Thursday, June 08, 2006

Animal equality may be a better name

The expressions “animal rights” and “animal liberation” have both become unfortunately associated in a large part of public opinion with what the public considers, rightly or wrongly, terroristic tactics, intimidation and violence.
A Google site search of many media websites will reveal that this is the case: “animal rights” will come up almost always followed by “terrorists”.

“Animal equality” is perhaps a better name, because it encompasses all the internal, sometimes little more than semantic, differences among the various philosophers, activists and organizations who are, after all, fighting for the very same cause.

These distinctions may appear more important than they actually are. For example, moral philosophers of different schools of thought might provide different justifications to outlaw human slavery, but in the end they agree on the most fundamental principles.
Something similar happens within the animal equality movement.


Teresa said...

I have a serious problem with PETA for that reason. They have really hurt the overall effort to help animals live a more humane life. I fully support the HSUS, but I don't give to PETA anymore for that very reason. They do good work, but their publicity is juvenile and offensive, which not only turns people off of PETA, but every group that works to help animals. But, hell, that's just me I suppose

chris said...

Trouble with 'animal equality' is that it immediately begs the question, 'do guinea pigs count just as much as humans?' It's a misguided question -- and one that's worth putting right -- but it's bad PR to start out on the back foot like that.

'Animal rights' does cover all the different philosophical positions. All think that animals should be granted legal rights, even if they think moral rights don't exist. Thus Peter Singer used to run Animal Rights International, and argues that great apes should have legal rights.

It's a shame 'animal rights' is nearly always followed by 'extremist', but perhaps the answer is to wrestle the term back, rather than retreat to a worse one.

Nice blog, by the way.

Of Human and Non-Human Animals said...

Thank you for all your comments.

Chris, you say that "animal equality" will provoke questions and challenges about relative worth of human and non-human animals. It's true, but in that respect "animal equality" is no different from "animal rights" or "animal liberation".

No matter what term you use, if you try to overcome the species barrier in morality you always end up with the same problem of having to justify your position to a majority who by and large disagree.

I don't think that there is an absolutely better or worse expression; in that sense they are all interchangeable. I think that it may be better to have the choice of more than one name for the animal movement, because in that way it's easier to avoid being labelled and placed into boxes, which is the risk I was pointing out in my post.

I don't see that as a retreat at all, but rather as a broadening of categories, definitions and concepts, and perhaps even behaviours and tactics.

As the animal movement grows bigger and bigger, different names might even serve the purpose of differentiating sections of the movement.