I'd been meaning to get to this sooner, but time didn't permit.
Science and economics won't defeat activists, a Dordt College professor says.
Don't underestimate the power of the Professor's assertion: science, economics and facts are poor proof against a True Believer's ideology.
For the True Believers who are Animal Rights extremists, both those supporting violence and those "not condoning" violence, facts and logic are viewed through the prism of the core Animal Rights premise: that the life of a human and that of an animal are of equal value.
And nobody is a more convincing salesman, be it of cars, lawn mowers, bread or ideology, than someone who truly believes in his product.
Wes Jamison, an associate agriculture professor at the Sioux Center, Iowa, college, said the animal rights activism movement seeks to end animal agriculture as it's known.
Professor Jamison is correct — to the AR True Believer, to treat an animal differently from a human simply because the animal is not human, is to practice "speciesism." And speciesism is a moral transgression which is every bit as reprehensible as racism. (That's a perfectly reasonable moral position to take IF you begin with the core premise upon which AR ideology rests: that the life of a human and that of an animal are morally equal.)
When Professor Steven Best says he'd save his dog from a burning house before he'd save a human stranger, because his dog is more valuable to him than the human stranger (your child, spouse, parent . . .) is to him, he is merely following the logic of the AR premise to it's conclusion: both lives, the dog's and the human's, are equally valuable, so it's only important that one be saved first. Once he's logic-ed his way here, what's the argument against Dr. Best saving the the life that is important to him?
And when Jerry Vlasak, MD, finds it morally acceptable to assassinate a few scientists to save more animals, and openly advocates the practice itself, he, too, is merely following the logic dictated by the AR premise: if by killing "n" scientists you can save "n+1" animals, your moral scale points towards virtue.
The movement is winning, Jamison said, and will continue to do so unless agriculture establishes the moral and scientific high ground.
Of course, one of the reasons the AR movement is winning is because the core premise of its ideology hasn't been challenged often or consistently. When the human/animal moral equivalence premise is challenged, or at least exposed, Animal Rights is found to be incoherent and/or chillingly tyrannical.
For example, the same people who claim that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value — people like Dr. Vlasak's ADL-LA ("No Kill Solutions", left sidebar) and organizations like PeTA — also advocate that animals be forcibly spayed and neutered, a practice that deprives creatures that are, supposedly, "morally equal" to humans of their right to reproduce, the pleasures of the sexual act and the delights of rearing offspring. Spaying and neutering, because of the hormonal shifts accompanying the removal of ovaries and testicles, also alters the animals' behavior, making them more compliant, more dependent on humans, less like "nature intended them."
If speciesism is as great a sin as racism, it's reasonable to ask the AR side how they can reconcile spaying and neutering of animals with their anti-speciesism credo, other than by advocating that humans be forcibly sterilized for the same reasons that animals are.
And the same argument can be made for killing animals "as a kindness", a practice that PeTA engages in regularly and as a matter of course, killing a far higher percentage of animals they take into their "shelter" than the impoverished local shelters operating in their vicinity (PeTA is very wealthy, having collected donations amounting to about $29 million in in 2004, and according to PeTA President Ingrid Newkirk could become a no-kill shelter over-night. It's very disturbing that PeTA employees allegedly lied when asked what the fate of animals given them by shelters would, telling those who surrendered the animals that the majority would be put up for adoption when that was not the case at all.)
Would PeTA, the flagship AR organization, advocate killing humans for the same compassionate reasons they kill animals? If not, aren't they practicing "speciesism" when the kill?
Jamison spoke at last week's Agri-Growth Council meeting in St. Paul.
When the animal rights movement emerged in the 1980s, it was out for headlines, he said. Fur coats were spray painted red. People ran naked through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Their formula for success was to exploit the vacuum between the perception and the use of animals. In modern society, there is a vacuum between animal use and public knowledge, he said.
I think that gap — that vacuum — exists and is as important as Jamison believes it to be. I'm sure there are a whole variety of reasons why there might be this vacuum, but the end result is that people are anthropomorphize animals now in a way they did not do a century ago, and some well-meaning, compassionate folks find it easy to blur the distinction between humans and animals.
Other folks understand such motivations, and cynically exploit them.
In the 1990s, the movement tested language to see what elicited a negative response. It learned to win locally by getting on local zoning boards and constant editorializing. It divided animal use groups with single-issue activism.
Their power is greatest at the local level where the power of animal agriculture is diffuse, Jamison said. They have more members, more civic support and are more organized and more intense.
For now, the movement is thwarted, but persistent at the federal level. Animal use groups are sensitized, but unfocused, he said. The goal of the animal rights movement is passage of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.
His view of AR strategy is spot on. The AR groups use language very effectively, and it's no surprise that AR people use such charged words as torture, neglect, cruel and abuse to characterize their targets and what they do, while using words such as pro-animal, anti-cruelty, compassionate and kind to characterize themselves and actions they approve of. Of course, they broaden and restrict definitions in order to sell their ideological bill-of-goods.
It's an effective technique: Once branded as an animal abuser, a person, an institution or an entire industry is in the impossible position of proving that they are not . . . And if an institution, like PeTA, is allowed to define itself consistently and without opposition as a compassionate organization, one wishing only to rid the world of cruelty, they can get away with any number of cruel things for the sake of compassion. (By "opposition," I don't mean just defence against PeTA and PeTA-equivalent attacks; I mean attacking the false image PeTA et. al. have been able to create for themselves.)
That's animal agriculture's Alamo, Jamison said. If it passes, confinement agriculture will cease.
The classical response of agriculture to convene a panel and pour money on the problem won't work to fix this one. They're winning in the court of public opinion because of pre-existing social conditions. Agriculture is an island in an urban sea, Jamison said.
Urban residents view animals as companions and increasingly as members of the family. No longer are animals experienced in an agrarian way.
Humans are projecting human qualities onto animals, he said, showing a photograph of a dog dressed in human clothes. Parents who've read Babe or Bambi to their children have infected their offspring with the virus of animal rights, he said.
Yup. As I mentioned above, the term is anthropomorphism
Stepping away from agriculture for a minute and looking at science and scientists, I can well remember Saturday morning TV cartoons in which evil scientists were out to dominate the world, and the world was saved by superheros and their magic.
That's a pretty powerful negative message about scientists to be sending very young kids.
And the point made by Jamison about the anthropomorphism is a no less-powerful message to folks whose only significant first-hand experience with actual animals is with their pet dogs and cats.
I'm not suggesting, by any stretch, a nefarious conspiracy in either instance. It's just the way things are, and "that" they are as they are is more important than "why" they are as they are.
Animal agriculture can't eliminate the vacuum, nor can it change the social forces, Jamison said. If animal agriculture hopes to win it must establish the moral high ground and tell people about it relentlessly. "Why should you be allowed by society to do what you do?" Jamison asked. "If you can't answer, society will increasingly seek to limit what you do."
I believe that animal agriculture should do more than defend itself. It should aggressively attack the ideology of Animal Rights: after all, ideology is the force that drives the AR movement, the common bond that unites peaceful and violent extremists alike, and one crucial key to combatting Animal Rights. It is the concept, the idea, that people rally to or against.
If the core "animal-life-is-as-valuable-as-human-life" premise of the AR ideology is clearly defined, and if the ideological logic that flows from it clearly traced, the concept of Animal Rights will be far less attractive than it presently is, there will be fewer people who find it philosophically appealing, and that will have an inevitable effect on contributions to above ground organizations like PeTA.
Secondly, it's important to show the links between above-ground radical organizations — like PeTA — with terrorists and terrorist organizations. It's necessary but not sufficient for those ties to be made public (indeed, they already are).
What's important is making them common knowledge, in the sense that whenever people think of (for example) PeTA, they think of PeTA's terrorist connections, not loopy people dressed as carrots.