Animal Rights FAQ [VERY LONG]

Donald Graft dgraft at
Tue May 31 22:45:41 EST 1994

Well guys, you brought up Animal Rights! Since several of you have dismissed
us as "extremists", I think it is only fair that we be allowed to present
our case. Have fun.............

Donald Graft

Archive-name: ar-faq
Last-modified: 94/05/30
Version: ar_faq.txt 1.1


  Welcome to the Animal Rights Frequently Asked Questions text (AR FAQ).
This FAQ is intended to satisfy two basic goals: a) to provide a source
of information and encouragement for people exploring the issues involved
in the animal rights movement, and b) to answer the common questions and
justifications offered up by AR opponents. It is unashamedly an advocacy
vehicle for animal rights. Opponents of AR are invited to create a FAQ
that codifies their views; we do not attempt to do so here.
  The FAQ restricts itself specifically to AR issues; nutrition and
other vegetarian/veganism issues are intentionally eschewed because they
are already well covered in the existing vegetarianism and veganism FAQs
maintained by Michael Traub. To obtain these FAQs, contact Michael at
traub at
  The FAQ was created through a collaboration of authors. The answers
that appear have been attributed via initials, as follows:

    TA		Ted Altar               taltar at
    DG		Donald Graft		dgraft at
    JG		Jason Gurley		ovation at
    DVH		Dietrich Von Haugwitz	vonha001 at
    LK		Larry Kaiser		lkaiser at
    BL		Brian Luke		luke at
    JS          Jennifer Stephens	jlstephe at
    AECW	Allen ECW		aecw001 at

  The current FAQ maintainer is Donald Graft (see address above). Ideas
and criticisms are actively solicited and will be very gratefully received.
The material included here is released to the public domain. We request
that it be distributed without alteration to respect the author


1   "What is all this Animal Rights (AR) stuff and why should
    it concern me?"

  The fundamental principle of the AR movement is that nonhuman animals
deserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm, abuse,
and exploitation. This goes further than just saying that we should treat
animals well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them.
It says animals have the RIGHT to be free from human cruelty and
exploitation in any form, just as humans possess this right. The
withholding of this right from the nonhuman animals is referred to as
"speciesism" (modeled after "racism"). The AR movement argues that there
is no rational justification for speciesism. This FAQ cannot possibly
provide the detailed arguments, so the reader is referred to three
classics of the AR literature:

    The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (ISBN 0-520-05460-1)
    In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-06-097044-8)
    Animal Liberation, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-380-71333-0, 2nd Ed.)

  After all the philosophical arguments are over and done with, the
bottom line is simply compassion. Consider the following quote from
Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Nazi S.S.:

    "What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in
    the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good
    blood for our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their
    children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in
    prosperity or starve to death like cattle interests me only in
    so far as we need them as slaves to our culture."

  Heavy-duty stuff, to be sure. This will sicken and disgust every
rational reader. Now consider this rephrasing:

    "What happens to a cow, to a chicken, does not interest me in
    the slightest. What the animals can offer in the way of good
    meat and products, we will take, if necessary by seizing them
    from the wild and enslaving them. Whether the species live
    according to their nature or die a miserable death interests me
    only in so far as we need them as products for our society."

  To the AR movement, these words are as deplorable as the original
words. The only difference is that nonhumans are the objects instead
of humans.
  The AR movement tries to get the abiding principles accepted in the
mainstream, and attempts to bring about their logical consequences:
abolition of factory farming, vivisection, and the exploitation of
animals for entertainment. Nevertheless, there are still areas of debate
within the AR community, for example, whether ANY research on animals
is justified, where the line should be drawn for enfranchising species
with rights, whether AR activism should condone civil disobedience, etc.
However, these do not negate the abiding principles: compassion and
concern for the pain and suffering of nonhumans.
  Most people feel some kinship with animals, or at least with some
animals. But most are unaware of how systematically our society abuses
and exploits animals. Those who are aware typically go into denial or
adopt a series of "justifications" by means of which they attempt to
remove the burden from their consciences. One main goal of this FAQ
is to address these common justifications, and to show that they
cannot excuse our treatment of animals.
  Finally, to the reader who says "Why should I care?", and for whom the
foregoing is insufficient, we can point out the following reasons for

    One cares about minimizing suffering.
    One cares about promoting compassion in human affairs.
    One is concerned about improving the health of mankind.
    One is concerned about human starvation and malnutrition.
    One wants to preserve the health of planet earth.
    One wants to preserve animal species.
    One wants to preserve wilderness.

  The connections between these issues and the AR agenda may not
be obvious. Read on for clarification.

  The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those
rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand
of tyranny.
				Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)

  Life is life--whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference
there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human
conception for man's own advantage...
				Sri Aurobindo (poet and philosopher)

  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
				Thomas Edison (inventor)

  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 (artist and scientist)

SEE ALSO 24, 92-96

2   "Is the Animal Rights movement different from the Animal
     Welfare movement? The Animal Liberation movement?"

  The Animal Welfare (AW) movement can be regarded as the precursor, both
historically and conceptually, of the modern Animal Rights (AR) movement.
The Animal Welfare movement acknowledges the suffering of nonhumans and
attempts to reduce that suffering through "humane" treatment, but it
does not have as a goal elimination of the use and exploitation of
animals.  The Animal Rights movement goes significantly further by
rejecting the exploitation of animals and according them rights in that
regard. A person committed to animal welfare might be concerned that
cows get enough space, proper food, etc., but would not necessarily
have any qualms about killing and eating cows, so long as the rearing
and slaughter are "humane".
  The Animal Welfare movement is represented by such organizations as
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane
  Having said this, it should be realized that some hold a broader
interpretation of the AR movement. They would argue that the
AW groups do, in fact, support rights for animals (e.g., a dog
has the right not to be kicked). Under this interpretation, AR is
viewed as a broad umbrella covering the AW and strict AR groups.
This interpretation has the advantage of moving AR closer to the
mainstream. Nevertheless, there is a valid distinction between the
AW and AR groups, as described in the first paragraph.
  Animal Liberation (AL) is, for many people, a synonym for Animal Rights
(but see below). Some people prefer the term "liberation" because it
brings to mind images of other successful liberation movements, such as
the movement for liberation of slaves and liberation of women, whereas
the term "rights" often encounters resistance when an attempt is made
to apply it to nonhumans. The phrase "Animal Liberation" became popular
with the publication of Peter Singer's classic book of the same name.
  This use of the term liberation should be distinguished from the
literal meaning discussed in question 93, i.e., an Animal Liberationist
is not necessarily one who engages in forceful civil disobedience or
unlawful actions.
  Finally, intellectual honesty compels us to acknowledge that the
account given here is rendered in broad strokes (but is at least
approximately correct), and purposely avoids describing ongoing debate
about the meaning of the terms "Animal Rights", "Animal Liberation",
and "Animal Welfare", debate about the history of these movements, and
debate about the actual positions of the prominent thinkers. To depict
the flavor of such debates, the following text describes one coherent
position.  Naturally, it will be attacked from all sides!
  Some might suggest that a subtle distinction can be made between the
Animal Liberation and Animal Rights movements. The Animal Rights
movement, at least as propounded by Regan and his adherents, is said to
require total abolition of such practices as experimentation on
animals. The Animal Liberation movement, as propounded by Singer and
his adherents, is said to reject the absolutist view and assert that in
some cases, such experimentation can be morally defensible. Because
such cases could also justify some experimentation on humans, however,
it is not clear that the distinction described reflects a difference
between the liberation and rights views, so much as it does a broader
difference of ethical theory, i.e., absolutism versus utilitarianism.

SEE ALSO: 1, 92-93

3   "Isn't AR hypocritical, e.g., because you don't give rights to
    insects or plants?"

  The general hypocrisy argument appears in many forms. A typical form
is as follows:

    "It is hypocritical to assert rights for a cow but not for a plant;
    therefore, cows cannot have rights."

  Arguments of this type are frequently used against AR. Not much
analysis is required to see that they carry little weight. First, one
can assert an hypothesis A that would carry as a corollary hypothesis
B. If one then fails to assert B, one is hypocritical, but this does
not necessarily make A false. Certainly, to assert A and not B would
call into question one's credibility, but it entails nothing about the
validity of A.
  Second, the factual assertion of hypocrisy is often unwarranted. In
the above example, there are grounds for distinguishing between cows
and plants (plants do not have a central nervous system), so the charge
of hypocrisy is unjustified. One may disagree with the criteria, but
assertion of such criteria nullifies the charge of hypocrisy.
  Finally, the charge of hypocrisy can be reduced in most cases to
simple speciesism. For example, the quote above can be recast as:

    "It is hypocritical to assert rights for a human but not for a plant;
    therefore, humans cannot have rights."

  To escape from this reductio ad absurdum of the first quote, one
must produce a crucial relevant difference between cows and humans,
in other words, one must justify the speciesist assignment of rights
to humans but not to cows.  (In question 23, we apply a
similar reduction to the charge of hypocrisy related to abortion.)
  For questions dealing specifically with insects and plants, refer to
questions 41 through 48.

SEE ALSO: 23, 41-48

4   "What right do AR people have to tell me how to live my life?"


5   "Isn't AR just another facet of political correctness?"

  If only that were true! The term "politically correct" generally refers
to a view that is in sync with the societal mainstream but which some might
be inclined to disagree with. For example, some Southerners might be 
inclined to dismiss equal treatment for the races as mere "political
correctness". The AR agenda is, currently, far from being a mainstream
  Also, it is ridiculous to suppose that a view's validity can be
overturned simply by attaching the label "politically correct".

6   "Isn't AR just another religion?"

  No. The dictionary defines "religion" as the appeal to a supernatural
power. (An alternate definition refers to devotion to a cause; that is
a virtue that the AR movement would be happy to avow.)
  People who support Animal Rights come from many different religions
and many different philosophies. What they share is a belief in the
importance of showing compassion for other individuals, whether
human or nonhuman.

7   "Doesn't it demean humans to give rights to animals?"


8   "Weren't Hitler and Goebbels in favor of animal rights?"

9   "Do you really believe that 'a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy'?"

  Taken alone and literally, this notion is absurd. However, this
quote has been shamelessly removed from its original context and
misrepresented by AR opponents. The original context of the quote is
given below. Viewed within its context, it is clear that the quote
is neither remarkable nor absurd.

  When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to
feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.
				Ingrid Newkirk (AR activist)



10  "There is no correct or incorrect in morals; you have yours and I
     have mine, right?"

  This position, known as moral relativism, became fashionable at the
turn of the century, as reports on the customs of societies alien to
those found in Europe became available. It fell out of fashion, after
the Second World War, although it is occasionally revived.  Ethical
propositions, we are asked to believe, are no more than statements of
personal opinion and, therefore, cannot carry absolute weight.
  The main problem with this position is that ethical relativists are
unable to denounce execrable ethical practices, such as Nazism. On what
grounds can they condemn (if at all) Hitler's ideas on racial purity?
Are we to believe that he was uttering an ethical truth when advocating
the Final Solution?
  In addition to the inability to denounce practices of other societies,
the relativists are unable to counter the arguments of even those whose
society they share. They cannot berate someone who proposes to raise
and kill infants for industrial pet food consumption, for example,
if that person sees it as morally sound. Indeed, they cannot articulate
the concept of societal moral progress, since they lack a basis for
judging progress. There is no point in turning to the relativists for
advice on ethical issues such as euthanasia, infanticide, or the use of
fetuses in research.
  Faced with such arguments, ethical relativists sometimes argue that
ethical truth is based on the beliefs of a society; ethical truth is
seen as nothing more than a reflection of societal customs and habits.
Butchering animals is acceptable in the West, they would say, because
the majority of people think it so.
  They are on no firmer ground here. Are we to accept that chattel
slavery was right before the US Civil War and wrong thereafter? Or that
because Hitler was elected to office, Nazism was right in 1939 but not
today? Can all ethical decisions be decided by conducting opinion
  It is true that different societies have different practices that
might be seen as ethical by one and unethical by the other. However,
these differences result from differing circumstances. For example, in
a society where mere survival is key, the diversion of limited food to
an infant could detract significantly from the well-being of the
existing family members that contribute to food gathering. Given that,
infanticide may be the ethically correct course.
  The conclusion is that there is such a thing as ethical truth
(otherwise, ethics becomes vacuous and devoid of proscriptive force).
The continuity of thought, then, between those who reject the evils of
slavery, racial discrimination, and gender bias, and those who denounce
the evils of speciesism becomes striking.

  To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable
in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the
latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man
who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly
butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to
refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable
				Romain Rolland (author, Nobel 1915)


11  "The animals are raised to be eaten; so what is wrong with that?"

  This question has always seemed to me to be a fancy version of "But
we want to do these things, so what is wrong with that?" The idea that
an act, by virtue of an intention of ours, can be exonerated morally is
totally illogical.
  But worse than that, however, is the fact that such a belief is a
dangerous position to take because it can enable one to justify some
practices that are universally condemned. To see how this is so,
consider the following restatement of the basis of the question:
"Suffering can be excused so long as we breed them for the purpose."
Now, cannot an analogous argument be used to defend a group of
slaveholders who breed and enslave humans and justify it by saying "but
they're bred to be our workers"? Could not the Nazis defend their
murder of the Jews by saying "but we rounded them up to be killed"?

  Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, and that fails to
recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and
shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see
the sun!
				Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher)

SEE ALSO: 12, 63

12  "But isn't it true that the animals wouldn't exist if we didn't raise
     them for slaughter?"

  There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner
may be referring to "the animals" as a species, in which case the argument
might be more accurately phrased as follows:

    "The ecological niche of cows is to be farmed; they get continued
     survival in this niche in return for our using them."

Second, the questioner may be referring to "the animals" as individuals,
in which case the phrasing might be:

    "The individual cows that we raise to eat would not have had a
     life had we not done so."

We deal first with the species interpretation and then with the
individuals interpretation. The questioner's argument applies
presumably to all species of animals; to make things more concrete,
we will take cows as an example in the following text.
  It is incorrect to assert that cows could continue to exist only if
we farm them for human consumption. First, today in many parts of India
and elsewhere, humans and cows are engaged in a reciprocal and reverential
relationship. It is only in recent human history that this relationship
has been corrupted into the one-sided exploitation that we see today.
There IS a niche for cows between slaughter/consumption and extinction.
(The interested reader may find the book Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin
quite enlightening on this subject.)
  Second, several organizations have programs for saving animals
from extinction. There is no reason to suppose that cows would not
  The species argument is also flawed because, in fact, our intensive
farming of cattle results in habitat destruction and the loss of other
species. For example, clearing of rain forests for pasture has led to
the extinction of countless species. Cattle farming is destroying
habitats on six continents. Why is the questioner so concerned about
the cow species while being unconcerned about these other species?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that he wants to continue
to eat the cows?
  Finally, a strong case can be made against the species argument from
ethical theory. Arguments similar to the questioner's could be
developed that would ask us to accept practices that are universally
condemned. For example, consider a society that breeds a special race
of humans for use as slaves. They argue that the race would not exist
if they did not breed them for use as slaves. Does the reader accept
this justification?
  Now we move on to the individuals interpretation of the question. One
attempt to refute the argument is to answer as follows:

    "It is better not to be born than to be born into a life of
     misery and early death."

To many, this is sufficient. However, one could argue that the fact that
the life is miserable before death is not necessary. Suppose that the
cows are treated well before being killed painlessly and eaten. Is it
not true that the individual cows would not have enjoyed their short
life had we not raised them for consumption? Furthermore, what if we
compensate the taking of the life by bringing a new life into being?
  Peter Singer originally believed that this argument was absurd
because there are no cow souls waiting around to be born. Many people
accept this view and consider it sufficient, but Singer now
rejects it because he accepts that to bring a being to a pleasant
life does confer a benefit on that being. (There is extensive discussion
of this issue in the second edition of Animal Liberation.) How then
are we to proceed?
  The key is that the AR movement asserts that humans and nonhumans
have a right to not be killed (by humans). The ethical problem can be
seen clearly by applying the argument to humans. Consider the case of a
couple that gives birth to an infant and eats it at the age of nine
months, just when their next infant is born. A 9-month old baby has no
more rational knowledge of its situation or future plans than does a
cow, so there is no reason to distinguish the two cases. Yet,
certainly, we would condemn the couple. We condemn them because the
infant is an individual to whom we confer the right not to be killed.
Why is this right not accorded to the cow? I think the answer is that
the questioner wants to eat it.

  It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed,
than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery.
				Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet)


13  "Don't the animals we use have a happier life since they are fed and

  The questioner makes two assumptions here. First, that happiness or
contentment accrues from being fed and protected, and second, that
the animals are, in fact, fed and protected. Both of these premises can
be questioned.
  Certainly the animals are fed; after all, they must be fattened for
consumption.  It is very difficult to see any way that, say,
factory-farmed chickens are "protected".  They are not protected from
mutilation, because they are painfully debeaked. They are not protected
from psychological distress, because they are crowded together in
unnatural conditions. And most importantly, they are not protected from
predation, because they are slaughtered and eaten by humans.
  We can also question the notion that happiness accrues from feeding
and protection alone. The Roman galley slaves were fed and protected
from the elements; nevertheless, they would presumably trade their
conditions for one of greater uncertainty to obtain happiness. The same
can be said of the slaves of earlier America.
  Finally, an ethical argument is relevant here. Consider again the
couple of question 12. They will feed and protect their infant up to
the point at which they consume it. We would not accept this as a
justification. Why should we accept it for the chicken?


14  "Doesn't the Bible give Humanity dominion over the animals?"

15  "Morals are a purely human construction (animals don't understand
     morals); doesn't that mean it is not rational to apply our moral
     standards to animals?"

16  "If AR people are so worried about killing, why don't they become

17  "Couldn't one argue that it is immoral to destroy DNA? Wouldn't that
     make all killing immoral and therefore make AR people either hypocrites
     or inconsistent?"

18  "Animals don't care about us; why should we care about them?"

  The questioner's position--that, in essence, we should give rights only
to those able to respect ours--is known as the reciprocity argument. It is
unconvincing both as an account of the way our society works and as a
prescription for the way it should work.
  Its descriptive power is undermined by the simple observation that we
give rights to a large number of individuals who cannot respect ours.
These include some elderly people, some people suffering from degenerative
diseases, some people suffering from irreversible brain damage, the
severely retarded, infants, and young children. An institution that, for
example, routinely sacrificed such individuals to test a new fertiliser
would certainly be considered to be grievously violating their rights.
  The original statement fares no better as an ethical prescription.
Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern, for example, so
there would be no ethical harm done, under such a view, in dismissing
concerns for environmental damage that adversely impacts future
  The key failing of the questioner's position lies in the failure to
properly distinguish between the following capacities:

    The capacity to understand and respect others' rights (moral agency).
    The capacity to benefit from rights (moral patienthood).

  An individual can be a beneficiary of rights without being a moral
agent. Under this view, one justifies a difference of treatments of two
individuals (human or nonhuman) with an objective difference that is
RELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, if we wished to
exclude a person from an academic course of study, we could not cite the
fact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact that they lack
certain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant; the latter is
relevant. Similary, when considering the right to be free of pain and
suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthood IS relevant.

  The assumption that animals don't care about us can also be
questioned. Companion animals have been known to summon aid when
their owners are in trouble. They have been known to offer comfort
when their owners are distressed. They show grief when their human
companions die.

SEE ALSO: 15, 22, 36

19  "A house is on fire and a dog and a baby are inside. Which do you
     save first?"

  The one I choose to save first tells us nothing about the ethical
decisions we face. I might decide to save my child before I saved yours,
but this certainly does not mean that I should be able to experiment on
your child, or exploit your child in some other way. We are not in an
emergency situation like a fire anyway. In everyday life, we can choose to
act in ways that protect the rights of both dogs and babies.

   Like anyone else in this situation, I would probably save the one to
which I am emotionally more attached. Most likely it would be the child.
Someone might prefer to save his own beloved dog before saving the baby
of a stranger. However, as LK states above, this tells us nothing about
any ethical principles.

20  "What if I made use of an animal that was already dead?"

  There are two ways to interpret this question. First, the questioner
might really be making the excuse "but I didn't kill the animal", or
second, he could be asking about the morality of using an animal that
has died naturally (or due to a cause unassociated with the demand for
animal products, such as a road kill). For the first interpretation, we
must reject the excuse. The killing of animals for meat, for example,
is done at the request (through market demand), and with the financial
support (through payment), of the end consumers. Their complicity is
inescapable. Society does not excuse the receiver of stolen goods because
he "didn't do the burglary".
  For the second interpretation, the use of naturally killed animals,
there seems to be no moral difficulty involved. Many would, for esthetic
reasons, still not use animal products thus obtained. (Would you use the
bodies of departed humans?) Certainly, natural kills cannot satisfy the
great demand for animal products that exists today; non-animal and
synthetic sources are required.
  Other people may avoid use of naturally killed animal products because
they feel that it might encourage a demand in others for animal products,
a demand that might not be so innocently satisfied.

  This can be viewed as a question of respect for the dead. We feel
innate revulsion at the idea of grave desecration for this reason.
Naturally killed animals should, at the very least, be left alone rather
than recycled as part of an industrial process. This was commonly
practised in the past, e.g., Egyptians used to mummify their cats.

21  "Where should one draw the line: animals, insects, bacteria?"

22  "If the killing is wrong, shouldn't you stop predators from killing
     other animals?"

23  "Is the AR movement against abortion? If not, isn't that

  The AR movement does not take any particular position on the morality
of abortion. The question is actually irrelevant to the validity of AR.
We don't question the validity of the concept of human rights
as a result of differing views on abortion, so why should the question
arise for animal rights? If we can make a valid moral distinction
between an adult human and an early human fetus, then we can make a
similar distinction between an adult cow and an early human fetus.
  That said, it is true that many AR supporters do support abortion
(and many do not). Some support it only if the mother's life is endangered.
Others support it because they believe that the rights of the mother
dominate those of the fetus.
  See question 3 for an analysis of hypocrisy arguments in general.



24  "Surely there are more pressing practical problems than AR, such
     as homelessness; haven't you got better things to do?"

  Inherent in this question is an assumption that it is more important
to help humans than to help nonhumans. Some would dismiss this as a
speciesist position (see question 1). It is possible, however, to
invoke the scale-of-life notion and argue that there is greater suffering
and loss associated with cruelty and neglect of humans than with animals.
This might appear to constitute a prima-facie case for expending one's
energies for humans rather than nonhumans. However, even if we accept
the scale-of-life notion, there are sound reasons for expending time
and energy on the issue of rights for nonhuman animals.
  Many of the consequences of carrying out the AR agenda are highly
beneficial to humans. For example, stopping the production and consumption
of animal products would result in a significant improvement of the
general health of the human population, and destruction of the environment
would be greatly reduced.
  Fostering compassion for animals is likely to pay dividends in terms
of a general increase of compassion in human affairs. Tom Regan puts it
this way:

  ...the animal rights movement is a part of, not antagonistic to,
  the human rights movement. The theory that rationally grounds the
  rights of animals also grounds the rights of humans. Thus those
  involved in the animal rights movement are partners in the struggle
  to secure respect for human rights--the rights of women, for
  example, or minorities, or workers. The animal rights movement
  is cut from the same moral cloth as these.

  Finally, the behavior asked for by the AR agenda involves little
expenditure of energy. We are asking people to NOT do things: don't
eat meat, don't exploit animals for entertainment, don't wear furs.
These negative actions don't interfere with our ability to care for
humans. In some cases, they may actually make more time available for
doing so (e.g., time spent hunting or visiting zoos and circuses).

  Living cruelty-free is not a full-time job; rather, it's a way of life.
When I shop, I check ingredients and I consider if the product is tested
on animals. These things only consume a few minutes of the day. There is
ample time left for helping both humans and nonhumans.

  I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the
way of a whole human being.
				Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

  To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a
human being.
				Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

  Our task must be to free widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
				Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)

SEE ALSO: 1, 92, 101

25  "If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets,
     what would happen to all the animals?"

  As vegetarianism grows, the number of animals bred for food gradually
will decline, since the market will no longer exist for them.
Similarly, a gradual decrease would accompany the lessening demand for
the breeding of companion animals. In both cases, those animals that
remain will be better cared for by a more compassionate society.


26  "Grazing animals on land not suited for agriculture increases the food
     supply; how can that be considered wrong?"

  There are areas in the world where grazing of livestock is possible but
agriculture is not. If conditions are such that people living in these
areas cannot trade for crops and must raise livestock to survive, few
would question the practice. However, such areas are very small in
comparison to the fertile and semi-arid regions currently utilized for
intensive grazing, and they do not appreciably contribute to the world
food supply. (Some would argue that it is morally preferable not to live in
such areas.)
  The real issue is the intensive grazing in the fertile and semi-arid
regions. The use of such areas for livestock raising reduces the world
food supply. Keith Acker writes as follows in his "A Vegetarian

    Land, energy, and water resources for livestock agriculture range
    anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than those necessary to
    produce an equivalent amount of plant foods.  And livestock
    agriculture does not merely use these resources, it depletes them.
    This is a matter of historical record. Most of the world's soil,
    erosion, groundwater depletion, and deforestation--factors now
    threatening the very basis of our food system--are the result of this
    particularly destructive form of food production.

  Livestock agriculture is also the single greatest cause of world-wide
deforestation both historically and currently (between 1967 and 1975,
two-thirds of 70 million acres of lost forest went to grazing). Between
1950 and 1975 the area of human-created pasture land in Central America
more than doubled, almost all of it at the expense of rainforests.
Although this trend has slowed down, it still continues at an alarming and
inexorable pace.
  Grazing requires large tracts of land and the consequences of
overgrazing and soil erosion are very serious ecological problems. By
conservative estimates, 60 percent of all U.S. grasslands are overgrazed,
resulting in billions of tons of soil lost each year. The amount of U.S.
topsoil lost to date is about 75 percent, and 85 percent of that is
directly associated with livestock grazing. Overgrazing has been the
single largest cause of human-made deserts.
  One could argue that grazing is being replaced by the "feedlot
paradigm". These systems graze the livestock prior to transport to a
feedlot for final "fattening" with grains grown on croplands. Although
this does reduce grazing somewhat, it is not eliminated, and the feedlot
part of the paradigm still constitutes a highly inefficient use of crops
(to feed a human with livestock requires 16 times the grain that would be
necessary if the grain was consumed directly). It has been estimated that
in the U.S., 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats grown are
fed to livestock.

27  "If we try to eliminate all animals products, we'll be moving back to
     the Stone Age; who wants that?"

  On the contrary! It is a dependency upon animal products that could be
seen as returning us to the technologies and mindset of the Stone Age.
For example, Stone Age people had to wear furs in Northern climates to
avoid freezing. That is no longer the case, thanks to central heating
and the ready availability of plenty of good plant and man-made fabrics.
If we are to characterize the modern age, it could be in terms of the
greater freedoms and options made possible by technological advance and
social progress. The Stone Age people had few options and so were forced
to rely upon animals for food, clothing, and materials for their implements.
Today, we have an abundance of choices for better foods, warmer clothing,
and more efficient materials, none of which need depend upon the killing
of animals.

  It seems to me that the only Stone Age we are in any danger of entering
is that constituted by the continuous destruction of animals' habitats
in favor of the Portland-cement concrete jungle!

SEE ALSO: 62, 64, 101

28  "It's virtually impossible to eliminate all animal products from one's
     consumption; what's the point if you still cause animal death without
     knowing it?"

29  "Wouldn't many customs and traditions, as well as jobs, be lost if
     we stopped using animals?"

  Consider first the issue of customs and traditions. The plain truth is
that some customs and traditions deserve to die out. Examples abound
throughout history: slavery, Roman gladiatorial contests, torture, public
executions, witch burning, racism. To these the AR supporter adds animal
exploitation and enslavement.
  The human animal is an almost infinitely adaptable organism. The loss of
the customs listed above has not resulted in any lasting harm to
humankind. The same can be confidently predicted for the elimination of
animal exploitation. In fact, humankind would likely benefit from a
quantum leap of compassion in human affairs.
  As far as jobs are concerned, the economic aspects are discussed in
question 30. It remains to point out that for a human, what is at stake is
a job, which can be replaced with one less morally dubious. What is at
stake for an animal is the elimination of torture and exploitation, and
the possibility for a life of happiness, free from human oppression and


30  "The animal product industries are big business; wouldn't the economy
     be crippled if they all stopped?"

  One cannot justify an action based on its profitability. Many crimes and
practices that we view as repugnant have been or continue to be
profitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drug dealing, scams of
all sorts, prostitution, child pornography.
  A good example of this, and one that points up another key
consideration, is the tobacco industry. It is a multibillion-dollar
industry, yet vigorous eforts are proceeding on many fronts to put it out
of business. The main problem with it lies in its side-effects, i.e., the
massive health consequences and deaths that it produces, which easily
outweigh the immediate profitability. There are side effects to animal
exploitation also. Perhaps the most significant are the desertification
and deforestation associated with large-scale animal farming. As we see in
question 26, these current practices constitute a nonsustainable use of
the planet's resources. It is more likely true that the economy will be
crippled if the practices continue!
  Finally, the profits associated with the animal industries stem from
market demand and affluence. There is no reason to suppose that this
demand cannot be gradually redirected into other industries. Instead of
prime beef, we can have prime artichokes, or prime pasta, etc. Humanity's
demand for gourmet food will not vanish with the meat. Similarly, the
jobs associated with the animal industries can be gradually redirected
into the industries that would spring up to replace the animal
industries. (Vice President Gore made a similar point in reference to
complaints concerning loss of jobs if logging was halted. He commented
that the environmental movement would open up a huge area for jobs that
had heretofore been unavailable.)

SEE ALSO: 26, 29


31  "Humans are at the pinnacle of evolution; doesn't that give them
     the right to use animals as they wish?"

  This is one of many arguments that attempt to draw ethical conclusions
from scientific observations. In this case, the science is shaky, and the
ethical conclusion is dubious. Let us first examine the science.
  The questioner's view is that evolution has created a linear ranking of
general fitness, a ladder if you will, with insects and other "lower"
species at the bottom, and humans (of course!) at the top. This idea
originated as part of a wider, now discredited evolutionary system called
Lamarckism. Charles Darwin's discovery of natural selection overturned
this system. Darwin's picture, instead, is of a "radiating bush" of
species, with each evolving to adapt more closely to its environment,
along its own radius. Under this view, the idea of a pinnacle becomes
unclear: yes, humans have adapted well to their niche (though many would
dispute this, asserting the nonsustainable nature of our use of the
planet's resources), but so have bacteria adapted well to their niche. Can
we really say that humans are better adapted to their niche than bacteria,
and would it mean anything when the niches are so different?
  Probably, what the questioner has in mind in using the word "pinnacle"
is that humans excel in some particular trait, and that a scale can be
created relative to this trait. For example, on a scale of mental
capability, humans stand well above bacteria. But a different choice of
traits can lead to very different results. Bacteria stand "at the
pinnacle" when one looks at reproductive fecundity. Birds stand "at
the pinnacle" when one looks at flight.
  Now let us examine the ethics. Leaving aside the dubious idea of a
pinnacle of evolution, let us accept that humans are ranked at the top on
a scale of intelligence. Does this give us the right to do as we please
with animals, simply on account of their being less brainy? If we say yes,
we open a Pandora's box of problems for ourselves. Does this mean that
more intelligent humans can also exploit less intelligent humans as they
wish (shall we all be slaves to the Einsteins of the world)? Considering
a different trait, can the physically superior abuse the weak? Only a
morally callous person would agree with this general principle.

SEE ALSO: 32, 37

32  "Humans are at the top of the food chain; aren't they therefore
     justified in killing and eating anything?"

  No; otherwise, potential cannibals in our society could claim the same
defense for their practice. That we can do something does not mean that it
is right to do so. We have a lot of power over other creatures, but with
great powers come even greater responsibilities, as any parent will
  Humans are at the top of the food chain because they CHOOSE to eat
nonhuman animals. There is thus a suggestion of tautology in the
questioner's position. If we chose not to eat animals, we would not be
at the top of the food chain.
  The idea that superiority in a trait confers rights over the inferior is
disposed of in question 31.


33  "Animals are just machines; why worry about them?"

  Centuries ago, the philosopher Rene Descartes developed the idea that
all nonhuman animals are automatons that cannot feel pain. Followers of
Descartes believed that if an animal cried out this was just a reflex,
the sort of reaction one might get from a mechanical doll. Consequently,
they saw no reason not to experiment on animals without anesthetics.
Horrified observers were admonished to pay no attention to the screams
of the animal subjects.
  This idea is now refuted by modern science. Animals are no more "mere
machines" than are human beings. Everything science has learned about
other species points out the biological similarities between humans and
nonhumans. As Charles Darwin wrote, the differences between humans and
other animals are differences of degree, not differences of kind. Since
both humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of years and share
similar nervous systems and other organs, there is no reason to think
we do not share a similar mental and emotional life with other animal
species (especially the higher vertebrates).

SEE ALSO: 34-35

34  "Animals have no souls; why worry about them?"

35  "How do we know that animals suffer? What exactly is meant by
     suffering in this context?"

36  "In Nature, animals kill and eat each other; so why should it be wrong
     for humans?"

37  "Natural selection and Darwinism are at work in the world; doesn't
     that mean it's unrealistic to try to overcome such forces?"

38  "Isn't AR opposed to environmental efforts (as described in 'Gaia'
     or 'Deep Ecology')?"

39  "Doesn't 'Sociobiology: The New Synthesis' by E. Wilson thoroughly
     refute AR?"

40  "Animals are not good for anything; when have you ever read a
     poem or listened to a concert by an animal?"


41  "What about insects? Do they have rights too?"

  Before considering the issue of rights, let us first address the
question "What about insects?". Strictly speaking, insects are small
invertebrate animals of the class Insecta, having an adult stage
characterized by three pairs of legs, a segmented body with three
major divisions, and usually two pairs of wings. We'll adopt the
looser definition, which includes similar invertebrate animals such
as spiders, centipedes, and ticks.
  Insects have a ganglionic nervous system, in contrast to the central
nervous system of vertebrates. Such a system is characterized by local
aggregates of neurons, called ganglia, that are associated with, and
specialized for, the body segment with which they are co-located. There
are interconnections between ganglia but these connections function not
so much as a global integrating pathway, but rather for local segmental
coordination. For example, the waves of leg motion that propagate along
the body of a centipede are mediated by the intersegmental connections.
  In some species the cephalic ganglia are large and complex enough to
support very complex behaviour (e.g., the lobster and octopus).  The
cuttlefish (not an insect but another invertebrate with a ganglionic
nervous system) is claimed by some to be about as intelligent as a dog.
  Insects are capable of primitive learning and do exhibit what many
would characterize as intelligence. Spiders are known for their skills
and craftiness; whether this can all be dismissed as instinct is
arguable. Certainly, bees can learn in a limited way. When offered a
reward from a perch of a certain color, they return first to perches of
that color. They also learn the location of food and transmit that
information to their colleagues. However, the learning is highly
specialized and applicable to only limited domains. For example, the
aforementioned color learning is only operative for 2 seconds before
and after landing on the perch; if the bee feeds for 1 minute and the
color is changed 2 seconds after landing, the second color, which
objectively was rewarded the most, is not preferred versus random,
non-rewarded colors.
  In addition to a primitive mental life as described above, there is
some evidence that insects can experience pain and suffering. The
earthworm nervous system, for example, secretes an opiate substance
when the earthworm is injured. Similar responses are seen in the higher
vertebrates and are generally accepted to be a mechanism for the
attenuation of pain. On the other hand, the opiates are also implicated
in functions not associated with analgesia, such as thermoregulation
and appetite control. Nevertheless, the association of secretion with
tissue injury is highly suggestive.
  Earthworms also wriggle quite vigorously when impaled on a hook. In
possible opposition to this are other observations. For example, the
abdomen of a feeding wasp can be clipped off and the head may go
on sucking (presumably in no distress?).
  Singer quotes three criteria for deciding if an organism has the
capacity to suffer from pain: 1) there are behavioral indications, 2)
there is an appropriate nervous system, and 3) there is an evolutionary
usefulness for the experience of pain. These criteria seem to satisfied
for insects, if only in a primitive way.
  Now we are equipped to tackle the issue of insect rights. First, one
might argue that the issue is not so compelling as for the higher
animals since industries are not built around the exploitation of
insects. But this is untrue; large industries are built around honey
production, silk production, and cochineal/carmine production. Even if
the argument were true, it should not prevent us from attempting to be
consistent in the application of our principles to all animals. Insects
are a part of the Animal Kingdom and some special arguments would be
required to exclude them from the general AR argument.
  Some would draw a line at some level of complexity of the nervous
system, e.g., only animals capable of operant conditioning need be
enfranchised.  Others may quarrel with this line and place it
elsewhere.  Some may postulate a scale of life with an ascending
capacity to feel pain and suffer. They might also mark a cut-off on the
scale, below which rights are not actively asserted. Is the cut-off
above insects and the lower invertebrates? Or should there be no
cut-off? This is one of the issues still being actively debated in the
AR community.
  People who strive to live without cruelty will attempt to push the
line back as far as possible, giving the benefit of the doubt where
there is doubt. Certainly, one can avoid unnecessary cruelty to
  The practical issues involved in enfranchising insects are dealt with
in the following two questions.

  I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings
called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with
such things as crawl upon earth.
				Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)

  What is it that should trace the insuperable line? ...The question
is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
				Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)

SEE ALSO: 21, 42-43, 49

42  "Do I have to be careful not to walk on ants?"

  The Jains of India would say yes! Some of their more devout members
wear gauze masks to avoid inhaling and killing small insects and
  Regardless of how careful we are, we will cause some suffering as a
side-effect of living. The goal is to avoid unnecessary suffering and
to minimize the suffering we cause. This is a far cry from wanton,
intentional infliction of cruelty. I refer here to the habit of some of
pulling off insects' wings for fun, or of torching a congregation of
ants for pleasure. One need not walk around looking out for ants on the
ground, but should one be seen and it is easy to alter one's stride to
avoid it, where is the harm in doing so?

SEE ALSO: 41, 43

43  "There is some evidence of consciousness in insects; aren't you
     descending to absurdity to tell people not to kill insects?"

  Enfranchising insects does not mean it is never justifiable to kill
them. As with all threats to a being, the rule of self-defense applies.
If insects are threatening one's food supply, it is not wrong to eliminate
them. Similary, if a mosquito (a vector for many serious diseases)
threatens, one should feel no qualms about swatting it (though some
would shoo it away).
  Pesticides and herbicides are often used for mass destruction of insect
populations. While this can be defended on the self-defense principle,
one should be aware of the significant adverse impact on the environment,
on other non-threatening animals, and indeed on our own health.
  It is not absurd to attempt to minimize the amount of suffering
that we inflict or cause.

  We should begin to feel for the flies and other insects struggling to
be free from sticky fly paper. There are humane alternatives.
				Michael W. Fox (veterinarian)

SEE ALSO: 41-42

44  "Isn't it hypocritical to kill and eat plants?"

  It would be hypocritical IF the same criteria or morally relevant
attributes that are used to justify animal rights also applied to
plants. The criteria cited by the AR movement are "pain and suffering"
and being "subjects-of-a-life". An assessment of how plants measure up
to these criteria leads to the following conclusions.
  First, our best science to date shows that plants lack any semblance
of a central nervous system or any other system design for such complex
capacities as that of conscious suffering from felt pain.
  Second, plants simply have no evolutionary need to feel pain. Animals
being mobile would benefit from the ability to sense pain; plants would
not. Nature does not gratuitously create such complex capacities as that
of feeling pain unless there is some benefit for the organism's
  The first point is dealt with in more detail in questions 45 and 46.
The general hypocrisy argument is discussed in question 3.

SEE ALSO: 3, 41-46

45  "But how can you prove that plants don't feel pain?"

  Lest we forget the ultimate point of what follows, let us not forget the
central thesis of AR. Simply stated: to the extent other animals share
with us certain morally relevant attributes, then to that extent we confer
upon them due regard and concern. The two attributes that are arguably
relevant are: a) our capacity for pain and suffering, and b) the capacity
for being the "subject-of-a-life", i.e., being such that it matters to one
whether one's life fares well or ill.
  Both of these qualities require the existence of mental states. Also
note that in order to speak of "mental states" proper, we would denote, as
common usage would dictate, that such states are marked by consciousness.
It is insufficient to mark off mental states by only the apparent presence
of purposefulness or intentionality since, as we shall see below, many
material objects possess purposeful-looking behaviors.
  So then, how do we properly attribute the existence of mental states to
other animals, or even to ourselves for that matter? We cannot infer the
presence of felt pain simply by the presence of a class of behaviors that
are functional for an organism's amelioration or avoidance of noxious
stimuli. Thermostats obviously react to thermal changes in the environment
and respond in a functionally appropriate manner to restore an initial
"preferred" state. We would be foolish, however, to attribute to
thermostats a capability to "sense" or "feel" some kind of thermal "pain".
Even placing quotes around our terms doesn't protect us from absurdity.
  Clearly, the behavioral criterion of even functional avoidance/defense
reactions is simply not sufficient nor even necessary for the proper
attribution of pain as a felt mental state.
  Science, including the biological sciences, are committed to the working
assumption of scientific materialism or physicalism (see "The Metaphysical
Foundations of Modern Science", E. A. Burtt, 1924). We must then start
with the generally accepted scientific assumption that matter is the only
existent or real primordial constituent of the universe.
  Let it be said at the outset that scientific materialism as such does
not preclude the existence of emergent or functional qualities like that
of mind, consciousness, and feeling (or even, dare I say it, free will),
but all such qualities are dependent upon the existence of organized
matter. If there is no hardware, there is nothing for the software to run
on. If there is no intact, living brain, there is no mind. It should also
be said that even contemporary versions of dualism or mind-stuff theories
will also make embodiment of mental states dependent on the presence of
sufficiently organized matter.
  To briefly state the case, cognitive functions like consciousness and
mind are seen as emergent properties of sufficiently organized matter.
Just as breathing is a function of a complex system of organs referred to
as the respiratory system, so too is consciousness a function of the
immensely complex information-processing capabilities of a central nervous
system. It is possible, in theory, that future computers, given a
sufficiently complex and orderly organization of hardware and clever
software, could exhibit the requisite emergent qualities. While such
computers do not exist, we DO know that certain living organisms on this
planet possess the requisite complexity of specialized and highly
organized structure for the emergence of mental states.
  In theory, plants could possess a mental state like pain, but if, and
only if, there were a requisite complexity of organized plant tissue that
could serve to instantiate the higher order mental states of consciousness
and felt pain.
  There is no morphological evidence that such a complexity of tissue
exists in plants. Plants lack the specialized structures required for
emergence of mental states. This is not to say that they cannot exhibit
complex reactions, but we are simply over-interpreting such reactions if
we designate them as "felt pain".
  With respect to all mammals, birds, and reptiles, we know that they
possess a sufficiently complex neural structure to enable felt pain plus
an evolutionary need for such consciously felt states. They possess
complex and specialized sense organs, they possess complex and specialized
structures for processing information and for centrally orchestrating
appropriate behaviors in accordance with mental representations,
integrations, and reorganizations of that information. The proper
attribution of felt pain in these animals is well justified. It is not for
plants, by any stretch of the imagination.

  The absurdity (and often disingenuity) of the plant-pain promoters can be
easily exposed by asking them the following two questions:

    1) Do you agree that animals like dogs and cats should receive
       pain-killing drugs prior to surgery?
    2) Do you believe that plants should receive pain-killing drugs
       prior to pruning?

SEE ALSO: 44, 46

46  "Aren't there studies that show that plants can scream, etc.?"

  How can something without vocal apparatus scream? Perhaps the questioner
intends to suggest that plants somehow express feelings or emotions. This
notion is popularized in the book "The Secret Life of Plants", by Tompkins
and Bird, 1972. The book describes "experiments" in which plants are
claimed to respond to injury and even to the thoughts and emotions of
nearby humans. The responses consist of changes in the electrical
conductivity of their leaves. The truth is, however, that nothing but a
dismal failure has resulted from attempts to replicate these experiments.
For some definitive reviews, see Science, 1975, 189:478 and The Skeptical
Inquirer, 1978, 2(2):57.
  But what about plant responses to insect invasion? Does this suggest
that plants "feel" pain? No published book or paper in a scientific
journal has been cited as indeed making this claim that "plants feel
pain". There is interesting data suggesting that plants react to local
tissue damage and even emit signaling molecules serving to stimulate
chemical defenses of nearby plants. But how is this relevant to the claim
that plants feel and suffer from pain? Where are the replicated
experiments and peer-reviewed citations for this putative fact? There are
  Let us, for the sake of argument, consider the form of logic employed by
the plant-pain promoters:

    premise 1:    Plants are responsive to "sense" impressions.
    premise 2:    As defined in the dictionary, anything
                  responsive to sense impressions is sentient.
    conclusion 1: Plants are sentient.
    premise 3:    Sentient beings are conscious of sense impressions.
    conclusion 2: Plants are conscious of sense impressions.
    premise 4:    To be conscious of a noxious stimuli is unpleasant.
    conclusion 3: Noxious stimuli to plants are unpleasant, i.e., painful.

  There is a major logical sleight-of-hand here. The meaning of the term
"sentient" changes between premise 2 ("responsive to sense impressions")
and premise 3 ("conscious of sense impressions"). Thus, equivocation on
the usage of "sentient" is used to bootleg the false conclusion 3. There
is also an equivocation on the meaning of "painful" ("unpleasant" versus
the commonly understood meaning).

  If we can bring ourselves to momentarily assume (falsely) that plants
feel pain, then we can easily argue that by eliminating animal farming,
we reduce the total pain inflicted on plants, leading to the ironic
conclusion that plant pain supports the AR position. This is discussed
in more detail in question 48.

SEE ALSO: 44-45, 48

47  "But even if plants don't feel pain, aren't you depriving them of
     their life? Why isn't that enough to accord moral status to plants?"

  The philosophy of Animal Rights is generally regarded as encompassing
only sentient creatures. Plants are just one of many non-sentient, living
creatures. To remain consistent, granting moral status to plants would
lead one to grant it to all life. It may be thought that a philosophy
encompassing all life would be best, but granting moral status to all
living creatures leads to rather implausible views.
  For example, concern for life would lead one to oppose the distribution
of spermicides, even to overpopulated Third world countries. The morality
of any sexual intercourse could be questioned as well, since thousands of
sperm cells die in each act. Also, the sheer variety of life forms creates
difficulties; for example, arguments have been made to show that some
computer programs--such as computer viruses--may well be called alive.
Should one grant them moral status?
  There are questions even in the case of plants. The use of weed-killers
in a garden would need defending. And if killing plants is wrong, why
isn't merely damaging them in some other way also wrong? Is trimming
hedgerows wrong?
  The problems raised above are not attempts to discourage efforts to
develop an ethics of the environment. They simply point out that according
moral status to all living creatures is fraught with difficulties.
  Nevertheless, some people do, indeed, argue that the taking of life
should be minimized where possible; this constitutes a kind of moral
status for life. Interestingly, such a view, far from undermining the AR
view, actually supports it. To see why, refer to question 48.


48  "Isn't it better to eat animals, because that way you kill the least
     number of living beings (greater calorie value and nutrition in

49  "Nature is a continuum; doesn't that mean you cannot draw a line, and
     where you draw yours is no better than where I draw mine?"

  Most people will accept that the diversity of Nature is such that one is
effectively faced with a continuum. Charles Darwin was right to state that
differences are of degree, not of kind.
  One should take issue, however, with the belief that this means that a
line cannot be drawn for the purpose of granting rights. For example,
while there is a continuum in the use of force, from the gentle nudge of
the adoring mother to the hellish treatment visited upon concentration
camp prisoners, clearly, human rights are violated in one case and not the
other. People accept that the ethical buck stops somewhere between the two
  Similarly, while it is true that the qualities relevant to the
attribution of rights are found to varying extents in members of the
animal kingdom, one is entitled to draw the line somewhere. After all,
society does it as well; today, it draws the line just below humans.
  Now, such a line (below humans) cannot be logically defensible, since
some creatures are excluded that possess the relevant qualities to a
greater degree than current rights-holders (for example, a normal adult
chimpanzee has a "higher" mental life than a human in a coma, yet we still
protect only the human from medical experimentation). Therefore, any line
that is drawn must allow some nonhuman animals to qualify as
  Moreover, the difficulty of drawing a line does not by itself justify
drawing one at the wrong place. On the contrary, this difficulty means
that from an ethical point of view, the line should be drawn a) carefully,
and b) conservatively. Because the speciesist line held by AR opponents
violates moral precepts held as critical for the viability of any ethical
system, and because some mature nonhumans possess morally relevant
characteristics comparable to some human rights-bearers, one must come to
the conclusion that the status quo fails on both counts, and that the
arrow of progress points toward a moral outlook that encompasses nonhuman
as well as human creatures.
  In addition, it should be noted that when a new line is drawn that is
more in step with ethical truth (something quite easy to do), in no way
should one feel that the wanton destruction of non rights-holders is
thereby encouraged. It is desirable that a moral climate be created that
gives due consideration to the interests and welfare of all creatures,
whether they are rights-holders or not.

  The idea that a continuum makes drawing a line impossible or that one
line is therefore no better than another is easily refuted. For example,
the alcohol concentration in the blood is a continuum, but society draws
a line at 0.10 percent for drunk driving, and clearly that is a better
line than one drawn at, say, 0.00000001 percent.

SEE ALSO: 21, 41-43


50  "The animals are killed so fast that they don't feel any pain or
     even know they're being killed; what's wrong with that?"

  This view can only be maintained by those unfamiliar with modern meat
production methods. Calves, cattle, hogs, turkeys, and chickens suffer
throughout their entire lives, owing to the unnatural, crowded conditions
they must endure. Even greater stress occurs during transport in which
millions die miserably each year. And the conveyor-belt approach to the
slaughtering process causes the animals to struggle for their lives as
they experience the agony of the fear of death. Only people who have never
watched the process can believe that they don't feel any pain or aren't
aware that they're being killed.
  But even if no suffering were involved, the killing of sensitive,
intelligent animals on a vast scale (over six billion each year in the
U.S. alone) cannot be regarded as morally correct, especially since today
it is demonstrably clear that eating animal flesh is not only unnecessary
but even harmful for people. Fellow-mammals are not like corn or carrots.
To treat them as if they were is to perpetuate an impoverished morality
which is based not on rationality but merely tradition.

  Even the climactic killing process itself is not so clean as one is led
to believe. Every method carries strong doubts about its "humaneness".
For example, consider electrocution. We routinely give anesthetics to
people receiving electro-shock therapy due to its painful effects.
Consider the poleaxe, it requires great skill to deliver a perfect,
instantly fatal blow. Few possess the skill, and many animals suffer from
the ineptness with which the process is administered. Consider religious
slaughter, where an animal is hoisted and bled to death without prior
stunning. Often joints are ruptured during the hoisting, and the death is
a slow, conscious one. The idea of a clean, painless kill is a fantasy
promulgated by those with a vested interest in the continuance of the

51  "What is factory farming, and what is wrong with it?"

52  "But cows can't be factory-farmed, so I can eat them, right?"

53  "But isn't it true that cows won't produce milk (or chickens lay
     eggs) if they are not content?"

  This is simply untrue. Lactation is a physiological response that
follows giving birth. The cow cannot avoid giving milk any more than
she can avoid producing urine. The same is true of chickens and egg-laying;
the egg output is manipulated to a high level by selective breeding,
carefully regulated conditions that simulate a continuous summer season,
and a carefully controlled diet.
  To drive this point home further, consider that over the last five
decades, the conditions for egg-laying chickens have become increasingly
unnatural and confining (see question 51), yet the egg output has increased
many times over. Chickens will even continue to lay when severely injured;
they simply cannot help it.

SEE ALSO: 51, 54, 57

54  "Don't hens lay unfertilized eggs that would otherwise be wasted?"

55  "But isn't it true that the animals have never known anything

56  "Don't farmers know better than city-dwelling people about how
     to treat animals?"

  This view is often put forward by farmers (and their family members).
Typically they claim that, by virtue of proximity to their farmed animals,
they possess some special knowledge. When pressed to present this
knowledge, and to show how it can justify their exploitation of animals
or discount the animals' pain and suffering, only the tired arguments
addressed in this FAQ come forth. In short, there is no "special knowledge".
  One should also remember that those farmers who exploit animals have a
strong vested interest in the continuance of their practices. Would one
assert that a logger knows best about how the forests should be treated?
For an unbiased assessment, the farmer should be the last person to be
  Finally, this argument can be viewed essentially as ad-hominem. Ideas
should be evaluated on their own terms, not by reference to the

57  "Can't we just eat free-range products?"

58  "Anything wrong with honey?"

59  "Modern agriculture requires us to push animals off land to convert
     it to crops; isn't this a violation of the animals' rights?"

60  "Don't crop harvest techniques and transportation, etc., lead to death
     of animals?"

61  "Don't farmers have to kill pests?"


62  "How can we do without leather?"

63  "I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur ranches?"

  Leaving aside the raw fact that the animals must sacrifice their
lives for human vanity, we are left with many objections to fur ranching.
  A common misconception about fur "ranches" is that the animals do not
suffer. This is entirely untrue. These animals suffer a life of misery
and frustration, deprived of their most basic needs. They are kept in
wire-mesh cages that are tiny, overcrowded, and filthy. Here they are
malnourished, suffer contagious diseases, and endure severe stress.
  On these farms, the animals are forced to forfeit their natural
instincts. Beavers, who live in water in the wild, must exist on cement
floors. Minks in the wild, too, spend much of their time in water,
which keeps their salivation, respiration, and body temperature
stable.  They are also, by nature, solitary animals. However, on these
farms, they are forced to live in close contact with other animals.
This often leads to self-destructive behavior, such as pelt and tail
biting. They often resort to cannibalism.
  The methods used on these farms reflect not the interests and welfare
of the animals but the furriers' primary interest--profit.  The end of
the suffering of these animals comes only with death, which, in order
to preserve the quality of the fur, is inflicted with extreme cruelty
and brutality. Engine exhaust is often pumped into a box of animals.
This exhaust is not always lethal, and the animals sometimes writhe in
pain as they are skinned alive. Another common execution practice,
often used on larger animals, is anal electrocution. The farmers attach
clamps to an animal's lips and insert metal rods into its anus. The
animal is then electrocuted.  Decompression chambers, neck snapping,
and poison are also used.
  The raising of animals by humans to serve a specific purpose cannot
discount or excuse the lifetime of pain and suffering that these
animals endure.

  Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without.
				Rue McClanahan (actress)

  The recklessness with which we sacrifice our sense of decency to 
maximize profit in the factory farming process sets a pattern for cruelty 
to our own kind.
				Jonathan Kozol (author)

SEE ALSO: 11, 13, 50-51

64  "Anything wrong with wool, silk, down?"


65  "Humans are natural hunter/gatherers; aren't you trying to repress
     natural human behavior?"

 Yes. Failing to repress certain "natural behaviors" would create an
uncivilized society. Consider this: It would be an expression of natural
behavior to hunt anything that moves (e.g., my neighbor's dogs or horses)
and to gather anything I desire (e.g., my employer's money or furniture).
It would even be natural behavior to indulge in unrestrained sexual
appetites or to injure a person in a fit of rage or jealousy.
  In a civilized society, we restrain our natural impulses by two codes:
the written law of the land, and the unwritten law of morality. And this
also applies to hunting. It is unlawful in many places and at many times,
and the majority of Americans regard sport hunting as immoral.

  Many would question the supposition that humans are natural hunters.
In many societies, the people live quite happily without hunting. In
our own society, the majority do not hunt, not because they are repressing
their nature--they simply have no desire to do so. Those that do hunt often
show internal conflicts about it, as evidenced by the myths and rituals
that serve to legitimitize hunting, cleanse the hunter, etc. This suggests
that hunting is not natural, but actually goes against a deeper part of
our nature, a desire not to do harm.

SEE ALSO: 66-69

66  "The world is made up of predators and prey; aren't we just another

  No. Our behaviour is far worse than that of "just another predator". We
kill others not just for nourishment but also for sport (recreation!), for
the satisfaction of our curiosity, for fashion, for entertainment, for
comfort, and for convenience. We also kill each other by the millions for
territory, wealth, and power. We often torture and torment others before
killing them. We conduct wholesale slaughter of vast proportions, on land
and in the oceans. No other species behaves in a comparable manner, and
only humans are destroying the balance of nature.
  At the same time, our killing of nonhuman animals is unnecessary, whereas
nonhuman predators kill and consume only what is necessary for their
survival. They have no choice: kill or starve.
  The one thing that really separates us from the other animals is our
moral capacity, and that has the potential to elevate us above the status
of "just another predator". Nonhumans lack this capacity, so we shouldn't
look to them for moral inspiration and guidance.

SEE ALSO: 65, 69

67  "Doesn't hunting control wildlife populations that would otherwise get
     out of hand?"

68  "Aren't hunting fees the major source of revenue for wildlife
     management, habitat restoration, purchase of lands for public
     use, etc.?"

69  "Isn't hunting OK as long as we eat what we kill?"

70  "Fish are dumb like insects; what's wrong with fishing?"


71  "Don't zoos contribute to the saving of species from extinction?"

72  "Don't animals live longer in zoos than they would in the wild?"

73  "How will people see wild animals and learn about them without zoos?"

  To gain true and complete knowledge of wild animals, one must observe
them in their natural habitats. The conditions under which animals are
kept in zoos typically distorts their behavior significantly.
  There are several practical alternatives to zoos for educational
purposes. There are many nature documentaries shown regularly on
television as well as available on video cassettes. Specials on public
television networks, as well as several cable channels, such as The
Discovery Channel, provide accurate information on animals in their
natural habitats. Magazines such as National Geographic provide
superb illustrated articles, as well. And, of course, public libraries
are a gold-mine of information.
  Zoos often mistreat animals, keeping them in small pens or cages.
This is unfair and cruel. The natural instincts and behavior of these
animals are suppressed by force. How can anyone observe wild animals
under such circumstances and believe that one has been educated?

  All good things are wild, and free.
				Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

SEE ALSO: 71-72, 74

74  "If you have pets, how can you criticize zoos and aquariums?"

75  "What is wrong with circuses and rodeos?"

  To treat animals as objects for our amusement is to treat them without
the respect they deserve. When we degrade the most intelligent fellow
mammals in this way, we act as our ancestors acted in former centuries.
They knew nothing about the animals' intelligence, sensitivities,
emotions, and social needs; they saw only brute beasts. To continue such
ancient traditions, even if no cruelty were involved, means that we insist
on remaining ignorant and insensitive.
  But the cruelty does exist and is inherent in these spectacles. In
rodeos, there is no show unless the animal is frightened or in pain. In
circuses, animals suffer most before and after the show. They endure
punishment during training and are subjected to physical and emotional
hardships during transportation. They are forced to travel tens of
thousands of miles each year, often in extreme heat or cold, with tigers
living in cramped cages and elephants chained in filthy railroad cars. To
the entrepreneurs, animals are merely stock in trade, to be replaced when
they are used up.

  David Cowles-Hamar writes about circuses as follows in his "The Manual
of Animal Rights" (similar criticisms can be leveled against rodeos):

    Not surprisingly, a considerable amount of "persuasion" is required
    to achieve these performances, and to this end, circuses employ
    various techniques. These include deprivation of food, deprivation
    of company, intimidation, muzzling, drugs, punishment and reward
    systems, shackling, whips, electronic goads, sticks, and the noise
    of guns...Circus animals suffer similar mental and physical problems
    to zoo animals, displaying stereotypical behavior...Physical symptoms
    include shackle sores, herpes, liver failure, kidney disease, and
    sometimes death...Many of the animals become both physically and
    mentally ill.

76  "But isn't it true that animals are well cared for and wouldn't
     perform if they weren't happy?"

77  "What about horse or greyhound racing?"


78  "Anything wrong with keeping pets?"

  In a perfect world, all of our efforts would go toward protecting the
habitats of other species on the planet and we would be able to maintain a
"hands off" approach in which we did not take other species into our
family units, but allowed them to develop on their own in the wild. However,
we are far from such a Utopia and as responsible humans must deal with the
results of the domestication of animals. Since many animals domesticated
to be pets have been bred but have no homes, most AR supporters see
nothing wrong with having them as companion animals. As a matter of fact,
the AR supporter may well provide homes for more unwanted companion
animals than does the average person! Similarly, animals domesticated for
agricultural purposes should be cared for.
  However, animals in the wild should be left there and not brought into
homes as companions. A cage in someone's house is an unnatural
environment for an exotic bird, fish, or mammal. When the novelty wears
off, wild pets usually end up at shelters, zoos, or research labs. Wild
animals have the right to be treated with respect, and that includes
leaving them in their natural surroundings.

79  "So you want to take away my kid's puppy?"


80  "What is wrong with experimentation on animals?"

81  "Do AR people accept that experimentation has led to valuable medical

82  "How can you justify losing medical advances that would save human
     lives by stopping animal research?"

83  "Aren't there instances where there are no alternatives to the use
     of live animals?"

84  "Aren't there cases where alternatives are not as reliable as animal

85  "But what if animals also benefit, e.g., through advance of veterinary

86  "Should people refuse medical treatments obtained through
     experimentation?  What if it is a life-or-death decision?"

87  "Farmers have to kill pests to protect our food supply. Given that,
     what's wrong with killing a few more rats for medical research?"

88  "What about dissection; isn't it necessary for a complete education?"

  Dissection refers to the practice of performing exploratory surgery on
animals (both killed and live) in an educational context. The average
person's experience of this practice consists of dissecting a frog in
a high-school biology class, but fetal chipmunks, mice, rabbits, dogs,
cats, pigs, and other animals are also used.
  Dissection accounts for the death of about 7 million animals per year.
Many of these animals are bred in factory-farm conditions. Others are
taken from their natural habitats. Often, strayed companion animals end
up in the hands of dissectors. These animals suffer from inhumane
confinement and transport, and are finally killed by means of gassing,
neck-snapping, and other "inexpensive" methods.
  The major supplier of animals for dissection, Carolina Biological
Supply Company (CBSC), was cited on over 100 charges by the U.S.
government under the Animal Welfare Act. Cats that survived a 5-minute
gassing were found to clench their jaws in pain when subsequently injected
with formaldehyde. Let's not misunderstand this--CBSC was cited for
embalming live animals. Workers at CBSC playfully tossed around dead
and dying animals.
  The practice of dissection is repulsive to many students and
high-schoolers have begun to speak out against it. Some have even engaged
in litigation (and won!) to assert a right to not participate in such
unnecessary cruelty. California has a law giving students (through high
school) the right to refuse dissection. The law requires an alternative to
be offered and that the student suffer no sanctions for exercising this
  Having dealt with the sub-question "What is dissection?", let's
consider whether it is necessary for a complete education.
  There are several very effective alternatives to dissection. In some
cases, these alternatives are more effective than dissection itself.
Larger-than-life models, films and videos, and computer simulations are
all viable methods of teaching biological principles. The latter option,
computer simulation, has the advantage of offering an additional
interactive facility that has shown great value in other educational
contexts. These alternative methods are often cheaper than the traditional
practice of dissection. A computer program can be used indefinitely for
a one-time purchase cost; the practice of dissection presents an ongoing
  In view of these effective alternatives, and the economic gains associated
therewith, the practice of dissection begins to look more and more like
a rite of passage into the world of animal abuse, almost a fraternity
initiation for future vivisectors. This practice desensitizes
students to animal suffering and teaches them that animals can be
used and discarded without respect for their lives. Is this the kind of
lesson we want to teach our children?

  Animal life, somber mystery. All nature protests against the
barbarity of man, who misapprehends, who humiliates, who tortures
his inferior brethren.
				Jules Michelet (historian)

  Mutilating animals and calling it 'science' condemns the human species
to moral and intellectual hell...this hideous Dark Age of the mindless
torture of animals must be overcome.
				Grace Slick (musician)

SEE ALSO: 80-85, 97

89  "What is wrong with product testing on animals?"

90  "Is ANY product testing justifiable? If so, doesn't that open the
     ethical doorway?"

91  "How do I know if a product has been tested on animals?"


92  "What are the forms of animal rights activism?"

  Let us first adopt a broad definition of activism as the process
of acting in support of a cause, as opposed to privately lamenting
and bemoaning the current state of affairs. Given that, AR activism
spans a broad spectrum, with relatively simple and innocuous actions
at one end, and difficult and politico-legally charged actions at the
other. Each individual must make a personal decision about where
to reside on the spectrum. For some, forceful or unlawful action is
a moral imperative; others may condemn it, or it may be impractical
(for example, a lawyer may serve animals better through the legislative
process than by going on raids and possibly getting disbarred).
Following is a brief sampling of AR activism, beginning at
the low end of the spectrum.
  The spectrum of action can be divided conveniently into four zones:
personal actions, proselytizing, organizing, and civil disobedience.
Consider first personal actions. Here are some of the personal actions
you can take in support of AR:

   Learning -- Educate yourself about the issues involved.
   Vegetarianism and Veganism -- Become one.
   Cruelty-Free Shopping -- Avoid products involve testing on animals.
   Cruelty-Free Fashion -- Avoid leather and fur.
   Investing with Conscience -- Avoid companies that exploit animals.
   Animal-Friendly Habits -- Avoid pesticides, detergents, etc.
   The Golden Rule -- Apply it to all creatures and live by it.

  Proselytizing is the process of "spreading the word". Here are some of
the ways that it can be done:

   Tell your family and friends about your beliefs.
   Write letters to lawmakers, newspapers, magazines, etc.
   Write books and articles.
   Create documentary films and videos.
   Perform leafletting and "tabling".
   Give lectures at schools and other organizations.
   Speak at stockholders' meetings.
   Join Animal Review Committees that oversee research on animals.
   Picket, boycott, demonstrate, and protest.

  Organizing is a form of meta-proselytizing--helping others to spread
the word. Here are some of the ways to do it:

   Join an AR-related organization.
   Contribute time and money to an AR-related organization.
   Found an AR organization.
   Get involved in politics or law and act directly for AR.

  The last category of action, civil disobedience, is the most
contentious and the remaining questions in this section deal further
with it. Some draw the line here; others do not. It is a personal
decision. Here are some of the methods used to more forcefully assert
the rights of animals:

   Sit-ins and occupations.
   Obstruction and harassment of people in their animal-exploitation
     activities (e.g., foxhunt sabotage). The idea is to make it more
     difficult and/or embarrassing for people to continue these
   Spying and infiltration of animal-exploitation industries and
     organizations. The information and evidence gathered can be
     a powerful weapon for AR activists.
   Destruction of property related to exploitation and abuse of
     animals (laboratory equipment, meat and clothes in stores, etc.).
     The idea is to make it more costly and less profitable for these
     animal industries.
   Sabotage of the animal-exploitation industries (e.g., destruction
     of vehicles and buildings). The idea is to make the activities
   Raids on premises associated with animal exploitation (to gather
     evidence, to sabotage, to liberate animals).

  It can be seen from the foregoing material that AR activism spans a
wide range of activities that includes both actions that would be
conventionally regarded as law-abiding and non-threatening, and actions
that are unlawful and threatening to the animal-exploitation industries.
Most AR activism falls into the former category and, indeed, one can
support these actions while condemning the latter category of actions.
People who are thinking, with some trepidation, of going for the first
time to a meeting of an AR group need have no fear of finding themselves
involved with extremists, or of being coerced into extreme activism.
They would find a group of exceedingly law-abiding computer programmers,
teachers, artists, etc. (The extreme activists are essentially unorganized
and cannot afford to meet in public groups due to the unwelcome attention
of law-enforcement agencies.)

  One person can make all the difference in the world...For the first time in
recorded human history, we have the fate of the whole planet in our hands.
				Chrissie Hynde (musician)

  This is the true joy in life; being used for a purpose recognized by
yourself as a mighty one, and being a force of nature instead of a
feverish, selfish little clod.
				George Bernard Shaw (playwright, Nobel 1925)

  Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his
conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.
				Norman Cousins (author)

SEE ALSO: 4, 93-98, 101

93  "Isn't liberation just a token action because there is no way to give
     homes to all the animals?"

  If one thinks of a liberation action solely in terms of liberation goals,
there is some validity in viewing it as a token, or symbolic, action. It
is true that liberation actions could not succeed applied en masse,
because there aren't enough homes for all the animals, and even if
there were, distribution channels do not exist for relocating them.
Having said this, however, one needs to remember that for the few
animals that are liberated, the action is far from a token one. There
is a world of difference between spending one's life in a loving home
or a sanctuary and spending it imprisoned in a cage waiting for a
brutal end.
  Liberation actions need to be viewed with a less literal mindset. As
Peter Singer points out, raids are effective in obtaining evidence of
animal abuse that could not otherwise have come to light. For example,
a raid on Thomas Gennarelli's laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania
obtained videotapes that convinced the Secretary for Health and Human
Services to stop his experiments.
  One might also bear in mind that symbolic actions have been some of
the most powerful ones seen throughout history.

  All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing.
				Edmund Burke (statesman and author)

SEE ALSO: 94-96

94  "Isn't AR activism terrorism because it harasses people, destroys
     property, and threatens humans with injury or death?"

  The answer to question 92 should make it clear that most AR activism
cannot be described as extreme and, furthermore, that not even all
acts described as extreme could be thought of as "terrorism". For
example, a peaceful sit-in is highly unlikely to put others in a
state of intense fear. Thus, it is not correct to characterize AR
activism generally as terrorism.
  One of the fundamental guidelines of the extreme activists is that
great care must be taken not to inflict harm in carrying out the acts.
This has been borne out in practice. On the very rare occasions when
harm has occurred, the mainstream AR groups have condemned the acts.
In some cases, the authors of the acts have been suspected to be those
allied against the AR movement; their motives would not require deep
thought to decipher.
  The dictionary defines "terrorism" as the systematic use of violence
or acts that instill intense fear to achieve an end. Certainly,
harassment of fur wearers, or shouting "meat is murder" outside a
butcher shop, could not be considered to be terrorism. Even destruction
of property would not qualify under the definition if it is
done without harming others. Certainly, the Boston Tea Party raiders
did not consider themselves terrorists.
  The real terrorists are the people and industries that inflict pain
and suffering on millions of innocent animals for trivial purposes each
and every day. 

  If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior.
				Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

  I am in earnest--I will not equivocate--I will not excuse--I will not
retreat a single inch and I will be heard.
				William Lloyd Garrison (author)

SEE ALSO: 92-93, 95-96

95  "Isn't extreme activism involving breaking the law (e.g., destruction
    of property) wrong?"

  Great men and women have demonstrated throughout history that laws
can be immoral, and that we can be justified in breaking them. Those
who object to law-breaking under all circumstances would have to

    The Tiananmen Square demonstrators.
    The Boston Tea Party participants.
    Mahatma Gandhi and his followers.
    World War II resistance fighters.
    The Polish Solidarity Movement.
    Vietnam War draft card burners.

The list could be continued almost indefinitely. 
  Conversely, laws sometimes don't reflect our moral beliefs. After
World War II, the allies had to hastily write new laws to fully prosecute
the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. Dave Foreman points out that there
is a distinction to be made between morality and the statutes of a
government in power.
  It could be argued that the principle we are talking about does not apply.
Specifically, the law against destruction of property is not immoral,
and we therefore should not break it. However, a related principle can
be asserted. If a law is invoked to defend immoral practices, or to
attempt to limit or interfere with our ability to fight an immoral
situation, then justification might be claimed for breaking that law.
  In the final analysis, this is a personal decision for each person
to make in consultation with their own conscience.

  Certainly one of the highest duties of the citizen is a scrupulous
obedience to the laws of the nation. But it is not the highest duty.
				Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President)

  I say, break the law.
				Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)

SEE ALSO: 94, 96

96  "Doesn't extreme activism give the AR movement a bad name?"

  This is a significant argument that must be thoughtfully considered.
In essence, the argument says that if your actions can be characterized
as extremist, then you are besmirching the actions of those who are
moderate, and you are creating a backlash that can negate the advances
made by more moderate voices.
  The appeal to the "backlash" has historical precedent. Martin Luther
King heard such warnings when he organized civil-disobedience protests
against segregation. Had Dr. King yielded to this appeal, would the
Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts have been passed?
  Dave Foreman, writing in "Confessions of an Eco-Warrior", points out
that radicals in the anti-Vietnam War movement were blamed for prolonging
the war and for damaging the "respectable" opposition. Yet the fear of
increasingly militant demonstrations kept President Nixon from escalating
the war effort, and the stridency eventually wore down the pro-war
  The backlash argument is a standard one that will always be trotted out
by the opponents of a movement. Backlash can be expected whenever the
status quo is challenged, regardless of whether extreme actions are
employed. The real question to ask is: Does the added backlash outweigh
the gains achieved through extreme action? The answer here is not clear
and we'll leave it to the informed reader to make a judgement. Two
books that might help in assessing this are "Free the Animals" by
Ingrid Newkirk, and "In Defense of Animals" by Peter Singer.
  The following argument is paraphrased from Dave Foreman: Extreme action
is a sophisticated political tactic that dramatizes issues and places them
before the public when they otherwise would be ignored in the media,
applies pressure to corporations and government agencies that otherwise
are able to resist "legitimate" pressure from law-abiding organizations,
and broadens the spectrum of activism so that lobbying by mainstream
groups is not considered "extremist".

  My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have
the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in
the guilt.
				Anna Sewell (author)

  If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to
favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want rain
without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of
its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did
and it never will.
				Frederick Douglass (abolitionist)

SEE ALSO: 92-95


97  "What are appropriate books to read for more information on AR issues?"

98  "What organizations can I join to support AR?"

  There are hundreds of AR-related organizations scattered around the
globe. In addition, there are many vegetarian and vegan groups. This
FAQ is already too long to list all of these groups. This FAQ gives only
AR-related groups in the United States. Later editions of the FAQ may
cover other countries. For a full listing of vegetarian and vegan groups
worldwide, refer to the excellent FAQs maintained by Michael Traub
(Internet address traub at
  The following data comes from the book "The Animal Rights Handbook",
Berkley Books, New York, 1993, ISBN 0-425-13762-7.


Alliance for Animals, P.O. Box 909, Boston, MA 02103

American Humane Association, 9725 E. Hampden Ave., Denver, CO 80231

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA),
    441 E. 92nd St., New York, NY 10128

Animal Allies, P.O. Box 35063, Los Angeles, CA 90035

Animal Liberation Network, P.O. Box 983, Hunt Valley, MD 21030

Animal Protection Institute of America, P.O. Box 22505, Sacramento,
    CA 95822

Animal Rights Mobilization, P.O. Box 1553, Williamsport, PA 17703

Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, DC 20007

Coalition to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation (CEASE), P.O. Box 27,
    Cambridge, MA 02238

Focus on Animals, P.O. Box 150, Trumbull, CT 06611

Friends of Animals, P.O. Box 1244, Norwalk, CT 06856

The Fund for Animals, 200 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019

Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), P.O. Box 42516,
    Washington, DC 20015-0516

World Society for the Protection of Animals, 29 Perkins St.,
    P.O. Box 190, Boston, MA 02130

Companion Animals

The Anti-Cruelty Society, 157 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60616

Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA),
    350 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130

Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), 15305 44th Ave. W,
    P.O. Box 1037, Lynnwood, WA 98046

San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA),
    2500 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103

Sports and Entertainment

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, P.O. Box 43, White Plains, NY 10605

Performing Animal Welfare Society, 11435 Simmerhorn Rd., Galt, CA 95632

Farm Animals

Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), P.O. Box 14599, Chicago, IL 60614

Farm Animals Reform Movement (FARM), 10101 Ashburton Lane, Bethesda,
    MD 20817

Humane Farming Association, 1550 California Street, Suite 6, San
    Francisco, CA 94109

United Animal Defenders, Inc., P.O. Box 33086, Cleveland, OH 44133

Laboratory Animals

Alternatives to Animals, P.O. Box 7177, San Jose, CA 95150

American Anti-Vivisection Society, 801 Old York Rd., Suite 204,
    Jenkintown, PA 19046

In Defense of Animals, 21 Tamal Vista Blvd., #140, Corte Madera,
    CA 94925

Last Chance for Animals, 18653 Venture Blvd., #356, Tarzana, CA 91356

National Anti-Vivisection Society, 53 W.Jackson Blvd., Suite 1550,
    Chicago, IL 60604

New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 333 Washinton St., Boston, MA 02135

Professional Organizations

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), 1363 Lincoln Ave., San Raphael, CA 94901

Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, 15 Dutch St., Suite 500-A,
    New York, NY 10038

National Association of Nurses Against Vivisection, P.O. Box 42110,
    Washington, DC 20015

Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, P.O. Box 6322, Washington,
    DC 20015

Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, P.O. Box 87,
    New Gloucester, ME 04260

Scientists Center for Animal Welfare, 4805 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda,
    MD 20814 

Scientists Group for Reform of Animal Experimentation, 147-01 3rd Ave.,
    Whitestone, NY 11357

Legislative Organizations

Committee for Humane Legislation, 30 Haviland, South Norwalk, CT 06856

The National Alliance for Animal Legislation, P.O. Box 75116,
    Washington, DC 20013-5116

United Action for Animals, 205 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10017

Marine Life Preservation

American Cetacean Society, P.O. Box 2639, San Pedro, CA 90731

Center for Marine Conservation, 1725 DeSales St., NW, Washington,
    DC 20036

Greenpeace, P.O. Box 3720, 1436 U St., NW, Washinton, DC 20007

Marine Mammal Fund, Fort Mason Center, Bldg. E, San Francisco, CA 94123


Defenders of Wildlife, 1244 19th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036

Earth Island Institute, 300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Fracisco, CA 94133

International Fund for Animal Welfare, P.O. Box 193, Yarmouth Port,
    MA 02675

Rainforest Action Network, 301 Broadway, Suite A, San Francisco, CA 94133

Wildlife Information Center, Inc., 629 Green St., Allentown, PA 18102

Specific Animals

American Horse Protection Association, 1000 29th St., NW, Suite T100,
    Washington DC 20007

Bat Conservation International, P.O., Box 162603, Austin, TX 78716

The Beaver Defenders, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, Inc., Newfield,
    NJ 08344

Friends of the Sea Otter, P.O. Box 221220, Carmel, CA 93922

Greyhound Friends, 167 Saddle Hill Rd., Hopkinton, MA 01748

International Primate Protection League, P.O. Box 766, Summerville,
    SC 29484

Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation, P.O. Box 1896, Sacramento, CA 95809

Primarily Primates, P.O. Box 15306, San Antonio, TX 78212

Save the Manatee Club, 500 N. Maitland Ave., Suite 210, Maitland, FL 32751

Special Interest

Feminists for Animal Rights. P.O. Box 10017, North Berkeley Station,
    Berkeley, CA 94709

International Network for Religion and Animals, P.O. Box 1335, North
    Wales, PA 19454

Jews for Animal Rights, 255 Humphrey St., Marblehead, MA 01945

Student Action Corps for Animals (SACA), P.O. Box 15588, Washington,
    DC 20003-0588

99  "What is the history of AR thinking?"

100 "Can you give a brief Who's Who of the AR movement?"

TOM REGAN -- Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University.
His book "The Case For Animal Rights" is arguably the single best recent
work on animal rights. It is a demanding text but one that is well worth
the effort to read and study carefully.  Everybody that is seriously
interested in the issues should read this rigorously argued case for AR.
It starts with some core concepts of inherent value theory, the same
concepts that played an important and significant role in the progress of
human civil liberties since the 17th century and which began to be
extended to nonhumans during the 19th century. The notion of inherent
value continues to be vital and important for progress in both human and
animal rights.  A less demanding but still informative book by Regan is
"The Struggle for Animal Rights".  One might wish to first read this book
before tackling Regan's more difficult text.

PETER SINGER -- Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Melbourne.
Singer is best known for his book "Animal Liberation", probably the most
widely read book on AR philosophy.  Singer, unlike Regan, is not an
abolitionist as many people incorrectly surmise. His utilitarian position
allows for the possibility or necessity of killing animals under certain
circumstances.  What is often lost sight of is that the obvious and patent
abuses of animals covers so much ground that both Regan and Singer share
common views on far more issues than those on which they differ.  Other
important books by Singer include "In Defense of Animals" and "Animal

MARY MIDGLEY -- Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of
Midgley's book "Beast and Man" has not been given the attention that it
deserves. She deals with the contemporary facts of biology and ethology
head-on to provide an ethical argument for the respectful treatment of
animals that takes seriously scientific discoveries and thoughts about
animals. The "Humean fork" (or so-called logical divide) between facts and
values is here carefully crossed by observing that we are foremost
"animals" ourselves and that the similarities between ourselves and other
animals is more important and relevant for our ethics and
self-understanding than are the often over-inflated differences.

CAROL ADAMS -- Author.
Adams' book "The Sexual Politics of Meat" has made a valuable contribution
in combining cultural and ethical analysis by pointing out the political
implications of the metaphors we unthinkingly employ. The primary
metaphors she analyses in her book relate to meat. Such metaphors have
been applied to women, but the most insidious aspect of the metaphors is
the way that they hide the life that is killed to produce meat. Instead of
"cow", we have "beef" on our plates. Adams argues that the system that
kills animals is the same system that oppresses women; hence, there is an
important and striking connection between vegetarianism and feminism.

RICHARD RYDER -- Senior Clinical Psychologist at Warneford Hospital,
Ryder is the originator of the key term "speciesism".  Ryder's book
"Animal Revolution" provides both an historical perspective and a
critical analysis of animal welfare and attitudes towards animals.

HENRY SALT -- 1851-1939.
Salt was a remarkable social reformer who championed the humane reform of
schools, prisons, society, and our treatment of animals. He also exerted a
critical and important influence upon Gandhi. His book "Animals' Rights"
was the first to use that title and therein he gives voice to almost all
of the essential arguments for AR that we see being advanced and refined
today. The book provides an excellent biography of earlier European
writers on animal issues during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Moran's book "Compassion the Ultimate Ethic" makes a fine contribution
regarding the less discursive but perhaps more fundamental intuitive basis
for animal rights.

Spiegel's book "The Dreaded Comparison" is a slim but courageous volume
comparing the treatment of African-American slaves and the treatment of
nonhuman animals. In text and pictures, Spiegel discloses remarkable
similarities between the two systems. A picture of slaves packed into
a slave ship is matched with a photograph of battery hens. A picture
of a woman in a muzzle is paired with a picture of a dog in a muzzle.
The parallels are striking and revealing. Few other writers have been
as open or as unequivocal as Spiegel in likening cruelty to animals to
traffic in human beings.

  It is hard to keep a Who's-Who list at a reasonable length. Here are
a few other prominent people:

STEPHEN R. L. CLARK -- Professor of Philosophy at Liverpool University.
MICHAEL FOX -- Nationally known veterinarian and animal activist.
RONNIE LEE -- Founder of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
JIM MASON -- Attorney and journalist.
INGRID NEWKIRK -- Co-founder of PETA; prominent activist.
ALEX PACHECO -- Co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of
                Animals (PETA); exposer of the Silver Springs Monkeys
"VALERIE" -- Founder of ALF in the United States.

SEE ALSO: 97-99

101 "What can I do in my daily life to help animals?"

  Indeed, the buck must first stop here in our own daily lives with the
elimination or reduction of actions that contribute to the abuse and
exploitation of animals.
  Probably the single most important thing you can do to save animals,
help the ecology of the planet, and even improve your own health, is to
BECOME A VEGETARIAN. It is said that "we are what we eat". More
accurately, "we are what we do" and what we do in order to eat has a
profound consequence on our self-definition as a compassionate person. As
long as we eat meat, we share complicity in the intentional slaughter of
countless animals and destruction of the environment for clearly trivial
  Why trivial? No human has died from want of satisfying a so-called "Mac
Attack", but countless cows have died in order to satisfy our palates.
On a more positive note, vegetarians report that one's taste and enjoyment
of food is actually enhanced by eliminating animal products. Indeed, a
vegetarian diet is not a diet of deprivation; far from it. Vegetarians
actually eat a GREATER variety of foods than do meat-eaters. Maybe the
best kept culinary secret is that the really "boring" diet actually turns
out to be the traditional meat-centered diet.
of good plant and synthetic materials that serve as excellent materials
for fabrics and shoes. Indeed, all the major brands of high-quality
running shoes are now turning to the use of man-made materials. (Why?
Because they are lighter than leather and don't warp or get stiff after
getting wet.)
  There are many less obvious animal products that are being used in many
of our everyday household and personal products. After first attending to
those obvious and most visible products like leather and fur, then
consider what you can do to reduce or eliminate your dependency on
products that may contain needless animal ingredients or were brought to
market using animal testing. Two very good product guides are:

    Shopping Guide for the Caring Consumer, PETA, 1994.
    A Shopper's Guide to Cruelty-Free Products, Lori Cook, 1991.

RIGHTS.  Besides reading about animal rights from the major theorists,
also read practical guides and periodicals. Question 97 lists many
appropriate books and periodicals.
ORGANIZATION. Alternatively, if you lack the time, consider giving
donations to those organizations whose good work on behalf of
animals is something you appreciate and wish to materially support.

SEE ALSO: 92, 97-98


102 "I have read this FAQ and I am not convinced. Humans are humans,
     animals are animals; is it so difficult to see that?"

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