Sometimes its good to replow old ground, and PeTA being caught out twice over — once by CCF when they revealed PeTA's animal shelter to be more a killing zone than a sanctuary, and more recently when two PeTA employees were busted for illegally killing and disposing of animals — makes now a time for just that.
I've written often about the fundamental difference between the beliefs of Animal Welfare people and Animal Rights people, but that distinction cannot be made too many times, nor can it's importance be overestimated. PeTA in particular, and the loopy AR "ideology" in general, survive only because the distinction between AW and AR is not understood in the public's mind's eye, though it is well-understood by AR activists.
Most of us are Animal Welfarists. We believe that a human life is more valuable than a non-human life, and do not believe eating meat, using animals for work (guide dogs) or pleasure (horse riding), or using animals for biomedical research are intrinsically immoral.
But Animal Rights activists believe, as an article of faith, that each life, animal and human, is of equal intrinsic worth (that animals are “non-human persons” deserving equal moral consideration as "human persons").
From this religious conviction, it follows that if it is immoral or unethical to do something to a "human person", it is equally immoral or unethical to do it to a "non-human person".
For example, to a person who believes in AR, it is immoral to eat meat; to keep animals in zoos; to ride horses; to use leather; and to use animals in research. Animal “persons” (AR people would grant "personhood" to animals . . .) have a natural right not to be “exploited” or “oppressed” by "human persons”. (I've elaborated on this point and how it manifests itself here.)
Those of us who discriminate between species — that is to say, those of us who regard humans as being of greater moral worth than animals — are often branded by Animal Rights activists with the cumbersome term "speciesist" because we practice "speciesism." To an Animal Rights activist, speciesism is every bit as oppressive and immoral as is "racism."
As one source puts it:
Speciesism is the act of treating individuals according to the species to which they belong, rather than according to the characteristics they possess, such as the ability to suffer. Most people who consciously support the exploitation of nonhuman animals are speciesist.
In the past, there have been a number of definitions of what constitutes a different species. Today it is defined genetically. To the defenders of speciesism who believe that only humans have rights, this raises the following questions:
• Why should rights be granted on the basis of genes?
• If rights should be based on genes, why should the line be drawn at species rather than at race, order, phylum, or kingdom?
• Like genes that determine one’s eye color, etc., which gene(s) determines rights?
Basing rights on species is no more rational than basing rights on the pigmentation of skin or on gender (which are also determined genetically).(The author's logic fails on 2 counts: first, it conflates "can" with "should" — we can all dump oil into water supplies, but should we?; second, the burden of proof properly lies with the author to show why change to a moral framework based on "characteristics" would preferable to all present moral frameworks . . . ed.)
Professor Steven Best (he of the "Me First" ethic) speaks admiringly of Dr. Jerry Vlasak (he who finds assassination "morally acceptable" and openly advocates its practice), a self-appointed Press Officer for the terrorist Animal Liberation Front who evidently sees the constraints of "speciesism" as an unjustifiable philosophical obstacle to the legitimate use of force in the "defense of animals:"
[ . . . ]
Vlasak appeals to situations in human society where violence is legitimate as a means of stopping greater violence or a method of self-defense. He argues that to dismiss the use of similar arguments in defense of animals is sheer speciesism, as he himself draws the logical conclusions others – including the vast majority of people in the animal rights movement – cannot or will not draw. Vlasak simply says what many are thinking or what logic dictates apart from the constraints of speciesism.
There's a lot available on the nuances of the meaning of "speciesism", but you get the overarching point: to an AR true believer, it's intrinsically evil to discriminate against animals just because they don't happen to belong to H. sapiens.
[ . . . ] How can you compare animal abuse to the Holocaust, slavery, etc.? Many great thinkers, from Tolstoy to Harriet Beecher Stowe, to Gandhi, to Albert Schweitzer, to Alice Walker, to Dick Gregory, to Holocaust victim and Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer have made the point that the same justification is used to support both animal and human exploitation—the moral paradigm of “might makes right”—I can do this to animals, or people, so I’m going to. To follow up on the last question, why do people eat animal products?
A good question indeed . . . let's just see what Mr. Friedrich can come up with as an answer, shall we?
But before we do, how about if we rephrase the question a tad?
Why would PeTA, with their enormous financial resources, have killed upwards of 75% (10,000 in all) of the animals they took into their shelter between the years 1998 and 2003, when PeTA President Newkirk herself has said the shelter easily could become a no-kill one? (PeTA killed 85% of the animals they accepted into their shelter in 2003, and annually kill far more of the animals they agree to take in than do some other shelters in their region.)
Now, let's let Mr. Friedrich answer, and measure it against the question as I phrased it:
It’s for some inconsequential reason, such as convenience, tradition, or taste, and because they can—because the animals can’t defend themselves. No one argues that the animals want to be raised this way, transported this way, killed this way.
Given PeTA's recent unmasking, these are darkly prophetic words indeed, are they not?
Most people understand how gruesomely violent slaughterhouses are. But they don’t want to bother making the change, even though it’s easier than ever.
We could rephrase: "Most PeTA executives understand how gruesomely violent our shelter is. But they don't want to bother making the change, even though it's easier than ever. (It's not like PeTA doesn't have the funds.)
They eat animals because they can.
Another rephrase: We kill animals because we can.
Well, that moral paradigm is no more justifiable when applied to animals than when applied to people. In fact, Isaac Bashevis Singer held that speciesism—bias on the basis of species—is the epitome of this “might makes right” moral paradigm, because animals are the weakest and least able to speak up for themselves. [My emphasis — ed]
[ . . . ]
So Mr. Friedrich believes it is an abuse of power, a morally unjustifiable assault on the "weakest and least able to speak for themselves" — it is speciesism and intrinsically evil — for humans to force their will on animals. We do so for inconsequential reasons — convenience being one. To be a speciesist, Mr. Friedrich would have us believe, is to bow to the corrupt morality of "might makes right."
The concept of "speciesism" is the core belief of Animal Rights, the feature of it that distinguishes Animal Rights entirely from Animal Welfare.
Now let's look at PeTA for a moment.
President Newkirk of PeTA explains to us that PeTA kills animals as a kindness — PeTA having killed 10,000 or more over one 5 year period, their kindness runneth over . . ..
Why is this killing not an assault on the weakest of the weak — the animals that, Newkirk claims, through human agency and by no fault of their own, have been rendered suffering, sick and unadoptable? Why are these animals, the greatest victims of an "uncaring world" (as Newkirk euphamistically puts it) less deserving of equal moral consideration and PeTA's resources than healthy, adoptable animals?
Why are they not more deserving?
Would Mr. Friedrich argue " . . .that the animals want to be . . . transported this way, killed this way"?
If the animals really are, as PeTA claims, the damaged victims of human exploitation and abuse, beyond repair, intractably difficult to handle and unadoptable (Newkirk used the word "unsocialized"), how is it possible that they sit patiently, evidently without struggling, embraced in the arms of one cooing PeTA technician, so that another can inject a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbitol into the animals' veins?
And why is PeTA's killing of the weakest of the weak not a textbook definition of "speciesism"?
Or would PeTA live by their core "anti-speciesism" principle, and support policies of equal killing kindness to humans who suffer, are incurably ill or who are simply inconvenient to care for?
Along similar lines, PeTA advocates spaying and neutering of animals, a practice that forces "non-human persons" to undergo an unnecessary surgical procedure to mutilate their organs of reproduction, deprive them of their reproductive rights and the pleasures of sexual intercourse and child-rearing, and forcibly alter their behavior in the unnatural direction of compliance and docility. (Friends of Animals also advocates spaying and neutering.)
Why is spaying and neutering not a textbook example of "speciesism" in which the weak are forced to do something against their will, something nobody would seriously believe they'd choose to do, if given a vote?
Or would PeTA advocate that some classes of humans should be forcibly "spayed and neutered" as a problem-solving tool?
If the flagship Animal Rights organization PeTA cannot or will not abide by the defining principle of "Animal Rights," what does it tell us about PeTA, and what does it tell us about the very concept of Animal Rights?