A Push for Animal Rights?

November 26, 2009

This blog post was influenced by Hersh T’s post, “Who Are We?”.

It is common knowledge that as humans, we see ourselves above animals. We give ourselves the right to own animals as pets and domesticate them. We give ourselves the right to use our technology to kill animals for sport or fashion. We give ourselves the right to take animals out of their habitat and put them in cages on display for other humans to stare at. We even give ourselves the right to destroy animals’ homes, even while they are still in them. Why? Because we can. Because we’re smart. Because we’re human. We may not be the strongest, and we may not even be the smartest, but we’re smart enough to be able to create civilization and society. We collaborate with one another to build the tools and technology necessary to make ourselves the most powerful beings in the world. The blue whale may be the largest animal on Earth, but with our technology we can take it out. We not only can, but we do, and thus blue whales, along with many other species, are now endangered.

My question is, what gives us the right? We’ve created a society based on morality and ethics, but apparently that only applies to our own kind, or, to an extent, animals domesticated to be the “property” of our own kind. One cannot kill a person by law, one cannot kill a person’s pet by law unless attacked by the pet, but one can pretty much kill a wild animal with no consequences? How is that moral? How is that ethical?

Most dogs that are house-pets live in cages when their “owners” are gone. They’ve done nothing wrong, but they are still locked up in a cage without a second thought. A person will only be locked up in a cage if they commit a crime. If a person abuses another person, that person will go to jail. However, if a dog bites a person, they face the death penalty and are killed. Yet again, where are the morals and ethics in this?

Our society is flawed. The fact that a little girl could be allowed to dream of a Queen that orders executions left and right proves that. We’ve had dictators, wars, terrorists, serial killers, government conspiracies, etc. Whether people want to admit it or not, humans are not perfect. So, why do we expect animals to be? Animals don’t have a concept of society as we do. They don’t have laws. And yet we treat them and punish them as we would the worst kind of criminal-brutally, carelessly, and harshly.

I find what Hersh said in his aforementioned blog very interesting. He proposed the idea that maybe Lewis Carroll used the intelligence and power that he gave the animals of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a way to sort of present animals as our equals. He gave them their own society in Wonderland, a society in which animals, humans, and objects coexist in equality (granted, in this society there are separate classes as in ours, but it is irrelevant whether one is a person, animal, card, etc.) Animal rights activists don’t always get taken seriously when they speak out, but what better way to get people to pay attention than to put a hidden message in a young children’s story that will be read by children and their parents (and, eventually, scholars)?

In Lewis Carroll: Interviews and Recollections, a biography of Carroll written by Morton N. Cohen, it is mentioned that Carroll was, in fact, an antivivisectionist animal rights activist, meaning he publicly opposed animal abuse, especially living animals being cut into for any human purposes (Publishers Weekly editorial review http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Lewis-Carroll/Morton-N-Cohen/e/9780877452317; also, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/carroll/politics1.html).

Granted, it is doubtful that Carroll knew the story would be as big as it has become, but who knows? Maybe he published it with the intent of getting these hidden messages across. Maybe there are no hidden messages at all, and he just put the smart, talking animals in the story to please young Alice Liddell. We may never know, but the speculation is always very intriguing.

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