Advocacy, Rights, & More Dilution of Language

I want to say a brief word about animal rights.  Or rather I want to say a brief word what they are not about.  The media often brands advocacy organizations opposing the mistreatment of nonhumans as “animal rights groups” regardless of the groups’ actual purpose or philosophy.  For example, here discussing opposition to the proposed “euthanization” of thousands of wild mustangs, the Washington Post lumps the American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign (among others) under the rubric of animals rights groups.  The AWHPC is an umbrella organization for 45 groups, most of which are far more concerned with horses not dying than with the nature and scope of horses’ moral or legal claims.

Furthermore, the WaPo also tells us that Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire oilman, T. Boone Pickens, intervened and pledged to save the horses.  I feel confident opining that Ms. Pickens does not consider herself an animal rights activist.  My guess: she just likes horses.  Not being animal rights-oriented doesn’t make Ms. Pickens a bad person or the AWHPC a bad organization anymore than not being a pear makes an apple a bad fruit.  They are just different.

I intend to write more about how animal advocates of all stripes as well as the causes they champion get routinely marginalized through this type of careless rhetoric.  If animal rights are to mean something, they cannot mean everything.  Codifying what animal rights do mean, however, is a post for another day.

David Cassuto

Update, March 2009: It is not looking good for the Pickens-funded sanctuary.

4 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I look forward to reading your follow-up posts!

  2. It’s a never-ending source of irritation for me (I write about it at my own blog more than I care to. Sadly, it’s perpetuated at all levels, not just by the media and traditional welfarists, but by utilitarian Peter Singer, who claims that rights are useful for rhetorical purposes, which makes an odd sort of sense from a utilitarian standpoint (perhaps, in his view, framing the discussion in terms of rights has a certain utility):

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/169881

  3. […] of T.Boone) announce that she would underwrite the horses’ continued existence (see post here), only to have that too not come to pass.  If this bill passes, we can cross off at least one […]

  4. […] to the fish as a “crop.”  I’ve railed about rhetoric in this space before (here, for example) but this one feels really egregious.  Since when are animals a “crop?”  […]

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