Letters to the Editor: December 17, 2003
"No Law" Means No Law!
In the article where you concluded with, "Congress shall make NO LAW... abridging the freedom of speech!" -- I was moved.
I cannot tell you how upset I was with this ruling. This is a very, very sad day for this country... and there is not a damn thing that we can do about it.
I just hope that our children will view this ruling the way that we now view another one: "That [the Separate Car Act] does not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery... is too clear for argument... A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races -- a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color -- has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races...The object of the [Fourteenth A]mendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either." (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896)
In effect, the Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that not only can you not scream "fire" in a movie theater when it is not burning, you can't scream "fire" in a movie theater when it is burning.
Ralph Shnelvar, December 11
The Animal Rights Debate
I enjoyed the intellectual exercise you put us through with your taking on the "animal rights" debate. I think your arguments on animal rights are sound. And I begin to appreciate better some of the arguments on the other side.
It seems to me that at least one aspect the notion of human rights is that they are a mechanism of civilization to set minimum standards of respect that we agree as a species each member is entitled -- hence the term "human rights." The member can be an infant or a centenarian, can be well-endowed or weak, can even be mentally incompetent. (Can there be arguments among people as to what these rights are -- what rights are included and which, not? I think there can be. But that's another discussion).
From this essential agreement on the rights we accord each other, we can begin to adjudicate disagreements between individuals and between individuals and groups and maybe even between groups. Without this agreement we are all individual combatants.
From this idea as to what rights are, there would seem to be another argument that goes: "Unless and until a species can demonstrate its regard for the rights of others within its own species, it has no standing to demand these rights be honored by another species." Or to have proxies in the other species make the argument for them, unless the proxy can make the demonstration.
Are fights between male animals for reproductive access to all females of a herd -- that sometimes result in the death of one of the antagonists -- a denial of the right to procreate to all males but the winner?
Does the herd consider the winner a murderer? Is the murderer ever punished? Or is he simply the sexual dictator? If the latter, have insurrections ever been seen to be mounted by a group of losers? (The reason I refer to group action is this would indicate a societal move to oust an oppressor--as opposed to an action by a lone horny male seeking sexual access, rather than redress of rights).
Are the females hence stripped of their rights to choose a partner, to move freely outside the herd? Has there ever been seen a group of females revolt and demand more sexual choice?
Without examples such as the above that give animals "standing" to claim rights--a common agreement of what their rights are among virtually all in the population--I can't see that animals have rights either. (I use the phrase "virtually all" in the above sentence because I think that even among humans there isn't unanimity on the right to life -- Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot might disagree. Yet, I'm not democrat enough to subject the definition of rights to simple majority approval).
Kent McNaughton, December 6
I'm a libertarian but I support treating God's creatures with respect. The factory farming of animals is inhumane. For a chicken to live out it's whole life in a 1.3 sq. ft. cage is sickening and that sort of thing for our exploitation is wrong.
Tom Holder, November 21
The Immorality of Animal Abuse
Very thoughtful article. Like you, I think we dismiss animal rightists at our peril. They clearly have the sympathy vote (who would, after all, advocate that burning a dog is no different than burning a cardboard box?) but exposing the fallacies behind their ethical arguments is ultimately a fairly easy task.
I thought of something while I was reading your section on burning a rat. Maybe the problem for us (in addition to anthropomorphization) is the very needlessness of the action. If you don't need to kill or torture for food, or kill or torture for something that will help preserve your life or further your own goals (cancer research, living in a shelter, or even animal cosmetic research) what's the point of the killing and torture? The point for the killer/torturer would be seeing the pain itself. Rightly, I suppose, we attribute the desire to see pain to mental defect or illness. Obviously, this does nothing to prove that animals have rights, but it does shed light on the sort of personality that would enjoy the suffering of another animal. It's an unfortunate fact for the animal rights activists that people who torture animals, far from enjoying societal sanction, as PETA might allege, are widely shunned and hated.
In any case, enjoyed your article.
Shannon Frances Ringvelski, November 21, 2003
Reggie and the Libertarians
Just a quick note to say I thought you did a great job on Drawing the Line. I wasn't too amazed they couldn't answer my "what the hell will we do with the animals" question but well that's life. I was wonder if I got the gist of the animal rights movement, though. After viewing I felt like they were trying to force their moral outlook on life on others by any means, including yet more unenforceable laws. Maybe that's just me, I've been wrong before. Anyway, hopefully you can get back on there some time. I watch the show weekly and enjoy it a lot. It's especially nice when Reggie gets a libertarian on there.