Hey, guys. Check out this editorial
written by the president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a month ago. There is a lot of gross assumption and oversimplification of animal rights and animal welfare in it. I'm interested to get your thoughts.
ANIMALS: PETA isn't as animal-friendly as you think
By JEFFREY P. BONNER
Apart from what you read on their editorial and opinion pages, newspapers report facts. Those facts are conveyed principally through words. Therefore, newspapers have a special obligation to use words with precision.
The Post-Dispatch recently ran a story that described People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as an "animal welfare" organization. I think that zoo professionals and, for that matter, representatives of PETA would disagree vehemently with the characterization.
PETA is an animal rights organization, not an animal welfare organization. There's a big difference.
The philosophy of animal rights says, in essence, that animals have the same rights as humans: For example, we don't keep other humans as slaves, so we shouldn't keep dogs as pets, and zoos should not confine exotic animals that are threatened with extinction. All medical testing on animals should be banned. Because we don't kill and eat human beings or use human byproducts for food, we should ban the consumption of all meat and other animal products, including milk and eggs. We don't use human hides for clothing, so we should not use leather for shoes, fur for coats or even the silk from silk worms for blouses.
Animal welfare organizations, including reputable zoos like ours, are deeply concerned with the physiological and psychological health and well-being of animals, but they also are concerned with the welfare of animals in the wild. Animal rights adherents contend, in sharp contrast, that as long as animals are in the wild, their rights are not being violated by humans.
The second profound difference between an animal welfare group such as the St. Louis Zoo and an animal rights group such as PETA is that zoos care about the fate of entire species, whereas PETA focuses on individual animals. This allows them to argue that it is better for a species to become extinct than for individual members of that species to be preserved in zoos.
For animal welfare groups, extinction is the ultimate cruelty, and it is no small irony that in the majority of cases, animals go extinct because of the direct actions of humans. Animal rights groups, therefore, should be concerned with extinction in the wild. Tragically, they are not.
I think that animal rights groups and animal welfare groups both care about animals, but they represent two very different philosophies. If you are a supporter of PETA, you support an animal rights group that does not care about the fate of animals in the wild and does nothing to stop the loss of species worldwide. If you are a supporter of the St. Louis Zoo, you support an animal welfare organization that provides outstanding care for animals in the Zoo and devotes enormous amounts of time, energy, expertise and money to saving wild things in wild places.
By the way, unless you are a vegan, don't own a pet, wear only plastic shoes and are willing to forego insulin if you ever become diabetic, you either do not embrace the real animal rights philosophy or you are a hypocrite.
I, for one, hope that people never consider PETA an animal welfare organization. It most certainly is not.
Jeffrey P. Bonner is president and chief executive of the St. Louis Zoo.
My thoughts ...
1) The animal rights movement encompasses some aspects of the animal welfare ideology and to say PETA does not care about the welfare of animals is offbase (Consider PETA's campaigns for improved animal welfare conditions within slaughterhouses used by fast-food companies - McDonalds, Wendy's, KFC - for example. This is not to eradicate meat products sold by the chains but rather, and very realistically, focus on making things a little better for animals.)
2) "The philosophy of animal rights says, in essence, that animals have the same rights as humans." ZOUNDS! Out of control, Mr. Bonner, out of control. Animals should be given the same basic rights as humans, taking into consideration their physical and mental limitations. That is, to wit, the right to life without unnecessary exploitation. But not, say, the right to vote, own a home or drive a car.
3) "We don't use human hides for clothing, so we should not use leather for shoes, fur for coats or even the silk from silk worms for blouses." No. Animal rights are irrespective of human rights. It's not BECAUSE we don't do this to humans, we shouldn't do this to animals. It's because this is wrong and causes suffering, we shouldn't do it to any being capable of feeling.
4) "Animal rights adherents contend, in sharp contrast, that as long as animals are in the wild, their rights are not being violated by humans." Where did this come from? Why do people think animal rights folk are totally against interspecies relation of any kind, ie owning dogs, etc? Bizarre.
5) "By the way, unless you are a vegan, don't own a pet, wear only plastic shoes and are willing to forego insulin if you ever become diabetic, you either do not embrace the real animal rights philosophy or you are a hypocrite." Mr. Bonner fails to recognizes two things here: A) Veganism is not about personal purity; it's about reducing suffering and B) Philosophies are as broad and diverse as the people who adhere to them. To say that anyone who doesn't follow all tenets of the supposed monolithic animal rights movement is a hypocrite is like saying any Republican who supports abortion isn't a 'real' Republican or any Democrat who questions the future of Social Security isn't a 'real' Democrat.
"Therefore, newspapers have a special obligation to use words with precision." I suggest you do the same, Mr. Bonner. Hehe.