The recent farming crisis has revealed the lopsided priorities of animal rights activistsby Bella Thomas / May 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
Strangely absent from the extraordinary recent events in the British countryside have been the animal rights activists. If an animal life has similar value to a human one, then cutting that life short on a foot and mouth pyre for the sake of a trivial export industry might have been expected to arouse the movement’s righteous anger. There has been the occasional demonstration but no show of force. Having studied the movement for some months for a television documentary, I think I understand why.
Animal rights activists argue that in the modern world we witness the exploitation of animals for three main human ends, for pleasure (hunting, fishing, circuses), for science (“vivisection”) and for nutrition (farming). And the greatest evil of these is the exploitation for pleasure. Never mind the fact that the sheer numbers involved in farming are vastly disproportionate to the numbers involved in hunting or vivisection-the average human will, in the course of their lifetime, consume 550 poultry, 36 pigs, 36 sheep and eight oxen, while less than four laboratory animals are sacrificed per human life. The comparable number of foxes killed by hunts per human lifetime is 0.02. Never mind the fact that pleasure, science and nutrition all inconveniently overlap (was that extra chicken sandwich pleasure or nutrition? Does not science prolong and preserve human life basically for pleasure?) And, above all, never mind that a hunted wild animal or even an animal in a laboratory has an incomparably better life to that of a broiler chicken.
The mainspring of the animal rights conscience is less to do with animals than with humans; activists are focused less on the quality of life than on the dramatic shock value in the manner of death. Their arguments-and this applies especially to the radicals in the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)-are cobbled together from the memories of past campaigns against slavery, for the liberation of women and against racism, which they see as similar in spite of the offence that these parallels give to many people.
Don’t imagine that the campaign against the exploitation of animals will end with hunting and vivisection however. They are the tip of the iceberg. There is a hierarchy of exploitation. “Once we’ve dealt with the hunters and the scientists, we can turn to other issues,” is the argument usually voiced. On those grounds alone, perhaps, the move to ban hunting should be permanently…