‘What a piece of work is...’ How humans are yielding their dignity to animals
By Daughter#3 - Cecil, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons
When the Planned Parenthood foetal body parts scandal first broke in the United States, it seemed so big that many in the pro-life movement thought those brazen admissions of trading in human flesh, caught on camera, were bound to hasten the end of the culture of death; but around the same time, a blizzard of references to “fake news” and “post truth” covered the internet, settling in a shroud until the scandal was lost almost without trace.
The abortion industry and its allies in the media soon transformed the landscape with stories of feisty women fighting back against attempts to restrict their “right to choose.” Around the same time the tale of Cecil the lion, shot by an American dentist, hit the headlines, leading to a media feeding frenzy. It even made the news when one of his “sons” was killed, and very soon animal stories -- the lengths to which animal lovers go to spoil their pets, from home-cooked food to special patio furniture - became a regular news staple.
When the pro-life investigators who exposed the body parts scandal were faced with legal action for recording “private” conversations that actually took place in public, and various bioscience organisations were prosecuted for illegally purchasing body parts from Planned Parenthood, the stories were largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Animals vs children
If the internet is the new arena of cultural warfare, it also reflects the mood of the moment, chiefly among younger people, and with many Westerners now putting off childbearing to near middle age, positive stories about animals are more “in the mood” than negative stories about babies and children. Despite the tendency to elevate animals to human status, however, most humans acknowledge the need for the humane killing of vermin. Many are against hunting -- although opinion in the animal kingdom is divided on the matter between hunter and hunted -- but it would seem that animal rights activists are among the most zealous supporters of the predator’s unrestricted right to kill, and the least interested in the unborn human’s right to life.
While it would be wrong to make a religion out of killing, making a religion out of not killing -- as G. K. Chesterton pointed out in an essay about Leo Tolstoy -- is also problematical, and it is the same problem: the problem of good and evil. Even if we believe that all killing is wrong, sometimes not killing can be even more wrong, especially when the guilty are killing the innocent. It is a problem seen at its most acute in the battle against terrorism – but also in the nations targeted by terror, where the lives of terrorists are spared and abortion is regarded as the mark of civilisation, exported to poor countries as a prerequisite of women’s rights and equality.
Not everyone approves of abortion, but it is such an explosive issue that animal welfare provides a much safer opportunity for displaced ethical campaigning; at least we can save the animals, and when we do, we will receive praise rather than opprobrium. True, animals sometimes kill, but they cannot be held accountable for their actions; they ‘cannot help it’. Our ageing population wants pets for company; dogs show loyalty and affection, acting as an incentive to take exercise and make new friends; but perhaps this is the saddest commentary on our times – loneliness, described by Mother Teresa as the biggest illness in modern Western society.
And yet loneliness is a strange affliction in a world that, we were repeatedly warned in the 1960s - most famously by Paul Ehrlich in The Population Bomb - would be so overcrowded there would hardly be enough room to stand up. But even although there is still plenty of room, we are now entering a “population winter”, with birth rates well under replacement levels and more tax-payers leaving the work-force than entering it every year. The young people of the 1960s are now growing old, and if they heeded the overpopulation propaganda it is too late for them to have children.
Local cats’ homes may benefit from the bequests of the childless, and the market for doggie treats is immensely profitable; there may also be a boost for unethical bio-interventions like cloning, as pet owners, facing the reality that their substitute children do not live as long as real children, seek to replicate them. But however loyal they are, pets cannot contribute to their owners’ pension pots; despite this, Western governments, still in thrall to the powerful and persuasive population control lobby, seem more interested in encouraging the “right to die” rather than in encouraging more births; pending the arrival of the robotic age, they seem content to encourage immigration to fill employment gaps while using official aid to curb the population of poorer countries.
In a cruel irony the ageing population has become the scapegoat for every negative aspect of the population winter – elderly patients “bed-blocking” in NHS hospitals because there is no one to care for them on discharge; “house-hogging” by remaining in properties too large for them, thereby preventing young people from getting on the housing ladder; and when they do die - having burdened tax-payers with the cost of their multiple medications and old-age welfare benefits – failing to provide for their own funeral costs.
Rights for all – except humans
Just as the human right to life is coming under pressure as never before, campaigners are demanding human rights not only for apes but for trees and rivers. If trees and rivers really had human rights they would be in an even worse state, and as for apes, the 1986 (UK) Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act acknowledged the octopus and other cephalopods as capable of feeling pain and therefore presumed them to be sentient; it also mandated the protection of creatures in the “foetal, larval or embryonic form”, while specifically excluding unborn human beings.
More recently, there have been calls for drivers who kill cats to officially notify the fact, and so-called celebrities are campaigning to ban the boiling of live lobsters. Vegetarians and vegans protested the Bank of England’s inclusion of a trace of tallow in the new five pound notes, and although their complaints failed, the Government pledged to insist on the installation of CCTV in abattoirs to combat animal cruelty, to give financial assistance to farmers “who treat animals well”, and to consider banning puppies from pet shop windows.
At the same time – and despite the modern mania for inclusion -- people with Down syndrome are gradually being excluded from the human race, with the blessing of Western governments; abortion providers do a brisk trade in unborn babies’ body parts, while the same governments view the trade in elephant tusks with the utmost gravity; anyone who threatens rare butterfly species is threatened with jail.
Neo-Darwinist philosopher Peter Singer values intelligent animal life above the lives of the unborn and disabled, and this is the key to our double standards – they are entirely subjective. They depend on what we value, and if we value a cat, dog, horse, tiger, wolf, shark, tree, river, above certain categories of human beings, we will be moved to protect the non-humans from harm while ignoring the humans’ right to life -- even though rights are a concept unique to humans.
The romance of nature
Another factor in the prioritisation of non-human rights is how far we are from nature; those who actually live in the countryside and are more familiar with its caprices tend to be less romantic about it than those who merely see it via the magic of television. Living in overcrowded cities, we believe the whole world is overpopulated -- that the wildernesses need to be protected from people; and yet people make prosperity – that is why people leave the under-populated wildernesses and gravitate to cities.
Hunting was banned after an aggressive campaign to save foxes, allegedly “torn apart” by hounds; now peaceful pro-life vigils, which seek to save unborn humans from being torn apart in abortion, are faced with an aggressive campaign to ban the abortion clinic’s critics.
A pro-life vigil, with pro-choice demonstrators in the background, outside
an abortion clinic in London, in 2012. Photo: PA via Catholic Herald
Pro-choice campaigners claim that women seeking abortions are suffering harassment, and if true this would be truly shocking -- but nobody has offered any evidence of harassment, merely repeating the claim with an insistence of which Goebbels would be proud. A pro-life campaigner displaying pictures of aborted foetuses outside a Brighton clinic was arrested and charged with public order offences, but the case collapsed; there have been no arrests, and no women or member of clinic staff have come forward, even anonymously, to report harassment. Some women have offered to testify about their gratitude to the pro-lifers for helping them avoid abortion, but they have been pointedly ignored by the buffer zone campaign, perhaps because, amid all the rhetoric about the right to choose, the existence of their children underlines the reality of what that choice involves – the right to kill.
A Christian lawyer pointed out that there are already legal provisions to prevent harassment at abortion clinics – but they were introduced to prevent violent attacks on scientific premises by activists protesting against animal experiments; however, the measures can only be applied by judges after seeing evidence of harassment, strongly suggesting that in the absence of such evidence the buffer zones will simply be used to outlaw the display of any pictorial representations of abortion and offers of help to expectant mothers. One thing is certain, if any media outlet had found evidence to back these claims it would have been very big news indeed.
All are equal, but animals are more equal than humans
While campaigns to “save the humans” are greeted with suspicion and warnings against ulterior motives, those working to save animals can claim the moral high ground, certain of a pat on the back; Animal Equality, a charity describing itself as “an international organization working with society, governments and companies to end cruelty to farmed animals”, states: “Whether they are raised in industrial fish farms or caught in the wild, fish have zero legal protections in how they’re treated or slaughtered.” They further claim that veganism could save the world from global warming – “Killing animals is killing the Planet”. Meanwhile, direct action vegans have attacked farmers for keeping animals, and some defenders of wildlife have succeeded in damaging it.
For human beings even to see injustice, much depends on the identity of those responsible; how much easier for social justice warriors to lambast toffs who hunt – as Oscar Wilde put it, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable” – and traders in ivory for which we no longer have any use, than to attack the purveyors of abortion, for which we do have a use – “freeing” us from the inconvenient outcomes of the sex act. At any rate, we seem to react quite differently to pictures of dead foxes, once regarded as deadly pests, and pictures of dead foetuses, even although killing pre-born humans is a hugely profitable industry.
So was the slave-trade; and when humans enslaved other humans – it was their right to choose, after all – they pampered their dogs and horses. The tendency to apply double standards was illustrated by Christ when He spoke of the Pharisee anxious to help his neighbour remove the splinter in his eye, when his own vision was obscured by a great log. We all have an inner Pharisee, but that is because we are human.
Protecting ‘our’ planet
Environmentalists might, however, argue that only when we are freed from Judaeo-Christian anthropocentric understandings of the Universe can we begin to see the manifold threats to our earthly home. Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series has been rightly acclaimed as a masterpiece, bringing home to viewers the terrible effects of pollution on our oceans; but despite his homely manner the veteran wildlife presenter’s opinions on the human race are not so kindly; an interview revealed that the “one species Sir David is most concerned about is humans”, his chief concern being that there are too many, his solution that they “[n]ot breed so fast”. However, much of this population increase has been caused not by too many babies being born but by greater longevity; many people, including Sir David, now live to over 90, but as well as supporting abortion he supports assisted suicide, declaring his intention to end his own life should he feel the need.
Strangely, anyone involved in “reproductive choice” seems to be exempt from the scrutiny of the racism detection squad, and, as a patron of Population Matters who has called the human race a “plague” on the Earth, Sir David has blamed famine in Ethiopia on overpopulation; he has called for sex education and voluntary birth restrictions, but also praised the population control programme in China, where “family planning” is anything but voluntary. Additionally, he has been a patron of Marie Stopes International, provider of population control in poor countries as the simplistic answer to pollution, which is named after a pioneer of birth control who expressed racist and anti-Semitic views and wanted “more from the fit, fewer from the unfit.”
Environmentalism or population control?
Attenborough is also a patron of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which promotes the global warming threat; founded as the World Wildlife Fund in 1961, its roots go back to the 1930s, to a prominent Eugenics Society associate, WWF founder Max Nicholson. Nicholson called mankind a “plague species” and welcomed the growing rapprochement between the environmental movement and International Planned Parenthood; like other green population controllers he prioritized the control of non-whites, notably in India and Nigeria. He hoped that the new religion of environmentalism would fill the psychological void left by the “decay” of “revealed religion” and “supernatural” beliefs; that it would be a powerful motivator of “one-world” feeling.
Far from revealed religion dying of natural causes, however, secular forces, with help from the media, are intent on killing it off, while presenting the environment as a neutral issue in which even children may become involved; thus is the public driven through the sheepfold that suits the environmental lobby – arguably, like sheep to the slaughter.
Moreover, the apparently altruistic acceptance of responsibility for the Earth – “our Planet” – implies ownership and justifies interfering in poor countries in order to restrict their numbers; this neo-Imperialistic approach is reflected in global organizations set up to promote peace and justice but steered toward population control. Now, however, they march under the banner of equality. Hillary Clinton demanded that in pursuit of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Western nations “break down the barriers holding back women and girls around the world” by making “[g]ender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights...a core priority.” However, a rough translation from the PC suggests the planet can be saved for the better-off by providing poor women with abortion, “sustainable development” being code for aid that does not result in the “multiplication of the unfit.”
Save the planet, sacrifice the humans
With its portrayal of wildlife as under constant threat from human beings, WWF achieved a master stroke of population control propaganda, for it is difficult to argue that human beings are endangered when they themselves are endangering other species by “over breeding”. And if the world is overpopulated, any natural disaster, war, famine, or epidemic that claims the lives of human beings will be seen as a blessing not very heavily disguised, for it must help to “save the Planet”; on the same rationale, charitable efforts to save human lives must mean killing their terrestrial home.
The obverse of treating animals like humans is to treat humans like animals. A ‘compassionate’ argument often heard for assisted suicide is that we do not hesitate to put a suffering dog down; but animals do not commit suicide, they are euthanized; it was no coincidence that the pioneers of the “compassionate” euthanasia movement all subscribed to eugenics and population control; and if we impose contraception on zoo animals to prevent overcrowding, why not on inner-city humans? It was Ehrlich who claimed that as with rats, human aggression stemmed from overcrowding -- that the 1968 US Government family planning budget was the same as for rat control.
Under the religion of the Planet, abortion, which has taken the lives of millions of unborn humans, has been transformed from a tragedy into a triumph; and the more births “avoided” the louder the population control message, for if we impose restrictions on abortion, by implication we will be responsible for forcing millions more lives – miserable, starving, and of short duration – upon an already overcrowded world.
However, the truth is that since abortion has become the official solution to the unplanned/unwanted pregnancy, the number of such pregnancies has increased; and rather than one in three women having abortions (as we are told), a minority of women are having multiple abortions, unable to continue a pregnancy because it would mean facing the reality that abortion destroys a human life. The truth is that babies are being conceived who will never see the light of day, but – apart from enriching the abortion industry – their short lives serve a purpose: acting as an advertisement for population control.
As Chesterton remarked, “Wherever there is animal worship there is human sacrifice.” Despite its negative effects on women, abortion has escaped attack from equality campaigners because it has become the holy cow of left-wing feminism; and given their present priorities, a cow would have to jump over the moon before an unborn human was shown more compassion than a cow.
While abortion is promoted as the politically correct approach to unwanted human babies, we are urged to ‘adopt a snow leopard’, and when we do, WWF will send us a cuddly toy snow leopard; in reality leopards are anything but cuddly, but in recent years we have seen a recoil from films and documentaries portraying sharks, wolves and tigers as killing machines. While programmes featuring scientific experiments, DIY, sports and other pastimes feature prominent safety warnings, wildlife programmes and even advertisements tend to minimise the savagery of savage animals; indeed, their tendency to show the perspective of the predator tends to sideline the perspective of the prey.
Now environmentalists are keen to release predators back into the wild regardless of the danger to other wild animals, farming stock and human beings – moves in which the WWF has intervened on the wild side. Young people who have been encouraged to see humans as dangerous predators, and animal predators as big cuddly kittens, are more likely to fear humans than animals; in one tragic case, in which a young zoo keeper was killed by a tiger, her parents recalled her telling them: ‘“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”’
Finding our humanity and losing it again
It is more likely that what she saw was a reflection of her own soul, but our tendency to anthropomorphise is so great that we see humanity even in savage animals; the only creatures that we can’t seem to anthropomorphise are other human beings. And if we do catch a glimpse of someone else’s soul, we see the vice rather than the virtue; we detect hatred and bigotry in our human neighbours while being quite certain that we ourselves would never harbour such vile feelings.
You will never catch an animal exhibiting hatred, but neither will they exhibit love, show heroism or self-sacrifice, because these are the outcome of free will; that is why we agonise about mistreating animals, and feel anxious about them dying out. But while we worry about living more simply, they simply live; and as we see from countless cave paintings, these things worried even our prehistoric ancestors; as Chesterton, again, observed in The Everlasting Man, there is no such thing as a wall painting of a man done by an animal. The possession of an immortal soul confers a sense of moral responsibility for the rest of creation – and it makes us unique in all creation.
But for all our love of animals, rather than emulating the better aspects of the animal kingdom, we seem to emulate the worst; the sexual revolution was underpinned by the belief that human beings, like animals, cannot help having sex; and yet animals do not abort their offspring, rejecting them before they can fend for themselves. Our starting point for respecting our animal cousins should be the respect they show their own offspring. Animals act on instinct and cannot help being loyal and seeking affection, but what animals do out of the instinct for survival, human beings do by choice.
We can help what we do, and whether we love or hate, it is an act of will. We cannot kill our young without first de-humanising them, and we cannot do violence to them without first doing violence to our own humanity. That is the proof but also the peril of being human.
Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).
Footnotes are available from the author.
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