10 February 2012

Animal Rights

PETA's latest publicity stunt was to file a lawsuit in federal court alleging that five orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego are slaves for purposes of the 13th Amendment. I'm a longtime proponent of animal rights, but this suit is ridiculous. First, the 13th Amendment was designed to abolish human chattel slavery. Applying it to nonhuman animals is a stretch. Second, it is not a necessary condition for the possession of rights (legal or otherwise) that one be a person. Nonhuman animals can suffer. That fact alone suffices to grant them a legal right not to be made to suffer. The right is defeasible, of course, as it is in the case of humans. (Dentists make people suffer.) Third, the Constitution is a pact between autonomous beings. It sets forth the terms on which these autonomous beings will associate with one another. If nonhuman animals are to be granted legal rights, it will be through legislation or common-law adjudication, not constitutional adjudication. As always, PETA is more concerned about drawing attention to itself than it is to improving the legal status of nonhuman animals. I have said it before and I will say it again: PETA is the worst thing ever to happen to animals. Nobody who cares about animals should have anything to do with it.