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Animals Are Only Human
It Stands to Reason ^ | Gregory Koukl

Posted on 11/01/2001 5:08:16 AM PST by Khepera

These ideas are the product of a sick human being, ladies and gentlemen. I don't mean mentally sick. I mean morally sick, socially sick, spiritually diseased.

Years ago I was a M*A*S*H* addict. The dull-witted Radar was, among other things, the animal sympathizer of the group, the animal rights activist, if you will. In one episode other M*A*S*H*-ettes got bugged at some mischief one of Radar's pets got into. Radar jumped to its defense--"Leave him alone, he's only human." This is funny in M*A*S*H* because Radar is simple-minded, and this is a simple-minded response. Chuckle chuckle.

What is not funny is the front page story of the LA Times Magazine this week (March 22, 1992) entitled "To Market, To Market." It is equally simple-minded, but it's not funny because it's about people who are deadly serious about making simple-minded philosophy into a legal reality. This is a piece about Ingrid Newkirk. She's the co-founder and current National Director of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Now, it's hard to object to the sentiment expressed in the name of the organization. Who would campaign for the un ethical treatment of animals. One thing that I've tried to impress upon you as listeners is the significance, and the power, of words, especially words that are not clearly defined. And in this case, one's belief in the ethical treatment of animals hinges entirely upon what is meant by "ethical," what is the description of the behavior that is considered unethical.

Let me read you some selections to give you some insight into Newkirk's understanding of animal ethics. The selections speak for themselves, because in pieces like this, little commentary is needed.

"Why should it be that discrimination on the basis of class or gender or nationality or religion is wrong, but it's OK for us to exploit other animals?" "[Newkirk's] passionate declarations [are] that animals are the moral equivalent of humans...."

"PETA's philosophy [is] that 'Animals are not ours to eat, wear or experiment on.'"

"When it comes to feelings, like pain, hunger and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

"She equates animals in labs with slaves: 'What else can you call it when animals are in chains, they are shackled, they are hoisted, they are whipped, they are beaten, they are made to do things they don't want to and aren't in their nature....Slavery is a mind-set that says these aren't important living beings. They are less than me, and therefore I can exploit them.'"

These ideas are the product of a sick human being, ladies and gentlemen. I don't mean mentally sick. I mean morally sick, socially sick, spiritually diseased. One person once said that in these kinds of discussions, if a person wants to make a fool of themselves, then get out of the way. And I'm tempted to leave her words hanging in the air as their own refutation.

But I don't want to simply leave it on this on the level for a couple of reasons. First, ridicule is a poor substitute for an argument. Second in the moral climate of today's culture a lot of people will think PETA's arguments make sense. Third, in the marketplace of ideas a fair and reasoned reply needs to be made.

So let's pull back just a little bit and talk about rights. You can bring most heated discussions about rights--animal rights, homosexual rights, a right to education, a right to health care, a right to (fill in the blank--to a screeching halt by asking two simple questions: "What is a right?" and "Where does it come from?" People will rant and rave for hours absolutely convinced that they have something called a right, without having a clear idea about what it is and how to justify it.

According to Webster's New World Dictionary , a right is that which a person has a just claim to, a privilege that belongs to a person by law, nature or custom. I think that's a good definition. A right comes from one of three places: law, custom, or "nature." Now I've put that last word "nature" in quotes because we're not talking about mother here, but about father. More on that in a minute.

Most rights come from law. Law gives you a right entitling you to certain goods, privileges or freedoms. You can't say, "I have a right, therefore pass a law securing that right," because in most cases it is a specific law that gives the right in the first place. For example, I have a right to drive a car, but I only have that right because the law permits me to drive. If there were no law, I could not argue that it's my right to do drive.

There are two exceptions here to rights coming only from existing law. One exception is rights established by long-term custom. The privilege of passing over private property, if allowed long enough, becomes a right called an easement. This really doesn't apply much to our discussion, as it turns out, but it needs to be noted.

A more important exception is the second one: natural law. These are rights that exist above government law. This is the so-called "higher law" and it identifies what we call inalienable human rights. This is the appeal, by the way, of the Declaration of Independence. The unavoidable fact of natural law, higher law, that law that even governments are held accountable to, is that it is necessarily theistic. If there is a law then there must be a Lawgiver who enforces that law. That's why I said natural law doesn't come from mother--mother nature--but from Father--Father God. Mother nature's law is entirely different, as we will see.

Dr. J.P. Moreland, author of The Life and Death Debate and an article on euthanasia in the current issue of the Christian Research Journal , defines natural law as "...certain moral laws or norms that are true and can be discerned by all men and women as men and women...These moral norms do, in fact, come from God, and the existence of such objective moral norms provides strong evidence for the existence of a moral, personal God, but one does not need to believe in God or appeal to Holy Scripture to know that certain moral precepts are genuine moral absolutes." (J.P. Moreland, Christian Research Journal , Winter 1992, "The Euthanasia Debate," p. 9)

So, rights--just claims to things--must always come from an outside source, and those claims are only valid if the outside source is valid. That's why it's always valid to ask where the proposed "right" comes from. You can't pluck rights from mid-air if you want your rights claim to have any validity. Rights come from law, custom, or from God.

Let's put this into application. With this understanding of the nature of rights, one can reason very legitimately, for example, to the rights of the unborn.

First, regarding law, prior to 1973 there were laws on the books of every state that either outlawed or severely restricted abortion. Even today there are laws that schizophrenically protect the rights of the unborn as human beings protected under the law (the California statute even calls the unborn a "child") side by side with laws that offer to pay for a consenting mother's abortion.

Second, regarding custom, there has been a consensus in western culture that the unborn was a child. That's why a woman who has a miscarriage says she's lost her baby. The unborn has been customarily referred to as human because of our third category, natural Law.

Natural Law universally defends the inherent dignity of humankind, even the unborn. That's why society has characteristically outlawed abortion and as far back as Hippocrates doctors were forsworn not to perform abortion (note the Hippocratic oath in its original version, not the one tampered with by the new liberal ethic).

Conversely these three categories are hostile to concepts like homosexual rights (to which this whole discussion of rights also applies) and, more immediate to our discussion, to animal rights.

And on that issue I want to make two more very pointed observations. Listen carefully here, because I think this very heated but, I would contend, very cavalier, discussion about animal rights ultimately devalues the concept of rights, especially human rights, and that takes us is just a short step away from what I call the "death of humanness," which that could mean the death of you, and I choose my words advisedly.

Invariably, basic human rights that protect us from inappropriate discrimination, slavery, persecution of minorities, unjust judicial procedures, cruel and unusual punishment, illegal search and seizure, freedom of speech--just run down the list in the bill of rights--are all grounded on natural law. Read the constitution: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." That's natural law.

But natural law only has force because by very nature it distinguishes the kind of treatment human beings should get from the kind of treatment everything else gets in nature. In other words, natural law--upon which all of our personal rights and protections are built--demands that we not act like, or treat others like, animals. Now, you erase human/animal moral distinctions and you lose the distinctive that gives natural law its force and its credibility.

That's precisely why Ingrid Newkirk can say that human slavery is not despicable because slaves are being made of human beings; it's despicable because slaves are being made of living beings. Therefore a canary in a cage is the moral equivalent of a human slave in chains, or, conversely, it is no bigger crime to chain and cage a human being than it is to chain or cage a pet. To use Newkirk's words, "...a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." And that's why advocacy for animals based on the rationale of animal rights ought to terrify you. There is another way to discuss the treatment of animals, but it's not on the basis of animal rights.

But even if discussion on the basis of animal rights was appropriate, it still ends up being self-refuting. Newkirk asks, "Why should it be that discrimination on the basis of class or gender or nationality or religion is wrong, but it's OK for us to exploit other animals?" (It strikes me as stunning that she can ask the question.) The answer is simple: man is not just another animal. And if he is, then why must he conform to some moral standard that other animals as animals are not obliged to conform to?

Let me put it this way. If man is special, requiring him to act in a special way, then he is by definition set apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and is on a higher moral plain. But Newkirk denies that. Animals are the moral equivalent of humans. If that's so then we should be allowed to act like animals. That means eating, devouring, destroying and exploiting each other just like the rest of the animal kingdom does. That's Mother's law.

Newkirk apparently doesn't believe in Father, but she wants us to live by Father's rules, not Mother's. But you can't have it both ways.

Newkirk wants to have her cake and still eat it (of course, with no animal by-products). And she can really do no other because she's living off of borrowed capital. She must live in God's world, so even while she's clamoring for equality with animals she can only do so by acknowledging that man as man, not as animal, has a higher moral calling.

If you ignore these factors and continue to demand certain rights, to quote the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, you have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.

To put it succinctly, animals aren't only human, M*A*S*H*'s simple-minded Radar and Ingrid Newkirk's simple-minded philosophy to the contrary.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial

1 posted on 11/01/2001 5:08:16 AM PST by Khepera
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To: Khepera
Wow. What an article! I hope everyone reads the whole thing, because it's just full of one-two punches. Great explanation of the fallacies behind animal rights activicists, I think. By the way, do we have any wacko animal rights people here on FR who will start acting funny all over this thread?
2 posted on 11/01/2001 5:12:32 AM PST by JenB
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: Khepera
4 posted on 11/01/2001 5:27:29 AM PST by maestro
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To: Khepera
When it comes to feelings, like pain, hunger and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.

I've always wondered why no one every questions "animal rights" and PETA type people, how they know what an animal feels. It is not even possible to know what another human being feels, because the experience is entirely subjective.

Frankly, just because an animal behaves in a way, or makes noises, that in humans might indicate pain, does not mean the animals feel pain. We do not know that animals consciously "feel" pain, we only know how they behave. Their actual conscious experience is forever unknowable. (I believe they do, by the way.) The problem is, it is morally wrong to make laws, or restrict any human beings behavior based on what one does not know, no matter how strongly they believe it.


5 posted on 11/01/2001 5:45:01 AM PST by Hank Kerchief
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To: maestro

I'm sorry but is this some sort of argument? Is it a statement? Argument or statement it seems it is too brief to actually convey any meaning. You may be some sort of maestro but it must not be in the realm of speech or writing. Good try though!

6 posted on 11/01/2001 6:19:37 AM PST by Khepera
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To: Khepera
I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian!

Great article. I like the points about natural law meaning the Father's law. The Holy Scripture teaches us to be good stewards of the land. Any farmer knows that "happy" livestock tend to be the healthiest and tastiest plus demand top prices at market. I'm afraid as these factory farms become more prevalent the average joe will think the crap they get is the best there is. Also, I think the whole "animal rights" movement stems from the fact most people anymore are so far removed from farm life that they don't know what it takes to put food on a table.

7 posted on 11/01/2001 6:28:06 AM PST by OzarkRepub
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: halflion
Jesus came not to unite us but to divide us, good from evil. You are a good example of this.
9 posted on 11/01/2001 9:18:54 AM PST by Khepera
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To: OzarkRepub
I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian!

What a great line! I may have to steal it sometime.

10 posted on 11/01/2001 9:25:08 AM PST by JenB
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To: *Christian_list; *AnimalRights_list

I get asked all the time: “How do I get on this bump list?” Well the answer is you can’t! The FreeRepublic Master Bump List is not a list of people who get notified about a topic appearing on FreeRepublic but it is a list of topics that you can click on and have posts relevant to those topics displayed to you. There are many topics like “WOD_list” (War On Drugs) or “Homeschool_list” (Stories that Homeschoolers may be interested in) or “Homosexual Agenda” (A list of articles related to that topic). And they all appear on the The FreeRepublic Bump List

When you are reading an article you can add it to the list by posting a reply to that topic and in the “TO” box put the name of the list you want it to appear on preceded by an “*”. For example if you want the article to appear on the War on Drugs list then put “*WOD_list” in the “TO:” box instead of someones screen name. You can also put it on several lists by separating the list names with a simi-colon “;”. Then when you want to see the list go to The FreeRepublic Master Bump List and click on the link for that list.

11 posted on 11/09/2001 11:41:54 AM PST by Khepera
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