Who Supports Animal Rights?

Two major surveys have been conducted to try to answer this question; both yielded similar results. Most rightists tend to be white urban women in their thirties, with an associate or bachelor's degree, "a median income of $33,000" and a few pets (Oliver 209). Fifty two percent of those surveyed believed that "science does more harm than good" (212). This is a huge contrast with most Americans, 60% of which think that "science does more good than harm," and "only 5 percent believe that science does more harm than good" (212). In addition, 55% of activists disapproved of "animal research which does not harm animals and which helps people" (212). These are very disturbing statistics. Ironically, 87% approved of keeping pets, something the animal rights philosophy considers slavery (212).

Pet owners, researchers, farmers, breeders and animal caretakers all tend to be animal welfarists. Rightists, on the other hand, tend to have little, if any, experience with animals. Their few attempts to manage animals better than the rest of us have usually resulted in real animal cruelty. For instance, "PETA killed some fourteen roosters it had ‘rescued' from ritual sacrifice by members of the Santeria religion [in itself a violation of the First Amendment], because, it explained, instead of getting along in the free-range yard at Aspen Hill, the roosters staged cockfights" (Marquardt et al. 85). Other groups have had similar problems when trying to raise chickens "naturally." Chickens are a cannibalistic species, which is why they are debeaked on commercial poultry farms. Debeaking involves removing the sharp tip of the beak to avoid injuries from pecking. Farm Animals Concerns Trust learned the hard way the necessity of this procedure when it tried free-range egg production in 1984: "our hens were not debeaked, but there was just too much cannibalism" (qtd. in Marquardt et al. 69). In other cases, animals are harmed to raise money (isn't that what we "exploiters" do?), or killed once they've helped raise enough money. Fund for Animals "was caught breeding ‘rescued' animals and selling the offspring for slaughter" at their sanctuary, Black Beauty Ranch (Marquardt et al. 12). PETA "killed more than thirty healthy ‘rescued' rabbits and roosters at [its sanctuary, Aspen Hill]," after using news of their rescue to illicit donations (Marquardt et al. 25). PETA also "took in 2,103 companion animals [in 1999], found homes for 386, and euthanized 1,325" (National Animal Interest Alliance).

This is a real problem. As America is becoming more urbanized, people are having less and less real experience with animals, which leads to ignorance about their care. Kathleen Marquardt has experienced some truly bizarre views in her quest to educate people on the true nature of the animal rights movement: "Recently when I was giving a speech, someone in the audience yelled, ‘Who needs these [expletive deleted by author] farmers? We can just go to the grocery store!'" (et al. 72). Urban consumers are too quick to judge the methods of farmers. Modern farming is the product of thousands of years of agricultural experience. Methods that work are used, methods that don't are discarded. Steve Kopperud, president of the Animal Industry Foundation, writes that "there is no one tougher on a new system or product than a farmer. If the animals don't prosper, the farmer doesn't prosper, and the system is dumped in a heartbeat" (Bender and Leone 127). It is therefore naive and presumptuous for urban activists to assume they can just waltz in and tell the farmers how to "do things right."

Urbanization also increases peoples' idealistic views of rural life and animal behavior: . . .Patrick Corbett says that "animals are in many respects superior to ourselves." Italian Green Party deputy Fulco Pratesi concludes that "we should be following the animals' example. They are loyal, unwasteful, rational and above all considerate to their own- something humans are not." (Marquardt et al. 128).

One of the reasons I am so opposed to this movement is that I used to think this way. I grew up in the suburbs, and always liked animals, but not people. In the past, I would have agreed with the above statements wholeheartedly, if not said similar things myself. However, I gained experience working with animals- one summer I was an ROP student for the Future Farmers of America, I worked as a wrangler and I bred birds. UC Davis was also an eye-opener, because I met professionals in the animal industry- real environmentalists who worked to restore the Yolo Basin wetlands, and scientists who conducted research that gave us amazing insight into birds. I'll never forget what one professor said in my first Avian Science class, regarding the restoration of the local wetlands and the duck hunting that was to go on there. She told us it didn't matter what we thought of hunting personally- hunters donate more money towards wildlife restoration and preservation than any other political group. I was completely shocked by this, but it is true. Their motivations for donating so are beside the fact; they made the restoration possible.

It was after all this that I began to understand my error. Animals have the same follies as humans, but it is more than that- humans have the same follies as animals. If an animal acts amorally, we dismiss it, for animals have no morals and cannot be immoral. However, if a human acts in the same manner, it is immoral, for humans do have morals. We are therefore much more critical of our own species than any other because of this one unique difference.

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