Four Problems That Opponents of Animal Rights Can Never Solve

Problem 1: Proving Human Superiority

 

     Accepted as a given even though the evidence is overwhelmingly in the other camp. All opposition to animal rights stems from a belief in this falsehood. Nature does not recognize this alleged supremacy by giving preferential treatment to humans through the workings of gravity and weather, and the predatory homicidal behavior of humans is the greatest rejection of the absurd bigoted idea, which is a conceptual companion to racial or gender supremacy.  And the qualities of humanity that are said to demonstrate superiority—rationality, moderation, compassion, can be easily refuted by examining human history and the daily news. By contrast nonhumans can be shown to be moderate in behavior.

This myth lurks behind every objection to animal rights even when it is denied.

 

Problem 2: Proving Survival of the Fittest ends at the species line

 

     A simplistic attack on animal rights belief is that life is cruel and it is survival of the fittest—and yet those that utter this claim conveniently put the limitations on this motto at species. This despite the fact that humans have attacked each other for thousands of years, and Nature hasn’t weighed in to prevent it from occurring. If one says that humans must base morality upon a vague definition of fitness, then it does not stop one from refining the concept to discriminate via race, gender, religion, physical strength, and any other criteria they choose. Opponents to extending moral concern to nonhumans have no way around this fact.

 

Problem 3: Defending Hunting as Natural For Humans

 

     Humans, we are told, are meant to hunt-but they are the only animal that requires artificial means to do so. Tigers and lions are born with everything they need. Humans without tools are weaklings. The brain is flaunted as the true weapon for humans—but it is also used for horticulture and devising means of killing other humans. Real hunters don’t garden or kill each other in massive numbers. If hunting by humans is natural, then so is homicide.

 

 

Problem 4: Defending Vivisection as Ethical and Necessary

 

     Vivisection is cruel-that’s obvious. Only the most stupid of humans would claim nonhumans enjoy being kept in cages for their entire lives and only removed so they can be tortured worse than the most despised criminals.

     Experimentation upon nonhuman animals cannot be reconciled with ethical principles of justice.

     To deliberately harm one or more innocent beings and claim you are doing it for altruistic reasons is a perversion of compassion, like helping a homeless man by evicting someone from their home so he can occupy it.

     The claim that such research is a necessity is a complete falsehood. Humans are the true model for human medical research. This is common sense. Mice, rats, cats, dogs, monkeys do not have the same physiology as humans. Vivisection upon any subject for medical reasons is a choice, not a necessity.

     If nonhuman animal research is necessary then clinical trials on humans would be avoidable. Pfizer would not have been doing experiments on African villagers, Thalidomide would not have been shown safe for humans, and the experimental data of Dr. Mengele would not have been kept and used.

     And yet even the claim that medical research is a necessity can be refuted. If it were so important, why aren’t scientists and patients advocating the use of the most hated criminals or volunteers in medical experiments?

     Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion, and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research.

     Real healers become doctors, they do not become experts at conceiving ways to maim and kill innocent beings.

     Vivisectors know they are stabbing in the dark when they experiment upon nonhumans but they keep spewing lies to encourage false hope and ensure financial support. When they claim a breakthrough by torturing rats there is usually a cautionary note that “human trials are still years away.” Violence-loving humans have been around since the dawn of time. They used to find steady employment by being temple priests and cutting open live animals for religious reasons. Now they do it in laboratories but with the same basic motivations. They are like faith healers and evangelists—preying upon the suffering of others for their own financial benefit (or egos).

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Common Sense Animal Rights Summary

If you believe one should be ethical and compassionate to others then you have to extend this view as far as possible.
If you don’t, then others can decide to pick and choose who deserves moral regard—which may conflict with your own views on it.
Attempts to make humans the sole beneficiaries of moral worth don’t work because every standard and quality that is used –from reason, to a soul to divine favor to evolution, to survival of the fittest lack objective proof –either all humans/nonhumans cannot be shown to possess or lack the quality, and/or Nature doesn’t alter the laws of physics or weather to cater to the alleged superiority of humans, and humans themselves defy this claim of superiority by preying on each other since the start of recorded history.
Extending moral regard to nonhumans simply closes the loophole that would allow racial supremacists, religious extremists etc to discriminate against other humans using the same kind of discriminatory attitude that an opponent of animal rights holds dear.
In short, you cannot have consistent human rights without rights for nonhumans.

It isn’t about perfection (since being perfectly moral is impossible even when dealing with humans and just as we don’t say concentration camps or mass homicide is justified because of traffic accidents the same is true if talking about the accidental killing of an insect being used to justify slaughterhouses or laboratories).
Humans are the ones who decide they need behavioral control through moral laws—thus they are the ones obligated to follow them. Nonhumans are not obligated since they cannot be expected to honor moral contracts which we know they are not capable of honoring (to punish them for this inability is the same as punishing a blind man for not being able to read a road sign). Nonhumans still benefit from consistency and fairness requirements in human moral beliefs.

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The Simple Animal Rights Argument

Humans think they are superior to other species and this is used to justify the exploitation of them. But since we don’t accept human supremacy claims when they are intended to justify discrimination based on race, gender, religion etc then by fairness and consistency we cannot accept it when claimed according to species.
One cannot show that Nature or an invisible deity alters the laws of gravity, physics, weather etc to ensure preferential treatment for humans anymore than one could assert the same for humans defined by race, gender, political beliefs etc. In fact, it is the reality of human predation upon other humans that debunks the concept of human supremacy most directly. If humans were truly superior, the first evidence of this should be in how humans treat other humans. Yet humans have and do prey upon other humans despite laws intended to prevent this.
This reality is of vital importance in exposing the flawed logic of those who wish to dismiss animal rights beliefs. Any argument put forth to justify the exploitation (i.e. survival of the fittest) can be turned around and applied to how humans can and do treat other humans (nothing says the “fittest” must be drawn at a species line when humans have and do exploit weaker humans as a historical fact). Ultimately one cannot have a consistent and fair concept of human rights without extending that belief in principle to nonhumans, if only to close a loophole that would technically allow for behavior against humans that one disapproves of. The obligation to be ethical only applies to humans since they are the ones trying to govern their behavior, but nonhumans benefit for the same reason that children or the mentally impaired do. To penalize one for not being capable of performing an act you know they cannot is as unfair and unreasonable as expecting a man you know to be blind to read road signs.
The inconvenience or impossibility of moral perfection in one’s dealing with nonhumans does not invalidate the concept since the same would have to hold true for humans. I.e. If the accidental killing of insects or microbes means that factory farms or laboratories are justified, then an accidental traffic death or homicide would mean concentration camps are justified.
A belief in human supremacy is assumed to be true without examining its validity (since it has none) and it is the foundation for all objections raised against a policy extending rights to nonhumans even when it is denied. If you focus on this and answer any objection by highlighting the natural permissibility of human predation upon other humans (i.e. “We should put humans first!” “Then we can put our race/gender/religion first!”) you can never lose an animal rights discussion or end in a stalemate.

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More thoughts on animal rights and vivisection arguments

I have mentioned before that I am not a proponent for the kind of common animal rights anti-vivisection argument that focuses on scientific issues mainly because the vivisector side has a built-in advantage in this realm  no matter how sadistic or deceitful they are.  If they say that research on nonhumans is necessary, then the public is more likely to believe them, as they are being financed and backed by charities and the medical establishment, as opposed to an animal rights-leaning medical doctor who says they care about human lives.  We know that vivisectors make a living off experimentation and torturing a mouse or monkey as a profession is much easier than curing cancer, but that is not how the public is likely to see it. They will believe the vivisector values human lives over their victims whether they produce results or not.  Furthermore, because vivisectors have no moral boundaries, they will do genetic experiments and claim they can alter nonhuman physiology so it makes a perfect model for human medicine. Even if you know this is ludicrous since humans cannot predict how such biological alterations would function, the public is likely to believe in the miraculous potential of science especially if they have a relative with an incurable  illness.

As much as I despise vivisection as the atrocity and moral perversion that it is, I have to acknowledge that at least a few of those who torture innocent beings do so because they are extremely misguided or indoctrinated by the moral values of the time they live in. There are vivisectors who suddenly “see the light” and become anti-vivisection supporters. To ignore this and simply claim that all vivisectors are frauds is to risk derailing the argument and sidetracking from the real issue: the immorality of vivisection.

Another significant problem with the “animal research is necessary” argument is that it is framed by the vivisection side.  It usually goes like this:

The anti-vivisection side shows pictures or videos of the sadistic experiments carried out on the innocent victims. The vivisector side responds by saying (nonhuman) animal research is necessary. Then the anti-vivisection side responds by saying that animal research is not necessary and they will cite the various examples from Penicillin to Thalidomide where  nonhuman research studies were not reliable.
This is not an animal rights argument.

If we were talking about the doctors who experimented on African villagers in the 1990s, we wouldnt allow an argument like “it is necessary” to enter the discussion–the entire focus would be the  view that moral view that such actions are unethical whatever the benefits.

But in vivisection debates the science of experimentation tends to overshadow the ethical issues.In discussions with animal rights advocates I have found that while they may agree that morality should be highlighted, they say the public simply wont accept an animal rights argument and if the advocates can persuade them that nonhuman animal research is unnecessary,  that would be the most advantageous approach. But there are many exploitation issues that dont even have the excuse of necessity: circuses, rodeos, canned hunting, cosmetic testing, bullfighting. And yet these things continue. Clearly there is a deeper belief system at work-which is that humans regard themselves as categorically superior in value to nonhumans and can do what they will to them. It doesnt matter that innocent lives are subjected to worse treatment than the most despised criminals-there is a double standard-dictated by a mythological belief in human superiority.

When pressed on this one might cite intelligence or a soul or Divine or Evolutionary favor as the reason for this superiority–without realizing that such qualities are as arbitrary and subjective as skin colour or gender. The universe-weather, gravity-or invisible and mute deities–do not grant humans special rights because they possess any of these qualities. In the big picture attempting to place an absolute objective importance on a trait is as ludicrous as suggesting the ability to dribble a basketball is of divine significance. Only those that consider the trait valuable give it importance. There is no demonstrable outside judge.

This is the crux of the matter. Supremacism. While a member of any race or gender can be racist or sexist, only humans can be observed to be regard their species as superior in value as a group to others and base their moral laws around this belief. Speciesism or Anthropocentrism suggests an instinctual impulse-a  natural tendency to regard one’s “group” as superior in worth. But humans constantly discriminate and exploit each other–this is why we have moral laws-to discourage this behavior. The reality of humans preying upon other humans when given the chance is the ultimate foil to those who attempt to argue that humans deserve special rights.
If you propose human superiority based upon any subjective criteria or trait then someone else could use any other subjective criteria or trait to justify racial or gender or religious or class or any other superiority. This can only be avoided by extending the concept of moral rights beyond humans.

When discussing vivisection it helps to bring up simple truths like the need of human test subjects for medical research. This is a fact the vivisectors cannot deny. Every animal test requires human trials.

It can also be useful to mention Pfizer’s experiments on African villagers in the 1990s.
Why? Because it shows that the big mainstream drug companies recognize the importance of using humans in research.

Also one can mention the 19th century Dr James Sims who experimented on slaves and was president of the American Medical Association. This is useful because it demonstrates that even the medical establishment can support someone who is doing experiments we would call unethical.

This has additional value in the type of attack that animal activists constantly face–the accusation that they have benefited from exploitation that they condemn and are hypocrites. But human rights advocates have also benefited from exploitation they condemn-not only Sims and Nazi Research or the activities of big drug companies but the general history of any country can be traced to wars, murder, crime. Human rights activists are not expected to be perfect while animal rights activists are. This is the true double standard and hypocrisy.

The key to a successful argument is taking the lead–forcing the opposition to defend itself. Too often animal activists react–respond, defend, instead of going on the offense.

This  is especially true in another typical attack–“your child or your dog.”  Vivisectors will claim that animal activists have to choose–but why should they? Vivisectors are not miracle workers–they cannot torture a dog and produce a cure. There is no ticking clock. Furthermore, when such a question is posed–a “you are either with us or against us” ultimatum, you can simply turn it around on the accuser.
Ask them who would they choose if the choice was their child or a stranger’s. If they choose a stranger then it means they love someone else’s child more than their own. If they choose their child then they must support using strangers in medical research.
This exposes the human supremacy bias and double standard morality. The best way to fight it is to use reality and common sense observation.
If humans have a natural impulse to stick together and protect their own, why do they lock their doors?

This is common sense.

The animal  activist is often told he or she must provide an alternative to vivisection, and usually they are ready with a list of scientific methods that do not require the torture of innocent lives, but this is beside the point. It is not up to the animal activist to supply an alternative to vivisection any more than an abolitionist would be expected to supply an alternative to slave labor. The onus is on the vivisector’s side to come up with ways of exploring medical research that do not violate basic morality and decency.

A great obstacle to progress in animal rights advocacy is the lack of unified moral position among the supporters and the blurring of the line between it and animal welfare, which is often adversarial to the objectives of animal rights. As we have seen with vegetarian/vegan advocacy, the emphasis on cruelty and not rights has led to a state of affairs where the morality of meat eating is confused with how the victims are treated before slaughter. I think one reason for this is the promotion of Peter Singer views on sentience and the need to reduce suffering. The right not to suffer needlessly has become the central point, not the right to be treated with equal respect by humans.

If the issue returned to its roots and the myth of human supremacy was debunked (an easy task), then animal rights advocacy would benefit greatly.

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Common Sense Anti-Vivisection Summary Argument

Vivisection is unethical. It is a perversion of altruism. The deliberate premeditated torture of innocent beings in ways that would not be done to the most despised criminals in history and calling it an act of compassion. Like evicting a family from their home to help a homeless person and calling oneself kind. The torture is excused by a mythological claim that humans are superior in value as a group to their victims and can do as they wish–but any trait put forth to suggest human superiority-from intellect to a soul to divine or Natural favor to survival of the fittest to contractualism etc are based on subjective personal whim and not absolute–not only can the claim that all humans possess said quality or attribute be disputed, but  Nature or alleged Deities and the actions of humans do not demonstrate this supremacy. The claim of human supremacy because of intellect or a soul or Manifest Destiny or anything else is as arbitrary as claims that an orange is superior in the universe to an apple or that one human is superior to another as an absolute fact if they can dribble a basketball. The universe does not make judgement calls.
Weather and gravity do not grant special favor for humans, invisible and mute deities do not  make their “absolute” judgements clear enough so as to deter humans from devising their own personal religious views and killing those that disagree with them. And that is the greatest evidence of the falsehood of  human supremacy–humans routinely discriminate against and exploit other humans-to the point where we have laws to discourage this (but it still happens).

If you believe humans deserve special moral protection then your biggest problem is that such a biased non-objective and non absolute personal belief is no different in structure from that used by a racial supremacist or a religious bigot or any other human who would like to refine their discrimination beyond a species line(and Nature and alleged divinities do not discourage this from happening).
To be a human supremacist is to condone the logic of a racial supremacist which you condemn.

Your only way to close the loophole that would allow a racial/religious/class etc. supremacist from being able to defend their discrimination using the same non absolute and personal subjective that a human supremacist uses is to drop the arrogant myth and extend moral regard beyond human beings.

Any effort to dispute this is stricken by the reality of human predation upon itself.

If you say life is survival of the fittest and humans can do as they wish to nonhumans then someone can point out that some humans are stronger or smarter  than other humans and could victimize them based on that moral principle since human supremacy cannot be proven (Nature/Deities are not shown to intervene).
If you say morality is based on the ability to honour moral contracts then children, the mentally impaired, and criminals should be left out of the benefits if you apply the standard fairly since human supremacy cannot be proven.
If you say a divine being states humans are superior then someone else can make the same claim but use race or gender or religious preference or appearance as their basis for discrimination.
This happens even with our laws designed to discourage such actions.

If you say morality needs to be perfect and humans could not extend moral regard to all beings at all times therefore the logical dividing line should be human status–then the same imperfection is true for human rights. If the fact that we cannot stop child abuse or homicide doesnt mean we shouldnt try or that concentration camps are justified, then the fact that one cannot stop the accidental killing of an insect or microbe doesnt mean vivisection labs are justified.

 

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Mark Twain on the Inferiority of Humans to other Animals, and Its Importance in the Animal Rights Argument

“I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man.  I find the result humiliating to me.  For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.”

Mark Twain, the Damned Human Race

Although Mark Twain is widely read, not so widely read is one of his last essay works, Letters From the Earth, often titled in collections as the Damned Human Race, in which he summarized his views on Human Nature. They were not encouraging.

Using the daily newspaper as reference, he pointed out examples of human behavior (wars, domestic abuse, crime, greed, perversion) demonstrating that humans were not rational or as benign as they claim.

This in itself is nothing startling to many people who contemplate current events or history.
We know humans can be rotten. To err is human. But there is usually added to this a comforting proviso that while we do horrible things, we are still the best there is.
Even the most hateful fundamentalist religious adherent who believes that humanity has fallen from their creator and most shall burn in eternal hellfire will likely claim that they are still the highest achievement of the universe. In traditional Christianity, the natural world is regarded as the domain of Satan, and thus the reason a pact with the Devil can involve animal familiars or as in the case of Lycanthropy, the transformation into the stereotypically evil wolf.
During the Middle Ages and Inquisition period such a connection led to cats, dogs, roosters and other animals being tortured to make confessions in front of Church witch finders.

Likewise, the secularist will often make the distinction between human and animal while acknowledging a biological kinship, and fabricate a materialistic equivalent to the medieval Christian “Great Chain of Being.” Survival of the Fittest, Evolution, Progress.
Like the concept of demonic possession in Christian folklore, there is the Darwinian counterpart of Jekyll and Hyde, and the assumption that the most evil of human characteristics result from a primordial origin. Such a connection led to cats, dogs, roosters and other animals being tortured  in front of the secular equal to the clergy, the research scientist.

It is an ironic fact that the most stupid of human beings are often those who claim that humans are the most wonderful achievement in the universe, and usually due to some alleged intellectual greatness which they themselves claim to possess.
Mark Twain opined that a casual glance of human history and the daily news would actually show that humanity is the unreasoning and deranged animal and that by observing nonhuman behavior, the standards that humans claim  show  they  are categorically superior to other animals actually demonstrate the opposite.

He concluded that other lifeforms were the civilized ones, moderate in behavior, not greedy or excessively violent.
This work has resulted in Mark Twain being characterized as a misanthrope, which is usually defined negatively. But the writer was socially conscious, and commented about many of the issues of his day, including war and vivisection. Perhaps his bitter writing was merely a reflection of his experiences and disappointment after a lifetime of experiencing and studying human nature and its ill-effects.

The ideas he wrote about have considerable importance in animal rights. For the foundation of  every argument put forth in defense of systemic exploitation of nonhumans in farms, zoos, circuses, labs, or the wilderness is the belief that humans are categorically and empirically superior in value to other lifeforms. It is taken as axiomatic–something beyond question.
Even the animal rights side does not emphatically dismiss this belief, and are more inclined to base their efforts at persuasion on bolstering the value of nonhuman lives, not bringing humanity down to an equal level.

Evidence of this deranged state is the common tendency to slander other lifeforms and accuse them of being the true role models for evil.
The words humane and inhumane demonstrate this. To be kind is to be humane or human. To be cruel is to be inhumane or inhuman-nonhuman.
But as Twain realized:

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel.  He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.  It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals.”

I once encountered a man who said that the only thing that separates humanity from the other animals was the ability to make art.  I said we cannot be sure that a bird is always singing for some territorial or instinctual reason, it may well be a form of entertainment. I said what really separates humanity from other animals is the ability to be cruel and sadistic and take pleasure from knowing that you are causing suffering.
He protested, claiming that in observing his cat playing with a mouse, the cat seemed to enjoy the suffering he inflicted. I replied that it would truly be remarkable to discover that a cat not only thought about the physical and mental health of mice, but could then derive pleasure from destroying them as humans can and do. Perhaps they are also conscious of their own state of existence and have religion. I am more inclined to believe a bird can sing for entertainment than I am that a cat knows the suffering of a mouse. The evidence I would submit is that other cats do not gather around the cat to watch the mouse being tortured. Humans on the other hand have created great buildings to seat many thousands of their fellows to watch animals tortured to death. We have yet to find the type of egregious barbarity one observes in laboratories or cockfighting arenas (having two birds attack each wasn’t enough, they have to be fitted with sharp spurs and injected with drugs to make them more aggressive so they cause maximum damage to each other). No equivalent in the rest of nature.
In ancient Rome the Flavian Amphitheater, aka Coliseum, was constructed (by artists) for the sole purpose of accommodating various ways of killing. This included the slaughter of wild animals, the execution of war prisoners, the forced combat between children, the blind, the crippled, and acts of staged bestiality.

I told the man that he could not prove the cat was aware of the mouse’s suffering, but his observations revealed that in a characteristically human fashion he gained such entertainment value from watching the cat thus engaged that he could not bring himself to interrupt it.

I await proof that nonhuman animals have the equivalent of conducting learned helplessness experiments or urging a suicidal person to jump from a building or laughing at the disabled.

Humans are capable of mental torment, verbal abuse, and psychological torture. They can derive sexual arousal from suffering, as evidenced by the existence of Crush videos. In Ancient Rome prostitutes were said to have gathered outside the Coliseum to service spectators who became aroused by the violence within.

In animal rights discussions one encounters adversaries who are  so  smug and arrogant about their childish illusion of human superiority that they mock the suffering of nonhumans.
In such cases highlighting the endless examples of humans taking pleasure from the torture of nonhuman victims has little effect, however, if you cite examples of humans torturing other humans, you may generate some shame or embarrassment in them to counter the severe arrogance. All you need is access to a daily news source.
You can find endless examples of humans preying upon each other–injecting offspring with Aids viruses to escape alimony payments, chaining starving beaten children to beds or rooms for years until they become dysfunctional (usually treating them as they would a chained dog or laboratory specimen, but the human supremacist isn’t easily moved by such stories). Then there are the more exotic cases, like the gang of youths who deceptively sought aid from a mother and son only to force them to engage in a sexual act and then doused the son’s eyes with cleaning liquid as many a lab scientist has done to rabbits. Or parents having sex with babies.

One response to this factual assault is to highlight human altruism, including wildlife rehabilitation.
But we know that other species have been observed exhibiting what may be characterized as altruistic behavior, even across species, so this is not an exclusively human quality either.

Furthermore, mad experiments attempting to examine altruistic sentiments among captive animals have shown that even when tortured with electric shocks, nonhuman animals would not harm another to spare themselves.
By contrast the Milgram experiments demonstrated that not only were humans quite able  to harm another in similar circumstances, they were willing to do so merely to satisfy an authority figure.

And much of what we call human stewardship is actually damage control-attempting to correct mistakes caused by human action. Domestication, pollution, deforestation.

It is commonly the case that the animal rights advocate is accused of romanticizing nature, much as factions of the human supremacist-leaning ecology movement will romanticize pre-industrial human societies, turning a blind eye to their destructive practices like slavery, animal sacrifice, and mutilation found among some tribal communities.

One does of course observe violence and cruelty in nature beyond human influence, but to extrapolate from that to conclude that nonhumans engage in the kinds of calculated sadism and lack of behavioral control that is so common among human cultures is not only unsubstantiated and unfair, but typically human. We are far more eager to slander other lifeforms with the worst of our traits than to assume the opposite.

Human inferiority in comparison to other lifeforms using the very standards humans put forth in an effort to prove their superiority is a difficult pill to swallow for some, but on the other hand, pride or hubris have been considered a negative quality for millennium and exposing this can be taken as a noble purpose.

How an identification of this truth can aid in animal rights theory stems from the fact of all objections to animal rights being based upon this unfounded claim of human superiority. It is accepted as absolute, objective truth when such a judgement (a is greater than b due to the quality of c) cannot be shown to be possible by Nature–it would require a mind-like function behind the universe that plays favorites. Natural phenomenon cannot be observed to alter its functions to accommodate the alleged superior worth of human beings. Gravity, weather, volcanic eruptions, and the uncontrolled violent behavior of humans themselves do not demonstrate this alleged truth.

But the spiritual or specific revelatory theistic alternative which argues that a supreme human-like being is the ultimate judge cannot be proven as an absolute either(any attempt to give such a being human-like attributes can be questioned–an absolute would have to be beyond all doubt to be defined as one). And one can counter the dictates of one supposedly divine being with those of another. Again Twain:

“Man is the Religious Animal.  He is the only Religious Ani­mal.  He is the only animal that has the True Religion, several of them.  He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isnt straight.  He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brothers path to happiness and heaven.  He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomets time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of cen­turies, he was at it in England in Marys day, he has been at it ever since he first saw the light, he is at it today in Crete (as per the telegrams quoted above) he will be at it somewhere else tomor­row.  The higher animals have no religion.  And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter.  I wonder why?  It seems questionable taste.”

Without this proof of human superiority then it is categorically and logically the same as a racial supremacist who claims their race is superior to others based upon skin colour, which they also say is of absolute importance (again without proof since neither nature nor a divine being seems to show this truth in the behavior of weather or physics or humanity). Same for a gender supremacist or a religious supremacist or any other criteria for  discrimination cited by humans. Skin colour or gender or brain capacity, intelligence, religious persuasion, dna, the ability to understand moral contracts, any and all such criteria is equally subjective in the macrocosmic sense of things.We may think intellect is of greater value that skin colour but neither Nature nor a Divine Being settle the matter.

This means that a human who does not value humanity as a species but discriminates against other humans according or race, or gender or wealth or age or religion can defend their position ethically by using the same basis that a human supremacist does in their discrimination against nonhumans. This is intolerable for those who are trying to establish a consistent and fair moral system that protects humans as a whole. In which case the only solution is to drop the claims of superiority based upon subjective criteria and extend the ethical concern to human interaction with nonhuman life. It is a one way proposition since nonhumans cannot be reasonably expected to understand or honor human moral systems and to punish them for that inability would be like punishing a man without eyes for not being able to see.
This would cover the industrialized exploitation of nonhumans-from laboratories to farms to zoos. (see  this for full details on argument).

I would suggest that in lieu of being unable to stop the kinds of injustice and exploitation that goes on endlessly (though it should be highlighted that most exploitation of nonhumans involves domesticated ones, and that is easier to eliminate than child abuse as long as humans can breed), one way to find some consolation is in crushing the arrogant spirits of those shadow puppet intellectuals who claim humans are the greatest achievement in the universe.
Arm yourself with access to the daily news and study the habits of fauna in your neighborhood and get on the battlefield.
Watching the smugness melt from those with enough intelligence to feel shame can be a satisfying feeling (being humans, we cannot help but take pleasure from the suffering of others we know to be suffering, but at least its in the cause of standing up for the downtrodden).

“Man is the Reasoning Animal.  Such is the claim.  I think it is open to dispute.  Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal.  Note his history, as sketched above.  It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal.  His record is the fantastic record of a maniac.  I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.”

Mark Twain, The Damned Human Race

Notes:

For a modern confirmation of Mark Twain’s views on human violence as compared to nonhuman violence simply read through the entries on here.

There may be those who would attempt to refute the overwhelming evidence of human moral inferiority by highlighting examples of nonhumans bullying another  as proof that they do take pleasure from causing suffering. This is a very human assumption that the enjoyment stems from knowledge of the other animal’s psychological state and not from the bodily pleasure of being aggressive. An enjoyment of violence can have nothing to do with how it causes suffering to another, but we do know there are humans who take enjoyment from the suffering caused to others, even if they are merely spectators in an arena, watching it on television, or laughing at a story about someone’s suffering. I will not hold my breath waiting for evidence that there are nonhumans walking about who take pleasure from the suffering they cause to others like your common vivisector can be proven to just by reading their research notes.

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The Common Sense Anti-Vivisection Argument

         The best argument against vivisection is grounded in common sense and is as irrefutable as basic mathematics.

           Unfortunately,  the popular argument against (nonhuman) animal research  is often an emotional appeal using images of cruelty and/or relies heavily on academic philosophy and scientific studies.

            A picture does speak a thousand words, but to assume that people will be against vivisection merely by showing them torture photos underestimates the ability of the human mind to accept and excuse violence and suffering. Rene Descartes, who famously said, “I think therefore I am,” demonstrated the limits of his cognitive ability by suggesting that the cries emitted from the animals he experimented on were merely the crashing together of mechanical gears. The undercover videos from Huntingdon Life Sciences that revealed puppies being punched in the face and technicians laughing as they tortured a monkey are nothing new. In a correspondence of author Lewis Carroll, a friend mentions attending a scientific demonstration in which the audience of medical students mocked the screams of a vivisected animal upon the operating table. There are humans who enjoy causing suffering and take pleasure from witnessing suffering.

          And the position that nonhuman animal research is scientific fraud, a waste of time, and dangerous to human health, has a couple of serious problems in its power to persuade.

            First of all, I suspect that many vivisectors are probably sociopaths and incapable of comprehending the emotional states of others unless it has some benefit to themselves, and if you have ever tried reasoning with such a person you know that a fire hydrant has a better chance of singing an aria than a sociopath does of understanding compassion or fairness.

          Animal experimentation must be a very attractive profession to such people—why torture cats and rats in your basement and risk being placed on an FBI serial killer watch list when you can do it in a university or hospital and be eligible for taxpayers’ money and prizes started by a weapons manufacturer?

          But even if you have undeniable proof that the research is useless or a danger to human health, one should contemplate this question: is a fence sitting audience member more likely to trust the word of an animal activist who says they are concerned about human health, or a corrupt  animal researcher funded by the side that supplies drugs and treatments? Squabbles over research data that ends in he said/she said exchanges are a gift to vivisection supporters. It allows them to hide behind technical data that audiences wouldn’t understand, which works in favor of the status quo.

          The other problem is that if just a tiny shred of research using non human animals may yield knowledge, even if it’s obvious like discovering that fire can burn the skin of a mouse, then someone on the vivisection side is going to bellow about how that proves it is worthwhile.

          Your average vivisection supporter has zero respect for non human lives and regards them as disposable. Such people think they are better than mice, rats, cats, dogs etc. (maybe they give an exception to chimps and dolphins but if so it’s because they highlight the shared intelligence capacity). They cling to a belief in human supremacy as an absolute objective fact (even when they try to deny such a belief by hiding behind a survival of the fittest mantra).

          That enduring childish fable was discussed in the previous article and we’ll summarize the argument against it later on—but first we’ll run through the common sense reasons why vivisection cannot be justified.

          It is a perversion of altruism and compassion–you attempt to heal Peter by torturing and killing Paul. It is like trying to help a homeless man by kicking a family out of their house, beating them to death and moving the former in (except that finding a home for the homeless man is a sure thing–animal researchers have been trying to cure cancer for hundreds of years without success). The fact that the number one answer to criticism of animal research is a citation of alleged benefits proves that animal researchers lack a common sense understanding of morality and ethics–since we wouldn’t allow murderers or thieves to cite the benefits they or their family attain from their actions to justify murder or theft.

           It is medical fraud–if you wouldn’t think it is rational to find a cure for diseases in giraffes by experimenting on elephants why would you think it is rational to cure disease in humans by using mice, rats, dogs or chimps? If you think animal researchers are strictly motivated by compassion, how many new drugs do they give away for free? Animal research is big business for scientists and cage manufacturers, and the former have a vested interest in conjuring up new experiments to keep their paychecks, while telling the public that the research is important and a “breakthrough.” A week does not go by without another report of a scientific miracle thanks to non human animal experiments; although usually with the proviso that human trials are years away.

           It shares some similarities with ancient augury and the practices of witch doctors. Pagan priests would cut open live animals and read their entrails to encourage the hope and health of society (a good harvest, easy childbirth). Those that opposed it endangered society by angering the gods. Today,  researchers claim that if nonhuman animal research stopped, the world would descend into a hell of disease and misery (without explaining why society and culture endured even during the Medieval plague). By their logic, humans should have been extinct eons ago. Animal researchers promote the view that life works according to a  quasi-Darwinian “Great Chain of Being” hierarchy where animals follow a ladder of complexity–starting with worms and ending with humanity, and that you can take them apart and reassemble them as easily as a jigsaw puzzle. If animal research is necessary for producing safe drugs and treatments why then do we need clinical trials on humans? Why does Pfizer have to conduct medical trials in Africa? Why do drugs like Thalidomide get pulled after being shown to be safe in nonhuman animals? If one had a choice between a drug tested only on rats or chimps, and a drug tested only on humans, which would you deem safer for people? The answer determines one’s belief in the importance on nonhuman animals in research.

           Animal research treats nonhuman animals in ways that would be considered an atrocity if done to even the most despised criminal in history-even though they would yield safer research results–and yet, nonhuman animals commit no crimes. Why do they deserve such treatment?

           Such discussions never go far without someone saying: “if you had to save the life of your child, would you not sacrifice a rat?” Ignoring the fact that scientists cannot find cures for illnesses by simply torturing a few or thousands of rats to death, the answer to this should be no less controversial than if you had a choice between your child and a neighbor’s. If you chose your child, does it mean you want the neighbor’s child to be tortured in a lab? If you refuse to choose, does that mean you do not love your child as much as your neighbor’s? This type of question is not raised, even when common sense tells us that the best and safest research model for human disease is another human. If finding a cure for disease is so important, why aren’t scientists and patients advocating the use of criminals or volunteers in medical experiments? Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research. The more recent claims that genetic engineering can alter the physiology of nonhuman animals so they are better models for human research, which led to a renewed explosion in  vivisection experiments, also exploits public ignorance, since it requires faith that scientists understand Nature so well that they can predict how the physiology of other species will react to the altered genetics. But even if they could turn a nonhuman into a perfect copy of human anatomy with the same responses to chemicals, the torture and death that would be required to reach such a point could not be justified by the discriminatory ethical arguments based on the false belief in human supremacy as mentioned below.

            Researchers and their proponents say animal rights activists can’t protest animal research if they have benefited from research that has been linked to animal research experiments. But they ignore that research on humans against their consent has also been done and the research preserved.  Do they make the same demand of human rights activists that they cannot use anything that may be traced back to human experimentation? The work of Joseph Mengele is well known, but there is also James Marion Sims, former head of the American Medical Association who experimented on black slaves and was awarded for his humanitarian efforts by a statue in New York’s Central park.

            Researchers say they need to use nonhuman animals for research because they are like us–and yet they say they deserve no rights because they are not like us. This highlights the real issue–the motivation for animal research beyond money and sociopathic tendencies  is an arrogant belief that humans as a species are superior in value to all other life, based upon arbitrary, non-absolute and subjective criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination and exploitation. Sims and Mengele thought the same way.

            But such a belief in supremacy does not stand up to scrutiny.

           Those who believe in a moral code of universal human rights but deny extending rights to nonhumans have two significant problems. The criteria(s) they use to justify this discrimination (faculty of reason, a soul, divine or evolutionary favor, moral reciprocity, survival of the fittest, might makes right, individual selfishness, a bundle of characteristics or vaguely defined ones etc.) cannot be proven to be possessed by all humans or lacking in all nonhumans. i.e. some humans are more intelligent than others, some nonhumans are more rational than some humans, humans can and do willfully break laws and yet the most despised of criminals is supposedly more deserving of care and respect than the most innocent of beings.

           Secondly, the importance of such criteria can be doubted– shown not to be objective absolute truth, but subjective, non absolute, personal opinion criteria, conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. Nature(or invisible deities), through environmental phenomenon, weather, earthquakes, and the actions of other human beings, cannot be shown to care or favor humans over other lifeforms as an absolute objective fact. This subjectivity means that someone who may discriminate against other humans (which happens despite the laws and philosophy designed to curb such incidents) using criteria that is just as subjective (skin colour, gender, class, religion, survival of the fittest, individual selfishness, etc) cannot be effectively condemned by a human rights advocate who denies rights to nonhumans, since both are discriminating according to subjective non absolute criteria of value they deem to be important. Pragmatic appeals to self-interest and the Golden Rule are also dubious, since a dictator or criminal may exploit and kill and never need to care about the rights of others or face prosecution, and a man living on one side of the globe does not necessarily have a practical reason to care what happens to humans in a far away country.

           The only way for a human rights advocate to consistently argue that one ought to have systemic universal human rights and an ethical code based upon this idea is to extend the concept of fairness and justice to nonhumans as much as possible. Because humans develop ethical codes to govern human behavior, and nonhumans do not appear to employ or require such codes in their social interactions, they benefit from the consistency requirement in human concepts of fairness and justice without needing to reciprocate. To expect them to adhere to human moral contracts in order to be eligible for moral regard is like expecting a blind man to be able to read and then punishing him for failing to (and conveniently overlooks that children, the mentally handicapped, and criminals are not held to the same requirement).

           That moral regard may not be possible or practical in all situations due to particular factors (such as scale or absentmindedness or the inability to be perfect), but since the same is true of inter-human relations, it does not invalidate the merits of the argument or provide a loophole for humans to justify systemic exploitation of nonhuman lifeforms (since one could then justify the same for humans).
The approach uses the lack of an absolute, objective certainty in the claim of human supremacists and the reality of human discrimination against and predation upon other humans to force the observer into a choice, either extend rights to non humans, or accept that their belief allows humans to discriminate against anyone, including other humans, thus undermining their desire for an application of universal human rights.

        Notes on human experimentation:
July 1, 2002 issue of The Nation. Globalizing Clinical Research: Big Pharma Tries Out First World Drugs on Unsuspecting Third World Patients by Sonia Shaw.  “By the end of July a US district court will decide whether drug giant Pfizer should stand trial in the United States for presiding over a coercive, botched 1996 experiment on Nigerian children with meningitis. In a class-action suit filed last August, thirty Nigerian families say the company violated the Nuremberg Code by forcing an unapproved, risky experiment on unwitting subjects who suffered brain damage, loss of hearing, paralysis and death as a result.”  
From Robert and Roberta Kalechofsky’s Micah Book site  “In 1987, the Supreme Court heard a case in which a U.S. soldier sued the government for having used him as a test case for LSD experiments, without his knowledge (Stanley vs. The United States). The court voted 5 to 4 against the victim. For a recent review of experiments conducted on human beings in the U.S., without their informed consent, see Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests over Populated Areas, by Leonard A. Cole, Subjected to Science, by Susan Lederer, Johns Hopkins Press (This books studies experimentation on human beings between the two world wars); and Stranger at The Bedside by David J. Rothman, which studies this problem in the period after the Second World War. There are many more books on this subject. Many of them can be found on the Internet, under “Human Experimentation,” or at Amazon.com, under the same heading.”
James Marion Sims’ work can be found in H.A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Knopf Doubleday,  2006
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