LETTER 1 – Ownership vs. Rights Re: The article What Are Animal Rights? by Lee Hall
On page 11 of Spring, 2009 ActionLine, second paragraph, it is stated: Some other animals--monkeys, birds and various animals kept in human settings and then discarded by their “owners”…..
The term “owner” is properly applied to objects; when it is used in relation to organisms, it is offensive and indicative of a certain attitude that is inimical to the views expounded in the aforementioned article.
On a related matter, your organization features a spay-neuter project. We are all familiar with the arguments outlining the practical reasons for such actions. It would seem through that human-conceived and enforced contraception methods, whether they are biochemical or surgical, are unnatural especially in the case of the surgical techniques which are irreversible. Don’t such actions, to the extent that they result in jeopardizing an individual’s--and, eventually, a species’--evolutionary survival, fly in the face of the philosophy advocated in the above article?
In the view of the above, it would appear that those of us who are advocates for the rights of non-human species need to consistently and clearly demonstrate in words and actions our philosophical differences from those who use and abuse fellow animals. If we wish to persuade them of the ethical and moral validity of our position vis-á-vis theirs, we should not, cannot, talk and act like them less we are perceived as hypocrites by them which may cause them not to take out arguments seriously.
Dr. Chris A. Stamos
New York , NY
Editor’s note: We appreciate your kind interest in our writing and in the best linguistics for advocates to use. We would say “owners” is the best word to use in this case. To call the breeders and buyers of the monkeys and others anything else would be euphemistic. One advocacy group (in a press release) called a chimpanzee breeder the “guardian” of the nonhuman apes. This inaccurate and rosy description is not respectful. We should call an owner an owner, and then lay out a critique for that ownership, so that it can be ended -- for it is the legal custom that is offensive. In no way would we mean to suggest that ownership is benign.
Thank you for bringing us back to the topic of contraception. Our position is this: Contraception should not be imposed on animals who could live autonomously in their habitats. Thus a wildcat or a wolf should not be subjected to surgical or chemical birth control. Note that a domesticated dog has been selectively bred. Unlike wolves (who typically have just one reproductive season a year), dogs and cats will have already had their sexual cycles manipulated before they are born. A dog is no longer a wolf who has evolved in an outdoor environment and can self-limit reproduction accordingly. Dogs and cats will reproduce frequently unless we intervene -- and their offspring will depend on us for care. This is why Lee Hall’s article says that an ethic of care applies to domesticated animals, whereas animal rights apply to autonomous animals: wolves, wildcats, free-living rabbits, bats, seals…
LETTER 2 – Are There Perfect Worlds?
I found your perspective very interesting in the special-issue Movement Watch article "Deer, Contraception and Animal Rights." In a perfect world, zero interference in animal reproduction would be ideal. In the world in which we are living, however, I would prefer any humane means preferable to killing any animal.
I am still writhing with fury over the deer hunt that took place in my old home county of Essex in Northern New Jersey. The County Executive has been on a mission to eliminate all deer in the South Mountain Reservation and beyond. No amount of letters and protests have been able to stop this heartless zealot. We do not even have the opportunity to use contraception as a tool.
Although I do not live in New Jersey at present, I am nonetheless following events there and writing on behalf of the deer whenever possible. On this note, I read, in the Letters column, someone praising Nancy Rice for her help with the deer effort in her town of Stamford, Connecticut. Would Nancy be able to help Essex County, New Jersey's deer? Please let me know so that I can put her in contact with the person in charge of the deer situation. We would be so grateful for any help we can get. Thank you.
Palm Beach Gardens , Florida
[Editor’s note: We understand the frustration of dealing with people who think they are right and will not listen to calls for non-violence. Note that not only shooting but also pharmaceutical contraceptives are being used as tools to control or eliminate certain communities of animals. Birth control for deer is not the easy alternative it might seem. It involves restraining animals. It’s still classified as experimental, and the side effects in test animals range from abscesses to loss of bone. It also changes animals’ social interactions. We urge activists to resist the notion that there are “too many deer”; in fairness, to which species should fertility control be applied?]
LETTER 3 - Adding insult to injury
Please do an article about how animals such as birds are always blamed for accidents with planes and motor vehicles -- it’s always their fault and we must get rid of them. If it weren’t for people having high-powered speed machines there wouldn’t be such accidents.
Prior to 110 years ago, the birds and other animals had time to get out of the way; it was a time when their only hazard was a horse and buggy coming.
Sumner , IA