Counterpoint: Capacity for pain not excuse to grant animals equal rights

Readers might remember Steve Best, the University of Texas at El Paso associate professor of humanities and philosophy who came to TCU in spring 2005 to defend the Animal Liberation Front, a group the FBI rightly considers a terrorist organization. For example, the ALF members have claimed responsibility for bombing university biomedical research facilities in their quest to “liberate” animals. Any sufficiently sentient being, such as a chicken, should have the right to live, Best claimed on the ALF’s behalf, simply because it has the capacity to suffer.If you think this a dead issue, consider the membership of the Facebook group “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – TCU Chapter” as of August 21st: 231 people. The Facebook group states that it is “not radical,” but PETA is not an organization merely supporting animal welfare, that is, preventing animal cruelty. PETA also supports animal rights and has for years. For instance, in 1995 PETA donated $45,200 to help pay the legal bills of Rodney Coronado who torched a Michigan State University research lab in the name of the ALF. Those 231 individuals should know exactly whom they’re supporting.

It’s difficult to formulate a precise position on what rights, of what strength, which particular animals – from humans to dolphins to dogs to termites – should have, and exactly why. For that reason I hope readers write to respond to my position sketched below.

Each of us reaps benefits, at least the majority of the time, from granting other humans broad political rights, such as the right to life, because other humans will, at least most of the time, reciprocate by granting us the same rights in return. Animals, to the best of our knowledge, cannot grant us the same rights back – try explaining the right to life to a bear eating you, for example. So we shouldn’t give them rights in full measure. We give certain animals, say, a dog, some rights of some strength, such as protection against cruelty, because most of us claim psychological benefit from doing so. Just think of the nausea evoked by the recent Michael Vick case. Those who assert we would gain even more psychological benefit granting animals full rights are currently in a growing minority; they have the freedom to pursue a vegan lifestyle, but not to literally terrorize us in support of their views. In the end, democracy decides.

Douglas Lucas is a senior English and philosophy major from Fort Worth.