Culture & Ethics Icon Culture & Ethics

Animal Rights Means No Dogs or Cats

Wesley J. Smith


Animal rights, properly understood, is not about treating animals more humanely. That is animal welfare. No, the goal of animal rights is to end all animal domestication, including depriving us of our beloved dogs, cats, and other pets.

Most AR activists, like PETA’s zealots, don’t state the pet part boldly. That would interfere with fund raising and their public image among dog and cat lovers. It would make it more difficult to convince sexy female movie stars to take off their clothes for animal rights.

The one exception to that general rule is Gary Francione. In a recent article, the Rutgers University law professor states clearly and boldly that accepting animal rights means no more pets.

First, Francione argues that animals have one fundamental right. From “The Case Against Pets” (my emphasis):

When we talk about animal rights, we are talking primarily about one right: the right not to be property. The reason for this is that if animals matter morally — if animals are not just things — they cannot be property. If they are property, they can only be things.

Typical of animal rightists, Francione claims that what is done to an animal should be viewed in the same way as if the same thing were done to a human.

Think about this matter in the human context. We are all generally agreed that all humans, irrespective of their particular characteristics, have the fundamental, pre-legal right not to be treated as chattel property. We all reject human chattel slavery. That is not to say that it doesn’t still exist. It does.

But no one defends it. The reason we reject chattel slavery is because a human who is a chattel slave is no longer treated as a person, by which we mean that the slave is no longer a being who matters morally.

Slavery is wrong because it treats equals — e.g., human beings — as objects. All human beings are subjects. Not so animals, which (not who) are not persons.

No, animals are not equal to us. But that does not mean they don’t matter morally. Indeed, human exceptionalism posits a positive duty to treat animals humanely in the context of our making proper use of them to promote our thriving, which involves a serious balancing act that takes into consideration both human needs and the impact on animals.

Usually, as I said, animal rightists avoid the “end all pets” part of their agenda, sticking with advocating around making it more difficult to raise food animals, ruining the fur industry, or impeding medical research. Not the candid Francione:

With respect to domesticated animals, that means that we stop bringing them into existence altogether. We have a moral obligation to care for those right-holders we have here presently. But we have an obligation not to bring any more into existence.

And this includes dogs, cats and other non-humans who serve as our “companions”…We love our dogs, but recognize that, if the world were more just and fair, there would be no pets at all.

Next time you think you believe in “animal rights,” understand what the term really means and what the ultimate goals of the movement really are; no human ownership or use of any animal for any reason.

And yes, of course Francione supports abortion through the ninth month! He stated so in a debate we had a few years ago at Columbia Law School. Boiled down to its essence and beneath the sentimentality, the animal rights movement is anti-human.

Photo credit: Pixabay.
Cross-posted at The Corner.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.