"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!
By Nicholas Meyeres
Let’s talk animal rights for a bit, shall we?
Admittedly, this is a tricky one for a plethora of different and varying reasons, and one that I could write entire books about. So, where to begin….?
While it is clear that animals and humans are vastly different on a great many levels, they are also very similar on enough levels to warrant the discussion in the first place. After all, the scientist will say he tests on monkeys because they are like us, and then when asked if it is right to do so, he will say “yes” because they are NOT like us. That type of hypocrisy is not uncommon when we discuss animal rights issues with nearly anyone- not just the vivisectionist.
But first, let’s define what animal rights means to me. In my view it is the right not to be made to die and suffer by humans except in self-defense. Period. However, if you take issue with the concept of a "right" for animals, you can instead think of this position as being equivalent to the following proposition: "It is MORALLY wrong to kill animals UNNESISARILY and make them suffer except in self-defense.”
Now, let’s take this oft-discussed hypothetical conversation as an example of why I am for some form of animal rights:
Opponent of animal rights: How can you say that animals have rights? That’s ridiculous.
Proponent of animal rights: Why is it ridiculous?
Opponent: For one thing, animals can't reason. They can't be held responsible for their actions. To have rights, you must have these capacities first and foremost.
Proponent: Wait a minute. Infants can't reason in the regard you are meaning, either. Does that mean that it's open season to hunt and kill babies?
Opponent: Of course not. Infants will be able to reason someday. We must treat them as prospective rights-holders.
Proponent: But what if the infant is terminally ill and has only six months to live? What about a person who was born with part of his brain missing and has the mental capacity of a pig? What about a senile, old person? Is it OK to kill, eat, and otherwise use these people for our own ends, just as we now use pigs and cows and sheep and monkeys?
It's easy to grasp this fact if you do some introspection and ask yourself why it is morally wrong to inflict suffering on a human who can't reason. Why is it morally wrong to torture an infant? Is it because he or she has the potential to become a moral entity at some point? Now, be honest about this: Isn't it really because the infant can suffer and has an interest in NOT suffering? Isn't it because forcing the infant to suffer against his or her will violates its “rights”? Why is it immoral to use a victim of Alzheimer's for target practice? Is it because he is a member of a species whose more normal members can think conceptually and can be held responsible for their actions? Surely not. It's because he can suffer, and therefore, he has an interest in not suffering. To treat him this way against his will goes against his “rights” I am sure everyone will agree.
In essence, all of this also holds true for the monkey, the dog, the cat, or any other animal we know of for that matter. Like a human, the monkey can suffer, and he has an interest in not suffering. To force him to die and suffer needlessly, except in self-defense, violates his “rights”, as well. It's a simple matter of treating like cases alike with pure categorical logic.
Sometimes skeptics make the following objection to animal rights: “If animals have a right not to be made to suffer, doesn't it follow that we should police the wilderness and prevent predatory animals from attacking their prey?” No, this does not follow. Animals should be allowed to defend themselves, but they do not have the right to protection any more than human beings do. What the “like cases alike” argument proves is that it is immoral for moral creatures like humans to treat animals in ways we would not treat humans like except (again) in self-defense.
In truth, because animals are not moral creatures as we know it, what they do is outside the purview of our ethics system. We might as well ask whether a zebra has a “right” not to be crushed by a falling rock. Therefore, we can only concern ourselves with what WE should do and not do. Animals in the wild are on their own for all intents and purposes. At least an animal who is preyed upon in the wild has a fighting chance. It is not locked in a cage or hunted with tools he has no privy to.
Another popular objection is “animals kill and eat each other in nature, so why shouldn't we be able to do the same thing?” In other words: “If animals do it, then we can do it, too.” But that would mean that we are like the animals, and surely it would be illogical to base our moral principles on the actions of animals who can't even engage in simple moral reasoning, correct? Some animals eat their offspring. Does that mean I am morally entitled to eat my offspring, as well? This is one of the many reasons I am a vegan; we are not at the top of the proverbial food chain- we are far, far BEYOND it.
So, do animals deserve “rights” afforded to them? Perhaps not in the context of the same equal rights we are afforded in our United States Constitution, but some basic rights should indeed be in order. Perhaps the same rights infants are allowed and afforded, but not the same rights adult humans are given. Besides, in theory all suffering is immoral when inflicted upon the innocent. After all, animals have no proper voice to speak out, but that doesn’t mean we still cannot hear them cry.