name two anti-humanist organizations! The ones that spring to
mind for me, even before the Roman Catholic Church, are PETA and
Earth First. As for Earth First, any group that views the human
race as a disease the earth would be better off without is
certainly anything but humanist. Let's face it: the earth is
in our mighty hands, and we cannot abdicate our rule, to which
the size and skill of our brains destine us. Call it "the Hu-Man's
Burden." PETA, too, undermines the centrality of the human
race, with its unfortunate talk of "animal rights." Animal
Rights, ever since Peter Singer coined the term, has been a
moral confusion beloved of those for whom sentiment usurps the
role of conscience.
Do you want to see why it is absurd to attribute rights to
animals? It is quite simple. Ask yourself if animals possess
rights in their natural sphere, animal-to-animal relations.
Obviously they do not. Does the antelope have a "right to
life"? Are his survivors going to sue the lion who ate him for
wrongful death? Even for murder? Somehow I don't think so. And
what do you expect the lion to do anyway? Start eating tofu?
Animals have no "right" to be protected from their
predators, which must eat them! Well, if animals have no rights
in the only sphere in which it even might make sense to
look for them, how can they have rights vis a vis a wholly
different sphere; that of their relations to humans? Do you and
I have a right not to be crushed by an avalanche? Do we have a
right not to be killed by a volcano or a Tsunami? I shouldn't
To imagine animals have rights is a childish humanization of the
beasts, like Disney's Goofy, a dog walking upright, wearing
clothes, and speaking.
Does this mean we may feel guiltlessly free to torment and abuse
animals? Not at all. Animals do not have the right to be treated
in any particular way by us, but we have the moral duty not to
be cruel, whether to them or to our own kind. We ought to
respect life. But not all of it to the same degree. There is a
hierarchy. We ought never gratuitously to extinguish the
wonderful spark of life. But that doesn't amount to Jainism,
the Indian faith which forbids the killing of any life-forms and
which goes to what we should consider insane lengths to make
sure we don't. Jain monks carry whisk brooms to sweep even
invisible microbes out of their paths. They wear surgical masks
so as not to breathe the little devils in (though I imagine
they'd love nothing better than to hop aboard!).
I do want to borrow an element of the Jainist calculus. You see,
they divide life-forms into different categories according to
the number of "senses" each has. Basically this means that
more complex organisms, if you kill them, will incur worse karma
for you than simpler organisms. I think that is a good rule of
thumb. Here's how I begin to work it out. I think it is
(slightly) wrong even to rip a leaf off a tree, or to rip up
grass from the lawn as some bored morons do absent-mindedly.
There is no reason to do so, and it is good to respect life. It
is okay to cut the grass, though. That's just like
trimming back your cat's claws occasionally.
Who cares—they're not sentient, and it's not worth the
trouble. Insects? Don't squash them without reason. But it
doesn't take much of a reason. As far as I am concerned,
mosquitoes and flies are the enemies of the human race, so
it's open season on them. On the chance the skeeter is going
to bite you, a preemptive strike is morally justifiable. I will,
however, admit I'd rather open the window and shoo the fly out
than kill him. And if you find a cricket on the hearth, I think
you ought to take the trouble of escorting him outside whole and
in one piece. Ah, palmetto bugs? Bring out the heavy artillery.
I just can't co-exist with those brutes. So sue me.
are cute, but unless you can toilet train them and get them to
change their eating habits, again, to hell with them, cute
though they are. You have the same right the American colonists
did to defend their living space against aboriginal inhabitants,
even if their names happen to be Mickey and Minnie. You have to
draw the line against vermin, against infestation. Aren't you
animals are like alien races, extraterrestrials: you have no
business messing with them. Try to avoid them on a camping trip.
If they wind up mauling you, you can't blame them, though you
have every right to defend yourself.
are animals that wouldn't even exist if we weren't raising
them for our consumption. It's almost like parents who produce
a second child to use, just in case, as an organ bank for a
first child with big medical problems. The difference is,
obviously, the child is a human and has the right to say no.
Bessie the bovine does not. I have always found it surprising
that farmers and their children actually make pets of pigs,
cows, chickens, turkeys—until doomsday dawns. But I guess that
completes the analogy: we are like deities who created the
creatures and have the responsibility not to be cruel to them
even though they are not "immortals" like us.
big ticket items would be the most intelligent animals: monkeys,
chimps, dolphins. Tread lightly here. At least with the
primates, these are our cousins. You better have a pretty darn
good reason for wanting to kill them. Ever seen Planet of the
think hunting animals for their meat and for their pelts is
altogether justifiable. That's the old struggle of humanity
against nature. To think we have passed by the need for hunting
is, I think, decadent, the luxury of hyper-scrupulosity. We are
able to reproduce with artificial technology; does that mean it
is better (as Augustine would have preferred it) not to have
sex? We can get by eating vegetables, so should we swear off
meat? Like hell. I admit, I wouldn't want to be the one to
kill and prepare the meat, but then I wouldn't have the guts
to perform surgery either.
say we have a responsibility, if only to ourselves, not to be
cruel to animals. It is degrading to our humanity. And that
means it is evil, even more so since the cad who is cruel to
animals is abusing an innocent creature and is thus a sadist.
This should be, as it is, a punishable offense. Killing pets
should probably count as some degree even of murder. It is a
justifiable splitting of hairs to say that it is wrong to take
innocent life without saying that that life has a "right"
not to be taken.
according to yours truly, animals have no rights, but humans
have a responsibility not to be cruel to them. That is the Hu-Man's