As I pound the drum against animal rights in my book and on the media–most recently today on Wisconsin Public Radio, Kathleen Dunn, an interview that I found to be interesting and thorough (available by following this link)–I have repeatedly distinguished between animal rights and animal welfare, the latter about improving our treatment of animals, the former about ending all animal domestication. I have also repeatedly noted that animal rights, unlike animal welfare, creates an explicit moral equivalence between the value of human life and that of animals.
Some have criticized me for this assertion, accusing me of overstating the case. Oh really? Well hearken to the words of animal rights leader Steven Best, who defined animal rights in a radio interview. From the transcript:
FB: I want to come back to that, but, first of all I wanted both of you to define the term animal rights or animal liberation, depending on which one you prefer, in your own view.
SB: Well, animal rights is saying animals are equal to us, after all, we are animals, we’re just talking about other animals, and that we all have an interest in living a life of freedom and free from pain and torture and death and free to be with members of our family. To be in the natural world. to fulfill our wishes and desires. When you have these interests taken seriously and an equal value, and you have a legal system, such as in capitalist society, that backs those rights as guaranteed, they cannot be for-fitted, they are inalienable rights, they protect these basic freedoms that you have as defined in this society. That is what a right does. So if humans have rights, animals have rights for the same reasons. It’s the exact same reasons. You must be consistent in applying this concept of rights. But liberation takes us a step further because liberation is not waiting for a legal change. It’s not waiting for the legislature to bring these rights to animals. Liberation is more involved with direct action and directly taking a role in freeing animals yourselves from these conditions of oppression and opening up and smashing every damn cage and door that you can that is oppressing an animal. That is animal liberation.
Or to put it another way, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. It doesn’t get any more explicit than that.
It’s also anti human, often symbiotically connected with misanthropic radical environmentalism. Again, from Best:
We have to actively oppose these and we have to intervene at increasingly radical levels. Why? Because the oppression, the destruction of life and of this earth, is becoming increasingly radical. We need to do more and we need stronger and fiercer tactics to resist this. And so, I found myself also evolving more and always fearing that I wasn’t doing enough. And recognizing that I had to be more involved and I had to get more involved in protests, and then I realized the protests were also a form of control and I had to find other ways of interfering with the systems of power and domination. I started going direct action. And I started recognizing that we have to be more involved not just as individuals, as lifestyle vegans, but as political beings involved in social movements and resistance movements, and actively trying to transform this entire planet, this madhouse that we live in, into something sustainable and sane, and something that we could be proud to call a human creation or a community that we belong to. You see, that’s the key thing, what I call the Moral Copernican Revolution, when we recognize that the world does not belong to us, we belong to the world. And we live in a larger community that we belong to. And if you ask, what roles have we played in this community? And have we been good citizens in this equal community? This planetary community? My God, we’ve been barbarians. We’ve been invaders. We’ve been plunderers. We’ve been evil fascists playing with life on bayonets. We have to pull back from this planet. We have to reduce our numbers, our impact, and we have to allow other species to regain their foothold, and the diversity of this beautiful planet to flourish.
As I detail at greater length in my new book, animal rights is radical. It is anti human (sometimes, as here explicitly, sometimes implicitly or in outcomes), if implemented would be very destructive to human welfare, and for some, is an excuse for violence. Animal rights is subversive and should be rejected outright, as we continue the important work of creating ever improving and rational animal welfare standards.