All arguments are not created equal. There are differences in their intent and the degree to which they impact an audience's psyche. If you wish to make the strongest case for justice and respect towards nonhuman beings, then destroying human arrogance is crucial and human nature is your greatest ally in the cause.
Why is it acceptable to routinely treat nonhumans in ways that would be considered atrocities if done to the most hated criminals? An answer resides in the belief taken as self-evident absolute objective certain truth: humans are better, worth more, superior in value to other life forms because of some attributes or slogans (intelligence, a soul, favoritism by a Divine creator or Nature, might makes right, etc.). When examined, every one of these traits are subjective and biased personal opinions like a belief in the importance of skin color or gender or a particular interpretation of scripture. Nature (and/or deities) cannot be proven to care or judge, as humans are just as mortal and subject to weather and physics as all other living beings. The fact that humans can and do exploit other humans and always have, is the best evidence that human superior worth is not absolute truth but merely opinion. It also means that if someone wants to justify discrimination towards humans based on race or gender or religion etc., they can use the same excuse (subjective and biased personal opinions) as used by those who deny nonhuman rights.
Any argument put forth to justify meat and dairy farms, vivisection labs, hunting, fishing, etc. can be countered by pointing out that human supremacy is a myth and that the only way to avoid moral double standards which would allow humans to justify exploiting other humans is to shun unfair discrimination/exploitation as much as possible. Humans create and use moral laws, nonhumans do not and deserve respect and compassion by default as it is unfair to punish them for being unable to follow human morality - it would be like demanding a blind man to read a warning sign and punishing him when he cannot. Humans who cannot follow moral laws (or even refuse to) are treated with far more respect and compassion.
The inability to be morally perfect - respecting all life at all times does not mean we draw the line at humans since that is a moral double standard based on the human supremacy myth and if you say the accidental death of insects justifies vivisection labs then the inability to stop homicide and child abuse would justify genocide and concentration camps (since human exploitation of humans is natural and chronic). It is ultimately about fairness and ethical consistency.
This is a simple yet forceful ethical argument for animal rights. You can argue for compassionate social policy or the Golden Rule or use scientific studies, but without addressing the mythical belief in human superiority and its double standards you leave gaping holes that opponents will seize upon if you allow them to. The argument stated above puts the most hostile opponent into a corner from which they cannot escape unless they accept the concept of nonhuman rights or admit that every kind of human exploitation of humans should also be justified.
In the following essay we will examine animal rights arguments and how to increase the effectiveness of your presentation by utilizing the Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument.
"Religion is a great force - the only real motive force in the world; but you must get at a man through his own religion, not through yours." George Bernard Shaw
If you want to make the strongest moral case for animal rights, you need to go outside of your own emotions and beliefs and understand what motivates the viewpoint of the most hostile opponents in order to transform the viewpoint, or failing that, injure it. Any debate that ends with them feeling confident in their beliefs is a failure for the animal rights side. You not only need to know their beliefs, but be able to gauge how they are understanding your arguments and learn to spot the weaknesses in your approach so that you are the one speaking with authority and confidence.
In general, many animal rights activists are sensitive and compassionate, seeking to reduce harm in society, but they can be at a disadvantage in debate situations because of these traits.
They often wish to persuade an audience with kindness - appeals to what they assume or hope are a shared equal sensitivity and compassion in all people. Furthermore, unlike someone acting on behalf of themselves or a family member in a civil rights cause, advocates for other animal species are not considered members of the particular group being victimized - and the greater their outrage about the victimization, the more they can be perceived as overly emotional or zealous, or even a traitor to their kind. To avoid this perception, they may adopt apologetic and timid approaches which can make them more vulnerable to bullying and allowing the opposition to dictate the debate parameters. And because they are often accused of being guided by emotion instead of reason, activists can overcompensate by adhering to elitist intellectual theories on animal rights - esoteric and complicated academic formulas instead of common sense layman arguments that are easily communicated. In addition they may not properly estimate how successfully their arguments impact their audience and dismiss anyone who does not immediately show sympathy as being beyond persuasion. And finally, the tendency to use any argument that is in favor of animal rights (or failing that, animal welfare) and a heavy dependence on scientific data (especially in vivisection arguments) can stem from insecurity and desperation - and a subconscious but nagging feeling that somehow, someway, the moral correctness of an animal rights argument is not as obvious and certain as an anti-racism or anti-sexism position even though they know intuitively that it is.
There are many ways to present an animal rights position, but the strongest argument in terms of impact uses factual observations about human nature against those who believe in human supremacy or superiority which is the motivating idea behind the systematic discrimination/exploitation of nonhuman lives through hunting, fishing, the meat and dairy industries, medical research, circuses, zoos, etc. Even when it is denied, the false belief in human superiority to other beings is the foundation of the double standard morality that condemns or excuses violent behavior, misery, and death depending on the worth given to the victim and victimizer.
In place of the usual strategy of trying to show that nonhuman lives are worthy of moral consideration alongside humans, you force the audience to prove why humans are worthy of special moral status.
When this question is raised and examined, it puts the most hostile opponent on the defensive and exposes the obvious: that claims of human supremacy are just as much biased personal opinion as claims of racial or religious or gender supremacy and that extending moral concern to nonhumans is not only fair and just but a necessity - in order to prevent some humans from exploiting an ethical loophole unwittingly and inevitably created by a human supremacist position, one that would excuse violent behavior against other humans, given the fact that human intraspecies predation (aka exploiting and killing other humans) is a chronic natural occurrence across the world and has been since the beginnings of recorded history, and is one supported by supremacy beliefs based on factors besides species - such as race, gender, religion, wealth etc.
Debunking the claim of human superiority by pointing out the perpetual reality of human exploitation towards other humans does not require that one cite scientific studies or go into lengthy philosophical digressions. It uses common sense observation and the beliefs of the audience against the audience. It is simple, but can be immensely effective.
This is a more aggressive debating stance which will not appeal to those who prefer only positive reinforcements and compassionate persuasion, and will offend those who hold to a human supremacist animal welfare ideology that masquerades as an animal rights position.
But in considering this approach, you can ask yourself which aggression is more offensive to you, the kind that is expressed through words for the cause of fairness and justice, or the kind carried out on the minds and bodies of innocent nonhuman animal lives for entertainment, greed, and maniacal arrogance. It can be said that the truth hurts, but not as much as it does for the mass victims of humanity's false and delusional beliefs.
In persuasive argument you should believe you are right and state the truth - and you should also be able to show the opposition that they are wrong. It is not enough to defend your views from attack; you should also be dismantling the beliefs of the opposition. In animal rights this is crucial because the gulf between those who can reluctantly appreciate an animal welfare position and sincerely accept an animal rights one can be vast.
In animal rights debate, it is far too often the situation that an advocate merely defends a position or responds to resistance and does not actively seek to undermine the opposition's deepest held convictions. If you truly want to persuade and convince people that animal rights is correct, you must attack the beliefs that uphold the values you oppose.
Using this approach, you can leave any debate or conversation with the most unsympathetic members of the audience unable to refute your position as if they were saying 2 plus 2 equals 5 and you keep presenting them with evidence to prove the correct number is 4. Animal rights can be as easy as that, but it requires that one abandon vulnerable arguments and the mindset that encourages them.
The popular argument for animal rights may be called the suffering/sentience/speciesism approach.
It uses descriptions of suffering to shock the audience and appeal to their sense of compassion. It highlights sentience - a general capacity for awareness and feeling pain - to be the shared quality between humans and nonhuman animals that is the true standard for bestowing moral value instead of one considered uniquely human and it characterizes opposition to this view as speciesism, usually defined as a species-centered, unjust attitude that is the counterpart to racism or sexism.
This argument can be intellectually lazy and not persuasive. A failure to recognize these deficiencies and compensate accordingly serves the agenda of exploiters and bigots, not that of the victims and social justice.
The expression "treated like an animal" is shorthand for being treated very badly since everyone knows that nonhuman animals are treated in ways we would not want to be subjected to ourselves. Even the most hated criminals are usually given better care than nonhuman animals.
Therefore, while there are people who are entirely ignorant of what nonhuman animals experience in farms or laboratories, and learning of these atrocities can lead to an immediate moral transformation to either a welfare or abolition philosophy, there are many others who can easily piece together that being born in confinement, and forced to live and die by the whims of an animal species capable of deranged violence and sadistic cruelty is a very bad thing. It can amount to stating the obvious and missing the bigger picture: the beliefs that defend and excuse these atrocities.
Compassionate appeals are sometimes dismissed by pointing out the suffering that exists in Nature among other life forms. Human exploitation of nonhuman beings is defended by suggesting that if humans are animals, they should be able to behave as other animals do for survival. While this is not a strong defense especially as most systemic human exploitation of nonhumans is not even remotely connected to survival or necessity but choice and desire, it is enough of a response to distract and waste time.
And people become immune to shocking imagery and testimonials. The motto that everyone would be vegetarian if slaughterhouses had glass walls is naive given that there are societies where animal slaughter occurs openly without mass conversion to a plant-based diet. It even gets flaunted in blood sports for public entertainment. Thus an over reliance on the suffering issue and appeals to compassion may be ineffective, encouraging advocates to rattle off an endless catalog of atrocities instead of destroying the belief that excuses them.
The focus on sentience can divert the discussion from issues of morality into questions of whether sentience is applicable to some animals more than others, and invites the use of vivisection to probe whether a subject is worthy of moral inclusion and/or to attempt to create nonhuman life forms that feel no pain for food purposes. Furthermore, it fails to address the beliefs of those who do not value sentience and prefer some other quality alleged to be unique to humans (intellect, creativity, moral reciprocity, a soul or Divine favoritism etc). Such perspectives are often dismissed without specifically explaining why they are false and being aggressive in criticizing them.
Given the fact that vivisectors will engage in mental torment of specimens as in learned helplessness experiments and circus trainers will deliberately torment infant elephants so they are psychologically terrified of humans and that the deliberate abuse of animals to increase adrenaline for altering the flavor of their flesh is common knowledge to the meat industry, it is evident that most victimizers believe the victim is sentient, but inferior in value for other reasons.
One should never underestimate the wickedness of human nature. While this may seem to promote misanthropic cynicism, the purpose is to ensure that your debating stance does not leave any weakness that can be exploited to the detriment of your cause. You need to see the whole problem before you can effectively correct it.
And the word speciesism is vague and subject to misinterpretation which opponents seize upon, wasting time in discussion on the false claim that all species are inevitably species-centered thus there is nothing wrong with it. The reality is that while people of any race or gender can be racist or sexist, only humans can be characterized as what we call "speciesist". The belief in the superiority of one's defined group to others and discriminating systemically in ethics and policy according to that belief is a uniquely human phenomenon and this is the most important issue in animal rights and human rights. The word speciesism does not adequately define it.
It is an observable tendency of humans to create personal preferences and develop an inflated sense of importance without factual evidence to support the claim. An individual claiming to be superior to everyone else is usually described as an egomaniac, but when an individual professes to be part of a group of allegedly superior beings, then those who are considered "a member of the club" can be far more tolerant of such a view. And yet, these days many would agree that someone who believes that some races are categorically superior in value to others (Social Darwinism, Manifest Destiny etc.) is a bigot, since skin colour or gender are widely regarded as trivial criteria for bestowing moral value.
But when it comes to believing that human lives are naturally superior in value to nonhuman lives, this claim is usually taken as if a self-evident axiom - something known to be true without needing examination - and despite (or possibly due to) the fact that it collapses under the available evidence and common sense. It can be a core religious belief to some people and questioning it can arouse great discomfort in those who hold it dear.
The human supremacy myth is the "pink elephant in the room." It is the imposing but imaginary belief that motivates the arguments of exploiters and their supporters. To ignore it is to focus on symptoms and not the cause of the problem.
Human supremacists (also known as human exceptionalists in an effort to disguise the bigoted nature of the belief) justify their discrimination and systemic exploitation according to an assumption of absolute certainty based upon criteria of value such as a faculty of reason, a soul, divine or evolutionary favor, moral reciprocity, survival of the fittest, might makes right, individual selfishness, a bundle of characteristics or vaguely defined ones which cannot be proven to be shared by all humans or lacking in all nonhumans. i.e. some humans are more intelligent or creative than others, some nonhumans are more rational than some humans, humans can and do willfully break laws and yet the most despised of criminals is usually given more care and respect than the most innocent nonhuman beings.
And the importance of such criteria can be doubted - shown not to be absolute objective truth, but subjective arbitrary personal opinions conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. Nature (and/or deities), through environmental phenomenon, like weather, earthquakes, gravity, and most telling, the actions of other human beings, cannot be shown to care or favor humans over other life forms as an absolute objective fact.
An absolute is something beyond all doubt and question, the final answer to everything. If it can be questioned it cannot be absolute. If one states that humans are superior as a group to other life forms according to any defined criteria, whether theistic or atheistic in origin, it can be questioned. For secular humanists it is the "absolute certain truth" of a supposedly mindless universe that yet can judge some as more important than others through an evolutionary version of the Great Chain of Being. For spiritual humanists it is one or more divinities that do not make their presence known to doubters in direct ways and have encouraged violent conflict among those that are supposedly the "chosen" people.
The inability to prove human superiority as anything other than a biased personal opinion means that a human supremacist, who wants to exclude nonhumans from equal and fair moral consideration, is using the same kind of belief structure/biased personal opinion that a racial supremacist uses. Without intending to, the human supremacist is providing the racial bigot with the justification to defend their own discrimination, focused on race not species. The same holds true for humans who may care most about gender or religion or age or wealth or class or appearance or all the other criteria and characteristics which humans have and do use to discriminate and exploit other humans. Wishful thinking, best intentions, idealistic moral principles, and laws have not changed this reality since the beginning of recorded history.
Even the most delusional human supremacist who makes the ridiculous claim that humans have a "tenacious moral instinct" to favor humans over nonhumans will lock their doors or have security because they have a far more tenacious moral instinct that they cannot trust all humans. We call the actions of these untrustworthy humans criminal or abnormal behavior depending on victim and victimizer status - but if it occurs frequently enough that we have police and laws in an effort to discourage such phenomenon then how can it be unnatural? In wars, such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.
The consequences of this fact of human nature is routinely overlooked (by all sides) resulting in a double standard moral blind spot in the arguments of those who reject animal rights which can be exposed by repeatedly addressing the issue of human exploitation of other humans. In other words, rubbing their faces in the truth.
And the systemic exploitation of nonhumans is too important for you not to educate on these matters.
A common myth of modern times is that cruelty and sadistic violence are primal behaviors - wild, beastly, inhuman, while compassion and moderation are "humane" traits - the gift of lofty intellect evolving and progressing to a better existence.
These are slogans humans use to set themselves apart from the mortal universe and the eventual death and decay that is the destiny of all living beings. It also demonstrates the human supremacy mythology in vocabulary.
The human supremacist will boast about the exceptional nature of humanity and that humans are different from nonhumans not only in degree but kind. It can be demonstrated that they are right, but not in the way they boast. Observable reality shows us that the most sadistic acts, physical or mental cruelty in history are perpetuated by humans alone, and humans are the only animal that can be proven without a doubt to take pleasure from knowing that they are making others suffer, either mentally or physically. Some even derive sexual arousal from it.
We know that there are tribes that have engaged in sadistic cruelty against humans and nonhumans such as insertion of long sticks into the hearts of domesticated pigs in order that they slowly and painfully bleed to death (Tribal pig ritual: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse 1991).
The Roman Coliseum was a great architectural project created for the staging of cruelty and death to amuse up to 80 000 people. Every kind of animal in addition to human (from child to elderly, able-limbed or handicapped) were tortured and killed in canned hunts. Even acts of bestiality based on myths were staged.
Some humans will claim that human superiority is shown by the ability to compose a symphony or build a rocket even though only a small number of humans engage in such practices. By the same token, they will not assume that all humans are depraved psychotics just because there have been murderers and world leaders who have created war and destruction. That is an example of cherry picking. The same phenomenon occurs in how humans regard nonhuman behavior.
We know that the domesticated cat, being fed and with idle time, will exhibit predatory behavior towards mice. There are humans who eat meat by choice and assume they are civilized who will claim the cat is sadistic - enjoying the suffering they inflict on a mouse. They will ignore the fact that a domestic cat did not ask to be domesticated nor did a mouse ask to be in man-made environments such as a kitchen or a yard where they are at greater risk from a natural born predatory animal.
It is highly speculative if not outright ludicrous and malicious in an all too human way to interpret that natural predator/carnivore behavior to suggest cats enjoy the suffering they cause a small animal, knowing that they cause them suffering. By such logic they must assume a cat thinks a ball of string is alive and be contemplating politics and religion. These malicious assumptions are not far from the idea that nonhuman animals are demons, as was believed by some in the Middle Ages - and used to justify torturing them in witch trials.
An animal can enjoy aggressive behavior without thinking about the mental state and bodily feelings of another. Humans can as well, but we also know that humans can and do take pleasure from the suffering of others. They will design elaborate tortures either for scientific trivia or for public amusement.
Even the most aggressive of felines have not been observed staging mouse torture exhibitions for the amusement of other cats.
Nonhuman animals in their natural habitat are moderate in their use of violence, mostly restricted to observable survival-related behavior.
If we were fair and rational the definitions of humane and inhumane would be reversed so as to correct the twisted delusional reality created by a human supremacy belief.
One merely needs to read the daily news to find examples of sadistic human behavior - torture, murder, cruelty, against family members and strangers. No matter how pessimistic one may be about human nature, you are bound to find some news item that will shock you for its details on atrocious human behavior.
The same capacity for "reason" that allows one to do mathematics can be used to design a torture device or urge a suicidal person to jump from a building or to tie a child to a bed, starving them and abusing them for years. We could list endless examples of humans torturing nonhumans (just the act of confining them to a cage or chain for their entire lives qualifies) but the human supremacist bigot may not only dismiss such atrocities, but mock them. If you cite examples of human exploitation of humans from the news or history, it can be useful in diminishing the arrogance of that type of supremacist and at the very least, take away their humorous attitude when discussing animal rights issues.
Concern for the lives of nonhuman animals is ancient, co-existing with other social concerns and found among the works of literature in Ancient Greece and Rome and extending to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Jainism. From Homer to Shakespeare to Al-Maʿarri to Oliver Wendell Holmes, you find examples of "animal rights" belief - even the Frankenstein Monster states he is a vegetarian.
This runs contrary to a widespread neo-Darwinian urban legend that suggests "animal rights" belief only came into existence after the Industrial revolution, when technological luxuries afforded so-called trivial reflections on human relations with Nature. At its most absurd, the birth date for animal rights is listed as somewhere in the 1960s, starting with the coining of the word "speciesism" by former vivisector Richard Ryder and then the mid-1970s publication of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, a welfarist who is called the "father" of Animal Rights by the sensational media. He was followed by Tom Regan, and there is an entire generation of philosopher/animal rights experts who each have their own special "recipe" for animal rights theory and a selection of disciples.
No one owns common sense and the truth. This argument for animal rights belongs to everyone and is rooted in ideas that date back to ancient times. The atrocities committed against inhabitants of the world are far too serious to reduce to trivial intellectual exercises and thought games. Who owns the argument against racism? What special recipe is considered the best for gender equality?
Singer and others are often easy targets for the opposition because they present arguments that can be attacked and/or they do not articulate themselves in ways that are easily accessible to the public.
It is all too common for animal activists to take the path of least resistance and let the opponent dictate the talking points and framing of issues in discussion and debate. This can create a weaker and defensive posture which is not ideal for successful persuasive argument. If you know the facts and how the opposition is wrong you can shape the debate so that you are constantly challenging their beliefs, forcing them to prove their validity (when they cannot). This is not difficult to do, but it requires that you know how debates are framed and looking beyond the specific point being discussed to understand what your audience's mindset is and the true beliefs motivating them.
Not all arguments are the same. Their impact on an audience can vary depending on the person and the phrasing. This can be demonstrated.
When someone mentions famous vegetarians as a way of showing that it is a good thing, it is almost inevitable that "wasn't Hitler a vegetarian?" will be thrown into the discussion. [Editor: By the way, Hitler was not even close to being vegetarian.]
Peter Singer's response to this is recorded to be: "Just because Hitler had a nose doesn't mean we should cut off ours."
We will examine this response - but first let us think about the Hitler was a vegetarian attack. Why does someone say this? The gist is usually to make vegetarians look bad or mad - by linking them to someone considered popularly to be the worst human being in history. If Hitler was a vegetarian it not only makes vegetarians negative by association, but could lead to other slanders like Hitler hated humans, preferred nonhuman animals, outlawed vivisection except on humans. These accusations have been debunked - Hitler ate meat, the Nazis did not ban nonhuman vivisection, Hitler's inner staff included a trophy hunter, but simply stating such facts is not the only way to make an answer. You can also attack the opponent's beliefs at the same time.
Singer's answer comparing vegetarianism to a nose is adequate but not strong. It is a defensive response. He is not disagreeing with the assertion that Hitler was a vegetarian, merely saying that we should not let his association with it influence our own actions. By comparing vegetarianism to a body part, it also takes the discussion out of the realm of animal rights and into detached philosophical academia. It may seem like a common sense comparison, but it is not addressing the beliefs of the person who is posing the question.
Here are some other responses one could say:
"Gandhi was a vegetarian - so you think he was a warmongering Nazi?"
This answer doesn't confirm or deny Hitler was a vegetarian but it uses another historical figure with a positive reputation, and mocks the idea that vegetarianism equals evil. It is not just a defense but a counter- attack.
"Al Capone started the first soup kitchens in Chicago so you must think poverty workers are gangsters too."
This answer does not deny Hitler was a vegetarian but attacks the intention by using a human-focused alternative to expose the same absurdity that Singer was trying to expose - that the benign attributes of an individual known for destructive attitudes and behavior reflect negatively on others who share the same benign attribute.
"Stalin was a meat eating hunter whose actions killed many more than Hitler."
This answer does not deny Hitler's vegetarianism or mock the intention behind the suggestion, instead it shows how someone associated with meat eating or hunting can be even more destructive. This is not a strong answer because the association between meat eating or hunting and destroying humans is not really denied - people have assumed the truth of "violence begets violence" since ancient times. It also requires that one trust the numbers on Stalin's killing as well as invites challenges that Hitler's policies were more widespread and cruel even if the death toll was less.
"Hitler was actually a meat eating catholic."
This answer denies the vegetarian claim and counters it by associating Hitler not only with meat eaters but widely accepted organized religion so there is an extra charge for the person who made the statement to contend with.
It requires that one fact check the information for validity, but the "Hitler was a vegetarian" claim is also based on unsubstantiated facts. Because many people believe in a deity and many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, the assumption that Hitler was religious is easy to accept on a gut level - even more so than his vegetarianism.
"Do you really think a moral vegetarian would start wars that kill wildlife and destroy the environment?"
This answer does not rely on a fact check - instead it questions the idea that Hitler could have been a true vegetarian and directly challenges the intent of the original statement by pointing out the common sense absurdity of someone committed to nonviolence engaging in mass warfare.
The "Hitler was a vegetarian" issue is trivial. Now we will look at a more central kind of argument situation.
"If humans are equal to animals they should be able to behave as other animals do and exploit other animals."
A common response to this is to say that nonhumans do lots of things like urinating in open spaces or running around naked, therefore we are already selective in what traits we choose to emulate.
While this answer counters the claim that true equality is intended or desired, and that we already choose what traits we follow or ignore, it is not a totally satisfying response as it does not directly challenge the beliefs of the person making the statement.
Although it speaks of human equality to nonhumans this is not the true motive in the statement. The goal is to argue that humans are superior in worth - deserving of special rights. How do we know this? We know this because it says nothing about humans being able to exploit other humans, which is also natural.
Now we will show how one can respond specifically using the approach we advocate.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If the person truly wants humans to be able to behave as nonhumans do, then human exploitation of other humans should be justified since nonhumans do not use laws and have been known to exploit each other (i.e. eating their young, abandoning sick offspring etc). Why conveniently stop the exploitation at nonhuman relations? This shows that the person believes in human superiority and a moral double standard. We have already shown that human superiority beliefs are personal opinion like racial superiority claims, thus someone can justify exploiting other humans by the same belief system. This answer not only counters the idea that humans seek to behave like other animals, but forces the person to accept that the exploiting of nonhumans cannot be justified IF one wishes to curb exploitation of humans in moral policy.
Perhaps the most routine way that the opposition dictates the debate is in the expectation that animal rights advocates must have perfect morality. They must not harm any living creature or contribute to such harm. Even the issue of Hitler's vegetarianism and ignoring his religious beliefs is an example of this - a vegetarian animal rights supporter is expected to be perfect, a religious person is not held accountable for inquisitions or other personal failings much of the time.
Any perceived lapse by the advocate is called hypocrisy (a misuse of the word since a hypocrite is someone who claims to believe something but actually does not - i.e. a minister who preaches against marital infidelity and is found in the company of a prostitute - inconsistency is more often the case with animal rights advocates rather than hypocrisy).
The perfection demand provides a means of shifting the discussion to the personal conduct of the advocate instead of the issues they are protesting.
Some in the animal rights community reinforce this expectation of perfection when they are evangelical and judgmental about moral lapses by other advocates. They can appear to care more about criticizing fellow animal advocates for lifestyle imperfection than they are in challenging those who are most strongly opposed to animal rights causes.
It is unreasonable to expect perfection when we live in societies where it is not remotely possible i.e. when you are accused of acquiring plant-based food that kills animals in fields during mechanized crop gathering, you can answer this by suggesting that unavoidable killing is not the same as deliberate killing or that less harmful means of acquiring plant-based foods is possible. These are adequate responses although they do not address the core belief that motivates the attack, which is the belief in human supremacy and the ethical double standards that arise from it.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: advocates for human rights causes are not held to the same demand of perfection.
They are not expected to stop every homicide or act of child abuse or live on land that was not taken by force from other humans in a territorial war in the distant past. Perfection is not a requirement for human rights. The common view is that while car accidents and wars happen it does not mean that ethical concern for humans is forfeit and pointless and that concentration camps are justified. The same standard should apply for nonhuman causes if we are fair. An accidental death of an insect does not justify factory farms or vivisection labs - which do not happen by accident or sprout naturally like flowers. They require immense energy and time to design and build and maintain which makes the excuses for them all the more ridiculous.
Animal rights activists are also vulnerable to accusations of being a misanthrope or human hater - a traitor, or accused of putting nonhumans ahead of human lives.
In response to this advocates may well qualify their beliefs in obedient ways and state that meat eating or hunting is wrong now, but was necessary a thousand years ago, and that if one is stranded in some remote situation - on a boat at sea or in the Arctic, that it would be justified to exploit other animals to survive.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: human history is built upon wars, crime, rape, and slavery. By the same standards one could say that human slavery was justified at one time to build human civilization (as was argued by pro-slavery writers through the 19th century). If one needs to survive in the Arctic (what one is doing in such a place where they are at risk of resource scarcity is a moral question in itself) then exploiting other humans would also be justifiable if one is just and not blinded by delusions of human importance in Nature when no evidence exists for it - least of all in human behavior.
It should be noted that some advocates do mention that humans would be eligible for exploitation in a desperate survival situation but it is often stated in passing or after conceding that the exploitation of nonhuman animals is justifiable. It is better to state this reality before making any concession that nonhumans can be exploited for it makes the point stronger.
You are either with us or against us is another common demand when animal rights issues are raised. The way this usually gets expressed is with a hypothetical "would you sacrifice the life of a human (your child, a stranger) to save a nonhuman?" The situation may be a burning building, or a river, or a lifeboat.
This attack is intended to force the animal rights advocate into an ethical contradiction. Many take the path of least resistance and attempt to answer it in a non-threatening way. They may cite utilitarian calculations to indicate why they may save humans over nonhumans or vice versa - based on "needs of the many" ideology or maximizing happiness doctrine. Some touch upon the double standard of the supremacy myth and human exploitation of humans in non- aggressive ways - using another hypothetical example of comatose patients and healthy individuals, and suggesting that a decision to save healthy individuals over sick ones does not mean that concentration camps are justified.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: There is a stronger way of responding, one that puts the question poser on the defensive.
Ask them who they would save if the choice was a family member or a stranger? Would they choose the more familiar person? If they choose the more familiar, does that mean the loser deserves to be put in laboratories or concentration camps? If they do not choose the familiar, does that mean they love a stranger more than their own child?
Fair is fair. This response exposes the human supremacy blind spot and puts humans on an equal footing with nonhumans as it should be in ethics and justice.
As indicated before, some will deny that human supremacy beliefs are a factor, and claim on one hand that survival of the fittest is the true basis for the discrimination/exploitation, while on the other that human rights law is in everyone's best interest.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: The "dog eat dog" philosophy conveniently ends at a human line, even though daily news indicates that Nature does not honor that border when it comes to human behavior.
The double standard morality is also evident in the argument that it is in one's best interest to accept human rights beliefs for your own protection. There are tribes, dictators, and social classes who have done quite well without caring about the rights of all humans. Does a family living in the Appalachian Mountains need to care about the rights of a villager in Lebanon? In practical terms most people go about their lives with little contact with humans in the rest of the world, and could well be a dictator in their own house without ever facing justice for it. Nature does not cause a storm of hail to descend upon these violators of the absolute truth of human supremacy. The earth does not open up and swallow them. But citing survival of the fittest leads to another contradiction, some will say the reason we should respect other human beings is strictly for self interest, the Golden Rule: "do under others as you would have them do unto you," not out of a concern for the species. Once again the best argument against the claim of human supremacy is human behavior.
There is the argument that even if nonhumans deserve moral concern, human problems must always come first.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If you claim morality follows such a hierarchy of importance, then one could further refine and prioritize morality based on the importance of race, gender, age, religion, family, language, territory, etc. since any such boundary is based not on fact but personal opinion. Many would say we should not prioritize morality and charity based on bias and personal opinions but follow the general aim of doing good in any situation, and if we agree with this, then nonhumans are just as valid for equal consideration.
The flip side to the "human problems first" argument is to remind the animal rights advocate, sometimes with a detectable gloating posture, that meat eating, hunting or other nonhuman exploitation will never be stopped (and thus we should not even try).
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: We must conclude that human rights causes are just as unlikely to be eliminated completely and in some ways even less so than nonhuman rights ones.
The failure to eliminate homicide or child abuse does not seem to foster a view that we should not even try to curb them. In fairness the same should be true for nonhuman rights issues.
Nonhuman exploitation by humans is due in large part to domestication which requires immense effort to maintain. By contrast, human slavery, child abuse, and homicide have existed as long as humans have, and will likely continue to do so in some form as long as humans can reproduce. The elimination of the former is actually a more realistic hope when you consider it from a practical standpoint.
Another tired human supremacist response to animal rights activists is that if humans have to recognize rights for nonhumans, then nonhumans have to recognize rights for humans.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: This concept of reciprocal moral regard or contractualism is, however, another subjective, personal opinion criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination they wish to justify. There are humans (children, mentally handicapped, criminals) who receive rights even though they cannot reciprocate (or refuse to).
If humans want laws to curb their behavior they must extend this to other beings out of fairness. Only humans require such laws and can be held to them - nonhumans obviously cannot, and to punish them because they cannot do something you know they cannot do is as fair as demanding a blind man to read a warning sign or an armless man to grab a drowning person and punishing them when they fail.
It is dubious to assume that humans have moral codes because they alone understand the importance of morality or lofty concepts of good vs. evil. The universe can not be shown to care about human morality, but for humble practical reasons, humans need moral codes because they can be irrational, unruly, prone to acts of violence and stupidity that risk their survival, or behavior which a fair number of individuals agree should be discouraged through laws. Nonhumans observed in their natural habitats do not behave the same way. Lions do not appear to need codes in their daily lives, but they happen to benefit from the problem inherent in human concepts of moral rights that requires they be considered as beneficiaries of moral concern as a matter of consistency, fairness, and justice (and in order to avoid giving an excuse to humans who do not care about human rights to discriminate as they see fit).
And it can be noted that in a way nonhuman animals do respect our rights, if unwittingly, by not imprisoning us, exploiting us, torturing us, enslaving us, or breeding us for food and entertainment as we do to them.
Another common expression of human supremacist nonsense is to claim humans are sitting top of the food chain-whatever that is. Hierarchies in Nature are human created. For some it is "top of the food chain." For those more inclined along racial or religious preferences it is "Manifest Destiny." Medieval Christian philosophers called it the "Great Chain of Being." Humans just love to feel superior, but the fact is that humans when alive are constantly attacked by microorganisms that eat them, and when dead, are food for maggots and all sorts of other so-called lower organisms.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: it can be asked, are humans who prey on other humans (some for cannibalistic dietary preferences) "more" on top of the food chain than other humans?
Although common sense observation shows us that nonhumans must feel pain if they can scream or recoil from attacks, there are humans who are very stupid and follow the ravings of the deranged sadist Rene Descartes, who believed nonhuman animal screams were merely the disruption of mechanical gears.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If we can believe that an animal scream is merely an illusion of pain, then we can also make the same assumption about other humans. We cannot be sure that what we perceive as an individual is true reality - thus we can easily claim that other humans are just soulless mechanical objects for our use. If one wants to have human rights, or believe that other human-like beings have souls and can feel pain, the same courtesy must be extended to nonhumans to close this "anything goes" loophole.
The issue of pain and suffering is not the central issue in animal rights - it is unnecessary exploitation. The cruelty issue is secondary to this and much like the issue of sentience, can be given too much weight - leading to animal welfare ideology instead of an animal rights agenda.
Of course part of the reason for this focus on pain and suffering and sentience is to create a boundary since the argument we present leaves the door open for giving rights status to plant life and even inanimate objects (if one wants to claim that being alive is also a subjective personal opinion criteria which it is). Ultimately rights status is decided by a consensus of individuals who agree to the belief - and if a society wishes to grant moral worth to plants or inanimate objects they can, the practicability of it is another matter. As mentioned before, moral perfection is impossible - the Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument dictates that the inability to be morally perfect does not mean one draws the line at humans anymore than it would mean we draw the line at race, gender, family, religion etc. Acknowledging moral status for pigs or rats and refraining from putting resources into building a slaughterhouse or vivisection lab is much easier to accomplish than determining how best to respect the rights of inanimate objects. We shall leave it to those who wish to contemplate such issues.
One can claim anything when it comes to invisible mute deities, but we know that humans are mortal and subject to the natural phenomenon as other life forms. There is no evidence that humans have a special quality or soul that leaves the body upon death which nonhumans do not possess. Faith is not fact.
Also, there are religious views that believe nonhumans have souls and deserve respect and compassion. In the end you have a "my god said this and your god said that" disagreement which has been the basis for endless violence and warfare in the name of invisible mute deities.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If someone can say that their deity sanctions the systemic exploitation of nonhumans than someone else can justify the systemic exploitation of humans by claiming their deity gave them dominion over other humans. There are cultures that have and continue to do this. Whether secular or spiritual you cannot have human rights without nonhuman rights since human supremacy cannot be proven. We do not allow people to justify human slavery even though the Bible supports it, therefore nonhumans are just as worthy of moral respect.
Note: although one can find passages in religious books like the Bible that have vegetarian or animal rights friendly wording, there are others that are clearly not sympathetic thus one ends up in a he said/she said situation with battling scripture references. In the final analysis the Bible supports many things we do not consider just nowadays - that is enough reference to use to show why we need not follow the Bible when it comes to violence.
Some proponents and opponents of animal rights causes claim that humans are meant to be custodians or managers of Nature. While it can be motivated by benevolent intentions, it can also derive from malicious arrogance. For the sake of humility or sanity it can be pointed out that a common worm is more of a steward of Nature than a human being. Insects are called low and worthless yet they help pollinate flowers (occasionally they might get acknowledged for their usefulness to humans, but not to themselves). The majority of so-called stewardship that humans do is actually damage control, cleaning up rivers polluted by other humans, restoring habitats destroyed by other humans, helping wildlife or domestic animals left homeless by other humans, and that does not include efforts that backfire, like the World Wildlife Fund's attempt to curb the hunting of rhinos for traditional Chinese medicine by encouraging the hunting of the Saiga instead, which reportedly led to a 90 percent decline in the latter.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If it is acceptable to kill members of other species to keep them from crowding out other species, then the same should apply to humans if we were fair and just since humans are incredibly destructive.
How can humans claim they are managers when they cannot even manage themselves?
Sometimes the belief in human supremacy or universal morals is denied and the motto of survival of the fittest or individual selfishness is used to defend the systemic exploitation of nonhumans.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: Even though it is denied, the belief in human supremacy and a moral code is demonstrated by the convenient oversight that such a motto of survival of the fittest etc. would have for humans. It should justify exploiting other humans just as mercilessly as nonhumans since Nature does not prevent it and humans have routinely done it regardless of laws or social consequences.
One can force the person who believes "Might Makes Right" to concede publicly that randomly killing strangers or setting babies on fire is acceptable behavior to them. If they refuse, then it proves they do believe in the human supremacy myth, which is the same as a belief in racial supremacy, and therefore their ethical beliefs are founded on an unfair double standard.
Arguments to excuse hunting are numerous, so we will focus on the basics and how the supremacy myth animal rights argument is employed to answer them.
A long standing fable is that humans are natural predators like a wolf or tiger, but the opposite is easy to prove. Real predators face a difficult lifestyle. They have to chase their food, risk injury which can be lethal, deal with competitors, and be thwarted by the prey themselves.
Humans are not born with the tools to chase down, rip apart, and devour prey. They require externally manufactured instruments such as spears, stones, and projectile weapons. Without these humans, being so physically weak, would be barely able to capture a sick bird.
The routine answer for this is that the human mind and the tools they create are the equivalent of fangs and claws.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: we realize that the same tool- making ability that is used for hunting non human animals can also be used for digging in the soil to plant seeds or to kill other human beings. You do not often hear about tigers and wolves planting gardens or killing other tigers and wolves. Thus humans are not natural predators unless humans are included as among their natural prey.
In addition, humans also accidentally kill themselves or other humans when hunting. This can occur with guns or spears. It is unlikely that true predator animals accidentally kill themselves on their own claws or mistake a fellow lion for a gazelle. Natural predators have no "hunting seasons." It can also be pointed out that the dismissive regard for the "accidental" deaths of non- hunting humans killed in proximity to hunting areas suggests that the lives of humans are considered less important than preserving the activity of recreational killing of nonhumans. Once more the human supremacy myth is debunked using the routine reality of human exploitation of humans.
Animal Rights advocates can get particularly timid when it comes to the issue of non European cultures and those with limited economic resources who systematically exploit nonhumans. Usually it is considered a minor concern when compared to exploitation carried out by urban dwellers or ignored due to fears of being labeled a racist, privileged colonial trouble maker etc.
But if you do not express a consistent ethical view that evaluates these issues with fairness and justice, you leave a back door open in your ethics which invites all exploiters to cite these exceptions as proof that they should be exempt as well, and undermining the animal rights argument in general.
The basic idea: the closer a human lives to Nature without industrial means, the more one is entitled to commit acts of violence and discrimination against members of other species.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If one is poor and of any racial extraction, it is not usually considered permissible for the person to exploit and kill other humans for subsistence or basic survival. If one lived in an environment where a need to kill other humans for survival was a routine occurrence, then it would be strongly encouraged or demanded that the person or persons relocate or alter their survival patterns to be in harmony with accepted moral standards. The morality of exploiting other humans when it is not absolutely necessary would trump any lifestyle or tradition argument. Even a Caucasian critic would not usually have to worry about being called a racist because they oppose these activities of non-whites.
If we are to be fair and just in our moral principles, then racial character and economic status would not be deemed an excuse for harming innocent lives when alternatives exist.
If a tribe was killing humans for food, we would offer support to stop this from happening. Ideally, this should be the same principle when dealing with any human group in their systemic exploitation of nonhuman animals if we regard all humans as equal.
This is not extreme or unreasonable; it is merely exercising fairness and consistency in moral policy.
This basic concept of morality is like the sun - people in different regions have different words for it, but they all mean the same object. The moral principle of regarding yourself and others as equal and deserving of respect is universal to any human society on earth - we are simply refining it for consistency and fairness. If a member of a pre-industrial tribe would say that it is wrong for anyone to harm their tribal group while at the same time claiming it is morally justified for the tribe to systemically harm nonhumans, they are guilty of the same double standard morality and bigoted views demonstrated by their urban counterparts.
The practicality of implementing a more ethical lifestyle is not relevant to the ethical argument. As we pointed out - morality is not perfect and one can only do the best we can, but systemic exploitation is not doing the best you can.
We know that humans of any racial heritage are capable of discrimination, unfairness, bigotry, and exploitation. We also know that humans of any ancestry have dealt with wars, crime, slavery, illness, disability, and injustice. We do not allow someone descended from a family who was slaughtered in a war to justify their own behavior against others because of their ancestor's plight. Thus to be fair and just, someone descended from a designated ethnic group that experienced slavery does not mean they have the right to justify their own discrimination and exploitation of others by citing this link.
Human societies that have access to industrialized technology, and in fact live in association with urban societies while at the same time seeking to maintain pre-industrial lifestyles, exhibit a double standard in their moral values. They are willing to embrace modern technology and instruments but reject any notion that they should give up violent behavior that arises from their own particular version of Manifest Destiny.
If they are willing to give up human slavery or human sacrifice (which was also practiced by some tribes) than surely it is no outrage to suggest they treat other living beings as they would wish to be treated themselves. An Inuit would no doubt say that a Canadian of European descent has no moral right to exploit them, so what right do they have to do the same to seals, polar bears, elk etc? They cannot claim they are natives of the Arctic as a polar bear is, since the latter requires no artificial means to survive-while humans do.
If one truly believes that humans are equal then race is irrelevant. To suggest that some humans deserve special consideration or moral exemptions because of their ethnic or cultural background is to endorse an ethical double standard.
Vivisection, when stripped of the window dressing and excuses, is the practice of torturing captive animals in ways that would be considered atrocities if done to the most hated criminals. The only release from this suffering is death and if the tormentors had the power to prevent it you can be certain some would be keeping them alive to study the long term effects of pain and misery. There are no boundaries in vivisection. Any and every kind of torture has been conducted and new ones are contemplated every day.
Humans have always gravitated towards sadistic behavior against those they could exploit for reasons that had nothing to do with basic survival. There are Stone Age tribes that have been documented torturing other animals for ritualistic purposes. Such behavior continues to the present in many cultures. The excuses may vary and the tools change, but the behavior remains the same.
Vivisectors are not experts at preventing harm, they are experts at causing it. People who want to heal become doctors, not torturers.
To make the strongest case against vivisection you must understand what motivates those that support it and be able to see past their verbal explanations and excuses to observe the scope of the problem. You want to dissect their beliefs and show them that they are wrong. They may still deny the truth but you can present your case in a way that makes their excuses as logical as 2 + 2 = 5.
The motivating belief in vivisection is the myth that humans are superior in value as a group to other beings.
Human supremacy beliefs are biased personal opinion just like a belief in racial, gender, or religious supremacy. Any trait, criteria, or attribute cited to confirm this alleged superiority, whether mind, intelligence, soul, creativity, Divine or Biological specialness, survival of the fittest, tenacious moral instinct, moral reciprocity, or an unspecified faculty X, are as much subjective personal opinion as the importance given to skin colour or gender. Nature does not confirm this alleged superiority through natural phenomenon like weather, gravity, earthquakes etc and the constant routine natural exploitation of humans by other humans.
If you claim humans can justify the systemic exploitation of nonhumans based on biased personal opinion then another human can justify the systemic exploitation of humans using biased personal opinion. Nature cannot be shown to care. Invisible supreme deities are mute on the subject and allegedly indisputable religious texts are constantly disputed. If you want human rights you must accept nonhuman rights to close this loophole.
Only humans can be shown to use laws in an effort to control their behavior thus they are the only ones obligated to follow them, nonhumans benefit without needing to reciprocate out of fairness and consistency, since punishing them for being unable to follow human laws when you know they cannot would be like punishing a blind man for not reading warning signs or an armless man for not grabbing a drowning swimmer.
Moral perfection is impossible; you only do the best you can in any given situation. The failure to stop homicide or child abuse does not justify concentration camps, thus the failure to stop the accidental death of microbes or plants does not justify the construction and maintenance of vivisection labs.
That in essence is the irrefutable argument that explains why vivisection is wrong. But it is common for the animal rights activist to let the opposition lead the discussion and focus on particulars that are not as relevant.
It is valuable in a debate situation for the speaker to state the strongest case of the opposing side and dismantle it at the same time. That way the opponent cannot do anything but restate what you have already debunked, which puts them in a weak position.
In the typical debate, the researcher will say vivisection is justified because of the alleged benefits, which is a robotic and obvious answer that is devoid of moral justification; as if a thief or murderer stated that their acts were justified because of the material benefits to themselves or their family.
And they will say that vivisection is necessary for medical progress and that differences between humans and nonhumans are minimal (except when it comes to moral value). Or they will say they have to use nonhumans because experiments done on humans would be unethical (you will notice that when it comes to nonhumans the word "cruel" is thrown around, while for humans it is "immoral" or "unethical." That is welfarist thinking - as nonhumans are not considered worthy enough for respect or rights). At this point the animal rights advocate will disagree and turn to experts on the anti-vivisection side to argue the case that nonhumans are not necessary for human research and can even be counter productive (as in the often mentioned case of Thalidomide-proven to be safe on nonhumans but not for humans).
While the argument can be compelling it has weaknesses in its power to persuade which is why it should never be the main argument. One must look at the issue from the motivations and beliefs of the audience. The main problem is that the audience is expected to decide that a doctor representing the animal rights side cares more about human health than a researcher who is backed by the medical establishment. No matter how corrupt or sociopathic or foolish a vivisector may be, they have that public relations advantage, especially when scientific information is being discussed which often goes over the heads of the audience.
And by entertaining a discussion on usefulness, you invite, as George Bernard Shaw observed, the idea that if animal experimentation was shown to be useful, it would be justifiable. The key issue is the morality - the right and wrong of the act - based on the false belief in human superiority. Debunk this by exposing how human superiority is nothing but biased personal opinion like racial superiority beliefs and that an acceptance of such biased personal opinions for moral policy would allow one to justify human exploitation of humans by the same logic. You cannot have human rights without accepting nonhuman rights.
The claim that vivisection is a necessity or useful is not the real motivation for vivisection. Common sense shows us that it is a choice not a need by the very fact that only a tiny fraction of humans engage in the practice. It is not comparable to requiring food or water for daily survival. Disease is unpleasant but natural. Death is natural. Also, there are many examples of exploitation of nonhumans which everyone knows is far removed from any concept of necessity or usefulness and yet exists. Why assume vivisectors would operate differently from hunters, rodeo performers, or zookeepers simply because some claim they are motivated by (grossly misguided) altruism when they engage in extreme torture of innocent beings?
Even if the research was not useful there would still be those who say it is perfectly acceptable (given that nonhuman lives are inferior and disposable). It is seriously naïve to assume that any reported breakthrough in research technology will lead to an end to vivisection. This assumes that vivisectors respect nonhuman lives - if they did, they would not be doing any vivisection.
It is a perversion of altruism and compassion - you claim that you are attempting to heal Peter by torturing and killing Paul, Pat, and countless others and calling it an act of kindness. Some accept it with vivisection primarily because the assumption of human superiority to the victims and the blatant moral double standard is unquestioned.
If you would not think it is rational to find a cure for diseases in giraffes by experimenting on elephants why would you think it is rational to cure disease in humans by using mice, rats, dogs or chimps? Common sense indicates there are anatomical differences internally and externally between individuals and species just as there are similarities. Humans are still the best and true model for research. Nonhuman animal research is big business for scientists, breeders, and cage manufacturers, and the former have a vested interest in conjuring up new experiments on "disposable" life forms to keep their paychecks, while telling the public that the research is important and a "breakthrough." A week does not go by without another report of a "scientific miracle" thanks to non human animal experiments; although usually with the caution that human trials are years away.
It shares some similarities with ancient augury and the practices of witch doctors. Pagan priests would cut open live animals and read their entrails to encourage the hope and health of society (a good harvest, easy childbirth). Those that opposed it endangered society by angering the gods. Today, researchers claim that if nonhuman animal research stopped, the world would descend into a hell of disease and misery (without explaining why society and culture endured even during the Bubonic plague). By such logic, humans should have been extinct eons ago. Animal researchers promote the view that life works according to a quasi-Darwinian "Great Chain of Being" hierarchy where animals follow a ladder of complexity - starting with worms and ending with humanity, and that you can take them apart and reassemble them as easily as a jigsaw puzzle. If nonhuman animal research is necessary for producing safe drugs and treatments why then do we need clinical trials on humans? Why does Pfizer have to conduct medical trials in Africa? Why do drugs like Thalidomide get pulled after being shown to be safe in nonhuman animals?
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: The ridiculousness of the claim that nonhuman research is necessary is demonstrated if you ask the research supporter this question: If they had a choice between a drug tested only on rats or chimps, and a drug tested only on humans, which would they deem safer for human use? The answer determines one's actual belief in the importance of nonhuman animals in research.
The only reason this logical hypothetical is not asked is because of the double standard morality created by the human supremacy myth and intellectual blindness to it.
Such discussions never go far without someone saying: "if you had to save the life of your child, would you not sacrifice a rat?" Ignoring the fact that scientists cannot find cures for illnesses by simply torturing one or a few or thousands of rats to death no matter how much they want people to believe they can perform magical miracles, the answer to this should be no less controversial than the following alternative scenario.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: If you had a choice between your child and a neighbor's who would you choose?
If you chose your child, does it mean you want the neighbor's child to be tortured in a lab? If you refuse to choose, does that mean you do not love your child as much as your neighbor's? This type of question is not raised, even when common sense tells us that the best and safest research model for human disease is another human. If finding a cure for disease is so important, why aren't scientists and patients advocating the use of criminals or volunteers in medical experiments? Humans are the best and safest model for research, and we send healthy people off to be maimed and killed in wars for natural resources, religion and political ideology, and yet the war against cancer is only considered of dire importance when it comes to the discussion of abolishing nonhuman animals in research. This exposes how the double standard of the human supremacy myth is the driving force in defenses of vivisection. The more recent claims that genetic engineering can alter the physiology of nonhuman animals so they are better models for human research also exploits public ignorance since it requires faith that scientists understand Nature so well that they can predict how the physiology of other species will react to the altered genetics. But even if they could turn a nonhuman into a perfect copy of human anatomy with the same responses to chemicals, the torture and death could not be justified by the discriminatory ethical arguments based on the false belief in human supremacy as mentioned earlier. Citing alleged benefits of an action is not the same as providing ethical justification for it.
As a bullying tactic, researchers and their proponents will say that animal rights activists cannot protest animal research if they have benefited from research that has been linked to nonhuman animal research experiments.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument: They ignore that research on humans against their consent has also been done and the research preserved. Do they make the same demand of human rights activists that they cannot use anything that may be traced back to human experimentation? The work of Joseph Mengele is well known, but there is also James Marion Sims, former head of the American Medical Association who experimented on black slaves and was awarded for his humanitarian efforts by a statue in New York's Central Park. And there is Jonas Salk, reported to have deliberately infected patients at mental hospitals with influenza.
Researchers say they need to use nonhuman animals for research because they are like us - and yet they say they deserve no rights because they are not like us. This highlights the real issue: the motivation for animal research beyond money and sociopathic tendencies is an arrogant belief that humans as a species are superior in value to all other life, based upon biased personal opinion criteria conveniently determined by those who stand to benefit from the discrimination and exploitation. Sims and Mengele and Salk thought the same way about the use of humans they deemed inferior.
If one cannot be against vivisection if they were unwitting patients of corporate medicine, then the same is true for those using Pfizer drugs (who experimented on humans in the 90s). Or those using any medication that can be linked to the Nazi research (which was kept for human medicine). Or anyone with medication treatments linked to Jonas Salk or James Sims. Beyond that one should not be advocating for human rights if they live on land that was taken in a war - or pay taxes to governments that finance human rights abuses or warfare. No one can be perfect in an imperfect world. If human rights supporters are not expected to be perfect than the same holds true for supporters of nonhuman animal rights causes.
If we say that someone who is ill does not have the moral right to demand that other humans be used for research to find a cure (even though the results would be far more beneficial than using nonhumans) then logically since humans cannot be shown to be superior to other beings (as all standards and criteria are based on biased personal opinions like they are for racial supremacy etc.) they cannot make the same demand when it comes to nonhumans used in vivisection. It is not complicated - it simple and fair morality.
Some will charge that the animal rights advocate must come up with alternatives to nonhuman research. This is an example of a bullying tactic and upside down view of fairness.
If one seeks to find cures for human illness, the onus is on them to do it in a way that does not violate basic and consistent standards of moral conduct, not the animal advocate for pointing out the immorality of a practice.
The problem of evil is a philosophical issue that focuses on reasons why a seemingly all powerful, all knowing, all compassionate deity could create a universe with evil. The answer often given is that such a being could have made a universe without evil, but it would require that it be populated with innocent automata - for free will creatures (humans) to exist, the choice of evil had to be present. One can debate the merits of this answer, but more important to our discussion is that the answer attempts to solve the problem by appealing to human self-interest and supremacy beliefs - the observer is expected to agree that a universe without humans and without evil is a worse reality than a universe with evil and humans.
Given the prevalence of human supremacist thinking, it may be surprising to learn that the belief in the superiority of nonhumans to humans has been articulated. Theriophily or animalitarianism is defined as the belief in the superiority of nonhuman animals to humans - that other living beings are happier and more in harmony with Nature. Jonathan Swift entertained the idea in Gulliver's Travels and Mark Twain, often characterized as a misanthrope in his later years, expressed support for the concept:
"Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one."
Twain used the newspaper of his day to make the argument that when it comes to human nature there appears to be no limits to human violence, human irrationality, and human arrogance. Many people would likely agree with this - it becomes a controversial issue only when one voices the opinion that nonhumans are better by our own standards of moral conduct and fairness.
If you look at human history it is hard not to come to the conclusion that humans have always been maniacally violent and destructive despite noble ideals to reign in human excesses and control human behavior so it is more moderate like other species.
Humans can and do engage in violent behavior, even to self-destructive extremes, for reasons that have nothing to do with practical survival.
Whether one believes in Biblical or scientific claims on human origin the consensus is that at one time humans did not exist - meaning that the type of extreme violence and misery humans have introduced into the world did not exist. I.e. a leg hold trap which forces a captive animal to chew their own leg off or attempts to genetically alter a species to give them human-like illnesses or psychological torture caused by a lifetime of isolated imprisonment.
In addition to biological conditions that make one either empathetic or sociopathic, there are numerous complex layers of customs and ideology in societies that reinforce violent behavior and people are often at the mercy of what culture and beliefs their society has fostered on them from birth. To oppose these beliefs is to risk one's social comfort and at the most extreme, to become a victim of human violence and mania.
Seeing the contradictions in moral beliefs - i.e. claiming to be compassionate by torturing a nonhuman animal in a lab in ways that would not be done to the most despised criminal is not to be a traitor to your kind, it is rather, to be true to a fair and consistent concept of justice.
If it is wrong to stand up for justice in dealings with a nonhuman animal tortured in a lab, then it is also wrong to stand up for justice in dealings with a human victimized by other humans. Nature cannot be shown to judge given how common human exploitation of humans is in the world.
The logic is irrefutable. The double standard morality is due to a belief in human superiority which can easily be shown to be based on personal opinion and not fact. It is no different in structure than a belief in racial or gender superiority based on personal opinion. We call such people bigots. We know that humans have always been irrationally violent against anyone they can victimize. Thus, if we want laws to control human behavior and support fairness and justice and compassion, then nonhumans must be given full moral consideration. If you attempt to exclude them you invite humans to exploit other humans (which they have been doing regardless of laws and moral edicts).
You cannot have human rights without accepting nonhuman rights.
Appeals to kindness and compassion can succeed but they do not work with everyone and those that do not respond favorably to them should not be ignored. Either an effort should be made to persuade them with another approach, or at least, demonstrate why their beliefs are false even if it will do little more than irritate them. The situation for nonhuman victims is far too serious to leave to passive pleas and resignation, or for advocates to fail to examine their own beliefs and the effectiveness of their tactics.
The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument dissects the basic beliefs that individuals hold to in order to justify systemic exploitation of nonhumans (and humans). The more people use this iron clad common sense argument, the harder it will be for opponents to have a safe harbor and deny the truth.
If you use inferior arguments that the opposition feels confident in attacking, you help them in falsely believing that they are right. The opposition will attack the weaker argument and ignore the stronger one - if you allow them to. You can control the debate and force the opponent to go where you want them to and corner their false beliefs to expose them for what they are: the last refuge of the bigot.
In the end this does not guarantee that you will persuade the person, especially if they have a vested personal interest or financial stake in maintaining the exploitation, but if enough people are pointing out that 2 +2 = 4, then at least you can feel certain that you have morality on your side and perhaps, build momentum among those who can be persuaded to care about justice and fairness and compassion and make policy changes that help those who desperately need it.
A Bird Shot by an Arrow
A bird by well-aimed arrow shot,
Dying, deplored this cruel lot
And cried: "It doubles every pain,
When from one self the cause of ruin came.
Ah cruel men, from our wings you drew,
The plume that winged the shaft that slew.
But mock us not you heartless race,
You too will sometime take our place.
For half at least of Japheth's brothers,
Forge swords and knives to slay the others.
Jean de La Fontaine
This article appears in KG's blog: The Supremacy Myth Animal Rights Argument
The strongest debating posture does not merely state a position you believe to be right, it also forcefully shows why the opponent’s argument is wrong.