Thursday, April 27, 2006

The PETA-ful notion of animal rights

My dear friend Southside Rabbitslayer is a fan of PETA. For some reason, he assumes I share his appreciation of a group that touts animal rights.

I can see why he would think so, given that I frequently wax sentimental about animals and have worked for over a decade with wildlife rescue.

But supporting PETA? Sorry. That's where I draw the line.

"Why?" you may ask. "Don't you love animals? How could you be against putting the rights of non-humans on par with those of humans? "

"Well," say I. "Because no one does it. And no one does it because it can't be done."

"Hold on!" you persist. "There are groups that believe in animal rights. Groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States."

To which I reply, "Bullshit."

The overriding message of groups like PETA and HSUS is to spay and neuter your pet. Would someone tell me how that is consistent with animal rights?

We have a ten-week old kitten, Piper. Right now, she's all about chasing her tail and playing with string. But give her six months and she'll go in heat. Then she'll only want to do one thing: fuck. Through the magic of hormones, my cute little Piper will turn into a lust-crazed sex kitten, yowling for release.

Now, if I saw this cat as an equal, I wouldn't stand in the way of her reproductive freedom. It's her body, so who am I to tell her what to do with it? But I don't see her as an equal, and neither do the good speciests at PETA and HSUS, who recommend that I box her up, haul her to the vet, where she will cry in fear as she's sedated and prepped for her forced hysterectomy. Which is exactly what I intend to do.

It'll be a lot like when I took my corgi, Sport, to the vet and had him neutered. I didn't ask his permission and that night he just sat there, looking puzzled and forlorn as he pondered the scar where his balls used to be.

Animal rights? Please. Fleas are animals, but even the most ardent animal rights person will kill them if they infest their home. It doesn't matter that the flea has a right to eat. Same thing with tapeworms. No rights for them, either. If you're truly for animal rights you don't interfere with the dynamic. True, fleas and tapeworms are parasites, but as humans who are we to place the value of the cat above the value of the worms in its belly?

Humans are, without argument, the most destructive creatures on the planet. But it's because we have the power. If cats had the power and intelligence to do so, they'd be the ones driving around in Hummers and we'd be the ones getting neutered. Hopefully the cats would have enough sense not to start wars , destroy the environment and overpopulate. But then, given the behaviour of the hard-fighting, bird-killing sex-crazed feral cats around here there probably wouldn't be much of a difference.

Hopefully the cats would treat us well, which is really all that can be practically required of a dominant species. Animals will never have rights because as the dominant species, humans will have to consider their welfare, and balance it with our own. Sometimes that consideration means doing things animals would never consent to if given the choice, like being spayed and microchipped and vaccinated. The downside is that we also eat them, manage their herds or kill them if they threaten us. It isn't pretty, it's just reality.

PETA knows this, and so does the Human Society. But no one thinks it through, and as long as they don't, "animal rights" groups will always have donations to advance the notion of their impossible goal.


JohnR said...


My problem with PETA is that they equate animals and humans. Animals don't think in the sense people do. A lion doesn't decide to show mercy to the lamb. Only people are capable of that. Nature is as brutal as man is.

I am surprised you disagree with their program of spaying and neutering, isn't it to keep down the unwanted animal population? Even dog breeders will tell you, if you don't plan on breeding then neuter or spay.

PETA's don't eat meat nonsense has a flaw in it. If people stop eating animal products, what happens to the animals (cows, chickens, and pigs.) They would soon become endangered species because they have little purpose outside of man's use. You won't see herds of wild cattle or pigs (dangerous and destructive) or flocks of wild chicken (mmm tasty).


Morgan said...

JohnR, I don't disagree with spaying and neutering. If you go back and read what I wrote, you'll see that I have spayed and neutered my pets.

My point is this: If you consider an animal your equal, you don't forcibly sterilize it any more than you'd forcibly sterilize another human.

I don't consider my animals equals and PETA doesn't either, given their advocacy of forced sterilization. Most PETA people are pro-choice. If youre an animal rights advocate who doesn't believe in telling a woman what to do with her body, you can't tell a cat.

Go back and read the post again. I can't believe you misinterpreted it to the extent you did!

You're right, of course, about the lion and the lamb. The coyote isn't concerned about the red fox's right to hunt in the same territory. Coyotes will kill red foxes. The dog isn't concerned about the chicken's right to live. A dog will kill an entire coop of chickens for fun.

dlkjdfsa said...

Neutering pets is justifiable because it keeps the offspring from suffering painful deaths. If those damn cats would just use condoms! PETA = People for the ethical treatment of animals not people for the equal rights of animals. I do not agree with everything PETA advocates and don't plan on becoming vegetarian. If your house has fleas you are being attacked. Killing them is a defensive action to continue your existence. This is justifiable. Nearly all animals have weapons of some sort, fangs, claws, spikes, etc. They use there weapons to eat and defend, that's it. This is natural and acceptable. Our problem is that our brains are our weapon and most people are using it poorly. We use weapons to make other people think like we want them to.

Morgan said...

"A pig is a dog is a rat is a boy," Ingrid Newkir, PETA president.

Robert, if that's not a statement on animals and humans being equal, I don't know what is. PETA *is* an animal rights organization.

There are too many people, Robert. Do you believe in forced sterilization for people? Would you deny a woman the right to choose? Would you force a hysterectomy on her?

If your answer is no, and you support PETA's animal rights goals then, dear, you can't logically support spaying and neutering your pets.

Humans also suffer from painful deaths due to overpopulation. You want to go to Ethiopia and start spaying the women against their will?

Man isn't the only animal with intelligence and a capacity for cruelty. Read up on chimps and dolphins sometime, and get back to me.

dlkjdfsa said...

As I said, I am not a PETA person however, I do believe in the ethical treatment of animals just like you... There are too many people. Notice I have no offspring. I choose to adopt, when I am financially capable and mentally stable enough... My hope is to educate people so we don't have to force anyone to do anything. Once people are educated and enlightened they will make proper decisions.

Man isn't the only animal with intelligence and a capacity for cruelty.

I agree, but our brains are big enough that we should know better.

JohnR said...

Morgan: I understood your point. I just can't phrase it as artfully as you might. ;)


tc said...

I was a farm boy and I grew up with the idea that there were three kinds of animals: companion/working animals like cats and dogs, food animals like cows, pigs and chickens, and wild animals that you admired from afar or hunted for food or pelts.

I have had, all my life, the concept of humanity as having predominance over these animals. This is supported both by Torah (in Genesis, it's one of the things that G-d specifically puts Adam in charge of) and by secular writings--"humanity has worked its way, by evolution, to the top of the food chain."

I developed a code of ethics towards animals as a child, and it has served me well all my life.

Here it is--

1) To food animals: Your contribution to my life is of a high quality and I will respect you for it. You will be fed and watered regularly and not be subjected to overcrowding, extremes of heat and cold or pain. When it comes time for you to die in order to be eaten, I will kill you myself and see to it that it is done in the swiftest way possible to avoid discomfort.

2) For companion/working animals: When you come to me, I will see you as a responsibility for as long as you live. I will keep you as safe as possible and treat you with affection according to your needs. I will see that you are kept clean and receive food and water on time. If you are to be used for breeding purposes, I will insure that you are not injured in the process, and will extend to your offspring the same respect and/or love. I will take care of you in your old age and when you are suffering, I will see to it that you are killed as comfortably as possible. You will be buried on my land and remembered.

3) For wild animals: I will not kill you for my pleasure, but for a purpose. If you are overpopulated, I will cull you in season and will use your meat or other products if I can. If you present a danger to me and my family, I will kill you as cleanly and as quickly as possible. If I need your fur, I will not use a cowardly trap, but will hunt you myself with a rifle or bow. I will not kill females with young.

That pretty much sums it up. I am unabashedly a killer omnivore, but I also feel that G-d does not want us to cause unnecessary suffering in our charges.

Right now, I've got a 12-year old tiger cat that's been Marcey's companion all his life. He was just diagnosed with diabetes, so we are buying insulin and special cat food and giving him shots twice a day. She's going to have to get a part-time job to pay for that and a few other things (the bill for the materials comes to about $175 a month), but its worth it. He's a fine cat.

steve said...

You make some really good points here. Technically, a tape worm has every ounce as much of a right to life as a kitten. I am a vegan and I will kill tape worms and fleas because, on some level, I have to, to survive. I make this point when people freak out that some Chinese eat dogs - this is no less humane than eating a chicken.
That said, there is nothing wrong with sparing cows and pigs and chickens when we can eat things that grow from the ground instead. There is no flaw in vegetarianism.. The extinction of the chicken would be better than the torture and slaughter of billions of chickens every year.

Difster said...

If your house has fleas you are being attacked. Killing them is a defensive action to continue your existence.

Doesn't an 'attack' require malicious aforethought? Fleas know not what they do. They simply infest, they do not invade.

But, a true PETA person (which Rabbitslayer says he's not) would simply have the fleas rounded up and deported from their home, not killed. Even then, if 'human rights' equal 'animal rights' we only need to look at the recent immigration protests and those who back them to support the idea that the fleas should simply be allowed to emmigrate to whatever house, animal or vacant lot they choose.

Billy D said...

I've eaten as many different meats as I could... snake, dog, kangroo, all the woodland creatures, whatever.
Animals have the rights men chooser to give them. Whether you think you have dominion over the animals because of your larger brain, or because God gave it to you in the garden, you do.
Why on earth would you unecessarily torture or cause pain to an animal, unless you were a pretty evil nasty bastard anyway?
I love my dog-o. But at 6 months she's getting the "not-getting-any" tuck.
PETA is a bad organization, toward the lines of ELF and all that lovely shat. One of their reps is on the radio with Howie Karr (Local funny political radio guy) every Thanksgiving trying to desuade people from eating turkeys.
Instead of trying to save animals, why don't we try to save each other? Feed starving children and the like, maybe not kill as many of each other everyday, etc.
A few years ago in Cali. a mountain lion killed a woman, who had two young children. Two groups started drives for money, one for the lioness' cubs, the other for the children of the dead woman. The animals outpaced the human children almost 10 to 1. Does this make you happy? Equivelancy?

dlkjdfsa said...

The Chinese torture animals because it is cheaper than treating them humanely. Americans buy from the Chinese because there products are cheaper and since the torture don't happen in there country and the press is not aloud to invade and report they can do what ever they want. I'm glad PETA exists because they have undercover agents doing the reporting in this vicious country.

Animals, aside from humans, do not have the capacity to understand, "treat others as you would want to be treated." The reason the kitten will torment a mouse is not because they have malicious intent. It's because they are practicing there hunting skills. This is there instinct. Humans are at the point were we should rise above our instinct to kill without just cause. If it were possible to actually round up the fleas and deport them that would be the way to go. unfortunately bombing is our only current means of action. I used to have a pet tarantula. I feel for our exoskeleton friends.

difster - Doesn't an 'attack' require malicious aforethought?

No. If I'm a pale person in the noontime summer sun, I am being attacked by sunlight. I can defend myself with sunscreen.

Morgan said...

Robert, Difster is right and you are wrong. Also, Difster is funny and you need to lighten up.

An attack does imply malicious intent. If you go in the house, the sun doesn't follow you in to continue the *attack*. It just continues to shine. It puts out the same amount of light it puts on the flower beside you. The flower grows, you burn. The sun has no motive for either.

Your argument is lame.

Fleas don't have a motive either, other than hunger. And those who believe a pig is a cow is a dog is a boy is a flea cannot ethically kill them, especially when you consider Difster's argument equating them with immigrants.

The fleas are simply looking for a better life, having perhaps fled a dog with tougher skin. Your ankles are tender, and so is your poodle.

How can you say no? Fleas, illegal aliens - they both suck. But we're all in this together. We're all equals. God bless us every one.

Morgan said...

"Why on earth would you unecessarily torture or cause pain to an animal, unless you were a pretty evil nasty bastard anyway?"

Amen, Billy D.

"Instead of trying to save animals, why don't we try to save each other? Feed starving children and the like, maybe not kill as many of each other everyday, etc."

I'm of a mind to think we can help our fellow man as well as animals. When you think of all the other useless crap we spend money on, we could probably build animal shelters with spay/neuter clinics and make sure every kid started his or her day with a hot meal.

dlkjdfsa said...

The fleas are doing what all life does. Trying to survive. I'm sorry if you don't find me comical. I'll lighten up when I stop seeing signs that say, "swimming here might kill you", in paradise.

Morgan said...

TC, I think your guidelines are the best I've seen. Very fair, humane and respectful.

Steve, I agree with you, too. A lot of animal rights type adhere to a belief in "survival of the cutest." They have a lot more sympathy for a cute puppy than a chicken, even though chickens can be very loyal pets.

My mother will swat a cockroach in a second but will pull a butterfly out of a spiderweb before she sees it killed. I asked her once why she cared more for the butterfly than the roach since roaches are actually smarter. She said butterflies were prettier.

So there you go.

I admire the fact that you're a vegan. To be ethically honest, you'd almost have to be if you believe in animal rights.

As far as fleas and other parasites, I'll spray them in a heartbeat. I'm the dominant species, and I have Raid.

Difster said...

Also, Difster is funny and you need to lighten up.

Morgan, I think people have told you to lighten up once or twice over at Vox's. :)

Years ago, when I was first trolling the usenet groups, I wrote a post on why animals have no rights. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. These people had no sense of humor. Perhaps I'll recreate that post on my own blog. The only difference is that it won't generate much debate. Most of my readers will tend to agree with me.

dlkjdfsa said...

I saw something the other day that upset me. I saw a man scare away a bird that was trying to eat a crab. He picked the crab up and put it in the ocean. How would he feel if some giant came down from the sky and took that prime rib out of his mouth. Stupid humans :)

Morgan said...

"Morgan, I think people have told you to lighten up once or twice over at Vox's. :)"

It's been at *least* twice, Difster. ;-) But then I can't say the sky is blue over on VP without someone telling me what a bitch I am for pointing it out. Oh well...

Yes, animal people can get crazy. My mother is an animal rights advocate...well, she fancies herself such. She eats meat but sends my dad's money to PETA.
She told me once she didn't want to use any medications tested on animals. I asked her if she still got her cats vaccinated for feline lukemia. She said, "of course." I asked her how many cats had to die to develop that vaccine. She didn't like that one bit.

You should recreate your post on your blog. Maybe not everyone will agree with you.

Robert, if Difster posts something about animal rights on his blog will you go over and yell at him? ;-)

Morgan said...

"He picked the crab up and put it in the ocean. How would he feel if some giant came down from the sky and took that prime rib out of his mouth. Stupid humans :)"

Yes, that would drive me crazy, too. I'd look away but not interfere. Unless the bird was trying to eat my cat or something. Then I'd have to intercede.

thimscool said...

This is reactionary, Morgan; and PETA's a soft target…
What's next? Catching trout with corn?

I agree with most of what you said in the post. Animal rights and human rights are not the same (legally in practice, and ethically in my opinion). Moreover, the rights of different types of animals are not the same (again, this is legal fact, and ethical in my opinion).

I reject your assertion that anyone who believes in animal rights, and wants to remain consistent, must then conclude that a flea has the same rights as a puppy. I would suggest that you too believe in animal rights, and a hierarchy thereof. Am I wrong? Or do you think that we shouldn't prosecute someone who deliberately tortures puppies?

I am no vegan. But I generally do not eat mammals or birds (although some years I have a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving). I recognize that life requires sacrifice to sustain itself, but I'd like to minimize suffering as much as possible. As you have pointed out, there are many sources of great suffering in the world without people focusing on avoiding honey so as not to be guilty of enslaving bees. But believe it: factory farms are worse than concentration camps; not just in China.

The cow may not be able to appreciate Shakespeare; but it can feel and show love. It visibly suffers when tortured, in a way most anyone who personally witnessed a McDonald's source slaughterhouse would wince and walk away in shame and disgust.

have no problem whatsoever with the philosophy espoused by tc, above. I don't mind hunters. I respect someone that is connected with the animals that sustain them, and someone who respects and treasures the animals that don't sustain them. And I've got no problem with defending oneself, from a human, a dog, or a flea, regardless of intent.

But it is not cool to eat a Whopper. Think about it.

prettylady said...

You are all very sensible, and PETA people are just silly. They are the same people who would try to legislate against the laws of physics, and would starve to death in a foreign country, at the same time as they mortally offended the nice people offering them some of their Sunday dinner.

Morgan said...

"I reject your assertion that anyone who believes in animal rights, and wants to remain consistent, must then conclude that a flea has the same rights as a puppy. I would suggest that you too believe in animal rights, and a hierarchy thereof. Am I wrong? Or do you think that we shouldn't prosecute someone who deliberately tortures puppies?"

Thimscool. If a person truly believes in the equality of animals they have to extend it from fleas to whales. After all, how could they ethically exclude fleas from equality, other than the fact that they feel threatened by fleas? Animal rights shouldn't stop with animals we don't like.

I don't believe in animal rights. I do believe in killing fleas, because I consider my right to be comfortable more important than their existence. I'm absolutely against killing puppies and believe a person caught doing such deserves to be stripped of his right not to be beaten to a pulp.

Eating Whoppers? I don't. I don't eat beef at all, both for health reasons and also because I disagree with the farming practices. I do eat free range chicken and eggs. And fish.

I don't shun beef because cows have rights, since I can't extend rights to a cow without extending rights to a flea, for I don't *really* know whether a flea is capable of suffering or feels fear or love in its own flea-like way.

It may, and if that was the criteria I could no more support the death of a flea than the death of a cow. Logically neither can you. But cows are pretty and it makes it easier for you to make the distinction and justify sparing the cow and killing the flea.

thimscool said...

Animal rights does not mean equal rights. By existing law, and by common sense.

Just because I endorse the laws that say that clubbing a puppy is a jailable offense, does not mean I think you should be locked up for swatting mosquitos.

If you actually were a vegan, I might argue the point rather than assert it. But I don't think it's worth our time, and I simply refer you back to my first sentence in this post. I don't think we disagree, I just want to make it clear that I don't think that animals deserve equal rights.

What I am trying to communicate is that they still have some rights, and their rights should depend on the Class, and sometimes the Species (for endangered ones). Your inclination to avoid beef, and to only eat free-range fowl is an indication that you may share this view.

As I said, no matter what I do, there will be some suffering involved; so I don't stress about it or evangelize against meat eating. But once you get the idea and find the alternatives, it is easy not to eat mammals and birds.

I chose those two classes for exemption because most of the species in those classes care for their young. I reason that if an animal cares for its young then it has a greater capacity to suffer because its brain is neccessarily emotionally developed to support a caring disposition.

Physical pain, felt by me or the flea, is probably the same, qualitatively. But a soldier who loses his arm has a much deeper pain to confront than a flea that looses a leg.

More food for thought, other than whoppers...

Morgan said...

"What I am trying to communicate is that they still have some rights, and their rights should depend on the Class, and sometimes the Species (for endangered ones)."

I absolutely agree, thimscool. And I agree we have no argument. Of course, PETA would definitely argue with you on these points.

It was Peter Singer who termed the concept of specism. In his mind, we can no more tolerate discrimination between species any more than we can tolerate discrimination between races.

He advences the theory in his book, Animal Liberation, which I read years back. It's sort of the PETA bible and his theory is noble and sweet but - for reasons we've stated - completely unworkable.

PETA activists are a bunch of frauds, in my opinion. They're as selective in their compassion - with their pity for rabbits but disdain for fleas - as some right wingers are who care about children as long as they're white.

We all should follow our consciense, which it seems you and I are doing where animals are concerned.

If people want to really be *fully* compassionate towards animals, they should become Jainist monks:

We could all benefit from becoming Jains, now that I think about it. ;-)

thimscool said...

We could all benefit from becoming Jains, now that I think about it. ;-)

Now you're just baiting the True Christians ™. :)

thimscool said...

In her post-college days, my wife was fired from peta for being 'too happy'.

Morgan said...

Oh, you haven't seen anything yet. The True Christians ™ from VP have handed me such an awesome opportunity I'm doing a happy dance this morning. Just wait till later today.

dlkjdfsa said...

Poor wrabbits! Cwappy flees!

scooterhawk said...

Not that I'm attempting to speak for all my brothers and sisters is Christ but how is the idea of dedicating one's life to doing charitable works baiting? Of course I could say that the world would be a better place if everyone were a "little Christ" but then someone might accuse me baiting any Jainist monk that might be roaming the blogsphere. =)

steve said...

I'm not sure which one of you said we should all be concentrating on saving each other rather than the animals - and that's a good point though they don't need to be mutually exclusive.

Did you know you could produce 1,000 times more food on the amount of land it takes to graze one cow than the amount of food the cow provides? So, you see, if we were all vegetarians we would be saving each other..

Morgan said...

Scooterhawk, the comment about baiting True Christians ™ was sort of an inside joke regarding a discussion on another forum where True Christians ™ believe only they can be close to God. I just posted an entry on it called "This is porn." ;-)

JohnR said...

Fleas spred disease. That is why people kill them. Not because they have some intrinsic right to life.

Morgan: Why don't you buy grass-fed beef if you object to the way cows are raised? We buy our beef that way. I personally meet every cow in person before I have it killed for my food.

Also, for the vegan. How come every female vegan I've met is a yard wide?

My sister's husband has a daughter and her partner is big as a whale and they are very puritanical about what they eat.

This woman is a walking poster-girl for not becoming a vegan.


Morgan said...

JohnR, I'm just not a big fan of beef. They do sell grass-fed beef at the co-op and if I were to develop a taste for some that's where I get it. I've just always preferred free-range, organic chicken or fish.

I've no interest in being a vegan and have noticed the same thing you have. Most vegans are pretty heavy. I'm not sure why. I'm assuming it's because their diet is high in carbs and low in protein.

If I'm wrong I'd like to hear an answer from a vegan.

thimscool said...

Poor wrabbits! Cwappy flees!

Maybe it's because I've had a couple, but I sudenly got this and laughed heartily.

thimscool said...

how is the idea of dedicating one's life to doing charitable works baiting? ~ Scooterhawk

I am hardly fit to pontificate about True Christians, as Morgan calls them; however, I suspect that many of them would frown on the degree of reverence that the devout Jains show to 'enlightened masters', rather than to Yeshua or Torah.

Their obsessive do-goody approach will not buy them a ticket to heaven, if you are a True Christian; etc. But, again... I've overstepped my boundaries.

I have great respect for Christianity, in spite of certain historical and current trends. Due to my background, I come to these matters from the outside looking in; so it is inappropriate for me to comment on one denomination or another, or whether someone is a True Christian, as Morgan calls them.

But these issues fascinate me.

Morgan said...

I've always admired the Jains, but any time a Christian lauds the dedication of someone outside of Christianity, their faith is called into question by the True Christians ™. I've learned a lot about how True Christians ™ work since posting at VP.

They're nasty.

I respect Christianity, too, having been raised in it. But growing up I had this nagging feeling I wasn't being told The Whole Story.

Imagine my surprise when I grew up and found out that the Real Jesus was about as different from the True Christian ™ as night is from day.

I believe the Spirit of Christ dwells in places and people we'd never expected. I've had epiphanies and lessons come from God's presence in situations and people I'd have never thought to encounter Him.

He's got a lot in common with the Jains, in terms of dedication and gentleness...I guess that's why I like the Jains. Something in their compassion reminds me of Jesus.

steve said...

Morgan, in response to your comment about fat vegans; I am one. I am lucky to be a 6' tall man with big bones but still, I'm chubby.

I went vegetarian a few years back and gained a lot of weight - bread and cheese. When you're a veg, cheese and ice cream are the only remaining joys; culinarily (if that's a word) anyway.

I've recently gone vegan to try to get in better shape - it's tough. Vegetables aren't really satisfying, emotionally.

The fact is you can debate animal rights all you want but, once you go a time without killing to eat, it becomes unfathomable that you would chew into flesh. My sustenance has become sort of spiritual; feeding off of the earth without exploiting its creatures.

Yes, I kill fleas. You can't live without killing. As humans we are both at the top and the bottom of the food chain; eventually we are usually killed by a bacteria or a virus, too small to see and too powerful to overcome.

I just try to walk as softly on the Earth as possible. Even so, I step on worms. You do what you can.

Morgan said...

Steve, that was an awesome answer.
I like you.