A Letter Concerning Animal Rights
Dear Ms. Pearce and Political Voice for Animals,
Unfortunately, your survey does not allow me to make clear my views on animals. Please permit me to elaborate my views here. Though you may not be used to thinking about libertarian solutions to the problems concerning you, I believe you will find those solutions powerful and humane, if you grant them due consideration.
Your survey deals with two related issues: intentional cruelty toward animals, and the treatment of animals while used for the benefit of humans.
Let me deal with intentional cruelty first. In general, I believe the fewer laws governing society, the better. Reams of regulations lead only to police abuses, not to genuine solutions to social problems. For instance, I recently heard of a case in my area in which an animal enforcer used existing dog laws to harass an elderly man whose granddaughter had accidentally left the gate open for a few minutes, allowing the dog to dart out briefly.
While cruelty to animals is morally abhorrent, it should not be made illegal. Please don't assume that the legal solution is the only or even the best solution available to us. As a Libertarian, I favor social pressure and even ostracism to solve these sorts of problems. For instance, parents should take steps to teach their children to handle animals responsibly. Neighbors should exert social pressure on those who mistreat animals; for instance, by communicating the inappropriateness of such actions.
Will this solve all cases of animal cruelty? Of course not. But neither will more laws. The question is, to we want to live in a police state, where politicians and their armed enforcers have all the power, or do we want to live in a free and open society of individual rights and responsibilities?
I do favor civil court solutions for some cases of animal abuse, though. If someone smashes the window in your house, that person should have to pay for it. Similarly, if someone injures your animal, that person should have to pay compensation. These kinds of legal solutions are already available to us.
Now let me address the issue of the treatment of animals while used for the benefit of humans. As a principle, I believe humans have every right to use animals in beneficial ways. In fact, many species of animals exist today solely because they were genetically selected for human use over thousands of years. I do not believe animals themselves should be granted any political rights, though of course owners have legal rights to animals which are property. I believe appropriate uses of animals for humans include eating, hunting, transportation, labor, companionship (pets), research, and entertainment (like horseback riding and rodeos).
I don't believe the uses of animals for human benefit should be in any way regulated by law (other than through civil courts which protect an animal owner's property rights). Instead, government lands should be sold or given away to private individuals and organizations, who would then be charged with the care of the animals on their land. In addition, there is the possibility of creating property rights for animals which migrate across lands. This may require additional technology such as "tagging" range animals with electronic devices.
If organizations such as yours believe a person or business is mistreating animals, again I suggest social pressures. For instance, businesses hate bad publicity and will generally make concessions to avoid it.
However, I would encourage a thoughtful use of time. Most of the earth's human population still suffers from political oppression and the economic hardships that brings. Disease takes human life prematurely. People are always much more important than animals, and I think that tells us where we should be spending our time.