A Response to Jeff and Joe Regarding Our Primary Right

by Carter Dillard

Sincere thanks to Jeff and Joe for their biting critique of the idea of a primary human right that guarantees humans access to wilderness and complete biodiversity. This response, which is geared for the audience of the blog generally, will divide their critique into eight points and respond to each (taking their points a bit out of order), before drawing back to the theme of this blog in order to explain why the right not only survives their appraisal, but can simultaneously satisfy environmental, human, and animal interests.

1. Primary in what sense, and based on what evidence?

Jeff raises a challenge to the idea of a primary right by arguing that the term implies universal acceptance. Because, Jeff argues, many people will reject the value of being alone in the wilderness the right cannot be universal and therefore fails. First, it’s not clear to me that the Tembé would not recognize something like a right to wilderness or the nonhuman, given their historic struggle to preserve the rainforest around them. Second, as Joe notes, whether the Tembé actually recognize the right and underlying value or not does not defeat the right, any more than Hutu leaders’ failure to recognize the universal right of all peoples to be free from genocide, and the GOP’s recent refusal to recognize universal rights for the disabled that trump parental authority, prove that those rights are wrong. As discussed below, this is in part because claiming a right is like saying “you ought to do this,” which cannot be proven wrong with the response “we don’t/won’t do that” (this is simply the difference between an “ought” and an “is”). The responding party might not do the thing or want to do the thing, but perhaps they still ought to. The universality of particular rights derives not from universal acceptance, but from logical arguments that deduce the particular rights from things all humans – because of certain social and biological shared characteristics – will value, whether they admit it or not, see e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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Harming animals to help humans: When charity isn’t charitable redux

Impala and friend – click image

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Can the act of killing an animal in Africa help addicted, teen mothers in Montana? Sadly, yes. That’s just the crazy, speciesist world we live in–the one created by us, for us.

Though humans today and forever have found divisions–think race, religion, country, tribe–over which to oppress and kill each other, one thing that unites us categorically is our species, particularly in relation to other animals. It’s us against them, or us over them–the human animal lording it over all “lower” animals. Except for those who have value to us as “pets,” the idea of noblesse oblige doesn’t cross species lines. What some of us recognize as brutal, self-serving exploitation of the other animal nations is seen, by many others, as the natural, beneficial order of things. Ain’t that how it goes with the privileged class?!?    Continue reading

A tale of two wildlife babies–and human motives for good and bad

Photo: Four Rivers Fishing Co. via AP

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

A newborn moose calf. A fast-moving river swollen with spring runoff. But for the presence of humans willing to intervene–a fishing outfitter and his client–the calf’s probable drowning in Montana’s Big Hole River would have passed unnoticed. Mom Moose–she herself struggled against the current–would have spent frantic moments scouring the riverbank. And because grief is not the exclusive domain of Homo sapiens, it can’t be said, categorically, that she would not have grieved the loss of her little one.  Continue reading

It’s June! Time to luv-a-turkey, hug-a-kitty, eat-yer-veggies…and panic!

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

June is upon us, and with it comes special day designations that prompt both cheering and jeering from the animal advocacy crowd. Ready? Let’s get start with the big, month-long picture.

June is Turkey Lovers Month! But sadly–and predictably–that “love” is gastronomic in nature, so we suggest lovin’ ‘em in a kinder, gentler manner. You’ve heard the myth that they’re so dumb they’ll drown looking up at the sky in a rainstorm? Huh-uh. “Smart animals with personality and character” is how one scientist describes turkeys. Downer alert: Watch Mercy for Animals’ undercover video filmed at a Butterball facility…no turkey lovers here.

If captive animals make you blue, you won’t be celebrating National Zoo and Aquarium Month.   Continue reading

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