Human Exceptionalism

When Animals Sue

I have a piece in today’s NRO that tees off on Switzerland’s upcoming vote to give animals a legal right to a lawyer in abuse cases.  But as I point out in A Rat is a Pig,etc., granting animals standing may be the most desired goal of the animal rights movement.  From my column:

But animals suing? For most people, the very idea is a surreal fantasy out of a Far Side cartoon. But from the viewpoint of animal-rights ideologues, nothing could be more logical. The dogma of animal liberation demands the obliteration of all animal industries and, eventually, the eradication by attrition of all domesticated animals…

What could further the eradication goal more dramatically than allowing domesticated animals to sue their owners in court? The real litigants, of course, would be animal-rights activists — committed true believers who would use the raw power of litigation to force animal industries to their knees. Imagine the chaos: hundreds of animal lawyers, filing thousands of lawsuits, leading to hundreds of thousands of depositions, forcing industries to spend tens of millions of dollars on lawyers and legal costs defending their husbandry. No animal industry would be safe, and many would not survive.

Beyond the chaos that animal standing would cause, lies an ideological purpose:

Animal standing also has a philosophical purpose. The ultimate goal of animal rights is not merely the improved treatment of animals; that effort is properly called animal welfare. Animal-rights dogma holds that there is no moral One way to achieve societal acquiescence in this view would be to transform at least some animals into legal “persons.” As animal-rights-crusading law professor Stephen Wise wrote in Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, convincing the courts to grant “practical personhood” to chimps and other higher mammals would open the courtroom door to animals, a move he described as “the first and most crucial step toward unlocking the cage” to all animals generally distinction to be made between animals and humans, and therefore what is done to an animal should be viewed as if it were done to a human.

I point out the friends in high places this cause enjoys–Cass Sunstein, Laurence Tribe, etc.–meaning  it could happen.  I conclude:

Of all the ubiquitous advocacy thrusts by animal-rights advocates, successfully obtaining legal standing for animals could prove the most significant. First, it would accomplish a major animal-rights goal of profoundly undermining the status of animals as property. Second, it would create utter chaos in animal industries, which would also badly damage the general economy, much of which depends on the use of animals and animal byproducts. Most significantly, on an existential level, the perceived exceptional nature of human life would suffer a body blow through the erasure of one of the clear definitional lines that distinguish people from animals — the belief in human exceptionalism.

This is the future for which animal liberationists devoutly yearn. Considering our crazy cultural history of the last 50 years, and given the energetic commitment of animal-rights activists, their abundant resources, and the intellectual support they have received already from some of society’s most influential thinkers, it would be complacent folly to blithely assume, “It can’t happen here.”

Animal rights advocates are intensely committed to making this happen. Those of us who think animals should not be deemed akin to people have to be just as committed to making sure it doesn’t ever happen.