Answering Arguments Against Animal Rights
|Part IX -- Argument Six: Animal rights advocates put animals ahead of people (conclusion)
Another variant of this argument against animals is that those who advocate animal rights hate people.
Obviously this is the statement of a bigot since it stereotypes a vast group of people
with a negative characteristic.
Some animal advocates hate people. So do some advocates of any other cause
you care to name. This is unfortunate, if understandable.
The crimes people have committed against each other, against the environment,
and against other animals, can make one ashamed of our species. But it's important
not to lose sight of the fact that people are also capable of great acts of
selflessness. Though we may hate the cruel actions of some of our fellow
humans, we must not hate people who commit moral outrages. This is often
hard to do, and it's not surprising given the human record, that some
cannot make this distinction.
But to state that the movement as a whole is anti-people is to deliberately
ignore the facts. If I did not believe that people were basically good hearted, I would not
devote so much of my time to bringing animal abuse to light. The fact that
I'm here on your TV set shows that I don't hate people, but that I believe
in their basic goodness. It is my hope that once I show you that certain
actions -- which you may be doing in all innocence -- cause animal suffering,
you will stop those practices.
To determine if animal advocates hate people as a rule, we only have to look
at the lives of some of the prominent individuals in the movement.
John Kolem, the secretary for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals, helped found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Jeremy Bentham, who spoke out against animal abuse, was also a slavery abolitionist.
Count Leo Tolstoy, who developed such a strong feeling of empathy with the
peasants of Russia that he left the upper classes to live with them, and who wrote
eloquently against the slavery of his time, was a vegetarian on ethical grounds.
Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw both attacked the cruel senselessness of war in their writings.
Few are aware, however, that both of these creative geniuses also wrote against the cruelty
of animal experimentation.
Albert Schwietzer, the missionary world renowned for his love of people, also found time
to demonstrate a concern for the welfare of non-human animals.
And, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, whose love of people was so great that he
took on the British empire in order to improve his people's lot. He was a
vegetarian on ethical grounds.
Also, we know that at least a thousand doctors in our day have gone on
record against animal experimentation.
These are men and women who have taken an oath to save human lives:
they are not "people haters."
Our philosophy is based on inherent rights. And, of course, this applies to
humans too. We say: anyone who has interests -- anyone who can experience pain --
deserves not to have pain inflicted upon them.
Sex, abilities, race, or species don't enter into it.
The animal rights movement, then, is very pro-human. It encompasses
non-human animals because not to do so would be inconsistent.
People have an inherent right not to be abused because they can suffer.
Animals have this same right because they too can suffer. That is
what is relevant: the capacity to suffer, not what species you belong to.
Respecting the rights of animals does not hurt us; it is actually good for us.
There are great health benefits from a vegetarian diet.
As many studies have shown: vegetarians live longer healthier lives.
Many people who care nothing about animal rights have adopted this diet
just for the health benefits.
Also, we know that it would take three times the land mass available on this planet
for farming to provide everyone with a meat-centered diet.
Those of us who are concerned with world famine and the destruction of the
environment have no business eating meat: as it contributes to both
of these problems.
Only vegetarianism can feed a starving world, and ease the erosion of our land
and destruction of our rain forests caused by raising cattle.
So, even if the lives of non-human animals were not at stake, I would not
eat meat. Because I know it's a luxury food that can never be available
to the majority of people on earth. And which carries a heavy price-tag
for the environment and cuts down on total food production in a world
of starving people.
Obviously then, animal advocates do not hate people.
But even if we did, it would not be relevant to the issue of whether or not
non-human animals have a right not to be tortured or murdered.
Once again, this argument against animals misses the point.
The point is not whether animals activists are good people.
The point is whether non-human animals have a right to live their lives
and have a right not to be tortured by us.