By Judie Brown
While animal welfare is a very urgent concern for some in the philosophical and political community, there is a point in their arguments that represents a bridge too far. One such example of this is the statement that some animals deserve the protection of nonhuman personhood.
A good illustration of this is the 2016 documentary entitled Unlocking the Cage, which chronicles the efforts of “animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans.” Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc., firmly believes that apes, for example, are animals that should be considered persons even though they are not human beings.
In a recent review of the film, Ecosalon tells us: “Wise wants courts to recognize that certain animals—think chimpanzees, whales, dolphins, and elephants—have complex cognitive capability. This capacity should allow these living beings certain rights, such as limited personhood, which would afford bodily liberty and protect such animals from physical abuse.”
This is not the first time we have seen such arguments coming from the animal rights community. In 2013, Yale hosted a conference on the topic featuring not only Wise but other stalwarts in the arena, including the infamous Peter Singer, who has argued that some newborn babies affected with disabling diseases are of lower value than some animals. In other words, the elevation of animals to a position of equality with human beings is a quest by some that reminds us of the inequality in our national psyche between the value of an animal and the value of a human being.
For our purposes it is sufficient to point out that, while arguments abound regarding why every effort should be made to stop animal cruelty, no such argument is put forth in defense of innocent preborn human beings on a scale that even remotely resembles that of animal rights organizations. You will not see multi-million-dollar ad campaigns focused on the truth about what abortion does to a human baby prior to birth, but you will see incredibly emotional ads focused on the abuse of dogs, cats, and other animals.
In the United States today it has become less and less acceptable to be cruel to your pet, while it has become more and more acceptable to kill a human baby prior to birth.
As G.K. Chesterton so wisely observed:
There is a healthy and an unhealthy love of animals: and the nearest definition of the difference is that the unhealthy love of animals is serious. I am quite prepared to love a rhinoceros, with reasonable precautions: he is, doubtless, a delightful father to the young rhinoceroses. But I will not promise not to laugh at a rhinoceros. . . . I will not worship an animal. That is, I will not take an animal quite seriously: and I know why.
Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience.
Such insanity causes us to pause and examine how we can turn this twisted perspective around. This topsy-turvy situation that places a great ape on a higher plane than a human individual cries out for a solution. The answer resides in our ability to teach truth in better and more effective ways from this moment forward.
While I am not suggesting that any sort of animal cruelty is acceptable, I am saying that in the logical course of events, human individuals who have the possibility of solving the great problems of the world should be the first ones to receive the respect of the law and of society as a whole. After all, they are the ones who could solve the challenges facing us on all fronts, including cruelty to animals. But humans can only do this if we stop killing them before they have a chance to be born.
Suggesting that an ape is a human person is ludicrous. We must change the dynamic, and we can do it with the tools we already have in place:
When we educate and teach people the truth, we will change minds and hearts. And when we do that, we will save not only lives, but souls.