Human Exceptionalism

Tai the Elephant Can’t Feel Demeaned

All I can say is, “Oh, bru–u–ther:” Animal rights activists are claiming that surrounding an elephant named Tai with a huge soap bubble–as an art project–would be “be thoroughly demeaning to Tai.” This comment from Mark Bekoff from the University of Colorado is typical:

I find the idea of enclosing an elephant in a giant bubble to be done by the Santa Ana Science Center to be one of the most egregious instances of animal abuse I’ve read about recently.

Really? An animal surrounded by a soap bubble is egregious abuse, indeed worse than those downer animals at the meat packing plant exposed a few weeks ago? Bekoff goes on:

I’ve noted that “Tai’s owner, Kari Johnson of Have Trunk Will Travel of Perris, said, ‘I don’t know or care if this is for science. It is something neat to do. It helps conservation. People learn about these animals and that makes them more likely to help them in the future.’ Of course she would defend this thoroughly misguided and outrageous project by saying it’ll help elephant conservation, but this is a flat out misstatement. And how insulting to Tai and to Ms. Johnson to diss science and to say it’s “neat to do.”

Another elephant in the bubble hysteric waxes in a similar vein:

Not only is this demeaning to the animal, it is downright cruel. These are regal, very special animals who are threatened in the wild, and now it appears, in captivity as well

Such hyper emotionalism and anthropomorphism over a dumb but harmless idea. Listen up: Tai can’t be demeaned. She cannot feel insulted. She is an animal. She may be very intelligent but elephants don’t possess the kind of moral consciousness that would permit her to experience the chagrin of being humiliated. Scared? Perhaps. Uncomfortable? Sure. But only people can be insulted, only people feel demeaned.

The show has been called off due to the silly fuss–no big loss one way or the other. But please: Putting a soap bubble around an elephant would not be grounds to unleash the ALF thugs. Bad art, maybe. But hardly the stuff that should cause strong emotions to flare.