Thursday, September 04, 2003

Animal Cruelty and Animal Rights

Clayton Cramer has an interesting post on the position of libertarians toward cockfighting and other forms of animal cruelty. A couple of libertarians emailed Clayton to say that they believe animals have some inherent rights (though not equal to ours). Here's my take:

The only possible bases for prohibiting animal cruelty are because either (1) animals have some kind of intrinsic right to be free from interference, or (2) humans have a moral duty to respect animals.

Possibility 2 is a religious view that would definitely be unacceptable to libertarians. Which leaves them possibility 1.

But if one believes that animals have intrinsic rights (even if they're not equal to ours) and it is the duty of society to protect these rights, then society is duty-bound to protect seals not only from hunters, but from polar bears and orcas! Because human beings have intrinsic rights, the police are obligated to come to my aid whether I'm being attacked by an assailant or an alligator. It doesn't matter who or what is interfering with my right to preservation, the police will help me because they protect my basic rights. If animals had similarly intrinsic rights, it wouldn't matter what was hurting them, man or animal, either. But while the police will stop a man from beating a chicken, they won't stop the fox with a chicken in its jaws (except to protect the property rights of a rancher that owns the chicken).

My suspicion is that libertarians think it's wrong for people to kill seals or beat dogs, but don't believe its wrong for an orca to bite off a seal's flipper or for a bear to maul a dog. No advocacy group is pressuring government to protect seals from bears, pheasants from foxes, or rabbits from hawks.

This shows that animal rights activists aren't driven by a desire to protect animals' right to preservation or to be left alone, but by the idea that men aren't animals and have special moral duties (aka religion).


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