It is irritating, frustrating and just plain ridiculous to see the double standards that exist around us, particularly within the legal realm, when it comes to comparing the positions advocated by those on the so-called liberal left and those more often lumped into the conservative right. The examples are abundant; frankly, one would have to try harder not to see them than to see them. In reading through a news magazine recently, for instance, I read a blurb about a judge in New York who granted “human-style rights” to a couple of chimpanzees kept by Stony Brook University. Barbara Jaffe, the judge, granted habeas corpus to the chimps and ruled that the school had to provide “legally sufficient reason” to keep them in in captivity. This was after, by the way, three other courts in New York declined to grant the petition of the Nonhuman Rights Project. If monkeys now can be given the same rights that humans can, what possible reason could there be for keeping them locked up? After all, the only legally-permissible reason to keep a human incarcerated is as a consequence for breaking the law. How might the good humans at Stony Brook demonstrate that these chimps have broken the law? What laws could they possibly break? Oh, that’s right–we do not have any laws for primates, because thus far our legislators and judges have confined themselves to making laws for human beings! You may accuse me of screaming that the sky is falling, but beware: it will not take long, if Judge Jaffe’s ruling stands, before the Nonhuman Rights Project or some other equally inane group will argue that humans cannot make laws for chimpanzees because we do not fully understand them. The next step will be the argument that either there can be no laws for chimpanzees or that chimpanzees must be able to make their own laws. If chimpanzees get to make their own laws, guess what we will have? Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
It will not be long, either, before these human-style rights will be extended to other animals, too. Your pet dog or cat? Sorry, got to let them go. Unless you can come up with some “legally sufficient reason” to keep Fido and Fluffy they will have to be released and take care of themselves. Never mind that you were providing food, shelter and medical care for the little critter, there’s just no good reason why you should be allowed to keep them locked up. Do you have a bird, hamster,turtle or goldfish? Sorry…they’ll have to released too. Do you own horses? Forget it. There can be no legally compelling reason to force an animal to let you sit on its back while you ride it wherever you dictate, whether for pleasure or in racing around barrels or between poles. Do you have cows? Turn them loose. How could you possibly argue in a court of law, with a straight face, that you should be allowed to squeeze or otherwise manipulate the teats of a cow in order to collect the milk she has produced? We will just have to figure another way to get milk, cream and cheese–or develop some substitute that contains no animal products. In fact, we will all have to become vegetarians because how could we be so arrogant as to believe that our own nourishment is a legally sufficient reason for an animal to be put to death?
This is all quite absurd, I know, and I surely hope we will never get anywhere near this as reality. Unfortunately, though, too many people–like Barbara Jaffe–fail to consider what the ramifications of their little decisions will be when taken to their logical conclusions. It’s Hercules and Leo today (the Stony Brook chimps) but it’s the entire animal kingdom tomorrow. More later; I think I will go grill a burger and have a milkshake while I still can.