This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 19, number 1 (Summer, 1996). For further information or to support the Christian Research Journal: please click here.
Although human rights are only partially secured around the world, since the 1970s a growing movement for animal rights or animal liberation has emerged. The animal rights movement is inspired by a genuine and commendable compassion for animals that have been mistreated, exploited, and abused by human beings. It is also motivated, however, by an implicit or explicit rejection of God as Creator and of humans as made in His image and hence distinct from the animal world. Founded both on sentiment and on several unexamined, unprovable, and, I believe, false presuppositions, it has attained considerable influence, defended by individuals of ability and passion. If carried to its logical end, it will do far less to ennoble animals than to debase man.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
“Where every creature pleases, and only man is vile.”
Missionary hymn, altered.
At this inauguration in 1977, President Jimmy Carter quoted Micah 6:8 in his inaugural address: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Earlier, as a presidential candidate, then Governor Carter caused a stir by saying that he was “born again,” making him the most frankly professed evangelical Christian ever to hold that office, before or since. When I later had a chance to ask his assistant, Hamilton Jordan, how the President’s actions demonstrated his Christianity, he said, “By his campaign for human rights.”
The concept of human rights, indeed of rights in general, is rather new, and not specifically biblical or Christian, for the Bible speaks more of responsibilities. From the biblical perspective, human rights, such as the right to life and to own property, are derivative, being implicit in biblical commandments such as “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal.”
Within a biblical world view, the reason to exercise justice and mercy comes as part of the obligation to “walk humbly with God.” We are to treat one another with fairness and compassion because each of us is important in the sight of the Creator. This conviction is reflected in the words of the American “Declaration of Independence” (1776), where we read that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
Little more than a dozen years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man” placed rights on a different footing, deriving them from what was considered to be the nature of man. After the economic crises of the 20th century and the terrible atrocities of World War II, more and more emphasis has been placed on human rights,1 again with the understanding that such rights pertain to individuals because of their basic nature.
Unfortunately, the modern scholar and pluralistic mentality no longer see man2 as what he is, the creature of a God who has created him in a distinctive way and for a purpose. (“Thou has made us for thyself,” wrote St. Augustine, “and our hearts shall know no rest until they rest in thee.”) Even though in large measure they had abandoned Christianity, the French revolutionaries had not forgotten man’s special place. Thus they could speak with confidence of the droits de l’homme (rights of man) in the calm assurance that l’homme, man, is something special and somehow, by his very nature, possesses rights that are to be respected. As time has passed, this assurance of the distinctive nature and calling of man has been lost. Human rights are now increasingly seen as resting only on constitutions, governmental enactments, and international conventions rather than on any sense that there is a divinely constituted Order of Being that is to be respected by all. One of the bizarre symptoms of this loss of a biblical understanding of man is the current animal rights movement.
Since much of society has lost its belief in the Creator and His purpose for us, rights can no longer be derived from God’s will or enactments, but must somehow be agreed upon by social convention. During the period when God was generally, if somewhat conventionally and perhaps absent-mindedly, regarded as the Sovereign of the Universe, social conventions in the Western world were naturally worked out on the basis of man’s special dignity and purpose in His plan. Now that God has generally been forgotten or systematically excluded from human policymaking, human rights lose their objective justification and become sentimental or even irrational. The movement to ensure human rights is well-intentioned and has done much good, but when one loses faith in a God who “hath shewed thee, O man, what is good,” then rights lose their foundation in a created Order of Being and take on a life and momentum of their own. No longer justified as part of God’s intention, they become their own justification and will expand indefinitely, until ultimately they burst the bounds of the possible and endurable and come crashing to the earth again.
If man is no longer seen as something special because God has made him that way, it becomes progressively harder to assign special rights to him in the order of existence. Indeed, rights rather than responsibilities take center stage, but it is no longer possible to limit them to humans. Things that previously ought to have been done by humans out of a sense of duty to God, to our fellow-humans as His creatures, and to the other creatures entrusted to our supervision and care by Him, have to be argued in a different way.
There are two fundamental reasons for the current interest in animal rights: one is a genuine sense of compassion for those sentient creatures that share our little planet with us and are capable of suffering, and perhaps even of sadness, much as we are. The second is the loss of any conviction that there is anything special about man. Without a God in whose image we were made, the behavior of fallen man is often so deplorable that comparisons with our animal coinhabitants of the planet can turn to our disadvantage. Compassion, therefore, is argued not on the basis of any duty to God or even of any innate responsibility to human dignity as such, but by means of minimizing and virtually denying the difference between animals and ourselves. We have rights, or so we believe, and we want them to be respected. Animals are different, that cannot be denied, but mere differences do not create special rights and privileges, and animals are not so different from us. If we have rights, they must have them as well.
It is against this backdrop of compassion for animals and a loss of the sense of who and what we are that animal rights have rather abruptly become a growth industry. The writings of Peter Singer and Tom Regan have laid the foundation for an amazing proliferation of works that raise animals to what we used to think of as the human level, and thus, by implication, contribute to lowering mankind to what we used to think of as the level of the animals.
The selection of titles in the bibliography accompanying this article is only a small sampling of what has been brought out, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon realm. Andrew Linzey, who holds “the world’s first fellowship in theology and animal rights” at Mansfield College, Oxford University, provides 17 pages of bibliography. Peter Singer’s work has become the manifesto of the animal rights movement and has been published for, and distributed by, the organization known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Most of the other works, with the exception of one, are at least sympathetic to the concept of animal rights. Meanwhile, Kathleen Marquart, the author of Animalscam, is the founder and chairman of an opposing group, Putting People First.
Man and animals resemble one another in various ways. Our physical resemblance to mammals is evident, and as various writers have shown, there are many psychological resemblances as well. Indeed, even the Bible warns us not to “be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding, but must be controlled by bit and bridle” (Ps. 32:9, NIV), a warning that evidently presupposes that we can resemble animals in our behavior too. Nevertheless, human beings throughout history have always seen themselves as being in a different category from the nonhuman animal world. Humans have rights and responsibilities; animals have neither, not being moral agents — at least according to most human thinking. Obscuring the differences between men and animals may gain better treatment for animals, but it will also lead to worse treatment for human beings, leading in Singer’s case to an implied if not explicit endorsement of abortion and of “eugenic” euthanasia of handicapped people.3
The animal rights movement is a strange combination of philosophy and sentimentality. Writers such as Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy argue that animals — beginning with elephants — do experience emotions such as ours, and Frans deWaal writes extensively about moral behavior among animals. It seems evident from deWaal’s text that he sees little if any significant differences; animals are moral agents just as we are and have ethics of their own.
Sympathy for animals is a familiar if not universal human sentiment. A lack of sympathy for suffering and mistreated animals, or, even worse, a willingness to abuse and torment them for one’s own amusement, is a symptom of a defective moral sense. Societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and those that oppose vivisection and animal experiments have existed in various countries for some time, even before the concept of animal rights gained currency. Earlier, it was thought less than human decency to abuse and torment “other creatures.” People were enjoined not to do it, not so much for the sake of the animals themselves, but because of the sense that it was unsuitable for humans to behave in such a way. A proper understanding of the rights and responsibilities of man will result in moral treatment of animals and would eliminate many of the glaring cruelties and abusive practices that Singer, Masson, and others so eloquently and distressingly cite.
What the concept of animal rights does is to give quite a different philosophical and rhetorical foundation to the movement to abolish cruelty to animals. Instead of stressing the behavior that is appropriate to humans as made in the image of God and endowed with stewardship rights and responsibilities (Gen. 1:28-30), the animal rights movement proclaims the essential sameness of animals and humans. By eliminating our conviction of the difference between ourselves and “other” animals, the movement will have the presumably unintended side effect of legitimating cruelty to humans as well.4
THREE MOTIFS OF ANIMAL RIGHTS
There are two motifs that clearly and undeniably underlie the animal rights movement; in addition, it seems to me that there is a third motif, and a highly influential one at that. First, there is the skeptical utilitarian philosophy5 of Jeremy Bentham, which has abandoned traditional ethical systems such as natural law6 and divine command in favor of the greater good of the greater number, with good defined largely in terms of the attainment of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Bentham points out, quite correctly, that animals are just as capable of feeling pain as we are, and hence should be treated similarly. Thus Bentham wrote — in the context of an argument against slavery, but with clear relevance for animal rights — “The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”7
The second motif is the horror of the pain and cruelty wantonly and regularly imposed on animals. Like several other writers, Singer gives many horrible examples of cruelty in the raising, trans-portation, and slaughtering of livestock. He argues persuasively that if killing is not to be avoided — and it is not, if we are to eat meat — it should be made quick and painless. He inveighs against the raising of fowl in batteries and the extreme confinement of hogs, veal calves, and dairy cattle. He correctly points out that the imperatives of big American “agribusiness” make such abuses more common in the United States than in the United Kingdom, although he is by no means satisfied with conditions in the U.K.8 He gives extensive examples of the abuse of animals for research, some of it genuine, but all too much of it seemingly pointless or even demented. Particularly gruesome and hard to rationally justify are the examples of “psychological research” involving electric shocks, confinement of animals in a “well of despair,” and other atrocities too numerous to cite here. Singer notes the similarity between experiments frequently performed on animals and the criminal “research” of Nazi doctors in concentra-tion camps. One incidental common feature is the fact that many experiments in both categories were extremely crude and produced nothing of scientific value at all.9
If acceptance of Singer’s thesis of animal liberation were the only way to combat such abuses, it might seem plausible to embrace it. Fortunately, it is not the only way, or even the best way, to combat these abuses. Unfortunately, if adopted, it will have implications far beyond anything that the most sentimental animal lover ought to desire.
The third motif of the movement, implicit in Singer’s work, is a rejection of Christianity — a denial of the God of Scripture and the order of creation itself. It is not clear whether this denial precedes the rejection of the special status of men and women as the only creatures explicitly said to be made in the divine image, or whether they come to deny God and Creation because they have lost all possibility of believing in any distinctive dignity of man, and therefore must deny God and His creative purpose for us. In any case, it is evident that the two sentiments are associated.
Singer compares the Judeo-Christian West unfavorably to Hinduism, which also serves him as a useful model in his arguments for vegetarianism.10 He finds traces of sympathy for animals in the Old Testament, but none in the New; he overlooks the fact that the New Testament in general presupposes the ethical standards and attitudes of the Old and does not have to repeat them.
If we were to follow the recommend-ations of Singer’s “Bible” of the animal rights movements, as it is often called, many of the short-range results might be quite commendable, beneficial, economically sound, and healthy: less cruelty to animals, fewer painful and unnecessary experiments, a more efficient agriculture for the hungry people of the world, and a largely or entirely vegetarian diet. Many of these things are desirable in themselves. What is unfortunate, or even dangerous, is the fact that if the fundamental thesis of the animal rights movement is accepted, it will not so much elevate the “other animals” as diminish man.
A SYMPTOM OF OUR AGE
The animal rights movement, despite the idealism and desirability of some of its goals, is in its theoretical and philosophical foundations, as well as in its long-range implications, a symptom of a great sociocultural change. What began by forsaking God and seeking to exalt man can end only by destroying man. In his 1941 work, The Crisis of Our Age, Pitirim A. Sorokin described the moral and philosophical collapse out of which movements such as animal rights grow:
Coming on the historical scene as a successor to, and as a substitute for, Christian ethics and law, the modern system of sensate ethics and law11 in its immanent development sowed the seeds of the degradation of man, as well as of the moral values themselves. Declaring the moral values to be mere conventions, it dragged them down to the level of utilitarian and hedonistic calculations, completely relative in time and space. If they were expedient for a given man and group, they could be accepted; if they were a hindrance, they could be rejected. In this way a limitless relativism was introduced into the world of moral values, whose arbitrariness engendered conflict and struggle. This, in turn, produced hatred; and hatred led to rude force and bloodshed. In the chaos of conflicting norms, moral values have been more and more ground into dust; they have progressively lost their binding power and given way to rude arbitrary coercion. The pathos of binding Christian love has tended to be supplanted by hatred of man for man, of class for class, of nation for nation, of state for state, of race for race. As a result, might has become right. Bellum omnium contra omnes — war waged by all, against all — has raised its ugly head. These are the conditions we face.12
This is an example of Sorokin’s tendency to sweeping judgments, and yet it is one that remains correct in principle.
The Bible not only teaches that human beings are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) but also that we have been entrusted with dominion over the animals (v. 28). This dignity and dominion apply to man as man, to all human beings regardless of their race or ethnic background, thus distinguishing us from the other creatures.13 Because of our fallen nature, we humans have lost the divine perspective and do not see ourselves as we really are. It is particularly common to derive our dignity (or “self-esteem,” as the currently fashionable expression puts it) not from our creation in God’s image, which we share with all other human beings everywhere, but from special qualities that we think belong to our tribe, race, nation, class, or person. Throughout human history, individuals, tribes, nations, and races have been characterized by pride, conceit, and self-inter-est, coupled with disinterest, disdain, contempt, and sometimes even hatred for others — other individuals, other tribes, other nations, and other races. The phenomena of ethnocentricity, ethnic pride, racism, and xenophobia are almost as old as the race of man.
So prone is fallen man to regard others of his kind with contempt that at times people have shown greater consid-eration for animals than for “lesser breeds” or classes of humans: sometimes a man has killed a slave for beating a horse; both Hitler and Himmler were reputed to be attached to animals, although contemptuous of Jews, Gypsies, and others, whom they regarded as “subhumans.” It should not be surprising, however, that people who disdain others of their own kind would also be even more contemptuous or abusive toward “lesser species.” Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that humans have been indifferent or cruel toward animals.
The missionary hymn, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” contains the line, “Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile.” Readers will recognize that this reflects the Christian doctrine of the fallen nature of man, a view that evidently would find sympathy from animal rights advocates, although they might write the lines, “Where every creature pleases, and only man is vile.” G. K. Chesterton is credited with calling the doctrine of Original Sin the only Christian doctrine that can be scientifically demonstrated. It seems that the animal rights theorists recognize the depravity of man, and the (comparative) innocence of animals by contrast. Unfortunately they seem to wish to deal with this not by seeking the restoration of man to conform to the image of God — something attainable only through regeneration, but by elevating animals to our level and reducing us to theirs.
AN END TO UNIQUENESS
By no means should all of the propositions of the animal rights party be rejected. Some make very good sense indeed, and others are at least arguable. Although philosophical or ideological considerations appear to motivate the theorists of the movement, sentimentality understandably moves many of their followers. But they take it to wild extremes.
A tender, loving, humane concern for the well-being of animals does not in any way diminish man, but rather ennobles and exalts us. If man is indeed the only creature made in God’s image, it certainly further dishonors and defaces that image-quality to abuse and torment those creatures that his more exalted status has placed at his mercy. Nevertheless, they are not made in God’s image, as we humans are.
Singer gives no evidence of belief in God, and consequently does not even consider the concept that we are made in the image of God with a particular purpose, what Sorokin called “man’s unique creative mission on this planet.”14 It is evident on every page that Singer will have nothing to do with the idea that man is in any sense unique or that he has a purpose, at least not one higher than the avoidance of suffering for animals and for himself. This is a presupposition — one might even use Singer’s words and call it a prejudice — that, far from being proved, must simply be accepted in order for his arguments to succeed.
PAIN, EQUALITY, AND SPECIESISM
Although a number of the advocates of animal liberation, or animal rights, have impeccable credentials as philosophers (Rollin and Singer) or even as a theologian (Linzey), they rely more on emotion and sentimentality than on reason to make their case. Singer states frankly, “The conclusions that are argued in this book spring from the principle of minimizing suffering alone.”15 To minimize suffering — as well as to maximize pleasure — is a fundamental principle of utilitarianism, the philosophy to which Singer gives explicit allegiance. The undeniable fact that animals can feel pain plays a predominant role in his rhetoric. Singer has an interesting way of presenting debatable or even downright false conclusions as though they ought to be perfectly self-evident to all reasonable, right-thinking people.
In addition to pain, two other key concepts are “equality” and “species-ism.” Singer simply presupposes that equality is an absolute and universal moral good and inequality a moral evil. As the human species has gradually learned not to let the differences between races or the sexes justify unequal treatment, it must now adopt the same attitude toward animals, not allowing the difference between humans and animals to justify any difference in treatment between them. “Let us consider the view that it is always wrong to take an innocent human life. We may call this the ‘sanctity of life view’….The belief that human life, and only human life, is sacrosanct, is a form of speciesism.”16 (Earlier Singer apologized for introducing the word “species-ism” because of its awkwardness, but once having introduced it, he assumes that merely to label an attitude or practice as speciesism is enough to demolish it, the same as calling something “racist” or “sexist.”)
It ought to be evident to every reader that this presupposition simply begs the question. Can we assume that “discrimination” is always wrong? May one not discriminate, for example, between a harmless lizard and a poison-ous snake? There have to be limits to the policy of treating all living things equally and of respecting all life. Singer accepts the morality of using plants for food and other purposes, and he would have to agree, under some circumstances, to hurting and killing living beings. What is perplexing is his repeated resort to the argument that if we are willing to kill, experiment upon, and otherwise utilize normal animals, we have no reason not to do it to abnormal humans. Again, it is evident that he simply rejects out of hand the entire human understanding of the special place and dignity of man. Inasmuch as man’s special dignity derives not from his superior mental qualities, but from being made in the image of God, the rejection of man’s place implies the rejection of God, even if Singer does not explicitly state it.
Where evident differences between species are concerned, Singer is unwilling to grant that they warrant different standards of treatment. But where differences within a species occur, he is willing to allow the most extremely differential treatment; indeed the difference between life and death, and between caring and killing.17
The goal of minimizing suffering, both for humans and animals, seems in general a worthy one, but when absolutized, it can lead to absurdity and atrocities. The Oath of Hippocrates, which was once the universally accepted standard of medical ethics, has largely fallen into disuse. Consequently not all physicians, not to mention general readers, know that the Oath does not mention suffering. The physician promises to attempt to the best of his or her ability to heal and to do nothing to harm the patient. What the doctor does not promise is to end suffering. If we make the minimization of suffering our fundamental moral obligation, we will seriously distort all ethics, not merely medical ethics.
It is therefore not evident that we ought to adopt minimizing suffering as our primary moral axiom. Singer presupposes that we should, indeed that we must, but what he finds reprehensible is to adopt it with respect to human beings, but not with respect to all other creatures. This is “speciesist” by definition and therefore wrong in principle. Singer is quite explicit about reducing the difference between humans and animals to zero: “The core of this book is the claim that to discriminate against beings solely on account of their species is a form of prejudice, immoral and indefensible in the same way that discrimination on the basis of race is immoral and indefensible.”18 Again, this is a presupposition that is totally unfounded, and one that will create severe societal chaos if carried to its logical end. Despite his extreme “life ethic,” even that secular saint, Albert Schweitzer, was forced to use antiseptics to kill germs, although he did not do so as consistently or as efficiently as his medical colleagues would have wished.
Failure to acknowledge any morally relevant differences between people and animals has serious implications for human medicine and the ethical treatment of people. This is an additional side effect of the animal rights movement — probably, but not necessarily, unconscious and unintended. If, in order to exist on earth, we humans must occasionally decide to kill members of other species — as seldom as possible, of course — and if we do not establish “speciesist” distinctions between humans and animals, then it becomes logical to kill members of our own species for similar reasons, and perhaps not all that seldom at that.
Singer makes this explicit transference and argues that whatever is done to animals might properly be done to humans, at least to infants and retarded humans. In his eyes it is immoral to expend money and effort maintaining the life of a severely brain-damaged infant while we are willing to kill adult chimpanzees, dogs, pigs, and many other species, who “far surpass the brain-damaged infant in their ability to relate to others, act independently, be self-aware, and any other capacity that could reasonably be said to give value to life.”19
Although the movement is not directly related to the transformation of medical ethics, it fits right in with what Jürgen Sandemann called “the break with the humanitarian tradition.”20 If ending suffering is the summum bonum of our philosophy, then euthanasia becomes not merely acceptable but also a moral obligation. In fact, inasmuch as all those who are born suffer, one might argue for the total cessation of human reproduction and the self-elimination of the entire human race (or species, to use Singer’s preferred expression). Suffering would still go on among the remaining living creatures, of course, but there would be no humans to notice it, report it, and agonize about it.
At many places, Singer is very sensitive to animal pain, and one can only sympathize with him. Indeed, the greater part of his book is spent in a detailed description of the abusive treatment that our species regularly inflicts on animals. He begins by arguing that humans should inflict the minimum pain possible on animals and proceeds to argue that it is hardly enough to kill animals painlessly; we really ought not to kill them at all. The logical consequence of this, we recall, is vegetarianism, which he endorses even to the extent of recommending a vegetarian diet for dogs.21
HIDING AMONG THE ANIMALS
Almost every abuse to which the animal rights enthusiasts object could be eliminated without resorting to the terminology or rhetoric of rights for creatures, which, to the best of our ability to understand, are not persons and therefore not moral agents. One could urge that we all become vegetarians, like the Hindus whom Singer praises, for reasons such as compassion, efficiency, economy, or health. Why do Singer and his many allies in the movement insist on talking in terms of rights, and thus making animals into moral agents, which they are not? It seems that many of these writers speak out of a genuine heart of compassion. It is also apparent that most of them have rejected the doctrine of Creation and the God of Creation (Linzey is an exception, of course).
As I have maintained throughout this article, the logical implication of the total equality for which they strive is not the elevation of animals to equal status with us, but the reduction of humans to the status of the animals. Why would anyone seek to persuade himself or herself and others that there is no significant moral difference between the animals and ourselves? Is this not debasing and degrading? In a sense it is, but in another sense it is liberating in that if we are altogether on the same level as the animals, we are no more moral agents than they are and cannot be held accountable to God or any moral standard. What Adam and Eve did not succeed in doing when they hid themselves in the bushes of the Garden in order to avoid the reproachful gaze of God, we may yet accomplish, in the late Francis Schaeffer’s phrase, by “hiding among the animals.” Or so it may seem — unless, of course, there is a God who is capable of finding us there, the God who once said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Harold O. J. Brown, Ph.D., holds the Franklin and Dorothy Forman Chair of Ethics in Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, established in 1897. This institution joined with two undergraduate faculties in 1995 to form Trinity International University. He is also director of the Rockford Institute Center on Religion and Society.
deWaal, Frans. Goodnatured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Linzey, Andrew. Animal Theology. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Marquart, Kathleen. Animalscam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights. Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1993.
Moussaieff Masson, Jeffrey and Susan McCarthy. When Elephants Weep. New York: Delacorte, 1995.
Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
Rollin, Bernard E. Animal Rights and Human Morality. rev. ed. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1992.
Sherry, Clifford J. Animal Rights. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994.
Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New York: Avon, 1977.
- In the United States, the usual expression is civil rights. It is taken for granted that civil rights pertain to humans alone.
- In a discussion of animal rights, it is particularly relevant to adhere to the traditional usage of the word man in a general sense for both males and females (cf. Gen. l:26, any nonpolitically correct [PC] translation), as well as a collective term for the entire human race. Man, if we may say so, is an intensely personal word, while human has more of a technical, scientific, and impersonal ring. The word human is grammatically an adjective, although it can be used as a substantive (noun); “human being” is not an altogether equivalent substitute for “man,” nor is “humanity” or “humankind” for “mankind.” “Human” and its derivatives are usually associated with desirable qualities and attributes, as when we speak of “human kindness,” or “inhuman cruelty.” The substitution of “human” for man is frequently quite innocent, but it does have a certain tendency to depersonalize us. When the term “man” is sacrificed, man becomes the impersonal, generic human, and in a kind of unconscious reflex, God, in whose image man — male and female — was created, also becomes impersonal. It may reflect only the desire to be appropriately PC, but nevertheless it is interesting that when Linzey speaks of God, he writes “he/she,” and “him/herself.” This little excursus into the use of language reflects the reality that the concern for animal rights, however kind, well-intentioned, and innocent it seems to be, becomes in the last analysis a rejection of what Eric Voegelin calls the Order of Being, and with it, of the Creator who established it and of man made in his image.
- Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Avon, 1977), 18-21.
- It may seem bizarre to suggest this, but if one insists that a proper understanding of animal rights means that animals and humans are to be treated equally, not only abortion and euthanasia but also cannibalism might even become acceptable. If we continue to eat the flesh of animals — a practice that is not likely to be abandoned around the world as long as meat is available — and we also think that humans have no higher rights than animals, then it becomes plausible to eat people. In fact, various human societies have practiced cannibalism in the past, and there are repeated rumors that aborted fetuses are used as food in communist China.
- Utilitarianism, a school of thought associated with the British thinkers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, is an ethical system in which the criterion for good is “the greater (or greatest) good of the greater (or greatest) number,” frequently measured in terms of attainment of pleasure and avoidance of pain, and in which in many cases the end is said to justify the means.
- Natural law is a system of ethics with its origins in antiquity. It presupposes that there is an order to Nature, frequently assuming that this order was established by God and that humans aided by the light of reason can discern appropriate and universally valid standards by which to judge good and evil. It was strongly urged by the Roman jurist Cicero (ca. 106-44 B.C.) and by Christians such as Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Hugo Grotius (1583-1645).
- Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and of Legislation (New York: Hafner, 1948), ch. 17, cited by Singer, Animal Liberation, 8.
- In a number of European countries, there is considerable support for raising laying hens on the ground rather than in batteries. Many Swiss customers are willing to pay two to three times more for eggs produced with Bodenhaltung (hens allowed to run freely on the earth). In many European villages and towns, local butchers slaughter animals close to where they are raised, which alleviates some of the abuses cited by Singer, although of course it does not eliminate the final injury, namely, killing them for food.
- See especially Singer, 34-47. Having read protocols of both kinds — Nazi experiments and contemporary animal research — I must agree with much of what Singer says on this topic.
- See, for example, Singer, 53, 184.
- Professor Sorokin describes three fundamental types of cultures, or “sociocultural supersystems,” in which all of the various aspects and elements of the culture are integrated: ideational, idealistic, and sensate. In an ideational culture, the highest, indeed the only real value is God or the divine and God’s will; in idealistic cultures, divine values are foremost, but the values and goods of the material world have a place; in sensate cultures, only those things that can be seen, heard, felt, tasted, and otherwise enjoyed are regarded as values. Our culture is in what he calls a “late degenerate sensate phase” because the sensate value system is now so advanced that it is becoming incoherent and unable to agree even on such “sensate” values as beauty and good taste.
- Pitirim A. Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age (1941), 2d rev. ed. (Oxford, England: Oneworld, 1992), 132-33. My own revision and expansion of Sorokin’s thesis is scheduled to appear in the summer of 1996: The Sensate Culture (Dallas: Word).
- Of course the animal rights people generally avoid the expression “other creatures,” which implies the Creator, and prefer to speak of “other animals.” deWaal’s expression “humans and other animals” is not entirely inappropriate, because we too have an anima (soul) and are “animate” beings. It may be meant innocently, or humorously, but by emphatically placing us among the (other) animals, it implicitly denies the order of Creation and God the Creator.
- Sorokin, 265.
- Singer, 22.
- Ibid., 18.
- See, e.g., ibid., 19.
- Ibid., 255.
- Ibid., 19.
- Cf. Jürgen Sandemann, Der Bruch mit der humanitären Tradition, in Forschungen zur neueren Medizin- und Biologiegeschichte, vol. 2., ed. Gunther Mann and Werner F. Kümmel (Stuttgart and New York: G. Fischer, 1990).
- Singer, 239.