A Discussion on Animal Rights”Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; The Declaration ofIndependence holds these rights to be self evident and unalienable. In theeighteenth century when these words were written they were called natural rights,today we call them human rights” (McShea 34). The issue of whether or not togrant animal rights such as those that humans retain, is a greatly disputedissue. Philosophers, clergyman, and politicians have argued the point of animalrights for years, but without success. Animal right is an extremely intricateissue that involves the question of animal intelligence, animal activist groups,and the pros and cons of granting animals their rights.
Psychologists around the world, who have studied nonhuman primates,argue that these animals possess the capacity to communicate. They go on toexplain that a communication barrier is all that separates humans from animals.
If they bridged that barrier, then humans could talk with animals. Beatrice andRobert Gardner, two psychologists of the University of Nevada, realized that thepharynx and larynx of the chimpanzee are not suited for human speech. Sincechimpanzees are far superior to humans in manual dexterity, the Garners decidedto try to teach chimpanzees American Sign Language or Ameslan. The Gardners andothers studied these chimpanzees, Washoe, Lucy, and Lana. These threechimpanzees learned to use and could display a working vocabulary of 100 to 200words. They also distinguished between different grammatical patterns andsyntaxes (Sagan 615). Besides distinguishing, the chimpanzees also inventivelyconstructed new words and phrases. For example, when Washoe first saw a duckland on water, she gestured “water bird,” which is the same phrase used inEnglish. Washoe invented that gesture for the occasion (Sagan 615). Lucy alsodisplayed her creative mind by signing “candy drink” after tasting a watermelon.
The description “candy drink” is essentially the same word form as the English”water melon” (Sagan 615).
Another method of bridging the communication gap between humans andanimals is by computer. At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center inAtlanta, Georgia, researchers teach chimpanzees like Lana a specific computerlanguage called “Yerkish” (Sagan 616). “Yerkish” allows the chimpanzees to talkwith the computer by keyboarding in messages. The computer in turn respondsappropriately. While Lana types, she monitors her sentences on a computerdisplay and erases those sentences with grammatical errors. At one point whileLana typed an intricate sentence, her trainer mischievously and repeatedlyinterfered with her typing from a separate console. Lana, who had becomeaggravated by this, typed, “Please, Tim, leave room.” (Sagan 616).
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is a nonviolentanimal rights organization. They enforce the ideals that any exploitation ofanimals by humans is wrong and should be abolished. PETA, formed by Alex Pacheoand Ingrid Newkirk in 1984, has grown from a handful of members to anorganization with more than 35,000 members and a yearly income of over fivemillion dollars (Dejar 70). They quote Ingrid Newkirk as saying, “A rat is apig is a dog is a boy.” (Tapply 71). This quotation of Newkirk’s states herpurpose in organizing PETA and it also provides a platform of ideals for PETA.
They call another pro-animals group the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF.
ALF commits violent and illegal acts to make sure that their point is apparentto all. Like PETA, ALF also seeks to end all human exploitation of animals, butunlike PETA, ALF will use any means possible to achieve their goal.ALForiginated in England in 1974 by a man named Ronnie Lee. An anonymous woman whogoes by the pseudonym “Valerie,” organized the American branch of the ALF aftertraining in terrorist techniques in England. The American ALF made theirAmerican debut on Christmas Eve in 1982. She and two other members broke into alab at Howard University in Washington, D.C. They liberated thirty cats used inresearch to study the effects of drugs on nerve transmissions (Reed 38). Theactivists found the cats in poor condition. Deep incisions scarred some cats’backs and they were dragging their hind legs (Reed 38). While in the lab, theALF members photographed the cats and later turned the cats over to sympatheticveterinarians who treated and put the cats up for adoption. In June 1991, ALFclaimed credit for $800,000 worth of damage caused by arson at the NorthwestFarm Cooperative in Edmonds, Washington, a supplier of feed to mink ranches.
Totally opposed to any kind of animal exploitation, ALF does not indulge ineating eggs, honey, or dairy products.
On the other side of the coin is Putting People First (PPF). A grassroots organization made up of men and women who advocate the eating of meat,the wearing of furs and using animals in biomedical research. PPF takes thehuman side if the animal rights issue. As PPF is the only pro-human group, itis also the only nationwide organization attempting to merge interests ofhunters with all the other interest groups that stand to lose to the animalrights extremists groups (Tapply 98). This human rights group promotes the age-old view that human rights are above animal rights. PPF began in 1990 withKathleen Marquardt as the director and founder of the human rights organization.
By tracking legislative proposals and lobbying against animal rights bills atstate and local levels, PPF maintains a high public image. Marquardt’sorganization also files public interest lawsuits in courts and with the federalregulatory agencies to expose the radicalism of the animal rights message(Tapply 98).
The granting of rights to animals such as the abolition of medicalresearch, the dissolution of commercial animal agriculture, sport hunting, andtrapping would in effect have both positive and negative consequences. Positiveconsequences to the granting of animal rights would include lessened cruelty toanimals, a greater appreciation of animals, and even a probable decline in therate at which endangered species decline in number. These positive consequenceswould have an immense impact on the ecological system of the world and in theend, may even benefit society. Negative consequences to the granting of rightsto animals would include not being able to test potential cures of lifethreatening diseases, not having pets in homes, and the entire populationbecoming vegetarians. Both choices would incorporate many difficulties in theway of enforcement, but both contain valid consequences worth considering.
Granting animals their rights would stimulate a large amount ofcontroversy. The question of whether or not animals are intelligent becomes onekey argument for animal rights activists in their fight for animal liberation.
Observing the pros and cons to this situation also brings the large amount ofdifficulty in making one concrete decision into perspective.
Works CitedCohen, Carl. “The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research.” TheNorton Reader. Ed. Arthur M. Eastman, et al. New York:Norton 1992, 691-701.
Dajer, Tony. “Monkeying With the Brain.” Discover. January 1992: 70-1.
McShea, Daniel W. “On the Rights of an Ape.” Discover. February 1994: 35-7.
Reed, Susan. “Animal Passion.” People Weekly. January 18, 1993: 35-9.
Regan, Tom. “The Case for Animal Rights.” The Norton Reader. Ed. Arthur M.
Eastman, et al. New York: Norton 1992, 680-691.
Sagan, Carl. “The Abstraction of Beasts.” The Norton Reader. Ed. Arthur M.
Eastman, et al. New York: Norton, 613-620.
Tapply, William. “Who Spaeks for People?” Feild and Stream. June 1991: 48-49,98.
Outline I Introduction II Animal IntelligienceA. Ameslan 1. Washoe 2. LucyB. Yerkish 1. Lana 2. Trainer incidentIII Animal activists groupsA. PETA 1. Formed when and by whom 2. PurposeB. ALF 1. Formed when and by whom 2. PurposeC. PPF1. Formed when and by whom2. PurposeIV Pros and cons of animal rightsA. Positive effectsB. Negative effectsV. Conclusion