Animal rights activists do draw the line

Tibor Machan

Two years ago, a shark bit off the arm of a boy in Florida and was shot by a ranger in an effort to recover the boy’s arm. I wrote about how revealing it is that animal rights/liberation folks — those who claim there’s no basic difference between people and other species — didn’t protest the killing of the shark. None showed up on TV, none wrote op-ed pieces for prominent papers. Nada.
More recently there has been more deafening silence by animal rights/liberation folks, this time in the wake of the SARS viral attack on the human species. David M. Graber wrote a review of Bill McKibben’s book, “The End of Nature,” for the Los Angeles Times.
Graber wrote: “Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
McKibben, in turn, quotes John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, issuing the following prayer: “Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty.”
Given all the support that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are receiving from big-name celebrities, and given PETA’s stand on the similarity between the rights of human beings and those of other primates — actually, any sentient being, for some members — one would think the appearance of SARS, and for that matter the prevalence of malaria and the various influenzas, would constitute a blessing.
Accordingly, all those massive public-policy efforts made to contain SARS or any other disease that kills human beings would have to be something these folks would actively oppose and protest. But once again one hears nothing from PETA & Co., concerning how wonderful SARS is because it could indeed be just the virus that fulfills the wishes of animal rights/liberation activists.
What is the problem here? Why not stand up fair and square in support of a sentiment that is only logical — with all these human beings “murdering” and “abusing” all varieties of non-human animals, surely it would be desirable for the human race to vanish and SARS or some other viral epidemic would be just the thing to achieve that end, just as Graber and Muir observed?
So, why not seize the opportunity to speak out against those who wish to go to all kinds of lengths to kill off the virus? Indeed, perhaps viruses have rights, too, so how dare we go on a warpath against them, in favor of saving human lives?
Yes, I am trying to show the absurdity of the animal rights or liberation theory by observing that when the chips are down, advocates aren’t willing to go all the way to stand up for their cause. That they aren’t seems to me to show something important about their position, namely that it is not really tenable. If it were, there would be no problem with cheering on the SARS virus.
Just consider: Animal rights and liberation activists contend that recognizing the rights of animals is but the same development now as the recognition of the rights of blacks was a few centuries and the rights of women but several decades ago (and not everywhere at that).
Well, most abolitionists and suffragettes didn’t hesitate cheering on those developments that helped their cause, wherever they may have occurred. They were vigilant and consistent all the way and advocated their cause no matter how much opposition and lack of popularity they faced.
Why isn’t this happening within the ranks of animal rights and liberationists? Because they have an incredible position and at some level they know it, that’s why.

Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at