Human exceptionalism is not only about human rights, but also human duties, including never using human beings as mere objects and the need to treat animals properly and humanely. The new Gallup Poll about what Americans consider morally acceptable behavior is interesting in both regards, and thus worth our pondering. (Part of the poll measured matters beyond our scope here at SHS, and these issues will not be addressed. The poll was also promoted by Gallup as showing Republicans growing increasingly “conservative.” We don’t do partisan politics here, and moreover, what some call conservative, I think of as liberal–such as opposing assisted suicide. So, let’s ignore those matters, too.)
For ease of reading, in this post I will look at the questions that dealt with the treatment of animals, and in the next, activities exclusively involving human beings. From the poll:
Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur: 61% to 35% think it is morally acceptable–with the “acceptable” figure up from 54% last year
Fur is the most publicly controversial use of animals, what with the seal clubbing and the scent of luxury it implies. I think that animal rights and welfare activists should actually be quite proud that 35% of the people believe that what was once seemed unremarkable is now considered morally unacceptable. But the increase in the “acceptable” category might reflect animal rights exhaustion, that is, people are tired of the preaching:
Medical testing on animals–57% think it is right and 36%
wrong. This figure is basically unchanged from last year.
Medical testing is probably the use of animals that provides humans the greatest benefit. That 36% of the people think it is wrong, is an alarming indication that the research community has not done a good job of educating the public of the importance of their work and the lengths to which researchers go to treat the animals in their care humanely.
I also think it is notable that the numbers who consider fur and animal research to be morally improper are nearly identical. If this is an increased sensitivity based on animal welfare thinking, I am cool with that, with the understanding that one can have great concern for animals and support research and fur. But if it reflects an acceptance of the ideology, values, and beliefs of “animal rights,” it is cause for great concern:
Cloning animals: Morally wrong 63%, to 34%.
I have no problem with animal cloning because it doesn’t impact human exceptionalism and potential great good could come from it for us. But I think the 34% figure is another example of a significant minority of the people having great concern for either the proper and humane care of animals, or animal rights. Again, if it is the former, good. If the latter, not good.