Animal "Rights" vs. Human Rights
By Andrew Bernstein (Las Vegas Review-Journal & Sun, April 23, 2000; Long Beach Press-Telegram, May 14, 2000)
In coming weeks, animal-rights activists are planning demonstrations against a wide array of entities and activities--from biotechnology firms and the World Petroleum Congress, to eating meat and selling milk.
What motivates this movement? Its members claim they want to protect animals against the cruelty allegedly inflicted on them by man. But that explanation is only a smokescreen. For if they were indeed concerned about needless suffering, where is their concern for human suffering?
Where, for example, is this concern when it comes to medical research on laboratory animals? Such research has resulted in cures for numerous lethal diseases, from polio to diabetes. It has made the process of organ transplants possible. Current medical testing on animals is necessary to eliminate killers like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and AIDS. Yet such research is a prime target of condemnation by animal-rights activists. Author Tom Regan, for example, argues that medical research on animals should be abolished regardless of the cost in human deaths. "We have no basic right not to be harmed by those natural diseases we are heir to," he declares.
These attacks are not only verbal, but also physical. University labs are being ransacked, experimental animals stolen, research data destroyed and scientists intimidated by these activists. For example, earlier this year, in California, the Animal Liberation Front engaged in an arson attack (causing some $250,000 in damage) against a meat processor and a vandalism attack against a farm bureau. Harvard University has received threats against its animal-cognition studies. And over the past few months, over 80 research scientists have received mail containing razor blades.
The leading group in this movement, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), openly states its opposition to any cure for AIDS that involves research with animals. Since there is no other known way to defeat this disease, this stand amounts to letting human beings die so that laboratory mice might live.
But this does not matter to the animal-rights militants, who are unapologetically hostile to human welfare.
The very attempt to grant "rights" to animals is an attempt to deny them to human beings. It is man alone to whom the very concept of rights applies--because it is only man whose survival requires them. It is only man for whom rights are possible and necessary. Man cannot survive by "instinct" and by brute force, as animals do. He survives by reason. He creates the values that sustain his life--from growing food to designing computers -- only by the free exercise of his mind. Rights leave each individual free to think and to act on the judgment of his mind, without being subject to force. Man's rights flow from the fact not merely that he is alive, but that he must live as a rational being.
Animals can neither grasp the concept "rights," nor live by it. It simply does not pertain to entities that survive by brutally devouring one another, rather than by production and trade. If animals have rights, then man's right to live is negated. For he is then unable to hunt or fish. He cannot clear land for planting, because he disturbs numerous bugs in the process. He cannot even rid his life of disease-causing germs because he is violating the rights of microorganisms. (According to Rutgers ecologist David Ehrenfeld, the world's remaining supply of smallpox virus should be conserved because it afflicts "only" human beings.)
What explains this willingness to kill human beings so that all other species can maintain an undisturbed existence? Animal-rights advocates hold that nature has "intrinsic value," apart from--and in conflict with--any value it has for human beings. Since rattlesnakes and rats are held to possess an inviolate inherent worth, it is deemed not only morally wrong to harm them, but also obligatory to sacrifice man for their sake.
This man-hating psychology is captured in the venomous warning issued by the Animal Liberation Front after its assaults on the California meat processor and the farm bureau: "We will not stop until the industries of rape, enslavement, torture and murder are destroyed."
The issue of cruelty to animals is a canard. PETA protests the milking of cows as "cruel"--yet is indifferent to the brutal killing of one animal by another that is a way of life in the animal world. What animal-rights proponents actually regard as "cruel" is the sheer fact of using nature as a means of satisfying human ends. When they stage their protests for "World Week for Animals" at the end of April, it will not be the needless suffering of animals that they seek to prevent--but human suffering that they seek to inflict.
Andrew Bernstein, author of The Capitalist Manifesto, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
For more articles by Andrew Bernstein, and his bio, click here.