Animal Rights(was Re: Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods)

Jim Wellehan James.F.X.Wellehan at
Wed Jul 7 13:04:41 EST 1993

In article <21eoqt$kg2 at>
toby at (Toby Bradshaw) writes:

> In article <C9rwJH.KHC at> James.F.X.Wellehan at (Jim Wellehan) writes:
> >The animal/plant line seems fairly easy for a vegetarian to avoid
> >crossing.
> Why would one avoid it?  What I'm saying is that a taxonomic distinction
> is not a functional distinction (i.e. if plants feel "pain", why
> is it more ethical to eat them than animals?).

It's an arbitrary distinction, but a common one.  Any vegetarians care
to respond?

>  Since AR people would
> like us to believe that "sentience" or "ability to feel pain", functional
> definitions of life's hierarchy, are the criteria by which human actions
> against other forms of life are to be judged, why is it that they cannot
> apply a rigorous standard of functional analogy to (say) plant behavior?
> I would argue it is because if one admits that plants "feel", one is
> obliged to chemosynthesize a diet or starve.

Sounds logical to me.  I have heard of vegetarians who only eat fruits,
thus not damaging plants.  Sounds like a difficult way to get a sound
diet.  If you really wanted to be picky, I suppose you could not eat
the seeds from the fruits.

> >Why would you say humans are more deserving of rights than other
> >animals?
> I wouldn't, and haven't.  Rights are a human invention, vary across
> human populations and across time, and the only "rights" possessed
> by non-human animals are those accorded them by humans.  Like human
> rights, non-human "rights" vary in time and space according to the
> whim of humans.

Let me posit another question:  Is the sacrifice of animals (yes, this
is an arbitrary distinction) for human medical research justified?  Why
or why not?

> Why are humans more deserving
> of life than other _organisms_?  There is no _inherent_ reason, as
> poisonous plants, venomous snakes, and several large carnivores
> demonstrate on a daily basis.

This would not be a demonstation of lack of merit of a human to live. 
Just because a human (or any organism) dies does not necessarily mean
it should.

> >>  A retarded human is
> >> genetically human (that is, a member of the human clade), regardless
> >> of intelligence.
> >
> >What if someone has Down's or Turner's?  Their genetic makeup differs
> >from the normal human genome, and they can't breed with a normal human.
> A cladogram would still show the affected person clustering with
> the human clade, and not with any other species.  That's why I was
> careful not say "part of the human gene pool" or some other phrase
> that implies reproductive capacity.  I don't consider someone less
> human because he/she is sterile.

I'm not familiar with cladograms.  Please explain.

> Having experience with both, certainly an adult dog (at least of some
> breeds :) ) is more intelligent than a newborn human.  In fact, an
> adult dog can learn the meaning of more words than a newborn human.

This is debatable, as you stated earlier in the adult humans designing
test bit.  One definition in the American Heritage Dictionary is:(1. a.
The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.)  Infants (both human and
canine) have a much greater capacity for learning than adults.  Adults
have previous knowledge, and thus can apply new knowledge better.
> Does that mean the dog has more rights than the human?  Not to me.
> I say this with the full knowledge that my own dogs live better than
> many of the world's people, which leads to the conclusion that I
> value my dogs more than I value some people.  If I believe that
>, then I would be a hypocrite for keeping my dogs.
> Am I?

If you believe that all people deserve a minimum standard of living
that could be provided by killing your dogs and diverting those
resources to human needs. ;-)
> As a practical matter, dominance = superiority.  I doubt woodcutters
> in India feel dominant to tigers, and the inferiority of humans in
> this situtation is reinforced regularly.  Would I blame woodcutters
> for snaring or poisoning tigers?  Not at all, no more than I would
> blame you for poisoning rats in your attic.

These are different.  In the tiger example, the dominated acts against
the dominator.  Would you blame rats in my attic for killing me?  Do
you blame the tiger for killing the woodcutters?
> It would be an unusual evolutionary progression for a species to
> value the genes of other organisms over its own.  It might be
> a "good idea" to think globally, but biology works against us.
> We are perhaps the only species capable of grasping even a part of
> the big picture; this places us in the position of conflict
> with our own biology.  Such conflicts happen in other organisms,
> such as when a female mammal "adopts" an infant of the same (or
> even another) species to replace a dead offspring.  This kind of
> conflict has been raised to an art form by humans, though, to
> the extent that some have advocated that the ideal human population
> of the earth is zero.  Such a person, who is a hypocrite if
> not actively engaged in either murder or suicide, has achieved the
> ultimate in negative selection. 

I'd like to bring up lemmings, who sacrifice themselves to make more
room in an ecosystem.


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