Presenter: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I’m Sharon Robinson. Our program today presents the case for and against animal rights. Ever since Roman times, animals have been legally defined as property, objects for humans to use. But in the last decade, we’ve seen the emergence of a rights movement for animals. With us today is David Blatte, a lawyer who specializes in animal rights. David, why should we give rights to animals?
David:Let me begin by saying that historically there have been different forms of oppression.
Pres.: What do you mean?
David: 500 years ago, the Jews were oppressed in Spain because of their religious views. Africans were taken to the US and made slaves on the basis of color differences. One hundred years ago, women in most countries could not vote. All these things have changed. These days animals are still viewed as objects. The next step is to give them the rights they should rightfully have.
Pres.:Let me then ask you what rights animals should have.
David: Okay, the ideal situation would be that animals are no longer seen as objects. As property. They have the right not to be hurt by humans. And that pretty much covers everything. That would include the right not to be killed —either for food,or for any other reasons.
Pres.: So, in fact you are suggesting that everybody becomes a vegetarian.
David: When talking about people, we say that humans have the right not to be killed, and no one questions that.
Pres.: Ok. This implies that you are against raising cattle. What about poultry, chickens, and all the rest?
David: No animals should be killed. That is my clear opinion.
Pres.: So for you human beings and the rest of the animal kingdom are on the same level as far as these rights are concerned?.
David: Right. If you look back historically to some of the great thin kers in the west, they believed animals had their own rights. We can go back to one of the great thinkers of ancient Greece, Pythagoras. We all know his theory.
Pres.: I must admit that I don’t remember much about it.
David: Well. Anyway, he was an ethical vegetarian. He was very influential in his day and most of the ancient Greeks were vegetarians. If we move into modern times, we have DaVinci and Einstein, who were ethical vegetarians. So there’s a strong tradition in the west of giving animals rights.
Pres.: But animals cannot use language nor think.
David: Well, intelligence is not important when deciding rights. And what’s more relevant is whether these animals feel pain. For example, if you… if you hit someone in the stomach, the fact that they’re intelligent doesn’t mean anything. It’s still going to hurt.
Pres.: So what you are saying is that there’s a kind of continuum of rights and there’s no sharp break between human beings and primates.
Pres.:Let me now shift our perspective a little. There are people who believe that humans need animals to perpetuate the species. What do you think about that?
David: Right. Some people have said that we need animals for nutritional reasons, to feed the world. But, if we take a wider perspective, we see that we don’t need them.Beef raising, for instance, is extremely inefficient. It’s also the second greatest source of pollution after cars. So using animals for food works against our species.
Pres: If this is so, how is it that you know it and the free market doesn’t? Why hasn’t the market discovered it?
David: Because people enjoy eating animals and they’re willing to pay for that, even if it’s economically inefficient. They are eating animals not for nutritional reasons, for survival. And this is the fundamental question: do we have a right to take that animal, to kill it, just for our enjoyment?
Pres.: Things will probably change in the future. So, let me ask you a final question. Can you actually predict what is going to hap pen in the next five years?
David: I believe these changes are going to take a little longer than five years but I believe that gradually, over time, animals will be given more and more rights, more and more protection. And again…
Pres.: David, you see this then as the kind of cause to which you’d like to devote your whole life, your whole career?
David: Yes, me and hundreds of thousands of other people. Again, we see this as just a form of oppression, exactly like other forms of oppression before. An d we see that the history of the world can be interpreted as a process of liberation from any type of oppression. And, as always, it’s a gradual process. It happened with slavery. It was true with women’s rights. And over time, more and more people will agree to give back to animals their rights.
Pres.:David, thank you very much.