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Copyright © 2000 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.
My article, "The Illogic of Animal Rights," gets me more insulting email than anything else I've written. Considering that I've written in opposition to both gun control and the notion that proclamations of O.J. Simpson's guilt have the weight of papal infallibility, I find this noteworthy.
Those who write me on this topic, once they've gotten past defining me in terms of some stereotype they carry around in their heads, usually try to hit me on three points.
The first is that I'm somehow doing something illegitimate in presenting criteria that should be used in defining what is sapient and worthy of rights. Since I'm human, any criteria I present are charged with being subjective and self-serving -- as if I'm expected to run these criteria past peer review of sheep, chickens, and dogs to get an outside, more-objective viewpoint.
The second is anecdotal evidence about the kindness and intelligence of some of the other mammals. (I've heard praiseworthy things said about porpoises and pigs, but not a kind word for the characteristic behaviors of jackals or lions.)
Third is diet advice, usually wishing me to restrict myself to vegetable proteins rather than animal proteins, based on the notion that human beings have the intelligence to choose to eat soy beans in preference to cattle but wolves can't -- and this superior human reasoning ability is a reason to consider animals such as wolves our equals.
I have to admit that the writers of these letters try my patience beyond my usual desire for being polite to those who read me. All my inclinations and prejudices are toward, rather than away from, engaging with people who pay me the implied compliment of finding what I write worthy of their time to comment. Yet, I've found myself repeatedly having to engage in dismissive language. I'm convinced that the writers of these letters are fundamentally dishonest when they assert a desire to rely on reason, after casual and even unwitting ad hominem slurs, dismissal of my criteria without presenting coherent alternatives, and infantile debating tactics.
You would be correct if you assumed, at this point, that the most recent of these epistles -- though one in no sense unique or original -- is the instigation of this essay.
Let me begin by pointing out a few self-evident facts-- in other words, facts that can't be denied (other than as meaningless noise) by anyone advocating for elevating the status of animals.
First, human beings are the dominant species on this planet, making decisions regarding use of the land, the sea, the air, and the near space above the air. Man rules and animals have to take what we do with them and lump it.
Second, there are no animals petitioning mankind, their "oppressor," for an elevated status or recognition of their rights.
Third, this entire discussion is made by some human beings attempting to play on the ethics and esthetics of other human beings so as to cause them to alter the way they act with respect to animals
Why doesn't it mean something to the advocates of animal rights that none of the animals they wish to place in contention for having rights is capable of even joining this discussion on their own behalf? They can't give testimony or answer questions. Doesn't that observation have impact? Doesn't it suggest that before we can get to the acknowledgement of rights we have to get past the concept of the moral pillars of a rights-based system and before that we have to get past the concept of choice being fundamental to moral behavior and before that we have to get past the concept of intelligence sufficient to handle linguistic abstractions necessary to perceive choices -- and that animals don't even get to that lowest threshold?
An animal-rights advocate is in the position of a lawyer bringing a case to court, with a species of animal or representative of that species as the client. A petition for animal rights is, in effect, a petition for emancipation for species, and members of species, that are currently the legal wards of mankind at best -- and our outright property without proof there is even standing to consider them as candidates for a conservatorship. It is a case which is brought by the lawyer without either request or even understanding by the client. Moreover, even if we could somehow raise the intelligence and communication abilities of an animal to make it cognizant of the possibility, we don't even know whether their natural metaphysics would prefer dominion over themselves or continued rule by mankind, their "gods."
But let's say we're going to make a court case out of this anyway, without the animal's consent or understanding.
First up would be the question of the court's jurisdiction -- and it is undisputed that mankind rules this planet. There is nothing to even question our jurisdiction except another one of our own species -- and that fact reinforces, rather than undercuts, the unquestioned jurisdiction of mankind in deciding any question of animal rights.
Next up is the question of standing -- being able to go into court and make a claim for emancipation on one's own behalf in the first place -- and that goes to the question of competence. We would need a competency hearing to begin a trial of emancipation. A human judge is going to come up with the decisive criteria because there's no other life form we can ask to present a friend-of-the-court brief. The competency hearing prior to an emancipation hearing has to pass human-derived criteria because there aren't any other criteria being offered.
And that's where we have an impossible problem. Find me another species whom we can ask and we can have a controversy about the standards we will use in a proposed trial of animal rights -- or even conservatorship beyond being mere property. A controversy requires two or more parties. There is only one species capable of taking up the question. The very thing the animal-rights advocate wants to challenge -- that human beings have a monopoly on rights and adjudication of rights -- has no being affected by the outcome even laying claim to a contest.
That ends the question of standing for a species, or a member of a species, of animal before it starts.
Given that there are no animals contesting their status as inferiors to mankind, where can a human advocate of animal emancipation possibly go from there?
I see only one answer to that question: an attack on the rights of man for no reason other than to oppose the rights of man. It is not for the sake of animal elevation that animal rights is proposed. It is the degradation, population reduction, disempowerment, starvation, and state domination of human beings that is the only possible agenda of animal-rights advocates. They don't love animals. They hate men. That's what I said in my first article. My blowing the cover of their fraud is why they hate me and call me every name in the book.
You don't believe me? David Foreman of Earth First!, in Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, argued: "Human suffering resulting from drought and famine in Ethiopia is tragic, yes, but the destruction there of other creatures and habitat is even more tragic." Mr. Foreman and his ilk don't want animals elevated to the level of humans. He wants humans degraded below the level of animals. He is a human quisling, an enemy of our entire species. Those who side with him, not understanding the meaning or consequences of their position, are pawns in a war. They are either children, whom we don't expect to know better yet, or they are useful idiots who are being duped.
Grown-ups who understand the issue and still prefer animals to men are evil. If you don't believe me on this, ask them a question I've heard Dennis Prager ask his radio listeners. Ask them if they had to choose between saving a drowning baby and saving their pet cat or dog, which they would choose to save first. If they answer any other way than that they would immediately choose saving the baby first, I suggest telling your kids to scream for help if they ever encounter this monster again. They are psychopaths, not to be trusted, and I'm not kidding.
If you find you're living in a community with a lot of these moral cripples, I suggest moving someplace safer as soon as the opportunity presents itself. You might try looking on the 2000 presidential election map for the red areas. Your chances are better there.
So, for the sake of not having to debate this anymore, with countless people who don't have any practice in the use and understanding of logical argument, let me now, off the top of my head, present fifty observable activities in which human beings engage that human beings have not observed in any other species. And before you argue with me that you dressed up your cat in human clothes for a fashion show, I mean in all cases: in a state of nature, without human intervention.
1. Writing and reading.
2. Mathematical calculation.
3. Making and playing of musical instruments.
4. Creating and using a calendar.
5. Engaging in commerce.
6. The practice of law.
7. The practice of medicine and veterinary medicine.
9. Cooking food.
11. Tracking the movements of celestial bodies.
12. Whale watching.
13. The use of graphic arts.
14. Provision of artificial light.
15. Provision of artificial heat.
16. Home decoration.
17. Modeling clothing.
18. Making jewelry.
19. Fashion design.
24. Furniture design.
25. The practice of religion.
27. Kindling fire.
28. Body decoration.
30. Musical notation.
31. The presentation of argument.
33. Inducing or utilizing abstract principles.
34. Going on a vacation.
35. Construction of wheels for transportation.
36. Construction of artificial wings for flying.
37. Planning for retirement.
40. Farming and ranching.
41. Mechanical engineering.
42. Transportation and use of stored power.
43. Mailing or shipping.
44. Piloting craft.
45. Recording music.
46. Inventing games.
47. Distilling alcohol.
49. Avoiding or inhibiting the spread of natural diseases.
50. Sending me provocative email.
For those of you who can't understand the argument any other way, because these other species don't have the innate ability to engage in any of these activities, all other species of animals known to mankind are inferior to us and don't have rights.
J. Neil Schulman
December 7, 2000