IPFS Mike Renzulli

More About: Philosophy of Liberty

The Immorality of Animal "Rights"

In his response to my column, Marc Victor gave a bit more clarity to his position on eating meat and the treatment of animals. Essentially, he states that humans don't act ethically toward animals and pointed to a video narrated by Paul McCartney demonstrating how animals are slaughtered inhumanely during the production of meat products. While I am glad he prefers not to force anyone to adopt his dietary choices or new found ethic and am pleased that his health has improved as a result of reduced meat consumption, however, his philosophical or moral justification is still extremely weak.  

For example, the video Marc cites as one way to show that humans do not treat animals ethically was produced by PETA. That group is notorious for releasing edited, skewed videos that are geared to no only slander slaughterhouses and medical laboratories but also gross out people in hopes that they no longer eat meat. A similar tactic is used by anti-abortion groups in which anti-abortion protesters use pictures of ripped up, bloodied fetuses and skewed videos in hopes of scaring women into not to having abortions or slander reproductive health organizations (like Planned Parenthood). PETA's leader, Ingrid Newkirk, has said previously  that humans are a cancer on the Earth and at one point even hoped that Mad Cow Disease would come to the US in hopes of killing humans off since to do so would be good for the environment.

The problem with Marc's newly found morality is that it is not only based on subjectivism (i.e. his feelings) but also draws from utilitarian philosophy as evidenced by his citing an essay authored by philosophy professor Louis P. Pojman's. Polman draws from Peter Singer and other utilitarian philosophers in which Singer authored the book entitled Animal Liberation that not only inspired the modern-day animal rights movement but, essentially, states that humans are a means to an end for the needs of nature. Marc's use of the non-aggression principle (NAP) also demonstrates a stark problem with libertarian philosophy. 

The problem with NAP is the example that Marc outlines as his reasons why it applies. In his view, it is immoral to kill any animal including those humans use for consumption, domestication, clothing or even medical testing. If all aggression is wrong, then no amount of action taken by humans in terms of using animals or even plants for food can be justifiable since the basis of animal rights is based on the pain-pleasure principle. Studies have been done, for example, revealing evidence that plants feel pain, have the same senses as humans and demonstrate some sort of intelligence. Based on the conclusions of animal rights philosophers, even the cultivation and consumption of plants for human survival would violate the NAP since to consume or even rip plants up from their roots would be considered a violation of their rights (e.g.: I feel pain, therefore I have rights). 

As I mentioned earlier, humans are nature's favored species because of our abilities of deliberation and choice (i.e. reason). It is because of our capability to reason and choose that mankind has a moral right to use Earth's resources (including animals) for our survival and betterment. Animals lack any rational faculties or sense of morality. Their primary means of survival is predatory instincts and sensory perception. Animals cannot think and reason the way people do, therefore, they cannot and should not be afforded the same rights or treatment as humans.

Only humans have the ability to deal with other members of our own species by rational, voluntary means. There is no such morality among animals in the least. Let me stress that I am sure this is not indicative of Marc, but animal rights groups and the philosophy they are based on assume humans cannot use animals for our betterment or survival which is tantamount to saying people have no right to control their own lives. In groups, like PETA's view, human well being must be sacrificed for the welfare of creatures who not only lack any capacity of rational thought but also lack a sense of morality. The consequence of a court of law, legislative, ethical, or even contractual declaration establishing rights for animals leads to the obliteration of individual rights which, in turn, results in the negation of human life itself. Animal rights is a way to elevate or revere the savagery of the animal kingdom over the rationality of human civilization.