Thursday, February 8, 2018

Do Animals have Rights? Inherent Value?

Introduction: (Skip this if you want to get, quickly, to the article: To the QUESTION)

The whole issue of "animal rights" has been muddied and muddled by two events:
1. Controversial behavior and antics by some animal rights activists such as going naked in public to draw attention to the rights of animals, even committing theft and violent acts of sabotage!

An example of this is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). But rather oddly while they oppose zoos and circuses,
they contrarily assert that pet owners ought to NOT let their cats out-of-doors to roam and explore!

Doesn't that sound like the imprisonment of animals?

2. Looking at the last 30 years of this ethical and philosophical question, some thinkers first bring up a very strange disconcert. They seek to defend animals’ worth and rights by demeaning the human species!

In their effort to defend animal rights, they actually deny human rights!

Semantics. What they mean is that there are no real human rights. Thy claim that human rights are a "myth." Humans made them up, and therefore, animal rights can be constructed, too, because there is no qualitative difference between human primates and other animals in nature.

A few advocates even go so far as to say that an adult ape or other sentient animal is worth more than a human infant.
(See ethics professor Peter Singer's claims)

But what is the basis for such a strange assertion, so contrary to the Enlightenment?

Stating that some animals are allegedly “better” than some humans seems a weird way to establish the worth and rights of other animals.

Besides it’s disconcerting and contradictory since the animal rights thinkers themselves are human. Unless they have some sort of masochistic tendency, it appears that their attacks on the species of homo sapiens itself is rather a rhetorical way of gutting the “transcendent” and the "essential" in human thought.

So why do they, then, think that all animals ought to be assigned value? Unclear.

Even more bizarre—taking us far from what most humans mean by “rights,”—many religious and some secular leaders actually seem to have a real self-hatred of their own species, humankind! The Christian leaders claim that ALL humans are “totally depraved” and “worthless.” While secularists claim that the amoral natural world would actually be better without humans!

But one wonders why?!

In sharp contrast, other human philosophers and scientists think that the general movement in human thought and ethics toward viewing of all animals—at least all sentient animals—
as having inherent worth
has come about through the “widening of the circle of concern” by many human rights activists.

Maybe it’s the old historical oddity that some human leaders try to equalize humankind by reducing and lowering/restricting all humans to the same basic level,
while other leaders,
seek the advancement of humankind by advocating and helping humans to rise as high as they can achieve, and even bringing up sentient species who don't seem to have rational capability.

Part 1:


Aside from millions of humans’ emotional love of their pets, what is the basis for animal rights and value?

In scientist Steven Pinker’s powerful tome on violence, Better Angels of Our Nature, while he explains the new move toward animal rights, he writes that most humans will never become “vegetarian,” will never adopt animal rights.

“But the impediments run deeper than meat hunger. Many interactions between humans and animals will always be zero-sum.

Animals eat our houses, our crops, and occasionally our children...
They kill each other, including endangered species that we would like to keep around."

"Without their participation in experiments, medicine would be frozen in its current state and billions of living and unborn people would suffer and die for the sake of mice.”

“...Something in me objects to the image of a hunter shooting a moose, but why am I not upset by the image of a grizzly bear that renders it just as dead?” (p.474)
--Steven Pinker

In nature, did the moose have any “animal rights”?

Isn’t nature amoral, non-rightful, indeed, centered in natural selection, “tooth and claw”?

Where are there animal rights in the case of cats and mice, sharks and fish?

Lions, crocodiles and wildebeests?

"A fact about the wildebeest migration is that every year, about 1.5 million wildebeest, zebra and several species of antelope uniformly make a circular tour between the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, in search of greener pastures.

You can witness the drama unfold as predators lurk in the bushes and prey scamper for safety in what has since been dubbed 'survival for the fittest'...The most notorious among the predators is the lion and the Nile crocodile.

The lion perfectly chooses its arena...shrouded in thick grass cover and gets a strategic hiding spot to attack unsuspecting wildebeest and zebras. During the peak of the migration, vultures circle the air and hyenas laugh in the shadows; an indication of the innumerable wildebeest and zebra that have fallen under the claw of the mighty African lion.

The Nile crocodile however takes the medal as the deadliest predator. It comes in at the climax of the Mara migration - the crossing of the Mara River! This avid killer shapes the events that take place during the crossing of the Mara River."

Or elephant male seal versus elephant male seal, bloodying their snouts, seeking dominance and multiple female seals?

It doesn't appear that cats or mice or crocodiles or elephant seals have a conscience,
a sense of ought,
a rational ability to think in moral categories.

For many thinkers, the central issue isn’t really about any actual “rights” of animals but about reducing the public suffering and cruelty to animals:
“In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire."

"According to historian Norman Davies, ‘the spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.’ Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world.”

“This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.”
--Steven Pinker (p. 145)

But, of course, the central philosophical question then nags:
Why ought humans to reduce the public suffering and cruelty to animals,
if far more suffering and cruelty continues in the millions of slaughterhouses around the world that supply billions of slabs of meat for all carnivorous humans?

Are not these billions of meat-eaters, basically, assigning worth to their pet dogs and cats, but denying worth to all the pigs, chickens, cows, and sheep?

Where then are there any “animal rights”?

The evidence of history, nature, and science seems to deny the reality of animal rights.


After mulling on this difficult topic for years,
I'm currently at this place: Animals have inherent worth, BUT not Rights.

To be continued--

In the Light of difficult ethical questions,

Daniel Wilcox

No comments: