PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk, is famous for having said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” And now Wesley Smith will become famous for using that disturbing line as the title for his new book exposing the radical nature of the animal rights movement Ms. Newirk et al represent.
I have not read Smith’s book yet, but I have followed his blog for a long time, and have found his thoughts on this topic to be excellent. Smith argues that humans are exceptional among animals, not just another animal on the farm. Human dignity belongs to all humans in virtue of their identity as humans. While animals are valuable and should be treated humanely, they are not the moral equivalents to human beings, and treating them as such does more to demean human dignity than to elevate animal dignity.
Smith pointed his readers to a review of his book that I found helpful and on-target. I wanted to recommend it to you, as well as share a few teaser quotes:
[A]nimal-rights activists have succeeded in confusing the public about the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. The latter is a noble cause supported by the vast majority of Americans who want to protect animals from cruelty, even though they do not consider animals their moral equals — a caveat that runs counter to animal-rights ideology. … [T] the resulting confusion has allowed the animal-rights movement to gain legitimacy it does not deserve.
That legitimacy threatens universal human rights, which are grounded in the principle that all humans are equal simply because we are human. … Animals do not have rights or the moral responsibilities that accompany rights. That’s why we prosecuted Michael Vick, not his pit bulls, for dog-fighting. … And that’s why we ponder our moral obligations to animals – who are, after all, the ultimate speciesists – even though animals do not do the same for us. We do so because we are human, endowed with exceptional dignity that deserves singular defense.