Home       Site Map      Archives      Search      Bio & Photos       FAQs       Links       Contact       Get Brent       Help


Want more?  Check the archives!









Animal Rights No Substitute

For Human Responsibility

Week of August 5, 2002

            “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” –

            Genesis 1:26


            As I type these words there are three formerly homeless kittens sleeping on my safely enclosed porch.  They are there because my wife plucked them from the trees of an orchard we pass on our evening walks, apparently abandoned by some moron lacking the sense of mercy God gave a badger.

            But I digress.  Living in a rural area some view as a dumping ground for old sofas and unwanted animals, I get more than a little irked at such cold-blooded indifference.  It’s not an everyday occurrence, but there are times when I wouldn’t mind seeing these clowns stripped of their wallets and plunked in the middle of nowhere to fend for themselves awhile. 

            My point is that the kittens are free to a good home.  Wait, no, that’s my fondest desire.  My point is that humans have a God-given obligation to the humane treatment of animals.  Cruelty is a far cry from Biblical responsibility.

             As is the notion that animals have rights, which does not sit well with everyone.  Speaking at an animal rights conference in July, Princeton bioethics professor Peter Singer told an audience, “One of the things that causes a problem for the animal movement is the strong strain of fundamentalist Christianity that makes a huge gulf between humans and animals, saying humans have souls but animals do not.” 

            This generated a smattering of news stories but is hardly Singer’s most controversial belief.  In his book “Practical Ethics,” he wrote that “the life of a newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”  He holds a similar view of the elderly and disdains the suggestion that human life is sacred.  Singer is an advocate of euthanasia for infants with disabilities ranging from hemophilia to spina bifida.

            Ideas like the moral equivalency of animals and humans, and animal rights as a substitute for human accountability, are examples of what can happen when we try to invent our own morality.  For another, Steven M. Wise, a lawyer and Harvard School of Law lecturer, claims “I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee and my 4 1/2-year-old son.”  Yes, mine could be like that too, but Wise is speaking in a legal sense.  A leading advocate of “personhood” for some animals, he has long crusaded for granting animals the right to sue and has focused his law practice on suits on their behalf. 

            I can’t help wondering if this is a ploy to drum up clients for lawyers, but Wise seems serious.  So far he has identified chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, African gray parrots, African elephants, dogs, and honeybees as species deserving legal rights.  Wise has said that if a chicken has more “appreciation for life” than a human embryo, the chicken merits greater legal rights. 

            Woe to Colonel Sanders if chickens are allowed to sue for reparations; woe to us all if that right is granted to bees and dogs.

            Ethicists and activists continually debate the standard for giving various species rights, quibbling over traits like language, memory, ability to imitate, DNA, and “sense of self” and “practical autonomy,” whatever they are.  Rarely discussed is the soul, except in derision.

            I suspect this is because the reality of the soul suggests the existence of morality and truths that are not of our making.  Darned inconvenient, that.  It might require a little more responsibility, and a lot less legal fees. 


Information on the animal rights groups

(From the other side)


Brent's other columns on animal rights:
Whales Peter Singer on Infanticide





Email Brent:






Latest columns:


Getting the most hits:


Need an antidote to "Harmful to Minors"?

(See column

Try Rae Turnbull's excellent "Be the Parent Your Child Deserves"


Get Brent

in your local paper.

Click here!


Hear Brent

speak to your community group, church, fundraiser, or business group.  Click here.





© 2002 Brent Morrison