By: Dr. Jeff Mirus
May 11, 2010
In its April issue, Catholic World Report published a fascinating interview with Wesley J. Smith, a Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute. The subject was animal rights, and how the animal rights movement constitutes a sort of pseudo-religion and an assault on Christian principles. Smith is the author of a new book entitled A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. The title comes from an actual statement from Ingrid Newkirk of PETA in which she affirmed the moral equivalence of persons and animals.
The interview is replete with great quotes, so I thought I'd pass a few along:
On the belief that the ability to feel pain is the only moral measure:
This view is very destructive, because if you destroy human exceptionalism-which is what the animal rights movement intends to do, it disdains human exceptionalism-if you say that we are not the highest life form on the planet, if our lives do not have greater value than those of animals, then you have completely changed how we perceive ourselves. Animal rights people may think they are raising animals to the level of people, but what they are really doing is reducing people to the level of animals.
On the dangerous susceptibility of young people when taught about animal rights:
It's kind of ironic [but] I think kids are hungry today for some absolute values. They are raised in so much relativism. Animal rights offer a clear right and wrong.
On the consequences of the animal rights philosophy:
Let me give you an example. There was a woman who was jogging in Los Angeles and she was brought down by a cougar. And they went out and shot the cougar because of human safety concerns. And a lot of money was raised for the offspring-of the cougar! More money was raised for the cubs of the dead cougar than for the children of the dead woman.
On the irrationality of rejecting human exceptionalism:
There's an irrationality in the whole idea of animal rights, because they are basically saying that substantial benefits to our species should be sacrificed for the higher moral purpose of not injuring, abusing and interfering with the natural lives of animals. But that is an act of human exceptionalism. It's engaging in moral and ethical thinking, which only humans are capable of.
On the bottom line:
The animal rights movement is irrational because if animals had rights, the only species that would be required to honor those rights would be people. Animals would not have an obligation to honor each other's rights because they don't understand the concept. Nor do they have the obligation to honor our rights, because they don't have the capacity to understand the concept. Animals cannot be rights-bearing beings because they are not duties-bearing beings. They're amoral.
Christians tempted by this particular brand of irrationality need to learn the profound difference between rights theory and good stewardship.
I think he makes some very good points.