Frequently asked questions about animal rights and animal rights activists

The animal rights movement is a big, big tent

“Why do you think they have rights?” a dog breeder asked me.

He didn’t actually wait for the answer. Instead, he launched into a mansplaination about Genesis and how God put Adam in charge of the animals.

I had to attend a LOT of Sunday school classes, so I’d heard the Eden story before. I found a semi-polite excuse to hang up the phone.

But it got me thinking about what animal rights activists and believers have in common. What I realized is that the animal rights movement is a big, big tent.

Think about how few things Republicans have in common. The animal rights tent is bigger than that.

The one thing we have in common: We cherish animals!

So I scoured the internet for the most frequent questions that people have about the animal rights movement, and here’s what I came up with.

FAQ: If you could only save one, would you save the life of a chicken or a baby?

This questions comes directly from a Vice.com article that clearly intends to poke fun at animal rights, but it’s as good a place to start as any.

ANSWER: OF COURSE WE SAVE THE BABY!

Setting aside the fact that, at no time in history, has anyone actually faced this dilemma, most animal rights activists do not regard animal life as equal with human life.

Peter Singer, the most influential voice on animal rights in the twentieth century, was very clear that his daughters were always going to take priority over anybody else.

There might be a few crackpots in the animal rights movement that would say, “It depends.” But most of us have no hesitation about placing a higher value on human life. It’s also normal for us, as animals, to be loyal to our own. Orcas don’t kill other orcas. Most species will blindly defend their own kind.

FAQ: Why is it so important to save dolphins while fishing for tuna? If we kill and eat tuna, why shouldn’t we kill and eat dolphins?

For one thing, it’s wasteful. People don’t want to eat dolphins, they want to eat tuna. So the dead dolphins get thrown in the trash. That kind of disregard for life should be abhorrent to anyone.

For another thing, most animal rights believers prioritize the rights of bigger brain animals over smaller brain animals. Bigger brain mammals feel pain and panic when they are drowning or being beaten.

We also identify more completely with bigger brained animals. Dolphins and dogs seem to be smiling at us. They definitely interact with us. This makes them more precious to us. Some animal rights activists decry this as speciesism, but it’s more or less unavoidable because we can’t save everyone.

FAQ: What is speciesism?

In a nutshell, speciesism is putting a higher value on the life of one species of animal than on another.

For instance, when the newly made vampire Bella passes on the baby deer and kills the mountain lion, she is practicing speciesism. The wrong kind. Because wild cats are endangered, while deer are not. Deer, in fact, need predators to keep their damage under control. Where are the vampires?

Some animal rights activists will decry speciesism. But, at the end of the day, it is inevitable. When we put Frontline on our dogs and cats, we are preferring dogs and cats to fleas.

The most textbook example of species warfare is cat people vs. bird people. Bird watchers and wildlife experts want people to keep their cats inside, and they want to euthanize feral cats for whom no decent homes can be found.

The cat lovers cry “Speciesism!” and say things like, “who cares if a few birds die if my cats are having fun?”

Who is right?

THE BIRD PEOPLE ARE RIGHT!

Because:

Don’t be a dick. Keep your cat inside or put a bell on his collar.

Birds were here first. They were here long before the domesticated cat decided to home share with humans. They were also here before homo sapiens. According to Britannica, birds showed up on the earth stage 150 million years ago which gives their species roughly 149 million years seniority over humans and their companion animals.

As you can see, I’ve employed a form of speciesism to determine that wild birds should be protected from Garfield. I used the “they were here first” argument, which is the right form of speciesism.

FAQ: What is veganism?

Veganism is a diet which excludes all animal products, not only meat, but also dairy products and eggs. Contrary to popular belief, it is not overwhelmingly difficult to get all the protein you need from plants. A breakfast of peanut butter and whole wheat bread, a dinner of brown rice and beans will suffice. God bless the vegans.

FAQ: What is a fruitarian?

Someone who claims to eat only fruit. Fruitarians, if they really exist, define fruit as something that grows on a tree or shrub. The philosophy behind fruitarianism is that the plant yields food that can be picked with no harm to the plant. By contrast, when you eat a carrot, you destroy the plant.

Fruitarians exist mostly in theory because, even if you consider peanuts a fruit, it is impossible to get sufficient protein from a fruit only diet, unless you cheat and add a little brown rice.

Whenever you read about a fruitarian, it’s anecdotal. And it’s always somebody who WAS a fruitarian. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it can’t be done for long, though alternating between fruitarian and vegan is feasible.

FAQ: Are all animal rights activists vegetarians?

No, some of us eat meat. And we want you to quit judging us.

The late, great Cynthia Heimel (Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth; I’m Kissing You Goodbye) was a powerful animal advocate. And she called for the animal rights movement to accept the hamburger eaters with open arms. Food writer Andy McDonald rightly notes that most meat eaters care about animals and want more efficient food production systems that do not place an nonviable burden on the planet’s resources.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will tell you that you cannot eat meat and be a true animal lover. However, PETA does not speak for all animal rights believers.

FAQ: If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them taste so good?

ANSWER: Why are you so sure God is a guy?

FAQ: What is factory farming?

Factory farming refers to systems of farming animals that maximize income by minimizing animal movement and crowding animals together. “Factory farming” usually refers to corporately raised chickens.

Yes, some of us do sincerely believe that crowding chickens together in a toxic enclosure under hot lights with their beaks sliced off is cruel. And we will pay the extra dollars to buy eggs that came from free range chickens. However, I want to emphasize that you are still welcome in the animal rights tent if you eat the cheaper factory chicken and/or eggs. This is a big tent, and we realize that some people have tight budgets.

FAQ: What is free range?

Free range refers to a farming practice that allows livestock animals to roam freely and to live out their short lives as they would do in the wild. It refers mostly to chickens. Free range chickens are allowed to graze freely outdoors rather than spend their lives in cages.

But free range can also refer to larger farm animals. One of the most historic crops is the Spanish black pig who roams the plains of Spain with little supervision. In a bizarre twist of fate, Iberian pigs were exported to the US where they are also free ranged in Georgia and Kentucky.

FAQ: What does organic farming have to do with animals?

Organic farming restricts the use of chemicals in both fertilizing crops and eliminating insects that destroy crops.

The problem with spraying chemicals on crops is that the chemicals then enter the air, soil, and water. Airborne pesticides don’t just kill grasshoppers who eat corn, but also butterflies, bees, and birds. Pesticides that enter streams and rivers kill fish, turtles, frogs, and other river dwellers. Buying organically grown food is one way people can protect wildlife.

FAQ: What is a locavore?

A locavore is anyone who makes a consistent effort to eat food that is grown nearby. For instance, a locavore might have a subscription service with nearby farm. The locavore pays a fixed sum, like a hundred dollars a month, and the farm delivers food to the locavore on a weekly basis, or boxes food for the locavore to pick up.

Locavores also frequent farmer’s markets because that’s where they find food grown locally. They also value and frequent restaurants that obtain local produce and meat products.

Locavores are not always vegetarians, but they may prioritize plant food in their diets. They are likely to prefer organically grown food. They also prioritize and support small scale growers, as opposed to corporate farms like those owned by Monsanto.

Locavores know that transportation, especially the transportation of food, is the leading cause of climate change and that climate change is the leading cause of animal extinctions.

FAQ: What does it mean to eat “Low on the food chain”?

People who eat low on the food chain eat a lot of vegetables and grains, some fish, little chicken and turkey, and very little or no red meat.

In other words, the more resources a livestock animal eats, the more damage it does to the environment. A fish in the wild eats smaller fish or even filter feeds. So his impact on the environment is sustainable.

Chickens and other livestock poultry must eat grain, so they often cause grain to be grown with pesticides which damage the planet. And they are often frozen and shipped, using energy and causing carbon dioxide emissions.

Beef and pork are raised with the same ethical ramifications. But they eat a lot more grain. Some people think it is cruel to kill large, sentient mammals. Some people think it is cruel to raise animals for food when the grain those animals consume could easily feed all the hungry people on the planet. Excuse me for a minute. I need to go cry into my quinoa.

FAQ: Do animal rights believers eat eggs?

Some do. Some don’t. A few animal rights activists believe that a chicken egg is a potential life that was cut short. More animal rights believers think that the cultivation of chickens for human use is abusive to the chickens. Some of us think that, if the chickens got to range, squawk, and mate, maybe it’s okay to buy a dozen eggs from a free-range chicken farmer.

FAQ: What religions preach animal rights?

Pretty much all of them, even the total crackpot religions.

You can see a respect for animals in the dietary traditions and religious texts of all the world religions. Muhammad, the father of Islam, for instance, loved cats. When his beloved cat Muezza was sleeping on the sleeve of his robe, he cut the fabric off his sleeve so he could arise without waking her up. Tibetan Buddhists eat a lot of barley. That’s because their religion tells its followers to eat meat only when it can be obtained without butchering an animal or causing one to be butchered. The Jewish religion restricts meat eating to animals that have been quickly butchered. In earlier centuries, pigs were slowly drained of blood to preserve their meat. That kind of thing is prohibited by Judaism.

The Christian Bible has fewer obvious instructions about how to treat animals. But Matthew 10:29 tells us that God knows when a sparrow dies.

FAQ: Who are the Jains?

Jainism is an ancient religion whose most important tenet is non-violence. The commitment to non-violence makes Jains the ultimate animal rights believers. They are not only vegetarian, they refrain from stepping on insects and digging (because digging in the earth disrupts worms and bugs). Their religion prohibits them from working in circuses and zoos. They cannot work in any business that involves butchering animals, selling leather, or cutting trees.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists believe in euthanasia?

I assume you’re talking about pet euthanasia? Otherwise, WTH? Many animal rights believers think that sick or injured companion animals should be euthanized if they are suffering. PETA has firmly taken the position that animals with no life quality need to be put down. Other animal rights believers think PETA is a little too handy with the phenobarbital. It’s a big tent.

FAQ: Canada geese have taken over the nearby ball field. Why can’t I just shoot them?

Some, NOT ALL, Canada geese have given up migrating. And can you blame them? Their migratory route is two thousand miles. One way.

These geese have various reasons for abandoning migration and putting down roots. In every case, however, it is the fault of humans.

Some non-migratory geese are the descendants of farmed geese whose wings were cut. They don’t migrate because no one taught them to do so.

Other permanent geese have simply found that they need not migrate. Or they need not go so far north. Why go to the arctic circle when Wisconsin is so nice in the spring and summer? Climate change and the warmer winters everywhere as well as open waters that used to freeze are to blame. And humans, not geese, are to blame for the warming.

AND geese that still migrate to the arctic will often join the non-migratory geese for a quick nibble on a golf course or baseball diamond. So, no. You can’t shoot the geese. Some of them are migratory birds protected by federal laws.

And if you shoot them, I will bust you.

FAQ: Do all animal rights activists recycle?

Most do, yes. We recognize that the production of new materials creates pollution which is toxic to wildlife. And we think that recycling reduces pollution.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists wear leather?

Stop judging me for my leather jacket! I got it at a second hand store!

Also stop judging animal rights believers for wearing leather shoes. In the first place, they may not be leather. There are plastic shoes that LOOK exactly like leather.

More importantly, it’s easy to pick on people with ideals. Having ideals means living with inconsistencies. The only people who can maintain a 100 percent consistency with their ideals are selfish dicks who care only for themselves and declare as much.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists throw paint at fur coats?

Please, only a few of us do that. Many of us feel that stunts like that make the rest of us look like crackpots.

It should be noted that the PETA website does NOT recommend paint throwing. Instead, we are supposed to politely ask the fur wearer if the fur is real. Then, if it’s indeed a dead animal, we’re to deliver a lecture about your terrible immorality. No paint throwing.

That said, you really should donate your real fur coat to a homeless shelter.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists have pets?

A few hard-core extremists believe that pet ownership is exploitative and wrong. Most animal rights activists will tell you that it is wrong to take an animal, like a bird, fish, snake, or turtle out of the wild to make it your pet. (There are exotic breeders who raise reptiles ethically.)

Many animal rights believers have dogs and cats. We believe that these animals have evolved to be symbiotic with people. And we think our dogs and cats enjoy our company as much as we enjoy theirs.

Please, please don’t buy a parrot or turtle.

FAQ: Do all animal rights activists spay and neuter their pets?

Most do, yes. We believe there’s no need to bring more domestic animals into the world. Many of us also believe that breeding a female dog or cat repeatedly causes injury to the animal. PETA strongly, strongly favors spaying and neutering all pets to avoid the possibility of unwanted offspring.

But there is a minority opinion. No one could possibly love dogs more than Alexandra Horowitz. And she has written an impassioned plea to reconsider desexing all dogs.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists despise pet breeders?

“Despise” is a strong word. Some people think that, by breeding dogs, you are taking away a home from a shelter dog.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists oppose the Iditarod?

Some dogs are injured and some even die racing the Iditarod. It is a harsh race. For that reason, some colorful personalities advocate for it to be shut down.

It should be noted, however, that most mushers love their dogs. And it must also be noted that some dogs LOVE to run and feel insulted if they are left out of the race. And it should be noted that we let humans participate in extreme sports like ski jumping and surfing, even though a percentage of skiers and surfers have died doing what they love.

But now I’m going to shut up because I don’t want to bring the wrath of PETA down on my head.

FAQ: Doesn’t it demean humans to give rights to animals?

No, it does not. How insecure must you be to ask that question?

FAQ: Do animal rights activists think that blind people should not have service dogs?

Yes, a few crackpots think that you should not exploit a dog in this way. However, this is an extreme view. And it completely overlooks the fact that big dogs usually like to have a job. The dogs that are bred and trained to be service dogs to the blind would be miserable without a job. To understand a dog’s need to serve, we must look at the evolution of dogs. Humans did not court and tame wolves because they were cute. They needed wolves as hunting companions. The cave dwellers noticed that, when raised by humans from birth, wolves would bond with humans and show varying degrees of loyalty. This, combined with the wolf’s hunting skills, made her an invaluable hunting partner. Cambridge researchers have theorized that dogs were there at the very beginning of civilization, giving humans the upper hand over our earliest competitors, the Neanderthals.

FAQ: If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets, what would happen to all the animals?

Yes, my students asked me this. I see two scenarios for the livestock, one in which everyone in the world enjoys one last hamburger, one last chicken sandwich, and one last omelet. Then a mass grave for the bones. In the other scenario, livestock is released to live in the wild, and they mostly die off because they are not equipped with the life skills or DNA to survive the wild. A few of the strongest, smartest individuals would create wild communities of steer, chickens, and turkeys. How cool would that be?

I don’t see pets ever dying out because people are more attached to their pets even than to meat eating. And there are plenty of people who refuse to spay and neuter their pets.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists consider the economic consequences of protecting animals?

We think that an economy based on animal slaughter is a bad economy and that there are better alternatives. Cattle farms can be converted to wind turbine farms and solar farms. Poultry farms can and should be converted to the farming of organic vegetables, soy, quinoa, broccoli, asparagus, blueberries, etc. or animal sanctuaries.

FAQ: Don’t animal rights activists read the Bible?

Do Christians read the Bible, might be a better question. Many Christians believe in treating animals with a basic degree of kindness. The Bible is actually very clear on the human/animal connection. God gives humans “dominion” over all animals right at the start. Thereafter, however, all the verses about animals tell us to be kind and avoid causing unnecessary suffering. Some translations of the Bible even tell Christians to let their cattle rest on Sundays. Or Saturdays; it depends on when your Sabbath is. There are some VERY specific verses on not destroying birds’ nests or bird mothers, whether they are in trees or ground nesting. Other verses tell you to pull your donkey out of the pit he’s fallen into, probably because of your irresponsibility. Even on the Sabbath, you have to rescue your donkey. Don’t be a dick! Rescue your donkey! The Bible does assume that people will eat animals and put them to work, but that does not mean that animals can be beaten, starved, or abandoned. The proverb, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” informs the Bible reader, in no uncertain terms, that “dominion” means careful stewardship, not cruelty.

FAQ: Who are the most influential voices in the animal rights movement?

Peter Singer, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Barbara Smuts, if you are looking for the scientists. If you are looking for the movie stars, there are a bunch: Brigitte Bardot, Alicia Silverstone, Moby, Betty White, Alec Baldwin, Pink, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Paul, Mary, and Stella McCartney, Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, k.d. Lang, Kim Basinger, Bob Barker, Pam Anderson, Casey Affleck, to name a few. The writer/philosophers include: Cleveland Amory, Douglas Adams, Jeremy Bentham, Margaret Cavendish, J.M. Coetzee, Karen Davis, Robert Garner, Gerald Durrell, Keith Mann, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Alice Walker.

FAQ: Are animal rights activists violent?

In the true sense of “violence,” almost no animal rights advocates are violent. Someone out there is saying, “What about Theodore John Kaczynski?” Ted Kaczynski, the unabomber, protested deforestation by blowing up buildings and killing three people, while leaving many more injured.

Kaczynski does not represent animal rights activists at large. After being arrested, Kaczynski underwent a 22-hour psychiatric analysis which concluded that he had a severe mental illness, specifically paranoid schizophrenia.

This is how I, personally, know that Kaczynski was crazy: He blew up buildings, and killed three people. Kaczynski was NOT part of a group. He worked alone, which is why it took years to catch him.

I need to emphasize here that he was NOT part of the Earth First! movement. The connection that has been drawn between Kaczynski and Earth First! comes from his attendance at one, ONE, Earth First! meeting. If a serial murderer attends a PTA meeting, is the PTA now responsible for everything he does?

Why am I so emotional about this? Because in the late nineties, I served as a short-term editor at the Earth First! journal. This is what I know about Earth Firsters: They play a lot of video games and argue about how vegan they are going to be. They do a little half-hearted gardening and organize a few protests and a critical mass bike ride. They provide couches for the homeless and alt musicians. Oh, and a few hours a week, they put together a monthly newspaper, mostly from articles submitted by environmental activists throughout the world. That’s honestly about all they do.

So imagine our surprise when we received a copy of the Unabomber’s manifesto, embargoed (by the unabomber himself) because he was waiting to hear whether the New York Times would publish it. This actually terrified several of the tough guys at Earth First! A few amateur dramatists wanted to burn the manuscript so that it could not be traced back to us. There was absolutely no discussion about publishing it. Admittedly, we should have called the police.

Why were we so scared? Well, at least in part because of what happened to environmental activist, Judi Bari. In 1990, Bari’s car exploded with her and Darryl Cherney in it. The FBI showed up so fast after the explosion, that they are still under suspicion of knowing about the bomb and letting Bari blow up anyway. Or maybe they put the bomb there. Or colluded, passively, in allowing a disgruntled lumberjack to place it there. Bari had gotten sorely on the nerves of the timber industry in her attempts to save forests from destruction.

Why do we know so much about the Unabomber and so little about Judi Bari? Let that sink in for a minute.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists destroy private property to free or protect animals?

Sometimes. It depends on whether you’re aligned with Gandhi or Al Gore.

Gandhi would say that you can’t support and abide by an unfair law. But, at the same time, you can also perpetrate no violence against any sentient being in the process of protesting a wrong law. This philosophy does not prohibit one from breaking into a corporate farm and photographing the pigs. But if the owners or the police show up, and start beating up on you, you can’t fight back. Following Gandhi is hard. That’s why so few people do it.

Al Gore would say you have to respect all laws and work within those laws to effect positive change. If the laws are wrong, use the system to change the laws.

Almost all animal rights activists fall in either with Gandhi or Al Gore. Both are essentially peaceful pathways, even when someone is liberating your chickens from their coop.

FAQ: What’s wrong with zoos?

Zoos are sometimes the last chance to save a species. Take, for instance, the celebrated case of Diego, a Galapagos turtle who lived most of his life at the San Diego Zoo. When the fifteen remaining Hood Island tortoises were hovering on the brink of extinction, Diego was DNA tested to see if he could be part of a captive breeding program to save the Hood islanders. This does seem like a Hail Mary kind of move.

And yet.

When Diego arrived in Santa Cruz and discovered female tortoises, the previously asexual fifty-seven year old swung into action. Over the next twenty-five years, Diego fathered 900-1000 baby tortoises. Another tortoise, unpoetically named E5, fathered even more. The Hood Island tortoise population today is at two thousand. Around forty percent of them are Diego’s progeny, and sixty percent were fathered by E5. Diego was rewarded by being returned to his native Espanola Island, where he gets to live out the rest of his life as a wild tortoise. He might live another sixty years. Animals are amazing. This is why we love them.

So, zoos can be useful in keeping interesting species alive. Why do animal rights activists think they are horrible?

Answer: Some animals do okay in zoos, and others should not be there. For instance, no zoo can recreate a habitat that is satisfactory to polar bears. Polar bears range for hundreds of miles across ice and open waters. They generally lose their minds in zoos. A big cat that is trapped in a four-hundred foot enclosure paces up and down all day. Back and forth at the front of the cage. That animal is miserable. Does he want to kill and eat you for lunch? Probably.

Many of us think that taking an animal out of the wild and putting him in captivity for the entertainment of humans has had its day. Technology may solve this problem for us. How can you expect a child to be interested in captive animals when he can play Paws of Fury in the climate-controlled comfort of his own room?

Meantime, most animal welfare believers would like to close down the zoos that are most abusive to animals. Those that have a high mortality rate, for instance. If the animals are not well fed and kept healthy, with at least some space to move around in, the zoo needs to close and release the animals to the wild or transfer them to a better zoo or animal sanctuary.

We support the creation of laws that restrict importing healthy animals for entertainment. For instance, after multiple dolphin deaths at Connyland, Switzerland decided that they would not allow any more dolphins to be imported. We also support aquariums and zoo-like institutions that exhibit only animals that have been injured. For example, the South Carolina Aquarium exhibits Loggerhead sea turtles, but they are only brought to the aquarium when they have been in an accident with a boat or caught in a net, etc. They are rehabbed at the aquarium and released back into the wild if they regain their health. Most animal rights believers agree this is an acceptable practice.

Zoos are also useful if they do a good job of educating the public about animals and encourage good practices that do not endanger animals.

Bottom line: Zoos have their place, but taking healthy animals out of the wild is wrong.

FAQ: Why are selfies with animals so wrong?

Selfies with animals are not inherently wrong, as long as you do not interfere with the animal. For instance, a photo of you in the foreground, and a water buffalo in the background, grazing, is not automatically wrong unless you add information about the location of the animal that could endanger it.

However, if you offer an animal food to pose with you or if you hold a wild animal in place so you can be photographed with it, that is wrong.

Feeding wild animals endangers them in a number of ways.

The most obvious danger is that the animal can lose its fear of humans. A fed bear, for instance, is a dead bear. By the time that bear has no fear of people, it will wander into town, terrorize children, and be shot by animal control or a park ranger. Same thing with alligators and coyotes.

It should be obvious why you should not hold a wild animal to get a shot of yourself. If you are really, really lucky, you will not get bitten. If you are bugging a dolphin to get a photo, and the dolphin bites you, you deserve it.

FAQ: If a captive animal has a longer life than a wild animal, isn’t captivity a favor?

Some animals do live longer in zoos, while others do not. Specifically, species that live short, intense lives are more likely to live longer in a zoo because the predators are removed, and the diseases are prevented or treated. Ergo, most bunnies and their relatives live longer in zoos. And big cats. Big cats live longer in zoos. (Those damn vampires again!)

Does this mean it’s okay to take healthy animals out of the wild and put them in zoos? No, it does not. As discussed above, zoos justify their existence when they save a species through captive breeding. Otherwise, no, it’s not okay to relocate an animal from its natural habitat. Animal rights folks have this prickly idea that animals should be themselves. This is sometimes worded as “expressing normal behavior.” That means we think that animals should have as rich and full a life as they would in the wild.

In general, the bigger brained an animal is, the more likely it is to suffer in captivity. This is why so many of us hate it that orcas and dolphins are still kept in water parks. There is no definitive evidence that dolphins are any dumber than humans; we have locked up innocent, self aware creatures for our own amusement. Big-brained animals are the usual suspects: elephants, wolves, big cats, kangaroos, marine mammals, apes, and monkeys. Small brained, but very smart, animals include crows, parrots, and shrews.

So, when an animal rights believer sees a zoo animal, she asks the following questions:

Do they mate and have offspring? Do they hunt? Do they get to travel as far as they would in the wild? Do they engage in play behavior with others of their species? When captivity alters these behaviors, it’s a bad captivity. Most humans believe that they, themselves, are entitled to the richest, fullest life possible. Since animal rights activists don’t draw a line between people and other animals on the sentient life spectrum, we see no reason to view animal life with a different lens.

Animals don’t deserve to go to prison any more than you do if you haven’t committed a crime.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists believe that women have the right to terminate a pregnancy?

In general, yes.

While we regard all sentient life as sacred, some of us do not think that a fetus is yet sentient. And others believe that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is exploitative.

We do not hold human life in contempt. Most animal rights activists revere human life. It would be inconsistent not to, because we believe humans are the apex species in the animal kingdom.

However, cherishing life, for us, means freedom. Just as we think wild animals should be free to live their fullest lives, we also think that human women should be free to make their own decisions.

We consider the freedom of the individual animal perhaps even more sacred than the right of the species to exist. An abortion is always an unfortunate event, but we will not oppose human animals who choose to have them.

It should be noted that PETA does not take a position on abortion.

FAQ: In the wild, there are predators, like lions and wolves, who kill and eat other animals. Why is it okay for them, but not for us?

Ahem.

Okay, maybe you have a point.

But, first, please understand that there is hunting, and then there is factory farming, and then there is habitat destruction. Which is worst?

Habitat destruction is worst.

About the worst thing that humans humans do is to cut down a forest, teeming with bird nests, frogs, snakes, opossums, turtles, raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, bob cats, etc., then turn it into a subdivision. The second worst thing humans do is cut down a forest to grow food, whether it be corn or grazing livestock or a chicken farm. One of the least harmful things a human ever does is spend all day in the forest with a bow and arrow, and come home with one bagged deer.

Hunting and gathering humans live, pretty much, in harmony with their universe. That’s why most animal rights activists have a vague idea that we shouldn’t have destroyed the native Americans. Their civilization was sustainable. Ours is not. They took one deer or buffalo out of its community, prayed for forgiveness, and always made sure to leave enough animals so that there would be future food.

By contrast, farming often requires devastation of someone’s home and almost always devastation of the environment. The great dust bowl, the extinction of eastern wolves, the loss of the ivory-billed woodpecker: all these are directly connected to growing more food than humans need today.

Meanwhile, many hunters do care about preserving habitat for wildlife. This is acknowledged by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The biggest organization for hunter conservationists is Hunters for Habitat.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists let native Americans off the hook when they trap, fish, or whale?

In general, the animal rights movement honors indigenous people who use traditional hunting methods. That is because the hunting/gathering lifestyle of all primitive people is far less damaging to the biosphere than the spread of western civilization which lays waste to huge sections of wilderness in order to grow food and erect housing.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists oppose circuses?

We only oppose circuses that exploit live animals that have been taken out of the wild: bears, elephants, tigers, especially. We think that wild animals should be left in the jungles and forests where they were born.

Ringling Brothers has closed shop, citing confrontations with animal rights activists as one of the major reasons. Big, three-ring circuses that feature live animals are quickly being replaced by circuses that do not use animals. Cirque du Soleil is basically a ballet company masquerading as a circus. Go see them, if you haven’t. They’re awesome.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists oppose horse racing?

In general, yes.

It’s not so much the racing that we hate. It’s the cynical way some horse owners treat their horses.

When the BBC, USA Today, and the Guardian all report long lists of briefly famous horses that were slaughtered after the public turned its gaze elsewhere, we feel something is terribly wrong. Dog food makers don’t have to report all the horse meat they are using, but it is likely that roughly thirty to forty percent of Fido’s chow is dead race horse.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists oppose dog racing?

Yes. Dog racing is supported almost entirely by the gambling industry, and many dogs, especially greyhounds, are killed in the process. When a racing dog is injured or slows down, the owner rarely tries to find another home for him or even obtain veterinary care. It’s easier just to kill the dog. This disregard for the lives of highly sentient animals should be horrifying to everyone.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists oppose dog fighting and cock fights?

Of course we do, because we’re not monsters.

FAQ: Why do animal rights activists oppose animal testing?

Most animal testing does not lead to advances in medicine. Many animal tests simply look like malicious exercises in cruelty. Take for example the experiments in which scientists sew kittens’ eyes shut. If animal testing mostly led to saving children from cancer, it would not be conducted so furtively. In general, you should be suspicious when scientists don’t want to share their results with the public. Especially when the public is funding them.

FAQ: Do animal rights activists have children?

Most people want babies, and animal rights folk are no exception. Babies are adorable!

There is a group called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement which encourages people to just stop breeding, and let the human species die out organically. There is no arguing with their reasoning. There is also no way humans will stop making babies. The problem with groups like this is that they go extinct. Ever heard of the Shakers? Exactly.

How we relate to animals is who we are

–Lynn Marie Hamilton

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