What Are Animal Rights? The Vegan Peace Declaration

Animal-rights activists are famous for talking about what we don’t want. But what kind of rights do we want? Let’s start by thinking about why we use the term “rights” at all.

We’ve constructed a system that treats everything and everyone on the planet as a person or as a piece of property. Water and seeds, trees and beaches: all for sale. Conscious animals too are classified as property, available for use by “persons” (including businesses). Only those legal persons have rights — socially created shields which oblige us to respect other people’s interests.

Which brings us back to animal-rights activists. People who are serious about nonhuman rights wish to discontinue the system that makes human interests the top priority and then controls all other beings for our uses and conveniences.

The animal-rights idea has been around a long time. Henry Salt, author of Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1892), asserted that the human habit of raising other animals in order to consume them is to inflict unnecessary harm on sentient beings. Salt, as well as Anna Kingsford (who graduated from medical school in Paris in 1880, unique in doing so without having experimented on a single animal), influenced Gandhi to decide it’s a moral duty “not to live upon fellow-animals.” And in 1944, the word “vegan” was coined to express the idea of conscientious objection to war against our fellows. The vegan peace declaration is a commitment to avoid the products of animal use, such as dairy items, flesh, eggs, and honey. By preferring melon slices or a plate of stuffed grape leaves, vegans erode the custom of animal breeding — a custom that, at the same time, uses habitat needed by animals who could live free.

In its broadest sense, veganism is the cultivation of a society that renounces domination and systematic killing. This is the core of animal-rights theory: the forthright claim that all conscious beings, human or not, should be allowed to live on their own terms, not the terms set down by those who seek to control and exploit others.

Plea From Planet Earth

Imagine the day the extraterrestrials pay us a visit. Being more capable and advanced than ourselves (get a load of that spaceship), but not having any way of hearing or understanding our words or cries, they debate whether to consume us, experiment on us, or wrap us up and carry us home as playthings. Our options end. They decide to enlist us in fulfilling their interests in food, research and entertainment. We’re frightened and appalled, even by the ones who only insist on doing it for our own good (stewardship, we Earthlings have called that). We like to decide what’s good for ourselves.

“Please, let us alone,” we beg. “Don’t split up our families to introduce us into your more advanced culture; don’t talk about how well you should care for us before using us up. Don’t try to mimic our natural habitat so we can live and reproduce when you display us. Don’t do it even if you know we’ll blow ourselves up or go extinct under the melting ice caps. Just go in peace.”

Could we ourselves heed that plea? Most people will call it impossible, saying we must be realistic; they’ll say patterns of domination and subjugation, and hierarchical ideas about species, are too ingrained in human thinking to be undone. Whether they are right or not, most people thereby perpetuate the power structures humanity has constructed. The first step to achieving change is conceiving it, and that’s what the vegan proposal has done. At its best, our movement inspires society to accept risk, to respect other beings even if that means accepting some level of danger, to ensure that we leave animals capable of living and moving freely in spaces to which they’ve naturally adapted, and to refuse to alienate them from those habitats.

Plain fairness challenges us to intervene in the cycle of breeding animals, and to stop sending domesticated cats, tropical birds, school-raised ducklings and other displaced animals into the world to fend for themselves in biocommunities that are ill-equipped to sustain or cope with them. To leave birds in their own forests rather than remove them and cage them as decorative or talkative pets, to let chimpanzees live in their natural territories rather expect them to have babies in zoos and language labs, to let bats and wolves and jaguars migrate without impediments, to respect turkeys’ natural lives rather than consider their slaughtered bodies essential to our holiday buffets; to leave fish in their waters, swimming free. The dignity of freedom, along with life itself, is at the core of what rights are meant to defend.

That doesn’t mean we ignore the dependent and domesticated — abandoned rabbits or feral cats or dogs in need of homes. Animal-rights theory challenges the cycle of making animals vulnerable and then coming to their rescue; yet it is not a pass to ignore the welfare of dependent animals who are already born. We are all members of humanity, the class we’ve constructed in order to bestow on ourselves the right to control all the others. Where we’ve endangered our fellow-animals and made them dependent, we have a collective responsibility to care for them today. So a caregiving ethic properly applies to cats, dogs, and other purpose-bred animals, while animal rights means preventing the cycle of control in the first place, preventing the destruction of communities of deer and coyotes, elk and wolves, wildcats, whales, bats and bees. This is why the strongest case for animal rights must be engaged with environmental advocacy.

In turn, animal-rights theory presents environmentalists with their strongest case. After all, a society that seriously considers animals’ claims to their habitat would refuse to let Mobil, Shell, and BP — or the Nature Conservancy, which has profited from drilling for natural gas in the habitat of highly endangered speckled grouse — ignore the interests of animals. Animal rights would change humanity’s way of doing business.

Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights (1983) urged: “With regard to wild animals, the general policy recommended by the rights view is: let them be!” These three little words go right to the core of the theory, and they free the spirit of activism. Regan’s three little words also highlight the need for a positively framed right for free-living beings to exist. If the rights proponent focuses simply on “abolition” — that is, on removing animals from the property category — there’s a danger of missing the positive need for free animals to procreate and experience their lives. We could stop bringing other animals into being for our purposes but ignore the loss of communities who enter the world for their own; and animal rights is a hollow idea if animals don’t survive to benefit from the concept. This means we’ll need to control our own numbers and learn to respect the environment not just for our health or aesthetic satisfaction, but because it’s home to other living beings.

Evolution of Animal-Rights Activism

One of my co-workers in the movement, Peter Wallerstein of Friends of Animals’ Marine Animal Rescue group, is an expert at assisting coast-dwelling animals who get caught in anglers’ gear. The idea is to free animals from dangers humans have caused (consistent with this mission, Wallerstein won’t eat fish), and quickly return them to their normal lives. To rescue is to exert control over a seal or a pelican, so Wallerstein believes interventions should be temporary: just long enough to enable the animals to return safely to their sea or skies, where they might flourish on their terms. In most cases, for Marine Animal Rescue, the interactions are brief — although some sea animals are found so debilitated they need long-term care; and unusual algal blooms, thought to be connected with warming oceans, cause domoic acid poisonings, which are often fatal to sea lions and seabirds.

Some others — spider monkeys, chimpanzees, gibbons, parrots, and various animals kept in human settings and then discarded, such as the ones who now live at our San Antonio sanctuary — need a caregiving ethic, and they need it for life. Primarily Primates offers its animals private space, and publicly challenges humanity’s feeling of entitlement to use other animals. And that, in turn, means confronting any business which breeds domesticated animals into existence, displacing habitat where free-living animals once thrived. So the evolution of our work now includes collaboration between the rescue and rehabilitation community and animal-rights theorists. We point out that advocates can and do care for the animals caught in our current system yet at the same time organize a new cultural reality, so that whole communities of animals won’t be driven from their lands and waters, selectively bred to meet our specifications, or in some way pressed into positions of needing refuge.

We know we’re asking questions that challenge many, many generations of our cultural patterns. In light of the tremendous responsibility we’ve accepted, what kind of rights should we seek?

Seen in its strongest and best light, the animal-rights proposal does not present a list of demands, but cultivates an attitude of respect. A willingness to live gently on the land and walk respectfully along the ocean without seeing either as a store of resources for us. A desire to allow natural plants to flourish for bees, to grow our crops with an appreciation for the animals who move beneath and over them. We need to learn, as much as possible, to let other animals be.

To respect the lives of seals means respecting the lives of fish and other animals in their waters. Respecting the lives of primates would necessarily mean respecting tree frogs in the forests that need us to put down our logging machinery. What other members of Earth’s biocommunity need from us is a robust movement to defend what natural places remain.

Once we agree in principle what animal rights should be and then implement it, cultivating a society that can outgrow its drive to kill and conquer, we then decide the best approach in specific situations. Some difficult questions will involve conflicts we might have caused or aggravated between living communities, given our outsized population and the ways we have already changed the face of the planet. The key will be mindfulness, so as to steadfastly avoid reinstating the primacy of humans over the other animal communities.

Because it defends the vital interests of our fellow-animals in viable habitats, the vegan declaration of peace presents the most serious challenge to those who deforest the land, commodify life, and pollute the earth, water, and atmosphere. As such, it’s not only a key to our becoming full moral actors on the ecological stage, but also needed for keeping that stage from falling apart. We cannot afford to surrender to the loss of whole biocommunities and the meltdown of major ice sheets; if we don’t change soon, our options will run out. Never has it been more important for vegan advocates to know just what we’re asking for, and be heard.

Lee Hall is legal director for Friends of Animals, an animal-rights advocacy group founded in New York in 1957. Lee can be reached at: leehall@friendsofanimals.org. Follow Lee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VeganMeans. Read other articles by Lee, or visit Lee's website.

44 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. kalidas said on April 8th, 2009 at 11:43am #

    Just what is it that is so hard to understand about “thou shall not kill?”
    All our philosophers, those with a higher reckoning and profound realizations are hailed as such and summarily ignored. Why?

    “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
    Thomas Edison

    “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
    Pythagoras

    “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”
    Leonardo da Vinci

    “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
    “What I think about vivisection is that if people admit that they have the right to take or endanger the life of living beings for the benefit of many, there will be no limit to their cruelty.”
    Leo Tolstoy

    “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?”
    “Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.”
    George Bernard Shaw

    “If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth — beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals — would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?”
    George Bernard Shaw

    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
    Albert Einstein

    “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”
    Mark Twain

    And on and on and on.

    To talk high philosophy over chicken salad is absurd.

  2. David said on April 8th, 2009 at 1:21pm #

    The Edison quote is bogus. So is the Da Vinci one. Not sure about the rest. This sort of exaggeration is what makes ordinary people mistrust some vegans.

  3. Priscilla Feral said on April 8th, 2009 at 1:32pm #

    Linda Lear, who authored a biography of Rachel Carson wrote in a letter published in The New York Times today: “Carson, who died in 1964, did not live long enough to write against the new sources of damage inflected on bird populations by global climate change and the accelerated intrusion of human activity. The villains she identified remain: chemical pollution of air, water and soil, and the misuse of pesticides. But planetary overpopulation is now the heart of the problem of vanishing habitat, buttressed always by greed.”

    Thanks so much to Lee Hall for such a beautifully written, deeply important and pressing call-to-action. Lee’s writing shows animals rights as a concept with powerful relevance to both social justice and ecological activism.

  4. lichen said on April 8th, 2009 at 1:49pm #

    Yes, I support this declaration! It is so wasteful, so ugly, and unnecessary to exploit animals and destroy the planet in the process.

  5. mary said on April 8th, 2009 at 1:55pm #

    As many as 5,000 common seals are said to be shot each year as they attempt to take farmed salmon from the netted compounds in the Scottish sea lochs and coastal waters.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/7981598.stm

    There is no mention in the report of the environmental damage caused by these farms – pollution, organchlorides and PCBs in the fish, the interbreeding of the wild species with the escapees. Big business takes precedence over these concerns. I noticed that whole farmed salmon were being sold at a quarter of the price of white sea fish the other day in the supermarket. The purchasers are welcome to this tasteless, highly-coloured (from the food the fish are given) and oily foodstuff. The whole process is unnatural and damaging in all parts of the chain.

  6. Diane said on April 8th, 2009 at 2:08pm #

    To David:

    You really need to do your research before you speak! Neither quote is “bogus”. The use of that word alone speaks volumes about your intelligence. And by the way, vegans are ordinary people. We just happen to be people who don’t have the audacity to feel that our lives are more important than those of other living creatures. And please work on your grammar. It is atrocious!!!

  7. Gail said on April 8th, 2009 at 3:37pm #

    Research scientists at Baylor Medical Center have proven that plants, including vegetables, feel pain when subjected to trauma such as being yanked out of the ground, peeled, cooked, and eaten. “Veggies and plants initiate a massive hormone and chemical barrage internally when they suffer any kind of injury,” says professor Barry Lindzer. “This response is akin to the nerve response and endorphin release when an animal is injured. We cannot ignore the similarities.”

    Thus if you believe that you shouldn’t eat meat, fish, etc because they feel harm, you also shouldn’t eat plant life. To do other is hypocritical.

  8. L said on April 8th, 2009 at 5:19pm #

    Mark Twain was a racist and George Bernard Shaw was a eugenicist. Why should I care what they had to say about animals?

  9. Brandon Becker said on April 8th, 2009 at 6:07pm #

    Thank you for illuminating the expansive scope of animal rights. This philosophy goes beyond ending nonhuman animals’ status as legal property (an important step, but not enough) to require the abolition of all forms of speciesist oppression.

    Animal rights means rights to life and liberty for all sentient beings. In essence, this means ending our “domestication” of other animal species and allowing free-living nonhuman animals to exist on their own terms, emancipated from human domination and control.

    Nonhuman animals cannot fully enjoy their rights unless their natural habitats are protected from human-caused destruction. Corporate-driven consumerism, increasing human population (especially in industrialized nations), and ever-expanding “development” (more roads, buildings, air/soil/water pollution) significantly harm the ability of other animals to survive and thrive. A new ecological ethic is necessary.

    Living vegan is animal rights philosophy put into practice. A world of peaceful coexistence with other animals is possible. Working individually and collectively, we will create the social and political change to make it a reality.

  10. K.M. said on April 8th, 2009 at 7:02pm #

    To Diane:

    Your attitude, as if you’re morally superior because you don’t eat meat, really proves David’s point. By the way bogus is an actual word that subsists in the dictionary. You remind me of those people who do yoga, but still manage to act the biggest jerks they can be. Maybe if you’d stop trying to dictate to people what they can and cannot eat, you might be less uptight.

    People who choose to eat meat are also ordinary people, who would appreciate people like you backing off. Many of the Native Peoples of the U.S. have been meat eaters and they had a high respect for the meat they ate. I would say that it was because, there were no slaughterhouses and meat wasn’t easy to come by.

    I will say that we take what we get to eat, in this country, for granted. Even those who eat their plentiful bounty of vegetables and fruits. I would hope you think about that, because someone, somewhere, wishes they could have half the amounts of food you consume.

  11. Harold Brown said on April 9th, 2009 at 5:44am #

    Thank you Lee.

    This brings clarity to the subject of veganism and animal rights. As for those who take issue with the premiss of rights for animals, and for that matter nature, I would submit that they must examine their indoctrination of being part of a herding culture.

    Being a former cattle farmer I can say with some certainty that most people become defensive when their dominate culture is questioned. Western civilization is the result of 10,000 years of herding. Of course not all cultures invested in herding like the Hindu’s, Buddhist’s and Jain’s, but the Abrahamic tradition did. Our identity, wealth, stature, and to a certain extent, political systems have been influenced by herding culture (Stock Market, Wall Street..look up the history of these terms).

    Until we deconstruct our mythos of death and domination as related to the Abrahamic tradition of herding culture and move more toward the mythos of non-herding cultures (life and co-creation), we cannot begin to understand or appreciate non-human animals let alone one another in an authentic and meaningful way.

    Again, thank you.

  12. Bea Elliott said on April 9th, 2009 at 5:55am #

    To Gail – who has such concern for the wellbeing of plants… Considering that 75% of the plants grown are ingested by animals (in order to make meat) – then we would still reduce (plant) “suffering” by ingesting the plants directly… And feed a starving world in the mix.

    I always find it amusing when people with obviously no compunction to slaughtering billions of innocent animals, navigate their ethics by way of sympathy for carrots. Honestly, it is an insult to the intelligence they profess to have.

  13. Don Hawkins said on April 9th, 2009 at 6:34am #

    75% of the plants grown are ingested by animals (in order to make meat. That is a big number and in a few years that number will head South and the animals North.

  14. Allen said on April 9th, 2009 at 7:23am #

    Great post! Thank you Lee.

    Bea, I understand your point, but the ignorance and defensive posturing that allow people like Gail and K.M. to completely side-step such a profound moral argument is anything but amusing. It’s disheartening.

    I’m sure Gail understands the difference between mowing a lawn and hacking the legs off of a cat. She just thinks that playing the “hypocrite” card will assuage her guilt and disguise the absurdity of her claim at the same time. Unfortunately, for people who are only willing to reason as far as it will justify their own behaviors, she is correct.

    In a similar way, K.M. is simply trying to play the “oppressed” meat eater card. While demanding to be left alone to continue killing and eating animals, s/he hopes that most people won’t see the irony in her/his use of the word “respect” to describe a tradition of violence and oppression against non-human animals.

    Had K.M. bothered to read even a single book on animal rights or veganism before arguing against it, s/he would understand that most vegans already do understand that the taking for granted the “plentiful bounty of vegetables and fruits” by wasting the vast majority the world’s crops on fattening farm animals contributes significantly to human hunger and starvation. Had s/he looked into veganism before feeling knowledgeable enough to denounce it, her/his statement might have read more like this:

    “I will say that we take what we get to eat, in this country, for granted. Especially those who eat animals who are fed the vast majority of the grains, soy and corn grown in this country. I would hope you think about that, because someone, somewhere, wishes they could have half the amounts of food that the “developed” world wastes on farm animals each year.”

    Had either commenter, K.M. or Gail, even bothered to read a single book on animal rights philosophy they would, as we vegans have already done, realize the ignorance of their statements. They would realize that most vegans were once meat-eaters and have already gone through the process of considering such questions as plant sentience, native hunting rights and global hunger.

    To me, it is not amusing that such people are able to assume they know something that others do not despite the fact that they have not (quite obviously) read up on the issue at all. Yes, arguing from a place of ignorance and defensiveness is not amusing. It’s sad. Especially when the consequences of such behavior are so dire.

  15. Ellie Maldonado said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:50pm #

    Bravo! Thank you, Lee Hall, for this superb and inspiring declaration of vegan peace, that enlightens our understanding of social justice and its relation to environmental activism.

  16. Ellie Maldonado said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:55pm #

    Gail, you can’t reduce everything to a chemical reaction. Plants may release endorphins but since they can’t move from the source of injury, they have no need for actual pain.

  17. Beth said on April 9th, 2009 at 8:33pm #

    Here’s a Quote for you:

    Animal Welfare or Animal Rights?
    Here are some of the differences:

    As animal welfare advocates. . .

    • We seek to improve the treatment and well-being of animals.

    • We support the humane treatment of animals that ensures comfort and freedom from unnecessary pain and suffering.

    • We believe we have the right to “own” animals — they are our property.

    • We believe animal owners should provide loving care for the lifetime of their animals.

    As animal rights activists. . .

    • They seek to end the use and ownership of animals, including the keeping of pets.

    • They believe that any use of an animal is exploitation so, not only must we stop using animals for food and clothing, but pet ownership must be outlawed as well.

    • They want to obtain legal rights for animals as they believe that animals and humans are equal.

    • They use false and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse to raise funds, attract media attention and bring supporters into the movement.

    (The Inhumane Crusade, Daniel T. Oliver)

    http://www.animalscam.com
    http://www.naiaonline.org

  18. thrillracer, esq. said on April 9th, 2009 at 10:27pm #

    I never understood why so many people are incapable of thinking for themselves. They must adhere to cultural patterns and follow tradition, even if it makes them unhappy. Even people who try to look different or say they belong to a special group are conformist in every sense. I’d rather be an independent vegan alienated from a society than a miserable fat conformist surrounded by the same. Ignorant people who lack discipline and self respect are the lost ones.

  19. Brandon Becker said on April 10th, 2009 at 1:18pm #

    Industry and their front-groups (such as Center for Consumer Freedom and National Animal Interest Alliance) talk about how they care about the “welfare” of nonhuman animals, treat them “humanely,” and never cause them “unnecessary” suffering. As Tom Regan writes in Empty Cages: “When these spokespersons say these things, what they say is not just sometimes false; it is always false.” Cruelty and abuse are inherent to this system of chattel slavery: other animals are bought, sold, and killed for profit.

    By living vegan, we truly value the welfare of nonhuman animals. Since we can be healthy eating only plant foods, to continue to slaughter other animals for food is unnecessary and unjust to the core. To accord rights to all human animals (regardless of sentience) but no other animals (most of whom are clearly sentient) is pure speciesism. All sentient beings deserve equal consideration and respect.

    For every nonhuman animal who is victimized in a slaughterhouse, vivisection laboratory, zoo, or anywhere else: let us hear their cries and be a voice for liberation. Justice demands abolition!

  20. Maryanne Appel said on April 10th, 2009 at 2:31pm #

    The Vegan Peace Declaration needs no further commentary. It is an excellent essay on the true meaning of animal rights, and the impact that meaning has on human societies.

    On viewing the comments from other readers, I find it difficult to understand how anyone can say that vegans feel morally superior, when in fact, in all humility, we recognize that we are just one species of animal among many, and so consider it unethical to exploit members of other species, just as it is unethical for one human to act unjustly towards another human because of physical, mental, or cultural differences.

    If anyone doubts that animals deserve to be free of the yoke of human oppression, they need not bring forth arguments about how plants “suffer,” or why it is appropriate for humans to own animals, or that it is our “right” to consume the flesh of other beings.

    May I suggest that anyone who has doubts about animals having an interest in living their lives devoid of human interference, domination, and control, even amidst the dangers that free living incurs, to re-read the Declaration, and take the time to ingest the views put forth by Lee Hall, an author who does not put pen to paper without careful consideration of the subject under discussion.

  21. veganvet said on April 11th, 2009 at 12:42pm #

    Beautifully written, Lee. The timing is a bit ironic given the fact that eating dead animal flesh plays such a prominent role in both Easter dinner and the Passover seder.

  22. Jeff Perz said on April 16th, 2009 at 12:29am #

    Lee Hall writes:

    “If the rights proponent focuses simply on ‘abolition’ — that is, on removing animals from the property category — there’s a danger of missing the positive need for free animals to procreate and experience their lives. We could stop bringing other animals into being for our purposes but ignore the loss of communities who enter the world for their own; and animal rights is a hollow idea if animals don’t survive to benefit from the concept. This means we’ll need to control our own numbers and learn to respect the environment not just for our health or aesthetic satisfaction, but because it’s home to other living beings.”

    I disagree, because abolishing the property status of animals, and thereby stopping bringing them into existence, will automatically and necessarily entail that free-living animals will have both the non-basic right and ability to procreate and experience their lives in their undefiled environments. I argue:

    http://www.speciesismreview.info/AdulteratingAR.pdf
    Dunayer … objects that whereas she advocates that non-human
    animals have a right to own property, Francione does not. When a
    human … cuts down a tree containing a robin’s nest, however, the human is using … the robin merely as a means to acquiring wood chips to make paper. Thus, whether one says that … the robin has a right to own her nest and tree [and, by extension, an entire ecosystem], or instead, that [the robin has] the right not to be used as mere means, i.e. as property, exactly the same vital interests are being protected by a right. Accordingly, Dunayer’s [and Hall's] objection is moot.

  23. Ellie Maldonado said on April 16th, 2009 at 2:30pm #

    “Animal welfare, freedom from unnecessary pain, the well being of animals” — that’s quite a collection of double speak you’ve got there, Beth.

    The NAIA is in no position to define animal welfare, or the freedom and well being of nonhumans — it is even less qualified to define animal rights. Broad accusations against all animal rights activists are absurd, yet not unusual for the NAIA.

  24. Ellie Maldonado said on April 16th, 2009 at 4:03pm #

    Jeff, I don’t think we can take for granted that abolishing the property status of nonhumans would protect the natural habitat that other animals depend on. This needs to be clarified and written into law, and I think it should be part of animal rights advocacy.

    Cutting down a tree where a bird has nested violates the interests of the bird and her family, and their right to the home that she created. How does this make use of the bird?

  25. Jeff said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:04pm #

    Ellie, do not take me for a religious zealot, but just whom owns this glorious sphere we all call home. We are the “keepers” of this domain. In your opinion do you think we are falling down?

    We create nothing, for everything we do and work with is before us to discover.

    I do not know where you call home, but the destruction of the family farm is where this all began.

    5 billion people need to die to bring back some semblance of equilibrium.

    That is not illusion.

    THAT IS REALITY!

  26. Jeff Perz said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:33pm #

    Hi Ellie,

    You say that protecting the habitat of non-human animals would not necessarily follow from abolishing their property status because the habitat protection would first need to be codified in law. I, on the other hand, maintain that habitat protection would necessarily follow from abolition. We are both correct. Consider:

    The constitutional right to life is codified in the law prohibiting murder. But, the existence of the constitutional right alone automatically and necessarily entails that a law against murder must be created, and that this law will be enforced–thus protecting humans.
    Similarly, recognizing the pre-legal (non-constitutional) right not to be property would automatically and necessarily entail that a law against slaughtering animals would be created, as well as a law against destroying the homes of the newly recognized legal persons. Why? Because slaughtering a non-human animal entails using the animal merely as a means to getting taste enjoyment, which is another way of saying that the animal is being exploited as property. Likewise, you ask:

    <>

    First consider a classic example from the philosopher Immanuel Kant, and then consider the bird. Kant argued that if I borrow some money, promise to repay it, but have no intention of repaying it, then this lie involves using the **lender** (not just the money) merely as a means. This is because my lie prevents the lender from making a fully autonomous decision to lend the money. By making the lying-promise, I am using the other person merely as a means to acquiring money. Similarly, if I burn down my business-competitor’s empty shop, then I am using my competitor merely as a means to make more money. Similarly, if I cut down a tree with a bird’s nest in it, I am knowingly destroying the bird’s home for the purpose of getting the paper I want. I am using the bird (and the bird’s interests) merely as a means to getting the paper.The right not to be used merely as a means to someone else’s ends is basic. Another name for this right is the right not to be property.

    Therefore, recognizing the right not to be property in non-human animals would automatically entail that they could not be used merely as means for any purpose whatsoever–including the purpose of eating them, and including the purpose of making paper out of their homes. Yes, these things would need to be codified in law, but this would happen as a matter of course, and only after abolition.

    Today, before abolition, laws and treaties that may appear on the surface to protect endangered animal species’ and the environment do nothing more than treat non-human animals as property. For example, the international whaling treaty requires that whales be killed if they become more numerous. American scientists can persuasively argue that the Japanese scientists are incorrect in their view that the overall whale population is large and genetically diverse “enough” to be sustained and viable. But, if “conservation” (read warehousing) efforts become successful and the oceans become teaming with whales in the future, then the international whaling treaty requires that the whales be killed.

    The logic behind the following two views is exactly the same:
    1) The property status of animals is not going to be abolished for a long time. Yes, we can do vegan education, but we can also do something in the mean time to protect non-human animals: we can lobby to enforce the laws that regulate animal slaughter–which prohibit unnecessary killing, or killing for gratuitous reasons.
    2) The property status of animals is not going to be abolished for a long time. Yes, we can do vegan education, but we can also do something in the mean time to protect non-human animals: we can lobby to classify elephants in Category A of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species while our opponents lobby to classify them in lower categories. All categories, including Category A, involve temporary and exploitative “protection.”

    I reject the logic of exploitation that is behind both of the above views.

    Before the non-basic right to sit in the front of the bus can even be considered, slavery must first be abolished; the basic right not to be property must first be recognized. Similarly, before it is even possible to protect the less-basic right of a bird, whale or elephant to live securely in his or her habitat, it is first necessary to abolish the property status of these non-human animals. So, for an activist to spend time enforcing CITES (and other treaties and environmental legislation) is not advancing animal rights; it is simply enforcing animal regulationism.

    Vegan lifestyle education — and nothing else — is the only thing that advances animal rights at this point in history.

  27. Jeff Perz said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:36pm #

    I am not the “Jeff” who posted the message on April 16th, 2009 at 6:04pm.

  28. Jeff Perz said on April 16th, 2009 at 6:39pm #

    When I say above:

    Likewise, you ask:

    …This should actually read:

    Likewise, you ask:
    “Cutting down a tree where a bird has nested violates the interests of the bird and her family, and their right to the home that she created. How does this make use of the bird?”

  29. Lee Hall said on April 16th, 2009 at 10:09pm #

    Most appreciative of the conversation here and to those who sent a note of thanks, it is returned! I’m thankful for your reading and responding. Ellie, to my mind your observation about the bird is as important as it is succinct. It’s not enough for birds to be non-property (although the de-commodification of life is needed); birds ought to be accorded the dignity of living on their terms and they must have that if they’re to continue being at all. This is a most urgent matter. It asks us whether we really need all that space we’re living in, whether on a finite planet we are justified in going forth and multiplying and continually usurping more, whether we really have the right to push others aside, alienate them from what they need, take precedence over them, allow the interests of our corporations to take precedence over them, build roads through their spaces and pollute their water and air. The ability of free-living animals to exist, to procreate, and to interact with other members of their communities is basic and it is essential. Kant notwithstanding, it is not enough to stop using other animals `merely` as means to our ends. If animals might live free of our dominion, we wouldn’t use them at all; we would strive, as Vegan Society founder Donald Wastson and other vegan-organic growers have done, to live symbiotically as far as possible with others, and the purpose of our activism would be less about establishing elaborate and coercive legal regimes and more about learning to control ourselves.

  30. Jeff Perz said on April 17th, 2009 at 12:05am #

    Hi Lee,

    You write:

    “It’s not enough for birds to be non-property (although the de-commodification of life is needed); birds ought to be accorded the dignity of living on their terms and they must have that if they’re to continue being at all.”

    The latter necessarily follows from — indeed falls under the rubric of — the former. It is impossible for the latter to proceed the former.
    This is what I argued in my previous posts. Lee or Ellie, would you care to address the merits of the reasons I presented?

    When humans of African ancestry were granted the right not to be property in the U.S., it automatically followed that they had the right to own and be safe in their own homes; they were accorded the dignity of living on their own terms. Of course, this was not enforced — and that is why the Civil Rights movement followed, but this was not a basic rights movement. Civil rights come after basic rights in the case of humans. Why is this not also the case with non-human animals? Is there a non-speciesist answer to this question?

    Lee writes:

    “The ability of free-living animals to exist, to procreate, and to interact with other members of their communities is basic and it is essential.”

    I agree that the abovementioned ability is more basic and essential than the ability of, for example, a gorilla to use a leaf as a tool for food foraging. On the other hand, the ability to exist/procreate/interact is less basic than the most basic need of all; the right not to be property. It is impossible to acquire lower levels of rights before the higher levels are acquired.

    Lee writes:

    ” Kant notwithstanding, it is not enough to stop using other animals `merely` as means to our ends. If animals might live free of our dominion, we wouldn’t use them at all;”

    Not using them at all is exactly the same as not using them ‘merely’ as a means.
    An example of ‘using’ someone while not using them ‘merely’ as a means is as follows.

    A research scientist wants to test new medicines for (a) Alzheimer’s disease, (b) AIDS-related dementia and (c) childhood leukemia. Humans with these diseases are incapable of providing informed consent to participate in the clinical research trials. Yet medicines for these diseases are badly needed. So, an ethics committee is required to determine whether the trial poses any significant risks to the human research subjects. Assume it is correctly determined that there are no significant risks. More than that, the ethics committee determines that participating in the research may actually be of benefit to the individual research participants. Because participating in the research may involve a therapeutic benefit, the subjects are not being used ‘merely’ as a means; i.e. they get something out of it, participating may be in their best interests and it does not otherwise harm them. Yet, they are still being ‘used’ in the research to benefit future patients.

    The above example illustrates what is meant by ‘using’ someone while not using them ‘merely’ as a means to someone else’s ends.

    To prevent a free-living non-human animal from procreating, interacting with other members of the species or living in a safe habitat are clear examples of using someone merely as a means. I am confident that any activity that you might find objectionable regarding non-human animals will always fall under the most basic category of using someone merely as a means. I am open to hearing any counter-examples. You seem to agree with what I have said above when you write:

    “…we would strive … to live symbiotically as far as possible with others…”

    Symbiotic relationships involve using others, but not using others merely as means to our ends.

    I completely agree with the following:

    “…the purpose of our activism would be less about establishing elaborate and coercive legal regimes and more about learning to control ourselves.”

    To me, this means educating and helping others to control themselves, whether this involves vegan education or lobbying a government to transfer subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

    Do you agree that legal regimes such as environmental legislation and endangered species treaties do not have a place in animal rights activism? Why or why not?

  31. Jeff Perz said on April 17th, 2009 at 12:07am #

    Typo:

    “proceed” should be “precede.”

  32. Lee Hall said on April 17th, 2009 at 2:19am #

    It is often unhelpful, for a number of reasons, to conflate the situation of African-Americans and non-human beings. At the threshhold, let’s note that this discussion is not about a struggle for civil rights and integration.

    The question on the relationship between ending animals’ property status and animal rights is addressed several times above.

    Brandon stated, “A new ecological ethic is necessary.” Yes. Natural habitats comprise the locus of animal rights. This understanding is critical, and it can’t just be assumed that it follows from or is implied by a call for the end of commodified animals. A “right not to be property” is, for an animal purpose-bred as a commodity, a right to be non-existent. One must think and talk not only about what animals won’t be, but also what and who they are. Animal rights will not mean much for any beings who aren’t around for it because we’ve allowed biocommunities to unravel and disappear.

    We have many new questions to consider, perhaps the most important being how we’ll define ourselves on a daily basis when we no longer insist upon being dominators and become genuinely interested in finding a respectful role.

  33. Jeff Perz said on April 17th, 2009 at 4:18am #

    For what reasons — regarding the specific analogy we are discussing now — is it unhelpful to compare the basic and non-basic rights of humans who were property (former slaves of African ancestry) and non-human animals who are property now?

    This discussion is not about integration or many civil rights. Civil rights are non-basic rights. One civil non-basic right, however, is the right to assemble in groups of more than three. Previously, Africian Americans were denied the right to assemble. You have also mentioned free-living non-human animals’ right to ” interact with other members of their communities.” You said this right is basic. I replied that it is less basic than the right not to be owned. The point of discussing all of this is the broad claim that it is impossible to have a less-basic right without first having the more-basic right that encompasses it. It is uncontroversial that what I have said so far is true of humans. For what non-speciesist reason is this also not true of non-human animals?

    I am not simply assuming that the claim I make here is true. I am arguing for it with reasons. I believe it would be helpful if you presented counter-arguments instead of simply re-stating the opposite claim without rationale.

    Non-human animals won’t be property and they will be persons. Not being property means not having one’s nest crash to the ground in a falling tree. It means not being used exclusively as a resource to someone’s getting wood chips to make newspapers with. Being a person means having all of the interests that fall under personhood protected, including the interest of having a stable nest in a safe place.
    Describing the legal (and moral) status of non-human animals in both negative (abolish property) and positive (recognize personhood) terms are simply different ways of discussing exactly the same thing. The idea is simple. You can’t have a right to own your nest if your personhood is not yet recognized. Regognizing personhood includes recognizing your right to own your nest — or, for humans, your house.

    You write:

    “Animal rights will not mean much for any beings who aren’t around for it because we’ve allowed biocommunities to unravel and disappear.”

    In a previous post, I presented two views that share the same logic of exploitation. The first was about regulating slaughter of domesticated animals. The second was about regulating slaughter of free-living animals through coercive legal regimes. In the above-quoted sentence, are you saying that it is morally acceptable to regulate the slaughter of free-living beings (via laws/treaties) if this is done for the purpose of benefiting future (unborn) members of the species as a whole?

    What about domesticated human slaves who had a right not to be created in the first place? Many human slaves were psychologically conditioned to love their owners and be servile. The bodies of many human slaves were mutilated through vivisection, such that they would never be able to live a flourishing life again. In other words, they were domesticated. You are saying that domesticated slaves have a right NOT to be brought into existance. Are you also saying that domesticated slaves cannot have positive rights; the right to be a person, the right to interact with others, etc.? I disagree with this view, and I apply my disagreement consistently to both human and non-human (former) slaves. Why do you agree or disagree with this view? Why can’t domesticated human or non-human slaves become persons with positive rights?

    There are better ways of understanding and acting upon the fact that natural habitats comprise the locus of animal rights:
    1) Buy the habitat of free-living animals and leave it alone
    2) Give elephant poachers resources and education to get new jobs that they would prefer more; cooperative vegetable farms, small business, etc.
    3) Educate the citizens of Alaska so that they demand investiment in renewable energy
    4) Most important, address the root problem that creates the violation of free-living animal rights in the first place; the property status they share with domesticated animals. In other words, vegan education helps domesticated animals in the short term and free-living animals in the long term.

    For what reasons does our new environmental ethic have to mean enforcing old laws and treaties that do nothing more than regulate (and temporarily — often very temporarily) delay the murder of individuals and the genocide (extinction) of groups? How is this not a waste of a rights advocate’s time? For what reasons are the four alternatives suggested above less worthy as regulating the exploitation of free-living animals through laws and treaties?

    How will we define ourselves in a respectful role? As non-violent, peaceful, vegan anarchists. As farmers who use non-harmful techniques to discourage insects from being killed when we harvest our crops. As free-thinkers who use reasons when debating eachother, while still holding eachother in high regard, and engaging eachother in respectful, mutually-beneficial and friendly debate.

    So far, you have not presented any reasoned arguments for your view that the right to own property and live safely in an undefiled environment is independent of the right not to be property. I believe that we would both benefit from a reasoned debate, as would our readers.

  34. Ellie Maldonado said on April 17th, 2009 at 7:11am #

    Hello Jeff Perz,

    I think the difference is seen in intention. To destroy a competitor’s business — with intention to edify one’s own — is not the same as cutting down a tree — with intention to obtain wood — and destroying the birds’ home in the process. The intention to obtain wood is the same whether or not there is a nest in the tree. The wood cutter has no use for the birds or the nest. Destroying their home and quite probably their lives is thus incidental to obtaining wood.

    Free-living nonhumans can’t wait for us to abolish the property status of their domesticated cousins. Supporting their freedom and well being should be an integral part of animal rights advocacy now.

  35. Ellie Maldonado said on April 17th, 2009 at 8:07am #

    Jeff Perz, you wrote: “When humans of African ancestry were granted the right not to be property in the U.S., it automatically followed that they had the right to own and be safe in their own homes; they were accorded the dignity of living on their own terms.”

    The right to not be property did not give emancipated slaves the right to equality. Former slaves were no longer owned, yet they were denied equal consideration in both society and under the law, which ultimately denied their right to live on their own terms.

    Importantly, nonhumans are not seeking to establish equality within human society, which differs from the human struggle for civil rights. Nonhumans can only live on their own terms within their own natural habitat; this is the essence of their right to equality.

  36. Leila said on April 17th, 2009 at 11:23am #

    Good point, Ellie. Former slaves did not automatically have adequate rights flowing simply and automatically from the fact of not being property.

    But I have to agree with Lee that this tends to be an analogy that causes more trouble than it’s worth. People of African ancestry were historically compared to non-human animals in order to bring them down. I can’t imagine that they welcome the continued or renewed comparison even though I am sure that you don’t intend it to harm them.

    Jeff (Perz), constitutional rights are against the government. Punishment for murder is against non-governmental actors.

  37. Jeff Perz said on April 17th, 2009 at 4:17pm #

    Hi Ellie,

    I’ll continue with the convention started in your post of April 16th 4:03pm and use first names, This discussion need not be formal or confrontational.

    Regaring your remarks about intention:
    Intention is not one of the aspects of the two situations that I was comparing. So, it’s irrelevant to the aspects I am comparing. But, if intention is a sticking point for you, it’s easy enough for me to change my example: instead of a competitor burning down another business, use the example of a coproration acquiring a social-housing apartment building, tearing it down and replacing it with an office building. This is also a case of using humans merely as a means.

    Regarding your comments about non-human animals not being able to wait for abolition, Lee made the same point and I have already responded to it. You realize that saying this makes you sound like PeTA?

    Regarding the analogy with human slavery, my agreement with what you (and Leila) have said is found in the sentence after the one you quoted. After your quote, I wrote:

    “Of course, [right to dignity achieved by abolition] was not enforced — and that is why the Civil Rights movement followed, but this was not a basic rights movement. ”

    So we’re in agreement about this. Leila, note that some human slaves had empathy with exploited and caged non-human animals, they opposed animals being property and there is a written historical record showing this. The fact that racism and speciesism are interconnected is not a reason to refrain from noting that connection, as you seem to advocate. One person who welcomes exposing the connections between racism and speciesism is Alice Walker. Another was former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

    Regarding your comment that human slaves sought equality within human society whereas non-human animals (and their advocates) are not:
    Yes, that is another difference between the two cases of slavery that I was discussing, which is also not part of the analogy. But, if you want to make it a part, then note that all adult human slaves who had the capacity to make autonomous decisions (which was most of them) were seeking all of the same basic and non-basic rights that humans of European ancestry enjoyed. Also note that those slaves who were chidren were not, for example, seeking the right to vote. Also, slaves who were severely mentally challenged were not seeking the right to attend university. Rather, these human slaves were seeking equality of basic rights only; i.e. the right not to be property and the major less-basic rights that fall under this; life, liberty, bodily integrity, etc. The same is true of non-human animals today. The same was true of the Native Peoples who just wanted to be left alone by the humans of European ancestry.
    In the above paragarph, I adjust my analogy so that it accords with the concern you expressed. If you prefer, use the example of ancient Greco-Roman slavery, which was more similar to non-human animal slavery.

    The only reason for the comparison between humans as property and non-human animals as property in this discussion is as follows. It was impossible for humans as property to have the right to assemble and other non-basic (including civil) rights before their status as property was abolished. The same is true of non-human animals today. You have not presented any counter-arguments or reasons to the contrary.

  38. Ellie Maldonado said on April 18th, 2009 at 11:21am #

    Correction, Jeff Perz, I didn’t say nonhumans can’t wait for abolition — I said *free-living nonhumans* cannot wait for us to abolish the property status of their domesticated cousins. Big difference there. What I said is not at all reflective of PeTA or animal husbandry activism.

    Changing your example from a wood cutter destroying a bird’s home to a corporation destroying the homes of humans makes no difference. In both examples the victims are not exploited of themselves. In fact, displaced humans are usually entitled to alternative homes or monetary compensation.

    In fact, human slaves were not prohibited from assembling at religious gatherings and in group activities. Some slaves owned property, including other slaves. In other countries and eventually in the U.S., it was against the law to murder a slave. So “type” of slavery, as you suggest, is not the issue here, and basic rights don’t always depend on not being owned or having the right to assemble.

    Free-living nonhumans assemble on a daily basis. Unlike domesticated animals, they take care of themselves, and embody the right to live on their own terms. Yet humans can rob their habitat and kill them for convenience or even for fun. Should that surprise us? Not when humans have robbed the habitat and killed other *free humans* for eons. History shows some fun went with that too.

    Clearly, rights for humans and nonhumans require more than abolishing the status of property and installing a right to assemble.

  39. Jeff Perz said on April 19th, 2009 at 5:52pm #

    Alright, Ellie Maldonado, I will respect your wish for this to be a formal discussion and I’ll use both your names. You wrote:

    “I didn’t say nonhumans can’t wait for abolition — I said *free-living nonhumans* cannot wait for us to abolish the property status of their domesticated cousins. Big difference there. What I said is not at all reflective of PeTA or animal husbandry activism.”

    The above two statements amount to the same thing for the following reason. The abolition of the property-status of both domesticated and free-living animals is likely to occur, for the vast majority of individuals, at the same time. When a large enough percentage of the population is vegan and believes in animal rights, then this social support will allow abolition to happen for the vast majority of domesticated animals and free-living animals at the same time. Therefore, your statement that free-living animals cannot wait for the abolition of the property status of domesticated animals is practically equivalent that all animals cannot wait for abolition.

    Perpetuating the term animal “husbandry” is sexist because it assumes that women cannot oppress non-human animals or, if they can, they are acting not as women but as men. This is not necessarily true. For example, a small commune could rid itself of all human-sexism but still eat eggs. A non-sexist term to replace “husbandry” is animal regulationism.

    Regarding your view that destroying the home of a human or a bird for profit does not use the human or bird exclusively as a resource:
    I suggest you submit an article to a law, political science or philosophy journal arguing for this view of yours, as this view goes against hundreds of years of considered analysis. The objections and debate you would stimulate would be an interesting read.

    Your statement that ‘free-living non-human animals cannot wait for the property status of their domesticated cousins to be abolished’ shares the same logic of exploitation as the following view professed by PeTA:
    ‘Existing domesticated non-human animals cannot wait for the property status of future domesticated non-human animals to be abolished.’

    Just as PeTA assumes that there is no abolitionist alternative to advocating regulationist laws for domesticated animals, you assume that there is no abolitionist alternative for free-living animals. I ask you, instead of enforcing legislation and treaties that require non-“endangered” animals to be exploited and killed, why don’t you instead advocate the abolitionist alternatives I suggested?:

    1) Buy the habitat of free-living animals and leave it alone
    2) Give elephant poachers resources and education to get new jobs that they would prefer more; cooperative vegetable farms, small business, etc.
    3) Educate the citizens of Alaska so that they demand investiment in renewable energy
    4) Most important, address the root problem that creates the violation of free-living animal rights in the first place; the property status they share with domesticated animals. In other words, vegan education helps domesticated animals in the short term and free-living animals in the long term.

    If free-living animals “cannot wait,” then surely they cannot wait for actions like those mentioned above. They certainly *can* wait for environmental legislation and endangered species treaties to be enforced, as these coercive legal regimes involve nothing more than sustainable murder. Do you know how many species of animals (and the individuals they represent) have moved from CITES Category ‘A’ to lower categories since 1975? The answer is a lesson in the institutionalized murder of free-living animals. For example:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/14/conservation.wildlife

    “The 108 tonnes of ivory have been collected from culls in **overpopulated** areas, natural deaths and seizures and are being offered for sale by Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
    International trade in ivory has been illegal since 1989, but in 2006 the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which oversees the ban, agreed a one-off sale.”

    Also see:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/15/conservation.wildlife
    “China given green light to buy African ivory stockpile”

    Why don’t you leave regulationism to the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace? Why do you advocate such a murderous document such as CITES instead of the four practical suggestions I made above?

    You write:

    “In fact, human slaves were not prohibited from assembling at religious gatherings and in group activities.”

    Correction, Ellie Maldonado, I didn’t say human slaves were denied the right to assemble — I said a *civil* and non-basic right is the right to assemble, which Africian Americans were previously denied. Big difference there. Civil rights do not apply to slaves; they apply to persons in the civil rights movement. In the early 1960s (in Columbia, S.C.) 187 African-American students marched to protest civil rights violations. Although the demonstrators were non-violent, they were all convicted of breaching the peace. However, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions in its 1963 decision Edwards v. South Carolina. This case would not have even been brought to trial had slavery not first been abolished. It is impossible to have less-basic rights without first having the most basic right not to be property.

    You write:

    “Some slaves owned property, including other slaves. In other countries and eventually in the U.S., it was against the law to murder a slave. So ‘type’ of slavery, as you suggest, is not the issue here,”

    Correction: No human *chattel* slave ever had the right to own property. The only laws in the U.S. prohibiting the killing of *chattel* slaves prohibited killing for gratuitous, non-profitable, “unnecessary” reasons. These were not laws against murder as people today understand them. I am only talking about *chattel* human slavery because non-human animals are also chattel slaves.

    You continue:

    “basic rights don’t always depend on not being owned or having the right to assemble.”

    When you say “basic rights,” I assume you mean rights such as life, liberty and bodily integrity. Yes, these rights absolutely do depend on the most basic right of the right not to be property. Again, if you disagree, I suggest you argue your point in a law, political science or philosophy journal. You would have to make a very strong case, as this view goes against rigorously established truths.

    I agree with you that basic rights don’t depend on the right to assemble, as the right to assemble is a non-basic right compared to life, liberty and bodily integrity.

    Yes, you are correct that free-living nonhumans assemble on a daily basis. But Lee Hall was concerned with the violation of this non-basic right when Lee Hall wrote:

    “The ability of free-living animals to … interact with other members of their communities is basic and it is essential.”

    Above, I have argued that the right to association (and to own property, or live in an undefiled environment, etc) for both non-human and free-living (and domesticated) non-human animals is impossible to protect without first recognizing the right not to be property. What reasons, if any, do you have against this view?

    Why is the regulated killing of CITES preferable to buying land or stopping the ivory trade through education?

  40. Jeff Perz said on April 19th, 2009 at 8:40pm #

    ‘Correcting a garbled sentence:

    I have argued that the right to association (and to own property, or live in an undefiled environment, etc) for both free-living non-human animals and humans is impossible to protect without first recognizing the right not to be property. What reasons, if any, do you have against this view?

  41. Brandon Becker said on April 19th, 2009 at 10:56pm #

    Jeff,

    You argue that basic rights to life and liberty of nonhuman animals cannot be protected by law without first abolishing their status as legal property. After this status is abolished, do you believe that nonhuman animals will need their basic rights to life and liberty codified into law in order to be protected from human harm? Why or why not?

  42. Jeff Perz said on April 20th, 2009 at 12:23am #

    Hi Brandon,

    Yes, I believe that rights such as life and liberty will have to be codified in law after the pre-legal right not to be property is recognized. I believe this because the system we have now is to protect interests with legal rights and laws, and it is unlikely that this system will have changed by the time abolition is achieved. That said, I am open to other systems that don’t involve punitive justice. The crucial points to qualify the above answer are these:
    1) Once the property status of non-human animals is abolished, this in itself will require that rights such as life and liberty be codified in law. In other words, the legal codification of the rights to life, liberty etc. will necessarily and automatically follow from the act of granting non-human animals legal personhood — provided this act results from broad social consensus.
    2) Therefore, there is nothing for us to do now except work on abolishing the property status of animals in the most efficient ways possible. I believe this to be vegan education. If others believe it to be protecting free-living animals, fine — but don’t entrench the status of animals as property by using environmental legislation and endangered species treaties. Don’t entrench the regulated killing of free-living animals. Instead, protect free-living animals by buying land or educating consumers about the ivory trade and producers about alternative employment. This is the new ecological ethic that we need for animals.

    Plants, water, air and land can continue to be protected for human-centric reasons. The new ethic would also require that the interests of both human and non-human animals be given equal consideration when making environmental policies, although this would not happen in practice until the establishment and the public start to agree with we activists. Ecosystems can be protected for human-centric (or animal-centric) reasons. But the individual free-living sentient beings that are part of ecosystems cannot at this time be protected by human-centric law that regards them as resources to be consumed. First, we need to radically transform the focus of environmental law by progressing the consciousness of the human inhabitants of the planet.

  43. Brandon Becker said on April 20th, 2009 at 10:21pm #

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for responding and clarifying your position. I definitely think nonhuman animals will need their basic rights protected by law when they are emancipated from legal property status. All sentient beings deserve equal consideration and respect.

    I believe vegan education is the most efficient use of our time at the moment. Much of my activism consists of handing out literature on veganism and animal rights to educate the public. We need a much larger percentage of vegans in the population to create the social conditions for political change.

    The “wildlife conservation” laws are deeply speciesist as they regard individual beings as “replaceable.” When nonhuman animals are granted personhood and the applicable legal rights, these laws will be abolished in favor of those protecting individual rights-holders. Respecting the rights of free-living nonhuman animals must include the preservation of their habitats.

  44. Jeff Perz said on April 21st, 2009 at 12:25am #

    You’re welcome, Brandon. I’m glad we agree with eachother.

    You may also be interested to look at the list of animals who have been (a) completely delisted from CITES “protection,” or (b) transferred to a lower level of “protection” (Appendix II) that allows trade in animal products if an export (or re-export) permit is obtained. (No import permit is necessary.)

    On-line records are only available as far back as 1992, but records going back to 1975 can be obtained from CITES.
    See:
    http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/index.shtml
    For each year, click on the link to “Amendments to Appendices”

    For example, in 1992 alone, one species of animal was completely delisted and two species were demoted to level II; exploitation allowed by permit. One of the demoted species was crocodiles (crocodylus niloticus). They then moved back and fourth between levels II and I over the years and currently they are in level II. So now it’s acceptable under CITES to trade in crocodile leather, whereas before crocodiles were supposedly “protected” under CITES.

    I mentioned in a previous post that even species given level I “protection” such as elephants have been killed in “overpopulated” areas and their ivory traded.