The question of animal rights is so obviously absurd that one is tempted to dismiss it with a snicker. One envisions the idea of establishing a police force to patrol the forests and to arrest animals that attack other animals, or to appoint lawyers to represent animals suing other animals. This is the stuff of comic books.
Except that we are not dealing with a comic book story here. Spain is apparently close to adopting a law declaring that apes and other non-human primates have “rights.” In response, Russell Paul La Valle has written a powerful rejoinder to the ideas, and the person, behind both the proposed law and the animal rights movement. It is powerful, because he defends human rights on not only factual but also moral grounds. Here are the relevant excerpts:
Should animals have rights? The quick and only logical answer is no. A "right" is a moral principle that governs one's freedom of action in society. This concept is uniquely, and exclusively, human — man is the only being capable of grasping such an abstraction, understanding his actions within a principled framework and adjusting his behavior so as not to violate the rights of others. The source of rights is man himself, his nature and his capacity for rational thought. To give rights to creatures that are irrational, amoral and incapable of living in a rights-based environment makes a mockery of the very concept of rights and, ultimately, threatens man. (Russell Paul La Valle: Why they're human rights)
I have posted the following comments to the essay:
There is a crucial difference between man and all other living species. As Mr. La Valle points out, man is the only species whose means of survival (reason) requires that he adapt his background to his needs.
The same dangerous logic that leads to “rights” for apes will be the precedent that leads to “rights” for all species. He is correct that this is a threat to man. If animals have “rights” equivalent to man, then man’s very means of survival is negated. It reduces man to existence on the same level as animals, depriving him of exploiting nature through reason and productive work, for that would violate the “rights” of other species.
That’s the real purpose of the animal rights movement, which recognizes the legitimacy of the means of survival of every living species but man. It’s not love of animals, but hatred of man, that motivates this movement. There’s no conflict between protecting animals from malicious cruelty and recognition of rights as the exclusive domain of man.
Without a moral foundation, the concept of individual human rights can not be defended properly. That is because man is the only rational, moral being on earth. So I will expand a bit on the issue because the ultimate consequences are so serious.
In a free society, each individual is free to pursue his own well-being and happiness through his own productive efforts, and in voluntary association and trade with others. He is legally restricted, basically, by the need to respect the rights of others. He can build a home, but not by cutting down his neighbor’s trees. He can acquire the food produced by others, but only by paying a mutually agreed-upon price, not by theft. But imagine human beings being legally prohibited from cutting down trees to manufacture the lumber for the construction of homes…or being forbidden from cultivating fields for crops…because that would violate the “rights” of an owl that lives in that tree, or the mice that live in that field. Burdened by the need to respect the rights not only of other men, but of other species, man is thus cut off from the ability to exploit the bounty provided by nature for the production of the values required to survive and thrive. So Look around. Virtually everything our lives depend on...from the most vital to the least consequencial...can be seen as violating some creature's "rights." He is cut off, in other words, from the use of his primary means of survival…his rational faculty.
Denied of his means of survival, man is reduced to living on the level of animals…but without the automatic, instinctual survival mechanism possessed by all other living creatures. He is condemned, to put it bluntly, to death. Such is the nature of and ultimate logical consequence of the ascription of rights to animals.
Again, it would be easy for a rational person to dismiss so obviously outrageous an idea as “animal rights.” But make no mistake, ideas have consequences. Legal precedents take on a powerful life of their own. The "anti-concept" of animal rights is a dagger aimed right at the very survival of the human race. The logical consequences that lie at the end of the animals rights road is human devastation. The animal rights ideology being codified into law in Spain is a future tool for some totalitarian regime to enslave the human population in the name of the rights of all species. If you think I am exaggerating about the power of ideas, take a look at history. Just look at the thousand years of darkness and misery spawned by the mind-hating ideas of Ambrose and Augustine, which ended only when the great St. Thomas Aquinas’s revival of reason and Aristotelianism blazed the path to the Renaissance. Just look at what America’s Founding Fathers did with the Enlightenment ideas of reason, individualism, and limited republican government (made possible by Aristotle and Aquinas). Just look what the Communists did with the ideas of Marx in Soviet Russia. Just look what the Nazis did in Germany based on Kant’s anti-reason ideas of altruism and duty.
The animal rights movement, a sub-sect of environmentalist theology, is not primarily concerned with animal well-being. The leaders and financiers of this movement know exactly what they are doing. The consequences of their movement, if allowed to proceed to their logical conclusion, are too devastatingly obvious. It is not to police the woods or to lawyer up animals, but to shackle man…not the “freedom” of animals, but the enslavement of man…not the “rights” of animals, but the destruction of the rights of man…that this movement is about.
Spain is not some primitive backwater, but a major Western industrial power that has embarked on a path to human rights destruction. That is what makes this issue so important. Germany, too, was a major Western industrial power before degenerating into the barbarism of National Socialism. The Animal rights movement is about to emerge from the intellectual fringe into the mainstream of Western legal thought, via Spain’s pending law. It is a poison pill that will spread like a virus if not stopped. Stopping it begins by gaining a proper understanding of the nature of Man,s Rights…which are embodied in our Declaration of Independence…and of the movement’s true motives, which is not compassion for animals (although that is undoubtedly the motive of many well-meaning followers).
To be sure, the animal rights movement is not the only, but just the latest, major threat to individual rights and a free society. A misunderstanding and/or outright ignorance of the concept of rights, both in Spain and elsewhere…including in America…is enabling the destruction of individual rights to proceed in a veritable intellectual vacuum. But the knowledge of the nature of rights…the ammunition required for the battle against all forms of tyranny…is readily available to anyone willing to pick it up. Mr. La Valle has given an example of the proper way to advocate for and spread that knowledge.
(Note: Russell Paul La Valle is not associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.)
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