created them – and that he created them so we can better meet our needs – is contrary to our scientific understanding of evolution and, of course, to the fossil record, which shows the existence of non-human primates and other animals millions of years before there were any human beings at all.

Okay, but what about animal welfare? Not yet:

The chief minister’s comment is yet another illustration of the generally regressive influence that religion has on ethical issues – whether they are concerned with the status of women, with sexuality, with end-of-life decisions in medicine, with the environment, or with animals. Although religions do change, they change slowly, and tend to preserve attitudes that have become obsolete and often are positively harmful.

Yada, yada, yada. But what about the animals? Finally, at the very end:

Independently of the problems of reactionary religious belief, the trend to establish animal testing facilities in countries with weak or no regulations is an extremely worrying one. As regulations improve in Europe, North America, Australia and other countries, it seems that unscrupulous entrepreneurs are engaged in a race to the bottom. If we are concerned about the exploitation of human workers in countries with low standards of worker protection, we should also be concerned about the treatment of even more defenceless non-human animals. At present, the only hope of reversing this trend seems to be pressure on companies not to test their products in countries without good animal welfare regulations, and pressure on research institutions not to have links with such countries. But to unravel the connections and make them clear to consumers is, unfortunately, going to be a difficult task.

I agree with him on that, but what he fails to mention is one of the most important causes of this outsourcing of ethics (in Bill Hurlbut’s provocative turn of phrase) is the fear generated by animal rights terrorism. Singer has spoken against violence in the past, but not very robustly. This piece would have been a good time to bring that crucial point up with ringing clarity. Too bad he preferred instead to use most of his column as a jeremiad against religion. Indeed, I think it tells us clearly where is priorities lie.A

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Terrorists Blow Up Donkey–PETA’s Past Protest

Terrorists have unsuccessfully attempted to kill innocent people by detonating an explosive packed on a donkey cart. From the story:
A small Syrian-backed terrorist group in Gaza said its activists blew up a donkey cart laden with explosives close to the border with Israel on Tuesday, killing the animal but causing no human casualties. Abu Ghassan, spokesman for the terrorist group, said more than 200 kilograms of dynamite were heaped on the animal-drawn cart. He added that the explosives were detonated 60 meters from the concrete security barrier that separates the territory from Israel.
Why do I think some people will care more about the dead animal--which was a terrible thing to do--than they would have the people who could have been killed? Oh, that's right. This has happened once before, after which PETA wrote an angry letter of protest to Yassar Arafat, not about the intifada that was killing a lot of people at the time, but the dead donkey. Here it is:
February 3, 2003

Yasser Arafat, President...

Your Excellency:

I am writing from an organization dedicated to fighting animal abuse around the world. We have received many calls and letters from people shocked at the bombing in Jerusalem on January 26 in which a donkey, laden with explosives, was intentionally blown up.

All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire. The U.S. Army abandoned thousands of loyal service dogs in Vietnam. Al-Qaeda and the British government have both used animals in hideously cruel biological weaponry tests. We watched on television as stray cats in your own compound fled as best they could from the Israeli bulldozers.

Animals claim no nation. They are in perpetual involuntary servitude to all humankind, and although they pose no threat and own no weapons, human beings always win in the undeclared war against them. For animals, there is no Geneva Convention and no peace treaty—just our mercy.

If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?

We send you sincere wishes of peace.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk
President, PETA
Of course, the letter was not intended to touch the heart of Arafat. It was a typical publicity stunt by Newkirk, who is adept at taking any news item and wrangling it to gain publicity for PETA--as in the recent Octomom neuter the doggies stunt.

No statement so far from PETA on the latest donkey casualty.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

PETA and Octomom: Publicity Hounds Made For Each Other

Just when you thought the culture couldn't become more demeaned. From the story:

It's official. Octomom Nadya Suleman doesn't want your dog or cat following in her footsteps. As a front yard full of paparazzi cheered her on, Suleman unveiled a 3-foot-by-4-foot plastic sign Wednesday that reads: "Don't Let Your Dog or Cat Become an Octomom. Always Spay or Neuter." "Turn left. Pose. Smile, Nadya," photographers jockeying for position shouted as Suleman stood in front of the sign.

A few curious onlookers stopped to watch as a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals mascot (a person in a dog suit) gave her a hug. PETA is paying Suleman $5,000 to keep the sign on her front door until June 9, the deadline when city officials say it must be removed. The organization is also throwing in a month's supply of veggie hot dogs and burgers for her and her 14 children. Suleman, 34, acknowledged she put the sign on her door partly for the money but added her support of PETA is sincere. "I love animals and I do believe they should be spayed or neutered," she said. "Humans of course are much different."

Not to the anti humanists at PETA. But talk about a made for each other moment. Good Grief.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Honest Abe Wasn't for Animal Rights: Honest

Animal rights activists often like to tout a purported quote from our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. Here’s the alleged quote:

I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of the whole human being.

I read at least one Lincoln biography a year, and I have never come across that line–and believe me, it would have caught my attention! So, I did a little on-line research. And guess what? It’s fake. I checked many sites for this, but this seems to sum it up:

An examination of such website claims led to a single quotation, the earliest source of which I’ve found is a book by Jon Wynne-Tyson, British publisher and author of books on vegetarianism and animal rights. He claims that Lincoln said or wrote (unclear which): “I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights.

Lincoln certainly had a soft heart for animals. He didn’t hunt big game and may not have hunted at all. He owned a dog named Fido in Springfield (pictured, above), and a lapdog named Jip in the White House, as well as assorted cats. He saved a chick that had fallen out of its nest and once while riding with a friend, he doubled back to save a pig stuck in the mud, even though it meant he would be covered too. He gave what was probably the first presidential pardon to a turkey being fattened for Christmas dinner. But that wasn’t because he was worried about the life of the bird: His son Tad had named the turkey and made it his pet, and so Lincoln didn’t want to hurt his son.

But animal rights? No. He wore leather shoes and boots. He rode horses. He ate meat with relish. Besides, the core belief of “animal rights”–that humans and animals have equivalent moral worth–did not exist in the 19th Century in America, and indeed, would have been astounding and beyond the pale to Honest Abe–particularly given the difficulties of the time concerning the intrinsic equality of all humans. Heck, they are astounding and beyond the pale to me in 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chimps Don't "Do" Art

The problem is, this is what many animal rightists--and Piraro is one--really believe. I remember, after writing an anti animal rights column for the San Francisco Chronicle, I received an e-mail (or perhaps it was a letter to the editor), claiming that even if a chimp wrote a symphony, I wouldn't want it to have rights!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Speech to Animal Ag Alliance Covered by Washngton Times

I gave a speech to the Animal Ag Alliance in Arlington yesterday. It was covered by the Washington Times. From the story:
The agriculture industry is under attack from a powerful, popular and well-funded lobby - animal rights groups, which want to see it die completely, said two speakers at the Animal Agriculture Alliance 9th Anual Stakeholders Summit in Arlington, Va., Wednesday. "You are not dealing with people who want to reach acommodation with the agricultural industry about what is proper animal husbandry," Wesley Smith, author of the 2010 book "A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement," told the audience, which comprised primarily members of the animal agriculture industry. "Their intent is that you have no pigs, that you have no chickens ... in fact the agenda is to do away with all animal domesticity, which they see as a multi-generational project."

He noted the irony inherent in veganism, a practice in which one consumes no animal products, because of the large number of rodents and snakes that die in grain silos and in grain fields during harvest. "Nobody on this planet ... eats unless animals die," he said. "Veganism is just as much "murder" as eating meat is."

Smith distinguished between the terms 'animal rights' and 'animal welfare' and said groups that claim to be involved in the former are not concerned about the treatment of animals, but rather in furthering ther agenda of equating animal and human worth via the proponence of legal rights for animals. "They do not believe we should look at the human benefit" of using animals for drug testing, food or clothing, Smith said, adding that foremost on American animal rights' groups agenda at the moment is to allow animals to sue humans directly. He told the story of a Swiss court case in which a lawyer represented a fish that had been caught and consumed in an animal abuse case. The fisherman had been accused of taking too long to reel in the fish.
That part about veganism is murder, too always riles the animal rights activists. But there is no denying that vegan diets also result in the killing of countless animals--with what might be called reckless disregard for their safety--which if done to humans would be just as much murder as intentionally killing specific people. If animal rightists were consistent, they would protest combines and demand hand harvesting to save the field mice and snakes.

Now Animals Have a Right to Privacy?

It all gets to be too much: Animals don't have the same sense of privacy or modesty that we have. But a university professor--of course!--claims that nature documentaries violate animals' putative "right to privacy." From the story:
Dr Brett Mills from the University of East Anglia argues that while wildlife programmes can play a vital role in engaging citizens in environmental debates, in order to 'do good' they must inevitably deny many species the right to privacy. Published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Dr Mills' study analyses the 'making of' documentaries that accompanied the BBC wildlife series Nature's Great Events (2009). Exploring the debates on ethics, animal welfare and rights and human rights, Dr Mills suggests that animals have a right to privacy but this is turned into a challenge for the production teams, who use newer forms of technology to overcome species' desire not to be seen.
Right. They're naked! And notice the blatant anthropomorphizing:
Dr Mills said: "It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behaviour which suggest they'd rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy. "When confronted with such 'secretive' behaviour the response of the wildlife documentary is to read it as a challenge to be overcome with the technologies of television. The question constantly posed by wildlife documentaries is how animals should be filmed: they never ask whether animals should be filmed at all."

A justification could be made for filming animals as they roam plains and deserts and engage in hunting activities because these are 'public' events, which take place in locations which include many other animals, and in which the animal being filmed makes no explicit attempt to not be seen. Yet animal activities which might equate with human notions of the private are treated in a way which suggests the public/private distinction does not hold. For example, many species could be read as desiring not to be seen -- animals in burrows and nests have constructed a living space which equates with the human concept of the home, and commonly do this in locations which are, by their very nature, explicitly hidden, often for practical purposes. "Human notions of privacy which rest on ideas of location or activity are ignored in terms of animals. It doesn't matter what an animal does, or where it does it, it will be deemed fair game for the documentary," said Dr Mills.
Animals aren't people! "Consent" is a foreign concept to them in this context, and there is no such thing as private and public spheres in the natural world. They act secretly because they instinctively are trying to avoid being eaten, not because they want personal privacy. Good grief.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

As I pound the drum against animal rights in my book and on the media--most recently today on Wisconsin Public Radio, Kathleen Dunn, an interview that I found to be interesting and thorough (available by following this link)--I have repeatedly distinguished between animal rights and animal welfare, the latter about improving our treatment of animals, the former about ending all animal domestication. I have also repeatedly noted that animal rights, unlike animal welfare, creates an explicit moral equivalence between the value of human life and that of animals.

Some have criticized me for this assertion, accusing me of overstating the case. Oh really? Well hearken to the words of animal rights leader Steven Best, who defined animal rights in a radio interview. From the transcript:
FB: I want to come back to that, but, first of all I wanted both of you to define the term animal rights or animal liberation, depending on which one you prefer, in your own view.

SB: Well, animal rights is saying animals are equal to us, after all, we are animals, we’re just talking about other animals, and that we all have an interest in living a life of freedom and free from pain and torture and death and free to be with members of our family. To be in the natural world. to fulfill our wishes and desires. When you have these interests taken seriously and an equal value, and you have a legal system, such as in capitalist society, that backs those rights as guaranteed, they cannot be for-fitted, they are inalienable rights, they protect these basic freedoms that you have as defined in this society. That is what a right does. So if humans have rights, animals have rights for the same reasons. It’s the exact same reasons. You must be consistent in applying this concept of rights. But liberation takes us a step further because liberation is not waiting for a legal change. It’s not waiting for the legislature to bring these rights to animals. Liberation is more involved with direct action and directly taking a role in freeing animals yourselves from these conditions of oppression and opening up and smashing every damn cage and door that you can that is oppressing an animal. That is animal liberation.
Or to put it another way, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. It doesn't get any more explicit than that.

It's also anti human, often symbiotically connected with misanthropic radical environmentalism. Again, from Best:
We have to actively oppose these and we have to intervene at increasingly radical levels. Why? Because the oppression, the destruction of life and of this earth, is becoming increasingly radical. We need to do more and we need stronger and fiercer tactics to resist this. And so, I found myself also evolving more and always fearing that I wasn’t doing enough. And recognizing that I had to be more involved and I had to get more involved in protests, and then I realized the protests were also a form of control and I had to find other ways of interfering with the systems of power and domination. I started going direct action. And I started recognizing that we have to be more involved not just as individuals, as lifestyle vegans, but as political beings involved in social movements and resistance movements, and actively trying to transform this entire planet, this madhouse that we live in, into something sustainable and sane, and something that we could be proud to call a human creation or a community that we belong to. You see, that’s the key thing, what I call the Moral Copernican Revolution, when we recognize that the world does not belong to us, we belong to the world. And we live in a larger community that we belong to. And if you ask, what roles have we played in this community? And have we been good citizens in this equal community? This planetary community? My God, we’ve been barbarians. We’ve been invaders. We’ve been plunderers. We’ve been evil fascists playing with life on bayonets. We have to pull back from this planet. We have to reduce our numbers, our impact, and we have to allow other species to regain their foothold, and the diversity of this beautiful planet to flourish.
As I detail at greater length in my new book, animal rights is radical. It is anti human (sometimes, as here explicitly, sometimes implicitly or in outcomes), if implemented would be very destructive to human welfare, and for some, is an excuse for violence. Animal rights is subversive and should be rejected outright, as we continue the important work of creating ever improving and rational animal welfare standards.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Evidence That Humane Society of US is a Stealth Animal Rights Organization

HSUS–no connection with your local humane society–is the richest animal rights organization in the world, with assets north of $200 million. It doesn’t pitch the animal rights dogma, but works assiduously to attack and undermine animal industries. Sometimes HSUS finds genuine abuses, which should be corrected no matter how they are uncovered, and sometimes its charges are specious. But it seems to me that it’s ultimate goal is not “welfare,” e.g. using animals for human benefit of i humanely, but “rights,” e.g. an eventual end to animal domestication. With its head honcho, Wayne Pacelle, and other HSUS leaders coming out of explicitly animal rights backgrounds, its stated opposition to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, and its role in putting pregnant pigs into the Florida Constitution, its “animal protection” veneer seems more a tactical approach than an explicit commitment to animal welfare philosophy.

An opinion article in the Des Moines Register provides further evidence to validate my theory. From the column, “It’s not all about saving puppies at the activist Humane Society” by David Mastio:

Humane Society funds People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, according to its most recent IRS disclosure forms posted on the group’s Web site. PETA openly campaigns to stop the consumption of meat. “Meat is Murder,” you know.

And let us not forget PETA’s odious Holocaust on Your Plate campaign that equated meat eating with Nazi death camps. PETA is unequivocally an anti human organization (Ingrid Newkirk stated she wishes humans had never appeared on the planet) that promotes animal rights dogma far and wide. Funding PETA, unless based in ignorance, means one is pro animal rights. Pacelle and his crew are not ignorant. Hence, he and HSUS can only be described as pro animal rights.

The group raises money implying it runs pet shelters by showing abused cats and dogs. But as Mastio shows that this is far less than it seems. HSUS doesn’t own a single pet shelter and gives very little of its budget to fund bonafide shelters. Mastio gives this example from Iowa:

Even the money that gets sent to local animal shelters is dubious. For instance, the largest grant from the Humane Society of the United States in Iowa, disclosed in the latest IRS forms, is $9,044 to a shelter in Fairfield. According to the shelter’s Web site, the money was used to give Humane Society-produced propaganda to grade school teachers for use in classrooms. Among other things it asks children to pressure their schools to use only cage-free eggs and write to their congressional representatives. Turning kids into little lobbyists isn’t direct animal care. Paying a local animal shelter to distribute literature encouraging political activism isn’t supporting the shelter. And that’s the Humane Society of the United States – politics hiding behind precious little actual charity.

And that political advocacy is based on ideology, and that ideology is not animal welfare, but animal rights.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Using Less Animal Antibiotics Not a Matter of Animal Rights

There was a thoughtful opionion article in the New York Times Sunday about industrial farming and the potential over use of antibiotics to keep the animals from becoming infected. I found myself in complete agreement with the approach and, as a consequence, very open to the proposed solution. From the column by Stanford professor emeritus Donald Kennedy:

Agribusiness argues — as it has for 30 years — that livestock need to be given antibiotics to help them grow properly and keep them free of disease. But consider what has happened in Denmark since the late 1990s, when that country banned the use of antibiotics in farm animals except for therapeutic purposes. The reservoir of resistant bacteria in Danish livestock shrank considerably, a World Health Organization report found. And although some animals lost weight, and some developed infections that needed to be treated with antimicrobial drugs, the benefits of the rule exceeded those costs.

It’s 30 years late, but Congress should now pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would ban industrial farms from using seven classes of antibiotics that are important to human health unless animals or herds are ill, or pharmaceutical companies can prove the drugs’ use in livestock does not harm human health. The pharmaceutical industry and agribusiness face the difficult challenge of developing antimicrobials that work specifically against animal infections without undermining the fight against bacteria that cause disease in humans. But we don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer to protect those at risk of increasing antibiotic resistance.

I don’t know that it has been proven that antibiotic use in animals helps promote resistant bacteria in humans. But be that as it may, Kennedy’s approach is the right way to debate issues involving the industrial farming of animals–one that deals in evidence rather than rants, and which considers both the important matter of animal welfare–as opposed to rights–as well as the overriding concern of human well-being and thriving. Or to put it another way, more reason, less diatribe: Yup, that’s the ticket.

Bestiality: Besmirching Intrinsic Human Dignity

As the coup de culture progresses, hedonism increases, leading to some decadent behaviors that are destructive to intrinsic human dignity. Bestiality is one such behavior, and in Washington State, a man has been arrested for, in effect, pimping his animals for sex. From the disgusting story:
Douglas Spink, 39, a one-time dot.com millionaire, convicted drug smuggler and horse trainer, was quietly living on rural property south of Sumas when he connected with James Tait, who was in a Tennessee jail on a bestiality charge... The two men's communications set in motion an investigation that resulted in Spink's arrest Wednesday at the Sumas farm for suspicion of violating his federal probation for drug smuggling. Federal prosecutors and Whatcom County sheriff's officials say Spink also allowed people to come to the farm and have sex with animals. He was "promoting tourism of this nature for bestiality," Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said Friday. When county deputies and federal investigators searched the property they found videotapes that included images of a man, who was visiting the property, having sex with several large-breed dogs.
I bring this up only because whenever bestiality hits the news, some people have trouble defining precisely what is wrong with having sex with animals--and some don't seem to think it is wrong at all. Peter Singer, for example, notoriously defended bestiality in a book review ("Heavy Petting," warning crude language), essentially shrugging off bestiality as merely two animals rubbing body parts. Meanwhile, the Huffington Post's resident bioethicist, Jacob Appel, wrote that he didn't see it as significantly different from tossing a dog a Frisbee, ignoring the powerful intimacy and profound symbolism of sexuality in human culture. This is why rape, even when it doesn't cause physical injury, is a profound personal violation and will be punished far more severely than punching and breaking somebody's nose.

Of course, most people still object to bestiality, but many seem to have a difficult time expressing why they believe it is wrong. Some speak of the animals not consenting, for example. But that isn't it. After all, steers don't consent to become steak and sheep don't consent to let us have their wool for clothing.

Rather, by definition, bestiality is abuse. Animals did not evolve, were not created, and/or were not intelligently designed--take your pick--to be mere outlets for our lust, and using them in this way denigrates the respect we owe them as living beings with intrinsic value. And yes, it is not disrespectful to eat a food animal--food chains, after all, being part of the normal cycle of life--but it would be to use it as a sexual vessel or outlet.

Connected to this, but even more importantly, bestiality undermines and besmirches human exceptionalism. As I wrote in the wake of a man who died after sexual intercourse with a stallion, and in the wake of resistance in some quarters in Washington to legislation to outlaw the practice, bestiality is a frontal assault against human dignity. From my Weekly Standard article on the issue, "Horse Sense:"

Bestiality is so very wrong not only because using animals sexually is abusive, but because such behavior is profoundly degrading and utterly subversive to the crucial understanding that human beings are unique, special, and of the highest moral worth in the known universe--a concept known as "human exceptionalism."...

Nothing would more graphically demonstrate our unexceptionalism than countenancing human/animal sex. Thus, when Roach's legislation[to criminalize bestiality] passes [it eventually did], the law's preamble should explicitly state that one of the reasons bestiality is condemned through law is that such degrading conduct unacceptably subverts standards of basic human dignity and is an affront to humankind's inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth.

Some things are not defensible. It seems to me that abusing animals sexually, which simultaneously debasing one's own humanity, comes within that category.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wesley J. Smith on C-Span About A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy

About a month ago, I traveled to Seattle to give a speech at the Discovery Institute about my new book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. The event was covered by C-Span and is now available for viewing by hitting this link.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trying to Turn Whales Into "Persons"

Paloa Cavalieri is the co-editor and author, with Peter Singer, of The Great Ape Project, which seeks to create a “moral community of equals” among human beings, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos. The point is to “break the species barrier” and bring the entire animal kingdom into the moral community based on “quality of life” utilitarianism of the kind pitched ubiquitously by singer.

Cavalieri is opposed to whaling, and claims their “personhood” justifies a ban. From his article:

We have discovered that whales “sing.” Scientists have explained that whale societies display complex and stable vocal and behavioral cultures previously suggested only for humans. More impressively still, research into whale behavior points to an ability to look to the past, present and future — functions on which consciousness of oneself as a distinct entity existing in time are mounted.

A relevant backward-looking attitude is revealed, for instance, when hordes of whales, returning to their original territory after long-distance trips, first sing the old songs of the previous year, and then the new songs; the existence of a conscious self in the present, with the attendant ability to attribute mental states to others, is apparent in cases of whales doing acrobatic maneuvers to warn approaching vessels of their presence; and female killer whales’ tutoring of their offspring in the dangerous activity of ­shallow-water hunting offers evidence of the capacity for formulating and carrying out plans.

Since, according to current ethical reflection, the concept of being a person is the concept not of belonging to a certain species but of being endowed with certain mental properties — particularly, self-consciousness — whales turn out to be nonhuman persons, thus confirming the moral soundness of both the trend in international law and the intuitive popular view.

No. Whales are not persons. They may be intelligent, but they are not moral beings as humans are, and hence as a species, none have rights or duties–whether toward and from each other, us, or any species with which they come into contact.

There certainly are cogent and important animal welfare principles that could justify a ban on whaling. Unlike a few hundred years ago, the human need to harvest whales is quite low, and moreover, the method of killing is painful and cruel. But whales are not persons, and if they are ever so deemed, human exceptionalism will destroyed. But of course, that’s the point.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: Setting the Table, Part 2

This is the third post devoted to the content of my new book. In the first post, I quoted from novelist Dean Koontz's preface, and about six weeks ago, I excerpted the opening section of the Introduction. Today, we conclude our look at the Introduction, in which I wrote:
Perhaps we should not be surprised at the growth of the animal rights movement. Americans love animals. We coo over and coddle our cats and dogs as if they were human children. We paste “Save the Whales” bumper stickers on our cars. We flock to national parks to catch fleeting glimpses of bear, elk, and antelope, remnants of the wild America that once was and yet, still is. We fictionalize and anthropomorphize the animal world with movies like Bambi and Babe. We want our cheese to come from “happy cows.” At the same time, as primarily urbanites, we disassociate ourselves emotionally from the fact that meat comes from killing animals and that our stylish leather jackets were first worn by cows or sheep as their skin.

This love affair with animals can often be charming, if a bit loopy. It is also a potent indicator of our prosperity and cultural success. Most in the West have become so removed from the struggle for daily survival that we now have the luxury of caring deeply about animals and their suffering—which is a good thing. Moreover, our care for animals reflects our empathy, one of the great human virtues.
I then discuss an incident that I think illustrates how we project our own emotional attributes onto animals:
Our deep affinity with animals begins very early in life. I was reminded of this a few years ago whilst on a family vacation to Ireland. In the west coastal town of Dingle there is a unique tourist attraction: “Fungi” the lone dolphin. Tourist boats advertise trips into the harbor to see Fungi, with no fee charged unless he makes an appearance. Liking dolphins and wanting to see one up close, my wife Debra, niece Jennifer, and I eagerly bought tickets, and along with about 20 other tourists, were soon on a boat slowly cruising toward the mouth of Dingle’s small picturesque harbor.

As if on cue, Fungi arrived, swimming almost within reach on the starboard side. We all pressed eagerly up against the railing to get a good look. I was standing behind a very excited little boy—who couldn’t have been older than four—ecstatic at being so close to the magnificent animal. Suddenly, he sighed in ecstasy, held his arms out as wide as he could, and with all of the love in his innocent heart, crooned, “Ah, Fungi!”

It was a touching moment. Fungi was utterly indifferent to the child, no doubt swimming alongside the boat knowing he would be fed by a deck hand as his usual cut of the day’s profits for making an “appearance.” But to the little boy, Fungi epitomized the joy and hope of life itself.
I segue from there to Debra, during the same vacation, reading an awful passage to us from a biography of the French novelist Alexandre Dumas, in which he killed a dolphin--simply because he never had:
“Why did you read us that?” Jennifer and I moaned in unison, our splendid moods of the moment ruined at the thought of such gratuitous cruelty against an innocent animal. The fact that the incident had occurred more than one hundred years previously did nothing to diminish our upset.

And yet: Killing animals has always been and remains inextricably bound with human thriving. We do so for food and leather, in medical research, in sport, and when necessary, to ensure a proper environmental balance. More to the point, there is a lot at stake in this debate. Indeed, pause a moment and consider the impact if we were prevented—as animal rights/liberationists advocate—from domesticating animals. Medical research would be materially impeded. There would be no more fishing fleets, cattle ranches, leather shoes, steak barbecues, animal parks, bomb-sniffing and Seeing-Eye dogs, wool coats, fish farms, horseback riding, pet stores, Indeed, in the end, perhaps not even attractions like Fungi. Millions would be thrown out of work, our enjoyment of life would be profoundly diminished, our welfare and prosperity materially reduced.
From there, I lay out the structure of the book, and then bring the Introduction to a close:
The stakes in the animal rights are larger than the sum of its parts. It is my hope that after reading this book, readers will agree that it is a distinctly human and noble calling to continually implement ever-improving methods for raising and caring for animals. But this must not and cannot include granting rights to animals as if they were people. Indeed, I hope this book will convincingly demonstrate that the very concept of animal rights should be rejected because by seeking to destroy the principle of human exceptionalism the movement subverts human rights as it undermines our ability to promote human health, prosperity, and well-being.
In coming weeks, I will be doing some well known nationally syndicated radio programs about all this, both in a debate format and as a sole guest. Once the final details are set, I will let y'all know in case you want to tune in.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Human Exceptionalism: Stopping Ivory Poaching and Culling Elephant Herds Part of the Same Project

Animal rights advocates and their emotionalist allies often wail, "They're killing the elephants!" when castigating needed culling in the African wild animal parks. They are wrong about that. Failing to cull would result in destroyed environments and possible elephant starvation, not to mention harm to other species.

But there is a form of elephant hunting that is wrong--ivory poaching. And that needs to be prevented--which was the laudable purpose of the legally enforceable international ivory trade ban.

Tanzania and Zambia tried to weaken the existing ban--for understandable reasons--but the UN decided to maintain existing law. From the story:

Conservationists scored a rare victory at a U.N. wildlife meeting Monday when governments voted to reject contentious proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to weaken the 21-year-old ban on ivory sales over concerns it would further contribute to poaching. The heated debate over the proposed sale of the two countries' ivory stocks divided Africa, as it has in years past, at the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Nearly two dozen central and east African countries came out against the proposals on the grounds that they would hurt already declining African elephant populations. Southern African countries, in contrast, argued the two nations should be rewarded for the conservation efforts undertaken and should have to right to manage their herds as they see fit. "People born in 100 years, they should be able to see an elephant," said Kenya's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Noah Wekesa, whose country opposed the sales and had called at one point for a 20-year moratorium on such auctions.
Elephants don't have a "right" not to be killed. Only human beings possess such rights. But with our unique rights come concomitant duties, such as properly managing the environment--we are the only species so capable--and protecting endangered or threatened species, as we also promote human thriving. It's all a huge balancing act, which as the story illustrates, is rarely easy.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, with regard to African elephants, both culls--which kill some--and poaching bans--which save some--serve the same overarching purpose.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ex Vegan Hit With Pie–Says Others Should be Attacked Instead

Animal rights activists would never stop screaming if the actions they take were directed against them. They demand the right to free speech–which some activists expand beyond recognition to include threats, intimidation, and even bombings–but have little problem with denying it to those with whom they disagree. Thus PETA refuses to condemn ALF, even when it plants pipe bombs under animal researchers’ cars–equating the terrorists with the Underground Railroad and the French Resistance on its Web site. This is particularly true of the “direct action” types, the ALFs, SHACs, who are closely allied with anarchists. I call this the “tear down” arm of the animal rights movement, because it certainly is not interested in building up.

A good illustration of the double standard happened here in San Francisco when an ex vegan was pied at an anarchist book store reading of her book. From the story:

An ex-vegan who was hit with chili pepper-laced pies at an anarchist event in San Francisco said Tuesday that her assailants were cowards who should direct their herbivorous rage at the powerful – not at a fellow radical for writing a book denouncing animal-free diets. Lierre Keith, a 45-year-old Arcata resident, was attacked at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the 15th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair while discussing her 2009 book, “The Vegetarian Myth.” A 20-year vegan, Keith now argues that the diet is unhealthy and that agriculture is destroying the world. As Keith stood at a lectern at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, three people in masks and black hooded sweatshirts ran from backstage, shouted, “Go vegan!” and threw pies in her face. While they fled, some in the audience cheered or handed out leaflets.

That was an assault and battery. Alas, being victimized did not teach Keith that it is wrong to engage in lawlessness against people with whom one disagrees:

Keith said her values are similar in most ways to those of her attackers. She believes in militant action, even property destruction, if it can lead to change. In her book, she said, she railed against factory farming and promoted the restoration of prairies and forests. “It’s insane. My entire book is about how the world is being destroyed,” Keith said. She said the first pie hit her just after she uttered the sentence, “You should not eat factory-farmed meat.” Among those rejoicing in the pie attack was the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which often prints communiques from activists taking credit for attacks on animal researchers. The group said Keith was wrong about veganism, referred to her as an “animal holocaust denier,” and scolded her for calling the “agents of state oppression” – the police.

This is as much the face of animal rights as pretty models posing nude to protest fur. Rather than being distinct, I am convinced that the movement is one organism, like an octopus, with PETA’s edginess one arm, ALF’s violence another arm, and HSUS’s lawsuits and legitimate political advocacy, a third arm, etc.. That point aside, Keith’s nihilism is so thick that even after becoming a victim, she doesn’t have it in her to condemn lawless tactics against people based on differences of opinion. She just wants these tactics directed at someone else. Typical.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hunters to Kill Amoral Human-Killing Wolves

An Alaskan wolf pack apparently hunted and killed a jogger. Hunters are now out to kill the pack. From the story:

Alaska authorities have dispatched teams of hunters to the Chignik Lake area of the Alaska Peninsular to hunt down the wolves they have concluded stalked and killed a special education teacher who apparently was taking a left afternoon run. Candice Berner, 32, appeared to have been killed Monday evening during a run along a remote road outside the Alaska Peninsula community, according to troopers.

The state medical examiner concluded, following an autopsy Thursday morning, that the cause of death was “multiple injuries due to animal mauling.” Based on interviews with biologists and villagers in Chignik Lake, troopers concluded wolves were the animals most likely responsible, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in a statement. The state Department of Fish and Game still wants to conduct DNA testing to help study the incident, but troopers are convinced it was a wolf attack, troopers director Col. Audie Holloway said. “We are as close to 100 percent certain as you can be,” Holloway said. Troopers investigating the scene found many wolf paw prints around the body, which had been partially eaten, and bloody drag marks in the snow, he said. Investigators were able to conclude after the autopsy that the animal injuries caused the death and were not inflicted post-mortem, he said.

The wolved did nothing “wrong” in killing this poor woman. They are incapable of right and wrong, which is to say, they are amoral beings. Hence, hunting them down isn’t punishment. Rather, the lethal action is being taken to protect public safety.

If history is any guide, expect some howling from animal rights activists and others to save the wolves, despite the lethal threat they pose to people. On the other hand, Alaskans are closer to the land. Urbanites usually are the ones who object to killing cougars, wolves, and other animals that pose a risk to the public safety. Those who see nature as it really is generally understand that it isn’t really Eden.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How PETA Gets its Dough

I am frequently asked in interviews how a radical and misanthropic organization like PETA gets so much money. The answer is simple. Many average people think the group is about just being nicer to animals, when it is actually about ending all animal domestication.

Then there are the shallow celebrities, who provide a cornucopia of cash. Take Paul McCartney. After his wife Linda died of breast cancer, he gave millions to cancer research (applause), but then counter-donated with millions to PETA–even though PETA’s hostility to animal research serves to impede cancer research. Moreover, PETA loathes horseback riding, and yet, Linda was a great horse woman. Talk about clueless!

Now, Bob Barker has forked over $2.5 million. From the story:

Former “Price is Right” host Bob Barker is lending his name, and a considerable amount of his cash, to the construction of a new Los Angeles home for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Barker and a bevy of game show caliber beauties joined PETA President Ingrid Newkirk Wednesday for a groundbreaking at what will become the new PETA office on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. The 86 year old daytime TV legend donated $2.5 million to make the project happen. It’s no coincidence that the office will be named The Bob Barker Building. Barker was a longtime advocate for spaying and neutering, as well as other animal rights issues, during his Price is Right tenure.

No, PETA isn’t about spaying. It is about ending all uses of animals: Another example of the media conflating animal welfare and animal rights. But with celebrities with money to burn like Bob Barker and Paul McCartney, the price for PETA is always right.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Defense of A Rat, is a Pig, etc., Part 2

As posted about previously, the National Review gave me an opportunity to respond to Matthew Scully’s diatribe against my book. (Scully, who is a conservative speech writer, is–to understate the matter–extremely emotional about animal issues). In part 1, I responded to his continuing canard that I supported breaking the limbs of chimps in experiments. In this post, I will excerpt some of my more general comments, which describe the book in a nutshell.

First, I remarked on the hyper emotionality of Scully’s review (here’s a link):

But let us ponder: What would drive a deeply talented writer like Scully to engage in such blatant falsehood? Like Zeus throwing his destructive lightning bolts, radical animal advocates often deploy the rant in order to drive rationality and reason off the field. In the face of such fury, we are tempted to cower under our desks, thereby allowing animal-rights activists to stand alone as righteous “defenders” of those who “can’t speak for themselves.”

Such demagoguery stifles our deeply pondering this important moral issue. Thus, I hope the book will help restore balance to the discussion of these matters.

In the rest of my response, I describe the book (since Scully didn’t), beginning with making a crucial distinction between animal rights and animal welfare:

So what’s the book really about? With A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy, I hope to clear up the confusion in the public mind between promoting “animal welfare”—a noble cause, which I endorse—and “animal rights,” which I oppose. The former acknowledges the ethical propriety of using animals for human benefit, while vigorously insisting on concomitant duties to treat animals humanely. In direct contrast, animal-rights ideology disdains the welfarist approach as “speciesism”—i.e., “discrimination” against animals—and dogmatically insists we have no right to consume meat, to wear leather, to conduct animal research, and, for some, even to own dogs. In other words, the ultimate goal of animal rights—which believers understand to be a multi-generational project—is ending all animal domestication no matter how beneficial to humans.

I describe the various ideological assertions of animal rights dogma, and then describe the consequences of such belief:

Regardless of the approach, to the animal-rights true believer, that which is done to an animal is judged as if the same action were done to a human being. Hence, many animal rightists believe cattle ranching is as odious as slavery and research on lab rats an equivalent evil to Mengele’s experiments in the camps.

This leads some to engage in violence and terrorism, which I won’t belabor here. I then describe the second purpose of my book:

The hyperemotionality of animal-rights campaigners too often hides the tremendous benefits we receive from the proper and humane use of animals. For this reason, I devote an entire section of the book to a judicious discussion of animal research, the use of animals as food, and the more volatile issues of fur and hunting. I don’t pretend to identify proper husbandry techniques in every case. But I believe it is important both to expose the false assertions made by animal rightists—for example, that humans do not benefit from animal research and that fur trappers still use archaic metal traps that break animals’ legs—and to allow people engaged in these industries a forum to express their usually drowned-out perspectives.

And, of course, human exceptionalism is the core component:

The ideal I wish to advance—indeed, to conserve—is “human exceptionalism,” that is, the unique moral status of human life. It is remarkable that our exceptional natures require defense. After all, what other species in the known history of life has attained the wondrous capacities of human beings? What other species has transcended the tooth-and-claw world of naked natural selection to the point that, at least to some degree, we now control nature instead of being controlled by it? What other species builds civilizations, records history, creates art, makes music, thinks abstractly, envisions and fabricates machinery, improves life through science and engineering, or explores the deeper truths found in philosophy and religion? What other species rescues injured animals instead of ignoring or eating them? What other species has true freedom? Perhaps most crucially, what other species can be held to moral account?

Human exceptionalism increasingly is criticized as arrogant and hubristic, spurring us to mistreat animals and despoil the planet. I believe the contrary is true. Indeed, if being human isn’t what gives us the duty to treat animals properly, what in the world does?

It is worth noting that Scully has now failed twice to mention–as ethics would seem to require–that I criticized (and complimented) his book Dominion in A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy. Moreover, it would have been nice if he had actually dealt substantially with what I wrote, rather than just venting his anger about the uses to which animals are put. But in an era in which feelings count more than thoughts, I am not surprised.

In Defense of A Rat, is a Pig, etc., Part 1

After Matthew Scully's screed against A Rat is a Pig, etc., discussed here, National Review gave me the opportunity to write an extended reply. Let me deal with his continuing mendacity first, and then I will write a second post excerpting some of my more general comments.

In his review, Scully claimed falsely that I supported an experiment that broke chimps' arms. Here's is my comment to that point, and then his response (no link):
ANIMAL RIGHTS began as an issue, became a movement, and has morphed into an ideology. Usually, animal rights is allied with the Left; but not always. Thus, when I decided to write a book criticizing the animal-rights movement, I expected to be attacked as being somehow indifferent to the suffering of animals and, moreover, that Matthew Scully—the animal-rights movement’s favorite conservative—would lead the charge. What I didn’t expect was for Scully to illustrate my supposed heartlessness with a false anecdote, the by-product of his own furious imagination. And to that, I strenuously object. In criticizing my explanation of the need for using animals in scientific research, Scully accused me of offering “soothing descriptions of violent experiments (chimps are ‘seated quietly, not struggling’ as their limbs are about to be broken.)” False. I never wrote about a chimp experiment that involved breaking limbs. Indeed, I have never heard of such an experiment. Scully can rail all he wants against my book. But he has no right to resort to cheap demagoguery to score an easy emotional point.
Scully doesn't back off:
The experiment Smith has “never heard of” is described on pages 74 and 75 of his own book, and his words are just as I quoted them in my review. The chimpanzees were strapped down (“held motionless,” as he puts it), and as experimenters prepared to slice their limbs and sever their nerves, Smith insists that they were still “seated quietly, not struggling.” The violence of the scene, until the primates were finally killed and discarded, is quickly passed over, with Smith’s usual assurances that humanity was served and the details are no concern of ours.
This is jaw dropping: The experiment he is referencing did not involve chimps. The now notorious "Silver Spring Monkey Case--infamous because of what an animal rights activist did to an ethical researcher, not because of his experiments--involved monkeys--a different animal entirely. Second, I wrote about the particular experiment because Alex Pacheco, PETA's co founder, attempted to destroy the life of the celebrated researcher, Dr. Edward Taub, by creating a materially false image of what was happening in the lab and the quality of the animals' care, while Taub was on vacation. (Described fully at NRO in February 2004.) Third, the experiment did not involve "breaking limbs" but a surgical procedure performed under proper anesthesia. Fourth, Taub was engaged in NIH-approved research that led to a tremendous breakthrough in the rehabilitation of stroke patients--Constrained Induced Movement Therapy--now benefiting tens of thousands of stroke patients around the world, and most recently, children with cerebral palsy.

That Scully can't identify the right animal--twice--refused to accurately describe what was done, and utterly ignored the tremendous human benefit that resulted from the research is both disturbing and telling.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Animals Not to Have Constitutional Right to Lawyers in Switzerland

As I have noted on more than one occasion, animal rights activists want animals to be granted "standing" to bring lawsuits. This radical change would serve two convergent purposes: It would allow liberationists to bring case after case against animal industries--since they would be the real litigants--as it powerfully promoted animal "personhood," obliterating human exceptionalism by creating a moral human/animal legal equivalence.

Today, in good news on the animal lawyers front, Switzerland rejected granting animals the constitutional right to legal representation when animal abuse is charged. From the story:
The result was emphatic: Swiss voters don't think abused animals need to have their own lawyers. It's a proposal that would never even come near a referendum in other countries, but the measure's defeat Sunday disappointed animal rights advocates, who say Switzerland's elaborate animal welfare laws aren't being enforced. Opponents of the proposal, including key farmers' groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing special lawyers to act on behalf of animals would be unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers. "The Swiss people have clearly said our animal protection laws are so good we don't need animal lawyers," Jakob Buechler, a lawmaker for the centrist Christian People's Party, told Swiss television SF1. Official results showed that 70.5 percent of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. Some 29.5 percent of voters backed the proposal, with turnout at just over 45 percent.
It's alarming that nearly 30% voted for the notion. Animals shouldn't have lawyers or be granted constitutional rights under any circumstances. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal did a report on Switzerland's only animal lawyer recently, and it tells a warning tale. From the story:
Last month, Antoine Goetschel went to court here in defense of an unusual client: a 22-pound pike that had fought a fisherman for 10 minutes before surrendering. Mr. Goetschel is the official animal lawyer for the Swiss canton of Zurich, a sort of public defender who represents the interests of pets, farm animals and wildlife. He wound up with the pike as a client when animal-welfare groups filed a complaint alleging animal cruelty in the fish's epic battle with an amateur angler...

The majority of Mr. Goetschel's cases relate to abuse of household pets. He secured a 1,050-franc fine for a woman who abandoned two kittens in the street soon after buying them. In one 2008 case, he represented some fish that had been placed in a pool during a game show during which contestants tried to catch them by hand, allegedly violating Swiss law requiring that animals be treated with dignity. "If you treat fish like objects in a computer game, their dignity is hurt," Mr. Goetschel argued. A court, however, ruled that Zurich was the wrong jurisdiction for the case, and the defendants were subsequently cleared.

But opponents have seized on another fish tale—Mr. Goetschel's defense of the big pike— to argue that a mandatory public defender could make for absurd results. The case revolved around the idea that the pike suffered excessively because of how long it took for the angler to reel it in. Mr. Goetschel lost the case last month, but is considering an appeal. Any further court action would come too late for the pike, which has been eaten.
It would be much worse here than representing dead fish. "Animal standing" would give liberationists the right to sue directly. And with that power, they would wreak havoc on all animal industries, as I pointed out in this article at NRO.