The Rights Of Animals
California voters have put the animal-rights movement squarely in the mainstream. Will we all soon be vegans?
The notion that animals should have rights was widely ridiculed when it was first advocated in the 1970s. Now it is getting more respect. The movement has gained tens of millions of adherents and has already persuaded the European Union to require that all hens have room to stretch their wings, perch and lay their eggs in a nest box, and to phase out keeping pigs and veal calves in individual crates too narrow for them to walk or turn around. And earlier this month Californians voted 63 percent to 37 percent for a measure that, beginning in 2015, gives all farm animals the right to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs. The state's 45 major egg producers will have to rip out the cages that now hold 19 million hens, and either put in new and larger cages with fewer birds or, more likely, keep the birds on the floor in large sheds. California's sole large-scale pig-factory farm will also have to give all its pigs room to turn around.
Pressure on other states to grant the same basic freedoms may prove irresistible. Many people see this movement as a logical continuation of the fight against racism and sexism, and believe that the concept of animal rights will soon be as commonplace as equal pay and opportunities for women and minorities. If that happens—and I believe it will—the effects on the food we eat, how we produce it and the place of animals in our society will be profound.
If this sounds radical, so did suffrage and civil rights a few decades ago. The notion that we should recognize the rights of animals living among us rests on a firm ethical foundation. A sentient being is sentient regardless of which species it happens to belong to. Pain is pain, whether it is the pain of a cat, a dog, a pig or a child. Read More
Peter Singer would love nothing more than to see this country go vegan. This author of animal liberation books thinks more along the lines of terrorist animal rights groups than typical families. But since he is a professor at Princeton, many will give him undeserved respect on this issue. Activist professors on our campuses can be a big problem for agriculture, and Singer is probably one of the biggest.