Sunday, March 22, 2009

Should Animals Have Equal Rights?

A response in a discussion group to the question posed here:
Interesting question, because it raises some not-so-apparent issues.

First and foremost, humans have created two different general classes of animals that now exist in addition to natural, wild animals. There are pets, which can be further divided into domesticated animals like horses, and traditional pets like dogs and cats. Then there are farm animals, that can be further divided into animals that we use for their outputs, like egg laying hens and dairy cows, and animals that we kill to eat.

Regarding wild animals, my position is that it is immoral to kill anything except to eat it. Of course, following this would cause a huge change in the way humans live -- for example, there would be no more logging, because humans do not eat trees. I would consider this a very good thing, but I realize that the vast majority of modern humans would not. As to how this would specifically apply to animals, all sport hunting and fishing would have to end, and activities that would cause death, injury, or displacement of wild animals -- capture for zoos or private sales, development (i.e., destruction) of natural land, mining, oil & gas drilling, cattle grazing, etc. -- would be subject to the same restrictions and prohibitions that would apply if the harms were being done directly to humans living in the areas. Again, another good result as far as I'm concerned, but another area where most modern humans would strongly disagree with me. Finally, if we're going to kill wild animals to eat (which is the only natural way to eat meat) we have to allow them to kill humans without seeking revenge. These are all rights that I support for wild animals. Of course, some rights like freedom of speech would clearly not apply; we have to keep in mind that "rights" are human concepts.

Regarding pets, giving them equal rights would be nothing short of horrible. We've already seen how this plays out in San Francisco with that horrible legislation that was passed by the Board of Supervisors contributing to the idea that dog owners can let their dogs run off leash anywhere and be present in even the most inappropriate places, and with the SPCA's no-kill policy greatly contributing to a massive proliferation of the already far too many dogs and cats in the City. Equal rights for dogs will amount to unlimited off leash rights, though it's hard to imagine how things could get worse than they already are. So no, I do not support equal rights for pets at all. Elimination of pets would be the best thing for the natural environment. Dogs are not even natural animals; they were bred out of wolves and do not exist in nature, and therefore have no place in ecological systems, except to do serious harm. And non-native cats kill millions of birds yearly. However, no one is to blame for how (s)he is born, and there is no reason or excuse to be cruel about this. A strict program of 100% spaying and neutering would do the trick, though stray animals definitely should be captured and euthanized as humanely as possible.

As to farm animals, what rights would we bestow upon those that will be killed for food? Making them comfortable while they're alive? (The issues of the massive environmental harms that farm animals cause -- especially cattle -- far outweighs the issue of rights for these animals, but that is not the question here.) It would not be possible to produce massive amounts of meat without being at least slightly cruel to those animals. Because of first the environmental harms it causes and second the cruelty involved, I support ending the practice of animal husbandry. If people want to eat meat, they can eat fish/seafood and/or hunt their own. Again, only a small minority of modern humans would agree.

Finally, I am completely and unequivocally opposed to torturing animals in laboratories (AKA "testing"). The people who do this are every bit as bad as the WW II Nazis and deserve whatever animal rights protesters do to them. The right not to be tortured should be applied to every living thing, the land, air, and water being alive also.

Sorry for such a nuanced answer, but I don't think the issue is as simple as most people think. It's very easy for our emotions to get out of control when thinking about and/or discussing issues like this, and it's wise to step back and really think about all the sub issues for awhile.
Not that we agree with all of this, but it is obviously an answer from conviction rather than convenience. One needs to contrast it with the mindless, and frequently vicious, posts one sees on anti-leash website. To some extent, this post is what you might expect from liberal California. Which is why what we see in "liberal" Park Slope and environs is so unsettling. We haven't seen any off-leash advocates who care at all about animals, or the environment, other than their dogs.

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At the Ridgewood Reservoir, 11:30 this morning.

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And oh, Teri, some unsolicited legal advice: you really should be careful what you say on other websites about people you name, particularly those who you think write this blog.

1 comment:

ChickenUnderwear said...

Don't be silly, animals should not have rights. Animal owner have rights, and animals (as all parts of nature) should be respected.

But what I think is sad is the personification of animals. Dressing them up in "cute" clothes, throwing them birthday parties or otherwise attributing emotions to pets that they are incapable of.

All rights come with responsibilities.

I have jury duty next week, does your dog ;)