Animal rights are concepts that are difficult to ethically define because humans define ethics. If people can not even define ethics for themselves, it is difficult to define them for the animal kingdom. Luckily, one could say that our Earth, as a living entity, creates a system of ethics (Naturalism would be the closest example). It could easily be said that humans actually hyper-extended ethics to a point where much of it has become absurd. Philosophy usually builds on itself, like science and language and almost everything. The laws of nature, however, inherently oblige humanity to protect animals and act ethically in regards to those animals.
Do not misinterpret laws of nature to necessarily coincide with what is considered “human nature.” There is no theory behind laws of nature; these laws are observable and fairly simple, sometimes overly so. There is no justification for nature, there is no reason that nature exists as it does. Freud argued that human nature has two main drives – sex and aggression.1 Though that may have been true for a more primitive man (homo erectus, for example), modern human beings have much more going on. The best definition of what actual “drives” of humans are is, “Biological needs, often in connection with body chemistry and hormones, lead to signal activation in the hypothalamus of the mid-brain. Such signals are projected by way of nerve connections to the forebrain. They typically bring high neural valuation and thought focus on such strategy formulations that lead to the satisfaction of those drives. Drives cause satisfaction-oriented thought and behavior patterns.”2 It could be said that animals behave the same way, however because humans are conscious of it, they are at a higher mental level.
Freud would argue that humans have agendas and that makes them unlike anything else within the animal kingdom. They do not simply think, “I want to kill” and kill; they rationalize it. Even a hunter consciously analyses how and when he will shoot, whereas it is more instinctive with animals. This is not to say animals are not conscious, it is simply to say they are not conscious of being conscious. This is entirely theoretical, however, because as humans we can not accurately know what animals are conscious of. The idea of consciousness, however, is the most common explanation of the separation between humans and animals. It is through this argument that some pro-animal testing believers rationalize the practice; if animals are not conscious then do they really know that they are feeling any pain or experiencing cruelty? By that rationale, everyone should make fun of severely mentally handicapped people with impunity – who would they be harming?
To further establish the idea of laws of nature, science must be disregarded. Science is one of the worst things to ever happen as far as the “advancement” of the human race simply because of the arrogance of people. Each civilization always considers themselves to be the best because they are, at least as they see it, the best yet. This would ordinarily not be a problem except for things like “beliefs.” Examples of human arrogance are everywhere: Socrates’ death sentence, the life-imprisonment of Galileo by the Catholic Church, the attack at Waco, TX; people are unwilling to accept new ideas because they are too busy holding on to what they already think they understand. Laws of nature are not like the laws of science; they do not have additions or subtractions. A person can make a new discovery about the laws of nature, but that does not change nature. When a new discovery is made in science, other aspects of science must be redefined as well.
Gravity is a wonderful example of a law of nature that became a scientific law. Ever since there were objects on the Earth’s surface, they have been pulled downward towards the surface. Scientifically, it has been shown that our planet actually rotates on an axis and causes everything on the surface to compact itself towards the core axis point. Newton explained that gravitational force (Gf) is equal to the universal gravitational constant (G) multiplied by the quotient of the product of the masses of the two objects in the scenario (m1 and m2) over the distance between those two objects squared (r2). The equation looks something like this . That equation led to all sorts of innovations; had it not been discovered, our lives would have been dramatically different. Since Newton defined gravity only really knowing how Earth existed, his definition failed to explain things like black holes. To this day there are few competent theories about black holes because so much is based in previous methodology that must be constantly rehashed. While science continuously redefines gravity, the law of nature remains consistent: gravity pulls.3
This tells us that science is an unsound basis for argument. Building an ethical theory around science simply leads to disappointment and a need to restructure. By simply looking at the world and seeing how it works, one can simply deduct what “should be,” which is the entire idea of ethics.
I propose that the laws are nature are based in a few simple concepts. The most obvious law of nature is each organism’s inherent right to natural life. Natural life is dependent upon both an organism and its environment existing naturally. Some laws of nature coincide with human society, some do not. In nature there are no laws about murder; in our society we have deemed the killing of another being to be wrong. It is peculiar, however, how humans are the only species that continuously kills its own as well as other species of life; obviously an aspect of human nature that disagrees with the laws of nature. When two mountain goats meet in combat, they run towards each other butting heads attempting to knock the other unconscious with their horns; normally, one will give up before that happens. When this happens, the loser exposes his hindquarters (his weakest point) signaling defeat and the winner, who could easily crush his opponent, simply turns around walks away. It is interesting to think that perhaps mountain goats have better ethics than humans.4
Within the laws of nature, only one drive exists – self-preservation. If, for some reason, one of those mountain goats had to take out the other to save himself, he would not have hesitated and he would not have felt bad about it. The act of feeding is an example of how necessary violence is in nature, and yet how civilized it is in comparison to human violence. For a lion to naturally feed he must kill – the same is true for all organisms – one can not create anything without first destroying something, it is a law of nature. Since the idea of killing for self-preservation is valid according to the laws of nature, then all creatures have a right to destruction, at least to some degree. The largest difference between animals and humans is the amount of waste produced for “self-preservation.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there is a distinct possibility that humans will kill twenty percent of all species on Earth within the next twenty years;5 our single species may destroy over three-hundred thousand others in a generation.6 That is definitely not natural. Most of the destruction done to the world is being done by corporations and governments, which are of course driven by us, the citizens of the Evil Empire. Modern humans have updated nature’s law of “self-preservation;” it is now “livelihood-preservation.” Indeed, consumption is natural for a group that does nothing but consume, but that does not make it right for the world. There is no group consciousness for the world, so humans, as the self-declared “conscious beings,” need to take responsibility for all of it. Sometimes, sacrifices are made; it comes with the job of being at the top of the mountain. Animal testing is cruel, vicious, torturous, sadistic, and generally horrific. Sometimes, such as the case with penicillin, a product that could save a human easily kills a rabbit, the animal most commonly used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic testing because of their rapid reproductive rates. Over 100 million animals are killed each year so that 200,000 new drugs7 (which is an interesting statistic since approximately 200,000 people dies from pharmaceutically-induced deaths each year) 8. And, as a human, I have little problem with the idea of multiple animals being made to die, even cruelly, so that I may live, it is natural law. What I do disagree with is that animals receive two-thousand times the death rate than humans and reap none of the benefits.
With technology where it is today, there are a variety of tests that can be done without animals, and though I do still believe both animal and human testing are crucial aspects of product safety, I think the numbers need to decrease. Overall, humans have to realize that by destroying the creatures that we cohabitate with and rely upon to live, we are essentially killing ourselves. It goes beyond our animals, it relates to every aspect of environmental ethics. Humans are consumption monsters, and there is no way for animals to adapt to us, so we must adapt around them. As long as corporations, financially-driven governments, and most of all a population that supports both institutions exists, the animal kingdom and the world environment is at grave risk.
1 Freud, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id (The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud). James Strachey (Editor), Joan Riviere (Translator). W.W. Norton & Company; 1990.
2 Human Drives. H. Schwab, 2003. http://www.schwab-writings.com/bm/bme/4.html.
3 Newton, Sir Issac. Principia, The: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. I. Bernard Cohen (Translator), Anne Whitman (Translator). University of California Press; 1999.
5 MacKinnon, Barbara. Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues. Wadsworth, a division of Thompson Learning, Inc., 2001. p. 401.
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