Political Animals

Damon Linker argues against granting animals human rights:

I’m all in favor of treating animals decently, with special sensitivity to their pain and suffering. By all means, let’s pass stricter regulation of factory farming and laboratory experimentation. But the basis of these reforms should not be any quality we presume the animals themselves to possess. It should grow out of an expansion of the sphere of human concern and sympathy, along the lines of the old aristocratic ideal of noblesse oblige — the notion that one’s superiority obliges one to act nobly toward commoners. In other words, we should treat animals decently not because they’re just like human beings, but rather because they’re not.

The animal rights movement, by contrast, invariably takes the opposite tack — either reducing us to the level of animals or attempting to raise them up to ours. Both should be resisted. … [T]o demonstrate that it possesses inviolable rights, a chimp or bonobo would need to do nothing less than “stand up and, led by a love of justice and a sense of self-worth, insist that the world recognize and respect its dignity.” That’s what it would take to prove that the members of an animal species possess the same intrinsic moral worth as human beings. Anything short of that is an expression of human self-deception. And blindness about all that we are. Losing sight of that reality and truth in an act of advocacy-driven conceptual obfuscation is simply too high a price to pay, even for the promise of alleviating the suffering of our closest cousins in the animal kingdom.

Earlier Dish on giving human rights to chimps here and here.