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Do animal rights activists care more about animals than human beings?

By Brian Carnell
web posted January 28, 2002

Animal rights activists come in for a lot of criticism, but the one argument that seems to really get under their skin is the claim that they care more about animals than they do about human beings. Animal rights groups and individuals will go to great lengths to show they value human life. They argue they simply want humans to value the lives of animals.

Do animal rights activists care more about animals than human beings? Comments made by prominent activists and groups after the September 11 terrorist attacks speak volumes:

* Alex Hershaft runs a group called Farm USA that manages a national animal rights convention. On September 23, Farm USA issued a press release quoting Hershaft saying, "Worldwide, every day, 125 million innocent, sentient animals are dreadfully abused and butchered for food. These tragedies are perpetrated by a worldwide animal agricultural terrorist network that is much more threatening to planetary survival than the Al Queda network, because it kills more people and animals, because it kills them unrelentingly every day, because it is pervasive and accepted. For every human being who dies of warfare, crime, or terrorism, 10,000 innocent, sentient animals die a violent death."

* The next day, Michael W. Fox of the Humane Society of the United States blamed the 9/11 attacks on humanity's crimes against nature. In an essay distributed via e-mail, Fox wrote that, "Our collective violence against Nature and against human nature, from the plight of endangered cultures, wildlife and the environment, to the sufferings of indigenous peoples and of domestic animals, especially in factory farms and commercial laboratories around the world, needs to be acknowledged. Until we find atonement with Nature and all beings, human and non-human, how can human nature find peace and not annihilate all that our better natures embrace?"

* In its October issue, the widely read animal rights magazine "Animal People" included an unsigned editorial linking Osama bin Laden's fanaticism to meat eating. More disturbing, however, was the magazine's comparison of farm animals to the victims who died onboard the hijacked planes. According to the magazine, "Many and perhaps most of the nine billion animals sent to slaughter in the U.S. each year, as well as the billions killed abroad, have at least as long to sense doom as did the September 11 victims. Neither are the animals' last cries as unlike the cell phone calls made by some of the September 11 victims as the typical meat-eater would like to believe. Equally disturbing to meat-eaters might be awareness that doomed animals, too, often put up frantic resistance, like the passengers who tried to retake United Airlines flight 93..."

* Lee Ryan, a member of the British boy band Blue, put the comparison in stark and crude language. Ryan, who styles himself an animal rights activist, asked the British tabloid The Sun, "What about whales? They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that's more important . . . Who gives a f--- about New York when elephants are being killed."

* To his credit, animal rights philosopher Peter Singer did criticize the idea of comparing the victims of the September 11 attacks to animals killed for food, but United Poultry Concerns' Karen Davis vigorously denounced Singer for this. According to Davis, "For 35 million chickens in the United States alone, every single night is a terrorist attack." Davis went on to suggest that since most of those who died in the terrorist attacks were likely meat eaters, the attacks may have actually resulted in a net reduction in suffering.

* Finally, just a few days ago Farm USA announced the schedule for its upcoming Animal Rights 2002 National Conference. Describing the goal of this year's conference, Farm USA's press release said, "Animal Rights 2002 is our movement's first national conference since the terrible tragedy of September 11 and its aftermath. It is dedicated to exposing and challenging the terror perpetrated every single day against billions of innocent, sentient nonhuman animals."

Despite the frequent claims that animal rights activist do not care more about animals than they do about human beings, in each of these cases human suffering from the September 11 attacks is minimized, ignored, and even celebrated. At best human suffering is used simply as a segue to talk about the real issue, which is always the alleged suffering of animals.

Do animal rights activists care more about animals than they do about human beings? Of course they do.

Brian Carnell is the publisher of AnimalRights.Net and can be contacted at brian@carnell.com.

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