The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Animal Rights? Just Another Stupid Idea

These are certainly interesting times. An hour or so ago I glanced at the news on TV and, in the course of a few wild and crazy minutes, watched the Dow Jones Industrial Average drop 1,000 points and then recover half of this loss, all apparently based on the news out of bankrupt Greece (and some fat-fingering on a keyboard by a trader at the NYSE). After a few moments listening to the uninformed ravings of several news anchors, I turned off the TV and poured myself a glass of chilled white wine. I feel much better now. I also have no idea where the Dow currently resides and, to be honest, I really don't care. But that's because I'm relatively poor...well, relative to those who actually do care about the daily fluctuations of the financial markets.

Yes, these are interesting times, riddled with all sorts of threatening things and people. Financial markets and their manipulators apparently want to impoverish us; volcanoes and earthquakes and floods disrupt our lives and destroy our homes; terrorists want to kill us; the people we elect to represent us want to turn the tables and control us; educators who are paid to teach us prefer instead to indoctrinate us; sociologists and psychologists want to emasculate us; our allies seem to enjoy abandoning us...It's all very disconcerting.

And then I overhear some ding-a-ling (not a "pastoral" term I normally use with parishioners) expressing her concern over the "threats to our fellow animals from speciesism." For those among you who are grossly uninformed on this subject, speciesism is apparently akin to racism, except it is prejudicial toward non-humans. It's easily recognizable because those who practice it engage in the vile practice of assigning "different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership." Consequently, those guilty of speciesism also believe in the concept of human exceptionalism -- the idea that human life is very, very different from and has greater value than other forms of life. Human exceptionalists or speciesists are the kind of people who would kill a cockroach without a second thought but then get all upset when a man (or a dog) kills a child. These same people -- me! me! me! -- also believe that a human being has rights simply because he is human, while a member of any other species, say, a dung beetle, has no rights whatsoever.

As a proud speciesist, let me say that my honorable opponents, the anti-speciesists, are total, complete wackos (another non-pastoral term). Anti-speciesists -- aka, animal rights enthusiasts -- are just levelers of a different sort. Socialists and communists want to bring us all down to the same low level economically and materially. Modern ethicists want to bring us to the same moral level by simply disposing of morality and ethics. (I find it particularly interesting that so many ethicists spend their careers trying to eliminate their field of study.) And animal rights enthusiasts want to bring us down to the same biological level. I say "down" because other species -- those non-rational beings lacking immortal souls -- are unable to rise to our level. And so, the only alternative is to eliminate all forms of human exceptionalism, and sink down to the, literally, dog-eat-dog level of the beast. In other words, because animals cannot be elevated, we must be lowered.

A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights MovementA believing Christian cannot, therefore, believe also in the idea of animal rights. Among the reasons animals do not possess rights is their inability to exercise them or their concomitant responsibilities. Because we humans have the God-given right to life, we have the responsibility to respect all human life. We also have a responsibility to be good stewards of God's creation and that means we are called to treat animals humanely, and not as other animals would treat them.

An excellent book on this subject is Wesley Smith's A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. Smith, a Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute, is the author of eleven books, a strong defender of human life, and an internationally respected expert in bioethics and bio-engineering.

The novelist, Dean Koontz, wrote the following in the preface to Smith's book:
Wesley  J. Smith knows too well that if the activists ever succeeded in their goals, if they established through culture or law that human beings have no intrinsic dignity greater than that of any animal, the world would not be a better place for either humankind or animals. Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.
That sums it up pretty well. Unfortunately, driven by an irrational and suicidal contraceptive mentality in the West and equally irrational religious hatreds in the East, far too many people in our world have lost any respect for human life as a gift from God. I'm afraid only He can turn things around.

Pax et bonum...

4 comments:

  1. “And animal rights enthusiasts want to bring us down to the same biological level.”

    Well, I don’t know whether you’re being sarcastic or are just missing the point. “Levels” are irrelevant to abolitionist vegans such as me. I’m not an enthusiast; I believe being vegan is a moral imperative.

    “I say "down" because other species -- those non-rational beings lacking immortal souls -- are unable to rise to our level.”

    I can’t debate whether humans and nonhuman animals have immortal souls, but I can point out that not all humans are rational. Yet, even the most irrational humans are afforded the basic right of not being treated as property, which is the very least vegans believe should be afforded to sentient nonhuman animals. Sentience being defined as animals that can make independent choices. So for example, if you put 100 dung beetles, which I’ll refer to as scarab beetles, in the same situation they would respond in different ways. This would indicate sentience at a very basic level; that they’re responding to stimuli in different ways.

    “And so, the only alternative is to eliminate all forms of human exceptionalism, and sink down to the, literally, dog-eat-dog level of the beast”

    I don’t follow your logic. Vegans believe that humans should not interfere with the lives of nonhuman animals. How does that “lower” us in any way?

    “A believing Christian cannot, therefore, believe also in the idea of animal rights.” Again, I’m not in the best position to argue religion, but where does it say in the bible or any religious works that nonhuman animals cannot be afforded the right to be treated as property?

    “Among the reasons animals do not possess rights is their inability to exercise them or their concomitant responsibilities.” I hear this critique frequently. However, once again, if you put it in a human context, you will find this logic doesn’t hold true. An incapacitated human has rights regardless of its ability to exercise rights or the associated responsibilities. So for example, if somebody was in a coma, they wouldn’t lose their right not to be treated as property, nor would other humans somehow gain the right to treat that human as property. Another example would be a young child. What kind of rights can they exercise and what responsibilities are placed upon them that go along with their rights? What about a mentally disabled person? So not being able to exercise rights or their “concomitant responsibilities” is not sufficient to not grant or without any rights at all.

    However, I would certainly argue that non-domesticated animals certainly can exercise the right not to be treated as property and I would imagine their concomitant responsibilities, basically taking care of themselves; well they can do that too, and most far better than a lot of humans.

    “Because we humans have the God-given right to life, we have the responsibility to respect all human life. We also have a responsibility to be good stewards of God's creation and that means we are called to treat animals humanely, and not as other animals would treat them. “

    ReplyDelete
  2. How can you respect something you treat as property? Do you respect your couch or your shoes or your waste basket? Most would agree that a life of confinement, torture, and ultimately murder is inhumane. You may be able to remove a lot of torture from the equation, but the death and confinement would remain. Animal use cannot be made humane, no more so than Imprisoning somebody unjustly can be made humane.

    “Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.”

    Again, I’m not sure if this is meant as sarcasm. This sounds pretty much like the world’s current state of affairs. Animal use is far from peace and all good; neither for the humans that consume, the humans that process, or the animals that are murdered.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh yeah, and if you would like to read more about why veganism is the moral baseline of the animal rights position and why animal use is ethically indefensible check out this site: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good heavens! It's rare to encounter so much drivel all from one source. Ah well, since you plead ignorance of things religious, I'll not waste much time on you. For if there is no God then any moral and ethical concepts are simply the ephemeral constructs of humans and have no basis in truth. And so why look to them for guidance? Indeed, without God and those foundational religious principles, such actions as murder would not be inhumane at all. We would simply act like beasts and do whatever is necessary to survive. This is the level that your foolish way of life would lead to.

    Write again when one of those dung beetles writes a sonnet or launches a satellite. Until then, stay off this page.

    ReplyDelete